AUGUSTINE'S WORLD: An Introduction to His Speculative Philosophy
Donald X. Burt, O.S.A.




At the very beginning of his philosophical writings, Augustine remarked that there are only two central questions for a philosopher examining the real world. The first has to do with the human soul; the second has to do with God. The first is an examination of self; the second helps us to know the context of our existence. Knowing self we become capable of a happy life; knowing God we become happy. The study of one's self is open even to beginners; the study of God is reserved for the well-instructed and the well-intentioned. In knowing self and God, a person is able to grasp the true order of reality, not only the order contained in this world of created things but, more importantly, a person may discover how this world is ordered to its Creator. (1)

Up to this point, our examination of "Augustine's World" has concentrated on ourselves ... what we are, what we can do, where we came from, where we are going. The time has now come to speak about what Augustine considered to be (and what is) the most important element in the real world ... that being whom humans call "God". Of course God's importance can be argued on a purely philosophical level (the most perfect "Being" must necessarily be the most important too), but for Augustine the importance of God was primarily pragmatic and personal. Augustine (like the rest of the human race) wanted to be happy but seemed doomed to live an imperfect life in a world that was withering away. In such a world God was for him the only foundation for the hope that someday and somewhere he would find perfect happiness.

There is much truth in Dittes' insight that Augustine's whole life can be summed up as a search for a "fail-safe" God. (2) He desired much more than simply some power greater than himself. From his earliest years he experienced enough of such powers, forces that seemed "bigger and stronger" than anything he could control. In his adolescence and youth he was driven by his own passions. In his Manichaean days he seemed to be moved this way and that by an evil god within. In both cases uncontrollable and uncaring forces dominated his days, and he longed for something more than such indifferent gods. What he needed and wanted was a God who was both infinitely perfect and infinitely loving, a God who was far above and separate from this tarnished world but who was yet deeply concerned and deeply involved in every aspect of this life.

Augustine wanted a Supreme Being who was yet lovable, a God who respected the individual freedom of humans while at the same time providentially caring for them. He wanted a God who was both omnipotent and loving, fair and forgiving, transcendent and immanent, awesome but not frightening. He wanted a God whom he could trust from afar and embrace happily at the end of time. After thirty years of searching, he found this God in the God of Christianity. Thereafter he spent his life trying to understand that God and to discover the presence of that God in the world of his experience. The following pages will examine some of his conclusions on these important matters.


Augustine's various discussions of the ways in which a person can come to know God rested on his assumption that no one can be completely ignorant of the existence of God, at least in the sense of a really existing being who was superior to humans. He believed that such a "bare-bones" God could not be hidden from humans once they began to use their reason. Indeed, he went so far as to say that (apart from a few "perverted" people) the whole human race of his day recognized a God who is the author of the world. In Augustine's opinion atheism was a moral problem, not intellectual. The question of belief was not about whether one accepted the existence of God; it was about what sort of God one accepted. Was it the Jupiter of the pagan religions? Was it the Manichaean principle of "The Good"? Was it the Yahweh of the Old Testament? Or was it the God who Christianity maintained had been incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ? (3)

Augustine recognized three ways of coming to know the existence and nature of God:

1. by direct vision (mystical experience);

2. by faith (belief in the testimony of others);

3. by reason (argument from perceived facts about the universe).

The order of this listing reflects an increasing universality. Although theoretically every human has the possibility of a mystical experience, in fact few have it and those who do have it achieve it rarely and maintain it only briefly. Apparently Augustine himself had only one such moment of ecstasy. (4) It happened when he was 33 years old, lasted but a moment, and was never repeated through the rest of his long life. This early "mystical" experience (if that is what it was) remained a pleasant memory but it did not add substantially to his knowledge of the nature of God. Like a brief meeting with a human "other", a meeting with a divine "other" reveals little about what that "other" is truly like. Indeed, such events cannot even be described in ways that others will understand. Like love, the vision of God must be personally experienced; it cannot be learned from others.

Faith, the second method of coming to knowledge of God, is also limited in its extent; but for those who have it, it gives the most complete information. Faith, in the sense of a belief in God as revealed through the person and teaching of Jesus Christ, was the source of most of Augustine's knowledge of God. As we have seen, he did not believe that it was given to all people. It was God's first gift to the predestined, completely unearned and bestowed in accordance with a divine plan that was forever hidden from the human mind. (5)

The method of discovering God most available to humans is through reason. Augustine believed that any good-willed and normally intelligent human, first contemplating the wonders of the world outside themselves and then turning to the wonders in their own person, could come to some knowledge of God. All that was needed was a good mind, sincere attention, and the ordinary illumination required for grasping any fundamental truth about reality. Just as one can come to know one's soul by looking at one's self, so too one can find at least the "hint" of God's presence by looking a bit deeper. Augustine's words to his friends were meant to apply to any human being:

Look, I shall show you my God by showing you his works. I will not do this in any terribly complicated way. I will not ask you without Faith to accept something you cannot understand ... I will not demand that you look at a lot of different things. Indeed, all you need do is look at yourselves. (6)

The reason why such discovery through creation is possible is because every creature is modeled on the Nature of God present in the Word, the Second Person of the Trinity. All of creation "reflects" God in some way, the most perfect reflection being the soul of every human being. (7) The mind discovers God especially in its perception of eternal and immutable truths, truths that will never change and are forever. It is the experience of such truths within oneself that is the basis for the uniquely "Augustinian" proof from reason for the existence of God, i.e. a "being which has no being superior to it." (8)

The most expansive statement of this argument is found in the second book of Augustine's work on Free Will. The argument begins with the assumption that the human being is the best of all creation, and then asks if reason can find something better. The direction the proof takes (over many chapters) is suggested in the following exchange between Evodius and Augustine:

Evodius: "I will admit that a particular being is God if it can be shown that there is nothing superior to it."

