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  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.

Augustine 2020: The Earthly City, Domain of Death

Updated: Sep 26, 2022

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Last time, we saw that Augustine defined evil as a turning from the source of life (God) and towards the nothingness from which all things were created [1]. This week, we encounter the end result of that process: death. Death happens in the soul when God is absent from the soul and the body dies when the soul leaves it [2]. Life only happens when the soul is present in the body and when God is present in the soul. “The soul lives from God when it lives well, for it cannot live well unless God brings about good in it” [3]. A human being’s body can be livened by a dead soul, but that life will eventually fade away, and die twice [4].


Death is the conventional pattern of life in this age, in the earthly city. We live in an era marked by sin, specific actions of rejecting the source of life. The final result of turning from the source of all existence is the end of existence itself. Death is simply a common feature of the sinful earthly city. “As soon as we begin to live in this dying body, each one of our actions hastens the approach of death” [5].


God is not the source of death, evil, or sin. God is the source of life, goodness, and love. “God, who is the author of natures and not of defects, created man upright” [6]. At the creation of the first humans, God declared His work “very good” [7]. Our own choices, our own decisions turned us away from that source of life and introduced death since that very first choice to trust in ourselves rather than God [8]. “Man…was corrupted of his own accord and was justly condemned and gave birth to corrupted and condemned offspring” [9]. Death is simply the way of life now in this world.

Yet Augustine introduces a “but”. “Only those who are freed by the grace of God escape this death” [10]. Christians are not death-people, but resurrection-people. We are those who have been baptized into the resurrection life of Jesus [11] and look forward to our own future bodily resurrection [12]. So what does this have to do with politics and voting? Augustine does not draw those conclusions for us. What we can say is that Christians are to be deeply invested in the life God created us to have and, despite now being turned towards death, the world will one day have full life again [13]. We recognize that we will not bring about that perfection now. We wait for Christ to finish the job. But as we live in this world now as people who know the fullness of life offered in Christ, we have no patience with death. We do not sit idly by as we see sin, evil, and injustice turn God’s creation towards death. It does not matter the issue: whatever violates the sanctity of any human life, whatever strips someone of their humanity because of their skin color, whatever exploits the planet for short-term greed, whatever impedes true human flourishing has no business with the Christian.


In our society, we have so many outlets with which to fight injustice. We have the right to vote, to petition, to contact our leaders, to protest, and to donate to organizations working on specific issues. We have a responsibility and a calling to use the resources God has graciously given us in our society to fight against the injustice that sides against God and seeks to undo what our Creator created as good. We do not unreservedly side with political parties that stand for some elements of justice and fight to maintain other elements of injustice. We do not represent different sides of the political aisle. We represent the politics of the Kingdom of God and stand for abundant life in whatever way we can. I am deeply disturbed by Christians who play into partisan politics, who address the issues that their political party addresses, and then say about those other issues their party does not address, “Well, those aren’t my concern right now. God will fix it one day.” Christians can work with different political parties and organizations on various issues. Christians must always stand for flourishing and can never ignore injustice simply because their preferred candidate does.

We will not always succeed in our efforts and, when we don’t, we entrust the issue to God’s hands, knowing that He will one day, guaranteed, set it all right Himself. As we stand up for justice, life, and goodness in our politics, we also never cease proclaiming God as the source of our existence and flourishing. We proclaim the good news of Christ crucified, risen, and coming again. And we show what that life looks like now by standing for justice and goodness.


[1] See Scott Carr, Jr. “Augustine 2020: Evil and the Good Creation,” September 8, 2020, https://www.reimaginefaith.org/post/augustine-2020-evil-and-the-good-creation.

[2] Augustine, Augustine: Political Writings, trans. Michael W. Tkacz and Douglas Kries (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1994), p. 92.

[3] Ibid. p. 93.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid. p. 94.

[7] Genesis 1:31 NRSV.

[8] See Genesis 3.

[9] Augustine, p. 94.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Romans 6.

[12] 1 Corinthians 15.

[13] Revelation 21.

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