Augustinian Conspiracy Theory

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.

7 thoughts on “Augustinian Conspiracy Theory

  1. Excellent post.

    Pardon the label, but this is excellent applied Presuppositionalsim. I have a great interest in taking presup methods outside of apologetics, specifically into reforming culture — which is simply to say I’m interested in obeying Christ.

    However, one of the challenges to your thesis coming from those inside the Reformed world is the faulty historiographical methods that are out there. Here’s a choice comment by Frame, writing about Richard Muller:

    ‘His statement that philosophical theology ‘must not utilize Scripture or churchly standards of truth: it rests on the truths of logic and reason’ (p. 139) is horrendous. I am amazed that such an intelligent writer can pen a sentence like that while endorsing presuppositional apologetics! The whole point of presuppositional apologetics, a biblical point in my view, is that in all areas of life we must ‘utilize Scripture and churchly standards of truth.”

    Full article here:

    I’ve often been puzzled at some of my Christian brothers who grant the myth of epistemological neutrality in defending the faith with unbelievers, but yet assume neutrality in other areas of their lives, say in giving their kids to the government where they can still learn “religiously neutral” subjects, or in reading history as if it is religiously neutral.

    Another challenge, frankly, comes from some faculty members at Westminster Ca and guys like Lee Irons, who advocate the same sort of neutrality, not in historiography (though they might), but in reforming culture in general. We need to use natural law for those areas life (culture and politics) which are under “common grace” and not redemptive. Just some thoughts. Gotta run for now.

    Again, good post. It’s giving me ideas for my MA thesis!

  2. Joshu — that’s exciting. Bring us up to date from time to time on your MA thesis.

  3. It is inaccurate and intellectually irresponsible to imply that Augustine was a conspiracy theorist like a disturbing percentage of readers of this blog. A pschological or sociological analysis of the author and said readers, done well, would be more illuminating.
    To avoid misunderstanding, yes, there are a few conspiracies out there, but not nearly as many as people of a certain mindset think there are. But, of course, one can never disprove their mindset because difficulty of proof, to them, merely indicates a more complex and insidious conspiracy!

  4. Well MKM I think you tip your hand with the word “irresponsible,” a favorite of the academic establishment when they feel the need to vent but have nothing of substance to say.

  5. Pasted below is a perfect example of how those in the pews get brainwashed on a daily basis with more and more neo-con lies and why the church as whole is in the sorry state that it is. This man, Robert Morey, was my pastor for a couple of years (until I became wise enough to get the heck out of there). He launched a crusade against everyone in the church who believed that the popular conspiracy theories promoted by the establishment media were a lie. He got to the point where he said that those affirming the concept of some sort of conspiracy (being led by evil men in control) were unregenerate. There was a mass witch hunt and those who refused to submit were slandered and rejected. Here is his error-filled video (he can’t even define the word conspiracy correctly!) where he (attempts) to counter much of the information you’ve laid out here:

    TJH and MB: How do we reach people who’ve been brainwashed by men like Morey? How would you counter some of his arguments?

  6. Josh –

    Morey is as shallow on conspiracies as he is on the only other subject I have read him on, Islam. A few observations.

    1) Aside from his abortive attempt to define or characterize conspiracy, he goes on to show he cannot even use the word properly by calling Abel’s murder by Cain a conspiracy. How can one discuss conspiracies intelligently if he is even able to use let alone define the word?
    2) Morey is really attempting to define conspiracy theorists rather than conspiracies. Conspiracy theorists, says Morey, are those who believe that secret forces run the world. Thus defined he can use his theological expertise to demonstrate that this contradicts biblical teaching that God controls all things. To borrow from Lewis Carroll, there’s glory for you.

    3) Part I of the video gives the impression that there are no conspiracies, but part II goes on to say that just about every human political endeavor involves conspiracies. Which is it?

    4) I loved the the first minute or so of Morey’s first appearance. It was filled with as much vitriol and ad hominem as the Saturday Night Live ‘s “Point-Counterpoint” between Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd. Aykroyd used to always begin with, “Jane you ignorant slut.” (For those who are unfamiliar, see here for audio of one of their “debates.”)

    5) We can glean one important lesson from this otherwise unhelpful presentation. Despite the fact that the City of Man is continually conspiring against the City of God, Jesus is King and will conquer all his enemies. (Well, this is not quite Morey’s lesson. He speaks generally about providence and not about the power and authority of Christ’s rule.)

    6) As to your question, just patiently and kindly point out the errors, distortions and rhetorical tricks. We are all dupes at some level so don’t get too frustrated by those who can’t see what seems obvious. And besides, it often takes more than arguments to move one away from old and comfortable positions. To have a genuinely Augustinian view of the world will take something like a gestalt switch for most Christians.

  7. If his point simply had to do with the need for evidence, we cd welcome him, even if it were taken overboard a bit in the manner of McPhee. If this were the main burden of Morey’s diatribe, that would be okay. But think about it: he has accepted the official 9/11 story purely on the basis of authority. (And just for the record, if there was ever a conspiracy theory, it is the govt’s official story about the 9/11.) He does not have evidence in his hand for most of the assertions, he simply believes the narration of that alleged evidence given by officials. For most Americans, and probably for Morey as well, the “evidence” for the story is simply the fact that the buildings fell down!

    Likewise, he asserts that “conspiracy theories” take away attention from the “true and very real conspirators,” the Muslim terrorists, and the “islamo-fascist” conspiracy. Now Morey obviously does not know what fascism is; and he also does not know that fascists are “conspiring.” He is simply aping what he has been told.

    Studying conspiracies leads one to neglect “the two reasons why they were left on the planet” (evangelism of unsaved and education of the saved). This philosophy of history, as a mere waiting-room for eternity in which to evangelize the lost is a truncated and ultimately anti-Christian view, though shared by many fundamentalists.

    (Note that Morey evidently supports the “war against islamo-fascism,” and thus himself see more than just the two reasons earlier given “why we were left on the planet.”)

    He criticizes the slanderous tendency of some conspiracy theories, but by insinuating that all conspiracy theorists are intentionally trying to deceive, he shows himself to be a slanderer of the saints, and guilty of the very thing he accuses them of.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *