Augustine's theodicy


How does Augustine view God?

Augustine has a traditional view of God which is that he is good, omnipotent and omniscient.

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How does he solve the problem of evil?

Augustine solves the problem of saying that God is responsible for the evil in the world by defining evil as a "privation," (lack). "Evil is not a substance."

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"Evil." and "Bad"

Augustine believed that when we used the words "evil," and "bad," we are saying that something does not meet our expectations of what, by nature, it should be like.

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Absence and lack

Absence is something that you shouldn't have and don't

Lack is something that you should have but don't

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The Origins of evil in Augustine's thinking

All evil (both moral and natural) comes from choices.

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"Evil comes from God" Augustine

It is important to note taht no one can be totally and purely evil according to Augustine because to be evil you have to lack goodness, which means you had goodness to start.

"It was obvious to me that things which are liable to corruption are good... If there were no good in them there would be nothing capable of being corrupted."

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The garden of Eden

God created the Garden of Eden and the man from dust. In the first Genesis story (Chapter 1) two other points are continualy emphasised.

1. Creation is good.

2. Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God.

For Augustine this means that human beings are not just physical creatures but also spiritual. Christians usually interpret this as meaning that human beings are capable of rational thought (unlike animals) and this is a God-like quality.

Second, the Garden of Eden is characterised by a state of harmony. Everything is at peace with everything else. In addition, there is no suffering. Suffering is a result of disharmony.

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Harmony definition

Refers to objects existing in an ordered way together or living creatures existing in a state of peace and happiness with each other.

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Original sin

A reference to the first sin of Adam in the garden of eden and its effects, according to traditional Christian beliefs.

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The fall

Adam and Eve's choice in the story is to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The important feature of the story is that Adam and Eve choose not to be in harmony with God. The fact that Adam and Eve realise they are naked is a sign that they are no longer in harmony with the natural world around them.

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The hierarchy of beings

Augustine believed that creation was good and perfectin the beginning. This meant that it had to include all types of beings, otherwise creation would lack something and not be good and perfect. Devils are sometimes described as fallen angels who chose to turn away from God. According to Augustine, this brought disharmony into creation and it is the actions of devils that led to natural evil being in the world, because of the disharmony caused within nature. So, for Augustine, natural evil as well as moral evils are a result of free will.

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Sharing in Adam's sin

Augustine argued that all human beings were present in Adam's sin.

Paul: "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because I have sinned."

In Christian theology all people are said to share in Adam's sin because they were "seminally present" in Adam. All future people are born into this disharmonious world.

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Why create creatures with free will?

Augustine believed that free will is more valuable than having robots who always do God's will. Therefore, Augustine would argue that allowing evil to happen is a price worth paying for human freedom:

1. It means that God allows evil things to happen and ahs made and sustained a world where people do evil things.

2. If there was no free will it would also remove all the good choices which people have the chance to make.

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What is aesthetic principle?

Augustine argued that when the creation is viewed as a whole, the contrast between what is good and what is bad highlights the beauty of goodness.

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