Archive Early Church Fathers Jordan Ballor Nota Bene

Augustine on Temporal and Eternal Goods

In a previous post I made reference to medieval and older formulations that “have some significant implications for the relationship between general and special grace.”

To wit, here’s this bit from Augustine’s City of God (19.13):

God, therefore, is the most wise Creator and just Ordainer of all natures, Who has established the mortal human race as the greatest adornment of things earthly, and Who has given to men certain good things appropriate to this life. These are: temporal peace, in proportion to the short span of a mortal life, consisting in bodily health and soundness, and the society of one’s own kind; and all things necessary for the preservation and recovery of this peace. These latter include those things which are appropriate and accessible to our senses, such as light, speech, breathable air, drinkable water, and whatever the body requires to feed, clothe, shelter, heal or adorn it. And these things are given under a most fair condition: that every mortal who makes right use of these goods suited to the peace of mortal men shall receive ampler and better goods, namely the peace of immortality and the glory and honour appropriate to it, in an eternal life made fit for the enjoyment of God and of one’s neighbour in God. He who uses temporal goods ill, however, shall lose them, and shall not receive eternal goods either.

By Jordan Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012), and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous volumes. Jordan also serves as associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research of Calvin Theological Seminary.