Thursday, August 18, 2005

Book VII, Chapters 2-5

Augustine had a great desire to understand the cause of evil in the world. After he rejected the Manichean ideas about the nature of God and the existence of evil and having accepted the Christian concept of an incorruptible and unchanging God, Augustine is anew driven to find an explanation for the cause of evil. Augustine is aware of the Christian understanding (at the time) of the cause of evil--free will and God’s just punishment, but says he can’t grasp it clearly. After examining the problem of evil anew, from different angles, he fails to come to a conclusion: “These were the kind of thoughts which I turned over and over in my unhappy heart, a heart overburdened with those biting cares that came from my fear of death and my failure to discover the truth.” Augustine concludes,” Yet the faith of your Christ, our Lord and Savior, professed in the Catholic Church, remained steadfastly fixed in my heart, even though it was on many points still unformed and swerving from the right rule of doctrine. But, nevertheless, my mind did not abandon it, but rather drank more and more deeply of it every day.”

Note that Augustine cites faith in Jesus, as he did at the end of Book V, at the time he decided to become a Catechumen.

Note again that with Augustine the movement of his heart precedes his search for intellectual understanding. Moreover, he is propelled to integrate his heart and intellect--“Faith seeking understanding.”

On minor note, I had previously though that the concept of evil originating from free will originated with Augustine. Obviously, it pre-dated him. Augustine must have merely canonized the idea. It seems also to be an example of a belief originating from the grassroots—from the bottom up rather than the top-down, within the church.

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