Watch Books that Matter: The City of God

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Plunge into Augustine's magnum opus with Books That Matter: The City of God--a historical and theological journey through the final years of the ancient world. Taught by Professor Charles Mathewes, these 24 in-depth lectures guide you chapter-by-chapter through Augustine's masterpiece, introducing you not only to the book's key arguments but also to the fascinating historical context.

Books that Matter: The City of God is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (24 episodes). The series first aired on October 21, 2016.

Books that Matter: The City of God is available for streaming on the website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Books that Matter: The City of God on demand atAmazon Prime, Amazon, Kanopy, The Roku Channel online.

The Great Courses Signature Collection
1 Season, 24 Episodes
October 21, 2016
Cast: Charles Mathewes
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Books that Matter: The City of God Full Episode Guide

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.