Citation
The light and the darkness

Material Information

Title:
The light and the darkness a critical examination of the Augustinian doctrines of evil, justification, and predestination
Creator:
Moss, Jennifer J
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
vii, 127 leaves : ; 28 cm

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Good and evil -- Religious aspects -- Christianity ( lcsh )
Justification (Christian theology) ( lcsh )
Predestination ( lcsh )
Good and evil -- Religious aspects -- Christianity ( fast )
Justification (Christian theology) ( fast )
Predestination ( fast )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 120-127).
General Note:
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Statement of Responsibility:
by Jennifer J. Moss.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
436868524 ( OCLC )
ocn436868524
Classification:
LD1193.L58 2009m M67 ( lcc )

Full Text
The Light and the Darkness:
A Critical Examination of the Augustinian
Doctrines of Evil, Justification, and Predestination
By
Jennifer J. Moss
B.A., University of Northern Colorado, 2001
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Humanities
2009


This thesis for the Master of Humanities
degree by
Jennifer J. Moss
has been approved


Moss, Jennifer J. (Master of Humanities)
The Light and the Darkness:
A Critical Examination of the Augustinian
Doctrines of Evil, Justification, and Predestination
Thesis directed by Professor Robert D. Metcalf
ABSTRACT
By classifying and distinguishing between two classes of people, the Augustinian
line of thinking creates a type of soteriological elitism. The objective of this
treatise will be to discuss, both historically and philosophically, the consequences
of Augustines solution to the problem of evil and to demonstrate that the
Augustinian interpretation and application of the Pauline doctrine of justification
directly violates the consistency of Augustines answer.
This abstract accurately represents the
recommend its publication.
content of the candidates thesis.
I


DEDICATION
To my parents, who have always championed my curiosity.
Iam certain of nothing but the holiness of the
Hearts affections and the truth of Imagination
John Keats


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
According to Cicero, A mind without instruction can no more bear fruit
than can a field, however fertile, without cultivation. This work is a testament to
Ciceros accuracy. There are a great many people whose encouragement and
nurturing made this piece possible. First and foremost, I offer my sincerest
appreciation to Dr. Robert Metcalf, Dr. Daryl Mehring, and Dr. Richard Smith
for enduring my special brand of research and organization and for allowing me
the space to spelunk through my content. Although there were many times I lost
my way and became distracted by all the dazzling philosophical treasure
Augustine has to offer, my committee members patiently and supportively helped
me find my way back from the dark recesses. Thank you for supporting this large
task and for inspiring its creation. I would also like to express gratitude to the
University of Colorado Denver, Master of Humanities Department for the
flexibility of the program; Dr. Margaret Woodhull, for her support and council;
Dr. Sharon Coggan, for her passion and dedication to her content; and Dr. Maria
Talero, whose rigorous and challenging class made my brain more nimble than it
has ever been. I would also like to thank my husband, Aaron Moss, for wiping
away the tears of frustration during the more troublesome moments of this papers
construction; for taking care of me when this piece left me exhausted; and for
cheering with me when this thesis was finally able to walk on its own.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION..........................................1
The Problem of Evil................................3
Statement of the Problem..........................10
Arrangement of Paper..............................12
2. INFLUENCES..............................................15
The Manichean Cosmogony and the Problem of Evil......16
The Neoplatonic Influence.........................22
Evil Compared in the Manichean and Plotinian Systems.32
3. AUGUSTINES DEFINITION OF EVIL.......................35
Immutability of the Good..........................36
The Nature of Evil............................... 41
The Origin of Evil................................48
Natural Evil..................................52
Moral Evil and Christian Cosmogony............56
Origin of Evil and Freedom of Will............59
vi


4. GRACE AND JUSTIFICATION
65
Grace...............................................65
Justification......................................70
The Formation of Justification and Augustines
Consequent Understanding of Free Will..........72
5. PREDESTINATION........................................ 84
Augustine Answers Simplicianus......................86
Dualism, Monergism, and the Problem of Evil........100
6. CONCLUSION............................................109
Augustines Growing Pessimism and the City of God.113
Final Thoughts....................................116
BIBLIOGRAPHY.....................................................120
vii


CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good
And God divided the light from the darkness.1 2
In the beginning, at least according to Genesis, God divided. He divided
the heavens from the earth, the light from the darkness, the land from the seas, the
night from the day. Division, it seems, is a critical component of Gods act of
creation. Gods divisive nature, however, does not prove to be necessarily
egalitarian in scale. For example, on the third day of creation, God made two
lights, the sun and the moon, The greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light
a
to rule the night. Although both were seen as good by God, one was created
greater than the other. This pattern of division and predilection which begins in
Genesis repeats throughout both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. The
narratives of Cain and Able, Noah and Canaan, Abraham and Lot, Ishmael and
Isaac, and Jacob and Esau only recapitulate themselves in the letters of
Christianitys most influential figure Paul. Like the sun in the first chapter of
Genesis, Christian scripture repeatedly suggests that God produces creatures
which seem to be made greater; while, like the moon, there are those who are
1 Gen. 1:4-5 (King James Version).
2 Gen. 1: 16
1


made lesser. In essence, two classes of creatures exist and they comprise the
narratives of scripture. Usually this division results in one chosen faction which is
preferred by God and a corollary group which is not.
Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, noted Gods division and preference of
his creatures in his own work. Although all humans are made from the earth,
some are blessed and are given the ability to transcend their condition.
All men are from the ground, and Adam was created of earth. In the
abundance of his discipline the Lord separated them and changed their
ways. Some of them he blessed and exalted. Some he sanctified and
brought nigh to himself. Some of them he cursed and brought low, and
turned them to their dissensions. As the clay is in the potter's hand to form
and fashion it, and all his ways are according to his good pleasure, so is
man in the hand of him that made him, and he will render to him
according to his judgment. Good is set over against evil, and life over
against death. So is the sinner over against the godly. Thus look upon all
the works of the most High, two and two, one against another.3
Not only does God seem to divide his creatures into greater and lesser
creatures, blessed and cursed, scripture seems to purport that these two types of
creatures, the Godly and the sinner, are meant to exist two and two, one against
the other. All this division leads one to ask several resounding questions: Why
would God choose to separate humankind into two classes? Why would he
3
Eccl. 33:10, quoted in Augustine "To SimplicianOn Various Questions. Book I," in
Augustine: Earlier Writings, ed. John S. Burleigh (New York: Westminster John Knox P, 1979),
pg. 403.
2


change their original natures? How could God choose to curse some and exalt
others? Why must these two battle against each other?
In his later treatise Civitas Dei or The City of God, Augustine continues to
unapologetically confirm this division between those who are not preferred by
God, the children of man, and those who are favored, or the children of God.
I classify the human race into two branches: the one consists of those who
live by human standards, the other of those who live according to Gods
will. I also call these two classes the two cities, speaking allegorically. By
two cities I mean two societies of human beings, one of which is
predestined to reign with God for all eternity, the other doomed to undergo
eternal punishment with the Devil. 4
Once again, this division between the two states of humankind must be
questioned. If God chooses to save some and not others, does that make God
semi-benevolent? Can God, in the Augustinian tradition, be considered the author
and perpetuator of evil?
The Problem of Evil
The question How could God allow this to happen to me? is uttered
every day throughout the world. The experience of evil, pain, and suffering is one
to which the whole of humankind can relate. So overbearing in fact, the idea of
evil has led many philosophers to deduce that lifes most certain feature is the
4 Augustine, City of God: Concerning the City of God Against the Pagans, ed. David
Knowles, trans. Henry Bettenson (New York: Penguin Classics, 1984). XV. I.
3


torment that it provides to the human condition: suffering comprises the most
consistent, substantial facet that life has to offer. For instance, Arthur
Schopenhauer argued pain to be the normal condition of life, leaving pleasure to
occur only in its absence. Similarly, the Buddhists Four Noble Truths center
upon the same premise existence is suffering. Both Schopenhauer and the
Buddhists feel that an individuals cravings, desire, or in essence, will, acts as the
medium to evil. God, in these cases, does not exist as a distributor of justice and
righteousness. Ultimately, in these cases, humankind itself is responsible for
introducing the evil from which it suffers.
An inherent problem for most monotheistic religions is the seeming
contradiction between Gods compassion and the evil that he allows to threaten
his subjects. The question, How could God allow this to happen to me takes on
a much more disquieting tenor when asked by an individual who believes in
divine justice. The problem of evil... is a problem only for someone who
believes that there is a God who is both omnipotent and wholly good.5 This
philosophical and theological problem of evil posits itself on a central paradox: If
God is perfect goodness and if he is omnipotent, evil cannot exist. However, for
many believers of many faiths, evil is a reality of some sort and a formidable one
at that. Either we must say that God is not wholly good, and that he permits or is
5 J.L. Mackie, "Evil and Omnipotence" Mind 64, no. 254 (April 1955): 90.
4


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.6
The idea that evil can creep and slither into a world guarded by a deity who is
simultaneously all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good results in somewhat of a
theological and philosophical quagmire.
Reconciliation between the assumed nature of God (summum bonum) and
the reality of human suffering (or evil) is required of theologians and philosophers
alike who subscribe to an omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-benevolent God.
One dilemma posed by the inconsistency of evil with the benevolence of God is
perfectly illustrated in the Book of Job, which narrates the story of a man whom
God notably sees as blameless and upright, who fears God and turns away from
evil7, yet whose faith is ruthlessly tested when his herds, family, and health are
destroyed by the same God who earlier commended him on his faith. Jobs story
articulates the harrowing question: Why do good people suffer?
Responses to this question pack the shelves of libraries. The theodicean
treatises of John Hick, J.L. Mackie, Alvin Plantinga and Immanuel Kant each ask
in their own way: Where then is evil, whence does it come and how did it break
6 Fitzgerald, Allan, and John C. Cavadini. Augustine through the Ages. (Grand Rapids,
Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 1999), 340.
7 Job 1:8
5


in here?8 In his work Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, David Hume,
crediting the Hellenistic philosopher Epicurus, comments on this same
inconsistency of the existence of evil and the existence of Gods benevolence and
Gods omnipotence: Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is
impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and
willing? Whence then is Evil?9 Pre-dating the work of both Hume, Plato, in his
work Republic, writes that there must be some reason for this incongruity between
a benevolent god and the tremendous suffering in human lives: Therefore, since
a god is good, he is not, as most people claim the cause of everything that happens
to human beings but of only a few things, for good things are fewer than bad ones
in our lives. He alone is responsible for the good things, but we must find some
other cause for the bad ones, not a god. 10
Similar to Hume and Plato, Augustine was also compelled by this question. In
fact the Augustinian scholar, R.M. Cooper, observed The problem of evil is one
which confronted St. Augustine at every point of his intellectual development; it
is everywhere either to be openly seen or to be perceived lurking just beneath the
8 FitzGerald, Augustine through the Ages, 187.
9 David Hume, Dialogues and Natural History of Religion (Oxford World's Classics)
(New York: Oxford UP. USA, 1998), Pt. 10.
10 Plato, Republic, trans. G.M.A Grube, 2nd ed. (Indianopolis: Hackett Company,INC.,
1992) 379c.
6


surface of the question at issue.11 Augustines work is saturated with the question
from his earliest to his latest writings. Augustine was continually turning to the
problem of evil. His characteristic teaching on the subject appears not only in the
great works of his maturity, City of God, Confessions, and Enchiridion, but also
in a succession of earlier books going back to his controversies with the
Manichees.12 In his autobiographical Confessions he states the problem first
arose in his adolescence. Like Adams transgression in the Garden, young
Augustine, with some friends, stole a number of pears. The boys ate very few of
the pears and then threw the remainder to pigs: Their objective was not to eat
these pears, but to steal them. This act of meaningless defiance upset him decades
later.
The Pauline dilemma For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil
which I would not, that I do haunts almost every piece of work written by
Augustine.13 As G. R. Evans observes, Augustines account of the problem of
evil came in the end to embrace almost every area of his writing, as he perceived
more and more of the ramifications of the subject.14 According to Samuel Lieu
11 Jeffrey B. Russell. Satan: The Early Christian Tradition (New York: Cornell UP,
1987). 197.
12
John Hick, Evil and the God of Love (London: Macmillan, 1966), 43.
13 Rom. 7:19
14 G. R. Evans, Evil, in Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia, ed. Allan
D. Fitzgerald (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 340-341.
7


. there was no major Christian writer in Latin on the problem of evil before
Augustine.15 In fact, Augustines dedication to answering the question directed
his inquiries into a wide array of topics such as concupiscence, baptism and the
sacraments, original sin, time and space, politics, education, memory, and reason.
His answer to the problem of evil fluctuated throughout his life. After
Augustines nineteenth birthday, his unease over the problem led the thinker to
embrace the dualistic ideologies of the Manicheans who held the conception that
matter is evil, yet the soul is divine. According to the Gnostic sect, evil is another
force, in essence, another God. Because of this separation of both evil (matter)
and good (spirit), the problem of evil for Augustine seemed to have been solved.
The Manicheans recognized evil as a real, material power in the universe which
was eternally battling with the power of good. They seemed to have overcome the
problem of evil in monotheism, by subscribing to a form of henotheistic dualism.
However, after serving as an auditor for the Manichean elect for nine
years, Augustine grew dissatisfied with the sect and its answer to the problem of
evil.
Moreover, he recognized increasingly that the religion he had at first
professed so enthusiastically was in a dilemma. On the one hand
Manicheaism taught that the believer, after being aroused to knowledge ,
would exercise full control of his self and would be able to bring about
15 Samuel N. C Lieu. Manichaeism in the Later Roman Empire and Medieval China, 2.
ed., rev. and expanded, ed. (Teubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1992). 189.
8


his own salvation. On the other hand the numerous myths told him how
helpless and desolate goodness in is in this world: it is passive and Jesus is
above all the suffering Jesus, Jesus patibilis. In essence, Manichaeism
appeared to him as a static religion.
Shortly after Augustine left the Manicheans, Augustine once again became a
catechumen in the Catholic Church; he also became acquainted with Neoplatonic
writings.
Under the guidance of the presbyter Simplicianus, Augustine began to
investigate more fully the epistles of Paul and began to interpret such writings as
the Logos-doctrine of the Gospel according to John with a Neoplatonic lens.16 17 It
was at this time, while in the garden of his rented home in Milan, Augustines
legendary conversion took place.
As a faithful Christian, Augustine accepted that God was utterly and
completely good (summum bonum), but he now had to contend with the very
pronounced problem of evil. Similar to the Neoplatonists, Augustine deduced that
evil does not exist. Conversely, he had to explain the influence of evil even
though he argued against its existence; therefore, evil was seen by Augustine as a
non-being (i.e. a lack like a tear or rip in a shirt) which inhibited a person from
16 J. Van Oort. Jerusalem and Babylon: A Study into Augustine's City of God and the
Sources of his Doctrine of the Two Cities (New York: E.J. Brill, 1991). 46.
17 Van Oort, Jerusalem and Babylon, 48.
9


