The Views of St. Augustine on Human Nature

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Augustine’s view of human nature is deeply pessimistic Discuss.

St. Augustine’s view of human nature is primarily based on St. Paul in Romans 7, which states, ‘for I have a desire to do good, but I cannot carry it out’, suggesting that we are weak creatures that need saving by God’s forgiveness and salvation. His theodicy attempts to solve the Inconsistent Triad (originally conceived by Epicurus), and hypothesises that following the fall (Post-Lapsarian), implying that our human nature is inherently corrupt- which is a similar viewpoint to Scholars such as: Swinburne and Nuihbur, and arguably pessimistic due to the fact that they are saying that we are constantly ‘dragged down’ by sin. However, this viewpoint is in stark contrast with Dawkins and Irenaeus for example.

On the one hand, Augustine’s view of human nature is deeply pessimistic because he argued that before the Fall (Genesis 3), there was a ‘time of harmony’ where Adam and Eve were completely obedient to God, but when they displayed disobedience, the rest of humanity was ‘creation ex nihilo’- meaning they were made from nothing and can either choose whether to act morally or not, which will ultimately make up our human nature and what kind of people we are. Therefore, in this sense, his view is deeply pessimistic, because Original Sin- 2nd Death (inherited death as punishment for the rebellion of Adam and Eve), means that there is a ‘chain of disasters, when compared to other views such as that of Pelagius who argues that it would be unjust for God to condemn us for something out of control- as he is omnibenevolent. This is Augustine explicitly highlighting that there is no room for exception (except for Jesus) in regard to us being predestined to be inherently sinful; so does this mean that no matter how good our human nature is; it is ultimately unavailing if (like Plato), he says that a human is nothing more than a soul in a body; being dragged down by sin (Neoplatonism)?

Conversely, perhaps Augustine’s view of human nature is fairly optimistic due to the fact that in his ‘Enchiridion’, he states that evil does not actually exist in human nature; it is simply a privation of good (‘Privatio Boni’). Taking this idea further, this is perhaps a lot more comforting for people, knowing that they are not evil in nature, but just need to try harder to increase the amount of good in their nature. Furthermore, according to Augustine, God has already predestined us through ‘election’, and shown grace to some people on Earth, which hints at quite a lot of optimism because it suggests that the good done by many is not in vain, and they will receive salvation in spite of the original sin of which they inherited. However, in contrast to the viewpoints of Irenaeus and Biblicists for example, this is deeply pessimistic due to the fact that Genesis 1 explains that ‘we are made in the image of God’, meaning that our nature must automatically be drawn towards goodness, if it mirrors that of God, as well as ‘Imago Dei’ by Irenaeus meaning that we have a positive bond with God.

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