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There often is an assumption or even an expectation from many Americans that the government should promulgate laws that mirror their personal beliefs. (1) Often, this expectation comes from Christian Americans who believe in a governmental obligation to posit laws based on Christian morality. (2) Advocates cite to the Declaration of Independence, specifically the reference to the Creator endowing men with "certain unalienable rights." (3) Additionally, they bring in the beliefs of the Founding Fathers, calling America a Christian nation founded on certain values. Because of the personal views of the Founders, they say, certain morals should run through the laws. (4)

Numerous points of contention exist among those Christian Americans and their social and political adversaries. These points of contention include the inclusion of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, "In God We Trust" on currency, prayer in schools, abortion, and same-sex marriage, to name just a few. Over time the Supreme Court has directly or indirectly addressed many of these issues. Majority opinions in cases like Roe v. Wade (5) and Obergefell v. Hodges (6) illustrate a progressive influence in America over time. But how should those ardent Christian Americans react? What should they do about the interactions between Church and State?

Augustine gives American Christians a unique perspective on the relationship between the Church and the State. He lived in a time when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Christianity moved quickly from being persecuted, to tolerated, and ultimately mandated in 380. (7) In what is considered one of his most recognizable works, City of God, Augustine addresses the dichotomy of the City of God and the city of earth. (8) He addresses the relationship of members of the City of God to their temporary earthly home.

Section I will include pertinent biographical information about Augustine. This will be followed in Section II by an overview of various sections of City of God, specifically the founding of both the City of God and the city of earth. Additionally, Section II will address the interactions of the cities. Next, Section III will explore Augustine's views on divine law, temporal law, and the effects of free will on humanity. Section IV presents an overview of his views on just wars and just laws. Finally, Section V applies Augustine's teachings to various controversial legal and political issues in the United States today.


Augustine lived in a time and place where he was impacted by drastic changes in Church and State interactions. He was born in Thagaste, modern-day Algeria, in 354 A.D., (9) when the Roman Empire's tolerance of Christianity was conceptually new since the Council of Nicea. By his mid-twenties, Augustine saw Christianity become the sole religion of the State, after Theodosius's declaration in 380. (10) Before his death in 430, he saw the "Eternal City" sacked by the Visigoths in 410, with many pagans blaming the Empire's turn to Christianity for the fall."

Augustine's mother, Monica, is widely recognized today as a devout Christian, while his father, Patricius, was a pagan until his deathbed conversion. (12) At an early age, Augustine was sent to an advanced school in Madaura, a Numidian city to the south of Thagaste, which in the mid-fourth century was a center for pagan culture. (13) Augustine was influenced by this culture, and famously reflected in Confessions about stealing fruit for the sake of breaking a law rather than hunger, writing "I loved my own error--not that for which I had erred, but the error itself." (14)

At age 17, Augustine moved to Carthage to continue his study of rhetoric. (15) There Cicero's Horsentius sparked his interest in philosophy. (16) By the age of 19, Augustine had taken a mistress who he lived with for the next 13 years. (17) Although she is commonly referred to as his mistress, in modern culture she would be more like a girlfriend. She was the mother of his son, Adeodatus, but Augustine's own mother ultimately desired for him to marry a woman of his own class. (18) He had been raised with her Christian influence yet had turned to the Manichaean religion. (19) He identified as a hedonist during this period, famously praying, "Grant me chastity and continency, but not yet." (20) Augustine's early sexual experiences may have been important to his later views on sexual actions.

Augustine spent time teaching grammar and rhetoric in Thagaste, Carthage, and Rome with great success. (21) While still in Carthage he began to doubt Manicheanism after a meeting with Faustus of Mileve. (22) Many consider Augustine to have been a Neoplatonist, with Plato's influence appearing throughout his works. (23) In 384, he won the position of rhetoric professor in Milan, and moved there with his mistress, widowed mother, and son. (24) There his mother found him a suitable spouse but he could not marry her for two more years, when she would reach her twelfth birthday--the legal age for marriage. (25) He then separated from his mistress, but was so enslaved to lust he took up another soon after. (26)

In Milan, Augustine made a crucial connection with Ambrose. (27) He later compared him to a father figure and was first attracted to him for his being a "friendly man" rather than a "teacher of truth." (28) This acceptance of Ambrose emphasizes the importance Augustine gave to philosophy over faith in his early life. Ambrose is commonly attributed with leading Augustine to Christianity, even baptizing Augustine in 387. (29)

Augustine lost both his mother and son around the time of his return to Africa. (30) In 391 he became an ordained priest in Hippo Regius and in 395 he become the auxiliary Bishop of Hippo, becoming full Bishop shortly after. (31) He spent time combating the heretics of the day, including Manicheans, Donatists, and Pelagians. (32)

Augustine produced an impressive amount of literature during the last 35 years of his life. Christianity had just been declared the official religion of the State, and Augustine garnered substantial influence in the Empire because of his status in the Church. (33) He died while Hippo was under siege by the Vandals in 430. (34)


A. The City of God

City of God is widely considered to be one of Augustine's greatest and most important works. After the fall of Rome, the pagans looked to blame Christianity for the weakening of the empire and the collapse of the "eternal" city. (35) Augustine spends much of the early sections of City of God combatting the idea of Christianity leading to the Empire's demise. He then begins his analysis of the separation of the City of God and the earthly city. This idea of a separation of soul and body stems from Plato and reflects the Neoplatonist period in Augustine's thought. (36)