choosing the good.18 He saw sin as the consequence of an evil will, which, in
itself, was a product of evil: sin and evil merged as two aspects of a single unified
problem. For Augustine, the implications of this correlation rippled throughout his
understanding of Gods cosmological hierarchy of being: To believe that evil
was the result of a wrong act of will by a rational creature fit the case of Satan as
well as that of humankind. It gave Augustine a cause for evil which did not lie in
a God wholly good and therefore incapable of evil.19 For Augustine, Gods
goodness was unassailable evil had to originate and populate elsewhere. It
follows that Augustine forged his doctrine of original sin or ones bondage to sin
and non-being. As a collective inheritance, this legacy results in bodily corruption
(concupiscentia) and the the willful turning away from God or the good. The
innate and hereditary nature of humankind acts as a type of masochistic magnet,
directing all of Adams descendents toward evil.
Statement of the Problem
The Augustinian answer to the problem of evil hinges upon his definition
of the term evil. This tradition interprets evil as a privation or deficiency of
the Good. Evil, in essence, is a non-being or lack of goodness. Because of this
18 Phillip Cary, Augustine, Philosopher and Saint (Springfield, VA: Teaching Co., 1997),
23.
19 Fitzgerald, Augustine through the Ages, 341.
10


interpretation of the nature of evil, the Augustinian tradition formulates the
Doctrine of Justification, or Justitia Dei, in order for the goodness, grace and
mercy of God to be realized.
Justitia Dei ultimately sets up an ontological chain of being or hierarchy
toward the Good, which explains differing life forms place in the scale of
Goodness, and how much deficiency, or evil, they have relative to each other.
God, being of perfect goodness tops this scale, followed by the angels,
humankind, animals, vegetation, and finally, inanimate matter. Despite the
presence of evil, the entire cosmos can be seen as a harmonious system, just as
long as evil stays in its allotted space. According to the Augustinian tradition,
both angels (Satan) and humankind (Adam and Eve) ignored this ordering and
stepped outside this state of justitia by desiring to know themselves rather than
God (i.e. Pride).
Therefore, justification, which absolves mans original and actual sin
through Gods grace, restores the Divine intention, or the original relationship
between God and humankind. The moral implications of the Augustinian chain of
being, as well as the Doctrine of Justification, lead Augustine to a predestinate
stance which allows little room, if any, for free will or acts of goodness without
the grace of God. Good works and merits of the faithful do not compel God to
11


give grace (or else God could not be seen as omnipotent). Some are given this
grace (the elect) while others are not (the reprobate or massa damnata).
Because of this absolute division between the elect and the reprobate,
which is entirely dependent upon the grace of God, it is difficult to reconcile the
Augustinian account of Gods mercy for the elect and his ruthlessness toward the
reprobate with the notion of divine justice. God seems to arbitrarily choose whom
to give grace, and seems to perpetuate suffering and punishment (or evil) for
others; therefore, either Gods benevolence or omnipotence must be questioned.
By classifying and distinguishing between two classes and quantities of
people (the exclusivity of the elect and the abundance of the damned), the
Augustinian line of thinking creates a type of soteriological elitism. The objective
of this treatise will be to discuss, both historically and philosophically, the
consequences of Augustines solution to the problem of evil and to demonstrate
that the Augustinian interpretation and application of the Pauline doctrine of
justification directly violates the consistency of Augustines answer.
Arrangement of Paper
This thesis will be arranged in the following manner. Chapter Two offers
an historical account of the Manichaean and Neoplatonic influences on
Augustines developing theology. These particular influences are apparent in
12


Augustines eventual solution to the problem of evil. First, as Augustines
solution is in many ways a response to the Manichaean doctrines to which he was
exposed during his nine-year association with the sect, it is necessary to have an
understanding of these doctrines and how they influenced his philosophical and
theological outlook, as well as to note re-emerging similarities between the
Augustinian and Manichean eschatological frameworks. Secondly, it is important
to juxtapose the Neoplatonic theory of cosmological emanation with Augustines
creationism, as well as to explain his concept of the ontological chain of being.
In Chapter Three, Augustines definition of evil and his privative
appreciation of natural and moral evil will be discussed in order to consider their
relationships to the doctrine of justification. Augustines concept of evil is
fundamental to understanding the Augustinian appreciation of Gods ultimate
omnipotence and indicates the full impact of his doctrine of predestination,
Augustines metaphysical solution for natural and moral evil, as well as his
understanding of the divine order in respect to free will. Both the moral and
ontological fall of humankind will be studied, as well as the causes of the fall.
In Chapter Four, the Augustinian doctrine of Grace will be introduced, as
well as Augustines interpretation of the Pauline doctrine of Justification and its
relationship to the concepts of Free Will and Grace.
13


Chapter Five accounts for Augustines construction of his Doctrine of
predestination by examining both its purpose and its implications.
Chapter Six, the Conclusion, argues that Augustines specious
interpretation of both scripture and predestination leads ultimately to inconsistency
in Augustines answer to the Problem of evil. This chapter also reflects on divisive
consequences of scripture and doctrine.
14


CHAPTER TWO: INFLUENCES
After young Augustines reading of Ciceros Hortensius, Augustine
abandoned his legal or administrative career plans; worldly achievements which
he had now come to see as transient and ephemeral, were discarded in effort to
find true wisdom.20 21 22 Augustines search for wisdom, however, was marginal in
scale. Given that Augustines knowledge of the Greek language was modest, his
) 1
ability to read the great philosophical treatises of his day was limited.
Conditioned by his devout Christian mother, Monica, Augustine was also inclined
to disregard pagan writings, yet he found the bland coarse style of the pre-Vulgate
Latin versions of the Bible unworthy of comparison with the articulate and
j'j
eloquent verses of Cicero. Augustine officially dismissed Catholicism and the
Bible on the grounds that they were clumsy and childish.
After Augustines rejection of Catholicism, his search for reason led him
to the Manicheans:
What else induced me for nearly nine years to reject the religion which
had been instilled in me by my parents and to follow these men and to be a
diligent Hearer than their claim we that customarily put faith before
20 Lieu, Manichaeism in the Later Roman Empire and Medieval China, 152.
21 Ibid., 152.
22 Ibid .; see also Augustine, Confessions (Oxford World's Classics) (New York: Oxford
UP, USA, 1998), III.V. 9.
15


-ar,con; whereas they themselves commanded no one to believe until the
~ - .. - - 1 * r> 23
- - -.---rro.-i n-^.n rnon avniomon /
Bv offering Augustine a logical svstem that seemed to purport reason rather than
the childish suDerstition of Catholicism and the Bible he saw as reinforced bv
oarental authoritv. the Manicheans Dresented Ausustine with an answer to his
auestion for nine vears.
The Manichean Cosmogony and the Problem of Evil
The Manichean solution to the problem of evil is auite simple. Like manv
Gnostic sects, the Manicheans were optimists about the human soul while being
pessimists about the material world -in short, psychological optimists but
cosmological pessimists. 23 24 25 Similar to the dualistic elements of Platonism, the
Manichean form of dualism placed the soul on the side of Good, and the bodv and
matter on the side of Evil. Like the Zoroastrian svstem, the Manichean solution to
the problem of evil rests upon a foundation of absolute dualism: evil, along with
good, is an eternal cosmic force. Classically Gnostic, the Manichean cosmogony
posits that the nous (revelation from the other world) rescues the psyche (the
spark of light in man) from the hyle (the evil matter).23 The soteriological as well
23 Augustine. On the Profit of Believing (De utilitate credendi). 1,2.
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/ (accessed March 23. 2009)
24
Phillip Cary. "God in the Soul: Or, the Residue of Augustine's Manichean Optimism."
University of Dayton Review 22, no. 3 (1994):.
25 Van Oort Jerusalem and Babylon, 210.
16


as eschatological implications of this cosmogony are founded on the concept of
the two kingdoms, one light and dark, which battle each other through three
moments or epochs.
Although complicated, the narrative begins with the account of two
kingdoms which border each other (without a dividing wall): one of pure light, the
other of pure darkness. These two forces oppose each other relentlessly.26 The
Father of Greatness, or the ruler of the kingdom of light, appears as the central
soteriological figure in the myth, Primal Man, though emanation in an effort to
overthrow the King of Darkness. However, Primal Man is unable to conquer the
darkness and allows himself to be consumed by the King of Darkness.
Consequently, his pure light mixes with the darkness. The King of Darkness is
now afflicted with light particles and is contaminated with goodness: Not only
does it [the consumption of the Primal Man] deflect the Darkness from its original
objective, the world of Light itself, but within it the devoured substance acts like a
soothing poison, and whether its desire has been satisfied or dulled, its attack has
by this means been stopped.27 In essence, evil is not as potent as it once was.
After his ingestion, Primal Man became unconscious and a new
emanation, the Living Spirit or Friend of Lights, is sent to save him. By directing
26 Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God & the Beginnings of
Christianity, 3rd ed. ed. (Boston: Beacon P, 2001) 210.
27Ibid.,219.
17


a call of salvation to Primal man, the Living Spirit saves him from the evil of the
dark realm (i.e. matter) ,yet parts of Primal Mans soul remained behind.
And the Call said unto him: It is well with them. And Call and Answer
joined each other and ascended to the Mother of Life and to the Living
Spirit. The Living Spirit put on the Call and the Mother of Life put on the
Answer, her beloved son. The Primal Man was freed from the hellish
substances by the Living Spirit who descended and extended to him his
right hand, and ascending he became a God again. But the Soul he left
behind [for these parts of the Light were too thoroughly mingled with
those of the Darkness].28 29
Therefore, in order for these parts of lightness (the soul of Primal Man) to not be
lost in the darkness for eternity, the Father of Greatness created the cosmos, as
well as the world, for the sake of separating what had been combined.
Thus enters the Manichean pessimism toward materialism. According to
the cosmogonic myth, nature and all of its parts come from the impure cadavers
'JQ
of the power of evil. According to the Manicheans, the world is a prison for
both light and good (the souls found in animate objects) and the darkness and evil
(inanimate matter with exception to the stars, the sun and the moon). However,
these particles of light and goodness can be released so that they may return to the
Kingdom of Light. This occurs through a third creation called the Messenger, yet
another emanation sent by the Father of Greatness.
28 Ibid.
29 Ibid., 224.
18


The Messenger is sent to cause the particles of light entrapped in evil
matter to be moved toward the Kingdom of Light. The Messenger initiates a
systematic revolution of twelve spheres which serves as a mechanism which both
disconnects light and matter, as well as transports all light upward. This system
creates a path which escaping particles of light can take when they fracture from
the material/evil of the world, thus beginning the Manichean vehicle of the
cosmic process of salvation.
The King of Darkness, in a counter-move to retain his bounty (i.e. the
light), devises a plan to bind the remnants of light that have not yet escaped into a
dangerous form in order insure that the separation between light and dark never
occurs. He creates two blasphemous formsthe images of the Father of
Greatness and pours the remaining light into these effigies: Adam and Eve.
Because the objective of the darkness is to combine with light eternally, the use of
the divine form makes it possible for a particularly large portion of light, or soul
of Primal Man, to be fettered and more effectively retained than any other
form. It is from this juncture that man becomes the battleground for these two
competing parties. This strategy by the King of Darkness is effective, and in an
effort to rebut, the Messenger sends Jesus, as well as other apostles of life such as
Seth (el), Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Buddha, Zoroaster, and Mani, the promised 30
30Ibid., 227.
19


Paraclete and founder of Manichaeanism, to give humankind knowledge of the
"3 t
situation (gnosis).
The Manichean eschatological framework hinges on the notion of linear
time. The conflict between these two kingdoms occurs in three moments or
epochs, and at the end of these moments, the separation of light and darkness will
be eternal. The first of these moments occurs before the commingling and
struggles, when the two kingdoms were distinct and separate. The second occurs
during the time of commingling, in which humankind lives and the third is the
time in which these two kingdoms will be separated again. According to
Manichean and Augustinian scholar Johannes Van Oort, the eschatological
premise of the Manichean cosmogonic narrative emphasizes the concept of time.
The world as humankind knows it is merely a phase.
The goal of world history is to separate light from darkness so that the
primeval state is restored. This will be the case when all the rescued
particles of light have returned to the kingdom of light and the damned are
locked up in the clod [or grave] with the prince of darkness and his
henchmen, together with matter and concupiscence.... Then the two
kingdoms will remain separated for ever.31 32
The cosmogonic myth of the Manicheans serves as an affirmation that evil
has an independent existence from the good, but also that it is co-etemal with
good. It provides a complete answer to the problem of theodicy. The Manicheans
31 Van Oort, Jerusalem and Babylon, 210.
32 Ibid.
20


ultimately believed in two separate Gods, who are equal in power; however, they
chose to worship the Father of Greatness. A form of henotheism, the Manichean
idea that good and evil are intermingled helped to explain sin and moral failings
as a result of the conflict of light and darkness in each individual. Due to their
ready reply, and the increasing concern over theodicy in the Roman Empire, the
Manicheans easily provided Augustine with an answer to his question of evil. In
fact, he saw this answer as an absolution to his own responsibility of sin.
I still thought that it is not we who sin, but some alien nature which sins in
us. It flattered my pride to be free of blame and, when I had done
something wrong, not to make myself confess to you that you might heal
my soul; for it was sinning against you.33 34
However, after serving nine years as an auditor to the Manichean elect,
Augustine became increasingly disillusioned by the doctrines of the Manicheans,
as well as the inability of its most prominent defenders (i.e. Faustus) to answer his
questions: After he had clearly showed his lack of training in liberal arts which I
had supposed him to be highly qualified, I began to lose all hope that he would be
able to analyse and resolve the difficulties which disturbed me.35 He had become
unhappy with the Manichean solution to the problem of evil. In Confessions, he
claims, "I was seeking the origin of evil and here was no solution ... .These
33 Lieu, Manichaeism in the Later Roman Empire, 187.
34 Augustine, Confessions (Oxford World's Classics) (New York: Oxford UP, USA,
1998).V. x (18).
35 Conf. V. vii (12).
21


matters, therefore, were secure and firmly fortified in my mind while I was
seeking feverishly for the origin of evil. What torments my heart suffered in
mental pregnancy, what groans, my God."36 37 It was then that Augustine rejected
the Manicheans and returned to Catholicism.
After his conversion in the garden, the dualistic solution to the problem of
evil no longer seemed plausible to Augustine. He believed in one true God. If
an entity of pure evil in itself existed outside or independent of God, it would
constitute a limitation of God and could pave the way to polytheism; therefore,
Augustine would not accept this solution. Because of Augustines confidence in
an eternal, omnipotent, and omniscient being, No aspect of the cosmos, whether
spirit or matter, no devil, no unformed primal matter, could resist, deflect, alter, or
defer Gods plan. Augustine required a new answer to the problem of evil.
The Neoplatonic Influence
Before his conversion, Augustine taught rhetoric in Milan. It is at this
time, at the age of 30, that Augustine began to attend the sermons of Ambrose, the
Bishop of Milan. Ambrose loyally defended Catholicism against Manichean
objections and criticisms of the Book of Genesis. 38 As mentioned earlier, while
36 Conf., Vll.vii(ll).
37 Russell, The Prince of Darkness, 96.
38 Peter Robert Lamont Brown, Augustine of Hippo (Berkeley: University of California P,
1967) 85.
22


