I said in an earlier post that there have been quite a few examples of theologically creative periods during times of decline, and I mentioned
Augustine is the one of his contemporaries that really reacts to this event in a series of sermons and letters and of course the City of
For Augustine this meant that Christians should not try to avoid the suffering by trying to escape it. Instead he promoted activity in face of decline. He looked towards the future, rather than the past, and painted vivid pictures of the heavenly
Augustine felt he lived in an old world, a world that was no longer at the height of its strengths. This was not something one should be surprised at: the world followed the same pattern as everything living. Instead one should look to Christ: “Do not hold on to the old man, the world; do not refuse to regain your youth in Christ, who says to you: “The world is passing away, the world is losing its grip, the world is short of breath. Do not fear, Thy youth shall be renewed as an eagle” (Sermon 81, 8.)
As I said in an earlier post, eschatological speculation is something that tends to arise in times of crisis. This can be destructive if it serves to build up the esteem of a closed community by distancing oneself from the rest of society. But eschatology can be a lot more than this. It is one of the most effective forms of social critique for theologians. By saying something about the coming world one is implicitly saying something about what is wrong in this one. And by establishing a sense of belonging to the coming world one enables a life in this world that is not stuck in the “system” of this world.