Augustine developed a theodicy to help answer questions in relation to the problem of evil, taking the blame of the existence of evil away from God. St Augustine based his theodicy on a number of biblical passages, including Genesis 3 and Romans 5:12-20. Augustine uses the story of The Fall in Genesis, using it to argue God intended for the world to be a perfect place, however due to Adam and Eve disobeying him in the Garden of Eden by eating forbidden fruit, they bought evil into the world.
The story of Adam and Eve is told in Genesis 3, where the serpent convinces Eve to pick an apple from the Tree of Knowledge which God forbid her to by being tempted by the serpent; actually Satan in disguise. As a consequence perfection was ruined by human sin, destroying the delicate balance of the world. This shows Christians that evil is not actually God’s fault and however it is actually humans’ fault after giving into temptation. Allowing them to still believe in God of classical theism.
Augustine believed in original sin, meaning that sin meaning that the sin of Adam and Eve is passed on through humans, resulting in humanity no longer remaining in the paradise originally created by God.
This idea also links to free will, as St Augustine says that evil is actually the result of humans abusing the gift of free will that God gave. God created humans perfect, however he created them with the capacity to make choices and decisions for both evil and good. Humans have realised the potential for evil and have created a gap between God and human beings through the use of free will. – “the creation of free creatures involved the risks that persons would misuse their freedom and reject the good and this is what happened”. So, what is the reason God created the universe? Humans having free will, means that God will not interfered in humans committing evil acts, leading to evil consequences or that or simply evil. Free will would lead to evil and suffering, as it was logically impossible for God to create any humans freely only performing acts that are good and not evil.
In his argument, Augustine also claimed God cannot be responsible for the existence of evil, due to the fact evil is not a substance. St Augustine said that “God made a good world but humans chose not to obey God so the goodness of the world went wrong.” Augustine defined evil as “privation”, meaning when we use words such as “evil” and “bad” that we are saying that something doesn’t meet our expectations of what it should be like by nature. St Augustine said that evil is not a substance in itself, but is an absence of these feelings. He still says God created all things, continuing to argue that he originally created them all good. Augustine also understood evil to be a term called “private boni”, which means a “privation of good”. Evil is the going wrong of something that is good in itself for Augustine. God created this world as a perfect world where humans ceased to be what they were meant to be, stopping doing what they were meant to be doing and therefore introducing evil and suffering into this world. There are many critics to Augustine’s theodicy, for example Schleiermacher who stated that God made the world go wrong and the world was not even created perfect in the first place, so God is to blame for the problem of evil.
When it comes to the presence of evil and sin in both the heavens and earth, God, although an omniscient, omnipotent, all good and all loving being, is innocent, with sin and evil occurring due to a result of freedom for humanity and angels allowing them to make their own decisions.
There are many strengths to Augustine’s theodicy including the argument that evil is a privation of good, rather than a substance has been supported by numerous people, such as Brian Davies describing evil as a gap between what there is and what there ought to be. Also, Augustin’s argument that the problem has come about due to humans wrongly using free has also been supported by a number of modern thinkers. It is clear much evil and suffering in the world is actually caused by humans choosing to act in the wrong way. Finally, the biblical basis of the theodicy would also be considered a strength by Christians.
However there are many weaknesses to Augustine’s Theodicy, including it is difficult to see in a perfect world with no knowledge of good and evil that there is freedom to obey and disobey God. Evil and good were unknown to Adam and Eve, so how would they know what is the right or wrong thing? However, the fact that Adam and Eve, as God’s creatures chose to disobey show that there was already at least a slight knowledge of evil in the world. Also, the existence of Hell poses a problem for Augustine’s theodicy. Augustine portrays Hell as part of God’s design of the universe, showing that God must’ve already expected the world to grow wrong, accepting what would happen, raising a range, can God’s creating still be regarded as perfect, if God knew the world was going to go wrong? With God being omnipotent, why didn’t he simply create a better world where things wouldn’t have gone wrong, so the world wouldn’t require Hell as punishment?
Other weaknesses include, moral errors such as would an omnibenevolent God punish people for Adam and Eve’s sin. Augustine’s theodicy contains the idea that all people in the world in this present day, are guilty of the original sin committed by Adam and Eve, inheriting it as a part of their human nature and God being a just God continues to punish people for Adam and Eve’s disobedience. However this goes against the idea of God being omnibenevolent, as why would a loving God make innocent people suffer today, due to sin committed by past generations, many years back, with the Bible even going against this idea. Also, would an omnibenevolent God allow sinners to suffer eternally in Hell? The question raised is would a loving God allow even those who have rejected him to suffer in Hell and have eternal suffering for forever. Although Augustine agrees with God, some argue that overemphasising justice presents God as lacking in compassion in love.
Other weaknesses include, how Augustine’s theory is challenged by evolutionary theory. When God made the world it was perfect, according to Augustine and Augustine assumes, as stated in Genesis, the world was created in 6 days and Augustine also argues the world was damaged by humans using there free will wrongly, however the evolutionary theory, contradicts this is idea, as the evolutionary theory says, that the world has developed from an earlier stage of chaos, rather than being originally perfect and that certain innate and selfish desires, such as the desire for survival, although negative in the story of the fall are both essential and positive within the evolutionary framework. Also, another scientific error is Augustine’s theodicy is challenged by biology. St Augustine has the idea, that humanity since Adam has inherited his sin, however biology goes against this idea that a disposition for something like sin can be inherited in such a way. Therefore human cannot be guilty for Adam’s sin, meaning God that God is not a ‘just’ God by allowing humans to suffer for someone else’s sin.