Augustine fell under the influence of the Manicheans, he rejected parts of the Old
Testament (particularly Genesis) as a collection of formidable and disgusting
bons peres de famille.39 To him, the narratives seemed absurd and childish; he
deemed the actions of the patriarchs as immoral. Ambrose, however, offered
Augustine a new lens in which to read this troubling text. Through Ambroses
interpretation and teaching of the scripture as an allegory, Augustine now
perceived that true exegesis of scripture could not be literal: Those texts which,
taken literally, seemed to contain perverse teaching he [Ambrose] would expound
spiritually, removing the mystical veil.40 Through Ambroses metaphorical
hermeneutics, Augustine was armed with his own approach to scripture: The
letter kills, the spirit gives life.41 The patriarchs were no longer viewed as
immoral, but rather seemed as a stately procession of authentic philosophers,
each one symbolizing the state of a soul purified by wisdom.42 In Confessions,
Augustine writes of the effect this new reading of the scriptures had upon him:
I was glad, if also ashamed, to discover that I had been barking for years
not against the Catholic faith but against mental figments of physical
images.... I was also pleased that when the old writings of the Law and
the Prophets came before me, they were no longer read with an eye to
39 Ibid.
40 Conf. VI. iv (6).
41 2 Cor. 3:6 as qtd by Augustine, Ibid.
42 Brown, Augustine of Hippo, 84.
23


which they had previously looked absurd, when I used to attack your
saints as if they thought what in fact they did not think at all. 43
Augustines hermeneutic changed drastically, leading him to a more figurative
understanding of the scripture, making his conversion back to Catholicism almost
certain. However, this new vision of scripture was not the only gift Ambrose
bestowed upon Augustine; many scholars credit Ambrose as the most likely
candidate to introduce Augustine to the writings of the Neoplatonists. 44 As
evidenced by tracing exact quotes and language from Plotinus to Ambroses
existing sermons, some scholars argue very convincingly that Ambrose had
knowledge of the writings of Plotinus.
Augustines first documented contact with the writings of the
Neoplatonists transpired in 386 through a number of books given to him by an
unknown man translated from Greek into Latin.45 Although much debate
surrounds the authors and nature of these texts, according to Augustinian scholar
Peter Brown they possibly included compositions by Plotinus translated into Latin
by Marius Victorinus and one lost treatise by Porphyry, whom Augustine calls
the most notable pagan philosopher.46 Although there remains much speculation
as to how familiar Augustine really was with Plato, one can extract from
43 Conf. Vl.iii (4).
44
Brown, Augustine of Hippo, 85.
45 Conf. VII. ix (13).
46
Brown, Augustine of Hippo, 91-94.
24


Augustines own compositions that he was well-versed in the writings of Plotinus;
he writes that Plotinus deserves praise as having understood Plato more fully
than anyone else.47
The influence of the Platonist/Neoplatonists, or more directly Plotinuss
Enneads, became considerable after Augustines rejection of the Manicheans. In
fact in Book VII of Confessions he states, By the Platonic books I was
admonished to return into myself.48 With his discovery of these works, came a
new understanding and interpretation of Christianity. In his later work City of
God, Augustine specifically indicates the points in which he believes Christianity
and Platonism/Neoplatonism concur. Most importantly he indicates they share
commonalities in the belief of the existence of an incorporeal Creator and of
Providence, the immortality of the soul, virtue, patriotism, true friendship, and
good morals:49 And they agree with us on many things: on the immortality of the
soul, and that the true God created the worlds, and on His providence through
which He governs the universe which He created.50 Both Platonism and its
47
Augustine, City of God: Concerning the City of God Against the Pagans,
ed. David Knowles, trans. Henry Bettenson (New York: Penguin Classics, 1984) IX.10.
48 Conf. VII. x(16).
49 See Van Oort, Jerusalem and Babylon, 53.
50 City of God, VIII. 9. It is important to note that by Book XIX section 9, Augustines
praise of the philosopher diminishes. He eventually states that all philosophers, including
Platonists and Neoplatonists alike, will be inhabitants of the ungodly city and perish with demons:
Now those philosophers in the ungodly city alleged that the gods were their friends; but it is
25


offspring, Neoplatonism, wielded great influence in both Augustines conversion
and his later doctrines.
Much like Augustines new hermeneutical method of reading Genesis,
Augustine began to view the Platonic and Neoplatonic works in a new light after
reading a verse from the Book of John (1:14): Word was made flesh and dwelt
among men.51 52 53 Augustine saw Christ, the word of God, in a philosophical light:
Christ was seen as a hypostatization, similar to Plotinuss concept of intelligence
or First Principle. In his treatise The Happy Life (386), he elaborates upon the
notion of Christ as hypostatization: We have learned from a divine source that
the Son of God is none other than the Wisdom of God and most certainly the
Son of God is God... but what do you think the wisdom of God is if not truth.
And indeed, it has been said: I am truth. Augustines appreciation of the
Neoplatonic hypostatization seems to have led him to interpret the Incarnation
more readily. Augustines Christian interpretation of the Platonic and Neoplatonic
text afforded him a new dimension to his understanding of Biblical scripture and
Christian doctrine, and lent him a certain perspicacity for countering the problem
of evil.
quite certain that they have fallen in with these malignant demons, the powers to whom that city
is wholly subjected, and in whose company it will suffer everlasting punishment.
51 Conf. VII. ix( 13).
52 Ibid, See also Albert Camus, Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism (Columbia:
University of Missouri P, 2007) 118.
53 Aug. qtd in Ibid.
26


Augustines perennial concerns about the origins of evil were eventually
assuaged by the Neoplatonist view that matter is not the creation of some hostile
and menacing power, but the product of a creative divine source emanating from
the First Principle, or the One. Containing three basic principles or hypostases,
Plotinuss metaphysical system provides Augustine with a foundation in which to
build his final solution to the problem of evil.
By developing and augmenting Platos conception of the Good (which
Plotinus called the One), Plotinus described, in detail, both the hierarchy of the
cosmos and the subsequent significance of separation between the intelligible and
corporeal realms. According to T. Kermit Scott, this amplification of Platos
metaphysics was, an elaborate, complex, obscure and often paradoxical attempt
to provide a picture of reality that would capture the double sense of alienation
from and identity with the source of all being, while at the same time provide
guidance for those seeking a return to complete unity with the original source.54
Although Augustine ultimately transfigures many of Plotinuss concepts,
Plotinus provides Saint Augustine with a doctrine of the immediate word, and
what is more, a solution to the problem of evil.55 Plotinuss themes of identity,
54 T. Kermit Scott, Augustine: His Thought in Context (New York: Paulist Press, 1995),
95-96.
55 Camus, Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism, 118.
27


alienation, and return are all recapitulated within Augustines solution to the
problem of evil.
Plotinuss cosmological hierarchy establishes a type of Trinity consisting
of One absolute God (The One), Nous (thought, mind, and reason), and the world
soul (matter).56 Not unlike the Gnostic Manicheans, Plotinuss metaphysics stem
from the theory of emanationism, which explains the materialization of reality by
way of an outpouring of being originating from a transcendent and infinite source
of power and goodness. Unlike creationism which defends the ontological
distinction between Creator and what is created, emanationism presupposes an
ontological continuum between an ultimate causal principle and its effects. 57
However, as Augustinian scholar Joseph Torchia points out, the distinction
between the two theories becomes somewhat blurred in Plotinuss The Enneads.58
The concept of the One presides over the Plotinian system. In an effort to
describe what the One is, Plotinus often employs the via negativa to arrive at the
Ones (or First Principles) definition.59 In essence, the First Principle is a
completely sovereign entity from which all life springs, however, it is not
56 Y. Masih, Critical History of Western Philosophy Greek: Medieval and Modern
(Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, India, 1999) 139.
57 Joseph N. Torchia, Creatio Ex Nihilo and the Theology of St. Augustine: The Anti-
Manichaean Polemic and Beyond (New York: P. Lang, 1999) 37.
58 Ibid.
59 Plotinus. The Enneads, trans. Stephen MacKenna (London: Penguin Books, 1991) III.
8.10.
28


dependent upon the entities in which spring from it. Imagine a spring that has no
source outside itself; it gives itself to all the rivers, yet is never exhausted by what
they take... 60 It is completely whole and requires nothing. It is the author at
once of the existence of things and of their reasons, both produced at the one
stroke.61 The One is nowhere, yet simultaneously everywhere.62 Shapeless and
formless, the One transcends being.
Although the One is the Source of everything else, it remains untouched
by multiplicity.64 This raises the question of why there is anything else besides
the One at all or how does the multiplicity arise from it. The answer, according to
Plotinus, is that everything else is produced from an involuntary process of
emanation from the One. According to Plotinus, when anything comes to
perfection we see that it produces, and does not endure to remain by itself, but
makes something else.65 Y. Masih poetically explains this involuntary process:
Just as fragrance is emitted by the rose, so other entities emanate from God.66
The Ones abundance, goodness, and perfection overflows or radiates from it.
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
Ibid.
Ibid., VI.8.14; see also V.2.1.
Ibid., III.9.4.
Ibid., V.5. 5-6.
Ibid., V.4.1.
Ibid.
Masih, Critical History of Western Philosophy Greek, 139.
29


Because everything originates from the One, everything circumradiates it
as the emanations attempt to look to its own original.67 *According to Plotinus,
The offspring must seek and love the begetter, and especially so when begetter
and begotten are alone in their sphere, when in addition, the begetter is the highest
Good, the offspring (inevitably seeking its good) is attached by a bond of sheer
/O
necessity, separated only in being distinct. In other words, while everything
emanates from the One, everything simultaneously seeks to return to it. The closer
the emanation gets to the One, the emanations being becomes better. Our being
is the fuller for our turning Thither; this is our prosperity; to hold aloof is
loneliness and lessening.69 Being seeks to return to the One; without returning or
seeking to return, the being becomes weak.
The first result of multiplicity originating from the One is the emanation of
Nous, which means thought, mind, and reason. Just as the Nous is a by-product of
the One, the realm of Intelligence (Nous) also produces emanations. Just as rays
of the sun radiate from the Sun without any diminution of its energy, so Nous and
world-soul emanate from God without losing his perfection.70 Although Nous is
a product of the perfect One, it is not a perfect simplex, like the One. Nous looks
67 Plotinus, The Enneads, V. 1.6
58 Ibid.
69 Ibid., VI. 9.9.
70 Masih, Critical History of Western Philosophy Greek, 139.
30


71
upward toward the One and has an intuitive grasp on him. Just as the One is
beyond Being, Intelligence is the essence of true Being.
From Nous emanates the world soul and this is when the fading of divine
light commences. Incorporeal and indivisible, the world soul requires matter on
which to act and which to be formed. Before the world soul can act upon the
matter, this matter has neither form nor any quality: It is darkness, farthest away
from God and so matter stands as the fading out of the divine light. What gives
the matter form is the individual souls that exist within the world soul; they
impress their ideas on the matter, which ultimately have been derived from ideas
from the Nous, and this impression creates corporeal objects. Because the
impression created the tangible and sensible objects found in nature, the spatial
n'l
arrangement of things is due to the reflected Intelligence of the world-soul. It is
the World Soul which creates nature and time.
The World Soul has a two-fold nature. It has the capability to look up
toward the Nous and toward the One, or it can look downward toward nature and
the created matter. In the same way, humankind has both parts: The eternal Nous
and the sensitive, material body. The more an individual remains under the lure of
bodily desires, the more enduring his bondage with his or her body. 71 72 73
71 Ibid.
72 Ibid.
73 Ibid., 140.
31


Although Augustine was highly influenced by the works of Plotinus and
Neoplatonism, he strongly disagreed about the Neoplatonists subscription to an
impersonal nature of God, as well as the account of the creation of the world.
According to Neo-Platonism, ultimate reality is impersonal the One which is
beyond being and essence, unconsciously and automatically emanates life.
Augustine would not concede to the notion of a deity that did not care about
existence.
Evil Compared in the Manichean and Plotinian Systems
As previously discussed, according to the Plotinian system, the further a
rational entity looks down and allows itself to be enticed by the material world,
rather than looking up toward the Nous, the more evil that entity becomes: As a
beam of light fades into darkness, so matter has degenerated owing to its distance
from the original into non-existence or evil. Hence, evil is not an active power but
merely the privation of good which is inherent in all forms of existence.74 This
notion of privation of the good or privatio boni is strikingly similar to that of
the Manichean conception of evil.
Plotinus, the founder of Neoplatonism, sounds most like a Manichaean
when he insists that matter is the source of all evil and that the higher part
of the soul is unfallen, never tainted by the desires and perceptions of the
body but always contemplating intelligible things alone an untarnished
74 Lieu, Manichaeism in the Later Roman Empire, 191.
32


oasis of perfection, we might say in [Peter] Brown's words. Indeed, I think
it rather likely that these two themes (i.e. matter as the source of evil and
the unfallen purity of the higher part of the soul) were the initial point of
attraction of neo-Platonism for Augustine.75
In many ways the Plotinian system has its own dualistic tendencies: Its
predisposition to identify the soul with the Nous and the One, and consequently
its classification of the body with matter and evil. Nonetheless, the central
contribution which Neoplatonism makes to Augustine's thinking allows him
to appreciate that the material world as good and the soul as full of
iniquity.76 According to Augustinian scholar Philip Carey, That is to say,
from the Platonists he learned to turn Manichaean dualism on its head,
coming up with a cosmological optimism and a psychological pessimism.
The latter is required by the former.77 In essence, if the world is a good
place, then the reality of the situation, that humankind is miserable, must
indicate that humankind is the origin of its own suffering.
Dissimilar to the Manichean cosmogony, however, the Plotinian system,
does not regard evil as an opposing or competing force against the Good. In fact,
it is seen as a relative inevitability.
There is another consideration establishing the necessary existence
of Evil. Given that The Good is not the only existent thing, it is
75 Carey, God in the Soul: Or, the Residue of Augustine's Manichean Optimism, 70.
76 See Conf. VII. x(16)-xv (21).
77 Carey, God in the Soul: Or, the Residue of Augustine's Manichean Optimism,70.
33


inevitable that, by the outgoing from it or, if the phrase be
preferred, the continuous down-going or away-going from it, there
should be produced a Last, something after which nothing more
can be produced: this will be Evil. As necessarily as there is
something after the First, so necessarily there is a Last: this Last is
Matter, the thing which has no residue of good in it: here is the
70
necessity of Evil.
It could be assumed that, by this reasoning, evil is so compulsory to the
good that the end of evil would mark the end of existence. This notion of
necessary evil will be the foundation from which all Augustinian doctrine pivots.
70
Plotinus, The Enneads, 1.8.7.
34


