Augustine 2020: Everlasting Life in the City of God
Updated: Sep 26, 2022
Last time, we looked at the bad news of the Last Judgment, but today, we arrive at the good news. We have said throughout this study that our hope is not in the political structures of the earthly city, but in the city of God. We now need to consider this glorious hope. “In that city, God himself is the reality by which they might be sustained and made happy-their common food and life” .
Augustine compares Romulus, the founder of Rome, to Christ and finds him wanting when compared to Jesus. The people of Rome loved their founder, Romulus and so worshiped him as a god. Notice the order: they loved him and then placed their faith in him. Their love for him led them to commit an error and worship he who was not a god , but was, in fact, the murderer of his brother . The followers of Jesus were convinced by His death and resurrection that He was, in fact, God and, because they believed in Him, came to love Him . Notice the difference. The followers of Romulus were led into an error because of their love for him while the followers of Jesus were led into love for Him because of the truth of who He was. When looking at political leaders, just as with everyone, if we come to like a particular candidate, come to trust him or her, and find something about their personality appealing, we then support them and overlook their flaws and even turn a blind eye to particular decisions they make that we disagree with. There is no guarantee we voted for the right candidate. There is no guarantee we know the truth about them. But with Christ, we know how He is and we know our love for Him is not misplaced.
When we look at the earthly city, we see that peace comes at a cost. We cannot maintain peace without a military to defend us against enemy attacks. We cannot maintain peace without a police force to arrest perpetrators of violent crimes and a criminal justice system ready with punishment. Yet the peace of the city of God does not require violence. “The safety of the city of God…is the sort that is able to be kept, or rather acquired, along with faith and through faith” . The peace of the heavenly city is not compulsory. It is a peace formed out of faith and love for our Creator, the source of all peace and goodness. It is a peace which “surpasses all understanding” .
We have also seen throughout this series that the earthly city cannot ultimately harm Christians and here we learn why through several examples, namely because of the resurrection. Augustine asks if the resurrection will be extended to aborted children. His answer is, “If they are not excluded from the number of the dead, I do not see how the resurrection of the dead would not extend to them as well” . He isn’t sure if such children, or any children who do not survive to adulthood, will be resurrected with the bodies they would have had if they had been able to grow up or if they will be raised with the bodies they had as children, perfected, but he does not see why they would not be resurrected . Abortion, one of the most contested issues of our day, is not the final word in a child’s life: the resurrection is.
Augustine’s second example is that of women. In an era that saw women as inferior, Augustine asked if women will be resurrected as women. His answer is an emphatic “yes”. “The female gender…is not a defect but a nature….The female body parts will still exist. They will not be accommodated to the old use, but to a new beauty. This new beauty will rouse the one who sees it to feel-not lust, which will not then exist-but praise for the wisdom and mercy of God, for he both made what did not exist and liberated from corruption what he had made” . Recall the first book of The City of God: Augustine argued that consecrated virgins who were raped during the sack of Rome had not violated their vows and that they remained pure and precious to God . Augustine can say that because of the resurrection. The female body, far too often the victim of violence and domination, will be resurrected, healed, made whole, perfected, and the basic male desire for lust, to dominate, to possess, to control that body will be eliminated . The only response to the female body will be praise to the God who created it.
Too often in the earthly city, we witness violence against bodies, whether it is through sexual assault, murder, war, discrimination, or the simple wear of time. But in the resurrection, these bodies are raised against, healed, and whole. Violence will not have the final say over these bodies. The God who made them and loved them will have the final say and we will share in His victory over violence in the resurrection. The last word on these bodies is that they will be raised, perfected, made whole, and beautiful. Every act of violence, every trauma delivered to these bodies will be defeated, destroyed, and healed. “So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power” . And we will be in the bodily presence of our Creator and our Savior, able to see Him as He is .
We live our lives in the earthly city with this hope in the resurrection. When we witness injustice and violence, we work to address it because we know it does not have the last word. It is defeated in the resurrection. When the weight of injustice in our world rests heavily on us, we also do not give in to despair. Our best efforts might have fallen short today, but injustice, evil, and violence will not last forever. The city of God will triumph over them, guaranteed. We come now to the end of The City of God. We will spend the next few posts looking at other passages from Augustine on politics and looking at several case studies from his life. For now, I want to close this portion of the series by giving Augustine the last word.
“How great will be that happiness where there will be no evil, where no good will be concealed, where there will be leisure for the praises of God, who will be all in all!…They will be rid of all evils in such a way that every sensation of them will be thoroughly deleted…Surely there will be nothing more delightful for that city than this song to the glory of the grace of Christ, by whose blood we have been freed….Its end will not be at sunset, but will be the Lord’s day-an eternal eight day sanctified by the resurrection of Christ, which prefigures the eternal rest, not only of the spirit but also of the body. There we will rest and see, see and love, love and praise. Behold what will be in the end without end! What else will our end be, except to reach the kingdom in which there is no end?” .
 Augustine, Augustine: Political Writings, trans. Michael W. Tkacz and Douglas Kries (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1994), pp. 184-185.
 Ibid. p. 186.
 Ibid. pp. 11-12.
 Ibid. p. 186.
 Ibid. p. 188.
 Philippians 4:7 NRSV
 Augustine, p. 193.
 Ibid. p. 194.
 See Scott Carr, Jr. “Augustine 2020: Political Puzzle Pieces,” June 30, 2020, https://www.reimaginefaith.org/post/augustine-2020-political-puzzle-pieces.
 See Erin Heim and Dru Johnson, “Erin Heim with Dru Johnson - Resurrection and the #MeToo Movement (Part 1): OnScript,” onscript.study, June 16, 2020, https://onscript.study/podcast/erin-heim-with-dru-johnson-resurrection-and-the-metoo-movement-part-1/ and Erin Heim and Dru Johnson, “Erin Heim with Dru Johnson - Resurrection and the #Metoo Movement (Part II).: OnScript,” October 6, 2020, https://onscript.study/podcast/erin-heim-resurrection-and-the-metoo-movement-part-ii/..
 1 Corinthians 15:42-43.
 Augustine, pp. 197-198, 1 Corinthians 3:9, 12.
 Ibid. pp. 198-201.