A Church Father Senator Hawley and His Mentors Should Read
Recently I commented here about U.S Senator Joshua Hawley’s misuse of fifth century heretic Pelagius. The attempt to draw a line of influence from him to today’s social decadence in America is just wrong.
But here is who Hawley and his mentors (I think I know some of them but I will refrain from naming them) ought to read: Saint Augustine’s magnum opus The City of God. Why?
Augustine was Pelagius’s main opponent who worked hard to get Pelagius and his followers condemned as heretics for denying original sin. Of course, Pelagius and his followers had their own idea of original sin—the depravity of people exercising bad influences on everyone including children—a kind of “incubator model” of original sin. What Pelagius denied inherited sin as either guilt or corruption. For him, every person is born in the same condition as Adam and Eve at their creation—pristine but able to sin.
Augustine is the great hero to many contemporary conservative Christians who believe in “saving America” and returning it to its Christian roots and foundations. But they haven’t read Augustine’s magnum opus about political life—The City of God—or else they have but choose to ignore Augustine’s message.
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Augustine wrote that massive tome to explain two main ideas. First, why the fall of Rome was not the fault of Christianity (as many pagans claimed), and second, why no human, earthly empire or “city” is the City of God. Only the church is the City of God on earth. And the fullness and perfection of the City of God is eschatological. It will only come about after Christ returns.
In The City of God Augustine contended that Christians should never enshrine any earthly “city” or empire or nation-state or polis as God’s country. Every human polis, nation, empire, “city,” will eventually fall—just like the Roman Empire in his time (fifth century AD). Many Christians in the Roman Empire had come to think of it—since Constantine and Theodosius—as God’s kingdom on earth. Augustine not only explains that they were wrong; he goes much further and argues that it is wrong, from a Christian perspective, to believe in any human political entity as the kingdom of God.
Many of today’s conservative American Christians need to learn this lesson from Augustine who is considered the greatest of all the church fathers by many of their own theological and pastoral mentors. Instead, they are like the Christians Augustine chided for falsely equating Rome with the kingdom of God.
I am not sure who first said it, but many Christian theologians have come to believe that “Americanism” is the world’s fourth great monotheistic religion. But that religion would be/is idolatrous. America is a great idea; I celebrate it and want to see it thrive. I’m a patriot, but not a nationalist. Christian nationalism in any country is wrong. No earthly, human nation state is mentioned in the New Testament and Christians are nowhere in the Bible commanded or urged to venerate any early empire or nation.
To Hawley and his like I say: Read The City of God or at least become familiar with the great Saint Augustine’s teachings about the City of God and the cities of men.
You blame Pelagius for contemporary American decadence? That’s just dumb. But you apparently like Pelagius’s main opponent Augustine—who was held in extremely high regard by Calvin. Learn from Augustine about the idolatry of equating any city of man with the City of God.
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