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Augustine, teachers and freedom

April 17, 2015
Deacon Bill Turrentine
Fairfax

Can a fourth-century bishop clarify the conflict over standards of conduct for high school teachers? St. Augustine would see this as a skirmish in the war that the City of Man continuously wages against the City of God. Freedom in the City of Man is to do whatever one wants – even to create one’s own reality. St. Augustine sees this as the same deception practiced in the Garden of Eden, encouraging us to claim the power of autonomous little gods. In the City of God, however, it is the truth that sets us free, as Jesus said (John 8:32). Freedom is rooted in an objective reality created by God, and real freedom is to become the persons and community God wants us to be.

The City of God is composed of those willing to bear witness in love to the truth God makes known through both faith and reason. St. Augustine points out, however, that this witness – even when offered with gentleness and love – is always offensive to the City of Man because the very ideas of objective truth and morality challenge its assumptions. It is impossible, moreover, to rationally disprove the existence of objective truth. If the arguments used are not true, what good are they? If they are true, then there must be some objective truth. If there is no objective truth, furthermore, what basis is there for real community? Our schools ultimately must educate either in the isolating freedom of the City of Man or in the objective truth of the City of God. If schools are faithful to the City of God, they will attract the ire of the City of Man. This is what happened to Jesus, and it happens to his followers as well.

The writer serves at St. Sebastian Parish, Greenbrae.

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