Augustine: "Good! Then all I need do is to prove that something superior to human beings exists. If I do this, you will be forced to admit that either this being is God or, if something even more superior is found, then that being is God. I will accomplish this by fulfilling my promise to show you that there is something superior to human reason (that faculty which makes humans the best of all creatures). (9)

Following Kondoleon and Roberts, the full argument can be outlined as follows:

1. God is that to which nothing is superior, i.e. God is the supreme being.

2. If there is anything superior to our minds, then that reality is either God or God is superior to it.

3. But eternal and immutable truth exists and is superior to our mind (which is temporal and changeable);

4. If this "superior" truth exists and is identical with God then God exists.

5. If this "superior: truth exists and God is superior to this truth, then God exists.

6. Thus (on either alternative), God exists. (10)

Analyzing the expanded forms of the proof in the book On Free Will and the book On True Religion, one can identify the following assumptions and assertions:

1. The characteristics of supreme being (that being which is superior in all possible worlds) are eternity and immutability.

2. If these characteristics can be found in the world of my experience, I am either experiencing the supreme being itself or a reality that can only be explained by the existence of the supreme being.

3. By examining the content of my knowledge I perceive truths which are immutably and eternally true.

4. It is clear that these same truths are to be found in the minds of others. They are therefore universal, not proper to the private knowledge of one, but common to the knowledge of all.

5. The experiences in (3) and (4) testify to the existence of a being that is eternal, immutable, and more universal than the human race itself.

6. they therefore testify to the existence of supreme being.

Translating the argument into an analogy based on color, one can recast it as follows. If the changeable temporal world of our experience is represented by the color red and the immutable eternal truths discovered in our mind are represented by the color blue, there is no rational explanation for how we humans (changeable and therefore colored red too) can have these "blue" truths without asserting that they are caused by something blue, i.e. something eternal and immutable that must be part of reality even though beyond our direct experience. It is simply impossible for a "red" being in a purely "red" world to produce such radically different realities as beings which are eternally and immutably "blue". Clearly the argument is a posteriori since it depends on some experience of the real world: viz., the experience of eternal and immutable truths contained in the mind. From this experienced fact one moves to a superior being (superior to changeable humans in that it is eternal and immutable) who is beyond our experience. (11)


Augustine's argument for the existence of God gives only a broad description of the Divine Nature as a being superior to humans in this actual world and [perhaps] superior to every being in every possible world. Augustine believed that such general knowledge of God was open to all humans but he also believed that further knowledge of God's Nature was difficult to achieve without revelation and was difficult to understand even when revealed. He agreed with St. Paul that "Now we see indistinctly as in a mirror" (1 Corinthians, 13.12), and he interpreted the mirror to be every human being now warped and darkened by the shadow of sin. God and the illumination to see him is present to all, but humans cannot see clearly because the mirror that is themselves is defective. It can reveal only imperfect knowledge of "what God is like". But, even so, the effort to know anything about God is worthwhile. Imperfect knowledge of the Creator is always of more value than the most perfect knowledge of creatures. (12)

Even with our darkened mirrors we can at least see that God is different from ourselves and the rest of creation. Of all that exists, God is the most radically "Other" and, after careful consideration, we can see that this radical "otherness" is manifested most clearly in God's mode of existence. The world of our everyday experience is clearly contingent. Every part of it (including ourselves) hangs by a thread of dependence on powers outside our control. We are not sufficient to explain our existence. We are "inferiors" because we are "dependents". God on the other hand exists of himself. Just as he is the good against which all created good is measured, so too he is THE "is". Indeed, he is "EXISTENCE ITSELF". We exist because we participate in his existence, drawn into being by his will. He, on the other hand, is completely independent. God would exist even if there were nothing else, but all that exists beyond him would be reduced to nothing if left unsupported in its fragile reality. Thus, the first important fact distinguishing God from ourselves is simply this: "God IS and we are not necessarily so." (13)

This complete perfection in God's mode of existence (He "is" necessarily) implies equally complete perfection in his nature ("what he is"). Perfect being can be found only in one who is perfect and therefore does not change. (14) If God is perfect in his being, he cannot lack anything nor can he lose anything that he has. He is IMMUTABLE and this immutability is the second factor in God's radical "otherness" with respect to creation. The first phase of creation's coming to be was establishing it in a foundation of potentiality (spiritual or corporeal "unformed matter") which could provide continuity through its ever-changing existence. It is our destiny as creatures to move through space and time, rushing from "what we were" to "what we will be" through the fleeting moment of "what we are". God, on the other hand, is subject to no "here and there" or "then and now". God simply IS, without beginning, end, or fluctuation. We are imperfect in that we are moved by the tides of time; God is most perfect precisely because in him there is no ebb and flow. (15)

Immutability along with the correlative perfection of eternity most clearly distinguishes the Nature of the Creator from all created natures. Other divine perfections such as knowledge, goodness, and power are shared with creatures. They to a lesser degree but no less truthfully can be said to be good, to know, to have powers. But immutability and eternity admit of no degrees. One is either subject to time or not. There is no such thing as being a "little bit" immutable. Though creatures strive to bring some stability into their lives by existing in an orderly way, they remain ever-changing beings. No matter how long they exist they can never escape their time, that measure of their limited but ever-flowing existence.

