Explain Augustine’s Theodicy

The Augustinian Theodicy was proposed by Augustine Of Hippo (354–430 AD). A theodicy is an answer to the ‘inconsistent triad’ proposed by Epicurus. For God to be omnibenevolent and omnipotent as described in the bible, evil must not exist. However evil does exist in our world. This begs the questions, ‘Is God willing, but not able to prevent evil? Is God able to prevent evil, but not willing? — Evil contradicts the qualities of God ascribed to him by the Bible.

Augustine bases his theodicy on two key Biblical passages, Genesis 3, Romans 5:12–20 and the two assumptions he makes from them. Genesis 3 depicts the Fall of Man, Eve and Adam eat from the tree of knowledge against God’s wishes and as a result ‘because they have done this, cursed are they more than all cattle, and more than every beast on the field.’ ‘God created mankind in his own image’ — we are all born with the ability to rationalise and are made in his likeness. The Garden of Eden was faultless, to God the infallible ‘it was beautiful’. From their own disobedience, Adam and Eve were cast out. After he ‘drove the man out, he placed… a flaming sword… to guard the way to the Tree of Life. As a result, our connection to God was hindered. This was the Original Sin of Adam and Eve, their fall from grace.

Romans 5:12–20, ‘death spread to all men, because all sinned’. We were all born with Original sin, however, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross ‘has made available a boundless gift, the gift of righteousness’. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ allowed all of humanity to regain their connection with God as the sins of Adam and Eve were ‘wiped out’. From these two bible passages, Augustine makes two assumptions. Genesis 3 suggests that ‘Evil is not from God, his creation was faultless and perfect’ as it was from his own hand. Therefore for evil to exist, ‘evil must have come from within the world’. Both passages suggest that Adam and Eve passed on evil.

Augustine defines evil as a privation, a lack of good. He uses the analogy of ‘blindness’. Blindness is not an entity but just a lack of something, in this case, sight. It comes about via human agency, from the misuse of free will. Natural evil is caused by an imbalance in nature, brought about by the Fall of man. Moral evil is caused because the world has become estranged from God and immorality has been able to thrive.

His theodicy may be worked through as such; God is perfect and this perfection is reflected in the world. Evil is not a substance in its own right (privation as mentioned above.) The Fall of man brought about sin and death as they were tempted by the ‘serpent’. This disharmony in our intended course affected our human nature as well as creation. We share in this nature because we are ‘seminally’ present in them. This seminal presence is innate as we are their descendants. As a result we must share in their punishment. Disharmony causes evil, it itself was brought on by the Fall. ‘Human action’ is the root cause of evil. God therefore is completely just for not intervening as suffering is of our consequence. God is just and fair so he cannot interfere by preventing evil and suffering.

However, he is immanent so does not relinquish his responsibility for his own is just and fair so he cannot interfere by preventing evil and suffering. Through God’s grace and accountability for the world, he sent Jesus Christ to offer humanity reconciliation with himself. This allows us to earn a place in heaven.

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