This book is devoted to explaining the effects sin has on the human body and the human race. Augustine devotes a great deal of time on examining death and it’s nature.
“City of God” Part Three – “The Origin of the Two Cities,” Book Thirteen – “Adam’s Sin and Its Consequences”
[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: Now that the topic of the creation of the universe and man has been dealt with in the previous book, Augustine now turns his focus to the fall of man, and the origin and transmission of human mortality.
“God so made men that, should they disobey, death was to be a just judgement for their disobedience.”
Chapter 2: Augustine explains what is meant by the term “death.” The first death is when the soul abandons the body, and the second death is when the soul is abandoned by God.
“[The soul] is said to be immortal because it can never, in the least degree, cease to live and perceive. The body, on the other hand, is mortal because it can be deprived entirely of life and because, of itself, it has no power to live. Death comes to the soul when God abandons it, just as death comes to the body when the soul departs.”
“It can be said of the first death, the death of the body, that it is good for saints and bad for sinners, but of the second that it is certainly good for no one and non-existent for the saints.”
Chapter 3: Augustine recognizes that saying that death is good for believer’s seemingly contradicts the truth that death is the punishment for sin. He uses this chapter to explain how the sin nature is passed on to children, and concludes that the answer to the mentioned conundrum, is that for those who believe in Christ, death is the manner in which the believer is separated from the sin nature.
“While the first parents were so created that, had they not sinned, they would have experienced n kind of death, nevertheless, these first sinners were so punished that all of their descendants were to be subject to the same penalty of death. No one was to be born of them who was less a sinner than they were. Such was the greatness of the guilt that the punishment so impaired human nature that what was originally a penal condition for the first parents who sinned became a natural consequence in all of their descendants.”
“Parent and offspring are identical in having the same human nature. Hence, when the first couple were punished by the judgement of God, the whole human race, which was to become Adam’s posterity through the first woman, was present in the first man.”
Chapter 4: There is still the question of why those whose sins are pardoned must still suffer the penalty of death. First, it is a test of faith in the unseen. Second, it is to move the believer into a state where they will never sin again.
“Who would not run to join the infants about to be baptized, if the main purpose of Christ’s grace were to save us from bodily death? Thus, faith would be put to no test by an invisible reward; it could not even be called faith; it would be merely a desire to receive an immediate reward of its work.”
“In the beginning, the first man was warned: ‘If you sin, you shall die’; now, the martyr is admonished; ‘Die that you may not sin.'”
“The sinners died because they sinned; the martyrs do not sin because they die.”
“God has rewarded faith /with so much grace that death, which seems to be the enemy of life, becomes an ally that helps man enter into life.”
Chapter 5: Remarks on how prohibition against sin (i.e. the Law) causes a growth in desire for the sin. This does not make the Law evil, it is wickedness that causes man to despise the Law.
Chapter 6: The event of the body and soul separating is not natural.
Chapter 7: Citations of scripture to help illustrate the point that death is good for the believer in that it puts an end to sin in the life of the believer.
Chapter 8: For the believer, death is itself an escape from death, namely, the second and eternal death.
“[The believer’s] motive in facing a partial death is to escape total death and, above all, a death which is eternal.”
Chapters 9-11: [Editor’s Summary] These chapters discuss the precise moment of death, whether it belongs to the living or the dead – and, further, whether throughout his mortal life man is dying. The gloom of the passage is lightened by an atrocious pun: the Latin verb, to die, cannot be declined regularly but the second dying, that of the soul, can be declined with the grace of God.
Chapter 12: What type of death were Adam and Eve threatened with for disobedience in the Garden? Every type of death.
Chapter 13: In addition to death, the sin of Adam and Eve brought shame.
Chapter 14: Although not physically present, all of Adam’s progeny, mankind, was in Adam, in the form of the nature of mankind.
Chapter 15: After Adam sinned, his relationship with God was cut off. This is why God asked “Where are you?” to Adam.
Chapter 16: Some philosophers find it ridiculous to claim that the separation of the soul and body is considered a punishment. In their minds all physical matter is evil, so to be freed from the body to them is the greatest good.
Chapter 17: When the Platonist claims true happiness comes when the soul leaves the physical body, they contradict themselves by also affirming the physical universe is the body for one of their gods. Augustine argues that it is only necessary to be free of a body that is corruptible. The fact that the body is physical does not mean it should be rejected.
“Since, then, these Platonists are so indulgent to their own suppositions, why do they refuse to believe that, by the will and power of God, even earthly bodies can be make immortal and that in these bodies, souls never separated by death nor ever burdened by their weight may live forever and in all felicity at least as well as their own gods can live in the bodies of fire and Jove, their king, in all the elements of matter. And if souls, in order to be blessed, must flee from every kind of body, then let their own gods flee from the starry spheres and let Jupiter escape from heaven and earth. Or, if that is beyond their powers, then let them be held to be unhappy.”
“To attain to blessedness, then, there is no need to be free of every kind of a body but only of those which are corruptible and irksome, burdensome and moribund, not such bodies as God, in His goodness, created for our first parents but only such as were imposed as a punishment for sin.”
Chapter 18: Some philosophers dismiss this Christian doctrine of bodily resurrection by saying that bodies cannot ascend to heaven because gravity prevents this. Augustine rejects this as nonsense, citing the example of Christ’s ascension into Heaven, and the power of God.
Chapters 19-20: [Editor’s Summary] Whether death would ever have been experience by men, had not Adam sinned, is a difficult question. The Platonic view, that souls are immortal but human bodies cannot be resurrected, is criticized.
Chapter 21: Augustine criticizes those who reject the historicity of the creation account in Genesis. The presence of an allegorical teaching does not necessitate the denial of its historicity. Augustine, while accepting the literal interpretation of the creation of Adam and Eve, also sees the story as an allegory of the Church.
Chapters 22-23: [Editor’s Summary] Speculating on whether the bodies of the blessed will consume food, Augustine dwells on the difference between Adam’s body in the original state and the spiritualized bodies of the saints. He then begins to explain the Biblical expression: ‘a living soul.’
Chapter 24: When God breathed into Adam, did this give him a soul, or did it make alive a soul that was already there? Augustine takes the former view. Extensive discussion is devoted to explaining what it means to be made from dust, and what it means for God to breath life into man.
Next Time: “Two Loves Originate Two Different Cities”