In early fifth-century Roman Africa, Augustine faced pagan opponents who thought that the Roman empire was at risk because Christian emperors banned the worship of its gods, and that Christian ethics were no way to run an empire. He also faced Christian opponents who held that theirs was the true Church, and that the Roman empire was the oppressive power of Babylon. For Augustine, Church and empire consist of people. Everyone belongs either to the heavenly city, the community of all who love God even to disregard of themselves, or to the earthly city, the community of all who love themselves even to disregard of God. The two cities are intermixed until the final judgement shows that some who share Christian sacraments belong to the earthly city, and some officers of empire belong to the heavenly city. Empire manifests the earthly city's desire to dominate, but imperium, the acknowledged right to give orders, is necessary to avoid permanent conflict. Empire, like everything else, is given or permitted by God, for purposes we do not know.
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