Not surprisingly, the view of Augustine on society dovetailed with his world view and his anthropology.
Before the fourth century, the Christian view (like the Jewish view before it) was that every human being dwelt on this earth as a brief traveller, awaiting individual death or the Second Coming for the eternal plan of God to come to fruition.
In the fourth century, Roman emperors became Christian, and the Christian Faith moved from being a religion not tolerated to being the established one.
As Roman civil authority decayed, Christians changed from being a repressed minority to becoming a dominant elite.
Even though this took well over a century to be accomplished, this paradigm shift brought Christians to a dominant position in society.
They had wealth, acceptance and influence. The church began to exercise some influence previously held by the state.
By the time Augustine lived, the Christian religion had become legally protected, while paganism and opposing beliefs were legally repressed.
How did these major changes - this paradigm shift - affect the view of society held by Christians?
In the course of this establishment of the Christian religion as the official and compulsory religion of the declining Roman Empire, Christians had come to identify without reserve - and often without much thought - with the culture, values, social structure and political institutions of the Roman Empire.
Christians presumed that God had planned that the pagan Roman Empire begin in pre-Christian times, and then become a vehicle for the spread of the Christian religion.
Augustine lived at this turning point, at which Christians after four centuries had an opportunity to lead their society actively for the first time. How could this fit in with the teachings of Christ?
This was to be one of the most radical transformations in the social conditions of the existence of the Church over its whole history, and intellectually the Church was not well prepared to deal with such a change.
(Continued on the next page.)