St. Augustine and God
St. Augustine’s examination of God in his classic work THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE displays a unique look at God in a manner that attempts to define God in a logical conceptualization. This process is somewhat more intellectual driven in St. Augustine’s work although it never seeks to abandon the faith component of the conceptualization of God. Examining these facets of St. Augustine’s approach to defining God will yield a clearer understanding of what St. Augustine’s concept of God truly is. For Augustine, God is the epicenter of all that exists.
God is the creator and the originator of all things in the world. Hence, nothing can exist without the presence of God’s influence. On the surface, this would infer that the Christian God is a being along the lines of the Greek Gods. That is, God is actively involved in the daily affairs of humans. In a way, this is remotely true as all things come from God. However, God seems to take a more indirect approach to how humans act. And what is the dominant root of these actions? Reason and emotion are generally the two motivating factors behind the people’s actions.
St. Augustine then seeks to look at human reasoning and how it defines action and, in turn, creates a concept of God. St. Augustine’s concept of God is not one where he defines a definite treatise along the lines of “This is God”. Often, we must interpret his concept of God through his body of work and how his own ideologies and theories return back to his concept of God. This is most evident in his theories of mixing faith and reason. If St. Augustine had what would be consider a “most famous” saying it would be St. Augustine and God – 2
his exclamation “I believe in order that I may understand” which was a somewhat visionary and radical departure from common thought processes during his lifetime. In essence, St. Augustine was acknowledging that faith without reason and reason without faith had little value. This is a significant departure from what many had previously prescribed. Namely, there was an adherence to blind faith commonplace when it came to church doctrine. Then, there was a growing secular movement that would eventually seek to promote reason at the exclusion of faith.
In a way, both of these approaches were two sides of the same coin in the sense that they promoted an ideological belief system. St. Augustine sought a more multi-faceted approach with the hope this approach would yield a stronger system of belief and understanding. Why is this? Because reason alone does not always work and blind faith does not always lead one to salvation. A person must have an equal mix of religious faith and deductive and cognitive reasoning skills. Yes, these can sometimes take the form of polar opposites. However, as St. Augustine has shown this does not need to be the case.
One can have a balance of the two. Granted, he may understand that pulling those that lean much more heavily to secularism may be difficult to convert. However, he does seem to believe he can help those with faith understand the value of reason and logic a bit more. This is not done in a condescending manner of “educating” them as much as it is done to display to them those concepts that can complement faith. One way in which St. Augustine discusses this is through his concept of good and St. Augustine and God – 3 evil. From this, we not only develop a clear insight into St.
Augustine’s approach to intermixing faith and reason, but we also see a further develop of how he defines and categorizes God through a clear examination of God’s nature. If God is so great why does evil exist in the world? This is a common question asked of God throughout the centuries. There have been many answers to it with varying degrees of depth. For St. Augustine, the notion of evil is the absence of good which comes from a choose people make. Again, this is an attempt to add logic and reasoning to the concept of faith. In particular, St. Augustine states: “God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil to exist.
” That is, evil is the result of free will. When someone chooses to commit an action that can be described as “evil” they are doing so out of their own design. It is not the construct of a disinterested God but one that wishes human beings were fully actualized. If God made all decisions for humans then they would cease to truly be human. Instead, they would be little more than organic, yet mechanized, beings that are subject to the whims of a higher power. In that way, God’s ability to allow people to make decisions as to whether or not to be good or evil displays God as a benevolent being.
This does have the ironic aspect to it in the sense that God’s benevolence leads to much suffering in the world. However, it is truly not God that creates the suffering since it is the imperfections of humans who make the choices that create the suffering. St. Augustine and God – 4 This interrelation between God and humans sometimes raises interesting questions regarding the sentient existence of God and how it relates to the co-existence of God and humans. If God is found in everything and God has created humans then is it possible for God to be a person?