From God's immutability and eternity one can deduce other perfections. His immutability implies that he is INFINITELY PERFECT, lacking nothing and unable to lose anything he has. Being simply perfect without limits, it follows that he is the HIGHEST GOOD. (16) He is the eternally supreme spirit, unchangeable in himself but yet the unseen Creator of changeable things. (17) He is the most excellent being who can be conceived. (18) He is the "Good of all good", (19) not simply in the ontological sense of having the fullness of being, but also in the moral sense of being the "Gift-giver" par excellence, creating the beauty of the universe and dealing with humans so lovingly that each can join in the happy song of Augustine:

I was nothing and he made me to be something. I was wandering and he searched for me. He sought me out and found me imprisoned and put up my ransom. I was a slave, and he made me his brother. (20)

Because God is good, he wants the best for creation and he can bring about this good because he is also OMNIPOTENT. His power is such that he works his will easily in this visible universe, summoning the rains, calling forth the thunder and lightning, drawing sap through the vine to create grapes. He is the maker of all these things, ordering the earth to produce them, governing them, giving them life. (21) His power far exceeds ours. In us what we "are" and what we "can do" are two different things. Sometimes we can do what we want and at other times we cannot. It is not so with God. In him "to will" and "to do" are one and the same thing. (22) He is perfectly SIMPLE, i.e. without separations or divisions. God is not fragmented like we are ... divided within ourselves, divided in our being and our powers. He is absolute Unity because he is absolute Simplicity: What the divine substance has, it is. (23) God, the Creator of the beauty we see around us and in us, is the most BEAUTIFUL of all. He is Beauty itself, the epitome of the "splendor of order" that we see in this world. (24) Since he is immutable, he is beyond the measure of time. He is ETERMAL, ".. just as he never will not be, so he never was not." (25) God is OMNISCIENT. His unlimited knowledge includes both what was/is/will be actual and all that is possible. (26) He knows himself and can see in his Nature the reflections of an infinity of possible worlds, the innumerable ways in which he can be mirrored in creation. And, as far as this actually existing world is concerned, God knows the least of creatures even though they may exist for only a fraction of a second at the furthermost edge of the universe. (27) Creatures are established as individual entities by the walls of their time and place, but God is PRESENT in all places and times without being confined by any of them. (29)

One can go on and on with the list of God's perfections, but what it comes down to is this:

1. All that we perceive as imperfection does not belong to God. (29)

2. All that is a perfection does belong to God in a super-eminent way, far beyond our powers to comprehend. (30)

God is simply the supreme spirit, without division, without limitations of place and time. (31) Looking at the limited perfection in creatures and measuring this against the infinite perfection of the Creator, it follows that as the "greatest" being who does or could exist, God transcends every changeable creature. Though he is interior to everything in creation, he is yet radically exterior to it by his immutable, infinitely perfect existence. (32) Augustine warns those tempted by pantheism that even though the true God is intimately involved in the created universe, he is not part of that universe. In his mode of being and in his immutable and infinitely perfect nature, God is radically transcendent. (33) It is for this reason that humans cannot comprehend the Nature of God. Without revelation there can be only ignorance; with revelation there is at best mystery, the greatest being that of the Trinity, the vital inner life of God.


Augustine wrote his massive (15 book) examination of the Trinity over a period of two decades. There is a story (created and applied to Augustine many centuries later) that when he had finished his work, he took a walk along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. There he came upon a boy busily digging three holes in the sand. When finished the young lad went down to the water's edge, filled his little bucket with the water from the sea, and ran back to pour the water into the three holes. Augustine watched him for a while and then asked:

"What are you doing?"

The boy answered:

"I am pouring the sea into these three holes in the sand."

Augustine laughed and said:

"Why, that's just silly!"

The boy responded:

"It's no sillier than trying to pour the Trinity into fifteen books."

Of course Augustine never heard this story (at least on earth), but if he had, he would probably have agreed with the boy's judgment. We find him saying almost the same thing in his Confessions where he asks:

Who can understand the all-powerful Trinity? ... Rare is the person speaking of the Trinity who knows what they are talking about. (34)

Augustine frankly admitted that understanding the inner life of God as expressed through the mystery of the Trinity would always be beyond the power of the human mind. At the same time he had no doubt about the fact. The doctrine was clearly revealed in Scripture and taught by the growing tradition of the young Christian Church. Pelikan notes that Christians had pretty well "hammered out" the dogma of the Trinity by the third quarter of the fourth century, especially establishing that the Christ who had appeared on earth to bring salvation to the human race was identical with the God who was the ruler of heaven and earth. (35) By the time of Augustine it was generally accepted that God was One Nature and Three Persons through the mutual relations of Paternity (the Person of the Father), Generation (the Person of the Son), and Procession (the Person of the Holy Spirit). It was also accepted that the Son is generated by the Father "seeing Himself" and is the perfect reflection/image of the Father. (36) The Holy Spirit in turn "proceeds" from and is equal to both Father and Son as their mutual love for each other. (37)

