The City of God Against the Pagans — The City Online - Houston Baptist University

The City of God Against the Pagans

by John Mark Reynolds on May 15, 2012

We are not going back to Eden, but are here to build a City. That is the truth expounded in the Christian Bible and that is the truth that moved Augustine to write.

If you don’t want to live in a City, you should go to Hell, because it is a City that is coming: the new Jerusalem. There is a place for the country, I am from West Virginia after all, but it is the City where human things reach their fullness.

It is obvious this is good and bad. The day is coming when the City will be all good, but that will only be when Jesus rules on Earth. It will never come from Christian in this lifetime or from non-Christians.

No present City, not even Houston, is perfectible and we should fear any group as mad and tyrannical that pretends it can be. Instead, we try to improve what we can while recognizing that in this present city we are pilgrims. We occupy until He comes, but we are not going to achieve final victory until He comes.

No Christian should ever be too comfortable with the Establishment, especially when we are the Establishment. The Establishment is always corrupt. It is not left, however, to the Christian to avoid the Establishment for we must love even our enemies. There would be an ease to avoiding the temptations of power by shunning the powerful, but what if they convert? What if we prevail Harvard’s faculty? What if HBU or some Christian college become powerful by doing good?

Power sometimes flows, often comes, to those who loath it: Washington or Cincinnatus. Sometimes it does not. But when a good man comes to power, he can use it well. Sometimes a bad man in power will also, by Providence use it well. Both may fail.

The result of any act is subtle in history. A good act may do harm in the short term and a bad act be helpful and provide “relief.” We do not see history as God sees it from start to finish and so we must avoid superficial judgments. This rebukes the television evangelist who sees “smiting” after every sin and the secularist who thinks fifty years of secularization in Europe shows secularism can work.

Both are hasty in judgment.

Christian oppose vice, because it is wrong. In the end, virtue will exalt a nation, but it may also bring problems as well in the short term. Jesus was virtuous and died. Socrates was virtuous and died. Virtue triumphs, but not today.

Christians do not think the right always wins, but that the right will eventually win. If we don’t know the right from outcomes, what does show it?

First, there is the overall outcome or judgment of history. Murder looks likely to bad, because generally, over time, humans have found it to be so.

Second, there is the knowledge that comes from God. God may reveal to humankind the flow of history and of ethics, especially in areas where our desires might create easy errors in our judgment.

Third, experience combined with reason suggests long term outcomes, but it cannot fix goals. Of course, what it cannot do is pick for us which outcome is best. Recently I was reading a Victorian secularist, who would be horrified as modern secularism. The “ends” he desired, the manly virtues (his language) are the opposite of many our present secularists goals.

Of any individual, it is impossible for us to tell who is “good” or “evil.” Many who do evil things may be better on the whole than many who do not appear to do evil. Many actions that are bad become mixed with actions that are good and so do as much good as harm. We can judge an individual action, but not motivations.

We are none of us pure and none of us without the common grace of God.

Lord Jesus Christ may I live in your City some day.

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