“Either we must say that God is not wholly good, and that he permits or is even the author of evil. Or we must say that God is not omnipotent, and although he is wholly good and would prevent evil if he could, he is powerless to stop it.” (Fitzgerald 340).
This is a significant problem to the revealed religions because they believe in a wholly good and omnipotent God. Why then, would this God allow evil? In this paper, I will provide, explain, and evaluate St. Augustine of Hippo’s solution to this question. Augustine feels that evil stems from choice and free will. He doesn’t see evil as its own being, rather it is the absence of good. Anything that is, since it came from God, is good, “The highest good, than which there is no higher, is God, and consequently He is unchangeable good, hence truly eternal and truly immortal. All other good things are only from Him, not of Him.” (Bourke 48). Evil is just a perversion of this good.
Since all things are made from God, they start out solely good. Evil comes into play when this innate good gets corrupted. Augustine said, “For what is that which we call evil but the absence of good?” (Bourke 65). He defines evil as,
“…what is evil, which is nothing else than corruption, either of the measure, or the form, or the order, that belong to nature. Nature therefore which has been corrupted is called evil, for assuredly when incorrupt it is good; but even when corrupt, so far as it is nature it is good, so far as it is corrupt...
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...ns. St. Augustine gave us the most well-known and accepted solution to this age-old problem. His view that evil is an absence of good makes logical sense. Since God made us in His image, shouldn’t we have some part of us, however small, that is incorruptibly good? He puts the blame of evil on our free will. This means that God was not the creator of evil and could be both wholly good and omnipotent. Augustine also addresses the problem of bad things happening to innocent people. All of his arguments seem valid to me. The Church was also very accepting of his points. Therefore, I would say he came up with a very good solution to the problem of evil.
Bourke, Vernon J. The Essential Augustine. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1974.
Fitzgerald, Allan D. Augustine through the Ages. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999.
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