CHAPTER THREE: AUGUSTINES DEFINITION OF EVIL
What and whence is evil? These are two very distinct questions both of
which will be discussed within this chapter. Not only is it crucial to consider
Augustines definition of evil and its origins, but also its relationship to the
doctrine of justification in order to glean the full impact of the doctrine of
predestination. Recognizing Augustines concept of evil is the first step in
understanding his appreciation of Gods ultimate omnipotence and omniscience.
His rejection of the Manichean religion left Augustine without a proper
definition for the concept of evil. After Augustines conversion and acceptance of
the title of Bishop in 395, he engaged in constant polemical battle against the
Manicheans for the remainder of his life. It was during his early years as a Bishop,
and during his discovery of Neoplatonic texts, that Augustine began to formulate
his classic definition of evil.
His works disputing the pessimistic materialism of the Manicheans
articulate some of his clearest definitions and characterizations on the nature of
evil. As explained in the previous chapter, the Manichean definition of evil
focuses primarily upon the origin or the whence, of evil in their cosmogonic
narrative. In his work On the Morals of the Manichaeans (388), Augustine
35


criticizes the Manicheans for overlooking the real issue of the essence of evil (the
what of evil) in order to absurdly seek out the origin of a thing unknown.
You Manichaeans often, if not in every case, ask those whom you try to
bring over to your heresy, Whence is evil? Suppose I had now met you
for the first time, I would ask you, if you please, to follow my example
in putting aside for a little the explanation you suppose yourselves to
have got of these subjects, and to commence this great inquiry with me
as if for the first time. You ask me, Whence is evil? I ask you in return,
What is evil? Which is the more reasonable question? Are those right
who ask whence a thing is, when they do not know what it is; or he who
thinks it necessary to inquire first what it is, in order to avoid the gross
absurdity of searching for the origin of a thing unknown?79
For this reason, as well as to be contrary to the Manicheans, Augustine begins
his investigation into evil by looking at its essence. Augustine understands evil
to be anything contrary to the good.
Immutability of the Good
Although it strays slightly from the Plotinian framework, the Augustinian
system begins in quite the same way. God, being eternal and timeless, has no
beginning and no end. There is no causal beginning as God is Being in itself. Like
the Plotinian One, God is an indivisible, unified simplex. However, Augustines
concept of God diverges from the Plotinian One in that God is seen as possessing
79
Augustine, On the Morals of the Manichaeans, II, The Fathers of the Church,
2009, New Advent, 29 Mar. 2009 .
36


full being, rather than being Beyond Being. 80 81 In other words, God is seen as the
enveloper of all the being (i.e. the good) rather than something completely apart
from being.
According to Augustine, God is a creator. This position is quite different
that the theory of emanation proposed by the Neoplatonists and the architect
theory of the Platonists. As stated in Chapter Two, the Neoplatonic theory of
emanationism holds that the world emanates from God as the alluvion from his
abundance. Although the overflow of God diffuses into the form of the Nous and
World Spirit, God experiences no decrease or diminution. Conversely, the
Platonic theory envisions God as an architect, or sculptor, out of pre-existing
chaotic matter. Diverging from these two positions, the theory of creation
maintains that a creator God generates everything from himself; there is no matter
independent of God, as in the theories of Plato and Aristotle. In Augustines
Q1
theology, God creates matter and life ex nihilo (from nothing). Thus God is the
absolute creator of all things, including matter. While God creates all matter, he
experiences no deficiency from his productions: He is immutable.
Although God is seen as immutable, God is not a static entity. The
dynamic emanations of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, function as
80
Torchia, Creatio Ex Nihilo and the Theology of St. Augustine, 173.
81
For an in-depth study of this controversial subject see Torchia, Creatio Ex Nihilo and
the Theology of St. Augustine.
37


three aspects of God. The Son, or Word of God, operates as the Fathers thought
of himself, while the Holy Spirit serves as the love that the Father and the Son
share for each other.
Much like the Plotinian One, Everything other than God is created from
God, not of him.82 This distinction between of and from is extremely important
to the Augustinian system: According to this distinction, what is created of God
is the Divine nature itself (the highest Good), while what is from God
encompasses the totality of created being.83 For Augustine, immutability is the
hallmark of divinity.84 In essence, that which is of God is nothing less than the
immutable Divine, while everything that is created from God is inferior to the
Divine and subject to constant change. According to Augustine, the failure to note
this distinction between the two types of nature leads to the sacrilege of equating
God with nothingness.
All corruptible natures therefore are natures at all only so far as they are
from God, nor would they be corruptible if they were of Him; because
they would be what He himself is. Therefore of whatever measure, of
whatever form, of whatever order, they are, they are so because it is God
by whom they were made; but they are not immutable, because it is
nothing of which they were made. For it is sacrilegious audacity to make
82 Augustine, "On the Nature of the Good (De Natura Boni)," Augustine: Earlier
Writings, ed. J.H.S, Burleigh (Louisville: Westminster John Knox P, 1953) I; see also Lieu,
Manichaeism in the Later Roman Empire, 168.
83 Torchia, Creatio Ex Nihilo and the Theology of St. Augustine, 168.
84 Carey, "God in the Soul: Or, the Residue of Augustine's Manichean Optimism",73.
38


nothing and God equal, as when we wish to make what has been bom of
God such as what has been made by Him out of nothing.
Gods immutability is of paramount importance in the theology of Augustine. It
is from Gods immutability that all other being originates. It follows that which is
created from God must be mutable.
All other good things are only from Him, not of Him. For what is of Him,
is Himself. And consequently if He alone is unchangeable, all things that
He has made, because He has made them out of nothing, are changeable.
For He is so omnipotent, that even out of nothing, that is out of what is
absolutely non-existent, He is able to make good things both great and
small, both celestial and terrestrial, both spiritual and corporeal.85 86 87 88
Because all being is either of God (immutable) or from God (mutable), all being
is good, and essentially two types of good exist: "One good is that which is good
supremely and in itself, and not by the participation of any good, but by its own
nature and essence; and another good which is good by participation, and by having
oo
something bestowed." The first and most perfect is the goodness of God himself,
the eternal, immovable, infinite good. Because this good is immutable,
incorruptible, impenetrable, and inviolate such a nature cannot be hurt and
because this good is God, there can be no lessening of nature.
The second type of good is that which is bestowed by the first type (God).
85 Augustine, "On the Nature of the Good (De Natura Boni)", X.
86 Augustine finds support for this claim in his exegesis of Exodus (ii. 14), particularly the
line I am that I am (or He who is). See also Augustine, "On the Nature of the Good (De Natura
Boni)", IXX; Torchia, Creatio Ex Nihilo and the Theology of St. Augustine, 169.
87 Augustine, "On the Nature of the Good (De Natura Boni)", I.
88 Augustine, On the Morals of the Manichaeans, III. 5.
39


The second good is of creatures and can be lessened because they are made ex
nihilo and are subject to change. Because of this vulnerability of change, this
created matter possesses what scholars have classified as germinal potentiality.
God has created the world with everything in it, including man, not all at
once and together, but with their future potentiality and evolution also, or,
what may be called germinal potentiality. Seminal or germinal potentiality
is not absolutely passive, but tends to self-development when the requisite
conditions ripen in due course. 89
Logically, whatever God begets or creates from himself cannot be equivalent to
what he creates from nothing, yet even the matter created ex nihilo is considered
good because they are related to God as effects to their ultimate Cause.90
Therefore, in the Augustinian tradition, both spiritual and corporeal
natures are considered good as every nature exists from God. Although both
forms of good are to be considered as such, the created matter or world depends
on God. Unlike in Pantheism, the world and God are not the same in the
Augustinian line of thinking. God transcends the world; it follows that one cannot
truly know or comprehend God merely by investigating or knowing the world.
89 Masih, Critical History of Western Philosophy Greek, 145. This recourse to germinal
potentiality may remind one of Darwin's reconciling God's creation with the evolutionary scheme
of things. However, in the case of Augustine, the theory of germinal potentiality was brought
forward by the exegetic problem concerning the two contrasted statements in the books of Genesis
and Ecclesiastes.
90 Torchia, Creatio Ex Nihilo and the Theology of St. Augustine, 168-169.
40


The Nature of Evil
Similar to the Plotinian account of evil, the Augustinian tradition deems
evil as an antithesis of the good. The potency of evil is contingent upon and
correlative to its proximity to the good. According to Rowan Williams account of
the Augustinian concept of evil, evil is a tendency away from or process in
opposition to the good:
Talking about evil is not like talking about things, about what makes the
constituents of the world the sorts of things they are; it is talking about a
process, about something that happens to the things that there are in the
universe. Evil is not some kind of object so we might render the phrase
from the City of God but we give the name of 'evil' to that process in
which good is lost.91
Evil, then, is not a corporeal substance. It is protean in nature, and can be seen as
a loss or absence of the essence of the good. In his work On the Manichean Ways
of Life written in 388, Augustine defines evil as such:
If... you wish to know what corruption [evil] is, notice the state to which
it tends to bring what it corrupts, for it affects these things in accordance
with its own nature. By corruption all things cease to be what they were
and are brought to non-permanence, to non-being, for being implies
permanence. Hence, what is called the Supreme and Perfect Being is so
called because it endures in itself. Anything that changes for the better
changes, not on account of its permanence, but because it had been altered
91 Rowan Williams, "Insubstantial Evil," Augustine and His Critics, ed. Robert Dodaro
and George Lawless (London: Routledge, 2002) 105.
41


for the worse, that is, it had suffered a loss of essence [Being], a loss
which cannot be attributed to the being [God] who produced the essence.
Although Augustines definition of the nature of evil is multi-dimensional, the
most simplistic definition of the term would be a privation, lack, or absence of the
good. Nonetheless, Augustine offers several variations of its denotation
throughout his works. In fact, Augustinian scholar Guy Ranson categorizes
Augustines multiple definitions into seven groupings: contra natura,
Q3
inconvenientia,, privatio boni, amassio, negatio, corruptio, and defectio.
In his work Against the Fundamental Epistle of Manichaeus (397),
Augustine describes evil as that which is contrary to nature, or contra natura.92 94
Although evil is not a form of nature itself, it remains the disruption of nature. At
its most fundamental, evil behaves as a type of interference or disruption in the flow
of harmonious existence.95 As Ranson explains, Because God is the author of all
natures, they work together harmoniously, but when harmony ceases nature is
92 Augustine, The Catholic and Manichaean Ways of Life (De moribus ecclesiae
Catholicae et de moribus Manichaeorum), trans. Donald A. Gallagher and Idella J. Gallagher
(Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America P, 1966) 2.6.8, 70.
Guy H. Ranson, "Augustine's Account of the Nature and Origin of Moral Evil,"
Review and Expositor: A Baptist Theological Journal 50 (1953):309-322.
94 Augustine, Against the Fundamental Epistle of Manichaeus, XXXIII. 36. Church
Fathers, 2009, New Advent, 29 Mar. 2009 .
95 Ranson, "Augustine's Account of the Nature and Origin of Moral Evil," 310.
42


opposed and that is evil. 96 Because evil is not nature itself, but rather a diminution
of nature, evil does not ever truly destroy the good inherent in nature.
Take from waters their thickness and muddiness, and pure clear water
remains; take from them their consistence of their parts, and no water will
be left.. .If then, after the evil is re-moved, the nature remains in a purer
state, and does not remain at all when the good is taken away, it must be the
good which makes the nature of the thing in which it is, while the evil is not
nature, but contrary to nature.97 *
The good is what ultimately composes nature, yet evil acts to fill in the spaces of
the composition. Augustine argues that the harmony of Gods order creates the
good; however, the moment an element is introduced that disturbs, contrasts, or
opposes that order, it is evil.
Another feature of evil which is almost synonymous with the contra natura
is inconvenientia. This trait occurs when an element has been introduced into the
order of nature which inconsistent or incongruous with nature. In essence, a
substance can never be evil in itself, but it may cause evil to another nature if it
disagrees with it. 99 To illustrate this point, Augustine relates the story of a female
criminal in Athens who was condemned to drink a fatal quantity of poison;
however, she did not die when she consumed the deadly toxin as she had previously
96
97
98
99
Ibid.
Augustine, Against the Fundamental Epistle of Manichaeus, XXXIII.36.
Ranson, "Augustine's Account of the Nature and Origin of Moral Evil,"310-311.
Ibid., 310.
43


trained her body to eventually develop a tolerance to the poison.100 According to
Augustine, Evil is not a substance, it is a disagreement of a substance.101 102 If a
substance were evil in itself, it would always in every instance be an evil and
disagree with nature; however, a substance may serve as fare to one creature,
remedy to another, and toxin to yet another. Therefore, substance is not an evil but
only causes evil when it disagrees with nature.
Augustine also states that evil is privatio boni (the privation of the good) in
that "Whatever is hurtful takes away some good from that to which it is hurtful; for
without the loss of good there can be no hurt." Evil arises when a being loses a
part of its nature: For nature to have less than its maximum good is evil. To be
sure, some creatures are better than others, but the privation of good in one is evil to
that one. Again it is emphasized that evil is not a nature, but only a term used to
describe the privation of nature.103Similarly, Augustine defines evil as want of
maximum good (amassio) and the negation, negatio, of some of the good. These
two characteristics of evil seem to be correlative to each other.
It would seem that as good is negated evil would increase, and when all
good is gone there would be perfect evil. But such is not the case, because
as good diminishes being also diminishes, and when one is about to lay
hold of perfect evil all vanishes into non-being. Evil exists only in relation
100 Augustine, On the Morals of the Manichaeans, XIII.6.
101 Ibid.
102 Ibid., III. 5.
103 Ranson, "Augustines Account of the Nature and Origin of Moral Evil, 311.
44


