4.5. The political order is not the eschatological order
93. In the history of human society, the political order was often understood as a reflection of a transcendent and divine order. So the ancient cosmologies were based on and justified political theologies in which the sovereign ensured the ligature between the cosmos and the human universe. What was sought to be done was to introduce the universe of men into the preestablished harmony of the world. With the apparition of biblical monotheism, the universe was understood as being obedient to the laws that the Creator had provided it. The order of the State was obtained when the laws of God were respected, besides those inscribed in hearts. Over a long period of time, forms of theocracies prevailed in societies which organized themselves according to the principles and values received from their holy books. No distinction was made between the sphere of revealed religion and the sphere of the organization of the State. But the Bible desacralized human power, even though through a sort of theocratic difusion over various centuries, the essential distinction between the political order and religious order was obscured, even in Christian environments. On this subject, it is necessary to distinguish the situation of the Old Testament, in which the divine law given by God was also the law of the people of Israel, from that of the New Testament, which introduces the distinction and relative autonomy of the religious and political orders.
94. The biblical revelation invites humanity to consider that the order of creation is a universal order in which all of humanity participates, and that such order is accessible to reason. When one talks about natural law, one is making reference to that certain order willed by God and included in human nature. The Bible places a distinction between the order of creation and the order of grace which gives access to faith in Christ. Now, the order of the State is not this definitive and eschatological order. The political field is not that of the Heavenly City, a free gift of God. It derives from the imperfect and transitory order in which men live, advancing in history independently from their fulfillment in the afterlife. According to St. Augustine, those within the earthly city are mixed: placed side by side are the just and the unjust, the believers and the non-believers.(86) They should live together in time according to the rules of their nature and the capacity of their reason.
95. The State is not able to claim for itself an ultimate purpose. It cannot impose either a global ideology, or a religion (even if secular), or a unified system of thought. The ambit of the final purpose is not civil society, it is a matter of religious organizations, of philosophy, and of spirituality; these ought to contribute to the common good, reinforcing the social bonds and promoting universal values upon which the very political order is founded. This is not the task of bringing to earth the reign of God to come. It can anticipate it with progress in the field of the justice, of solidarity, and of the peace. It cannot want to establish it with compulsion.
(86) Cf. St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, I, 35 [Corpus christianorum, series latina, 47, 34-35].