The City of God
“Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord.” (14.28) Love, in a present-day definition is normally a good thing. According to the brilliant St. Augustine, that would depend on the nature of the love in understanding. In his book, The City of God, Augustine skillfully drew upon two loves: on one hand, a love which is holy: agape, unselfish love, and on the other hand a love which is unholy: distorted love of self; selfishness. Augustine identifies with unselfish love, which is holy love, the love of God, and following God’s rules according to the bible. As contrasted to its opposite, love of self is to the point of contempt of God and neighbor in which these two loves conflict. In this essay, I will give a brief background of the author; I will be discussing the topic of love in The City of God, but more specifically, Augustine’s perception of self-love.
Saint Augustine of Hippo was born on November 13, 354, in the town of Thagaste, which is now located in Algeria. His father was a pagan who converted on his death bed, and his mother was Saint Monica, whom was a devout Christian. In 370, he went to the University at Carthage to study rhetoric and wanted to become a lawyer. He gave up on law, and later on abandoned his Christian faith. He had a mistress with who he lived with for fifteen years and he had a son out of wedlock as well. He later, returned to his Christian faith, and on the death of his mother he returned to Africa, sold his property, gave all of his income to the poor, and founded a monastery at Tagaste. He was ordained in 390 and moved to Hippo where he established a community with several of his friends who had followed him. Five years later he was consecrated Bishop and made coadjutor to Valerius, Bishop of Hippo, whom he succeeded in the following year. St. Augustine began writing the City of God as a justification against the people who blamed the Christians and Christianity for the fall of Rome. Augustine framed this idea in terms of an ongoing strife between two societies: the heavenly city, or city of God. The city of God consists of the elect among humanity and of the holy angels, while the "city of men, or the earthly city, is made up of all those angels and humans who are completely against God. The two are categorized by their individual loves, whether it is love of God or love of self-distancing oneself from God.
Unholy love or “earthly love” is analyzed by Augustine in different ways. By means of “unholy love”, it can be interpreted as self-love. First, it’s true that he discusses love of self in a critical way. In this context, self-love and egotism are closely linked, “For man can relate only destructively to himself when he holds God’s will in contempt, and so it is that he learns to tell the...