to being, because being and goodness are equated. Evil exists only so long
as enough good remains to be diminished, but when good disappears evil
also ceases to be. Evil culminates in the complete extinction of the good
and being of the nature to which it clings. The end of evil is nonexis-
tence'104
Therefore, like the feature privato boni, both amassio and negatio point to the
conclusion that evil is nothing but the removal [privation] of good until finally no
good remains.105 It would seem that in this case if all good was to be diminished,
it would leave pure, unadulterated evil; however, this is not the case. Evil can only
be present within the existence of the good: Evil has no existence except as a
privation of the good, down to that level which is altogether without being.106
Therefore the only real being that exists is an embodiment, however finite, of the
good.
Evil can also be seen as corruption or corruptio which equates to a loss
of integrity or reliability. Corruptio is a perversion of the good. In both On the
Manichean Ways of Life and his later work City of God, Augustine states: "But
corruption exists not by itself, but in some substance which it corrupts; for
corruption itself is not a substance. So the thing which it corrupts is not
corruption, is not evil; for what is corrupted suffers the loss of integrity and
104 Ibid., 312.
105 Conf. Ill.vii (12).
106 Ranson, "Augustines Account of the Nature and Origin of Moral Evil," 312.
45


purity."107 Essentially, Augustine argues that without any goodness there can
be no evil. When corruption acts upon the good, it ultimately acts upon itself.
Corruption, and therefore evil, occupies no matter. Without the Good, evil
cannot exist. In Confessions, Augustine clarifies this point:
It was obvious to me that things which are liable to corruption are good. If
they were the supreme goods, or if they were not good at all, they could not
become corrupted. For if they were supreme goods, they would be
incorruptible. If there were no good in them, there would be nothing capable
of being corrupted. Corruption does harm and unless it diminishes the good,
no harm would be done. Therefore either corruption does not harm, which
cannot be the case, or (which is wholly certain) all things that are corrupted
suffer privation of some good. If they were to be deprived of all good, they
would not exist at all. If they were to exist and to be immune from
corruption, they would be superior because they would be permanently
incorruptible. What could be more absurd than to say that by losing all
good, things are made better? So then, if they are deprived of all good, they
will be nothing at all. Therefore as long as they exist, they are good.108
Ultimately, when a beings good has been perverted, what is corrupted is the
good; and what is perverted suffers the loss of order. For Augustine, as well as
the Neoplatonists, order is good. Therefore, because every created being is
formed and is not the ultimate good itself (summum bonurri) it follows that all
formed creatures are subject to perversion. Evil is nothing more than a
consequence of created matter which has been perverted or strayed from its
intended order.
107 Augustine, The Catholic and Manichaen Ways of Life, 2.5.7; City of God, XII. 6.
108 Conf. VII. xii (18).
46


Finally, and most importantly to Augustines theodicy, is defection or the
notion of evil as a defection, desertion, or rebellion. This type of evil originates in
the will and is only possible for rational creatures, namely angels and humankind.
Defectio constitutes the turning of the will from a higher to a lower order. It is a
willful turning away from the order of God to an order that is inferior to that of
Gods. In essence, it is the desertion of immutable nature for mutable nature or a
turning of the will from God to self. According to Augustine, this type of evil was
the primary evil committed by Satan and the fallen angels, Adam, Eve, and
consequently, all of humankind: "For when the will abandons what is above itself,
and turns to what is lower, it becomes evil-not because that is evil to which it turns,
but because the turning itself is wicked."109 The will has caused evil because it
desires a lesser or lower thing; when man chose to turn to himself in preference to
God he chose something less the highest good, and that desertion from the good, or
the proper order, is evil. This type of evil, or moral evil, will be discussed in more
depth in the next chapter.
109
Augustine, City of God, XII.6.


The Origin of Evil
Because of Augustines unyielding subscription to Gods omnipotence,
omniscience, and absolute benevolence, it was abhorrent for him to perceive God
as the source of evil. Nonetheless, he did need to formulate a cause of evil that
allowed for Gods potency. In no way could evil be seen as an inhibitor of Gods
agency, or outside of Gods providence. In Confessions, he recounts that when he
was seeking the origin of evil, he eventually found that the substance of God
could by no means be diminished.
Therefore, when I saw that the incorruptible is superior to the corruptible I
ought to have looked for you there and to have deduced from the principle
the locus of evil, that is, the source of corruption by which it is impossible
for you to be injured. There is absolutely no way corruption can injure our
Godno act of will, no necessity, no unforeseen chancesince he is God
and what he wills for himself is good, and he is that same good. Whereas
to be corrupted is not good.110
Because of Gods omnipotence, Augustine concludes that God is not
compelled to will evil, and that evil could not occur as something unforeseen,
because of Gods omniscience.111 Finally he deduces, through a series of
logicisms that God, the source of all good, could not be the source of evil. For
Augustine it would be the acme of absurdity to attribute all being to God and
Conf. VII. iv (6).
111 Conf. VII. v (7).
48


1 I
then make Him the initiator of evil to destroy being. Augustine articulates this
illogicality in his text On the Morals of the Manichaeans (388).
Accordingly, when the Catholic Church declares that God is the author of
all natures and substances, those who understand this understand at the
same time that God is not the author of evil. For how can He who is the
cause of the being of all things be at the same time the cause of their not
being, that is, of their falling off from essence and tending to non-
existence? For this is what reason plainly declares to be the definition of
evil.112 113
It is important to note here that Augustine argues that God would not cause
falling off from essence and tending to non-existence of the beings in which he
created.114 He claims here that would indeed make God the designer and purveyor
of evil. According to Augustine, God would not destroy what he has created.
Although Augustine denounces the theory that God is the author of evil,
he concurrently argues that evil does not exist in the universe independently of
God. While God does not create evil, he does control it. As Ranson affirms,
Augustine would allow nothing in the universe independent of God.115 Because
of the doctrine of ex nihilo, God creates all things as they exist, as well as
controlling the diminution or perversion of existence and germinal potentiality.
Although all goodness originates with God while as far as it falls away from
112
Ranson, "Augustine's Account of the Nature and Origin of Moral Evil," 314.
113 Augustine, On the Morals of the Manichaeans, II. 3.
114 tu-j
Ibid.
115 Ranson, "Augustines Account of the Nature and Origin of Moral Evil," 315.
49


being it is not of God, and yet is always ordered by Divine Providence in
agreement with the whole system. 116 God, therefore, allows evil to exist.
After rejecting both an evil principle and the notion of God as the origin of
evil, as well as recognizing both privato boni and ex nihilo, Augustine needed to
demonstrate that evil did not originate with God. Augustine then began to
envision all life on a hierarchical scale in which was governed by three criteria:
measure {modus), form {species), and order {ordo). In Augustinian terms
measure pertains to the limit, end, or unity of things; form refers to their
general appearance or distinctive features; and order points to their position in
the hierarchy of creation along with their natural end.117 In essence, this
metaphysical scale (or status) measures goodness by looking at a forms distance
from God.
Augustines work Concerning the Nature of the Good written in 399 as a
polemical refutation of the Manichean conception of evil, articulates this scale.
For all things in proportion as they are better measured, formed, and
ordered, are assuredly good in a higher degree; but in proportion as they
are measured, formed, and ordered in an inferior degree, are they the less
good. These three things, therefore, measure, form, and order, not to
speak of innumerable other things that are shown to pertain to these
three, these three things, therefore, measure, form, order, are as it were
generic goods in things made by God, whether in spirit or in body. God is,
therefore, above every measure of the creature, above every form, above
116 Augustine, On the Morals of the Manicheans, VII. 10.
117 Torchia, Creatio Ex Nihilo and the Theology of St. Augustine, 170.
50


every order, nor is He above by local spaces, but by ineffable and singular
potency, from whom is every measure, every form, every order.118
Augustines scale draws upon the Neoplatonic ideas of the ontological unity of
being and goodness, as well as the notion of evil as the privation of both being
and goodness in order to explain the Christian concept of God as a creator. This
scale affords Augustine a reasonable and consistent explanation for the existence
of evil in a monotheistic context. In other words, Augustine attempts to
demonstrate that the explanation of evil does not need to posit itself upon dualism,
or the existence of two equal and competing forces.
According to Augustine, evil has no nature, form, or substance of its own,
but it is, in fact, the corruption of Gods Creation:
When accordingly it is inquired, whence is evil, it must first be
inquired, 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 corrupted it is evil.119
Natural evil, therefore, originates from the privation or the falling away from
Being toward non-Being or nothingness.
118 Augustine, On the Nature of Good, III.
11Q
liy Ibid, IV.
51


Natural Evil
According to Augustine, natural or physical evils, such as natural disasters
or disease, are not to be considered evil. They are part of a divine plan to which
humankind is not privy. As mentioned earlier, humankind cannot comprehend the
will of God, although it can attempt to apprehend God. Although these events
may elicit suffering and pain from humankind, because humankind does not have
the capacity to comprehend the nature of the cosmos, or Gods divine providence,
these events can distribute wisdom, warn humankind of the danger of sin, or
ensure divine justice (punishment for sin). For sinners, adversity is a
punishment; for the innocent, it is a divine gift of warning.120 121 By giving each
event and thing a divinely appointed order (the exact place it should have), God
exercises his justice.
The order God imposes might be described as bringing a kind of stillness
back into movement. By arranging the disordered multiplicity of things so
that they stand in a proper relationship to one another, God' fixes' them.
He gives them the beauty that at its highest belongs only to those things
that are at one and without motion. It is not beyond his power to do
101
something of the kind with evil.
In his work On Order written in 387, Augustine offers an innocuous anecdotal
example of how this works when he relates a story about a disturbance he
120 Russell, Satan, 200.
121 G. R. Evans, Augustine on Evil (New York: Cambridge UP, 1982) 96.
52


encountered at his home late at night. A variety of noises originating from the
pipes had kept him from sleeping; however, upon investigation in the morning he
discovered that the disturbance had been caused by falling leaves which had
blocked the pipes under pressure of the water, and then were pushed aside by its
flow until a fresh blockage formed, thus changing the noises coming from the
pipes. This event compelled Augustine to reflect on order in the universe. He
began to explore ways in which seemingly disorderly events could fall under the
category of providence.
[Events] must do so if God is indeed all-powerful and therefore also
omniscient. But in order to do so, those which seem evil must somehow be
transformed into good, or he cannot countenance them. So he eliminates
chance as a form of evil and seeks to bring all events ultimately under
divine control and to regard them all as ultimately good if God permits
them.122 123
Essentially, Augustine postulates that Nothing comes about or is brought into
existence which is not brought into existence by some cause.124
Natural evil occurs due to the nature of matter. As discussed previously,
the good is what constitutes the nature of matter. The lack wherein (on
Augustines scale) creates the source of evil. Evil occurs whenever a creature
122 Augustine, On Order: Divine Providence and the Problem of Evil (De Or dine ), trans.
Robert P. Russell, ed. Ludwig Schopp, The Fathers of the Catholic Church: Saint Augustine: The
Happy Life, Answer to Skeptics, Divine Providence and the Problem of Evil, Soliloquies., vol. 5
(New York: Cima Co., Inc., 1948) I.iii.6-7.
123G. R. Evans, "Evil, "Augustine through the Ages: An Encyclopedia, ed. Allen D.
Fitzgerald (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdsman Company, 1999) 342.
124 Augustine, On Order: Divine Providence and the Problem of Evil, I.v. 14.
53


loses a part of its nature bestowed by God. For nature to have less than its
maximum good is evil. Some creatures are superior to others (according to
Augustines scale), but the privation of good in one is evil to that one. Augustine
emphasized that evil is not a nature, but only a term used to describe the privation
of nature.
Because created beings are not supremely good, their good is capable of
diminution. Hence, though it is not necessary that a creature will suffer disease,
which is a privation of health, having been created out of nothing makes a
creature susceptible to doing so. Why would an all-good God allow such changes
to occur? Augustines answer is that God simply could not have made creation
any other way. God was free to create or not create, but God was not free to create
incorruptible beings. If God had done so, then everything would be immutable
and, hence, equal to God, because only God is that which truly is. Therefore, God
regulates the mutable and would never permit the existence of anything evil
among His works, if He were not so omnipotent and good that he can bring good
out of evil. Evil is an inherent feature of all being, other than God, as
everything other than God is created ex nihilo. In this way, all creatures are 125
125 Augustine, Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love, trans. J.B. Shaw (Washington, DC:
Regnery, 1996) XI.
54


susceptible to corruption and disease, as they all, in some measure, form and
weight, envelop an absence of good.
For what is that which we call evil but the absence of good? In the bodies
of animals, disease and wounds mean nothing but the absence of health;
for when a cure is effected, that does not mean that the evils which were
present-namely, the diseases and wounds-go away from the body and
dwell elsewhere: they altogether cease to exist; for the wound or disease is
not a substance, but a defect in the fleshly substance-the flesh itself being
a substance, and therefore something good, of which those evils-that is,
privations of the good which we call healthare accidents. 126
This natural metaphysical evil is due to creation ex nihilo. Because all creatures
are created out of nothing they are mutable, and because of this capacity for
change there is the possibility that nature may fall away and tend toward
nonexistence. 127Because man is also created out of nothing, he has the same
tendency to fall away toward nonexistence, and thus evil arises in him.
As previously stated in this chapter, moral evil occurs not because of a
natural inclination toward evil, but rather a defectio or defection of the will of
rational creatures. This defection began with Satan and his followers, and made its
way into the collective of humanity by way of Adam. Essentially, because of
Adams willful turning away from God and turning toward himself, the true
responsibility of moral evil rests upon humankind.
12< Ibid.
127 Augustine, City of God, XIV. 27; On Rebuke and Grace, XXVII, Church Fathers,
2009, New Advent, 29 Mar. 2009 .
55


Moral Evil and Christian Cosmogony
Augustines metaphysical solution for natural evil is contingent upon his
notion of the divine order. This same order serves as the bedrock to his solution to
the problem of moral evil in the sense that when Adam sinned, he fell away from
God morally and this led to the ontological fall of all of humankind. The fall of
both angelic and human kind created disorder and cacophony in the harmony of
the universe which God attempts to restore through his gift of grace.
Like the Manicheans narrative on the origins of the universe, Augustines
scale renders a complicated exegesis of the cosmogonic myth found in Genesis,
which is recounted in Books XI-XV of City of God, as well as his earlier work On
Free Will written in 395. According to City of God, the universe was not created
out of any preexisting substance, for there was nothing other than God from
which the universe could be created.128 Because it is in his nature to do so; God
created the cosmos and the world, and in the process, he created the entire sum of
goodness in existence; but in order to increase goodness, he created beings with
germinal potentiality, or free will. By giving his creations free will, the sum of
good can be augmented: without free will, there can be no moral choice toward
the good, and there can be no increase of the good.
190
Augustine, City of God, XI.4-6.
56


