Summary of “City of God” Pt. 14 – Part 3, Book 14

This post marks the conclusion of Part Three of “City of God.”

“City of God” Part Three – “The Origin of the Two Cities,” Book Fourteen – “Two Loves Originate Two Different Cities”

[Note: My copy of “City of God” is not a complete one. The publishers and translators, in order to keep the size of the book down and keep the content more focused, edited out certain chapters where Augustine would go on one of his legendary excursus. They offered a brief summary of the chapters that were taken out. For completion’s sake I will go ahead and just quote the the summaries in their whole in italics and note when I am doing so.]

Chapter 1: Even though man descended from one person, there are still only two cities for him to occupy and choose from. The way into each of these cities is simple. Through personal choice.

“God had two purposes in deriving all men from one man. His first purpose was to give unity to the human race by the likeness of nature. His second purpose was to bind mankind by the bond of peace, through blood relationship, into one harmonious whole.”

“One city is that of men who live according to the flesh. The other is of men who live according to the spirit. Each of them chooses its own kind of peace and, when they attain what they desire, each lives in the peace of its own choosing.”

Chapter 2: Augustine defines what it means to live by the flesh and to live by the spirit.

Chapter 3: Augustine calls out the error of saying the soul sins because of the flesh. He uses Satan as a proof, for Satan possesses no fleshly body but still sins.

“The corruption of the body, which is a burden on the soul, is not the cause but the punishment of Adam’s first sin. Moreover, it was not the corruptible flesh that made the soul sinful; on the contrary, it was the sinful soul that made the flesh corruptible.”

Chapter 4: When man chooses to live ‘according to man,’ he is not living ‘according to God’ and as such is living like the devil.

“This is the reason why every sin can be called a lie. For, when we choose to sin, what we want is to get some good or get rid of something bad. The lie is in this, that what is done for our good ends in something bad, or what is done to make things better ends by making them worse. Why this paradox, except that the happiness of man can come not from himself but only from God, and that to live according to oneself is to sin, and to sin is to lose God?”

Chapter 5: Citing the works of Virgil, Augustine shows that it makes sense that the fleshly body is not the primary source of evil in men. The soul itself plays a greater role in fulfilling this function.

“The flesh, in its own kind and order, is good. But what is not good is to abandon the Goodness of the Creator in pursuit of some created good.”

“Anyone, then, who extols the nature of the soul as the highest good and condemns the nature of the flesh as evil is as carnal in his love for the soul as he is in his hatred for the flesh, because his thoughts flow from human vanity and not the divine Truth.”

“From this it is clear that, even if the belief, which is absolutely unfounded, were true, namely, that there exists this unceasing alternation of purification and defilement in the souls which depart from and return to their bodies, no one could rightly say that all culpable and corrupt emotions of our souls have their roots in our earthly bodies.”

Chapter 6: Neither the flesh not the soul are the primary root of evil. The key part of man in this issue is the direction of man’s will.

“Man’s will, then, is all-important. If it is badly directed, the emotions will be perverse; if it is rightly directed, the emotions will be not merely blameless but even praiseworthy.”

Chapters 7-10: [Editor’s Summary] From the main topic, the importance of the will and its act of love, Augustine digresses to examine the Stoic theory of virtue as nondisturbance from the passions. Stoic apathy is not fully possible now in this life, but before the first sin Adam and Eve were undisturbed by passions.

Chapter 11: God not only foresaw that Adam would fall, He also saw what kind of good He would be able to work because of this event. Even though Adam and Eve both ate of the fruit in the garden, Adam was held responsible.

“By His omniscience, God could foresee two future realities: how bad man whom God had created good was to become, and how much good God was to make out of this very evil.”

“The good will, then, is a work of God, since man was created by God with a good will. On the contrary, the first bad will, which was present in man before any of his bad deeds, was rather a falling away from the wok of God into man’s own works than a positive work itself.”

“While good can exist without any defect, … evil cannot exist without good, since the natures to which the defects belong, in as much as they are natures, are good.”

“Eve accepted the serpent’s words as true, whereas Adam refused to be separated from his partner even in a union of sin – not, of course, that he was, on that account, any less guilty, since he sinned knowingly and deliberately.”

Chapter 12: Why do the consequences for sins today not harm the body as severely as the first sin? Because the first sin was about obedience and was extremely easy to obey.

Chapter 13: Augustine discusses the “when” of the fall. He theorizes that Adam and Eve fell before they ever ate the fruit. For they could not ea if their will had not already fallen. The role of humility and pride in the two cities is then discussed.

“Our first parents only fell openly into the sin of disobedience because, secretly, they had begun to be guilty. Actually, their bad deed could not have been done had not bad will preceded it; what is more, the root of their bad will was nothing else than pride.”

“There is, then, a kind of lowliness which in some wonderful way causes the heart to be lifted up, and there is a kind of loftiness which makes the heart sink lower.”

“Hence it is that just because humility is the virtue especially esteemed in the City of God and so recommended to its citizens in their present pilgrimage on earth and because it is one that was particularly outstanding in Christ, its king, so it is that pride, the vice contrary to this virtue, is, as Holy Scripture tells us, especially dominant in Christ’s adversary, the Devil.”

“This is the main difference which distinguishes the two cities of which we are speaking. The humble City is the society of holy men and good angles; the proud city is the society of wicked men and evil angels. The one City began with the love of God;the other had its beginnings in the love of self.”

Chapter 14: The worst kind of pride is to offer an excuse or to shift blame when one’s sin is obvious.

Chapter 15: The punishment God gave to man was just.

Chapter 16: Short discussion on the nature of lust.

Chapter 17: [Editor’s Summary]  An explanation is offered for Genesis 2.25, ‘they were naked but they felt no shame.’

Chapter 18: Sexual passion is always accompanied by some form of shame, whether or not it is exercised in a legally or morally right manner. Even places like brothels are diligent to maintain secrecy.

Chapters 19-25: [Editor’s Summary] The shame now associated with procreation is noted, together with the view of the Cynic school that the marital act is good and so might well be performed in public. Criticizing this, Augustine speculates on the possibility of procreation without lust, on the peculiar things some people can do with their bodies (such as wiggling both ears), and on the ability of a man named Restitutus to assume a state of suspended animation. The point is made again that no man can be perfectly happy in this life.

Chapter 26: Augustine wonders whether or not, in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve could have gone through the act of procreation without succumbing to lust.

Chapter 27: God created the first man in such a way that he could overcome Satan if he trusted in God, yet would fall to Satan if he trusted in Himself.

“Of course, no one would dare to believe or declare that it was beyond God’s power to prevent the fall of either angel or man. But, in fact, God preferred not to use His own power, but to leave success or failure to the creature’s choice. In this way, God could show both the immense evil that flows from the creature’s pride and also the even greater good that comes from His grace.”

Chapter 28: Augustine summarizes the current book, that selfish love and love of God lead to two different societies.

“What we see, then, is that two societies have issued from two kinds of love. Worldly society has flowered from a selfish love which dared to despise even God, whereas the communion of saints is rooted in a love of God that is ready to trample on self.”

Next time: Part Four “The Development of the Two Cities,” Book Fifteen “The Two Cities in Early Biblical History.”

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