On Free Choice of the Will

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“Please tell me: isn’t God the cause of evil?” (Augustine, 1). With this question to Augustine of Hippo, Evodius begins a philosophical inquiry into nature of evil. Augustine, recently baptized by Saint Ambrose in Milan, began writing his treatise On Free Choice of the Will in 387 C.E. This work laid down the foundation for the Christian doctrine regarding the will’s role in sinning and salvation. In it, Augustine and his interlocutor investigate God’s existence and his role in creating evil. They attempt not only to understand what evil is, and the possibility of doing evil, but also to ascertain why God would let humans cause evil. Central to the premise of this entire dialogue is the concept of God, as relates to Christianity; what is God, and what traits separate Him from humans? According to Christianity, God is the creator of all things, and God is good; he is omnipotent, transcendent, all-knowing, and atemporal- not subject to change over time- a concept important to the understanding of the differences between this world and the higher, spiritual realm He presides over. God’s being is eidos, the essence which forms the basis of humans. With God defined, the core problem being investigated by Augustine and Evodius becomes clear. Augustine states the key issue that must be reconciled in his inquiry; “we believe that everything that exists comes from the one God, and yet we believe that God is not the cause of sins. What is troubling is that if you admit that sins come from… God, pretty soon you’ll be tracing those sins back to God” (Augustine, 3). It therefore appears evident that God must be the root of all evil, as He created all things. However, Augustine delves deeper in search for a true answer. This paper will follow ... ... middle of paper ... ... divine law and letting reason govern one’s actions, they can achieve complete happiness. One must not totally disregard temporal goods, but their actions should be based on their goods of the will, not temporal goods. God is the source of evil. He created natural evil, and gave humans the ability to do moral evil by giving them a free will. However, had he not given people free will, then their actions would not be good or evil; nor could God reward or punish man for his actions since they had no choice in what to do. Therefore, by giving humans choice and free will, God allowed humanity to decide whether to reward themselves with temporary physical goods, and suffer in the long run from unhappiness, or forsake bodily pleasures for eternal happiness. Works Cited St.Augustine, Thomas Williams. On Free Choice Of The Will. Hackett Publishing Company, 1993. print.

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