In his Confessions, St. Augustine writes about a large number of topics that continue to have relevance today. The text documents the development of Augustine’s faith and his Christian philosophy, and one thing of particular interest is his argument for the nature of evil. Christianity predicates several important ideas that Augustine builds upon in his philosophy, and within its context, he presents a thorough, compelling argument against the problem of evil that identifies evil as a misperception.
Augustine first characterizes God based on how he experiences God’s presence and qualities. Augustine searches for Him unsuccessfully in the physical world, and the physical universe for that matter, and then decides that he must look within himself to find God. His description of God illustrates the ideas in Christianity that God is omnipotent and entirely good, or all-loving. “I entered and with my soul’s eye, such as it was, saw above that same eye of my soul the immutable light higher than my mind… It transcended my mind… It was superior because it made me, and I was inferior because I was made by it.” (Augustine, 123) Augustine clearly conveys the magnitude of God and his greatness, which exceed the comprehension of man’s mind. This is perhaps the most important quality of God’s being, which properly coincides with His descriptions in Christianity, because it establishes a scale for measuring the qualities of God that He instilled in his creations.
Augustine next discusses three aspects that define God for him. Of particular importance is the idea that the Christian God is eternal, so there has never been a time w...
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... possible that, as with Augustine, the perception of evil leads people to think about its nature and, ultimately, they begin to learn the truth. From that point, they grow until they are able to feed from God’s goodness, and then they achieve the supreme goodness and become one with God. There is, then, no problem in ‘evil’ because it in fact is good.
Ultimately, it is impossible to know exactly the reasons for God’s actions. His qualities are such that He transcends being, and a person’s best effort to understand God can at best give him or her approximate understanding. Only through reason and discovery of the truth can a person grow until, finally, he or she is transformed by God into His Being. At that point, comprehension of it is no longer necessary.
Augustine. Confessions. Trans. Henry Chadwick. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.
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