Times Examiner Facebook Logo

Saturday, July 13, 2024 - 09:02 AM


First Published in 1994


St Augustine 41342681

Augustine of Hippo (354-420 AD) became the world's greatest political philosopher when he identified love as the core principle of all historical and theoretical forms of social, economic and governmental organization.

No shallow sentimentalist spouting brainless liberal Lennon lyrics, the great Christian saint insightfully distinguished between good and bad loves, and between good and bad loving. Unlike many, Augustine understood the central importance of loving the right things, and in the right ways. He saw how good loving is about doing real (and not imagined or pretended) good to others (and to self); and he shrewdly pointed out how the true doer of good must first know the real good of others (and of self). The world's greatest theologian, Augustine clearly demonstrated how right loving is impossible apart from spiritual regeneration, when Christ as Savior implants the love of Truth (Himself) in the new believer.

For Augustine, history, which is God's Providence, is a tale of conflict between two invisible but real and intertwined cities: the City of God and the City of the Devil. All historical polities are concrete or particular wheat and tares admixtures of these two cities, in spiritual tension and continuous warfare, until the Judgment. In the City of God, both the loves and the (manner of) loving of the lovers are right, and men in this city truly understand and zealously pursue the good of others and of self. In the City of the Devil, both the loves and the loving of the lovers are wicked and perverse, and men in this city are deluded by Satan the soul-destroyer about the good of self and of others.

But to say, with Augustine, that individuals and nations may be known by their loving and by their loves is also to say they may be known by their hating and by their hatreds. Good men love good and hate evil; evil men hate good and love evil. So, in this earthly life, there is good loving and good hating; and there is bad loving and bad hating. Good men are good lovers and good haters, loving good things and hating bad things in the right ways. Bad men are bad lovers and bad haters, hating good things, loving bad things, or loving good things in the wrong ways.

Around the world and down through history, nations are formed, persist, interact and expire according to their loves and hates. Humanity and the angels are divided into two great camps: those who love God and prefer God to self; and those who prefer self, pleasure and the world, to God. And love (along with hate) is the ultimate principle in terms of which all society and government can be understood.

For Augustine, a society or people is "an assembled multitude of rational creatures bound together by a common agreement as to the objects of their love." And individual societies cohere or fly apart according to the shared or contrary loves of their constituent individuals and families. And government, or the State — as an instrument of force — is a necessary institution, given the fact of original sin and its consequences, and is also, through its human agency, animated and driven by loves and hates. But the State will not embody true justice -- which is giving to each his due — and will not be a really moral state, unless it is a Christian State.

When people govern others -- as parents, employers, civic officials, or slave-masters -- they govern or misgovern according to their loves. And the governed, in turn, support government or misgovernment, or merely tolerate or even resist these, according to their own loves. In short, our social, economic and political behavior is merely an expression or reflection of our good and bad loving.

Stating the Christian political ideal for created man, Augustine says: "No State is more perfectly established and preserved than on the foundation, and by the bond, of faith and of firm accord, when the highest and truest good, namely God, is loved by all and men love each other in Him without dissimulation because they love one another for His sake." But the State, when left to itself, and not informed by higher, Christian principle, is informed by love of the world, and tends to be increased in size and power by injustice, oppression, violence and rapine.

Contrary to all shallow, atheistic and diabolical prating about Church-State separation, the invisible Church — the body of true believers the world over -- is the salt of the earth, and the civilizing and humanizing leaven of otherwise lost, barbarous and demonic human societies. Why? Because the Lord, the Sovereign Creator of all, commands the Church, in His Word, to infuse and permeate the State by her principles.

So contrary to anti-Christ secularism, the Church, being impelled by the superior principle that is direct worship of and service to God the Creator and Judge, is eo ipso — or by that very fact -- superior to the State. And being thus superior, the Church can rightly subject the kingdoms of the world, whose chief Providential purpose, after all, is to keep order for the elect, during their earthly pilgrimage, among the reprobate. Hence the timeless and universal applicability -- even in anti-Christ modernity -- of Augustine's 'mediaeval' exaltation of the Church.

But any individual -- and any society -- desiring to be Christian must obey the two summary commandments by Christ to all humanity to love God with all one's heart, soul, mind and strength and then love one's neighbor as oneself in Him (Luke 10: 27). And as the ever-ironic and ever-insightful Chesterton quipped: "The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."

A latter-day Augustinian, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) — the great mathematician-philosopher and co-inventor (with Newton) of calculus -- brilliantly described both the local, effectual, and concrete focus of Christian love and the supreme value of that truest of human loves regardless of earthly outcomes.

In his Discourse on Metaphysics  (1686), Leibniz said: "...we must act in accordance with what we presume to be the will of God, insofar as we can judge it, trying with all our might to contribute to the general good and especially to the embellishment and perfection of that which affects us or that which is near us, that which is, so to speak, in our grasp. For, although the outcome might perhaps demonstrate that God did not wish our good will to have effect at present, it does not follow that He did not wish us to act as we have. On the contrary, since He is the best of all masters, He never demands more than the right intention, and it is for Him to know the proper hour and place for letting the good design succeed."


Winston McCuen is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Furman University, holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from

Emory University and is a John C. Calhoun scholar. A former Latin teacher, he also holds multiple welding certifications and is a certified and senior nuclear metallurgical welding engineer.