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 groaning’s, 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 Tag aste, Madura, 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.
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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.
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).
Evil From Morals By textbook definition, evil is 'What is morally wrong, what hinders the realization of good' (Webster). If that is evil, then what is good? It's 'what is morally excellent, virtuous, well behaved, dutiful.' (Webster) Philosophers have argued over what evil is and why it exists for thousands of years. They have raised questions like 'How can there be a God if there is evil?' These ...
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 with His creation, God has given humankind free rein to learn more about Him and grow closer to Him. Augustine recognized where evil came from. Augustine believes that evil came into the world when Adam and Eve sinned.
By concluding this, Augustine says that sinning is now (since the fall) has clouded the inherited good that humans once possessed. Now, explains Augustine, the only reason one does “good” is because God allows good to happen. Humans since the fall do not have the ability to be good because the entrance of sin into the world permanently tainted humans. One cannot be good without God. Augustine steadily defends the biblical/Christian concept of creation. God’s work of creation, said Augustine, is voluntary and purposive.
Creation is not of necessity, nor is the material world eternal (for it undergoes change).
The universe had a beginning; it was created in the realms of time. Time is a corollary of space and matter. According to Augustine’s studies, God created the world ex nihil o, “out of nothing.” By doing this, Augustine seems to violate the maxim Ex nihil o, nihil fit, “Out of nothing, nothing comes.” He did not argue that once there was nothing and spontaneously there was something. This comprehension of self-creation would be unconstitutional by the laws of science and irrational. “To Augustine, creation ex nihil o does not mean by nothing, instead, it means that creation did not have a material cause.” For something to create itself, it must exist before it was created, a manifest violation of the “law of non contradiction,” as the thing must be and not be at the same time and in the same relationship.
... God created the heavens and the earth' is the basic formula of a massive Christian metaphysical world view. In Books XII and XIII, Augustine ... a theological understanding, decisively or distinctively Christian. But by the time of his ordination to the presbyterate we can see the ... what thou hadst supplied abundantly. It was, indeed, good for them that my good should come through them, though, in truth, ...
“Thus, without any pre-existing matter God willed that things exist and they did exist; and this is precisely what we call creation ex nihil o.” Augustine’s view of time paved the way of theology and philosophy. Augustine believed that time was created when the world was created. Time is a philosophical synonym for change. “Now since time is by definition change, it too is a creature. It had a beginning therefore, so that things which have duration are not eternal nor is time itself eternal.” Therefore, the world has always been changing since it is under the influence of time. The question then arises, “Is God under the influence of time?” Obviously not, because if God the Creator of everything was under time that would violate the “law of non-contradiction.” God is eternal.
Since God is perfection, He is permanent and admits no change. “With respect to God there is neither before nor after: He is, in a motionless eternity.” Time is not eternal because the world is not eternal. The world / universe coexists with time. Time cannot exist without something to be under it and the world cannot exist without being under time.
Augustine’s success in unifying Christianity allowed it to become the religion of medieval Europe, and created a theology (especially from The City of God) that has remained basic to Western Christianity, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, ever since. Augustine’s philosophy is always concrete, derived from his own personal experiences. To Augustine “philosophy is the handmaid to theology.” For him Christianity is the true philosophy, Truth is one, and God is Truth. The possession of Truth is happiness, and beatitude is the enjoyment of Truth. Wisdom gives knowledge of Truth, so the quest for Truth is a quest for wisdom. The skeptical Academics, who believed that wisdom consisted of knowing that we can know nothing, posed the question ‘how does a man become wise’ to Augustine, for to become wise one must desire the wisdom one lacks.
For God So Loved the World Even though I was only a small child, I remember the cold, fall day that I accompanied my father to a nearby cemetery. As we stood above three tiny graves, I recall the tears streaming down my fathers face and the anguish in his eyes. My father was reluctant to explain why we were there for fear that I was just too young and innocent to understand the horrid ...
But desire implies knowledge of the thing desired, so desire of wisdom implies lack of wisdom and possession of wisdom at the same time. Augustine answered in two ways; the first answer was, in Cartesian fashion, Si fall or, sum (if I am wrong, I am), the second was from Isaiah 7: 9, ‘Unless you believe, you shall not understand.” (NIV) Only faith provides the base from which the quest for wisdom starts, because faith is a knowing and a not knowing; it allows love of a thing known possible, and allows the desire to love the thing not yet enjoyed.