By John Kekes

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It is everywhere consistent with and, further, implied by unreserved love for the God of all-embracing love because the goodness of the world follows directly from God’s love for it. With this belief in mind, let us return to whether Augustine’s thought entails abiding authority for the early account. If the difference between earthly and heavenly peace does not permit indifference to worldly conditions in which neighbors and fellow citizens live, why is political accommodation prescribed or, at least, permitted for most Christians?

Most of Christian history has asserted that this norm is the apostolic witness to Jesus as the Christ, but there has been disagreement about what is in fact apostolic, some equating this with the New Testament canon or, alternatively, the essential “biblical message” contained within the canon, and others affirming as apostolic both Scripture and tradition. More recently, some theologians have, in effect, denied the principle of apostolicity itself, insisting that the primary norm of Christian faith consists in the words and deeds of the so-called historical Jesus.

Given a commitment to serve the worldly good of “everyone, whenever possible,” it is far from apparent that the early account is fitting. Having in mind these contemporary conditions, in which active pursuit of justice need not be anarchic, let us examine further why Augustine’s affirmation of earthly good did not lead him to affirm politics as a common Christian vocation. It will not suffice to stress that pervasive sin severely limits the possibilities of justice, since there is always the possibility of better rather than worse political rule.

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