An understanding of how God can be One and yet Three is explained by Augustine by noting that when one speaks of God being One, one is speaking about the Divine Nature or Essence. When one speaks about Three Persons, one is speaking about relations which (in his mind) are neither substance nor accident. (38) Of course, that God can be One Nature and Three Persons without contradiction depends on being able to distinguish between the concepts of "nature" and "person". There does seem to be some merit in the distinction. When I consider myself, for example, it is possible to distinguish between the "nature" that I have (rational animal) and the person that I am ("Donald"). Others may have a nature similar to mine, but no one can share my particular personhood. If it is thus possible to separate the ideas of "nature" and "person" because of their different content, saying "God is one and yet three" does not involve the contradiction of saying that God is "one" and "not one" in the same respect.

However, the analogy between nature-person in humans and nature-person in God cannot be pressed too far. It is true that I am a separate person from my six brothers and sisters and that we share a common human nature, but "my" human nature is distinct from the "human nature" that each of my siblings has. When we get together we are "many", not one. In God the unity of Nature is absolute. The Three Persons have one and the same Divine Nature. They are one with an absolute immutable unity that cannot be approached (or even clearly understood) by such divided creatures as human beings.

Without making any claim to fully explain the inner life and mutual relationships of the Triune God, Augustine makes his most original contribution to the understanding of the mystery by suggesting analogies from ordinary human experience. For example, when we come to consider our "self", that consideration leads to an "idea of self". Considering our image in this idea, we come to see that our "self" is good and we are drawn to it by an act of love. Put simply, we exist as "self", we know our "self", we love our "self", and yet there is no separation in these three activities. My existing, my thinking, my loving are all aspects of my one spiritual nature. In a somewhat similar way, one can describe the Word (the Second Person) as the thought proceeding from the Father (the First Person) reflecting on himself, and the Spirit (the Third Person) as the mutual love generated from the Father and Son contemplating the Infinite Goodness of the Divine Nature. (39)

Obviously all analogies from creation must limp, but they do support the conviction that the idea of a Triune God is not absurd. Moreover, if one can come to a belief in God as Trinity (and such faith is a great gift) one can get a better understanding of the diverse ways in which God is present to creation: as Father Creator, as Son Exemplar and Savior, as Spirit the Giver of Love. God in Three Persons is thus "with us" in a multitude of wonderful ways as creation spins through its allotted time. It is to this hopeful and consoling fact that we now turn our attention.


In studying Augustine's writings, it is easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees, to spend so much time "tearing apart" and "analyzing" some small piece of his thought that one loses sight of the main message he wanted to convey. To use an analogy he uses himself, we are sometimes like little bugs making our laborious way across a beautiful mosaic floor. We become so entranced by the little pebble before our eyes that we cannot see the enormity and glorious beauty that surrounds us. Like Sisyphus, our rock becomes our "thing" and we gradually lose sight of where we are and where we are going. (40) So too it sometimes happens that when we come to study the "World of Augustine", we become so immersed in one little piece of that world that we miss the overriding message that such a world proclaims: the message that "GOD IS WITH US", that God is everywhere present to us in the world that we face each day. (41)

Augustine was convinced of God's presence in creation even before he had a clear idea of either. In his Confessions he reports that when he was a young man still trying to get beyond the materialism of his Manichaean days, he saw the relationship between the world and God as something like a sponge immersed in a great sea. He develops this image in the following way:

I imagined the whole of your creation, O God, as a vast mass made up of different kinds of bodies, some of them real, some of them only the bodies which in my imagination took the place of spirits. I thought of this mass as something huge. I could not, of course, know how big it really was, but I made it as large as need be, though finite in all directions. I pictured you, O Lord, as encompassing this mass on all sides and penetrating it in every part, yet yourself infinite in every dimension. It was as though there were a sea everywhere, nothing but an immense infinite sea, and somewhere within it a sponge, quite large but not infinite, filled through and through with the water of this boundless sea. In some such way as this I imagined that your finite creation was filled by you who were infinite. I said to myself, "Here is God and here is what he has created. God is good, utterly and entirely better than the things which he has made. But, since he is good, the things that he has made are also good and this is how he contains them all in himself and fills them all with his presence". (42)

This vision of God containing the universe and flooding each and every one of its parts through all time, is the most important fact about the world as Augustine saw it. It is the reason why he insists again and again to anyone who would listen that no matter how terrible existence may sometimes be, there is always reason for hope because in good times and bad "God is with us."

Though God is eminently transcendent and therefore radically different from his creation both in his mode of existence and in his Nature, he is not separated from it. At one and the same time creatures are "outside" God because of his infinite superiority and are "inside" him because they are totally contained in him. (43) Though Augustine never again uses the analogy of the sea and the sponge (perhaps because of its materialistic implications), the image of God "containing" creation (as an infinite sea contains a finite sponge) and "being contained" by it (as a sponge everywhere absorbs and is soaked by the wetness of a containing sea) is repeated again and again throughout his writings.

