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City of God: Book Fourteen

jmstaller's picture

That the Disobedience of the First Man Would Have Plunged All Men into the Endless Misery of the Second Death, Had Not the Grace of God Rescued Many. Of Carnal Life, Which is to Be Understood Not Only of Living in Bodily Indulgence, But Also of Living in the Vices of the Inner Man. That the Sin is Caused Not by the Flesh, But by the Soul, and that the Corruption Contracted from Sin is Not Sin But Sin’s Punishment. What It is to Live According to Man, and What to Live According to God.

That the Opinion of the Platonists Regarding the Nature of Body and Soul is Not So Censurable as that of the Manichæans, But that Even It is Objectionable, Because It Ascribes the Origin of Vices to the Nature of The Flesh. Of the Character of the Human Will Which Makes the Affections of the Soul Right or Wrong. That the Words Love and Regard (Amor and Dilectio) are in Scripture Used Indifferently of Good and Evil Affection. Of the Three Perturbations, Which the Stoics Admitted in the Soul of the Wise Man to the Exclusion of Grief or Sadness, Which the Manly Mind Ought Not to Experience. Of the Perturbations of the Soul Which Appear as Right Affections in the Life of the Righteous. Whether It is to Be Believed that Our First Parents in Paradise, Before They Sinned, Were Free from All Perturbation.

Of the Fall of the First Man, in Whom Nature Was Created Good, and Can Be Restored Only by Its Author. Of the Nature of Man’s First Sin. That in Adam’s Sin an Evil Will Preceded the Evil Act. Of the Pride in the Sin, Which Was Worse Than the Sin Itself. Of the Justice of the Punishment with Which Our First Parents Were Visited for Their Disobedience. Of the Evil of Lust,—A Word Which, Though Applicable to Many Vices, is Specially Appropriated to Sexual Uncleanness. Of the Nakedness of Our First Parents, Which They Saw After Their Base and Shameful Sin. Of the Shame Which Attends All Sexual Intercourse.

That It is Now Necessary, as It Was Not Before Man Sinned, to Bridle Anger and Lust by the Restraining Influence of Wisdom. Of the Foolish Beastliness of the Cynics. That Man’s Transgression Did Not Annul the Blessing of Fecundity Pronounced Upon Man Before He Sinned But Infected It with the Disease of Lust. Of the Conjugal Union as It Was Originally Instituted and Blessed by God. Whether Generation Should Have Taken Place Even in Paradise Had Man Not Sinned, or Whether There Should Have Been Any Contention There Between Chastity and Lust. That If Men Had Remained Innocent and Obedient in Paradise, the Generative Organs Should Have Been in Subjection to the Will as the Other Members are. Of True Blessedness, Which This Present Life Cannot Enjoy. That We are to Believe that in Paradise Our First Parents Begat Offspring Without Blushing. Of the Angels and Men Who Sinned, and that Their Wickedness Did Not Disturb the Order of God’s Providence.

Of the Nature of the Two Cities, the Earthly and the Heavenly.

tomgroeneman's picture

Is God cruel?

I have encountered this sentiment many times when witnessing and I suppose if you want to believe that God is cruel then of course you will attribute all evil to at least His tacit approval.

    Question: Why do you agree or disagree with Augustine’s general assertion that God is responsible for everything good but nothing evil?

First of all, I think the question as it is posed presents an oversimplification in that God's actions toward man are either good or evil, not both, depending on the situation. Augustine, like all of us, are operating out of a fallen spiritual nature that was originally a depraved unregenerate mind. We are finite in our understanding of God's ways and only He has ultimate wisdom. At our best we can only be inspired or illuminated to a sufficient degree to receive God's grace and be saved. But that is just what God's love is: grace or unmerited favor. Who are we to say that God owes us unlimited Good and we are entitled to His salvation and blessing despite our rebellion and wickedness.

Many examples in the Bible show God directly influencing or causing unpleasant circumstances for those who disobey Him. It is only in the person and work of Christ that God demonstrates His unbounding mercy, compassion and love for us. All that Jesus did and said was for the Good of mankind-that is in His first coming. At His second coming, all God's wrath and anger will be poured out against sinners and the ungodly that refuse to accept His gift. All these thousands of years God has patiently put up with the evil that He allowed in the angels and men for the sake of redeeming those men who would respond to His call.

After reading Isa. 45:7 in the KJV, I asked my Pastor whether God created evil because that is the most accurate translation of the Hebrew and LXX text while the other English translations accommodate the same thinking that your question attributes to Augustine by translating the word evil for calamity. I checked the Lexicon and the Hebrew word has no semantic value of calamity but it does mean bad or evil. My Pastor said we must be careful about attributing evil to a loving God but there it is in Isa. 45:7.

So in conclusion, I cannot agree or disagree in answer to the question because I do not believe that is what Augustine has asserted. When you work out the problem of evil better than Augustine has attempted let me know. In the meantime, I will continue to place my simple trust in an all loving, good and wise God that has allowed evil for purposes beyond my comprehension.

editor's note: paragraphing and formatting added -JS

Tom Groeneman