Angels were the first beings created by God. They were created from and
at the same time God created light. These beings were given illumination so
as to live in wisdom and bliss.129 130 According to G.R. Evans account of
Augustines understanding of angelic creatures, they are personified light,
radiant with the illumination of the truth.131 These creatures were also given
free will. Soon after or simultaneously upon their creation, however, some of the
angels turned away from their place in the order of creation while others chose to
cleave to God. The moment of angelic creation, according to Augustines
hermeneutics, occurs when God divided light from the darkness. Ultimately,
Augustine believes evil entered the world at the moment of the worlds
conception. According to Augustine, this passage refers not only to the
institution of the succession of days and nights, but also to the separation of the
good angels from the evil angels when Satan sinned.133 Therefore, the very
moment rational creatures were created, some turned away from God.
Because these angels, led by Lucifer, chose to put their own wills in place
of Gods, they worked outside of the righteous order. Although Augustine
129 Ibid., XI. 9-19.
130 Ibid., XI. 11.
131
Evans, Augustine on Evil, 99.
H2
Augustine, City of God, XII. 6.
133 Evans, Augustine on Evil, 99.
57


emphasizes that the nature of these creatures was the same when they were
created, he explains that what made them different was their diverse wills.
The good and the bad angels are at variance with one another in desiring
things. This variance, however, is not due to any difference in their
original natures, since God, who of His goodness is the author and
establisher of all that has being, created them both; it is due rather to their
difference of will and desire, and on this point it would be wrong to have
any doubt. The good angels persist in desiring that good which is available
to all to share and which God Himself is to them, and so they continue in
the eternity and the truth and the love, which belong to Him. The bad
angels rejoice rather in their own power, as though of their own resources
they could provide themselves with their own good; from that pre-eminent
good in which it is open to all to find their happiness they have slipped
down to the level of their own selfish desires. They exalt themselves and
become proud instead of relying on the eternity which would lift them to
the heights; they invent their clever inanities instead of holding fast to the
truth which is assured; they are moved by partisanship for their own cause
instead of by love which makes no distinction: hence their arrogance, their
falsehood, their malignity. And so the good angels are happy because they
cling to God; and on the same showing we must assume that the bad
angels are not happy for the opposite reason, which is not clinging to
God.134 135
Ultimately, the nature of their sin was pride. This rebellion, as stated by
Augustine in Book XI of City of God, marks the foundation of the earthly and
Holy cities, splitting among the good, God-fearing angels and the evil ones who
follow the devil. These angels were then cast out of heaven and maintain a life of
1 -3 c
reason, though not of wisdom, and they cannot lose this, even if they wish.
134 Augustine, City of God, XII. 1.
135 Ibid., XI. 11.
58


Unlike humankind, the fallen angels do not have an opportunity to redeem
themselves. They cannot be resituated back into the divine order.
After the rebellion, God created the material world, such as plants and
animals, as well as the first human beings which are also granted free-will.
Envious of the happiness of both Adam and Eve, Satan tempted these beings,
who, exercising their free will, submitted to the temptation. This, in turn,
alienated all of humankind from God.
Origin of Evil and Freedom of Will
As mentioned earlier, the first sin in the universe was committed by
Lucifer and his followers in their willful turning away from God upon creation.
Augustine considers angels and diabolical creatures to belong in the kingdom of
rational creatures along with humankind; therefore, Augustine does not solely
point the finger of blame at humankind while forming his opinion on the origin of
evil in the freedom of the will.
The first transgression in time and in degree of evil was committed by the
devil. This creature was made by God and was originally good, but it was
through him that the first evil entered the realm of rational beings. It follows that
Augustine considers Satan the author of that fatal flaw which pervades all human 36
l36Ibid., XI. 15.
59


nature. In so far as men are good they retain the original nature created by God,
but in so far as they are evil they are under the control of the devil. As evil
first originates from the devil, his actions disturbed the euphony of Gods
intended order, the arrangement of the universe, and ultimately the composition of
humankind.
Sin, therefore, has passed upon all men in other words, the devil's work
has penetrated the work of God; or putting the same meaning in another
shape, The work done by a work of God has pervaded God's work. And
this is the reason why God alone has an unchangeable and almighty
goodness: even before any evil came into existence He made all things
good; and out of all the evils which have arisen in the good things which
He has made, He works through all for good.137 138 139
This leads to the question, if God had created these beings, why would
they have sinned at all? If indeed every nature is good and is created by a good
God, as is asserted by Augustine, how can the angelic creatures behave in a way
which is not good? Augustine answers these questions by reasoning that [i]f we
cannot entertain the possibility that God made it flawed, we must conclude that
something has damaged it. As Augustines account of God as entirely
benevolent cannot render him responsible for evil, Augustines answer as to evils
agency is pride through Gods creatures wicked wills. This raises a disturbing
137 Ranson, "Augustine's Account of the Nature and Origin of Moral Evil," 316.
138 Augustine, On Marriage and Concupiscence, II. 48, Church Fathers, 2009, New
Advent, 29 Mar. 2009 .
139 Augustine, On Nature and Grace, III. iii, Church Fathers, 2009, New Advent, 29
Mar. 2009 .
60


question, however. Satan was not alone in his defection: many more angels
followed his lead. If God made the angelic creatures equal in goodness, why
would some choose to rebel and others not?
Augustines answer hinges upon the notion of efficiency and deficiency in
will. In Book XII, Chapter Seven of City of God, Augustine argues that all of the
angels who fell, including the devil, fell from no efficient cause but only through
the perversity of their wills, which cannot be causally explained.
The truth is that one should not try to find an efficient cause for a wrong
choice. It is not a matter of efficiency, but of deficiency; the evil will itself
is not effective but defective. For to defect from him who is Supreme
Existence, to something of less reality, this is to begin to have an evil will.
To try to discover the causes of such defectiondeficient, not efficient
causesis like trying to see darkness or to hear silence. Yet we are
familiar with darkness and silence, and we can only be aware of them by
means of eyes and ears, but this is not by perception but by absence of
140
perception.
Augustine goes on to state that he will not attempt to answer the question
as to why some of the angelic creatures fell as the origin of this first act of turning
is unknowable.* 141
However, later in Book XII, Chapter Nine, in order to resolve the question
of why some angels remained faithful, Augustine finally concludes that those who
did not fall had and efficient cause: they had more of God's grace.142
140
141
Augustine, City of God, XII.7.
Ibid.
61


Either they received less grace of the divine love than did the others, who
continued in that grace; or, if both were created equally good, the one sort
fell through their evil will, while the others had greater help to enable
them to attain to the fullness of bliss with complete assurance that they
will never fall away...142 143
These blessed angels also had a greater degree of wisdom which gave to
them the assurance of eternal felicity.144 It follows, then, there was no difference
in the angelic and diabolic natures, save only in their wills and desires.145
Augustine offers a causal answer why certain angels did not fall, yet offers an
acausal answer to the question of why other angels fell. However, the question
must remain why God would give this added grace to some of his creatures and
not others. Augustines answer also raises difficulties in that if God chooses
whom to give grace; didnt he also choose which angels would fall?
These problems are repeated through the Biblical narratives of humankind,
as well. Humankind or Adam and Eves transgression is also a result of pride.
Comparable to Augustines interpretation of the fall of the angels, Augustine
argues that humankinds sins occurred much earlier than their consumption of the
forbidden fruit.
It was in secret that the first human beings began to be evil; and the result
was that they slipped into open disobedience [eating of the forbidden
142 Ibid., XII. 9.
143 Ibid.
144 Ibid., XI. 11.
145 Ibid., XII. 1.
62


fruit]. For they would not have arrived at the evil act if an evil will had not
preceded it, Now could anything but pride have been the start of evil will?
For pride is the start of every kind of sin.146
Augustine conceived humankind in its prelapsarian condition as free and
perfect. As originally created by God, Adam was free from all evil, endowed with
every good on the earth and exempted from the depredation of aging. He had
perfect health and peace of mind, He lived without want any want, and had it in
his power to live like this for ever.147 Adversity and hardships were unknown to
him. However, Adams first real problem arose when he diverted from [his
love of God] to follow [his] own pleasure; and the will would not have been so
darkened and chilled in consequence as to let the woman believe that the serpent
had spoken the truth and the man put his wifes will above Gods commandment,
and to suppose that his was a venial transgression when he refused to desert his
lifes companion even though the refusal entailed companionship is sin.149
If by his free will he had chosen to not eat of the forbidden fruit, he would
never have known death or misery150; however, he chose a lesser being (himself
and his wife) and sinned, thus losing the perfect state into which he was bom.151 If
146
147
148
149
Ibid., XIV. 13.
Ibid., XIV. 26.
Ibid.
Ibid., XIV. 13.
150
151
Ibid
Ibid
63


Adam had not sinned, he would have the ability to do good works unaided, but
with his evil choice freedom to do good except through God's grace was lost.
Adam and his descendents lose their ability to choose the good and are now
1
condemned to be capable of only choosing evil.
Augustines interpretation of Genesis paints a very bleak situation for the
human race. Through Adam and Eves original transgressions the entire human
race has ultimately been corrupted; however, Augustines interpretation of God
and scripture also depicts a picture of merciful God who attempts to restore, at
least for some, the divine order. 152
152 Ibid
64


CHAPTER FOUR: GRACE AND JUSTIFICATION
After both Satan and Adams transgressions against God, the Divine order
was in disarray. According to the Augustinian tradition, this disorder was
realigned through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, whose martyrdom brought forth
the opportunity of salvation for a number of individuals. This salvation is known
as grace and, for Augustine, offers the only redemption from original and actual
sin possible for humankind. Ultimately, the gift of grace offers individuals the
capability of choosing the good, making it possible for that person to escape from
its postlapsarian state.
Grace
The philosophical framework of Grace, or Gods operation and order in
the world, particularly in light of spiritual creatures, occupies the, or at least a,
central position in Augustines understanding of Christianity.153 Augustines
interpretation of the many differing forms and agencies of being, such as angels,
demons, and humans, revolve around the idea of gratia. In essence grace, or
gratia, refers to the divine operation in both angels and humans through which
153 J. Patout Bums, "Grace," Augustine through the Ages: An Encyclopedia, ed. Allen D.
Fitzgerald (Grand rapids: William B Eerdmans Company, 1999) 391.
65


they are moved to know and love God.154 Grace is the internal compass of Gods
creatures which directs them toward the Good.
Drawing upon his Neoplatonic philosophical foundations and the Christian
cosmogonic myth, Augustine saw the ontological composition of the universe, as
well as the world as a hierarchy in which being, power, and operation are
continuously communicated from the highest order (God) to the lowest levels. As
discussed previously, the lower forms of being are utterly dependent upon the
influence and assistance of the superior forms. The angelic and human entities are
among the highest in the Christian adaptation of the Neoplatonic emanationist
system, although they too were created ex nihilo. The divine creator guides these
forms and acts as a beacon of wisdom, purity, and goodness. Like the Word, the
third emanation of God, which is the Holy Spirit, operates by compelling both
angels and humans to love God as the highest good of all creation. By loving the
highest good, they find fulfillment in themselves and all other lower forms of
being.155 If these beings focus upon the Word (logos in Neoplatonic terms, or
Jesus in the Christian tradition), they will be capable of understanding the
goodness of the world and will attain wisdom. This is Gods intended ontological
hierarchy: Every created spirit, therefore, knows and loves well only when it
154 TUJ
Ibid.
155 Augustine, Letters of St. Augustine of Hippo, 140.21. 53-58, Church Fathers, 2009,
New Advent, 29 Mar. 2009 .
66


operates under the continuing influence of the divine Being, Light and Love.156
Only when these beings look toward the Good do these creatures operate
correctly.
However, if the creature prefers itself or the created good of God (the
lower forms) rather than the Good or God himself, the creature has failed to
appreciate the true goodness and beauty of the world and now loves in a defective
and degenerative manner. Because these beings are given free will, they may
choose to not look toward the good. If these beings choose to focus upon
themselves, or any other lower realities, they have sinned. This freedom poses a
discouraging problem for these creatures as the turning away from the Good
results in a lapse into that confusion and uncertainty, which characterize the
condition of devils and fallen humanity.157 Consequently, a beings lapse of
judgment sends it plummeting into a void in which it is incapable of escaping
without the mercy and gift of grace of God.
In light of the Augustinian ontological model, another problem for Gods
creatures originates in their ontological limitations. Due to the finitude of created
creatures, these beings are bound to mutability, which leads them to be pulled
toward the lesser beings or non-being (gravitas). In essence, if beings cannot will
156 Bums, "Grace," 392.
157 ... .
67


toward the Good, they must inevitably digress. Spiritual and rational creatures,
angels and humans, are endowed with the unmerited gift of free will;
consequently, the implication of this free will is the ability to sin. The inherent
tendency toward non-being that humankind experiences is only intensified by
Original Sin which affects the entire human race. Fundamentally, because of both
of these inclinations toward evil or non-being (ontological composition and the
addition of Original Sin), Augustine reduces all of humankind to a massa
damnata. Through Adams sin, humankind is collectively damned.
The more intimate the first mans enjoyment of God, the greater his
impiety in abandoning God. By doing so he merited eternal evil, in that he
destroyed in himself a good that might have been eternal. In consequence,
the whole of mankind is a condemned lump; for he who committed the
first sin was punished, and along with him all the stock which had its roots
in him.158 159
The punitive measures of Original Sin, as well as the ontological
implications of humankinds creation, necessitate redemption. Christ, the Word, is
this Mediator who reconciles humankind to God.160
Before we were created we didnt deserve any good, and thats why its a
grace by which we were created because we didnt deserve any good.
So if its a great grace when we dont deserve any good, how great a grace
it must be when we deserve so much bad! Someone who didnt yet exist
didnt deserve well; the sinner actually deserved ill. The one who was
created didnt exist before. He didnt exist, but neither had he offended.
158 Torchia, Creatio Ex Nihilo and the Theology of St. Augustine, 238.
159 Augustine, City of God, XXI. 12.
160 See Augustine, Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love, CVIII.
68


He didnt exist, and he was made; he offended, and he was saved. He
didnt yet exist, so he had no hopes, and he was made. When he fell he
had damnation to look forward to, and he was delivered. This was grace
through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 7: 25).161 163
Therefore, according to Augustine, God distributes a type of double-grace. He
creates life (which humankind does not deserve) and when humankind fell, God
once again gives Grace through Jesus Christ.
However, Augustine also goes onto assert in the Opus Imperfectum contra
Julianum, everyone that is able to sin, is made from nothing, but not everyone
made from nothing is able to sin. As J. Bums explains it, Grace must be
conceptualized not as a created disposition or accident but rather as the operation
i S'}
and dwelling of the divine being within the created spirit. Grace serves as a
compass toward the Good.
Augustines doctrine of justification, and its corollary doctrines of grace and
predestination, underwent significant development; however, after writing the
first two books to Simplicianus (396-397), Augustine condemned the Massilian
attribution (the notion that the beginnings of faith (initium fidei) originate from
human free will).
161 Augustines On the Sermon on the Mount as quoted in Torchia, Creatio Ex Nihilo and
the Theology of St. Augustine, 239.
'Ibid., 238.
163 Bums, "Grace," 392.
69


