The Lust For Domination

“I know how great is the effort needed to convince the proud of the power and excellence of humility, an excellence which makes it soar above all the summits of this world, which sway in their temporal instability, overtopping them all with an eminence not arrogated by human pride, but granted by divine grace. For the King and Founder of this City which is our subject has revealed in the Scripture of his people this statement of the divine Law, ‘God resists the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.’* This is God’s prerogative; but man’s arrogant spirit in its swelling pride has claimed it as its own, and delights to hear this quoted in is own praise: ‘To spare the conquered, and beat down the proud.’**  Therefore I cannot refrain from speaking about the city of this world, which aims at dominion, which holds nations in enslavement, but is itself dominated by that very lust of domination.  I must consider this city as far as the scheme of this work demands and as occasion serves.” Augustine of Hippo, The City of God:  Preface, trans. Henry Bettenson (London 1972), 508. [Emphasis added]

In this preface to his most famous work, The City of God, Augustine of Hippo sets forth one of the most significant themes of his work: power, pride, humility, and grace.  He examines numerous events in Roman history that explain how fallen human beings sought power and glory through the dominion over others.  Based on the ancient Roman authors, Augustine rightly explained how Rome originated as a State based on violence and became a State based on conquest in the first five books of The City of God.  He later emphasizes the theology of humility and grace as the heavenly antidote to human sin and pride.

*James 4:6

**Virgil, Aeneid 6

This entry was posted in Augustine of Hippo, community, grace, pride. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Lust For Domination

  1. Glenda M says:

    This post is quite timely for me. I’m in a bookclub and we are following Susan Wise Bauer’s “The Well-Educated Mind.” We are currently in the history list and our next book is Augustine’s “The City of God.” Can you give us a recommendation for a translation?

  2. The translation I cited above is available in paperback. You could find it in an online book seller. Thank you for reading this blog.

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