Book: A New City of God: Theology for an Age of Limits

City of God by Augustine of Hippo
The book A New City of God: Theology for an Age of Limits is divided into 11 chapters. An overview of the contents of each chapter is provided here. We plan on releasing a section from each chapter on a weekly basis. The latest release is a .pdf file that can be downloaded at no cost here.

In the early 5th century CE, St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo, wrote City of God. He lived at a time when the superpower of his time — the Roman Empire — was slowly, but inexorably declining. Indeed, one of the defining moments of his life was the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in the year 410. Rome — the eternal city — had not been sacked for hundreds of years, but now it had been successfully invaded. Augustine recognized that all human institutions will eventually fail (look at all the “failed states” in the Hebrew Bible). Only one institution was permanent, he argued, and that was the City of God. So he and other church fathers set themselves the task of determining the nature of that “City”.

He and the other church fathers responded by developing a theology for their times — a theology that would provide structure and organization during the coming Dark Ages and the early Middle Ages.

His response had three key elements,

  1. Always tell the truth — period, full stop
    He said that a Christian’s duty is always speak honestly and with candor, no matter what the consequences. This message comes from another of his books, De Mendacio (On Lying).
  2. Live the live you preach
    It is not enough just to write books (or blog posts) — a Christian must live the life that he or she advocates. This message comes from yet another of his books, Confessions.
  3. Develop a theology that fits the times
    He recognized that all cities of men fail, only the City of God is permanent. So what is the constitution of that city? What is its foundational theology?

The Table of Contents is as follows.

  • The Author’s Apology for His Little Book
  • Chapter 1 — For the Christian in a Hurry
  • Chapter 2 — A Personal Journey
  • Chapter 3 — Through a Glass Darkly
  • Chapter 4 — World Views
  • Chapter 5 — Physical Realities
  • Chapter 6 — The Age of Limits
  • Chapter 7 — Pilate’s Question
  • Chapter 8 — An Educated Citizen
  • Chapter 9  — Response
  • Chapter 10 — The Church’s Response
  • Chapter 11 — Theology

The theme of the book is that our society is heading for some wrenching changes as we hit limits to do with resources (particularly fossil fuels), the environment (particularly global warming), finances (particularly debt), and population. These changes are a predicament, not a problem. We can reduce the pace of change, and we can reduce their consequences, but we cannot stop them from taking place.

We, in our time, need to develop a theology that addresses the world that we are entering.