The City of God [NOOK Book]

Overview

No book except the Bible itself had a greater influence on the Middle Ages than City of God. Since medieval Europe was the cradle of today's Western civilization, this work by consequence is vital for an understanding of our world and how it came into being. St. Augustine is often regarded as the most influential Christian thinker after St. Paul, and this book is his masterpiece, a vast synthesis of religious and secular knowledge. It began as a reply to the charge that Christian otherworldliness was causing the ...
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The City of God

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Overview

No book except the Bible itself had a greater influence on the Middle Ages than City of God. Since medieval Europe was the cradle of today's Western civilization, this work by consequence is vital for an understanding of our world and how it came into being. St. Augustine is often regarded as the most influential Christian thinker after St. Paul, and this book is his masterpiece, a vast synthesis of religious and secular knowledge. It began as a reply to the charge that Christian otherworldliness was causing the decline of the Roman Empire. Augustine produced a wealth of evidence to prove that paganism bore within itself the seeds of its own destruction. Then he proceeded to his larger theme, a cosmic interpretation of history in terms of the struggle between good and evil: the City of God in conflict with the Earthly City or the City of the Devil. This, the first serious attempt at a philosophy of history, was to have incalculable influence in forming the Western mind on the relations of church and state, and on the Christian's place in the temporal order. The original City of God contained twenty-two books and fills three regular-sized volumes. This edition has been skillfully abridged for the intelligent general reader by Vernon J. Bourke, author of Augustine's Quest of Wisdom. The heart of this monumental work is now available to a much wider audience.

Saint Augustine examines the failure of Roman religion and the flaws in human civilization, thus creating the first Christrian philosophy of history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The human mind can understand truth only by thinking, as is clear from Augustine."
– Saint Thomas Aquinas
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940000750780
  • Publisher: B&R Samizdat Express
  • Publication date: 12/1/2008
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 491,645
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Saint Augustine was born on November 13th, A.D. 354, in Tagaste (modern Souk Ahras, Algeria), and died almost seventy-six years later in Hippo Regius—(modern Annaba) on the Mediterranean coast sixty miles away. In the years between, he devoted himself to the mastery of the texts of scripture, becoming a formidable theologian.

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Read an Excerpt

Introduction by Thomas Merton


Here is a book that was written over fifteen hundred years ago by a mystic in North Africa. Yet to those who have ears to hear, it has a great deal to say to many of us who are not mystics, today, in America. The City of God is a monumental theology of history. It grew out of St. Augustine's meditations on the fall of the Roman Empire. But his analysis is timeless and universal. That is to say, it is Catholic in the etymological sense of the word. It is also Catholic in the sense that St. Augustine's view of history is the view held by the Catholic Church, and by all Catholic tradition since the Apostles. It is a theology of history built on revelation, developed above all from the inspired pages of St. Paul's Epistles and St. John's Apocalypse.

To those who do not know St. Augustine, the figure of the great Bishop of Hippo (the modern name of the city is Bona) may seem quite remote. And to one who attempts to make his first acquaintance with Augustine by starting to read The City of God from the beginning without a guide, the saint may remain an unappealing personality and his book may appear to be nothing more than a maze of curious, ancient fancies.

St. Augustine began to write this book three years after Rome first collapsed and opened its gates to a barbarian invader. Alaric and his Goths sacked the city in 410. Rome had been the inviolate mistress of the world for a thousand years. The fall of the city that some had thought would stand forever demoralized what was left of the civilized world. Those who still took the pagan gods seriously--and it seems they were not a few--looked about them for a scapegoat uponwhich to lay the guilt for this catastrophe. The Christians had emerged from the catacombs and had been officially recognized by the convert Emperor Constantine. Nevertheless Christianity remained the object of superstitious fear on the part of many, and it was inevitable that the bad luck that had befallen the Empire should be blamed on the Catholic Church. St. Augustine took up his pen in 413 and set about proving the absurdity of such a charge. This furnished him with the subject matter for the first ten books of The City of God--a work that was written slowly, and appeared in installments over a period of thirteen years. But the topic that first engaged his attention--Christianity versus the official pagan religion of imperial Rome--is not one that will strike us, today, as a living issue. Nor was it altogether worthy of the genius of Augustine. After several years of writing he abandoned this aspect of the problem, and left it to be disposed of by a certain Orosius, who will probably never find his way into the catalogue of the Modern Library. We owe him at least a debt of gratitude for having set Augustine free to write about the problem that really interested him: the theology of the "two cities" and of the intervention of God in human history.