Thus, we find him saying in his final commentary on Genesis that creation once drawn from nothingness spends all of its time "resting" in God. (44) In a sense, God "embraces" creation and is absorbed into its every pore. He is as completely and wholly present in its totality as in its most insignificant part. He "fills" heaven and earth just as the overpowering sea "fills" every crevice of a receptive sponge. (45) God is even present in those who have turned away from him by sin. They may have turned their back on him, but he still floods their life with the energy of his presence. He has not abandoned them; it is they who have closed their eyes to him. (46) If they ever want to find God, all they need do is open their eyes and turn to the book of creation. There they will discover every page filled with the divine presence. (47)

As time went by, Augustine came to prefer the image of "God containing creation" rather than "creation containing God." He reacted against the latter description with vigorous proclamations, saying on one occasion: "God is not anywhere!" (48) What bothered him about saying "God is here" or "God is there" is that such phrasing implies that God is confined by a particular place. This is impossible given the simplicity and spirituality of the Divine Nature. Because God is spirit, he must be present in every part of reality totally and completely and never confined by any part. Place is a characteristic of material things and to say that God is in creation as in a place or that creation is in God as in a place is to suggest a "material" God. God is not confined by the material world nor is the world a "part" of God. This being understood, one can then begin the investigate the ways in which God is present in this world.

Augustine would be the first to admit that the search for traces of God in creation is not an easy task. His presence is a secret presence and the exercise of his power in the world remains mysterious. Even the most sincere and good-willed investigator will discover that the way God is present is scarcely comprehensible. (49) For this reason it is sometimes easier to begin by listing the ways in which God is not present. For example, he clearly is not present as the sun and moon and stars are present. They are in place and God is not. Nor is God present in the universe as the builders of houses are said to be present in the design and workmanship of the buildings they construct. A builder can walk away from a completed project, leaving it to exist on its own. Not so with God. He must remain with his creation, continuing to support its existence and operation by his omnipotent power. (50)

God's relation to creation is more like a "blower of balloons" than the builder of houses. With a balloon, it is not enough to fill it with air and then leave it to its own devices. Without continued pressure on the opening, the air quickly escapes reducing the container to a frazzled quasi-nothingness. In like manner creation depends on God not only to come into existence, but also to remain in existence. Created things come from nothing and they can never be anything more than fragile vessels of being floating above an abyss of nothingness. Before time creatures simply were not. They did not "have to be" and now that they "are" they still remain "not necessarily so". In the words of Augustine, God must continue to support creation in existence lest it disappear "in the twinkling of an eye". (51) Infinitely above creation, God is yet intimately present in creation through the exercise of his power holding it in existence. Without such support creatures could not continue to be, much less continue to function. God is thus not only the omnipotent God who creates all things; he is also the "all-supporting" God who "holds in existence" the things he has created. (52) There is thus an ontological truth as well as a moral truth in Augustine's proclamation: "If I do not abide in him, neither shall I abide in myself." To exist happily is to exist with God as friend. To exist at all is to exist within the embrace of his creative and conserving power. Every creature can say with Augustine:

I would not be, I would in no way be, unless you were in me. Or rather, I would not be unless I were in you, `from whom, by whom and in whom are all things.' (Romans, 11.36) (53)

God is not only immanent in creatures as the support of their existence ["that they are"]; he is also immanent in the structure of their nature ["what they are"]. Each part of creation is a reflection of the perfect "reasons" (forms, ideas) in the infinite Nature of God. Through the Word (the Second Person of the Trinity) every creature has God as its exemplary cause. Only the Word proceeds from the Father as a perfect image and likeness, but created things have at least an imperfect resemblance to the Divine Nature present in the Word. (54) No creature is God or is part of God; at most they are dull reflections of him. Even created spirits, though they are the "best" things in creation, are closer to nothing than they are to the infinite everything that is God. Compared to the Creator, the "best" of creatures remains none too good. (55)

Even so, there are traces of God (indeed, traces of the Trinity itself) in fully formed creatures. The Triune God is one Nature manifested in Three Persons. Creatures too are in some sense triune. The fully formed nature of any created thing is the result of the threefold gift of measure, form, and order to the receptive formlessness at the root of all changeable being. From these "three" there is formed an order of parts which fabricates the quasi-unity that makes individual existence possible. Augustine believed that "being" was equivalent to "oneness", "unity", "permanence". (56) God is perfect being precisely because he is perfectly "one". Creation in its formless state is perfectly "many". It is pure potentiality, more a capacity for change than for being a "this" or "that". To move from nothing through potentiality to actuality, a creature must acquire some sort of unity, some sort of specificity, some sort of "thisness". It accomplishes this by acquiring measure, form, and order from its triune Creator. I am because I have received these three gifts from the Divine Three Persons. (57)

Without these three elements in its nature, a creature could not have identity. It needs a particular "measure" which establishes it in its own space and time. It needs a "form", an internal definition which places it in a specific genus and species. It needs an "ordering", a purpose for its existence and a coordinated ability to function so as the achieve that purpose. Just as it is impossible for God to exist in any way other than Three Persons and One Nature, so it is impossible for any creature to separate their individual existence from the three factors which together bind their fluctuating changeable roots into one unified being. (58) Creatures exist only because they have a unity coming from the three characteristics at the root of their nature. The hand of God is thus evident not only in "that they are" (their existence) but also in "what they are" (their nature).