In Book XI of City of God, there is an introduction to the city he calls the City of God. It is a City, "to which testimony is borne by... [s]cripture," and scripture teaches of His inspired love which urges our membership in the City. (37) In his treatise On Christian Doctrine, Augustine uses the example of the theatre to illustrate unity in admiration for a person, in this case the admiration of a talented actor. (38) Fondness for an actor brings people together, not for their own sakes, but for the sake of the one they admire in common. (39) And that fondness, as it grows, makes individuals more anxious to share it with others. (40) The City of God is a community like this; yet the members must remember, they love God because He first loved them. (41)

The City of God came to earth at the creation of the first man. (42) This is a particularly important point, especially at the time of Augustine. This suggests that the City of God was not established coincident with Christianity or the Church. Ultimately, the City of God is not the Roman Catholic Church, but a separate entity entirely. Augustine's definition of the City hinges on the individuals who are citizens of it; his individualistic foundational assumptions foreclose the possibility of defining the City's borders as coterminous with those of the institutional Catholic Church. (43) At the same time, Augustine is clear that the members of the City of God do not make up all of God's creation; there is a second city.

B. The City of Earth

After discussing the establishment of the City of God, Augustine approaches the founding of the second city. While the City of God was established at the creation of the first man, the second city was established coincident to the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. (44) Augustine is emphatic that the inherent nature of all God's creation was good, but the second city came because of the original sin. (45) The second city he calls the city of earth or city of man.

There is a hierarchy that exists in the earthly city, and different beings have different roles. (46) Humans are at the top of the hierarchy on earth and being at the top cannot shy away from their roles in the created world. (47) Creating humans above other earthly creatures, God gave humans free will, which allows humanity to corrupt the world and make it an evil place. (48) Humans sin because God gave them free will and being most like him allows humanity to try and substitute Him. (49)

While Augustine posits that the earthly city was established coincident to the fall, he believes the first member of the earthly city was Cain. (50) Abel, the brother Cain murdered, was just a pilgrim on earth, a member of the City of God. (51) While they were born of the same parents, they were ultimately members of different cities. Since that time, humans are born into original sin. (52) They are born into the city of earth and do not reach the City of God unless and until they commit their lives fully to God.

C. The Relationship of the Cities

The City of God and the earthly city intersect but stay independent. Those destined for damnation and salvation are intermingled on earth. The two cities were formed because of two loves: the love of God and the love of self. (53) The city of earth is ruled by the love of ruling, while the City of God is ruled by only godliness, that "God may be all in all." (54)

When deciding a person's citizenship in the cities, Augustine relies first on original sin. (55) Human nature was transformed after Adam and Eve, therefore humanity is born into the city of earth. Only those who choose to fully devote themselves to godliness and make God the all-in-all leave the city of earth, becoming members of the City of God. (56)

Later theologians, most notably Marin Luther, believed in a similar duality to Augustine. (57) But a key difference in their views is simultaneous citizenship. In Luther's teachings, there is the idea that people can be members of both cities. (58) A common critique of Luther is an acceptance of certain actions under the membership on the earthly city, which would be clearly reprehensible in the City of God. (59) Augustine believed that the members of the City of God were sojourners or pilgrims on earth, not at all members of the earthly city. (60)

The two cites coexist, yet at their cores they are easily distinguishable. The members of the City of God are dedicated to their faith in God, and this dedication influences their interactions with the city of man. Augustine's identification of these members of the City of God as "pilgrims" or "sojourners" indicates an inherent separation between members of the City of God and members of the city of earth. The city of earth cannot ever achieve the perfect justice of the City of God. The members of the City of God are not wholly concerned with the laws that govern the city of man. There is no expectation for the temporal laws, that govern the city of man, to mirror the divine laws of the City of God.


Augustine is keen to differentiate between temporal and divine laws. Temporal laws can become just over time; Augustine even finds it appropriate for temporal laws to change. (61) When there are societal shifts, temporal law can change to accommodate those shifts. (62) But, divine law never changes. (63) The nature of God is unchanging, and there will never be appropriate changes in the divine laws. (64)

When asked if a man is good, Augustine is less interested in his actions; rather, he is interested in who he loves. (65) The love of God is what makes the members of the City of God good. (66) The beliefs of the members of the City are then shown through the love. (67) A martyr uses death for good, while an evil man can use something considered good for his damnation. (68) Augustine uses intelligence as an example of a good that is commonly used for damnation of men. (69) He makes it clear that no one is evil by nature, but by vice. (70) The vices of humanity are what cause the evil. Members of the City of God are not hateful of men, but of their vices. (71) This mirrors the concept of hating the sin and not the sinner.

Augustine does give advice to Christian judges. He says one needs to be like a loving father, showing anger, but allowing for human weakness; not indulging the inclination for vengeance, but trying to cure the sinner's wounds. (72) Augustine would consider a judge a member of the City of God under a similar framework to the common man. "We... do not spare or [favor] the sins of those for whom we intercede." (73) Augustine emphasizes members of the City of God do not tolerate or allow sins, but still support the individual. He stoutly believed there is no other place than this life to correct morals. (74)

There was a well-established definition of justice in Augustine's era: "[a]s to justice, which gives everyone his own." (75) Augustine believed that there could be no earthly state in possession of true justice. (76) However, he also posited, "there is no republic where there is no justice." (77) This quotation shows that Augustine believed that some level of justice is necessary for the existence of kingdoms and nations. This again rings true in his writing: "Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms?" (78) Justice is fundamental to maintaining order in the city of earth.

