A Letter to the Editor
Reformed Presbyterian Witness reader Clay Finley of Sparta, Ill. writes:
“I write in response to Bill Chellisâ€™ article in the November issue entitled â€œThe Garden Kingdom.â€ In that article, Mr. Chellis argues that human government was always part of creation, even before man fell into sin. Describing the teaching that the state had its origin in the Fall, he says that â€œ[t]his view reflects the historic teaching of the Anabaptist movement.â€
While that may be true, this position has much deeper roots, going back at least as far as Augustineâ€™s City of God. According to Augustine, God â€œdid not intend that His rational creature, made in His own image, should have lordship over any but irrational creatures: not man over man, but man over beasts. Hence, the first men
were established as shepherds of flocks, rather than as kings of menâ€ (Book XIX, chapter 15).Only after the Fall, according to Augustine, would human government be necessary. That is not to say that
Augustine was right and the Reformers wrong; only that this subject is more
complex than the article implies and that there is room for disagreement on
this issue within the historical teaching of the church.”
Thank you Clay. I appreciate you taking time to write. Unfortunately, I have to disagree. To confuse Augustine with the Anabaptists simply will not do. I know that your argument reflects a fairly popular misunderstanding of Augustine. It is a misunderstanding nonetheless.
Read again your quote from the City of God. Notice that it does not say that no civil authority existed before the fall but that no civil tyranny existed. Tyranny and slavery are certainly products of the sin. For Augustine, the seedbed of civil authority is the family. If so, would you suggest that the headship of the husband over the wife is a product of sin? Or does it make more sense to assume that a husband’s tyranny over his wife is a product of sin? Should the same not be said about civil authority? Augustine would say so.