The saint does not settle down to treat the real theme of his work until he reaches Book Eleven. And even then, he takes such a broad view of his subject that his approach to the main point seems to us extraordinarily unhurried. He pauses to solve many questions of detail. He embarks on a historical exegesis of the Old and New Testaments in order to show how the "two cities" have entered into the very substance of sacred history. Finally he completes this extraordinary panorama with a view of the final end of the two cities, and of their respective fates in eternity. How many Americans will have the patience to follow him through all of this? Those who do so will certainly find themselves profoundly changed by the experience, because they will have been exposed to a summary of Christian dogma. It is an exposition that can only be fully appreciated if it is read in the spirit in which it was written. And The City of God is an exposition of dogma that was not only written but lived.

What do we mean when we say that Augustine lived the theology that he wrote? Are we implying, for instance, that other theologians have not lived up to their principles? No. That possibility is not what concerns us here. It is more than a question of setting down on paper a series of abstract principles and then applying them in practice. Christianity is more than a moral code, more than a philosophy, more than a system of rites. Although it is sufficient, in the abstract, to divide the Catholic religion into three aspects and call them creed, code and cult, yet in practice, the integral Christian life is something far more than all this. It is more than a belief; it is a life. That is to say, it is a belief that is lived and experienced and expressed in action. The action in which it is expressed, experienced and lived is called a mystery. This mystery is the sacred drama which keeps ever present in history the Sacrifice that was once consummated by Christ on Calvary. In plain words--if you can accept them as plain--Christianity is the life and death and resurrection of Christ going on day after day in the souls of individual men and in the heart of society.

It is this Christ-life, this incorporation into the Body of Christ, this union with His death and resurrection as a matter of conscious experience, that St. Augustine wrote of in his Confessions. But Augustine not only experienced the reality of Christ living in his own soul. He was just as keenly aware of the presence and action, the Birth, Sacrifice, Death and Resurrection of the Mystical Christ in the midst of human society. And this experience, this vision, if you would call it that, qualified him to write a book that was to be, in fact, the autobiography of the Catholic Church. That is what The City of God is. Just as truly as the Confessions are the autobiography of St. Augustine, The City of God is the autobiography of the Church written by the most Catholic of her great saints.

That is the substance of the book. But how is the average modern American going to get at that substance? Evidently, the treatment of the theme is so leisurely and so meandering and so diffuse that The City of God, more than any other book, requires an introduction. The best we can do here is to offer a few practical suggestions as to how to tackle it.

The first of these suggestions is this: since, after all, The City of God reflects much of St. Augustine's own personality and is colored by it, the reader who has never met Augustine before ought to go first of all to the Confessions. Once he gets to know the saint, he will be better able to understand Augustine's view of society. Then, no one who is not a specialist, with a good background of history or of theology or of philosophy, ought not to attempt to read the City, for the first time, beginning at page one. The living heart of the City is found in Book Nineteen, and this is the section that will make the most immediate appeal to us today because it is concerned with the theology of peace. However, Book Nineteen cannot be understood all by itself. The best source for solutions to the most pressing problems it will raise is Book Fourteen, where the origin of the two Cities is sketched, in an essay on original sin. Finally, the last Book (Twenty-two), which is perhaps the finest of them all, and a fitting climax to the whole work, will give the reader a broad view of St. Augustine's whole scheme because it describes the end of the City of God, the communal vision of the elect in Paradise, the contemplation which is the life of the "City of Vision" in heaven and the whole purpose of man's creation.

Continued...

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Table of Contents

Introduction 7
Foreword 13
I. The Problem of a Universal Society 13
II. The City of God and Universal Society 21
III. Christian Wisdom and a World Society 33
Part 1 The Pagan Gods and Earthly Happiness
Book I. Christianity Did Not Cause the Fall of Rome 39
Book II. Pagan Gods Never Protected Men's Souls 66
Book III. Physical Evils Were Not Prevented by the Gods 78
Book IV. Divine Justice and the Growth of the Roman Empire 84
Book V. Providence and the Greatness of Rome 99
Part 2 The Pagan Gods and Future Happiness
Book VI. Eternal Life and the Inadequacy of Polytheism 119
Book VII. Criticisms of Pagan Natural Theology 135
Book VIII. Classical Philosophy and Refined Paganism 144
Book IX. Pagan Deities, Demons, and Christian Angels 172
Book X. Christian Worship Contrasted with Platonic Theology 186
Part 3 The Origin of the Two Cities
Book XI. Creation and the Two Societies of Angels 205
Book XII. Created Wills and the Distinction of Good and Evil 244
Book XIII. Adam's Sin and Its Consequences 269
Book XIV. Two Loves Originate Two Different Cities 295
Part 4 The Development of the Two Cities
Book XV. The Two Cities in Early Biblical History 323
Book XVI. The City of God from the Flood to King David 363
Book XVII. From the Age of the Prophets to Christ's Birth 378
Book XVIII. The City of Man in Ancient History 391
Part 5 The Ends of the Two Cities
Book XIX. Philosophy and Christianity on Man's End 427
Book XX. Separation of the Two Cities in the Last Judgment 483
Book XXI. End and Punishment of the Earthly City 494
Book XXII. The Eternal Bliss of the City of God 507
Index 546
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Reading Group Guide

