d. stephen long- Two Augustinianisms: Augustinian Realism and the Other City. Faculty and Student presentation at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary.
notes by geoff holsclaw (as lecture notes there are gaps and paraphrasing)
Introduction: Theology and politics can be related in two fashions. There are the ‘political theologies’ where what concerns ‘the political’ is known and the theological is brought to bear. This is political realism. Then there is ‘theological politics’ where Christ is known initially and politics becomes informed by theology.
1) Political Theology: Augustinian Realism.
The Augustinian Realism, which Niebuhr self-consciadoptsdoptes, reads Augustine selectively through a Machiavellian rhetoric with its emphasis on and necessity of self-interest, power, and violence. The political realm is such that violence and power must be accounted for otherwise it just is not considered politics. The Augustinian doctrine of original sin is read into this politics (as power, violence, self-interest), but the theory of the political is therefore supplement (but not supplanted) by theology. In this way, we receive Augustinian arguments that it is necessary to dirty one’s hand if we are to enter the political arena. Another advocate, Paul Ramsey, claims that Augustine even advocate this approach, and that the Heavenly and Earthly cities are in fact inseparably connected, and that in fact there is so much agreement between the two cities that it would be sinful abdication cooperate with the Earthly city. Ramsey quotes Augustine as follows from City of God, Book 19.17.
“This heavenly city, then, while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations, and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages, not scrupling about diversities in the manners, laws, and institutions whereby early peace is secured and maintained, but recognizing that, however various these are they all tend to one and the same end of earthly peace. It therefore is so far from rescinding and abolishing these diversities, that it even preserves and adopts them…Even the heavenly city, therefore, while in its state of pilgrimage, avails itself of the peace of earth, and,…desires and maintains a common agreement among men regarding the acquisition of the necessaries of life, and make this earthly peace bear upon the peace of heaven.”
Ramsey takes this as indicating that Augustine fully endorses the earthly peace and that the heavenly city ought to, in every way, participate and ensure this earthly peace. But his referencing of Augustine is selective, and his ellipses are telling. The full quotation is below with formerly ellipsed portions in bold :
“This heavenly city, then, while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations, and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages, not scrupling about diversities in the manners, laws, and institutions whereby early peace is secured and maintained, but recognizing that, however various these are they all tend to one and the same end of earthly peace. It therefore is so far from rescinding and abolishing these diversities, that it even preserves and adopts them so long only as no hindrance to the worship of the one supreme and true God is thus introduced. Even the heavenly city, therefore, while in its state of pilgrimage, avails itself of the peace of earth, and, as far as it can without injuring faith and godliness, desires and maintains a common agreement among men regarding the acquisition of the necessaries of life, and make this earthly peace bear upon the peace of heaven.”
Ramsey tellingly omits the conditions within which the early and the heavenly city enter into peace bearing relationships, namely, only as long as the early city does not 1) hinder true worship of God, or 2) hinder the practices of faith and godliness.
So a realistic politics, or Augustinian Realism, exempts worship and godliness from it purview, and merely grafts on a doctrine of original sin to a theory of the political that could survive without it.
2) Another City
The first creation of the secular (by Augustine) reference the TIME b/w the two advents of Christ and functions as a way of discussing the overlap of the two cities. [In modernity the secular became a SPACE outside the church].
If “political theology” refers to Book 19 as a source text, then “theological politics” turns toward Book 18 and the realization that every politic is ordered around worship, and is therefore, already theological.
“The earthly one has made to herself of whom she would, either from any other quarter, or even from among men, false gods whom she might serve by sacrifice; but she which is heavenly and is a pilgrim on the earth does not make false gods, but is herself made by the true God of who she herself must be the true sacrifice. Yet both alike either enjoy temporal good things, or are afflicted with temporal evils, but with diverse faith, diverse hope, and diverse love, until they must be separated by the last judgment, and each must receive her own end, of which there is no end.” (emphasis added).
In this way the heavenly city is already political in that it is oriented around the worship of the true God such that it does not need to become political, nor does it need to bring its theology into politics.
3) Natural Theology
In The City of God (Book 6) Augustine enters into a dialogue with a philosopher named Varro who had created a typology of theologies. They were 1) fabulous, 2) civil, and 3) natural. The fabulous were the myths and stories that were told to the people and that the state needed to give to the people. The civil served the ends of the empire and the royal cults. The natural were in fact what we call metaphysic and were discussed by philosophers. The philosophers knew that the fabulous theologies were false, and studied natural theology in the hopes of arriving at the highest good. Augustine points out that what the philosophers called natural theology is close to what Christianity was itself. Augustine did not even want to call Christianity a religion because he had not conception of the faith as fabulous. But Augustine also criticized Varro because while Varro knew that fabulous theology was bogus, Varro did not criticize the civil theology in light of his natural theology. The philosopher wanted to worship the natural theology, but were compelled to worship within the civil, and therefore failed even to separate from the fabulous. Augustine, however, realize that civil and fabulous religion are one and the same, and that Christianity had to break from both.
In light of all this there are two conclusions to come to.
1) What goes under the rubric of Augustinian Realism is merely a return to fabulous/civil theology. Instead we need to realize that we must not attempt to politicize theology, because worship is already political.
2) This does not make theology apolitical, but allows it to become truly political as a witness to another city, where peace reign.