Essay on Perception of God and Evil by Augustine of Hippo

Essay on Perception of God and Evil by Augustine of Hippo

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Augustine of Hippo (354-430) is among the most influential thinkers in Christianity. He contributed a great number of ideas and notions to Christian theology that would have lasting effect on belief systems in Christian churches. One of his most notable contributions is the notion of “original sin” and his concept of “evil.” These notions evolved over the years. Augustine traces their evolution in his Confessions, a thirteen-volume autobiography he wrote when he was in his forties.
An essential part of Confessions is Augustine’s conversion to Christianity and his evolving understanding of good and evil. In book seven of Confessions, Augustine describes his perception of God before his conversion to Christianity. He explains that he conceived of God as a material supremely good being, who is “incorruptible, inviolable, and immutable” (117). At this time, he perceived of evil as manifesting in two distinct ways; one, evil as imperfections, defects, or limitations in physical objects. These would manifest as illness, death, or pain. Secondly, evil would be revealed in people’s actions and deeds, especially when their souls were corrupted by vices such as greed, envy, pride, and lust (Mann 40).
Augustine describes in Confessions how these perceptions of God and Evil posed a major inconsistency in his thinking. If God, as he assumed before his conversion to Christianity, was supreme and omnipotent, how was it possible that there was evil in the world? In his search for answers to this question, he turned towards Manichaeism, which provided him with some answers to his questions. Manichaeism proposes a dualistic worldview, in which Good and Evil exist independent of each other (331). Furthermore, Manichaeism perceives of the world as...


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...ere not coerced by Satan to make this choice but rather did no willingly.
Summing up, we can say that Christianity with its notion of God as a creator and as a spiritual and omnipotent being provided Augustine with the framework needed to reconcile the conflict of the simultaneous existence of Good and Evil. Augustine perceived of Manichaeism’s view of the struggle of good versus evil as being restricted to the materialistic world as being too simplistic.






Works Cited


Carman, "The Champion" (n.d.) Song. Available at http://www.christianlyricsonline.com/artists/carman/the-champion.html
Mann, William E. "Augustine on evil and original sin." The Cambridge Companion to Augustine. Eds. Eleonore Stump and Norman Kretzmann. Cambridge University Press, 2001. Cambridge Collections Online. Cambridge University Press. 18 April 2011 DOI:10.1017/CCOL0521650186.004

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