Augustine cautions the judges themselves: "judges too will stand to give an account of their own judgements." (79) This gives perspective to the judges, remembering that they too will be judged. Also, it reasserts the divine law as ultimate and applicable to even the judges on earth.

Augustine directly addresses higher earthly rulers as well. He believes that earthly rulers should strive to produce quiescent subjects rather than virtuous ones. (80) Subjects should view the rulers as economic managers and not as moral educators. (81) Serious respect for rulers is less important than calculated subservient fear. (82) Augustine does find an ultimate purpose for political states. They are vehicles for maintaining order, without them there would be chaos. (83) The Rulers are ministers of God. (84) They can keep the bad in check by punishment, although it is a more immediate punishment versus the eternal punishment. (85) He believes that order should be maintained in the earthly city. (86)

Rulers do have the right to change the laws, as Augustine believes the temporal law to be malleable. (87) His belief that an unjust law is no law at all raises the question whether the earthly rulers have total discretion in making or changing laws. Citizens of the earthly rulers do have the duty to obey as long as the law is just. (88) The reason for the State to exist is to bless and assist humanity, and in order for this to occur justice must be present.

There is no expectation that the State will change from the current formation, one that is imperfect. (89) If the Romans truly followed Christianity, doing so would enlarge and consecrate the Commonwealth rather than weaken it. But they have not and will not, at least not all of them. Merely embracing Christianity does not transform the Commonwealth into the City of God. The citizenship of the City of God is determined on an individual level, rather than the institutional level, and this citizenship is a matter of sincere faith and love, not just lip service.

Augustine's distinction between temporal and divine laws allow for the separation of morality and justness of divine law from temporal law. He does believe that justice is necessary for the function of society, and on some level temporal laws must be just, for an unjust law is no law at all. (90) Sometimes the actions permitted by temporal laws are sinful, but the laws that permit those actions are just. This somewhat paradoxical insight is worth exploring in more detail. Doing so will require an examination of Augustine's understanding of justice, as well as his application of that standard to temporal governments.


A. Law

Augustine believed there were four cardinal virtues: temperance, prudence, fortitude, and justice. (91) Augustine addresses justice in City of God: "What shall I say of these judgements which men pronounce on men... ? Melancholy and lamentable judgements they are." (92) At the center of his critique of human justice, Augustine sees sinners judging sinners. He sees a lack of interest in restorative justice among the decisions of earthly judges; instead, their decisions are dominated by retributive tendencies. (93) Restorative justice places primary emphasis on rehabilitation of the offender, the victim, and society. Retributive justice places primary emphasis on the punishment for the crime committed, seen in the "eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth" example. (94) Although Augustine may prefer restorative justice, he does recognize the need for retributive law.

Augustine's theories on justice are then directly tied to his conceptions of creation, sin, judgment, and restoration. His view of sin is that it is bound to lust and inordinate desire. (95) This is seen in On Free Choice of the Will in conversation with Evodius. They discuss that adultery is evil, not because it is against any law punished by people, or because people should not pursue wants, but because adultery is libido or lust, like all evil deeds. (96)

Augustine sees this as a direct result of the fall of man, rather than a punishment from God. (97)

Beyond his writings, Augustine's views on justice were evident in his interactions with heretics. He spent a lot of time fighting heresy in his lifetime; he acted against the Donatists, Pelagians, and Manicheans. He was influential in securing the imperial edicts, which outlawed the Donatist faction in the Empire. However, his interactions did not end there. Many Donatists were subsequently arrested and imprisoned, and Augustine commonly interceded on their behalf. (98) He strongly believed that the earth was the only place where correction could occur. (99)

For Augustine, all of God's action are just. (100) Augustine does confront the issue that sometimes God acts in ways that go beyond human understanding. Augustine holds fast to the stance that even if we do not understand, God is always a just actor. (101) In On Free Choice of The Will he famously opined, "an unjust law is no law at all." (102) This quote has been appropriated throughout history, including works by Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther King, Jr. But when it is read in the context of his writing, it may have a more nuanced meaning.

The conversation between Augustine and Evodius turns to a discussion of whether murder in self-defense is permissible. (103) Human law seems to be clear on the question, that killing in self-defense is permissible. However, Augustine does not seem to think that it is permissible according to divine law. (104) Moreover, he claims that the human law is nevertheless "just." (105) He does not look to equate divine law and the justness of the manmade law. There is a difference between the justness of the laws enacted by the State and the divine law.

Augustine concedes that fear of death and torture are not wrongful desires. (106) So how then does he consider a killing in self-defense wrongful? All people, the good and the bad, share these fears, and a desire to be liberated from fear altogether. (107) He differentiates the good from the bad by claiming that the good divert their love from things which cannot be had without the risk of losing them. (108) The bad, by contrast, are anxious to enjoy things in security and to remove impediments to their wicked lives, which Augustine calls death. (109) A slave who murders his master for fear of torture is motivated by lust; he loves what can be taken against his will. (110) In other words, the slave loves his life, health, and comfort, which can be taken from him against his will. When this is one's motive, one has acted wrongly, in violation of the divine law.

