Augustine Paper

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augustine

Augustine

"I loved the happy life but I feared to find it in Your house and so I ran from it even as
I sought after it. I thought that I would be miserable if I were kept from a woman's arms.
I did not believe that a cure for this disease lay in Your mercy; I had no experience of
such a cure. I believed that continence was within a man's own powers, though I was
unaware of such a power within me. I was a fool and did not know - as it is written [in
Scripture] - that no man can be continent unless You grant it to him. And this You surely
would have given to me if, with inward groanings, I had knocked at your ears and with a
firm faith had cast my many cares upon You."

(from The Confessions, Book 6, Chapter 11, circa 397-400 A.D.)

Augustine was born in A.D. 354 in the town of Thagaste in Algeria. His father was a pagan
and his mother was a devout Christian. Augustine was educated as a rhetorician in the
former North African cities of Tagaste, Madaura, and Carthage. Augustine died in A.D. 430
identifying himself as the supreme "doctor of grace." Augustine is, arguably, the greatest
theologian-philosopher of all time.

Some elements of Platonism can be seen in Augustine's teaching. His view of the world is
Platonic, there is the outer and the inner world, the lower and the higher, the sensible
and the intelligible, and the carnal and the spiritual. To become wise requires a movement
of the mind inwards and upwards to God, an opening of the mind to truth which provided the
mental vision that has been purified by faith. His theme of the divine in the world and in
man is more biblical than Platonic, which allowed him to regard the material world with a
reverence that would be impossible for a Platonist. His doctrine of evil as no-thing, a
privation, is different from both Platonic thought and Manichaeism.

A philosophical question faces Christians, and in fact all theists, that challenges the
belief in God. To theists, God is an omnipotent, perfect God. He is good. Theists accept
this, and embrace it, for how else can they worship God and give their lives to Him unless
He is good? However, in this world, everything is consumed by evil. If God is the author
of all things in this world, and he is good, theists must then ask themselves what is evil
and where it came from.

Augustine sets up an argument in his Confessions that attempts to define evil, and in
doing so, he explains its existence. To follow this argument, it is important to realize
that Augustine accepts some basic precepts regarding God and His creation. To begin with,
God is the author of everything. Augustine says, "nothing that exists could exist without
You" (1.2). God is the creator and source of all things. " . . . When He made the world He
did not go away and leave it. By Him it was created and in Him exists" (4.12). Nothing in
this world exists apart from God. Also, God is in control of everything in this world.
"Everything takes its place according to your law" (1.7). Augustine clearly sets forth
that God is the creator and source of everything. Not only is He the source, but he is the
Sustainer for its continued existence. The next step Augustine takes regards the nature of
God's creation. For Augustine, God is good because everything He made is good. "Therefore,
the G-d who made me must be good and all the good in me is His"(1.20). Everything about
God is good. There is no aspect of Him that is lacking, false, or not good. These
characteristics are in turn transferred to His creation. "You, my God, are the source of
all good"(1.6).

However, Augustine makes an important distinction regarding the creation of good and evil
when he says, "O Lord my God, creator and arbiter of all natural things, but arbiter only,
not creator, of sin"(1.10). The question of what evil is, and where it came from, still
remains. Augustine establishes that everything God made is good, and since God made
everything, everything must be good.

Augustine states forth a reason for the existence of what we call evil, or the removal of
good: namely, free will exercised wrongfully. God created humans with free will, which is
inherently good. However, we can misuse free will and choose to do other than good. Evil
is the absence of good. To summarize, God is good. Everything God has created is good.
Evil does not come from God. Rather evil is a reduction of good. This explains the
existence of evil in God's creation without threatening either omnipotence, or His
goodness. The opportunity we have to make the choice between being the good He made, or
ruining our goodness, is a gift that should not be taken lightly. Augustine believes that
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