|Pseudo Not Stringfellow|
... With reason, therefore, King David's second psalm describes all human rule [imperia mortales], as in some way, lifted against God, and shows all human rulers [reges humani] as united in a form of opposition to Him. David sings:
The kings of the earth have stood up, and the leaders have joined together as one against the Lord and against his Christ, saying 'let us shatter their chains and cast their yoke away from us.' [Vul.]
When we hear this of the kings and leaders of the earth, we cannot understand that all rulers, at all moments, individually intend to exercise their rule against God and Christ. We would need only to consider Saul or David himself and the moments when each wanted to attain faithfulness! Moreover, most rulers intend and accomplish some limited good, though with a mixture of motivation in which the importance of serving themselves, their vanity, pride or ambition predominates. Still, they often suppress their real venal motivations from their mind... .
David also cannot be read to claim that all rulers have made conscious covenant together as an openly disclosed alliance against God; rulers mainly labor continually in trying to destroy or dominate one another, often purporting to punish one another's impiety. The Psalm does not mean these things. Rather, as we see in our own day, most rulers simply do not think of God or Christ directly at all... .
But, this direct disregard of God and Christ -- the filling of the ruler's mind with self-regard, striving against others for dominance, pursuing justice only as a means to these goals -- is the universal rebellion. The open conspiracy against God and Christ is the mutual agreement of the rulers of the earth to exclude God from their thoughts and discourse and planning and law. The rebellion of the rulers against God consists in the general tendency of human rule to ignore Christ, not in their direct intentions or expressed feeling of animus against Him. Thus, even rulers who are making war against one another can be said to be cooperating with one another in warring against God because their war purporting to be between themselves contains an ultimate expression of indifference about God... .
Now, with the true song of David ringing in our ears, who could claim that these rebels against God have an essential authority over men, that is, that they possess authority by their own nature or right? But equally, who could deny that they exercise authority, and that not from themselves but from God? For it is God who calls them kings and rulers and elsewhere even "gods." [Psalms 82] They are authorities, though they lack authority, just as they are "gods" though they lack divinity... .All this reminds me of Psalms 33, proclaiming God's antagonism with the nations: "The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples." Ps 33:10. God's antagonism does not arise simply because some nations are better or worse, but because the nations choose kings beside Him. 1 Sam. 8:7. They prefer their gods to God, and they treat their authorities as if they had authority. Christians, by contrast, do not obey the king for his own sake, but for the sake of the Lord. 1 Peter 2:13. We obey and serve, but only insofar as necessary to avoid contending with God. Romans 13:2. We pray and work for the peace of Babylon, not for its own sake or for its own merit, but so that they may heed the command of God and so that the people of God may prosper within it.
The correct reading of the natural-law tradition is to draw off from politics and law any immanent justification, to credit all the law's legitimacy to its inner obedience to God. When we emphasize the derivation of natural law from God's eternal providence, then we accomplish this. But if we insist that law and politics have a sufficient basis in the created order cut off from creation's relation to God, then we misuse natural law to proclaim a real, non-derivative and immanent authority in man.
* N.B. Minge, Patrologia Latina XL, mccxxxiii-mccclviii, provides conclusive reasons to reject either Augustine or Pseudo-Augustine's authorship of this excerpt. I believe that the attribution to Pseudo-Pseudo-Augustine, however, is reliable.