Augustine found that the death penalty could be a proper exercise of governmental authority. (111) This view is derived from his emphasis on the importance of order in the city of man. The use of the death penalty by legitimate authority can be lawful, under not only temporal law, but divine law as well. (112) Therefore, those who wield the sword on behalf of the State are not murderers in this case. (113) While Augustine was quick to accept the justice of the laws permitting the death penalty, his writings, especially his letters, indicate his views on the death penalty did not end at the justice of the law.

The malefactor is still a human, born into the world. There is always the possibility of repentance, with the assistance of God's mercy. (114) The Lord's mercy should give an example to earthly judges. On earth, putting a man to death can lead to his loss of the ultimate good, eternal life. Augustine worked for clemency on numerous occasions, seeming to advocate for clemency as the primary policy. (115) It seems that he truly advocated execution only in times where it was necessary for the protection of society.

B. War

Logically, Augustine's views on personal action in preservation of self may dictate some degree of pacifism. Augustine does not condemn military service or taking a life in the context of war. (116) In Against Faustus, he addresses John's baptism of Roman soldiers. (117) Some theologians have condemned military service and even government service, considering them to be strictly worldly endeavors. Augustine, however, disagrees, citing the examples of David, the Roman Centurion, Cornelius, and the Soldiers who came to John the Baptist and were not told to renounce their occupation. (118) Violence may be necessary in the city of earth to protect the innocent.

While Augustine never uses the modern language "preemptive war," there are indicators he advocates it. Preemptive war is waged in an attempt to defeat or repel a perceived imminent offensive or invasion. Likewise, he never writes of "preventive war"--the war waged to prevent another party from acquiring the capability to attack--but the same indicators which point to advocacy for preemptive war are not present for preventative war. He wrote of Rome's involvement in the Punic Wars. (119) He found that under Hannibal's rule there was a more preemptive justification for the Romans to go to war with Carthage, a justification not present in their later conflict in 150 BC. (120) Rather, the later conquest was preventive, looking to secure total control over their longtime enemy, and Augustine viewed it as unjust.

Soon after the discussion of self-defense killing he turns to preemption in scenarios of war. (121) In the case of an oncoming army or an assassin lying in wait, he finds preemptive action just. (122) Lesser evils may be necessary to avoid a greater evil. (123) It is important to note Augustine is not explicitly defending preemptive attack in the context of a just war theory, although that would come later in history.

He does, however, justify anticipatory self-defense in cases of imminent attack. (124) Additionally, the intent of the potential aggressor justifies preemptive measures. (125)

To Augustine, the deaths are not the true evil of war:
The real evils in war are love of violence, revengeful cruelty, fierce
and implacable enmity, wild resistance, and the lust of power, and such
like; and it is generally to impose just punishment on them that, in
obedience to God or some lawful authority, good men undertake wars
against violent resistance, when they find themselves set in positions
of responsibility which require them to command or execute actions of
this kind. (126)

In the city of earth, war will always be necessary.

Augustine is recognized as a pioneer of the idea of "just war". Augustine does believe that wars will end, coincident with the end of the earthly city. (127) He admits that just war is an imperfect solution, but perfection can be attained only in the City of God. (128)

Augustine recognizes war as a manifestation of the fallen nature of mankind:
Peace should be the object of your desire; war should be waged only as
a necessity, and waged only that God may by it deliver them in
peace.... Therefore even in waging war cherish the spirit of a
peacemaker, that by conquering those whom you attack you may lead them
back to the advantages of peace. (129)

Even in his formulation for just war, Augustine relies on caritas, or charity, (130) reflected in the second greatest command: love your neighbor as yourself. (131) Augustine argued that adherence to the rule of law, including punishment of lawbreakers, exemplifies this command. (132) Sometimes, to show caritas, it is necessary to protect one's neighbors when they are attacked, even if this requires employing violence to protect the neighbor. This is contrasted by his viewpoint that killing in self-defense is against divine law. (133) To save the lives of others, it may be necessary to take lives. The distinction, for Augustine, lies in the different motives for the two acts: caritas in the case of defense of others, and lust in the case of self-defense.

Aside from caritas, a second reason for just war is order. (134) As seen throughout Augustine's writings, political order is preferential to disorder. Augustine saw political order as foundational to the city of man. And although he saw the city as a poor reflection of the City of God, he did see temporal order as a reflection of the City of God.


A. The Integration of God and Government

This paper has already established Augustine's unique perspective on the relationship between the Church and the State. Some Christians in America look to the progression away from what they consider "moral" laws to newer, immoral ones. (135) This whole idea is predicated on biblical and divine influence on the laws in the city of man. Augustine is a strong proponent of the idea that the temporal government will never reach the level of the City of God. (136) Therefore, temporal law and divine law are independent of each other. Augustine does not believe that temporal law should be unjust, as he said "an unjust law is no law at all." (137) But he is emphatic that temporal law can progress over time, and also that it must justly allow some actions forbidden by divine law. (138)

There is an expectation from some Christian Americans, citing America's founding, that there is an obligation for the government to favor Christianity and to promulgate laws based on Christian morality. (139) Augustine is very clear about the separate roles of the City of God and the city of earth. The monikers of sojourner and pilgrim attached to citizens of the City of God indicated the temporary nature of the time spent on earth. (140) In Augustine's writings there is an emphasis on the individual as a citizen, rather than a focus on the standing of the Church. Sometimes, Christians in America see certain issues contrary to the Church as a whole, rather than their own views.

