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Volume 18, Issue 2, 2018

Nalin Ranasinghe
Pages 263-283
DOI: 10.5840/philotheos201818219

Hobbes, Augustine, Voegelin and the Tradition

Christianity today is deeply conflicted and torn apart by conflicts that originated in the Post-Nicene era through Augustine, but were resurrected by Luther, and fully realized in Post-Reformation times by Hobbes. While Hobbes is the evil genius posthumously presiding over the post 9/11 world, he merely exploited flaws in Christian anthropology and political theory originating in Augustine’s City of God. While freedom to Hobbes ultimately means nothing more than the mad dream of escaping from the Dionysian furies that haunt reason and bubble under the Western tradition, he artfully uses scripture, particularly the Old Testament, to justify his evil project of destroying the city, denying the soul and dealing a death blow to Jesus’ gospel. In this, Hobbes but follows in Augustine’s steps. It was the so-called Doctor of Grace who moved the West towards cynical political theology and corrupt clericalism. By his novel doctrine of original sin and belief that civic life could never be better than punishment for unrequited human depravity, Augustine justifies war, rationalizes slavery and valorizes ecclesiastical and political tyranny. Rather than trying to support communities that follow the loving spirit of the Gospel, his priority is to defend dire dogma and uphold centralizing Roman hegemony. As a result, Africa was lost to Islam and fascism would get theological support for its murderous mandates. I turn to Eric Voegelin for a less linear and non-dogmatic account of how the tradition can be understood. Voegelin’s closely argued insights into the order of reality and meaning of history may be the means by which the tradition can be saved. His philosophy of consciousness is the best response to the perennial desire to unite the Hobbesian militant state with a Manichean City of God. He protects Christianity from the constant Satanic temptation to turn the spirit of the Gospel into a literal law that condemns and kills.

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