Having dealt with the charges of the Roman pagans against the Christians, Augustine now begins to explain what is really meant by the phrase “City of God.” He will do so by tracking the development of this City of Saints throughout history, starting with the creation of the universe and the origins of good and bad angels.
“City of God” Part Three – “The Origin of the Two Cities,” Book Eleven – “Creation and the Two Societies of Angels”
Chapter 1: The concept of the “City of God” comes from the use of the same term in Scripture. Augustine now announces that he intends to track the progress of the City of God throughout history.
Chapter 2: Augustine confesses that God does not normally communicate His nature to us. If not for Christ taking on human flesh, He would still remain a great mystery to us.
“It was in order to make the mind able to advance more confidently toward the truth that Truth itself, the divine Son of God, put on humanity without putting off His divinity and built this firm path of faith so that man, by means of the God-man, could find his way to man’s God.”
Chapter 3: Augustine lists the ways in which teaching of Christ has been presented. There are still sources that can be trusted.
Chapter 4: God created not only the universe, but also the human soul. Eventually the soul (for the believer) will reach a point where it experiences no misery.
Chapter 5: Augustine criticizes the question of why did not God create the universe earlier? The answer is that time did not exist before the creation.
Chapter 6: Augustine defines time as being that which allows/tracks movements and changes. Movement and change could not take place without created objects. Thus time and material were brought into existence simultaneously.
“The distinguishing mark between time and eternity is that the former does not exist without some movement and change, while in the latter there is no change at all.”
“I do not see how we can say that He created the world after a space of time had elapsed unless we admit, also, that previously some creature had existed whose movements would mark the course of time.”
“The fact is that the world was made simultaneously with time, if, with creation, motion and change began.”
Chapter 7: Augustine ponders the use of the word “day” in Genesis 1 and how the first three days could be measured without the sun and the moon. He also postulates that perhaps the word “light” is in fact a reference to the creation of the angels.
“Of course, there is mention in the beginning that ‘light’ was made by the Word of God, and that God separated it from darkness, calling the light day and the darkness night. But no experience of our senses can tell us just what kind of ‘light’ it was and by what kind of alternating movement it caused ‘morning’ and ‘evening.'”
“Or, perhaps, under the name of light, there is signified that holy City composed of blessed angels and saints of which the Apostle speaks: ‘That Jerusalem which is above, our eternal mother in Heaven.'”
Chapter 8: When Moses wrote that God “rested” on the seventh day, it does not mean He over exerted Himself. It is instead a picture of the rest the believer finds in Him.
Chapter 9: To begin his discussion on the creation of the Holy City of God, Augustine starts with the creation of angels. The first question that must be asked is “when” they were created. They were the initial light created by God on day one.
“Surely, no one would be rash enough to hold that the angels were created after all the other things mentioned in the six days of creation. If so, his folly can be refuted by the equally authoritative Scriptural passage where God says: ‘When the stars were make all my angels loudly praised me'[Job 38.7]”
“Thus, the angels, illumined by that light which created them, became light and were called ‘day’ because they participated in that unchangeable light and day which is the Word of God, by whom they and all things were made.”
“Evil has no positive nature; what we call evil is merely the lack of something that is good.”
Chapter 10: Discussion on the nature of the Trinity. Giving note to the simplicity of God, in that He is not made up of various parts.
Chapter 11: The good angels attained happiness by staying faithful to God. There must have been disparity in wisdom among the angels. For if they were all equally wise, they would all have equally chosen God.
Chapter 12: The believer who knows he is guaranteed eternal life is the one who is truly happy, despite whatever physical suffering he may endure.
Chapter 13: Augustine proposes that, at the time of their creation, some of the angels would have had more assurance of receiving eternal blessedness than others. The ones who didn’t are the ones who ended up falling.
Chapters 14-15: [Editor’s Summary] The Devil was not evil by nature; he was an angel who abandoned his original truth and goodness.
Chapter 16: There is a heirarchy that can be found in nature. Living is better than non-living. Sentient is better than non-sentient. Wise is better than foolish. Immortal is better than mortal.
Chapters 17-18: [Editor’s Summary] God providentially foresaw the Devil’s turn to wickedness, and also that of evil men, but permitted this for the good of the whole of creation.
Chapter 19: If it is to be understood that the “light” of day one is meant to be the angels, then it follows that the separating of the light from the dark is the casting out of the fallen angels.
Chapter 20: Augustine draws attention to the fact that God only declared it good after He created the light. When He separated the light from the dark He did not declare it to be good.
Chapter 21: Discussion on the phrase “God saw that it was good.” Ultimately, the answer to the question of why the things in the universe were created is that it was good to do so.
“There is no Creator higher than God, no art more efficacious than the Word of God, no better reason why something good should be created than that the God who creates is good.”
Chapter 22: Even the parts of creation that may not seem good at certain times, are in fact good when they are viewed in their proper place and context.
Chapter 23: Discussion on some of the views Origen held about creation.
Chapter 24: More clarification on the word “Trinity.” Augustine claims that if we investigate and question creation we will begin to see evidence of the Trinity.
Chapter 25: Augustine now claims that evidence of the Trinity can be found in our schools of thought. For example, the three fold division of philosophy into physics, logic, and ethics.
Chapter 26: There is evidence of the Trinity in man. Man exhibits this in being, knowledge and love.
Chapter 27: Existence is far more preferable than non-existence.
Chapter 28: The thing within men that make them so lovable is that they love good, not that they know what good is.
Chapter 29: The angels, having lived so close to God and having seen the creation of the universe, have a better and fuller knowledge of God.
Chapter 30: God did His creative work in six days to help illustrate the perfection of His work. Augustine shows mathematically how six is a perfect number.
“It is the perfection of God’s work that is signified by the number six. For, this is the first number made up of aliquot parts, a sixth, a third, and a half, respectively, one, two, and three, totaling six.”
Chapters 31-33: [Editor’s Summary] After a digression on the significance of the number seven in various biblical texts, Augustine offers a miniature commentary on the opening verses of Genesis. From the mention of light and darkness, in Genesis, he is led to speculate on the separation of the good and bad angels.
Chapter 34: When God divided the water below from the water above, some take this to be a reference to the dividing of the good angels from the bad.
I am very excited about the next book. It is in fact the reason I bought this book years ago. It will begin to deal with the concepts of evil and sin and where it came from.
Next time: “Created Wills and the Distinction of Good and Evil.”