City of God: Peace and Community

But who is the city of God? Wilken answers, “Augustine never defines this city outright, but it is closely identified with the church . . . . Wherever the church is, he [Augustine] says, there will be ‘God’s beloved City.’ The City of God is more than the church because it includes the angels and the saints who have gone before, but there can be no talk of the city of God without the church.”

Wilken goes on to say, “Augustine’s controlling metaphor for the new life that God creates is not, for example, being born again, but becoming part of a city and entering into its communal life. When the Scriptures speak of peace they do not have in mind simply a relation between an individual believer and God; in the Bible peace is a gift that human beings share in communion with God. . . . Christianity is inescapably social.”

Later, quoting the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin: “The significance of Christian thought for the Western political tradition lies not so much in what it had to say about the political order, but primarily in what it had to say about the religious order. The attempt of Christians to understand their own group life provided a new and sorely needed source of ideas for Western political thought. Christianity succeeded where Hellenistic and late classical philosophies had failed, because it put forward a new and powerful idea of community which recalled man [and women] to a life of meaningful participation.”