The "plan" that is given to every creature is a sign that God does not simply supply them with the power to exist and the model for their nature. He is present in their every activity through his knowledge, concern, and love. He "knows" what each creature is, makes plans for its future, and is concerned that the best future be realized by each one. By his creation God made the first "now" for creatures. By his concurrence he supports their being and activity in their subsequent "now's". Through his providence he foresees and acts to bring them to their proper "future", that state of being where finally they can be at rest. (59)

Augustine sees evidence of God's planning in the structure of even the simplest creature. This providential plan establishes the internal order of individuals whereby their many parts are able to operate as one whole. It also brings order to creation at large so that creatures are subordinate to God, the corporeal is subordinate to the spiritual, the irrational is subordinate to the rational. (60) The present status and future of creation is thus not the result of chance (a haphazard coming together of unknown causes) nor is it the result of fate (a destiny fixed by blind and uncaring powers). To the contrary, the course of the universe is set by the will of an Infinite Being whose essence is identified with goodness, whose wisdom easily devises the best plan for creation, and whose omnipotence can bring it about that this plan is accomplished for the good of all concerned. (61)

The first step in effecting this plan was to make finality or direction part of the essence of every creature. Each being cannot merely be established in a subsisting individuality (a "measured" existence) and given a specific nature (a "formed" existence) and then set loose to ramble in any and every direction. It must also be given a specific finality, a "drive" or "weight" which pushes and pulls it towards its proper goal. The generation of new species and new members of existing species gives evidence of such finality. The orderly direction of these everyday natural processes suggest a divine provident control. (62) It is through the energies placed in creation at the beginning that new species develop out of their "primordial seeds". God created once and then rested but he remains involved in nurturing the "seeds" of species that will appear fully formed through the course of time, driven by the energy placed in them at the beginning. (63)

Once individuals of a fully formed species begin to exist God continues to be involved in the day by day processes which carry them towards their proper perfection. (64) He does this by supporting their own powers, both the natural and/or instinctual movements of material creation and the voluntary movements of spiritual creation (angels and humans). (65) It is through such powers embedded in creation and supported by God that stars shine, night follows day, the earth is washed by waters, winds blow, and living things are generated and born, develop, grow old, and die. Through voluntary actions "natural" to free beings education takes place, fields are cultivated, societies are governed and the arts are practiced. (66) Sometimes God uses outside agents to aid the internal energies of a creature. Thus he provides farmers to grow crops and teachers to instruct the young. (67) Such outside aides include both material causes (e.g. the earth, water, and sun needed for a plant to flourish), and good free will decisions of human beings accomplished through grace illuminating the mind and moving the will. (68)

The God of creation gave to all creatures their purpose and their powers. He holds in his hands the causes of creation's activity. He is the source of the energy of the seed and plant, of fire and water, of sun and stars. No aspect of creation is unworthy of his attention. He reaches down to the simplest creature, giving fertility to the sea and earth so that they may produce food for fish and animal. Reflecting on the words of Jesus that no sparrow falls to earth without God willing it (Matthew, 10.29) and that God himself covers the fields with the green grass that flourishes briefly only to be consigned to the oven (Matthew, 6.30), Augustine asks:

In saying this, does not our Lord assure us that not only this whole region of the world which has been assigned to mortal and corruptible beings but also the least and lowliest parts of it are ruled by Divine Providence? (69)

Moved by the energy given by God, stars move in their courses, winds blow, waterfalls shrouded in mist disappear into deep pools, meadows come to life, animals are born and live out their lives guided by instinct. (70) Nothing is left to chance. All is foreseen by the knowledge of God, executed with the help of his supporting power, and accomplished by working through and respecting the natural powers which he placed in creation from its beginning. (71)

At times (though rarely) God accomplishes his purpose through miracles, direct divine interventions which override the natural processes of creation. (72) Some of these are quite extraordinary (e.g. communication with humans through angelic messengers), but many are simply the "speeding up" of a natural process. Augustine suggests that when something occurs frequently in an accustomed fashion (e.g. making water into wine through the usual productivity of the grapevine) we call it natural. When the same process occurs on rare occasions in an unusual way (e.g. the making of wine out of water at Cana) we call it a miracle. Our amazement at the unusual blinds us to the wondrous activity the is occurring daily all around us and, (perhaps even more), inside us. (73)

The human being is the greatest miracle of creation and it is in the human that the immanent power of God is most dramatic. In a thought-provoking interpretation of Genesis 2.15, Augustine suggests that one of the reasons why God created Eden and then placed the first humans there was because he wanted to guard and cultivate them. And so too today "The same God who creates and makes human beings to be human also cultivates and guards them in order that they may be good and happy humans." (74) God created humans with the highest gifts of all creation, gifts shared only with angels: the gift of being able to "know" who they were and where they were going and the gift of being able to freely choose to follow their goal. Humans could choose not to seek their goal, and this unfortunately they did, choosing against the order of the universe whereby they were "subordinates" to the One who had created them. The consequence was that they were blocked from achieving that goal whose need had been built into their being at the moment of creation. They experienced the truth of the famous proclamation made by Augustine in his Confessions, "You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless till they rest in you." (75)