To a degree, St, Augustine did touch somewhat on this notion. Augustine felt this closeness of God to man with extraordinary intensity. God’s presence in man is profound and at the same time mysterious, but he can recognize and discover it deep down inside himself. “Do not go outside”, the convert says, but “return to within yourself; truth dwells in the inner man; and if you find that your nature is changeable, transcend yourself. (Benedict XVI) In a way, God can be a person provided a person is God like. Now, that may sound very much like a Zen koan and, to a certain extent, it is.
The reason for this because there is no simple answer to questions along the lines of whether or not God can be a person because it is equals parts a definitive question and a rhetorical one. Perhaps this is why Benedict uses the words “profound and mysterious”. However, there is also a call to going in oneself and this is where the true answer to the question exists. The inner being and the true nature are descriptions of who a person really is. When one turns his or her reflections inward, it may become possible to see if a godlike mature exists within the individual.
The notions of transcending oneself can refer to the ability to reduce one’s flaws and imperfections and make oneself closer to the image of God. However, humans are flawed by design and because of these they can never achieve true perfection. This means they can never attain “God-hood”. In fact, the moral of the St. Augustine and God – 5 story in Genesis is that human beings can never be God. Hence, God can never be a person. However, this is a goal people can attain towards in the sense that they may wish to eliminate their main problems and flaws.
So, no it would be impossible for God to be a human as that would make humans Gods. However, the journey to God-like qualities is more attainable. This again returns us towards the concept of logic in the world of St. Augustine. Logic is often based in what is real. When a false element is added to the equation, logic takes the form of pseudo-logic. There is very little value that can be derived from false logic and that is why the concepts of St. Augustine have a tendency to stay firmly planted in the realm of what actually exists. This is the reason why there is a call to look inward and define oneself based on what one truly is.
This is the way an individual attains of form of “God-hood” on earth since truly understanding oneself is of paramount importance towards attaining any sense of near perfection. After all, how can one improve oneself without truly understanding who one truly is? Ultimately, there lies the difficulty of viewing God as a human being. God is not exactly a tangent being and humans are not exactly perfect. However, the question of whether or not God can be a person can lead to much logical introspection that allows us to both better understand ourselves as well as God.
Perhaps it was this approach that was St. Augustine’s plan all along. So, the human relationship between humans and the divine being can be St. Augustine and God – 6 considered one of contemplation and faith. To a great extent, God is the moral authority in the world and he is the source of all goodness. This creates a relationship between humans and God that becomes one of guidance. Humans look towards God as the provider of the light in order to understand how they should live their lives and what noble goals one should attain throughout their life.
For example, God stresses the importance of promoting love and charity towards fellow men. This is the type of guide God acts like and it has a profound effect on those that live their life following such ideals. However, it is also important to point out here that God suggests and does no force. That is the essence of free will. This radically changes the relationship between humans and the Divine Being mainly because it is up to the humans to accept whether or not to follow God’s will and guidance.
Yes, there are consequences one must face if God’s direction is ignored. But, ultimately, the choice one makes will be of one’s own free will and decision. In a way, one could call bad decisions attempts of logical decisions gone wrong. But, whatever the reason for the poor decision, it is the human’s choice without God’s interference. Such lack of interference truly defines God’s relationship with human beings. St. Augustine’s examination of God is truly unique in the sense that it looks at God’s place from one of logic and reason. This is further explored through St.
Augustine’s examination of God’s relationship with humans through the logical and emotion reactions humans have towards God and themselves. From this, a greater understanding of both heaven and earth can be attained. Bibliography Anon. “The Philosophy of St. Augustine. ” The Radical Academy. Date Unknown 2008. Retrieved 31 January 2009 from http://radicalacademy. com/ philaugustine2. htm#summary Pope Benedict XVI. “St. Augustine. ” in L’Osservatore Romano. 6 February 2008, page 11. Retrieved 31 January 2009 from http://www. ewtn. com/library/PAPALDOC/ b16ChrstChrch64. htmSample Essay of PapersOwl.com