Tom Crowe at Domine, Non Sum Dignus reports back
on his reading of City of God:
"[P]agan emporers and warriors of Rome's past did indeed at times enjoy success and successfully advance the empire; but Augustine argues that such was the reward due them since their purposes and goals were, at root, earthly. God therefore rendered to them that which they deserved. They did not enjoy the reward in the afterlife because they did not seek it."
"They did not enjoy the reward in the afterlife because they did not seek it.' Reminds me of the famous phrase of C. S. Lewis in The Great Divorce
: "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done'."
"It had a purpose," Augustine says of the Roman Empire. That purpose, however, points upward and outward, far beyond the reaches of that earthly city. The purpose, in short, is to serve as a 'foil,' so that the citizens of the true Eternal City "could understand what love of their Heavenly Fatherland should be inspired by everlasting life." Augustine's City of God is a panacea for secular absolutism, as Augustine's 'political relativism' flattens any claims of finality that an earthly kingdom might dare to make. Its claims can only be 'temporal' in the fullest sense of that word. But, and I think it was Chesterton who pointed this out, it is precisely those who have abandoned this world, in order to live more fully in the next, who are able to love it most authentically. That is why the greatest works of charity on earth are carried out by those who care nothing for earth (think Mother Theresa here). Paradoxically, to hold your citizenship in this world, is to be powerless to reform it, or to see it as capable of anything better than it is. To hold your citizenship in God's Kingdom, in the end, is the only way to make that Kingdom come . . . "on earth as it is in heaven."