In his essay in Convictional Civility: Engaging the Culture in the 21st Century, Albert Mohler discusses the church’s “Augustinian moment.” He writes:
The church has arrived at its late modern Augustinian moment. When confronted by the convictions of a Christian worldview, the intellectual conditions of Augustine’s day gave rise to his great work, The City of God. In his own lifetime and in that work, the moment came for Saint Augustine to think and speak in terms of distinct but overlapping kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. Augustine told the truth as he heard it from the apostle Paul, who has revealed from God that Christians are citizens of the kingdom of heaven who also live as citizens of earthly kingdoms until the end of this age. This does not require the adoption of a strict “two kingdom theology,” as in the Lutheran tradition. But thinking with Paul does mean leaning into Augustine’s insights to understand God’s design of two kingdoms for this age and the church’s place and responsibility in that design.
The kingdom of God is permeated by the love of God in order to penetrate the kingdom of man. As Augustine rightly observed, the two kingdoms of God and man are animated respectively by the two different loves of God and man. More specifically the animating power of the love of God is found in the gospel; apart from the gospel man remains trapped in the love of man and condemned for no love of God. But in the drama of this dilemma, God reveals his design for the church: the church bears the love of God in the truth of the gospel from the kingdom of God into the kingdom of man. That “God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” is a truth for the world (John 3:16).
The church is created and sustained by the gospel so the church proclaims the gospel in the world and for the world, regardless of the world’s intellectual conditions for truth. Love of God and love of neighbor, the first and second commandments, must come together in a late modern Augustinian moment to remind the church that if we are faithful to the Scriptures we must be faithful to truth-telling, whatever the conditions, whatever the character of the age. Christians can no longer delude themselves into thinking Christian truth can be negotiated down such that the church can remain silent in service to the gospel. The church is a “chosen race” not to enjoy the love of God apart from the world but to take the love of God into the world by proclaiming the truth of the gospel across all cultures in every nation unto the end of the age.
About the Contributor:
R. Albert Mohler Jr. is Joseph Emerson Brown professor of Christian theology and president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.
About the Editors:
C. Ben Mitchell is provost and vice president for academic affairs and Graves professor of moral philosophy at Union University, Jackson, Tennessee.
Carla D. Sanderson is provost emeritus at Union University and vice president for institutional effectiveness and professional regulation at Chamberlain College of Nursing, Chicago, Illinois.
Gregory Alan Thornbury is president of the King’s College, New York, New York.