The view of man and of history presented by Augustine in the City of God is glorious and awe-inspiring. In this vision, all men are active and loyal citizens of one or the other of two invisible Cities: the City of God, or the City of Man.
The occasion for writing the book was the sack of Rome by the barbarians. The non-Christian Romans were putting forth the view that Rome was defeated because she had betrayed her ancestral and traditional gods: Christianity was to blame. Augustine countered that Rome’s defeat should be regarded as a hard Providence meted out in just judgment by the living and true God, in His vengeance of eternal warfare against the false gods that the Romans had trusted in.
Of course, godly Christians also suffered in Rome’s sacking. In a brilliant discussion, Augustine shows how the same hard and mysterious Providence should be regarded as working for their good. This digression would itself be worthy of unpacking in its own thread — another day.
To build his case, Augustine rehearsed the entire history of Rome, through its three periods of the kings, the Republic, and Empire. With concrete detail, he showed the petulant and arbitrary character of the gods in their interaction with Rome. The gods revealed themselves to be full of lust and avarice, and it was absurd to trust in them. He goes on and on: and then your gods did this, and then they did that. At one point, he shifts the terminology, I paraphrase slightly, “fellas, let’s cut to the chase and stop referring to your gods; it’s your demons. From now on, I’m going to talk about all the things your demons did to you.”
The effect of Augustine’s vision was devastating. It was a one-punch knockout of polytheism. No intelligent and serious man since Augustine has put forth polytheism as a viable explanation of history.
Augustine did not argue that the pantheon was non-existent; he argued that they were demons.
The city of Man is the same as the city of Satan, or the city of demons. For all of the variation in the projects of that city throughout history, there is a unified intent and goal: the overthrow of the city of God. But more than that: because of its subservience to demons, who are trans-epochal, there is a diabolical sameness of thinking and strategizing found among the machinations of the citizens of the city of Man.
Now, combine the vision of trans-epochal thematic sameness of the City of Man with another attribute, which has been investigated by Vern Poythress in his work on hermeneutics and the book of Revelation. The kingdom of Satan works essentially by means of counterfeit. There is no real creativity in wickedness.
We can synthesize the insight of Augustine and Dr. Poythress. There is nothing truly new in the methods of the city of man. Those persons work by constructing “religions” modeled after the true God, but corrupted to permit self-worship. The brotherhood of the saints, rooted in their adoption by God on account of the work of his Son, Jesus Christ, is aped as the “liberty, fraternity, and equality” of the French revolution; the priesthood of believers, by the egalitarianism professed by our society. The law of God is mimicked as “values,” which are basic and primary and need no justification (but which will be defined by the Enlightened ones, the power holders!). There is a counterfeit communion of the saints, by which consensus is achieved. Sometimes it is by discussion or command; other times, through winks and nods; goals coalesce without a word needing to be spoken.
This two-fold analysis of history is what I call Augustinian conspiracy theory.
For all of its superficial variety, we expect to find a broad similarity amongst the citizens of the City of Man in their false religions, politics, theories of knowledge, social solidarity, and vision of the good life. We look for, and find, common threads and tendencies running through all history, whether it be Sumerian religion, Egyptian enlightenment, mystery religions, the Hermetics, the Kabbalah, astrology, masonry, illuminati, witchcraft, Mormonism, Tarot cards, New Age.
Thus, of course the unregenerate are involved in a huge conspiracy. They breathe together in their hatred of God (Ps 2). Being made to reflect the glory of God, in corruption they also reflect or recapitulate certain set themes, giving their counterfeit actions a sameness. Moreover, their demonic connection gives them a corporate unity that spans generations and nations.
The Augustine/Poythress model gives us a framework for researching the movements listed above. The model transforms what seemed to be a mind-numbing variegation of disjoint phenomena into common themes that can be picked out. I am only a beginner; I hope some of our younger readers can capture this vision and run farther with it than I have been able to do. But my colleague and I will essay a start in future posts.
The proof that the American Empire is manipulated by conspirators, both self-conscious and unconscious, is the impossibility of the contrary!
In saying this, I do not wish to confuse this notion with the “impossibility of the contrary” of our apologetic. Its certainty is of a different class. The latter is transcendental, apodictic; the former historical/theological, corrigible in detail.
So let us honor the category distinction.
Nevertheless, history is important, and it is not opaque. Let’s not put our heads in the sand. Let’s unmask the servants of demons wherever, in God’s mysterious Providence, we are able to.