Justification
The Augustinian notion of justification recapitulates his understanding of
the nature of the universe and reflects his hierarchical understanding of the order
of being. [J\ustitia is essentially the ordering of the world according to the order
of being, itself an expression of the divine will.164 In other words, because God
created the natural order of things, justitia, or Gods gift of mercy, corrects an
individuals relationship with God (or righteousness). It follows that justitia must
also replicate the intended divine order. As God created everything just as it
should be, including humankind, when Adam and Eve ignored the divine plan and
chose to look toward the lesser beings (themselves), they stumbled outside of
justitia. Therefore, justification may be defined as a restoration or making right
(righteous) of the intended order of Gods initial creative plan. It is a
reconciliation of the relationship between God and humanity, as well as the
corollary restitution of the correct relationships of humankind with each other and
of humankind and its environment.165
Simply stated, Augustines definition of justification is to make
righteous or being made just166: What does justified mean other than made
164 Alister E. McGrath, Justitia Dei: A History> of the Christian Doctrine of Justification,
3rd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005), 51.
165 Ibid.
166 Ibid., 53.
70


righteous, just as he justifies the ungodly means he makes a righteous person
out of an ungodly person?167 Righteousness, in this context, means nothing
more than to make right, or to put back in the proper relationship with God. This
putting back in the proper place, however, is not a solitary movement toward the
good it is a progression. As Alister McGrath defines it .. .justification is a
causative process, by which an ungodly person is made righteous. It is about the
transformation of the impius to Justus Justification should not be seen as
merely one singular event; it is a developmental course in which is not completed
during an individuals lifetime. In fact, justification does not occur until Gods
final judgment of humankind. It is a series of movements toward the good,
originating from separate individuals to the collective of humankind.
Justitia does not exclusively belong to the making right of an individual.
Augustines work City of God illustrates how the doctrine of justification
envelops the existence of Christianity as a whole from the first moment of faith,
through the increase in righteousness before God and humans, to the final
perfection of that righteousness in the eschatological city.169 Justification
functions as a redemption of the collective of humankind.
167 Augustine as quoted in McGrath, 47.
,68Ibid 47.
169
71


By 'justification', Augustine comes very close to understanding the
restoration of the entire universe to its original order, established at
creation, an understanding not very different from the Greek doctrine of
cosmic redemption. The ultimate object of justification is its 'cleaving to
God', a 'cleaving' which awaits its consummation and perfection in the
New Jerusalem, which is even now being established.70
Therefore, Augustines notion of justification operates on two levels:
toward the salvation of the individual, as well as the shared salvation of the
species. This is important to note as the process of justification has both
soteriological and eschatological implications. The doctrine of justification
eventually leads Augustine to his stance on predestination.
The Formation of Justification and Augustines Consequent
Understanding of Free Will
Before the year 396, Augustine appears to have seen the spiritual life in
Platonic terms as an ascent to perfection.170 171 Essentially, an individuals desire for
and will toward the good would determine his or her ability to achieve it. His
early understanding of humankinds relationship to God, as well as to Jesus, is
demonstrated in his conviction that salvation occurs through humankinds call to
God for rescue.172 Early Augustine attributed responsibility to human free will as
he believed it was humankinds choice whether or not to hear the call of God.
170 Ibid.
171 Ibid., 39.
172 Augustine, On the Sermon on the Mount (New Advent. 2009), I, xviii, 55,
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/l601.htm (accessed March 29. 2009); see also Romans :44.
72


Later in his career, however, Augustine reassessed this sentiment during his
correspondence with his Milanese associate, Simplicanus. Simplicanus raised
several questions relating to the idea of predestination when asking about Gods
relationship with Esau: Why did God hate Esau? Augustine now began to reflect
upon the implications of his exegesis of the book of Romans, but more
specifically Romans 9:10-29: Augustine appears to have avoided issues such as
this up to this point, but was now obliged to consider the questionand as a
result, he appears to have abandoned his earlier attempts to uphold the
unrestricted freedom of the will.173 Augustine must try to reconcile Gods
benevolence with his omnipotence, as well as with human free will and scripture.
Alister McGrath points to three major changes to Augustines thinking on
justification as a result of this new focus upon the situation of Gods beloved
Jacob and the condemned Esau. Earlier in his career, Augustine had taught that
Gods election of an individual is subsequent to that individuals election of God.
In other words, an individuals salvation is contingent upon that individuals
selection of God. An individuals righteousness, or right standing with God, is
based solely upon that individuals unaided free will. However, Augustine now
concluded that humanitys election is based upon Gods eternal decree of
173 McGrath. Justitia Dei, 40.
73


predestination. 174 175 The implications of this shift in thinking lead Augustine to
conclude that an individuals response of faith to God is, in fact, absolutely
dependent upon Gods decision to offer grace to that individual. In essence an
individuals response of faith to Gods offer of grace is now understood to be a
gift of God. Ultimately this leads Augustine to the position that because
human free will has been corrupted and is contaminated by sin, it is incapable of
ascending to justification unless it is first given the gift of grace by God.
Augustine concludes that this gift was given to Jacob, but not to Esau.
After Augustines own conversion, he emphasized the power and
importance of grace and Gods providence in salvation. Heavily influenced by his
interpretation of Pauls teachings in passages such as Romans 9-11, Augustine felt
that he did not choose God; God chose him.176 His account in Confessions
praises and thanks God for sovereignly transforming him. Augustine felt this
change occurred without any doing on his part. As he felt that the responsibility
of his conversion was Gods alone, Augustine ultimately deduced that he was
helpless in doing anything good without the grace of God. His writings reflect this
change in perception, My whole hope is in Thy exceeding great mercy and that
174 Augustine, "To Simplician-On Various Questions. Book I." in Augustine: Earlier
Writings, ed. J.H.S, Burleigh (Louisville: Westminster John Knox P, 1953), I. ii.6.
175 McGrath, Justitia Dei, 40.
176 Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology Twenty Centuries of Tradition &
Reform (New York: InterVarsity P, 1999), 267.
74


alone. Give what Thou commandest and command what Thou wilt. Thou
commandest continence from us, and when I knew, as it is said, that no one could
be content unless God gave it to him, even this was a point of wisdom, to know
whose gift it was.177 Augustine now understands God as absolutely sovereign;
consequently, he begins to teach humankinds helplessness without the gift of
Gods enduring grace.
It is this sentiment that leads the British monk Pelagius to accuse
Augustine and his doctrine of leading many Christians into living morally
indecent and impure lives. 178 Augustine and his teachings were now deeply
rooted in the doctrine of predestination.
When Pelagius arrived in Rome in 405, he noticed a growing apathy and
lack of concern toward obedience to the church. After investigating the source of
this problem, he became convinced that Augustines position on grace,
justification, and predestination was the root of the problem: If Christians
became convinced that they could not be continent (abstaining from immorality)
unless God gave them that gift, then it should not surprise anyone if they practice
incontinence. That was Pelagiuss argument.179 Pelagiuss work On Nature, a
scathing criticism of the Christian doctrines of original sin, free will, and grace,
177Gerald Bonner, St. Augustine of Hippo, 3rd ed. (Norwich: Canterbury P, 2002), 317.
178 Olson, The Story of Christian Theology Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform, 267.
179 Ibid., 267.
75


argued that humans have the ability to live sinless lives and have a responsibility
to do so. Centering upon the question as to whether human beings have the power
to do what they freely choose, the controversy illuminated the differing opinions
on the idea of liberty, which in this context means the power to use human will
for good.180 181
Augustine rebutted with On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins and The
Baptism of Infants, which argued that the Pelagian position attributed too much
emphasis to human free will and thereby denied the need for Gods grace. In this
piece, Augustine maintains that the need for grace can be championed without
denying humanitys free will. His argument claims that human freedom in
justification requires that both Gods gift of grace and human free will must be
acknowledged. The problem, however, required a resolution about their exact
relationship.
Augustine attempted to reconcile this seemingly contradictory set of ideas.
Reacting against the Pelagian exaggeration of fallen humanitys abilities,
Augustine maintained that, humanity possesses liberum arbitrium, while denying
that this entailed that they also possess freedom (libertas)."m When Augustine
argues that humankind is without libertas, he means specifically the ability and
180 Torchia, Creatio Ex Nihilo and the Theology of St. Augustine ,238.
181 McGrath, Justitia Dei, 41.
76


power to choose and accomplish good. Humankinds inherited sin, however,
makes libertas inaccessible. Nevertheless, the loss of this libertas does not
involve the total loss of liberum arbitrium. In essence, Augustine insisted that
while humankind possesses free will, it is so damaged from original sin that it is
unable to function properly; hence, freedom is not possible. In fact, the only real
capability of choosing that humankind retains is the ability to choose evil.
Without the grace of God, humankind is so damaged that it is unable to choose
the good.
And the free will taken captive does not avail, except for sin; but for
righteousness, unless divinely set free and aided, it does not avail. And
thus, also, all the saints, whether from that ancient Abel to John the
Baptist, or from the apostles themselves up to this time, and henceforth
even to the end of the world, are to be praised in the Lord, not in
themselves. Because the voice, even of those earlier ones, is, In the Lord
shall my soul be praised. And the voice of the later ones is, By the grace of
God I am what I am.182
According to Augustine, since the fall of Adam, it is only the gift of grace
given by God that has allowed any individual to make the choice toward the good.
Each of the Christian saints and patriarchs is viewed as having been incapable of
performing the will of God without divine aid or intervention. It is Gods gift of
grace that compels their free will to choose the good; without it they only preserve
the ability to choose evil. Only through the grace of God did they become capable
182 Augustine, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians (New Advent), III. 24 (viii),
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1509.htm (accessed March 29, 2009).
77


of righteousness. Therefore, they are not worthy of praiseonly God warrants
praise.
Essentially, Augustine argues that the motivation and righteousness of an
individuals good works do not belong to the individual him or herself: the praise
goes to God. This is due to the effects of inherited sin. Although prelapsarian
Adam did enjoy all of the abilities associated with liberum arbitrium, the
implications or aftermath of his choice now stain and confine the choices of his
descendants (humankind). Humankinds free will has been degraded as a result
of original sin and now experiences liberum arbitrium captivium.m
In a debate about the nature of humankinds free will with the Pelagian
Julian of Eclanum, the pair illustrates its differences of opinion about the nature of
free will by comparing the human ability to choose the good with a metaphorical
scale. Julian argues that the human will possesses libertas indifferentiae, meaning
that the balance-pans of the scale (or the weight of each choice) is carefully
assessed by an individual before any action is taken. Although Augustine agrees
with Julian that the scales in question do exist, and are capable of operating, he
contends that the balance-pans are loaded on the side of evil, yielding a judgment
invariably biased towards evil.* 184 Essentially this means that while free will is
McGrath, Just it ia Dei, 42
Ibid
78


encumbered by the weight of evil it has inherited, it does, in fact, still exist and
function.
Although human free will does not function according to Gods initial
order, through the act of justification, which entails the giving of Gods gift of
grace in order to heal an individuals free will, humankind is emancipated from
the bondage of original sin: In justification, the liberum arbirium captivatum
becomes liberum arbitrium liberatum by the action of this healing grace. What
was once captive to sin is now liberated by Gods grace. This action of Gods
curative grace is illustrated in the Christian notion of Christ as healer of mans
nature:
Man's nature, indeed, was created at first faultless and without any sin; but
that nature of man in which every one is bom from Adam, now wants the
Physician, because it is not sound. All good qualities, no doubt, which it
still possesses in its make, life, senses, intellect, it has of the Most High
God, its Creator and Maker. But the flaw, which darkens and weakens all
those natural goods, so that it has need of illumination and healing, it has
not contracted from its blameless Creator but from that original sin,
which it committed by free will.185 186
Humankinds inherent flaw or sickness, the postlapsarian state, can only
be healed with the gift of grace given by God, which is to be understood as the
gift of his son, the Christ. Jesus is sent as a healer or physician, representing the
process of redemptive justification. God is seen as blameless and merciful as he
185 Ibid.
186 Augustine, On Nature and Grace, III.
79


saves humankind from its first sin (turning away from the good). As all of the
descendents of Adam are bom with original sin, their gift of free will is
compromised, which can only be re-aligned by justification, or Christ.
Although, according to Augustine, humankind is bom into sin and evil
unconditionally, he sees the concept of liberum arbitrium captivium as a
representation of the dialectic between grace and free will.187 188 Humankind does
indeed maintain free will, but it is a corrupted and non-functional form of free
will. Only Gods grace can restore it to its original, and intended, form.
Augustines understanding of the dynamics of the grace/free will relationship is
demonstrated in Epistola when he writes: If there is no such thing as Gods
grace, how can there be a savior of the world? And if there is no such thing as free
will, how can he be its judge? The conception of Christ as a healer of the
corrupted free will, as well as the notion that humankinds retention of free will
must remain in order for humankind to be judged, leaves Augustines argument in
a precarious position. This stance begs a few questions to be answered later in this
treatise: Does God bestow his grace or save everyone? If not, how can those not
selected be adequately judged? Why does there need to be a savior of the world if
God had initially gave his creatures the appropriate qualities? How can God
187 McGrath, Justitia Dei, 42-47.
188 Augustine as quoted in McGrath, 42.
80


judiciously appraise an individual who cannot choose the good or even desire to
choose the good?
According to Augustine, a human who is functioning under liberum
arbitrium captivium is unable of desiring and obtaining justification. However, in
order for justification to take place, the individual receiving the grace of God must
accept it: The one who created you without you will not justify you without
you. Therefore, in order to explain how this works seeming contradiction
works, as well as to defend his doctrine from the Pelagians, Augustine indirectly
defined two modes of a unified concept of operative and co-operative Grace:189 190
God operates to initiate humanitys justification, in that humans are given
a will capable of desiring good, and subsequently co-operates with that
good will to perform good works, to bring that justification to perfection.
God operates upon the bad desires of the liberum arbitrium captivatum to
allow it to will good, and subsequently co-operates with the liberum
arbitrium liberatum to actualize that good will in a good action.191
In essence, God initiates justification by rendering an individuals will
capable of choosing the good by giving grace, leading to liberum arbitrium
liberatum. God then continuously reaffirms that individuals will so that it can
continue to choose the good until it has reached an actualization of justification.
At this time, the individual has been restored to its intended state. Ultimately, the
189 Ibid.
190 See McGraths discussion on the reformation, 186-223.
191 McGrath, Justitia Dei, 43.
81


act of justification of humanity is an act of divine mercy. Humankind is not
capable of desiring justification, because of liberum arbitrium captivatum, nor
does humankind merit it. Humankind, by its own nature, is utterly corrupt and
cannot save itself. Rightfully, it can only be condemned as a consequence of
Adams sin.
However, through Gods unmerited gift of grace, humankind can
be justified and become righteous: God thus cures humanitys illness, of which
the chief symptom is the absence of any desire to be cured.192 193 Once an individual
has begun the process of justification, which commences with the gift of Gods
prevenient Grace, he or she will acquire the ability to recognize the endowment
that he or she has received. After this initial divine action, the recipient of grace
may then begin to acquire merit and perform meritous works; yet, Augustine does
not consider these achievements to be exclusively the individuals. In fact, he
would argue that these merits are themselves gifts from God: When God crowns
our merits, he crowns nothing but his own gifts. Therefore, the initiation of
justification, or operational grace, as well as the continuation of grace, or co-
operative grace, is to be seen as a gift of God.
192 Ibid.
193Augustine, Letters, 194. 5.19.
82


