Life at the End of an Empire: St. Augustine’s Fight to Save Platonic Christianity

During the course of the 76 years that Augustine of Hippo lived (354-430 AD), the world experienced a process of unprecedented turbulence, as the Roman Empire which had emerged out of the prior Republic in 27 BC was in the midst of collapse. By 410 AD, the man who was to later to be sanctified Saint Augustine, had risen to the heights of influence and leadership within a weakened and crisis-ridden Church. Although Christianity by this time had become the official religion of Rome, it’s status and position was in no way secure for two reasons identified by Augustine in his famous treatise City of God:

  1. In their despair, many leading Romans had blamed their misfortunes on the existence of Christianity itself. These Romans claimed that it was the rejection of those pagan religions which had historically governed Rome’s culture which lie at the heart of the Empire’s woes… Certainly, Rome’s collapse must be the punishment unleashed by the Gods whom had been abandoned by their followers.
  2. That the politicization and institutionalization of Christianity into an “official imperial religion” had caused the once Platonic-humanist movement to not only lose its original spiritual vitality premised upon the gospel of Chirist, but that the Gnostic sects and heresies that pervaded the Roman order had contaminated Christianity and threatened to destroy its moral viability from within.

On both of these core crises, Augustine fought with all of his soul to preserve the essential spirit of Christ demonstrating rigorously what lie at the root of the rot of Rome and also those Gnostic sects passing themselves off as Christianity itself.

In this presentation hosted by the Rising Tide Foundation, Aaron Kalfon leads a lecture and discussion of the core ideas of S. Augustine as presented in City of God which touch on the nature of mankind, God, Government and natural law which serve as a light of reason for all generations- especially those of our present turbulent age, facing many of the same crises as those of the 5th Century world- confronted as we are with the collapse of one imperial system, the loss of our once powerful moral traditions and the potential emergence of something either infinitely better… or infinitely worse.

For those inspired to read St. Augustine’s original writings, they can find many of the essentials on the Rising Tide Foundation’s Library of Alexandria.

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