In 'Saint Augustine's Confessions' we come across many problems which he had to face. One of the problems is the existence of evil. The whole question of evil itself is a problem which acts as an obstacle to the general belief held by people that God is omnipotent. When Augustine was associated with the Manicheans he held the view that evil was "a kind of material substance with its own foul and misshapen mass" When he came closer to believing in Christianity he changed his views on evil and the existence of evil.
In the Genesis it is a fact that cannot be disputed that God created the earth and everything found on the earth.
God is good, therefore God could not have created evil at all. He created all things good, therefore it follows that "evil has no being." Following this the fear of evil is not rational and one can conclude then that fear itself becomes evil which causes the heart to become "disturbed and tortured." Augustine proves this by saying that, "things which are liable to corruption are good." This statement has a lot of truth in it because logic says that things which are good can only be corrupted, if a thing is already corrupted then there would be nothing to corrupt.
It follows then that all things as long as they exist, they are good, therefore evil cannot exist?"for if it were a substance, it would be good."
Augustine's faith said that the creator of all things was God and God created everything from nothing, and all that he created was good. "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
" A substance called evil therefore does not exist. Yet though all things were created good out of nothing these good things are also capable of becoming corrupt. In other words it means that evil may not exist as an entity of its own, but it acts like a parasite on the good, and the good which existed in the things which were created becomes less. Though the good which existed in the thing gets diminished because of the evil which has entered it, something of the original good will remain in it, because it is its actual nature and it cannot be destroyed, for if it destroys it the thing itself will be destroyed.
'Therefore in this world when we are able to regulate evil we admire the good even more for evil is only the absence of good. When a person is struck down by a disease, the absence of health is found in him and when he gets cured it is not that the disease leaves him in order to go and exist in someone else for the disease was not a substance but just a defect in the fleshy substance?the flesh is a substance which is good which the disease corrupted and when the flesh was healed the disease has vanished and is whole once again. Similarly so are the sins which we commit.
When we repent for them they are not transferred anywhere else but they cease to exist in our soul which becomes healthy once more.'
"The Lord himself made man from the beginning and left him in the hand of his own counsel. If thou wilt thou shalt keep the commandments; and to perform faithfulness is of thine own pleasure. He has set fire and water before thee; thou shalt stretch forth thine hand up to whatsoever thou wilt; Before man is life and death; and whichsoever he liketh, it shall be given him"
Thus Augustine sees that evil made its entrance into the world because of the wrong choice made of our free-will. Therefore evil has resulted because of "a willful turning of the self in desire from the highest Good, which is God himself to some lesser good.
" Yet it is to be understood that the evil does not lie in the act itself but it is the desire to do harm or wrong. A good example can be seen in the Bible, Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil after being tempted by Satan. They had the desire to rise above themselves to be like God himself. As we know and as Augustine believed that there was disharmony in Heaven before the creation of the earth and the two groups were established, one which follows the ways of God and the other which follow their own desires. Thus evil came into the world with the freedom of choice which God gave both to the angels and humans, .yet God does not abandon his children even though humans do not deserve this act of grace, "God's love is shown in that although all of humanity stands guilty before God, God will see that salvation is brought to them.
We have so far discussed evil which man brings about by committing sins. Besides this we witness a number of natural evils like earthquakes, tornadoes etc. According to Augustine the world appears imperfect to us because we look at things in a distorted manner. All things are good from God's point of view and even the evil helps to bring about perfection.
Where the natural order is concerned, we may say it is imperfect because of the various calamities in the universe yet this is nature's way of bringing forth new life.
Summing up we can therefore say that evil is the misuse of the free will, a gift that God has given us. The free will is not evil, but it is good for when we turn our free will towards God we are happy and we become and remain righteous human beings. The free will was not given to us to sin but to make a choice to obey God and be happy. We can misuse it be unhappy for it is seen that people who misuse the free will are ultimately unhappy people and they are punished either on earth itself or in life after death but as long as sinners are unhappy, the world will remain good.
Evil is the turning away of the soul from God.
God did not create evil, he created the capacity to do evil when he created free will. Therefore evil is not God's plan, it is a defective movement of free will and everyone who has this free will has the power to resist evil and if you resist evil, you do not do evil and evil cannot exist in you.
According to Augustine God is all powerful, all knowing, a pure spirit an intelligent being. The mystery of the Trinity makes Augustine consider that God consists of being, knowledge and love and since the earth was created by God, the earth consists of these three things and every creature created by God is also a reflection of being, knowledge and love. He goes on to say that the soul is immortal but it is simple and the soul has three functions, being, understanding and loving. The free will endowed by God to man can be misused for three kinds of evil, metaphysical, physical and moral.
The metaphysical can be considered as falling short of perfection, this itself cannot be called a sin for all creatures that were created fall short of perfection and are therefore evil. Only God is all good. The Physical evil is the next evil. This as we discussed earlier is a necessity according to Augustine for the birth of new things. This is one place where his argument does not hold much ground. Now the third evil, moral evil is sin, is really and truly evil and it exists because of the free will of human beings.
Human beings are able to move away from the right order and oppose God. By committing a sin he falls from what he ought to be. Because of this there will be much suffering which he will have to bear such as repentance and remorse for the evil which he had committed.
Augustine also talks about the greater role the will has to play over the intellect. The will according to him is love and it is important to love to know, not know to love. As the first commandment of Christ says," Love your God with all your mind, heart and soul" The first love of all human beings must be love for God.
All other loves will follow this love, they must be subordinate to this love and if it is so, Augustine says that it follows that love signifies order. Sin on the other hand is an act of hate. for sin has no place in this order of love. Therefore the man who sins destroys this order of God.
When God created the free will God knew all things, he knew that the free will would be abused and the people would turn away from him and blame him for their own evil, but as Augustine shows---sinners know their place with God and they can always get back into grace when they turn away from evil and sin. God in his mercy brought salvation to the world by sending his "only begotten son to redeem the world from sin." Thus God's divine grace is always available to human beings, for no one is forced to sin.
Jack Zimmerman is an associate staff writer. Upon graduation, he started looking for jobs for writers. He considers writers wanted the motto of freelance writing industry.