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Augustine (Thought-Criticism) (03)
Paul Jang  2008-04-09 02:06:28, hit : 3,653
Download : Augustine_(Thought_Criticism)_(3).doc (29.7 KB)


Augustine (Thought-Criticism) (03).




(3) Contradictions in Augustine



A. The source of evil

(1) Augustine rejected the two primordial powers of the Manichaeans. For God is one. (against dualism)

(2) But what then is the source of evil?

1) Evil is nothing.

2) Because man is made out of nothing, he is sinful.

3) But this nothing that can have no influence (for if it could, it would be something) becomes at once a stupendous power.

(3) Nothing stands opposed to God.

1) Evil is man's freedom, which through the fall of Adam and the resultant original sin turns against God in every man. It is not God who brings about evil, but man.

2) But God has permitted it.

3) God is immutable and this implies that evil is not, that is to say, God is not evil).

4) But the overwhelming reality of evil compels us to recognize its existence and try to explain its origin.

(4) According to the situation, Augustine took now one, now the other of these positions. The contradiction is evident.

(5) In interminable discussions, men have tried to sharpen and clarify this contradiction:

① on the one hand, evil is a mere clouding of the good, a shadow, a deficiency;

② on the other hand, it is an enormously effective power.

1) But no one has succeeded in resolving it.

2) Various arguments have been brought forth:

① Granted, evil in itself is nothing, but

(1) it is not nonexistent.
(2) It is nothing because no divine Idea corresponds to it.

② But since evil is done, it is not nonexistent.

(a) Because Augustine saw evil as the consequence of an original act - the fall of Adam -

(b) his doctrine implied not a metaphysical, substantial dualism like that of the Manichaeans, but an ethical dualism, which came into the world through God-given freedom and
(c) would cease with the end of the world and the last judgment.

③ But say others, God created a freedom that could turn against Himself;

(a) thus He Himself is indirectly the author of evil; and

(b) the division between the two realms will endure even after God's last judgment.

(c) In this view a modified form of Manichaean-Iranian dualism - here light, there darkness -found its way into Christian dogma after all.

(6) Dualism runs through the whole of Augustine's work and takes various forms: God-world, civitas Dei-civitas terrena, belief-unbelief, caritas-cufiditas, sin-grace.



B. Augustine's attitude toward the world involves a radical contradiction.


(1) The world is God's creation,

1) it is good,
2) it is beautiful as a work of art,
3) the disharmonies increase its beauty.
4) Even evil is in general an element in the good.


(2) Without the fall of Adam,

1) we should not have the glory of the Saviour, the God who became man. But on the other hand:

2) It is the highest wisdom to despise the world and strive for the kingdom of heaven - which transcends all temporality.

For here below, as we have heard, our only peace is consolation in misery.


C. The Church is the kingdom of heaven, "we are its citizens," "all the good faithful are elect."

(1) The civitas Dei is the congregation of the faithful, that is, of the saints.

(2) But the Church as it actually is includes non-saints and even unbelievers.

(3) Thus Augustine conceives of an invisible, true Church in contrast to the visible Church. It becomes possible to conceive of saints, members of the City of God, living outside the Church.

(4) The distinction between the two Churches is sharpened by the idea of predestination.

1) In the freedom of His unfathomable decision God elected some to live in a state of grace, others to serve as vessels of His wrath.

2) He permits some of the elect to live outside the visible Church, and others who have been condemned forever to live within it.

3) By God's will the elect who dwell in the invisible Church are immutably what they are. They have no need of the visible Church.

4) But the visible Church (and with it Augustine) maintains that all men are dependent on the instruments of grace (sacraments) of this same visible Church.

5) "Outside the Church there is no salvation," and here again Augustine means the visible Church. At the end of all these contradictions stands an unshakable faith in the Church: the Church is real, yet beyond our understanding.

(5) This rational contradiction in Augustine corresponds to an inner tension that is expressible only as contradiction:

1) In ecclesiastical thinking he found complete certainty;

2) the authority of the Church sheltered him and sustained him, gave him peace and happiness.

3) But in reflecting on God's eternal, inscrutable decision, the immutable predestination of every individual either to grace or damnation, he is assailed by uncertainty.

4) No one, he says, can know to what he is predestined. It might seem as though Augustine did not fully rely on the guarantees of the Church.

5) He seems to shift back and forth between the uncertainty of election and the certainty bestowed by membership in the Church.

6) What remains is the unrest of a man who wishes to become neither presumptuous in security nor hardened by despair.

D. Augustine's Biblical exegesis seems to be fundamentally contradictory.

(1) He develops the ideas that he finds in the Bible with a radicalism that leaves room for attacks on the Church.

1) Yet he subordinates every interpretation of the Bible to the authority of the Church, which can discard the Bible when it pleases.

2) The Church alone decides which is the right interpretation.

3) The Bible is the source - then it becomes dangerous to the Church.

4) The Bible is an instrument - then the Church determines the right way to use it.

5) The Bible is to be taken literally; the Bible is to be interpreted according to the spirit.

(2) Nothing is easier than to find contradictions in Augustine, We take them as a feature of his greatness.

(3) No philosophy is free from contradictions? and no thinker can aim at contradiction.

(4) But Augustine is one of the thinkers who venture into contradictions, who draw their life from the tension of enormous contradictions.

(5) He is not one of those who strive from the outset for freedom from contradictions; on the contrary, he lets his thinking run aground on the shoals of contradiction when he tries to think God.

(6) The disturbing contradictions in Augustine can largely be explained by the different levels of his thinking and so shown to be nonessential.

(7) His ecclesiastical thinking;

1) his speculation on freedom based on the Bible and St. Paul (the doctrine of sin and grace);

2) his pure thinking that breaks away from the props of the Bible and the Church - these do not have a common origin.

(8) We cannot understand him if we consider everything on the same plane. Sometimes his remarkable memory and the constant presence of the Biblical text enable him to speak too fluently.






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