Books That Matter: The City of God

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course I have purchased several of the Great Courses and this is one of the best. The Instructor is very knowledgeable and gives an in-depth analysis of a very difficult book. I have listen to the course several times and learn something new with each review. I do believe the Great Courses lacks courses in two related areas. First there is very little on the writings of Thomas Aquinas. Some of the courses mention him briefly, but there is nothing that goes into real depth into his writings. This is a real hole in the religion and philosophy section that truly needs to be filled. Another area that needs to be filled is a course that deals with the relationship between the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The Great Courses has courses on these individually but nothing that looks at how the Old Testament inter-relates to the new. Most Christians, of course, believe the Old Testament is the foundation for the new and prepares us for the coming of Christ so something that helps understand the prophecies and the symbolism would be a great addition to the Philosophy section.
Date published: 2021-04-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from It may be difficult to concentrate on the content Prof. Mathewes is a distinguished specialist on his field. He knows the material like the back of his hand. This is indisputable. Unfortunately, his effete delivery style overshadows the quality of the content. Keeping the incessant rhetorical sleights of hand at bay in order to extract the meaningful gems under all that irksome noise is sheer drudgery. The same thing happens with the courses taught by Dr. Allen C. Guelzo, another amazing scholar. There should be a healthy mid-point between monotone, dull speech, and hippity-hoppity screeches all over the place.
Date published: 2021-03-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course! My Favorite so far! Professor Matthews is a master of this material. It was a delight to listen to! I especially loved his lectures on heaven and hell. There is a lot of wisdom here! I was already a fan of the Confessions but was looking for a course that would introduce me to the City of God and show me why it deserves the fame it does. This course did exactly that! I loved it!
Date published: 2021-03-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not Recommended for a General Audience I have listened to many Great Courses, and am usually a fan. This course is in a category by itself, but not in a good way. Professor Mathewes' lectures are undoubtedly read from a fully-prepared written text: they are dense and sound erudite, but they are also highly elusive for the non-specialist. His vocabulary is that of a religious studies scholar, perhaps meaningful to his academic colleagues but not to the uninitiated. Time and again, Mathewes emphasizes how deep and important Augustus's insights are on topic X, but then he fails to articulate in a comprehensible manner just what that insight is. I consider myself a dedicated, attentive listener, but I found Mathewes very opaque. Professor Mathewes, in short, does not know his audience. He would be well served by showing off his linguistic gymnastics less and trying harder to reach his non-specialist listeners. (I also agree fully with SETXDOC's review of this course.)
Date published: 2020-08-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Transformative- Read aloneside Why Evil Exists This book and its companion audiobook "Why Evil Exists" are two of best books you will ever read or listen to. Both are profound studies in good and evil. In this book, focus is on the "participation" embodied in the "bene" of "benevolence aimed at union", where the union is the complete giving or gifting of oneself to God, to one's neighbour and to one's higher self, understood not as who you currently are, but who you are intended to be. In "Why Evil Exists", the focus is on the "non-participation" embodied in the "mal" of "malevolence aimed at rebellion, isolation and annihilation." Read and profit.
Date published: 2020-02-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Two of the cd’s are corrupted. Just a green screen. I called the company for replacement and 3 weeks later still have not received them.
Date published: 2019-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Name for the course Please add more courses with this Prof.! He is outstanding in every way, and really is a great teacher.
Date published: 2019-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Overview of the City of God Teacher does a good job of hitting the highlights of the book. The course is tempting me to read the book.
Date published: 2019-04-13
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Books That Matter: The City of God
Course Trailer
Your Passport to The City of God
1: Your Passport to The City of God

The City of God is a monumental work-not just for its scale and structure, but for what it asks of us as readers. In this first lecture, dive into the many layers of this powerful book, surveying why Augustine wrote it, for whom, and what impact it still has on our world today....

32 min
Who Was Augustine of Hippo?
2: Who Was Augustine of Hippo?

Examine the paradoxical life of Augustine: Who was he? Why is he such an important historical figure? You'll be surprised that much of what we may associate with him, such as his metaphysical dualism and his antidemocratic adherence to Church law, is mistaken. Here, you'll uncover the real Augustine-and find a man not so unlike ourselves.

33 min
The Sack of Rome, 410 A.D.
3: The Sack of Rome, 410 A.D.

While Roman elites viewed the sack of Rome as a turning point that changed the world forever, the event itself lasted only three days and served more as a catalyst for change than a cataclysm in its own right. In this lecture, you'll find out why the sack was so monumental, and how it inspired Augustine to write The City of God....