Augustines strict adherence to the notion of Gods omnipotence is clearly
demonstrated in his doctrine of justification. The implications of this doctrine (i.e.
the utter helplessness of the human condition without the gift of grace by God)
lead Augustine directly to his concept of predestination.
83


CHAPTER FIVE: PREDESTINATION
Although the first systematic Christian doctrine espousing the relationship
between predestination and justification stems from the work of Augustine,194 the
notion of an elect, or chosen people, predates the church father. In fact, stories of
election, or of Gods preferential treatment, comprise many of the writings of the
New Testament, as well as many of the narratives in Genesis.
In Genesis, most of these stories involve competing brothers. By
juxtaposing Gods blessing of one brother with another who is cursed, the book of
Genesis sends a strong message that God tends toward partiality, favoritism, and
elitism. Beginning with the tale of the two brothers, Cain and Abel, Gods
preference of Abel and his offering of the firstlings of his flock and the rejection
of Cains offering of wheat, demonstrates the critical nature of the deity early on.
The favoritism of Isaac over Ishmael; Jacob over Esau; and similarly, however
occurring between uncle and nephew, the seeming preferential treatment of
Abraham over Lot, carries a strong message into the New Testament[God]
194 McGrath, Justitia Dei, 158.
84


hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.195
God chooses whom to save and whom to condemn.
The Judaic idea of the Promised Land and the promised people resurfaces
in the Christian doctrines of justification, grace, and predestination. Both Mathew
20:23, It is for those to whom it has already been assigned by my father, and
John 10: 29, No one can snatch them out of the Fathers care, are presumed to
be supportive of a predestinate interpretation.196 197 198 However, it is Paul, and his
Romans 8:28-30 in particular, that we must turn for the words which most
influenced the church fathers in their writings on predestination. Careful
examination of the Book of Romans does indeed indicate that the Christian
concept of predestination was derived from Pauls writings:
And in everything, as we know, he co-operates for good with those who
love God and are called according to his purpose. For God knew his own
before ever they were, and also ordained that they should be shaped to the
likeness of his Son, that he might be the eldest among a large family of
brothers; and it is these fore-ordained, whom he has called, he has
justified, and to those whom he justified he has also given his splendor.
Although the doctrine of Predestination certainly begins with Paul, it was
with Augustine that attention is first directed to the idea that God exercises more
Romans 9:18
196 Mathijs Lamberigts, "Predestination," in Augustine through the Ages: An
Encyclopedia, ed. Allan D. Fitzgerald (Grand rapids: William B. Eerdmans Company. 1999), 677;
Romans 8: 28-30
197 Lamberigts, "Predestination," 677.
198 Romans quoted in Ibid
85


control over the entire process of salvation.. ,199 However, it is important to note
that Augustines notion of predestination stems directly from his exegesis of
Pauls Book of Romans.
Augustine Answers Simplicianus
The writings of Paul were the focus of much of Augustines study
throughout the last decade of the fourth century. Augustines appreciation of Paul
is most evident in his work Confessions.200 Of particular importance is Pauls
Romans 7 in which Augustine eventually extracted his doctrine of grace and
solidified his belief in Gods absolute authority in salvation.
As previously discussed, in 396 Augustine received a letter from his long-
standing Milanese friend, the priest Simplicianus, who solicited Augustines help
in interpreting certain troublesome passages of scripturethe second of these
questions pertaining to chapter nine of Romans. This chapter discusses the nature
of Gods selection of Jacob over his twin brother Esau. From the exegesis of this
chapter and Augustines written response to Simplicianus, one can determine,
absolutely, Augustines enduring views on justification, grace, and predestination.
199 McGrath, Justitia Dei, 158; see also Lamberigts, 678 as Paul does not seem to focus on
the points of election or predestination.
200 Augustines conversion occurred in his Milan Garden when he took up and read a
copy of Pauls Epistles, specifically Romans 13:13-14 (... not in rioting and drunkenness, not in
chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and
make not provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.)
86


Before Augustines reply to Simplicianus, he insisted that Gods selection of
Jacob over Esau was a consequence of Gods foresight or anticipation of Jacobs
forthcoming decisions to execute good works. However, after Augustines
exegesis of Romans and his response to Simplicianus, he asserts that Gods
choosing and calling of Jacob produced in him the merits of faith.
This work marks the establishment of Augustines doctrine of grace which
he championed for the remainder of his life.201 202 His doctrine of predestination
emanates from the conclusion he comes to in writing this book. Near the end of
his life, Augustine acknowledges it as having been a turning-point for him.
In the solution of this question I labored indeed on behalf of the free
choice of the human will, but Gods grace overcame, and I could only
reach that point where the apostle is perceived to have said with the most
evident truth, For who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou
hast not received? Now, if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if
thou receivedst it not? (1 Cor 4:7) ... It was chiefly by this apostolic
testimony that I myself had been convinced, when I thought otherwise
concerning this matter; and this God revealed to me as I sought to solve
this question when I was writing, as I said, to the Bishop Simplicianus.
In the work, To Simplicianus On Diverse Questions (De Diversis
Quaestionibus ad Simplicianum), Augustine explicates Romans 9: 10-29, with the
objective of maintaining the notion humankind does retain free will in spite of the
fact that the ability to do good works is beyond them without the grace of God.
201 McGrath, Justitia Dei, 40.
202 Augustine, On the Predestination of the Saints (New Advent, 2009), 8(iv),
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/15121.htm (accessed March 29, 2009).
87


Augustine concludes that God first distributes the capacity to do good works as he
will, then an individual might accomplish them: Good works, if there are any,
follow and do not precede that grace.203 In To Simplician, Augustine attempts to
demonstrate his understanding of how these concepts (free will and Gods initial
gift of Grace) correlate. The conclusion of this work left little room for
interpretation: God is sovereign and, therefore, free will is contingent upon Gods
grace. In his later work Retractions he recounts his findings:
The second question [to Simplicanus] concerns Romans 9:10-29. In
answering this question I have tried hard to maintain the free choice of the
human will, but the grace of God prevailed. Not otherwise could I reach
the understanding that the apostle spoke with absolute truth when he said,
Who made thee to differ? What hadst thou that thou didst not received?
But if thou didst receive it, why didst thou glory as if thou didst not
received it? This truth Cyprian the martyr too wanted to make clear, and
he expressed it completely in a phrase In nothing must we glory since
nothing is ours.204
Augustines stance is absolute there is nothing humankind has done that
God does not will to be. The supremacy of Gods grace prevails over free will. In
To Simplician, Augustine illustrates this difficult position with the story of Jacob
and Esau in which Gods decision to grant the gift of grace to Jacob rather than
Esau must have preceded their births.
203 Augustine, "To SimplicianOn Various Questions. Book I," II. 2.
204 Augustine, "St. Augustine's Review of'De Quaestionibus Ad Simplicianum':
Retractations, II,i," in Augustine: Earlier Writings, ed. J.H.S Burleigh (Louisville: Westminster
John Knox P, 1953), 370.
88


Beginning with Romans 9:10, Augustine observes that Rebecca conceived
the twins Jacob and Esau at one and the same time (ex uno concubitu) ;
therefore, there is no distinguishable difference in character between the brothers
other than the fact that one was given grace (Jacob), and the other was not
(Esau).205 206
By the grace of God we are saved, and that not of ourselves. It is the gift
of God. It is not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:8,9).This is
the truth the apostle wanted to urge; just as in another passage he says, By
the grace of God we are saved, and that not of ourselves. It is the gift of
God. It is not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:8,9). And so he
gave a proof from the case of those who had not yet been bom. No one
could say that Jacob had conciliated God by meritorious works before he
was bom, so that God should say of him, The elder shall serve the
younger.207
Augustine goes on to relate the story of Isaacs election over Ishmael with
the same comportment.
So Not only so, he says, was Isaac promised in the words, At this time
I will come, and Sarah shall have a son (Rom. 9:9). Now Isaac had not
conciliated God by any previous meritorious works so that his birth should
have been promised, and that in Isaac Abrahams seed should be called
(Gen. 21:12). That means that those are to belong to the lot of the saints in
Christ who know that they are the sons of promise; who do not wax proud
of their merits, but account themselves coheirs with Christ by the grace of
205 Augustine, "To Simplician-On Various Questions. Book I," II. 3.
206 This rules out the idea that the difference in character between the two was caused by
some astrological conditions.
207
Augustine, "To Simplician-On Various Questions. Book I," II. 3
89


their calling. When the promise was made that they should be this they did
not as yet exist and so could have merited nothing.
In essence, Augustine argues that no merits of these children performed
before their births warranted any special yielding of Gods grace. Demonstrated in
the case of Jacob and Isaacs elections, Augustine argues that there could have
been no contingency of selection, or election, founded on the strength of either
brothers good works or merits (or even their faith) performed before their births.
Augustine then goes on to ask the question on what basis election is made.
Surprisingly, he directs his attention straight to the thorny heart of election which
seems to contradict the justice and benevolence of the divine nature in which
Augustine has promoted since his conversion: Why does God choose to elect
some and save them, and reject, thus condemn, the others? How does he choose?
How can election be just, indeed how can there be any kind of election,
where there is no difference? If Jacob was elected before he was bom and
before he had done anything at all, for no merit of his own, he could not
have been elected at all, there being nothing to distinguish him for
election. If Esau was rejected for no fault of his own because he too was
not bom and had done nothing when it was said, The elder shall serve the
younger, how can his rejection be said to be just? How are we to
understand what follows if we judge according to the standards of
equity?209
Subsequently, Augustine considers whether God prefers Jacob over Esau
on account of Gods foreknowledge of Jacobs future; however, he rejects the
Ibid
Ibid., II. 4.
90


idea that selection of the elect is founded on the presence or absence of faith or
good works, which God would foresee, as he must defend the omnipotence of
God. As a consequence, Augustine concludes that Gods previent Grace, or
calling, heralds any good works or faith.
The question is whether faith merits a mans justification, whether the
merits of faith do not precede the mercy of God; or whether, in fact, faith
itself is to be numbered among the gifts of grace. Notice that in this
passage when he said, Not of works, he did not say, but of faith it was
said to her, The elder shall serve the younger. No, he said, but of him
that calleth. No one believes who is not called. God calls in his mercy,
and not as rewarding the merits of faith. The merits of faith follow his
calling rather than precede it.
Augustine then goes on to argue that faith itself is a gift of God, or a by-
product of Gods calling. This gift of faith, once again, cannot be attributed to any
meritorious work of an individual, but precedes it.
No one believes who is not called. God calls in his mercy, and not as
rewarding the merits of faith. The merits of faith follow his calling rather
than precede it. How shall they believe whom they have not heard? And
how shall they hear without a preacher?(Rom. 10:14).211
Therefore, even faith is seen as donation in the Augustinian framework.
God not only bestows a gift of grace upon select individuals, but must also
prepare the individuals heart for faith through Gods mercy: For we cannot 210
210
211
Ibid., II. 7.
Ibid.
91


212
believe unwillingly. For many are called but few are chosen (Matt. 22:14).
Essentially, Gods mercy through grace is the only redeeming characteristic
granted to a few members of humankind. It is this mercy, autonomously provided
by God, in which Augustine sees as praiseworthy.
If anyone boasts that he has merited compassion by his faith, let him know
that God gave him faith. God shows compassion by inspiring faith in one
on whom he had compassion in giving to one who was still an unbeliever
a share in his calling. For already the believer is distinguished from the
ungodly. What hast thou that thou didst not receive? But if thou didst
receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it (I Cor.
4:7)?212 213
Therefore, the chosen individuals who will enjoy both Gods mercy and
his gracethe elect are selected by God alone. No works or actions by an
individual can or will compel God to grant him or her grace. God obliges neither
human will, nor action: It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but
of God that hath mercy, that we obtain what we wish and reach what we
desire.214 Gods power is absolute. Gods absolute sovereignty, however, seems
to leave God in a dubious position. Why does God not select all of humankind to
save? Why doesnt he offer his mercy and Grace to all? Why must there be a
selection? This question was not lost on Augustine.
212Ibid., II. 10.
213 Ibid., II.9.
214 Ibid., II. 10-13.
92


The apostle [Paul] saw the questions that might arise in the mind of the
hearer or reader of these words, and so he immediately added, "What
shall we say, then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid."
And as if to teach us how there is no unrighteousness, he goes on, "For
he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I
will show compassion to him on whom / will have compassion." Does
he solve the question in these words or at least narrow it down? If God
will have mercy on whom he will have mercy and show compassion to
whom he will show compassion, our chief difficulty remains, which is,
why did his mercy fail in Esau's case? Why was not Esau too made
^ 1 c
good by God's mercy as Jacob was made good?
It is clear that Augustine understands the problem at hand: Gods
righteousness and divine justice seems unbalanced. Augustine attempts to address
this concern by discussing the distinction between those who a have been called
and those who believe, however, his logic seems contradictory. According to
Augustine, all that believe and have been selected to be saved have been called;
however, Augustine argues that those who are called have the ability, or choice, to
believe or not. As noted earlier, Augustine argues that nothing is outside of Gods
control, even faith or the belief in God. However, Augustine now seems to
support the notion that belief, or faith, is a result of human will.
No one, therefore, believes who has not been called, but not all believe
who have been called. Tor many are called but few are chosen (Matt.
22:14). The chosen are those who have not despised him who calls,
but have believed and followed him. There is no doubt that they
believed willingly. What then of what follows? "So then it is not of him
that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy." Does
it mean that we cannot even will unless we are called, and that our
Ibid., II. 9.
93