History of Philosophy and Christian Thought - Lesson 32


When Augustine wrote "The City of God," he had a linear view of history.

Ronald Nash
History of Philosophy and Christian Thought
Lesson 32
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Augustinian Philosophy

Part 8

VIII. Philosophy of History

A. Linear View of History

B. The City of God

1. Written after Arian Christians sacked Rome

2. Christianity was blamed for weakening Rome.

3. Two Parts

a. Books I-X: Rebuttal

b. Books XI - XXII: Philosophy of History

4. Contrasts City of God and City of Man

5. Book XIX - The Peace of God

  • Thales and Anaximander were two philosophers in the sixth century BC that lived in Miletus.

  • Heraclitus and Pythagoras lived into the 5th century BC.

  • Any worldview addresses the subjects of God, ultimate reality, human knowledge, ethics and human persons.

  • Fundamental beliefs of a naturalistic worldview is that nothing exists outside the physical universe and that all things evolved.

  • Plato was a student of Socrates and lived into the fourth century BC. He opposed hedonism, empiricism, relativism, materialism, atheism and naturalism.

  • Plato described the universe as having three levels: the world of particulars, the world of forms, and the form of the good.

  • Plato's view of the universe was dualistic.

  • One of Plato's fundamental arguments is that the human soul is immortal.

  • Evaluation of Plato's arguments and comparison of Plato's philosophy with biblical theology.

  • Empiricism teaches that all human knowledge arises from sense experience. Rationalism teaches that some human knowledge does not arise from sense. experience

  • Aristotle was a student of Plato and lived in the fourth century BC.

  • Aristotle rejected Plato's doctrine of two worlds.

  • Discussion of Aristotelian philosophy as it relates to the incarnation.

  • Aristotle's philosophy as it relates to attributes of God and fundamental assumptions about psychology.

  • Aristotle made a distinction between passive intellect and active intellect.

  • Discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the law of non-contradiction.

  • Discussion of the nature and substance of matter.

  • Hellenistic philosophy was an approach that was popular from the fourth century BC to the fifth century AD.

  • Stoics were determinists who believed in living according to nature.

  • Hedonism emphasized pleasure as the greatest good. "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we might be dead."

  • Philo's philosophy was based on a synthesis of Stoicism and Platonism.

  • Implicit "Logos" Christianity is an underlying theme in the book of Hebrews.

  • Plotinus lived in the third century AD and is considered the founder of Neoplatonism.

  • Augustine is a Latin church father, is considered by many to be one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity.

  • Augustine wrote Confessions as an autobiographical work to record his experience as a sinful youth and his experience becoming a follower of Christ.

  • Augustine wrote to refute some heresies of the day by focusing on the concepts of faith and reason.

  • Augustine writes about the problem of evil and describes evil as the absence of good.

  • Augustine writes to refute Pelagianism by focusing on the biblical teaching about sin.

  • Augustine writes to refute Donatism.

  • The fundamental idea of skepticism is that no one can know anything. Augustine this statement contradicts itself because the skeptic is claiming that you can know that you can't know anything.

  • When Augustine wrote "The City of God," he had a linear view of history.

  • In Augustine's theory of knowledge, he says that eternal reason and human reason are two different levels of reason.

  • Augustine was personally convinced of the importance of divine illumination.

  • The intellectual background of Thomas Aquinas was influenced by the discovery of ancient manuscripts, the rise of universities, the rise of religious brotherhoods and the rise of Muslim philosophy.

  • Aquinas describes faith as whatever a human can know through special revelation, and reason as whatever a human can know outside of special revelation.

  • Aquinas attempts to prove God's existence.

  • Aquinas describes four kinds of law as eternal, divine, natural and positive.

  • The rationalists and empiricists set the stage for Kant and other philosophers of the modern era.

  • Kant argued that moral requirements are based on a standard of rationality he dubbed the “Categorical Imperative."

  • Kants two worlds are the phenomenal world and the noumenal world.

  • Discussion of criticisms and questions about Kant's ideas.

  • Similarities between Kant's ideas and postmodernism.

  • The dialectic is a central idea in Hegel's philosophy.

  • Ideally, Marxism begins with class struggle, then revolution, dictatorship of the proletariat, withering away of the state, and a utopian classless society.

  • Discussion of four faces of Marxism.

  • Nietzsche proclaimed that, "God is dead." His cure was to live life knowing there is no ultimate meaning. Kierkegaard emphasized a worldview based on true faith.

In this class, you will explore the rich history of philosophy and its relationship with Christian thought. The course begins with an introduction to the definition and importance of philosophy in Christian theology. You will then delve into the evolution of philosophical thought from the Pre-Socratic era, through the Classical Greek philosophers, and into the Hellenistic period. As you progress, you will discover how early Christian thought emerged and developed during the Patristic period, with a special focus on Augustine. The class continues with an examination of medieval Christian thinkers, such as Anselm and Thomas Aquinas, and concludes with an analysis of modern philosophers like Descartes, Kant, and Kierkegaard, and their influence on contemporary Christian thought.

Two other books that are recommended reading for this class are Confessions by Augustine and Phaedo by Plato.