The moral expectations of some of America's Christian population are not aligned with what Augustine believed. While America's political system is dissimilar from that of the Roman Empire, Augustine's overarching view maintains that no State will achieve what is only attainable in the City of God. He was ardent in his belief that earthly government and temporal laws will always have limitations, falling short of the Divine. Some American Christians would base all temporal law on their morality in an attempt to achieve divine law on earth. (141)

For Augustine, those subject to earthly rule should see their rulers as economic managers rather than moral educators. (142) Earthly leaders should maintain order, through justice. Augustine does believe that the rulers on earth may be members of the City of God. Their membership, like all others, comes with full dedication to God--but their laws must be just. (143)

In assessing whether a manmade law is just, Augustine's analysis consists of different parts. Justice is not directly correlated to the morality of divine law and God's perfect justice. Augustine sees self-defense killing as sinful, yet the law permitting killing in self-defense is just. For Augustine, the potential of the people dictates temporal law. Although he sees self-defense killing as sinful, he understands that man's desire for self-preservation as overwhelming and present in everyone. Therefore, the law permitting the natural overwhelming urge--self-defense killing--is just. Augustine believed that the members of the city of earth need the law permitting self-defense killing.

B. Self-Defense Killing

Supported by the Second Amendment, many Americans believe that self-defense is a fundamental right. (144) In the U.S., it is widely understood that there is a right to protect oneself, and in some instances to use lethal force to do so. Augustine and Evodius's conversation in On Free Choice of the Will, however, clarifies that while Augustine does not find laws permitting these killings unjust, he believes killing in self-defense is sinful, and contrary to divine law. (145) This is an example of the justness of temporal law permitting an action Augustine believes the divine law forbids; it is in this section, too, that Augustine famously asserts: "an unjust law is no law at all." (146) But Augustine does not find the laws unjust when they permit self-defense.

Augustine's view on self-defense killing comes from the idea that good and bad people both fear loss of life or torture. But he distinguishes how good and bad actors handle these situations. (147) The bad actor loves things that can be taken from him against his will. (148) Those things include his life. The good actor had diverted their love from things which can be taken against their will. (149)

Augustine's views about specific laws, such as those allowing self-defense killings, are more straightforward. There is direct evidence of his stance that the State may permit citizens to use lethal force in preservation of their lives. (150) Augustine finds this to be a just law, although not one that is in direct accordance with divine law. Therefore, he has no wish for the State to abolish the laws. While he personally does not interpret divine law to permit self-defense killing, it is "necessary" for it to be permitted by temporal law. (151) Augustine's acceptance of laws permitting self-defense killing would likely neither surprise nor trouble many American Christians. However, his interpretation of the divine law may both surprise and trouble the same American Christians.

C. Abortion

Abortion is sometimes styled as one of America's greatest sins. (152) Although science in the fourth and fifth centuries was rather primitive by today's standards, Augustine's views on abortion still have significant value. The science of Augustine's day held that the body, before birth, lacks sensation and lacks a human soul. (153) Augustine's views on abortion are predicated on the idea of a vivified fetus, before or after ensoulment. Augustine believed that there was a distinct point in which a fetus gained a soul and was vivified. (154) In his day, the laws did not provide that abortion was related to homicide. However, Augustine believed procreation was fundamental in the marriage covenant, and that both abortion and contraception were evil work. (155) Both abortion and contraception remove the chance for creation of human life and thwarted the fundamental goal of marriage. He could not compel himself to go as far as to consider aborting a pre-vivified fetus more than just a grave evil. (156) Beyond an indeterminate number of days, Augustine had fewer questions about the full humanity of the child because it was vivified.

In both the pre-vivified and vivified states, Augustine did see abortion as a wrong. (157) But in the case of the pre-vivified fetus he could not justify calling it murder, nor say that it was contrary to any sort of temporal law. (158) There is speculation in the Church that had Augustine been exposed to certain technological advances, he would amend his beliefs, seeing only a vivified fetus always. (139)

Regardless, for Augustine abortion breaks down into two issues. Both abortion and contraception illustrate couples having sex for pleasure. Augustine sees sex for the sole purpose of pleasure as relating to the sin of Adam and Eve, what he calls original sin. (160) This equates contraception to abortion, a view that many find hard to swallow. Contraception and abortion prevent the creation of, or end, human life before birth. For Augustine this is contrary to divine law.

The second issue is homicidal. In a vegetative, soulless existence, Augustine saw no way for there to be a killing. (161) But when addressing a vivified fetus, he viewed abortion as murder. (162) Augustine's adamant stance against abortion is built on the marriage covenant and prohibition of vivified fetal homicide. One change that could come with time is the dissolution of the pre-vivified fetus stance; with technology it is more likely Augustine would see a fetus as vivified throughout its entire life.

But Augustine did allow some laws that permitted killings. He saw it as acceptable for temporal law to allow homicide for the preservation of life, even if his interpretation of divine law did not. (163) Augustine did not go as far as to call a law permitting self-defense killing an unjust law. (164) However, pro-abortion laws and decisions, which allow abortions for more than just the health of the mother, are not remotely similar to self-defense.

For Augustine to find laws permitting abortion just or unjust, he would gauge whether the law is necessary in society. While the number of abortions is staggering, this does not automatically mean Augustine would see abortion as necessary for the functioning of society. In his analysis on self-defense killing, Augustine concluded that fear of death and torture exists in all people. (165) This played heavily in his conclusion that laws permitting self-defense killings are just. Although Augustine clearly viewed abortion and contraception as evil practices, he recognized the prevalence of sexual desire among members of both the City of God and the city of man. Those in the City of God conquer their sexual desires and resist temptation. The members of the city of earth do not have the same expectation to resist their temptations and desires. To Augustine, laws permitting use of contraception in marital and non-marital relationships are just.

