St. Augustine’s City of God

Augustine is such a great genius that reading anything by him will enrich your life both as a Christian and as a human being facing the many challenges of living in a fallen world. The City of God is perhaps his fullest exposition of the many things Catholics face in our pilgrimage towards our ultimate destiny.

The course includes:

  • 8 1-hour video lectures, reading 300 pages of carefully selected excerpts*
  • An optional copy of City of God, selections and introduction by Hans Urs von Balthasar
  • Extra reading material related to the course (optional)
  • Unlimited access to the course

In 410 A.D., the Visigoth’s invaded and sacked Rome, causing great destruction and widespread loss of life. Foreign armies had not entered Rome in almost 700 years and people began looking for someone to blame. And has often happened in different circumstance throughout history, they tried to blame Christians for having replaced the worship of the pagan gods who (allegedly) had protected the city with the Christian God. Christians were also criticized for promoting softer virtues, like love, rather than the military power that had made Rome the greatest empire in the world.

St. Augustine was bishop of Hippo in North Africa at the time and was greatly shaken by the news. But he was also greatly moved to respond to these slanders against the Faith. It took him sixteen years to write his full reply and the result is a massive work of Christian apologetics – not only about the sack of Rome, but about the relationship between the sacred and the secular, the Church and the Empire, the two “Cities” – the City of God spread out between Heaven and Earth, and the City of Man which tries to live without God.

In a sense, he treated the whole set of questions raised by God’s action in human history. And produced one of the most influential books in the whole Catholic tradition, a work with many important insights, especially in a troubled time such as ours today.

This course will take you through that set of questions – and Augustine’s answers.

The City of God is a long work, over 1300 pages in most modern translations – too long to be read in its entirety in a course of moderate length. So we will be reading about 300 pages of carefully selected excerpts* grouped under eight headings.

*A brief explanation about our text: the selections were made by the great 20th century theologian and culture critic Hans Urs von Balthasar and is the best available such selection. Von Balthasar was highly regarded by both St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, among other reliable Catholic figures, and dozens of his books (including this volume of excerpts from Augustine) have been published by Ignatius Press– the greatest publisher of orthodox Catholic books in the English-speaking world. Somehow, despite such admirers, von Balthasar has been mistakenly tagged as having denied the existence of Hell or having argued that no one goes there – two obviously heretical positions that he did not hold. Students should have no worries about using this anthology.

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Robert Royal


Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. Among his many books are The God That Did Not Fail,  Columbus and the Crisis of the West,  and A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century.