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    Lesson Transcript


    Philosophy of history. And this now comes from what chapter in the meaning of history. This would be chapter five in the meaning of history. Augustine's philosophy of history. Even though I have told you that the origin of the linear view of history is the New Testament explicitly, maybe implicitly, and then behind that, the Old Testament, I guess it is fair to say that Augustine really is the father of the of the discipline we call the philosophy of history. But he didn't originated. He he picked up the linear view of history, he explained. He he did a good job of explaining it. But as you already know, the basic idea of the linear view of history is to be found in the writings of our friend Apollos. Here's how Augustine's philosophy of history came to be. He wrote a book called The City of God. I should have brought a copy with me. It's a huge, huge book. He started to write it. I'm looking at the dates of Augustine's life here. He started to write it about 413 A.D.. Yeah. Augustine begins writing the City of God for 13 A.D. He never finished it until about 428 A.D. Took him about 15 years. It will take you 15 years to read this book. It goes on and on and on. It is a major source, the dominant source of information about the Roman Empire at the time in which Augustine lived. Okay. I love the way he ends this book. Remember now, you've been reading this book for 15 years. Okay. This is not something you take on an airplane and hope to finish.


    [00:02:14] Most editions of it leave out hundreds of pages. In fact, I'm going to teach a course on Augustine up in Louisville, and I want my students to get a cheap edition of the City of God. But it omits most of Book 20 be cut. And the reason it omits most of book 20 is because that is Augustine's major writing on the millennium, on the chapter in Revelation 20, where Augustine really expounds for the first time in history, the millennial view of eschatology. So anyway, here's this huge book and you come to the last paragraph, and this is what Augustine says I think I have now, by God's grace, discharged my responsibility in writing this very long book. He says, I think I'm finished. 15 years. I think I'm finished. Let those who think I have said too little. I don't know who that could be. I have no idea who could say that. But, Augustine, keep going. Don't stop. All right? Let those who think I have said too little or those who think I have said too much, Forgive me and let those who think I have said just enough. Join me in giving thanks to God. Amen. Hmm. That's my second favorite passage in all of Augustine's writings. Now, what caused Augustine to spend 15 years writing this book, The Sack of Rome in 410 A.D.? Never confuse the sack of Rome. I can see some of you driving up to the to the window at McDonald's saying, Give me a sack of Rome. I can see some of you doing that. The sack of Rome is different from the fall of the Roman Empire. All right. They're not the same. In 410 A.D., Rome was first surrounded and then entered and then sacked by armies of I confuse here the Vandals and the Visigoths.


    [00:04:35] Any of you remember from your history days? It's the Visigoths or Alaric and the Visigoths. Okay. They were. They were tribes from the German, the German Germany area today, Central Europe. But they had become Aryan Christians. Somebody went into those areas and converted some of these Germanic tribes to a form of Christian heresy, a form of Arianism, that is, they. They believed in the Christian God, but they denied the deity of Jesus and so on. Well, when they when they got into Rome, they pillaged and they plundered and they raped and they murdered anybody who was caught outside of a Christian church because they were Aryan Christians, at least there was sanctuary inside the churches. But because of the Romans, most of them were pagans. They didn't know where to go. So they stayed away from the Christian churches. And they died, many of them. Well, after the dust had settled. Oh, what a bad. When you talk about the destruction of a city and then the ashes. After the dust had settled, the Romans people around the Roman Empire began to blame Christianity for the sack of Rome. This was unheard of. The great city of Rome. And sold a lot of barbarians in the Roman Empire. Said Rome was sacked because Christianity had weakened it. Well, about 413 Augustine had taken this for so long and he said, I got to write a book refuting this. And he started to write the City of God, the City of God, you know, as he began to write. He finally divided the work into two parts. Books, one through ten conveyed, contained his major rebuttal to those people. And it's these books contain enormous information about Roman culture, the Roman theater, Roman philosophy. And a lot of people, of course, don't care about that.


    [00:06:47] So a lot of people don't pay much attention to books one through ten. But his basic answer to the to the pagans was this Rome was sacked not because Christianity had weakened it. Rome was sacked because Rome had never become Christianized. Rome was was weakened by its paganism, not by its commitment to Christianity. And Augustine went on and proved that in various ways. Then the second half of the book is where his philosophy of history occurs. That would be books. 11 through 22, he begins a series of essays, long essays in which he contrasts two cities the City of God and the City of Man. The City of God is composed of all those true believers who are Christians, who are believers in the true God. And the basic principle that identifies a citizen of the City of God is the fact that He loves God. And that euphemism includes various other things that really mean he's born again. All right, listen. Augustine makes it very clear that being a member of the city of God is not the same as being a member of a Catholic church. Augustine makes great use of the parable of the sower and the seed, and, you know, the seller plants wheat, and then his enemy plants tares and the weeds and the in the wheat and the weeds grow together until the harvest time, which is the final judgment. And Augustine recognize that there are plenty of unbelievers who are nominal members of the church. The city of man is made up of all of those who love man rather than God who love themselves rather than God. The first citizen of the City of God was Abel. The first citizen of the city of Man was king.


    [00:09:01] And we all know what Cain did to Abel. He killed him. And so throughout all of history, the citizens of the city of man have been trying to kill the city of God. And Augustine then follows the progress of that history through the Old Testament and into the New Testament, and basically argues that we will not know who the true citizens of the city of God are until the final harvest. The final judgment where God will separate the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares. But in the process, in the process, I think Book 19 of the City of God is without question one of the greatest things ever written by a human on inspired author. It is a magnificent testimony to what Augustine calls the peace of God. I don't. I so love that that book that I could find no better way to conclude my own apologetics textbook than to basically paraphrase what Augustine talks about in book 19. I hope someday you'll have a chance to read Book 19 of the City of God. The lesson there, terrific preaching material there. And I hope you'll also read my summation of Augustine. What I do is reduce about 30 pages of great text from Augustine to all five or six pages here, and I don't have the time to pursue those details here.