While Augustine equates contraception and abortion in respect to his views on original sin, he does see the abortion of a vivified or ensouled fetus as homicidal. So, if the laws permitting self-defense killings of vivified humans and use of contraception are just in Augustine's eyes, it may follow that laws permitting abortion could be just. However, Augustine would not likely see abortion as necessary in society when contraception is legal and easily available. There are situations in which contraception is ineffective or where the life of the mother is threatened during the pregnancy. Using Augustine's metric for gauging the justness of a temporal law, the laws permitting abortion are in fact unjust.

D. Homosexuality

Augustine was a staunch opponent of homosexuality. When it comes to applying Augustine's views on today's issues there is a concession to the temporal law. (166) Augustine allows for some change in the manmade laws. Therefore, assumptions cannot be made on whether he would agree with every law that is not in alignment with the divine. Yet it is equally true that he would not condone the temporal law's progression to injustice simply due to the passage of time. Thus, the key issue is what he believed was necessary in order to make a law just.

Augustine's views on homosexuality are:
Sins against nature, therefore, like the sin of Sodom, are abominable
and deserve punishment whenever and wherever they are committed. If all
nations committed them, all alike would be held guilty of the same
charge in God's law, for our Maker did not prescribe that we should use
each other in this way. In fact, the relationship that we ought to have
with God is itself violated when our nature, of which He is Author, is
desecrated by perverted lust. (167)

Further on, he reiterates:
Your punishments are for sins which men commit against themselves,
because, although they sin against You, they do wrong in their own
souls and their malice is self-betrayed. They corrupt and pervert their
own nature, which You made and for which You shaped the rules, either
by making wrong use of the things which You allow, or by becoming
inflamed with passion to make unnatural use of things which You do not
allow. (168)

It is clear from these excerpts that Augustine sees homosexuality as something contrary to God's law. He characterizes it as unnatural. It is imperative to note that Augustine finds all non-procreative sexual activity to be unnatural and contrary to divine law. Based on his personal views of the divine laws, homosexuality is clearly unacceptable. But as already noted, Augustine does not require just temporal laws to perfectly reflect divine law.

Recently in the U.S. there has been a progression in the acceptance of homosexuality and now same-sex marriages are allowed and recognized nationally. (109) In order to analyze Augustine's conception of whether these laws regarding homosexuality are just, imagine a hypothetical law exists that bans fornication. Augustine himself struggled with lust; he had multiple nonmarital sexual relationships in his lifetime. He recognized that fornication is clearly against divine law, but the law banning fornication is unjust. Augustine's analysis of the justness of temporal laws hinges on society's ability to adhere to laws and function with or without it. The lustful urges of society cannot be controlled by laws banning fornication. The hypothetical shows that in the case of society's inability to control sexual desire, Augustine may find a law contrary to the divine law, just.

In the case of homosexuality, the lustful urges of homosexual persons may become so great that law may need to permit those persons to act. Augustine would likely decide, if in fact the society reached such a point, that the law permitting homosexual activity is just.

E. The War on Terror

In analyzing the War on Terror, first there must be an analysis of terrorism. Fundamentally, terrorism is not the action of political authority. Terrorism is action by political or non-political actors, typically against noncombatants. Their actions can branch against state targets, with the purpose to terrorize the public or change policy. Augustine emphasized the importance of political order, an order which terrorism directly undermines. (170) There is no justice or morality that can be attributed to terrorism.

Augustine sees the order of the government in the city of earth to be good, somewhat mirroring the city of God. (171) Terrorism is in direct conflict with that order. Therefore, to restore the order, terrorism should be combated. The charitable aspect of Augustine's just war theory is similarly applicable to terrorism. To Augustine, self-defense killings are sinful, but the law permitting them is just. (172) Similarly, it is likely that Augustine would view at least some governmental violence against terrorism as just.

In the case of the War on Terror it is imperative to look at the preemptive and preventative natures of actions taken. While Augustine is one of the first proprietors of the just war theory, a lot of the language that is affiliated with the theory came after his life. (173) He does not directly define preemptive and preventative actions but does indirectly reference them in his writings. Those actions done in a preemptive nature are justified in Augustine's eyes. For example, an assassin or terrorist is in place to kill innocents. The threat is imminent and the government has been made aware of the threat and has the means to prevent it through lethal force. To act on this information and terminate the threat, a human life, is just for Augustine in that the preemptive action is necessary for preventative reasons. (174)

Preventative actions differ from preemptive, especially to Augustine. In cases where wars are waged to secure peace in the future, Augustine does not find justice. (175) For instance, suppose America anticipates an uprising in another country, but faces no direct threat to American lives or the citizens of the country. To act to prevent that uprising from occurring is not just in Augustine's view. However, in the case where there is more than a mere anticipation of danger, Augustine's view changes. When the danger is imminent, to react with military force is considered to be preemptive, and therefore just. (176)

It is also important to address Augustine's views on preemptive individual action. He directly references the case of an assassin lying in wait, contrasting the assassin with an oncoming enemy. (177) While his views on a private citizen killing for preservation of the citizen's own life are in favor of turning the other cheek, his views change when it comes to protecting others. He is an advocate for interceding to protect others, based in caritas. (178) So, even violent assistance in conflicts, to seek peace and protection for others, is in line with his views.

