Grazing in Augustine...

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(Tim) From Augustine's City of God, let's sample a few notes rarely struck by pastors marketing their church as "in the city" and "for the city;" but really, rarely struck by almost any shepherd working in the pastorate today in North America.

Take, for instance, the matter of food: how would we compare our declaration of the Order of Creation and the meaning of the Sixth Commandment to the vegans and vegetarians in our own congregations--of which there are as many now as back in the time of Augustine and the Apostle Paul (1Timothy 4:1-4)--to Augustine's own declaration, here?

...some attempt to extend "Thou shalt not kill" even to beasts and cattle, as if it forbade us to take life from any creature. But if so, why not extend it also to the plants, and all that is rooted in and nourished by the earth? For though this class of creatures have no sensation, yet they also are said to live, and consequently they can die; and therefore, if violence be done them, can be killed. So, too, the apostle, when speaking of the seeds of such things as these, says, “That which thou sowest is not quickened except it die;” and in the Psalm it is said, “He killed their vines with hail.”

Must we therefore reckon it a breaking of this commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” to pull a flower? Are we thus insanely to countenance the foolish error of the Manichæans?

Putting aside, then, these ravings, ...when we say, "Thou shalt not kill," we do not understand this of the plants, since they have no sensation, nor of the irrational animals that fly, swim, walk, or creep, since they are dissociated from us by their want of reason, and are therefore by the just appointment of the Creator subjected to us to kill or keep alive for our own uses... (I:20)

Are we similar to Augustine in his work magnifying, making the most of the distinction between the city of God and the city of man? What a contrast he provides here to our effeminate attempts to blur all distinctions--particularly that essential distinction on which eternity hangs, drawing the line of God's election between the slaves of God and the slaves of Satan. In his comments, Pastor Beatty has illustrated typical attempts today to market the Church as not other or peculiar or God-fearing or holy, but "we're just like you, really; and you're just like us." Contrast this...

from Augustine:

These men you may today see thronging the churches with us, tomorrow crowding the theatres with the godless. ...In truth, these two cities are entangled together in this world, and intermixed until the last judgment effects their separation. I now proceed to speak, as God shall help me, of the rise, progress, and end of these two cities; and what I write, I write for the glory of the city of God, that, being placed in comparison with the other (city of man), it may shine with a brighter lustre. (I:35)

Turning to plays, sports, movies, and other entertainment, how does what we've written, taught, and preached compare to these warnings and condemnations? (We find similar ones throughout Augustine's writing.)

I myself, when I was a young man, used sometimes to go to the sacrilegious entertainments and spectacles; I saw the priests raving in religious excitement, and heard the choristers; I took pleasure in the shameful games which were celebrated in honor of gods and goddesses, of the virgin Cœlestis, and Berecynthia, the mother of all the gods.

And on the holy day consecrated to her purification, there were sung before her couch productions so obscene and filthy for the ear—I do not say of the mother of the gods, but of the mother of any senator or honest man—nay, so impure, that not even the mother of the foul-mouthed players themselves could have formed one of the audience. For natural reverence for parents is a bond which the most abandoned cannot ignore.

And, accordingly, the lewd actions and filthy words with which these players honored the mother of the gods, in presence of a vast assemblage and audience of both sexes, they could not for very shame have rehearsed at home in presence of their own mothers. And the crowds that were gathered from all quarters by curiosity, offended modesty must, I should suppose, have scattered in the confusion of shame. If these are sacred rites, what is sacrilege? If this is purification, what is pollution? This festivity was called the Tables, as if a banquet were being given at which unclean devils might find suitable refreshment.

For it is not difficult to see what kind of spirits they must be who are delighted with such obscenities, unless, indeed, a man be blinded by these evil spirits passing themselves off under the name of gods, and either disbelieves in their existence, or leads such a life as prompts him rather to propitiate and fear them than the true God. (II:4)

Have the evil spirits blinded us?

