Role of the State in Augustine's City of God

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According to Augustine, the state has a purely relative and provisional value. Political structures aim to maintain earthly peace and security and civil authority is necessary due to the fallen nature of man. While the state can promote and maintain peace among the Fall, one cannot rely on the state, for it only addresses the conditions in which one lives. In other words, the state can help create an approximate just environment that makes it easier for Christians to live virtuously, but, ultimately, individuals are charged with exercising their free will to do what God wants them to do, i.e. live according to His Will. Living virtuously, and choosing to obey God’s Will, falls squarely on the shoulders of the individual. No one, including the state, can force another to have faith in God; faith must be intended. Before one can examine the role of the state, as discussed in Augustine’s City of God, one must understand how virtue is defined relative to the individual. God created man in the condition that if “they continued in perfect obedience, they would be granted the immortality of the angels and an eternity of bliss” (Augustine 510). But man is fallen, so in order to enter the Heavenly City, they must pay their dues on earth first by living virtuously, according to God. Virtue is simply choosing to obey the Will of God. All individuals possess free will, which is what one employs to make the right choices under God’s ministry. But an obstacle to strict fidelity is the fact that people are weak, fallen, and, inevitability, will sin. “A man does not sin unless he wills to sin” (Augustine 195). Therefore, people must have steadfast faith in God, and free will must be exercised towards its proper end: in accord with God’s Word. So through faith, one can find virtue. Augustine views people as sojourners of earth, on an arduous endeavor to reach eternal salvation. Men are on a pilgrimage to the City of God, and, along the way, they are being tested. It is important...
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