The Theodicies of Augustine and Boethius

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A foundational belief in Christianity is the idea that God is perfectly good. God is unable to do anything evil and all his actions are motives are completely pure. This principle, however, leads to many questions concerning the apparent suffering and wrong-doing that is prevalent in the world that this perfect being created. Where did evil come from? Also, how can evil exist when the only eternal entity is the perfect, sinless, ultimately good God? This question with the principle of God's sovereignty leads to even more difficult problems, including human responsibility and free will. These problems are not limited to our setting, as church fathers and Christian philosophers are the ones who proposed some of the solutions people believe today. As Christianity begins to spread and establish itself across Europe in the centuries after Jesus' resurrection, Augustine and Boethius provide answers, although wordy and complex, to this problem of evil and exactly how humans are responsible in the midst of God's sovereignty and Providence.
In Augustine's Confessions, the early church father puts forth a complex theodicy in which he declares evil to be nonexistent. Such a leap may seem to be illogical, but this idea stems from the understanding of what is substance and what is not. According to Augustine, the duality of good and evil is false, because anything that is good is substance and what humans think of as evil is simply the absence of the good (Confessions, 126). Vices for example, are just the display of the absence of the good. Pride is the absence of humility, unrighteous anger the absence of temperance, and so on. This idea is evident as he writes that the ability to be corrupted is what makes something good, not i...

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...d appear to be unrestrained and unpunished because their wickedness and the lack of true happiness that is associated with it is their punishment (Consolation of Philosophy 94). To both Augustine and Boethius, God is completely good and sovereign. However, He allows men free will and the punishment or rewards that come with these free decisions.
Both Augustine and Boethius agree that evil could not, by definition, come from God. Augustine abolishes this problem by declaring evil nonexistent while Boethius agrees and expands the idea so that the ability to sin is a weakness. Humans remain responsible amidst God's Providence due to the free will bestowed on Adam in the beginning. Although a difficulty to early Christian thinkers, the problem of sin does have answers consistent with Christianity's fundamental belief in a sovereign, perfect, and lovingly-good God.

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