Turning again to distinctions: while we are busy fudging and blurring and nullifying the distinction between the city of God and the city of man, Augustine works to make it as clear as possible:

Christ, who teaches life-giving truth, and forbids us to worship false and deceitful gods, and who, abominating and condemning with His divine authority those wicked and hurtful lusts of men, gradually withdraws His own people from a world that is corrupted by these vices, and is falling into ruins, to make of them an eternal city, whose glory rests not on the acclamations of vanity, but on the judgment of truth? (II:18)

Have we exposed the wickedness of the welfare state and those Emergent false shepherds who promote it in the Name of Jesus Christ with anything near the clarity and moral authority of Augustine?

Let the poor court the rich for a living, and that under their protection they may enjoy a sluggish tranquility; and let the rich abuse the poor as their dependents, to minister to their pride. Let the people applaud not those who protect their interests, but those who provide them with pleasure. Let no severe duty be commanded, no impurity forbidden.

Let kings estimate their prosperity, not by their righteousness, but by the servility of their subjects. Let the provinces stand loyal to the kings, not as moral guides, but as lords of their possessions and purveyors of their pleasures; not with a hearty reverence, but a crooked and servile fear.

Let the laws take cognizance rather of the injury done to another man’s property, than of that done to one’s own person. If a man be a nuisance to his neighbor, or injure his property, family, or person, let him be actionable; but in his own affairs let everyone with impunity do what he will in company with his own family, and with those who willingly join him.

Let there be a plentiful supply of public prostitutes [think pornography] for every one who wishes to use them, but specially for those who are too poor to keep one for their private use.

Let there be erected houses of the largest and most ornate description: in these let there be provided the most sumptuous banquets, where every one who pleases may, by day or night, play, drink, vomit, dissipate.

Let there be everywhere heard the rustling of dancers, the loud, immodest laughter of the theatre; let a succession of the most cruel and the most voluptuous pleasures maintain a perpetual excitement.

If such happiness is distasteful to any, let him be branded as a public enemy; and if any attempt to modify or put an end to it let him be silenced, banished, put an end to.

Let these be reckoned the true gods, who procure for the people this condition of things, and preserve it when once possessed. Let them be worshiped as they wish; let them demand whatever games they please, from or with their own worshipers; only let them secure that such felicity be not imperiled by foe, plague, or disaster of any kind. (II:20)

For more on the above, see E. Michael Jones' Libido Dominandi: Sexual Liberation & Political Control, the most recent post of Doug Wilson, and Herb Schlossberg's Idols for Destruction.

Could any of us imagine ourselves publicly naming the false gods of our contemporaries a "crowd of demons?", who loved a

multitude of gods, that the miserable soul, despising the chaste

embrace of the one true God, should be prostituted to a crowd of

demons. (IV:9)

What of the condemnation of our own and others' luxury? What of the comely female figures cooing into cordless mics on our church platforms Lord's Day morning, providing just a smidgen of eye candy for the congregation?

Has all church history been wrong? Are female figures and voices never licentious when we use them in the worship? Have the men of our congregations gotten past sexual temptation?

It was at that time also that the pro-consul Cn. Manlius, after subduing the Galatians, introduced into Rome the luxury of Asia, more destructive than all hostile armies. It was then that iron bedsteads and expensive carpets were first used; then, too, that female singers were admitted at banquets, and other licentious abominations were introduced. (III:21)

As I was writing, quite by Accident my iTunes queue had Merle Haggard singing:

Like the ancient Roman Empire this world is doomed to fall

And it’s much too big a thing for mortal man

Just take a look around and see the writing on the wall

Somehow we’ve got to find a helping hand

This world has never been in the awful shape it’s in

And people scorn the things our leaders do

It’s time a prayer was spoken from the hearts of every man

Jesus take a hold and lead us through

The mighty roar of gunfire is now a local sound

And our city streets are filled with angry men

Law’s now a mockery throughout our troubled land

And destruction seems to be the current trend

This world has never been in the awful shape it’s in

And our leaders seem in doubt what to do

It’s time a prayer was spoken from the hearts of every man

Jesus take a hold and lead us through

Jesus take a hold and lead us through...