In the end, Augustine sees war as a means for peace. (179) And while he understands complete peace in the city of earth is unattainable, order is still an important aspect of life. When necessary, wars and violence can be justified. Dealing specifically with America's War on Terror, any preventative measures would not be acceptable, as imminent threats are necessary for Augustine to justify action. For example, assume a foreign country has the potential to threaten the U.S. and its inhabitants. There is no imminent threat from that country, but future threats could exist. Augustine would see an invasion of that country as preventative, and unjust. But if the U.S. has knowledge of an imminent but as-yet unexecuted against America, Augustine's analysis shifts; if the U.S. action comes under this scenario, Augustine would consider it preemptive and just.

While war is confined to the city of earth, Augustine does see it as just in specific instances. He does not use the vocabulary commonly associated with just war theory, as it developed over time, but his views recognize the distinction in preemptive and preventative action. In the War on Terror, it seems the U.S. has inserted itself into conflicts on foreign soil, even though there may not be a direct threat to U.S. nationals. With such actions, the U.S. can make steps to fulfil Augustine's ultimate goal for war: peace.


Augustine remains one of the most influential theologians in all of history, even over one and a half millennia after his life. During his life, he held power as an important figure in the Church, the religion of the State. However, his word is not gospel. Over time there have been those who have not wholly agreed with his theology and philosophy. Still, his was an invaluable perspective on the interaction of the Church and government that cannot be ignored. While America is not exactly the new Roman Empire, Christians in America today might benefit from a greater familiarity with his views.

Augustine's emphasis on the temporal nature of this earth and its laws is important to note for the American Christian. There is an eternal goal, in the City of God. Additionally, his views on unjust laws should be reflected. Repeated by both Aquinas and Dr. King, an unjust law is no law at all. But it is important to understand what Augustine meant by unjust: there is some significant difference between the temporal and the divine. Divine laws are not the metric Augustine uses to measure the justness of a temporal law.

Daniel Roach (*)

(*) J.D. Candidate, Faulkner University, Thomas Goode Jones School of Law (2019).

(1) See, e.g., Roy Moore, Will America Choose to Acknowledge God? WND (July 26, 2006, 1:00 AM),; see also Dean Obeidallah, The Conservative Crusade for Christian Sharia Law, THE DAILY BEAST (Feb. 18, 2014, 5:45 AM),

(2) See, e.g., Matt Walsh, Kim Davis Broke an Illegitimate, Evil Law, and God Bless Her for It, THE BLAZE (Sept. 3, 2015, 3:49 PM),


(4) See Moore, supra note 1.

(5) 410 U.S. 113, 116(1973).

(6) 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2593 (2015).

(7) See Joe Kovacs, 'Deception': Christians War Over Worship Day WND (Mar. 16, 2008, 5:24 PM), (citing CODE THEOD. 16.1.2).

(8) See generally SAINT AUGUSTINE, CITY OF GOD (Marcus Dods trans., Random House 1993).

(9) Whitney J. Oates, The Life and Religion of St. Augustine, in AUGUSTINE AND MODERN LAW 3, 8 (Richard O. Brooks & James Bernard Murphy eds., 2011).

(10) CODETHEOD. 16.1.2.


(12) See Oates, supra note 9, at 8.

(13) Id. at 9.

(14) 1 SAINT AUGUSTINE, THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE, in BASIC WRITINGS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 3, 24 (Whitney J. Oates ed., J.G. Pilkington trans., 1948).

(15) Oates, supra note 9, at 10.

(16) Id.

(17) Id.

(18) Id. at 11.

(19) Id. at 10.

(20) AUGUSTINE, supra note 14, at 120.

(21) Oates, supra note 9, at 10.

(22) See id. at 10.

(23) See, e.g., David Guretzki, The Function of St. Augustine's "Mediator" in De civitate Dei, Book IX, 1 HIRUNDO 62, 62 (2001).

(24) Oates, supra note 9, at 11.

(25) See id.

(26) Id.

(21) Id.

(28) AUGUSTINE, supra note 14, at 71.

(29) See Oates, supra note 9, at 11, 12.

(30) See id. at 12.

(31) Id.

(32) Id. at 12 13.

(33) Id. at 12.


(35) DEUTSCH & FORNIERI, supra note 11, at 72.

(36) See PLATO, PHAEDO (David Gallop trans., Clarendon Press 1977).

(37) AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 345.

(38) SAINT AUGUSTINE, ON CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE, 24-25 (D.W. Robertson, Jr. trans., Prentice-Hall 1997).

(39) Id. at 24.

(40) Id.

(41) AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 345.

(42) Id. at 441.

(43) See id.

(44) Id.

(45) Id,

(46) Id. at 360.

(47) AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 360.

(48) See id. at 361.

(49) See id.

(50) Id. at 487-88

(51) Id. at 488.

(52) Saint Augustine, Against Julian, in 35 THE FATHERS OF THE CHURCH 1, 344 (Matthew A. Schumacher trans., 1957).

(53) AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 370.

(54) 1 Corinthians 15:28.

(55) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 52, at 337.

(56) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 345-79.

(57) See MARTIN LUTHER, ON THE FREEDOM OF A CHRISTIAN (1520), reprinted in MARTIN LUTHER: SELECTIONS FROM HIS WRITINGS 42-85 (John Dillenberger ed., Anchor Books 1962).