After Eden such rest was impossible for humans because they had turned their back and walked away from the only One who could give them rest. No longer were humans able to see clearly and easily the ultimate truths about themselves and God. No longer were they able to effectively choose the good. Given this desperate state, it is no wonder that Augustine considered the coming of God in the person of Jesus Christ as the most dramatic evidence of God's desire to be involved in creation's history. Through the sacrifice of Christ humans once again had the possibility of reaching that goal for which they had been made: to be happy in the arms of their Creator for all eternity. (76)

On a day by day basis, the redemption of humanity meant that once again God was deeply involved in each individual's history, the Father giving the Law and the gift of Faith for their direction, the Son illuminating their mind that they might see the way to their goal, the Spirit giving them the power to love and choose the good and, through the final grace of perseverance, to do so till the very end of their time. (77) This human need for God is ever present. God's continuous help is necessary for humans to be just, faithful, and wise. The human weakness is not one that can be cured by a therapist coming once in a while to turn them in the right direction. Our good actions depend on our being constantly "turned to God" but we cannot accomplish that on our own. We must be constantly "cultivated and guarded" by God lest we fall away. A field cultivated by a skilled farmer is still cultivated even when the farmer goes about other business, but our cultivation must be a continuous process. Our situation is more like air that is illuminated by a brilliant light. If the light is ever removed, the hapless air becomes dark. In like fashion:

When God is present to them, humans are illuminated; but when God is absent, darkness is immediately upon them and they are separated from God not by a distance in space but by a turning away of their will. (78)

The fact of the matter is that God has created all beings by his goodness and rules them by his power. No creature exists without the support of that power and no good will exists without its assistance. (79)

Believing in Creation, Augustine became convinced of the infinite transcendence of God. Believing in the Incarnation, he came to see that this ineffable Infinite Being was close by, indeed that he was a neighbor. As he said to his friends one day:

What is more different, more distant, than God and the human being? They are separated not by space, but by their dissimilarity. Since this immortal and just God was so far distant from us who are sinners and mortal, God traveled over a great expanse to become our neighbor, Jesus Christ. ... Jesus-God became our neighbor so that we might not worry so much any more. And even though afterwards he returned bodily to his home beyond the heavens, his majesty stays with us. Indeed, that God who made everything we see, is still everywhere present to us. (80)

Jesus-God is truly in heaven but he continues to be present on earth through his Divinity and his power and his love. (81) Indeed, Augustine suggests that God is so intimately present to and in every human being that it can truly be said that he is closer to us than most things in creation since "in him we live and move and have our being" [Acts of the Apostles, 17.28]. (82) He goes even further. Remembering his condition while still searching for God in the world beyond God, Augustine says him: "All the while you were more inside me than my most inmost part; you were higher than my highest powers." (83) Put simply, Augustine is saying, "God is closer to us than we are to ourselves."

God then is close by, but what is he like? The favorite analogies used by Augustine to answer that question are the stories of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. God is like the loving father of the Prodigal, always willing to open the doors of his house to any of his children who wish to return. God is like the Good Samaritan, always ready to come to the aid of even the most foreign of humans and to help them to heal. (84) God is a divine doctor who comes again and again to heal the wounds reopened by our constant sins, giving the medicines that will strengthen us for the challenges that lie ahead. (85) God comes to us not as a stranger but as a parent, as both mother and father. He is father because he created us, calls us to his service, directs us and governs us. He is mother in that he cherishes us and feeds us and suckles us and nurses us. Commenting on the words of the psalmist "Though my father and mother forsake me, yet will the Lord receive me." [Psalm 27.10] Augustine says:

Mortal parents procreate; the children take their place. Mortals give place to mortals. Children are born to succeed those who begot them and those who begot the children depart. But the God who created me shall never depart nor shall I ever be separated from him. (86)

"I shall never be separated from him" ... this was for Augustine the most important fact about the world that he discovered inside and outside himself. It is a beautiful world of land and sea and sky in which each individual is most precious. It is a world, in truth made from nothing, but created by a Being who is everything and who wants everything good for the fragile beings who continue to depend on him for their existence. It is a world in which humans are made with a thirst for everything, a thirst that drives them to go beyond this or that good to the Infinite Good that is their goal. It is a world in which that terrifying transcendent omnipotence that is God walks the streets with human beings as their neighbor, friend, doctor, and parent. It is no wonder that Augustine, believing all this, heard trumpeted throughout his world this consoling message to a struggling humanity:

Wherever you go on earth, however long you remain, the Lord is close to you. So don't worry about anything. The Lord is nearby. (87)


1. On Order, 2.18.47.

2. James E. Dittes, "Augustine's Search for a Fail-Safe God to Trust," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, vol. 25, #1 (1986), pp. 57-63.

3. Commentary on the Gospel of John, 106.4. "God is hidden everywhere; he is manifest everywhere. No one can know him as he is, but no one is permitted not to know him." (Commentary on Psalm 74, 9) "Atheists are few and far between." (Commentary on Psalm 52, 23) "They (atheists) refuse to believe only because of the passion in their hearts." (Commentary on Psalm 13, 2)

4. The experience occurred at Ostia in the midst of a conversation with his mother Monica about the search for God. Cf. Confessions, 9.10.

