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An overview of the thoughts on time and the existence of god by saint augustine

The historical context is essential to understanding his purposes. Augustine, more than any other figure of late antiquity, stands at the intellectual intersection of Christianity, philosophy, and politics. As a Christian cleric, he takes it as his task to defend his flock against the unremitting assault by heresies spawned in an era uninformed by the immediate, divine revelations which had characterized the apostolic age. As a philosopher, he situates his arguments against the backdrop of Greek philosophy in the Platonic tradition, particularly as formulated by the Neo-Platonists of Alexandria.

As a prominent Roman citizen, he understands the Roman Empire to be the divinely-ordained medium through which the truths of Christianity are to be both spread and safeguarded. Augustine died reciting the Penitential Psalms as the Vandals besieged the city of Hippo on the coast of northern Africa now the city of Annaba, in Algeria.

  1. Is it just to compel men to do good who, when left to their own devices, would prefer evil?
  2. Briefly, according to Big Bang Theory, because matter and time are so inextricably bound, when all the matter in the universe was compressed into a single point it formed what's called a "quantum singularity" in which, the math shows, the curvature of time and space became infinite.
  3. In this same perspective, some studies of personality also underscore the importance of the social, everyday relationship to one another.

This occurred two decades after the sacking of Rome by Alaric. Quite the contrary, his political arguments are scattered throughout his voluminous writings, which include autobiography, sermons, expositions, commentaries, letters, and Christian apologetics. Moreover, the contexts in which the political and social issues are addressed are equally varied.

Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to suggest that his arguments are not informed by a cogent theory.


Taken together, his political and social musings constitute a remarkable tapestry. The Augustinian World View Because Augustine considers the Christian scriptures to constitute the touchstone against which philosophy—including political philosophy—must be assayed, his world view necessarily includes the Christian tenets of the Creation, the Fall of man, and the Redemption.

In stark contrast to the pagan philosophers who preceded him—who viewed the unfolding of history as a cyclical phenomenon, Augustine conceives history in strictly linear terms, with a beginning and an end. According to Augustine, the earth was brought into existence ex nihilo by a perfectly good and just God, who created man.

The earth is not eternal; the earth, as well as time, has both a beginning and an end. Man, on the other hand, was brought into existence to endure eternally. Damnation is the just desert of all men because of the Fall of Adam, who, having been created with free will, chose to disrupt the perfectly good order established by God. The onward march of human history, then, constitutes the unfolding of the divine plan which will culminate in one or the other outcome for every member of the human family.

Within this framework of political and legal systems, the state is a divinely ordained punishment for fallen man, with its armies, its power to command, coerce, punish, and even put to death, as well as its institutions such as slavery and private property. The state simultaneously serves the divine purposes of chastening the wicked and refining the righteous. Also simultaneously, the state constitutes a sort of remedy for the effects of the Fall, in that it serves to maintain such modicum of peace and order as it is possible for fallen man to enjoy in the present world.

In any case, predestination fixes the ultimate destination of every human being—as well as the political states to which they belong. Hence, predestination for Augustine is the proverbial elephant in the room. Whether predestination was divinely contemplated prior or incidental to the Fall a point which Augustine never clearly articulatesthe following problem arises: If one is to be saved or damned by divine fiat, what difference does it make whether the world possesses the social order of a state?

For those predestined for salvation, what is the point of their being refined by the vicissitudes of life in a political state?

In order to prevent the collapse of such a systematic account of the human condition as Augustine provides, the question simply must be set aside as a matter unknowable to finite man.

As the social fabric of the world around him unravels in the twilight years of the Roman Empire, Augustine attempts to elucidate the relationship between the eternal, invisible verities of his faith and the stark realities of the present, observable political and social conditions of humanity.

At the intersection of these two concerns, Augustine finds what for him is the central question of politics: How do the faithful operate successfully but justly in an unjust world,where selfish interests dominate, where the general welfare is rarely sought, and where good and evil men are inextricably and, to human eyes, often unidentifiably intermingled, yet search for a heavenly reward in the world hereafter?