1. St. Augustine describes the origin of The City of God as follows: "[in 410] Rome was destroyed as a result of an invasion of the Goths.... The worshipers of many false gods ... began to blaspheme the true God more sharply ... than usual." How does an awareness of the origin of this work as a grand defense of Christianity help us to understand it?

2. What is the meaning of the "two cities, " one of which is "of this world, " and the other of which is "of God"? How does St. Augustine's analysis of these two cities and their histories help organize and structure this work?

3. St. Augustine elaborates the notion of predestination (that all things are preordained by God), an idea taken up much later by Martin Luther and John Calvin. Discuss this crucial idea and its implications.

4. St. Augustine was deeply interested in the workings of the human mind. How do Augustine's ideas about sense perception, will, intellect, and memory resonate with, or differ from, our own? In what ways does The City of God shed light on your own experience of being human?

5. The concept of doubt was crucial for St. Augustine. How is this concept elaborated in The City of God?

6. Thomas Merton, in his Introduction to this volume, describes the work as follows: 'Just as truly as the Confessions are the autobiography of St. Augustine, The City of God is the autobiography of the Church written by the most Catholic of her great saints." How does this perspective help us to understand St. Augustine's writings?

7. St. Augustine is widely regarded as one of the great stylists in the history of Christian literature. What is your senseof St. Augustine's style-his ability to communicate and render intelligible the complex ideas, arguments, and concepts that constitute The City of God?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 46 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 46 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2005

    A thought-provoking book

    I'm a nonbeliever, but I became aware of Augustine and Aquinas when taking Philosophy 100C and Philosophy of Religion at UCLA for my BA in Philosophy. What I enjoy most about Augustine in this work is that he often sounds very rational and open-minded, indeed, almost modern in his frank discussions of human behaviors. For example, he says things about sexuality that you might not expect a Doctor of the Church to say, like sex, being created by God, is not evil but it is lust which is sinful. This work also contains his famous quote about time 'If no one asks me what time is, I know. If someone asks me, I do not.' I suppose that is the mark of a great author, in that they transcend the times they live in and have something to say to all generations. At over 1000 pages, this book definitely requires a time committment on your part, but is certainly worth the investment.

    13 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    You do need this.

    Do not let the atheist and secularist reviewers tell you that you don't need this, or any authoritative teaching. God wants to love us, but does that mean our fate is guaranteed? We can do nothing to win God's love, but we need to do everything to earnestly want God's love. The battle for a compassionate and God-loving heart cannot be won by you alone, but can never be lost by those who never cease to battle. Augustine will teach you this, and so much more. New to this? Despair not: "How late have I loved Thee..." the Saint laments. Savor the place where God has brought you and give thanks for having been preserved to this moment. A great book from a great mind and a great soul. You do need this book.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    Preface and introduction essays are crucial to understanding this brilliant work, an exemplary work from the Church Fathers whose writings helped to unfold the teachings of the Church.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2001

    God is everywhere

    I have a little poem I would like to say about this book: Come sing with sweet rejoicing, come sing with love. We're not afraid of voicing all the things we're dreaming of. Oh, high and low and everywhere we go. We can build a beautiful city, yes we can, yes we can. We can build a beautiful city and call it ours, and call it the city of man. We won't need alabaster. We won't need gold. We've got our special plaster, so take my hand, I'll take you home. Oh, high and low and everywhere we go. We can build a beautiful city and call it ours, and call it the city of man. Such powerful words, but it does tell us we can build the city of God. Read this book. It is really old, written a few later after Jesus' death by St. Augustine. He was very creative for a time of 'oldness' for a writer. I think that this book sends out a good message to everyone, and every Christian person should read it. Buh Bye!

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2014

    Rennee to jordon

    Hey

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2014

    Lucas

    Hurro.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2014

    Jordan

    Here. Take one. *Tosses you a bottle of pills and some water.* The procedure will be nothing less than excrutiatingly painful, for anyone who's awake, of course. Take that and it'll knock you out in a few minutes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2014

    Fantastic book

    Excellent...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2013

    10.48!?

    Tooo expensive..... btw nice poem :)

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2011

    Terrible scan of no value

    Do not waste your time

    0 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted September 25, 2010

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