29 min
Augustine's Pagan and Christian Audience
4: Augustine's Pagan and Christian Audience

Before delving into the text of The City of God, Professor Mathewes sets the stage with some context about the many audiences that Augustine was writing for, as well as the arguments against Christians that he was confronting. See how Augustine co-opted Roman notions of "city" and "glory" and applied them to his divine purpose....

33 min
The Problem of Suffering (Book 1)
5: The Problem of Suffering (Book 1)

Book 1 opens by addressing civic-minded Roman citizens looking for happiness in this life-a mistake, Augustine believes. By exploring the problem of evil and questions of suffering and suicide, you'll discover how Augustine's approach toward life differs from the Roman view, yet is arguably more life affirming and even therapeutic....

30 min
The Price of Empire (Books 2-3)
6: The Price of Empire (Books 2-3)

Continue your study of Augustine's argument toward civic-minded Romans by reviewing his attacks on their morality and their sense of self-regard. Using their own historians as evidence, Augustine teases out the logical and psychological implications of the Romans' quest for domination, which Augustine says is born out of a longing for transcendent joy....

33 min
Augustine's Political Vision (Book 4)
7: Augustine's Political Vision (Book 4)

Augustine had a clearly defined political philosophy that ran against the grain of Roman beliefs. Here, examine his view that there is no distinction between gangsters and statesmen, and that the difference between conquering and theft is merely one of perspective. Reflect on this "political realism" and what it means for the Roman state....

32 min
Splendid Vices and Happiness in Hope (Book 5)
8: Splendid Vices and Happiness in Hope (Book 5)

In this lecture, you'll reach the climax of Augustine's argument toward civic-minded Romans, which answers the question of how best to pursue happiness while also being a good citizen. The answer takes you through a dazzling discussion of fate versus free will, the nature of divine providence, the errors of glory-seeking, and the tragic nature of the world....

30 min
Public Religion in Imperial Rome (Books 6-7)
9: Public Religion in Imperial Rome (Books 6-7)

Turn to The City of God's next set of arguments, which in Books 6 to 10 are aimed toward Roman philosophers who had a different-if still incorrect, according to Augustine-view of religion. After studying the role of religion in Roman society, Professor Mathewes analyzes Augustine's critique of one particular philosopher, Varro....

33 min
Who or What Is God? (Books 8-9)
10: Who or What Is God? (Books 8-9)

Of all the Roman philosophers, Augustine felt the most kinship with the Platonists, who had developed a transcendent view of God. Where they fell short, he believed, was in imagining God as a distant being, uninterested in material reality. For Augustine, God is immediate and accessible, as he argues in Books 8 and 9....

32 min
Sacrifice and Ritual (Book 10)
11: Sacrifice and Ritual (Book 10)

Once we understand God's immediacy and love for humanity, what next? What are humans meant to do in return? In book 10, Augustine takes aim at the transactional nature of Roman religion-offering sacrifice in return for special favors. Instead, Augustine lays out a blueprint for what religion should be like....

29 min
Augustine's Critique of Rome (Books 1-10)
12: Augustine's Critique of Rome (Books 1-10)

The City of God is arranged into two broad parts. Here at the halfway point, recap Books 1 through 10 and analyze the first half of the text as a whole. At this point, Augustine has laid the groundwork for a transition from a largely apologetic argument to something more transformative in the second half....

31 min
Metaphysics of Creation and Evil (Book 11)
13: Metaphysics of Creation and Evil (Book 11)

Now that Augustine has thoroughly critiqued Roman society, it's time to turn away from what he was arguing against and find out what he was arguing for. In this new beginning, Augustine uses biblical evidence to explore the world's creation and how God works both within and outside of time....

33 min
Fall of the Rebel Angels (Book 12)
14: Fall of the Rebel Angels (Book 12)

Revisit the problem of evil as a reaction against the good of creation. Why would the rebel angels deny the good and allow themselves to fall? And what does Augustine's view of evil mean for humanity, beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? Explore Augustine's vision and consider its implications....

31 min
Augustine and Original Sin (Book 13)
15: Augustine and Original Sin (Book 13)

Settle into a powerful analysis of original sin, the condition humans inherited from Adam and Eve after the Fall. Professor Mathewes shows that while Augustine's vision may seem bleak on the surface-with people as zombies roaming the earth in living death-it is ultimately an encouraging message for the way it points toward grace....

