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Saint Augustine’s Confessions is widely considered as one of the most important texts in classical literature. The work is representative of an individual (in this case, Augustine) whose internal conflicts with Christianity enables him to question the conceptual idea of God and the various rules and laws that the Christian religion emphasizes heavily upon. Yet, Confessions not only details the various personal struggles Augustine experiences, but also elicits his reasoning as to why questionable issues within the Christian religion exist Augustine forces us to wonder: Why does an almighty God, responsible for the creation of everything, allow for evil and sin to exist? Would that not imply that He is, in fact, imperfect? Saint Augustine thereby asserts that evil and sin can only be regarded by an individual’s ability to make his or her own choices; human beings are given the opportunity to participate in God, but it is ultimately a matter of individual will.
Christians living in Augustine’s time period fundamentally believed that God was omnipotent, benevolent, a universal creator as well as all-powerful figure; this notion caused Augustine much personal struggle.
In Book Seven, Augustine addresses this issue by first calling out and questions directly towards God, stating: “…Who, after all, made me? Was it not my God, not only greatly good but goodness itself? Then why would he give me the power to choose evil as well as good? Was it so that His justice would be vindicated in punishing me?” (Augustine 7.5.139) Augustine shows how this idea of choice would potentially lead to a discrepancy.
Yet, in Confessions, he regards human evil not as an actual physical facet, but instead as a denial of God’s existence. Augustine explains that human beings are given the ability to choose either to accept or reject God—evil is essentially one’s rejection of Him.
Yet, how does Augustine seem to grow, or cope from this realization? Augustine thereby deals with two different types of willsione involving temptation, the other involving obedience towards his religion Ultimately, he believes “So these two wills within me, one old, one new, one the servant of the flesh, the other of the spirit, were in conflict and between them they tore my soul apart” (85,160), Perhaps it was his realization of his fundamental lack of willpower that enabled him to give in to various temptations, such as sexual desire, At one point in Confessions, a main issue was his inability to withdraw from sexual activity, which seemingly conflicted with Christian principles. He states in Book Ten: “You ordered me to give up my sexual partner—and even marriage, though allowed me, you advised me to forgot I complied, since you granted me the power, even before I became a priest of your mysteries” (Augustine 1041.236), Augustine subjected himself to a kind of examination of his own conscience, detailing to what extent he was affected by the three types of “lust” that were detailed in Book John in the Holy Bible: “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the ambition of the secular world“ However, Augustine further states: “But I still postponed my renunciation of this world’s joys, which would have left me free to look for that other happiness, the very search for which, let alone its discovery, I ought to have prized above the discovery of all human treasures and kingdoms or the ability to enjoy all the pleasures of the body at a mere nod of the head. (87,166).” In this quote, he is willingly trying to “renounce” of the pleasures that he experiences in life; although it may not be the most simple and straightforward choice, Augustine believes that it will lead him more towards God.
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