Analysis of Augustine’s City of God
St. Augustine’s book, City of God, creates a dichotomy of good and evil. In this paper I will examine the fact that people were created with a good will, and that evil developed from that will as a choice not to follow God. This project is important because it shows the relationship between God and that which he created is one of a good nature. It will follow that in order to maintain and develop that nature evil had to become a choice for man.
Augustine argues in the opening paragraph of chapter three that damage can only be done to men who choose not to follow God. God is, in and of himself, invulnerable to damage. It is not a direct reflection of man’s nature, yet a lacking which exists in their nature that is in competition to God. It follows then that evil could not exist in a world without good will, nor that an evil will could exist in an evil world. For there would be no evil if there was no harm done. However, Augustine shows in his arguments above that evil is done by creating a situation whereby the individual does not follow God. For if there was no other path to follow but evil, evil would be considered “the good”. Augustine supports this claim by arguing that absolute goodness can be found in some creatures, for example God, yet absolute evil cannot be found. From these arguments, Augustine concludes that all natures contain goodness simply because they were created by God.
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Augustine then contends that evil is not a will, but a lacking or deficiency which causes a straying from God’s Divine Providence. In order to show how this deficiency functions, Augustine contends that it is much like the sensory functions of sight and hearing. Augustine argues that the eye does not see darkness, but only knows that it exists when there becomes a lack of light; much like the ear does not hear silence, but knows it exists when sound becomes deficient. From these arguments, Augustine concludes that deficiency in men allows them to stray from God’s path.
Augustine purports, in chapter five, that mortal beings should follow the path of which they are best suited. Their goodness is then evaluated on how much they serve to better, or improve themselves in the direction of God’s Divine Providence. Augustine concludes that the only way for men to better their being is through following God’s path, because anything which was created out of nothing could never relate equally to God if it were not created by God.
Following God would not be a necessary requisite if evil was the only thing which existed. However, evil sprang from good will in order to give man that opportunity. It is deficiency that created this evil. The only way to escape is to follow God’s Divine Providence.