Foundational Political and Social Concepts a. Two Cities Even though those elected for salvation and those elected for damnation are thoroughly intermingled, the distinction arising from their respective destinies gives rise to two classes of persons, to whom Augustine refers collectively and allegorically as cities—the City of God and the earthly city.

Indeed, the object of their love—whatever it may be—is something other than God. No political state, nor even the institutional church, can be equated with the City of God. What are criminal gangs but petty kingdoms? Likewise, the legitimacy of any earthly political regime can be understood only in relative terms: The emperor and the pirate have equally legitimate domains if they are equally just. The state maintains order by keeping wicked men in check through the fear of punishment.

In this regard, the institution of the state marks a relative return to order from the chaos of the Fall. Rulers have the right to establish any law that does not conflict with the law of God. Citizens have the duty to obey their political leaders regardless of whether the leader is wicked or righteous. There is no right of civil disobedience.

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  • But why should it be that MY present, where we were together initially, is or would be the dominant present, that is, predetermining where, when, and how your present would be THE correct or right present.

Citizens are always duty bound to obey God; and when the imperatives of obedience to God and obedience to civil authority conflict, citizens must choose to obey God and willingly accept the punishment of disobedience. Nevertheless, those empowered to levy punishment should take no delight in the task. Augustine clearly holds that the establishment and success of the Roman Empire, along with its embracing of Christianity as its official religion, was part of the divine plan of the true God.

Indeed, he holds that the influence of Christianity upon the empire could be only salutary in its effect: Still, while Augustine doubtless holds that it is better for Rome to be Christian than not, he clearly recognizes that officially embracing Christianity does not automatically transform an earthly state into the City of God.

Augustine does not wish ill for Rome. He sees Rome as the last bastion against the advances of the pagan barbarians, who surely must not be allowed to overrun the mortal embodiment of Christendom that Rome represents.

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Nevertheless, Augustine cannot be overly optimistic about the future of the Roman state as such—not because it is Rome, but because it is a state; for any society of men other than the City of God is part and parcel of the earthly city, which is doomed to inevitable demise. Even so, states like Rome can perform the useful purpose of championing the cause of the Church, protecting it from assault and compelling those who have fallen away from fellowship with it to return to the fold.

Indeed, it is entirely within the provinces of the state to punish heretics and schismatics. War and Peace a. Although one might feel to call upon Augustine to defend the notion that God can, with propriety, use so terrible a vehicle as war to chasten the wicked, two points must be kept in mind: This point invites a somewhat more philosophically intriguing question: Is it just to compel men to do good who, when left to their own devices, would prefer evil?

If one were forced to act righteously contrary to his or her will, is it not the case that he or she would still lack the change of heart that is necessary to produce a repentant attitude—an attitude that results in genuine reformation? Perhaps; but Augustine is unwilling to concede that it is better, in the name of recognizing the agency of others, to let them continue to wallow in evil practices. Augustine argues, The aim towards which a good will compassionately devotes its efforts is to secure that a bad will be rightly directed.

For who does not know that a man is not condemned on any other ground than because his bad will deserved it, and that no man is saved who has not a good will? Exactly how God is to bring about his good purposes through the process of war may not be clear to man in any particular case.

Moreover, those of good will shall administer discipline to those erring by moving them toward repentance and reformation. All of this leads conveniently to a second point: War can bring the need to discipline by chastening. Those of good will do not manifest cruelty in the proper administration of punishment but, rather, in the withholding of punishment.

For Augustine, it is always better to restrain an evil man from the commission of evil acts than it is to permit his continued perpetration of those acts. For Augustine, even the death of the mortal body, as ultimate a penalty as it might appear from the mortal perspective, is not nearly so serious a consequence as that which would ensue if one is left to wallow in sin: Neither is there any prohibition against taking the lives of the enemies of the state, so long as he does it in his public capacity as a soldier and not in the private capacity of a murderer.

