“Augustine’s City of God and the Modern Historical Consciousness” by Ernest Fortin

Fortin, Ernest L. “Augustine’s City of God and the Modern Historical Consciousness.” Review of Politics, Vol. 41 (1979), pp. 323-43.  


“Contemporary Augustinian scholarship is distinguished among other ways by its emphasis on Augustine’s alleged contribution to the development of the modern notion of history. Except for a few sporadic references to a possible theology of history in the City of God, one finds little in the literature of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to indicate that the content of that work might be of particular relevance to the problem at hand. The same is not true of the post-World War I period, which witnessed a sudden surge of interest in this hitherto neglected subject, to such an extent that there has scarcely been a major treatment of Augustine’s thought written since that time which does not dwell on it at considerable length. Augustine, Langdon Gilkey has recently asserted, is “the father of the historical consciousness,” the first author to exhibit an awareness of the fundamentally historical character of human existence, the only early Christian writer to have brought the whole of history within the compass of a “purposive unity.””

Watch Harvey Mansfield of Harvard University discuss the work of Ernest Fortin (and other contemporary thinkers) here, on Conversations with Bill Kristol.

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