Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hump Day History: St. Augustine’s City of God

OK. We’re back to St. Augustine, one of the “Great Doctors of the West” (see Hall), and one of his most famous works, The City of God. Regarding eternity (Book XXII), Augustine has a couple challenging quotes that struck me.

Neither are we to suppose that because sin shall have no power to delight them (those in heaven), free will must be withdrawn. It will, on the contrary, be all the more truly free, because set free from delight in sinning to take unfailing delight in not sinning. …Are we to say God Himself is not free because He cannot sin? (p. 865-866).

But their intellectual knowledge, which shall be great, shall keep them acquainted not only with their past woes, but with eternal sufferings of the lost. For if they were not to know that they had been miserable, how could they, as the Psalmist says, for ever sing the mercies of God? (p. 877)

I’ve wondered about this issue of being able to sin in Heaven before. I like how Augustine mentions (not in the quote) that we will have more fully partaken of the divine nature and, if God is free and doesn’t sin, why can’t we be? That takes some of the tension away – because Adam sinned when he had it pretty good. Why wouldn’t we? We’ll be in a perfect place … but so was Adam. Augustine’s first quote helps, but there’s a reason I added the second.

When I wonder why the world has to be so bad, why evil is so prevalent, why sin is so pervasive and powerful in every human person, I wonder if that second quote gives us a good answer. Even if our eternal state is similar to Adam’s in some ways, his knowledge of the catastrophe of sin is nothing compared to ours. He knew nothing of it (until after it happened). We’ve been seeing it for generations. When we see what is unleashed when we set our wills against God, coupled with the flesh being set free as we are in glorified bodies, should keep us from such catastrophic choices as we enjoy God in eternity.

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