Just as the anthropology of Augustine has a human being searching for the Will of God in order to be most true to our human nature, so likewise does Augustine see the concept of justice as defined in terms of that which is desired of us by the Will of God.
Augustine could not have imagined an anthropology that did not give God a primary and central influence, so too he would not envision a true justice as lacking the same essential element.
Discussion by Augustine about the constituents of justice and of a just society and of are found in his great work, the City of God.
In Book XIX he examines the idea of justicia (justice) in De re republica ("About the Republic") by his favourite ancient Latin author, Cicero.
Augustine then quotes Habakkuk from the Bible. Habakkuk links the just person (iustus) to the justice (iustitia) due God "who rules an obedient city according to his grace."
The Bible states that the just person lives by Christian faith. Augustine added that this has to be a Faith that is active in Christian love, the love by which one loves God alone and neighbour as oneself.
For Augustine, justice can be well described as the respecting of God by following the law of love of the Bible – "Love God, and your neighbour just as you love yourself."
The just person par excellence is one whose Faith is demonstrated by caritas – love of God and love of neighbour.
Even so, in City of God the relationship of people to justice is only secondary because, for Augustine, justice is primarily about God.
In other words, wherever God does not receive his due there can be no justice. For Augustine, justice begins and ends with religious devotion, the love and adoration of God.
From start to finish the approach of Augustine is theological: Justice has to do with knowing and loving God.
As defined by Augustine, justice is not fully attainable by a human being while still on earth. This should not be a surprise, because if justice is perfection, then only the perfect being — God, not humans — would have perfect access to it.
A human person Man can only gain access when he or she becomes one with God, a situation entertained by the Christian religion only after death. "Life, therefore, will only be truly happy when it is eternal."
For a person to be just (or, more correctly, to pursue justice), he or she must deny the love of self that is part of human nature, and actively draw towards a love of God.
But, because of sin, human beings are incapable of knowing and loving God unless they accept the grace of God.
Photos (at right).
Robert Dodaro O.S.A., president of the Augustinianum (Augustinian Patristic Institute), Rome, and author in 2005 of a book about justice (see next page).