Essay on St. Augustine's View of Evil

1070 Words5 Pages
Whether or not evil is the absence of good is a question that has puzzled Christians since the time of St. Augustine of Hippo. In The Confessions of St. Augustine, he initiates this premise and argues in its favor. Discourse about evil is based on the Christian theological teachings of the omniscience, omnipotence, and perfect benevolence of God as well as the understanding that evil is present in this world. Since these four concepts are contradictory, one of them must be rejected. Thus, St. Augustine argues that evil does not exist. I find St. Augustine’s explanation to be satisfying.

In order to make sense of St. Augustine’s definition of evil as the absence of good, it is helpful to know how he came up with it. It is true that
…show more content…
By asking question after question about how it is possible for evil to exist given what is known about God, he helps his readers realize that evil cannot exist.

Another way to approach what is meant by evil being an absence of good is by employing Platonic ideas. According to Plato’s theory of forms, all that exists is somewhat of a shadow of God. Imagine a line that divides the divine world from the earthly. Plato called the divine world which he placed above the line the noumena and the earthly world which he put below the line the phenomena. He taught that the noumena is perfect and that the phenomena is imperfect, but also good and praiseworthy. Basically, Plato believed that everything that exists is a reflection of God. Furthermore, the phenomena is corruptible while the noumena is incorruptible. Plato also said that corrupting something means making it less like its noumena form and less good. Corrupt things are not evil. For example, one cannot affect “treeness,” or the noumena form of a tree, by chopping down a tree. Moreover, a tree stump is less of a reflection of the noumena form and less good than an actual tree is, but it is not evil.

The chapter of Genesis in the Old Testament of the Bible is when we first see an absence of good. In the begining of time when God created Heaven and earth, “[he] looked over all he had made, and saw that it was very good” (Genesis 1: 31)! Later in the creation
Get Access