_Cities of God_: _permixtarum_

I continue to be so grateful for the theological movement known as Radical Orthodoxy. It has scratched my postmodern itches, and given me a theology to believe in, especially as an Anglican / Episcopal priest.

One way in which this kind of theology in general, and Graham Ward in particular, encourages me is to remind me to be theologically humble and nonjudgemental, embracing the weakness and contingency of my own, and my church’s, theological claims about God and the world.

As is the case for theology in general, Radical Orthodoxy has its more traditional types, and its more revisionist types. Graham Ward, author of _Cities of God_, is clearly of the latter ilk.

And yet, I have long thought that there are two types of theological revisionists or theological subversives: those subverting from a position which is essentially outside the tradition, and those subverting from a position inside the tradition. I would rather not name the names of those (even within my own church) who fall into the first category, but Graham Ward, I think, falls in to the latter. Along with the likes of Origen and de Lubac, Ward’s sources of subversion are truly theological, and not secular.

To wit:

A holographic presence of St. Augustine permeates these pages [the pages of Cities of God] whispering of the two loves [amores] of which only one is holy, the other impure [immundus], the other sociable [socialis], the other self-centered [privatus] (Augustine). He whispers also of the two places in which these two amorous desires operate “the course of the two cities, the one heavenly and the other earthly, which are mingled together [permixtarum] from the beginning down to the end. Of these the earthly one has made for herself false gods whom she must worship by making sacrifice; but she who is heavenly and a pilgrim on earth does not make false gods, but is herself made by the true God of whom she herself must be the true sacrifice. Yet both alike either enjoy temporal good things, or are afflicted by temporal evils, but with diverse faith, diverse hope, diverse love, until they must be separated by the last judgement, and each must receive her own end, of which there is no end. About these ends of both we must now treat.” (Augustine, de civitate dei , Bk. XVIII

What a quotation. By the way, this quotation reminds me that the difference between Augustine’s two cities (the heavenly and the earthly, of God and of man), is not “good” and “bad” or “holy” and “evil” or “natural” and “gracious,” but rather “faithful / holy” and “fallen.” The point is that you cannot say that the City of Man is bad, since it is rather only fallen, potentially and in principle redeemed. It also falls short only to emphasize that the City of Man is natural, since as Augustine knew, the natural is always already charged, suffused, receptive to, divine grace.

The problem with the Roman Empire, the problem with the American Empire, is not that it is bad or natural, but rather that it is fallen.

Another thing. The heavenly city merely sojourns as a pilgrim on earth not because the earth is bad, or because the earth is going to “burn,” but rather because earth has yet to find her destiny as fully and finally permeated by that realm where God is fully present, that is, heaven. (NT Wright’s theology of overlapping dimensions: God’s and man’s.) To be a stranger on earth is, strictly speaking, to be a stranger on the earth which is not yet fully united to God’s realm. That is, it is to await the day when our earthly dwelling will also, fully and finally, be our heavenly dwelling.

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I like the way you ended that. I always thought the idea of “the pilgrimage” of the Christian lent to the believer, the idea of ignoring “this earth”, and seeing only, the Kingdom of God as strictly a place only in heaven. If I may, your distinction of the city of man and the city of God as faithful/fallen could also–in my understanding, be distinguished as real vs. false. In other words, the gods, idols, and sacrifices that are made in the city of man, are false attempts to make up the difference, substitute the ignorance (or create something other to fill the void). As opposes to the God, sacraments, and sacrifices made by the city of God. But I also like “faithful” as another way to distinguish the city of God from the city of man, but I think there is so much more that goes into that to make it credible beyond an easy legalistic sense.

If by “false” you mean something like, “incomplete” or “parasitical” then I’m on board. More later, after my beer buzz wears off!

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