Who are defenders of the faith? They are those who do their best to spread the gospel of salvation to the unsaved masses, those who take a loving stand against all that is ungodly – with the hope that the perpetrators of ungodliness may be saved, and finally, those who study, teach and / or preach the word of God in its pure form, to drive any potential heresy away, so that the first two aforementioned groups are properly armed with the Truth for their godly endeavors.
We have recently completed a 7-part study of a 13th century monk, Thomas Aquinas, who was a great example of a defender of the faith. Now, let’s look at Aquinas’s theological inspiration (besides the Holy Spirit), which was a 5th century monk of at least equal renown and Holy Spirit-inspiration, St. Augustine of Hippo, from his book: The City of God, translated by Marcus Dods, D.D.
He was the author of 113 books and 218 letters. His longest work is The City of God, meant to fortify Christianity in the Roman Empire, which took 15 years to write, begun in 413 A.D. This was just after the city of Rome (referred to as the ‘Eternal City’) was plundered by the Visigoths.
Simultaneously, Rome was also crumbling under the weight of overspending on multitudinous military campaigns to increase the size of its empire. Many of the wealthier citizens migrated to more rural settings to escape the extreme taxation that the spending depended upon, which also reduced Rome’s coffers.
As the empire expansion was no longer able to sustain itself, the heretofore forcefully inducted slave labor from their various conquests were no longer available, resulting in a labor shortage that reduced Rome’s exports, also driving down the economy.
In addition, the eastern and western divisions of the Roman Empire became embattled as to how the empire should be run, and they divided.
As with any government, the Roman Empire was excessively corrupt and ineffective.
Because soldiers died in so many battles, the military hired barbarian mercenaries to bolster their army, which diluted the capability of the highly-trained Roman soldiers – making victories hard to come by.
Also, at this time, Christianity began to spread in the empire, (thanks to the help of the Roman emperor Constantine, who made Christianity the official religion in Rome in 337 A.D.), which stood in stark contrast to the Roman ways of thinking and acting. Subsequently, Christians became the ‘crux of Rome’s problems,’ or at least that is where the blame was laid. The Romans blamed their declining lot on the Christians for serving their God rather than the ‘Roman gods.’
It is in this atmosphere that Augustine begins defending the faith…
…we must speak also of the earthly city, which, though it be mistress of the nations, is itself ruled by its lust of rule.
Thus, the Roman Empire (the ‘earthy city’) had come full circle, to acutely resemble the fallen state of man on the earth during the days of Noah:
The [population of the] earth was corrupt [absolutely depraved – spiritually and morally putrid] in God’s sight, and the land was filled with violence [desecration, infringement, outrage, assault, and lust for power]. Gn. 6:11 AMP
God puts in place every government that has ruled this world. Augustine suggests to the Romans that it would be far better for them to consider that instead of blaming external elements (opposing armies, vengeance of their gods, etc.), they would be far better served to see the hand of God in their situation as a benevolent force to get them to turn their lives around:
They ought rather, had they any right perceptions, to attribute the severities and hardships inflicted by their enemies, to that divine Providence which is wont to reform the depraved manners of men by chastisement…these ungrateful men who blasphemously impute to Christ the calamities which they deservedly suffer in consequence of their own wicked ways, while that which for Christ’s sake spared them in spite of their wickedness…
God is always working on all people to bring them to the right path:
So that godless men would not rule nor be snares for the people. “For has anyone said to God, ‘I have endured my chastisement; I will not offend anymore; teach me what I do not see [in regard to how I have sinned]; if I have done wrong (injustice, unrighteousness), I will not do it again?’ Job. 34:30 – 32. AMP
We see God’s compassion throughout history, giving chance after chance:
Nevertheless, my eye spared them, and I did not destroy them or make a full end of them… Ezek. 20:17 ESV
Yet they are spared for only a time – a time in which to change from their ways:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness…because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. Rom. 1:18 – 20. NKJV
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting…who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death… Rom. 1:28 & 32.
God has given everyone an inherent knowing of Him, in both themselves and in the creations around them. Furthermore, by this time, Rome has had the gospel preached to them for at least 100 years.
So, there is an infinite penalty for unrepentant ungodliness. Yet, Augustine then tries to show the Romans the fairness in the equity that God practices for the righteous and unrighteous alike:
…nevertheless does the patience of God still invite the wicked to repentance, even as the scourge of God educates the good to patience. And so too, does the mercy of God embrace the good that it may cherish them, as the severity of God arrests the wicked to punish them. To the divine Providence it has seemed good to prepare in the world to come for the righteous good things, which the unrighteous shall not enjoy; and for the evil wicked things, by which the good shall not be tormented.
But as for the good things in this life, and its ills, God has willed that it be common to both; that we might not too eagerly covet the things which wicked men are seen equally to enjoy, nor shrink with an unseemly fear from the ills which even good men often suffer.
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both adversity (misfortune) and good (prosperity, happiness) proceed? Lam. 3:38 AMP
Augustine is saying that life has its trials and tribulations and it is not a respecter of persons. Everyone is subject to them. It is how we let them mold us that is important. Do we embrace God and His ways, or do we turn our back on Him and follow our flesh? We can see that the ultimate outcome has vey stark differences; and for the rebellious, there is a literal hell to pay.
Moreover, those who deny God and His ways, create a profound difference within themselves, that without repentance, invites the wrath of God. Augustine puts it like this:
…though good and bad men suffer alike, we must not suppose that there is no difference between the men themselves, because there is no difference in what they both suffer. For even in the likeness of the sufferings, there remains an unlikeness in the sufferers; and though exposed to the same anguish, virtue and vice are not the same thing…And thus it is in the same affliction the wicked detest God and blaspheme, while the good pray and praise.
To contrast the citizens of the earthy city to those of the city of God, Augustine spoke of how the Romans were distraught and depressed over their lack of worldly items when the Visigoths sacked the city of Rome; whereas those of the Christian faith who had lost their worldly goods as well could take solace in the truth that ‘the will of the Lord is their great possession…they have discovered by the pain of losing these things how much they were sinning in loving them.’
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. Job 1:21 NKJV
Augustine then begins to answer what appears to be many questions put to him from Roman inquisitors. The first is whether or not one’s ‘length’ of life has any significance. His response fosters food for thought:
…the end of life puts the longest life on a par with the shortest…death is not to be judged an evil which is the end of a good life; for death becomes evil only by the retribution which follows it…into what place death will usher them.
Again, this is a great case for getting right with God before that day comes.
And so, we begin a journey with one of the greatest defenders of the faith…
Goodnight and God bless.