Volume 17, 1997
John R. Bowlin
Augustine on Justifying Coercion
Augustine encouraged Christian bishops and magistrates to coerce and constrain religious dissenters, he participated in these activities almost from the start of his career as presbyter under Valerius, and he offered justifications for what he did. Robert Markus and John Milbank consider Augustine's justifications inconsistent with the aspect of his social thought each admires most. Their conclusions are unwarranted and unnecessary. Augustine's justifications are neither inconsistent with the rest of his social thought, nor dependent upon judgments about just and unjust coercion that are fundamentally different from our own.