Dreamers of the Day

"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible." -T.E. Lawrence, "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom"

Saturday, December 03, 2005

St. Augustine

On happiness...

That all men which to be happy is a certitude for anyone who can think. But, so long as human intelligence remains incapable of deciding which men are happy and how they become so, endless controversies arise in which philosophers waste their time and toil.

On the origin of sin...

If this evil will existed in no nature, then it did not exist at all. If it existed in some nature, then it vitiated, corrupted, injured that nature and, therefore, deprived it of some good. An evil will could not exist in an evil nature but only in a good one, mutable enough to suffer harm from this deprivation. For, if no harm were done, then there was no deprivation and, consequently, no right to call the will evil. But, if harm was done, it was done by destroying or diminishing what was good. Thus, an evil will could not have existed from all eternity in a nature in which a previously existing good had to be eliminated before the evil will could harm the nature. But, if it did no exist from all eternity, who, then, caused this evil will?
The only remaining suggesting is that the cause of the evil will was something which had no will. My next question is whether this "something" was superior, inferior or equal to the will. If superior, then it was better. So, then, how can it have the same: for, as long as two wills are equally good, one cannot produce an evil will in the other. The supposition remains, then, that it was an inferior thing without a will which produced the evil will of the angelic nature which first sinned.
But that thing itself, whatever it was, even though it was low to the lowest point of earthliness, was, without doubt good since it was a nature and a being having its own character and species in its own genus and order. How, I ask, can good be the cause of evil? For, when the will, abandoning what is above it, turns itself to something lower, it becomes evil because the very turning itself and not the thing to which it turns is evil. Therefore, an inferior being does not make the will evil but the will itself, because it is a created will, wickedly and inordinately seeks the inferior being...Take a person who says that the one who consents to the temptation and enticement made his own will evil although previously he had been entirely good. Recall the facts. The one (the evil man) consents, while the other (the good man) does not, to a sinful desire concerning a beautiful person; the beauty was seen by both equally, and before the temptation both men were absolutely aling in mind and body. Now, the person who talks of a man making his own will evil must ask why the man made his will evil, whether because he is a nature or because he is nature made out of nothing? He will learn that the evil arise not from the fact that the man is a nature, but from the fact that the nature was made out of nothing.

-City of God, St. Augustine

One of my favorite books


At 1:09 PM, Blogger Jen said...

Yay you posted! I have to admit...I kind of got lost in the language and had to read this oh...six times...but it is very good.

At 6:17 PM, Blogger christian said...

"The supposition remains, then, that it was an inferior thing without a will which produced the evil will of the angelic nature which first sinned."

I'm confused. What is the inferior "thing"? I feel like he's saying that the "evil" that existed at some point after the existence of God was a separate entity from Satan. I could be okay with that point if I could better understand how the evil thing came into being.

However, the way I could naturally see this happening is to assume that the "evil" or inferior thing would have been introduced through creation - thus a byproduct of the good things God made. Knowing that God created things with a choice to love, I think, inherently gives opportunity for a fall. Perhaps this opportunity is the inferior thing that Satan grasped when he chose to turn and accept an evil will.

But then, if all the above has any merit, I begin to wonder why God would knowingly create such an opportunity. If, after judgment, we (believers) do all end up being stripped from such an "opportunity," because the judgment has been made and the verdict set in motion, what then is the need for an opportunity to fail? What is the "good" of separating truth from falsehood, after the fact? Why does creation hinge on time and the playing out of events of pain and suffering? Can goodness not be fully expressed and understood without the knowledge of evil?

Surely God has a knowledge of evil, thus perhaps His creation needed to understand it as well. And in the fall of the angels, is there no offering of salvation? Perhaps in actually seeing God (I assume angels have such a privilege) their judgment is sealed in their denial of what is absolutely known to be True and Good. We have not seen God, and thus faith is offered to bestow righteousness, and Christ was offered to bring salvation.

These are some of the many questions in my mind, but, in asking them, I don't mean to take away the majesty of love and the joy of salvation, and I don't want to get bogged down with the question of "Why would God create stuff if He knew some of His creation would turn from Him and He would have to damn them?" However, I do long to understand the fullness of creation. I just know that much of this won't be revealed until the judgment is made and all becomes clear, and, alas, to be patient is not always easy for me.

If anyone has some thoughts or corrections to offer, though, feel free to share.

At 6:17 PM, Blogger christian said...

Wow. That was a long comment.

At 7:10 AM, Blogger Creth said...

I like the way that Augustine seems to... think... I wanna say, "rationally"

and I like the questions Christian poses, but will have to look at them further when I'm not at work... this would be fun and interesting to study


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