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Comps paper - Student#11 Augustine's critique of the civil...

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Student #11 Augustine's critique of the civil religion raises the question of the relationship of the citizen to the political order. Where before the city represented the highest and most comprehensive good, and therefore the divine, that was no longer true. What then is the basis of obligation to the political order? How does Augustine answer this question, or does he? If he does not, what is the possible answer, or is there one? In your discussion address what it is that Christian and non-Christian can share and how this might provide a resolution of the issue. The Christian’s Relationship to the Political Order In the late 4 th and early 5 th centuries it seemed that there was a direct correlation between the rise of Christianity and the decline of power in Rome. Christianity was unique and revolutionary in comparison to the existing religions of the time, and it instilled great fear into Roman society. Up to the time of Christ civil religion reined, closely tying virtue and eternal reward with obedience to the government. In congruence with past philosophers, Rome believed that a just political order guided by reason and inhabited with patriotic, virtuous citizens was the greatest end for mankind. Civil gods of the city were looked upon to instill motivation for the citizens beyond civil punishment to live virtuously. Considering itself to be a revolutionary political institution, the Roman Republic laid a heavy emphasis on civic duty because it counted on its citizens to vote regularly. Roman authorities feared that in sanctioning a religion which established a higher authority than the city, citizens would no longer feel obligated to obey laws or
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2 participate in civic activities. Following a long series of events, including Theodosius’ declaration of Christianity as the official Roman religion and Gratian’s order to remove the Altar of Victory, the Roman people’s fear of Christianity came to a climax when Rome fell to the Goth barbarians in the year 410ad. Following this event, pagans cried out that Christianity was to blame for the destruction Rome and it could no longer be tolerated. St. Augustine wrote his work, The City of God, in direct response to the debilitating accusations against the Christian religion. “I have undertaken its [Christianity’s] defense against those who prefer their own gods…” 1 He wrote mainly to enlighten non-believers, but also to further educate Christians and relieve the tension that pagans believed existed between Christianity and civil authority. He devoted his work first to denounce pagan civil religion, and second to reconcile the Christian faith with the political order. Drawing extensively from St. Paul’s letter the Romans, other Scriptural evidence, and reason, St. Augustine lays out his doctrine of the two cities, The City of God and the City of Man. In his doctrine he discusses religion, virtue, civic duty, and the harmonious relationship between them that is dictated by God.
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