Although Augustine contributed greatly to the introduction of Neo-Platonism into Christian thought, his way of viewing history remained strongly non-Platonic
The classical view of history generally was that it was cyclic, and that the same cyclic patterns repeated themselves with variations.
Augustine stood unhesitatingly within the Judaeo-Christian tradition, and held that history was essentially linear. History had a beginning and would have an end.
This was as it was portrayed in the Bible by the linear sweep from the beginning (Genesis and Creation) to the end of time (Apocalypse and Judgment).
Yet in the hindsight of his Confessions Augustine came to see that these apparently secular events were used for religious purposes by God.
As it was with secular events in his personal journey towards God, so too Augustine saw happening through the secular events of nations the work of God in coaxing whole nations to choose the grand design of God for the human race.
Thus in his major book, City of God,
his purpose was to show that it was within the plan of God
- divine providence
- that pagan Rome would fall and that the Christian religion would merge from its ashes.
More broadly again, the City of God
exposes very clearly the world view
of Augustine that the plans of God are at the centre of the purpose of history and civil government.
In other words, according to Augustine all of history has direction and meaning within the unfolding of the grand plan of God for the human race and for all of Creation.
The course of history could advance the plan of God even if the protagonists of the day, whether through their ignorance of God or their lack of foresight, did not recognise it.
(Continued on the next page.)