(58) See, e.g., id.

(59) Id.

(60) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 345-79.

(61) AUGUSTINE, ON FREE CHOICE OF THE WILL, 10-12 (Thomas Williams trans., Hackett Pub. 1993).

(62) Id.

(63) Id.

(64) Id.

(65) AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 706.

(66) Id.

(67) Id.

(68) St. Augustine, Sermon 329: The Martyr's Cup of Suffering, in Sermo 329, 1-2: PL 38, 1454-1455.

(69) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 441.

(70) Augustine, Letter 153, in FROM IRANAEUS TO GROTIUS: A SOURCEBOOK IN CHRISTIAN POLITICAL THOUGHT 119, 120 (Sister W. Parsons trans., 1999).

(71) Id.

(72) Id.

(73) Id. at 121.

(74) See Id. at 119-31.

(75) See, e.g., MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO, Of the Nature of the Gods, in THE NATURE OF THE GODS AND ON DIVINATION, 1, 117 (CD. Yonge trans., Prometheus Books 1997).

(76) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 669-709.

(77) Id. at 699.

(78) Id. at 112.

(79) Augustine, Letter 134, in AUGUSTINE: POLITICAL WRITINGS 63, 63 (E.M. Atkins & R.J. Dodaro eds., 2001).

(80) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 40-73.

(81) See id.

(82) See id.

(83) See id.

(84) See id.

(85) See id.

(86) AUGUSTINE, supra note 61, at 24.

(87) Id.

(88) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 40-73.

(89) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 61, at 24-28.

(90) Id. at 8-10.

(91) AUGUSTINE, On The Morals of the Catholic Church, in 4 A SELECT LIBRARY OF THE NICENE AND POST-NICENE FATHERS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH 48 (Richard Stothert trans., 1887).

(92) AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 681.

(93) Augustine, supra note 70, at 120-21.

(94) Matthew 5:38.

(95) AUGUSTINE, supra note 61, at 4-6.

(96) Id.

(97) Id.

(98) SAINT AUGUSTINE, Letters, Volume II (83-130), in 18 FATHERS OF THE CHURCH 258, 258-60 (Sister Wilfrid Parsons trans., 1953)

(99) Id.

(100) AUGUSTINE, supra note 6, at 165.

(101) Id.

(102) AUGUSTINE, supra note 61, at 8.

(103) Id. at 8-10.

(104) Id.

(105) Id. at 9.

(106) Id. at 7.

(107) Mat 9.

(108) AUGUSTINE, supra note 61, at 7-8.

(109) Id. at 8.

(110) Id. at 7.

(111) AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 27.

(112) Id.

(113) AUGUSTINE, supra note 61, at 8.

(114) Augustine, supra note 70, at 124-25.

(115) See id.

(116) Augustine, Letter 189, supra note 70, at 133, 134-35.

(117) Augustine, Against Faustus, supra note 70, at 115, 117-19.

(118) See id.

(119) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 96-100.

(120) Id.

(121) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 61, at 8-10.

(122) Id. at 8.

(123) See id. at 8-10.

(124) id.

(125) Id.

(126) Augustine, Against Faustus, supra note 70, at 115, 117.

(127) AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 100.

(128) Id.

(129) Augustine, Letter 189, supra note 70, at 133, 135.

(130) AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 74-108.

(131) Matthew 22:39.

(132) See Augustine, Letter 153, supra note 70, at 119, 119-31.

(133) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 61 at 9-10.

(134) AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 74-108.

(135) Dean Russell, Legal But Immoral, FOUND. ECON. EDUC. (Jan. 1, 1962)

(136) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 61, at 4-6.

(137) Id. at 8.

(138) Id. at 4-6.

(139) Moore, supra note 1.

(140) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 345-79.

(141) See Moore, supra note 1.

(142) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 61, at 8-10.

(143) Id. at 8.

(144) U.S. CONST, amend II.

(145) AUGUSTINE, supra note 61, at 8-10.

(146) Id. at 8.

(147) See Id. at 7-8.

(148) Id.

(149) Id. at 7-8.

(150) See, e.g., id. at 8.

(151) AUGUSTINE, supra note 61, at 8.

(152) See, e.g., America's Greatest Sin--Legalized Murder Through Abortion, RING BELLS FREEDOM, (last visited May 23, 2018).

(153) AUGUSTINE, ON EXODUS, 23.85.

(154) Id.

(155) Id.

(156) Id.

(157) See, e.g., Bishop Robert Vasa, Modern Look at Abortion not same as St. Augustine's, EWTN, (last visited May 23, 2018)

(158) Id

(159) Id.

(160) AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 550-51.

(161) See Augustine, ON EXODUS, 23.86.

(162) See id.

(163) AUGUSTINE, supra note 61, at 8-10.

(164) Id.

(165) Id. at 7.

(166) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 61, at 10-12.

(167) AUGUSTINE, supra note 14, at 36-38.

(168) Id.

(169) See Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2593 (2015).

(170) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 6, at 74-108.

(171) See id.

(172) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 61, at 8.

(173) See, e.g., Joe Carter, A Brief Introduction to the Just War Tradition; Jus ad Bellum, ETHICS & RELIGIOUS LIBERTY COMM'N (Aug. 17, 2017),

(174) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 55.

(175) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 74.

(176) See id.

(177) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 61, at 6-8.

(178) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 8, at 74-108.

(179) See AUGUSTINE, supra note 61, at 6-8.
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