Nevertheless, Augustine also urges that soldiers should go to war mournfully and never take delight in the shedding of blood. He becomes quite pessimistic though in his view of human nature and of the ability and desire of humans to maintain themselves orderly, much less rightly.

Augustine holds that, given the inextricable mixing of citizens of the two cities, the total avoidance of war or its effects is a practical impossibility for all men, including the righteous.

Happily, he holds that the day will come when, coincident with the end of the earthly city, wars will no longer be fought.

Augustine: Political and Social Philosophy

For, says Augustine, citing words from the Psalms to the effect that God will one day bring a cessation of all wars, This not yet see we fulfilled: For the present, however, man—particularly Christian man—is left with the question of how to live in a world full of war. On the one hand, the wicked are not particularly concerned about just wars.

This is by no means a perfect solution; but then again, this is not a perfect world. If it were, all talk of just wars would be altogether nonsensical. Perfect solutions characterize only the heavenly City of God. Its pilgrim citizens sojourning on earth can do no better than try to cope with the present difficulties and imperfections of the earthly life.

Thus, for Augustine, the just war is a coping mechanism for use by the righteous who aspire to citizenship in the City of God.

In terms of the traditional notion of jus ad bellum justice of war, that is, the circumstances in which wars can be justly foughtwar is a coping mechanism for righteous sovereigns who would ensure that their violent international encounters are minimal, a reflection of the Divine Will to the greatest extent possible, and always justified.

In terms of the traditional notion of jus in bello justice in war, or the moral considerations which ought to constrain the use of violence in warwar is a coping mechanism for righteous combatants who, by divine edict, have no choice but to subject themselves to their political masters and seek to ensure that they execute their war-fighting duty as justly as possible.

In sum, why would a man like Augustine, whose eye is fixed upon attainment of citizenship in the heavenly city, find it necessary to delineate what counts as a just war in this lost and fallen world? In general terms, the demands of moral life are so thoroughly interwoven with social life that the individual cannot be separated from citizenship in one or the other city. In more specific terms, the just man who walks by faith needs to understand how to cope with the injustices and contradictions of war as much as he needs to understand how to cope with all other aspects of the present world where he is a stranger and pilgrim.

Augustine takes important cues from both Cicero and Ambrose and synthesizes their traditions into a Christianized world view that still retains strong ties to the pre-Christian philosophic past.

He resolves the dilemma of just war and pacifist considerations by denying the dilemma: War arises from, and stands as a clear manifestation of, the nature of fallen man.

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His approach explains how a morally upright citizen of a relatively just state could be justified in pursuing warfare, in prosecuting war, and ultimately, although unhappily, in taking human life. Augustine as a Christian philosopher achieves a full synthesis of the Roman and Christian values associated with war in a way that legitimizes war as an instrument of national policy which, although inferior to the perfect ideals of Christianity, is one which Christians cannot altogether avoid and with which they must in some sense make their peace.

Jus ad Bellum and Jus in Bello Traditionally, the philosophical treatment of the just war is divided into two categories: The former describes the necessary and, by some accounts, sufficient conditions for justifying engagement in war. The latter describes the necessary conditions for conducting war in a just manner. Concerning jus in bello, Augustine holds that wars, once begun, must be fought in a manner which: Augustine distinguishes the two cities in several important ways, as well as the kind of peace they seek: There is, in fact, one city of men who choose to live by the standard of the flesh, another of those who choose to live by the standard of the spirit.

The citizens of each of these desire their own kind of peace, and when they achieve their aim, that is the kind of peace in which they live. Because the common choice of fallen man is a peace of his own liking—one that selfishly serves his own immediate or foreseeable ends, peace becomes, in practice, merely an interlude between ongoing states of war. Augustine is quick to point out that this life carries with it no guarantee of peace; that blessed state is reserved for the saved in heaven.