32 min
The Two Cities and the Two Loves (Book 14)
16: The Two Cities and the Two Loves (Book 14)

Continue your study of original sin and what it implies about how we should live in this earthly world. Here, Augustine conjures up two cities-the city of flesh and the city of God-and shows how our key challenges on Earth are rooted in our psychology, in our orientation toward the world....

33 min
Augustine's Scriptural History (Books 15-17)
17: Augustine's Scriptural History (Books 15-17)

In Books 15 to 17, Augustine begins to tell the history of the world through the lens of the Christian Bible. Scholars tend to overlook these books, but as you'll discover, they not only provide a remarkably complete history of the ancient world, they also provide a new picture of our place in the world, as well as a new way of understanding our history....

31 min
Translating the Imperium (Book 18)
18: Translating the Imperium (Book 18)

Once Augustine completes his survey of history, one big question remains: Once all the worldly empires, including Rome, have fallen, what next? If the earthly city's days are over, how do we transition to the heavenly city? How do we translate the past into the future? Find out what Augustine has to say about carrying on....

32 min
Happiness and Politics (Book 19)
19: Happiness and Politics (Book 19)

In Augustine's view, we are living in an "epilogue" to history. The Fall and the Resurrection have occurred, and we are awaiting the Last Judgment. In this lecture, you'll encounter The City of God's most worldly book, in which Augustine expounds on how we are meant to live in this interim period. Explore his view of politics, happiness, and world peace....

31 min
Judgments, Last and Otherwise (Book 20)
20: Judgments, Last and Otherwise (Book 20)

We have reached the last section of The City of God. If Book 19 was about worldly wisdom, then Book 20 is about other-worldly wisdom. Reflect on the meaning and purpose of the Last Judgment. Our world and its ultimate end may be obscure, but Augustine shows how to begin thinking about these matters....

33 min
Augustine's Vision of Hell (Book 21)
21: Augustine's Vision of Hell (Book 21)

Shift your attention from the end of the world to what happens after we die. Professor Mathewes delves into the deep questions of damnation: Why does Augustine believe Hell is real? What is the nature of suffering in Hell? And why does God mete out an eternal punishment for a temporal crime?...

33 min
Heaven: The Self Redeemed (Book 22)
22: Heaven: The Self Redeemed (Book 22)

Now turn from the nature of Hell to the nature of Heaven. Here, review Augustine's account of Heaven, his vision of the final fulfilled state of the human, and the realization of God. See how he works to resolve one of theology's key puzzles, the tension between here and there, Earth and Heaven....

33 min
The City of God as a Single Book
23: The City of God as a Single Book

The City of God is so searching, so wide reaching, so vast and so coherent that it has few rivals as an achievement of the human mind. Now that you have explored the entire text, step back and consider the book as a whole. Examine some of its key themes and what Augustine may have wanted us to take away from the book....

30 min
The City of God's Journey through History
24: The City of God's Journey through History

Much has happened in the world after The City of God's publication, from the Vandals besieging Hippo in Northern Africa and the fall of Rome to what is arguably the end of Christendom in our modern era. In this final lecture, take a look at Augustine's impact on history and his continued relevance to our lives today....

36 min
Charles Mathewes

The same energies of intellect and will that led mankind to cure innumerable diseases and put men on the Moon led us also to poison gas and ICBM's.


University of Chicago


University of Virginia

About Charles Mathewes

Dr. Charles Mathewes is Carolyn M. Barbour Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, where he teaches religious ethics, theology, and philosophy of religion. He earned his B.A. in Theology from Georgetown University, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Religion from the University of Chicago. From 2006 to 2010, Professor Mathewes served as editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, the flagship journal in the field of religious studies. He was Chair of the Committee on the Future of Christian Ethics for the Society of Christian Ethics, the inaugural Director of the Virginia Center for the Study of Religion, and he currently serves on the House of Bishops Theology Committee of the Episcopal Church. He is the author of Evil and the Augustinian Tradition, A Theology of Public Life, Understanding Religious Ethics, and The Republic of Grace: Augustinian Thoughts for Dark Times. He is also associate editor of the 3rd edition of the Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Senior Editor of Religious Ethics: The Major Works/em>. He has been a Mead Honored Faculty-one of UVA's highest teaching awards-and also a Mead Endowment Teaching Award. Every year since 1999, Professor Mathewes's classes have been named as exemplary classes for prospective students to attend during UVA's Days on the Lawn

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