5. Cf. Commentary on the Gospel of John, 27.7; 3.10. The ordinary condition for receiving this grace of faith was to learn from others the life and teaching of Christ. There were (in Augustine's view) very few who received the grace without "having the Gospel preached to them". Cf. The Gift of Perseverance, 19.48.

6. Sermon 223A [Verbraken], (Denis, 2), #4, Miscellanea Agostiniana, I, p. 15. For a description of the traces of God in the world of nature cf. Confessions, 10.6; Sermon 241, 2-3; City of God, 11.4.22; 11.2.1.

7. "The human mind is not the same as the essence of God and yet it is possible for us to seek and find in ourselves the image of that Divine Being who is the most perfect of all possible beings. ... Our mind is a reflection of God because it is able to receive him and to participate in him. This wonderful gift would be impossible if we were not the very image of God." The Trinity, 14.8.11; 6.10.12.

8. Free Will, 2.6. Kondoleon argues that by this broad description of God Augustine "intended God to mean not merely `that to which nothing in reality is superior', the definition he actually accepts, but also `that being which (if it exists) is supreme and to which no other being could be superior.'" In sum, God is the supreme being in every possible world. Theodore Kondoleon, "Augustine's Argument for God's Existence: De Libero Arbitrio, Book II," Augustinian Studies, 14 (1983), p. 108.

9. Free Will, 2.6.14. The entire argument is spread over book 2, chapters 3-15 of this work. A somewhat briefer statement of the proof can be found in On True Religion, chapters. 27-30. Cf. also 83 Diverse Questions, 54; Confessions, 7.10.16.

10. Cf. Kondoleon, op. cit., p. 107; Lawrence D. Roberts, "Augustine's Version of the Ontological Argument and Platonism", Augustinian Studies, 9 (1978), p. 94.

11. Both Augustine and Anselm argue from what humans find in their minds to the existence of God, but there is this difference in their argument. Anselm argues from the content of the idea of a "most perfect being" to its real existence. Augustine argues from the existence of eternal and immutable truths to an eternal and immutable (and therefore, "superior") being who through exemplarity and illumination is their cause. I would agree with Portaliť that Augustine's proof concludes only "that" God exists not that God "ought to exist". Indeed, Augustine suggests that to assert that God "ought to exist" is an improper use of language. When we say something "ought to be x", we suggest that it could be otherwise. Thus it is more proper to say that God "exists" and leave it at that. If one must go further in describing the mode of God's existence, it would seem better to say that God exists "necessarily" rather than to say that God "ought to exist". Cf. EugPne Portaliť, A Guide to the Thought of Saint Augustine (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1960), p. 126. Cf. also Letter 162, 2; On True Religion, 31.58.

12. Cf. The Trinity, 15.23.44; 15.27.50; A Literal Commentary on Genesis, 5.16.34. Augustine expresses the difficulty in knowing the nature of God in various places in various ways. For example: "It is easier to know what God is not than what he is." (Commentary on Psalm 85, 12; The Trinity, 5.1.2). "Everything can be said of God, yet nothing can be said worthily ... You seek a name to fit God and find none. He cannot be put into a category because he is everything." (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 13.5) "To reach to God by the mind in any measure is a great blessedness but to comprehend him is altogether impossible." (Sermon 117, 3.5). "If it is God (you claim to know), you do not understand; if you understand, it is not God." (Sermon 52, 16) For examinations of "What God is not" cf. Commentary on the Gospel of John, 23.9; Sermon 4, 4.5, Augustine notes that knowledge of "what God is not" is not insignificant information as a beginning of the search for "what he is". (The Trinity, 8.2.3). Some relevant texts include the following: "God would exist even if nothing else did." (Letter 187, 6.18) "God is THE "IS". Other things that are, when compared to God, are not." (Commentary on Psalm 134, 4; Confessions, 13.31.46) "God is ipsum esse" (On the Morals of the Catholic Church, 1.14.24; The Trinity, 5.2.3; City of God, 11.10.3) "God alone has being in the highest sense." (A Literal Commentary on Genesis, 5.16.34; The Trinity, 5.10.11). Cf. Stanislaus J. Grabowski, The All-Present God, (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1954), pp. 169 ff.

14. City of God, 7.30. Grabowski (op. cit., p. 225) remarks that the central perfections in the order of essence that separate the Creator from creatures are immutability, simplicity, and spirituality. All of these contribute to the absolute "Oneness" that is God, a being who has no divisions.

15. Augustine states the relationship between perfect "being" and "immutability" as follows: "No matter how excellent a thing is, if it is changeable it does not have true being. This is so because true being is not found where there is also non-being. When that which has the possibility of change actually does change, it ceases to be what it was before the change. If that which once was "is not now", a kind of death has occurred. Something that had been there and is now no longer has been destroyed ... Examine the changes of things and you will everywhere find `has been' and `will be'. Think about God and you will find `is' where `has been' and `will be' cannot be." (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 38.10; 19.11; Sermon 7, 7; The Trinity, 5.2.3; Commentary on Psalm 121, 5-12; On the Morals of the Catholic Church, 2.1.1; Confessions, 13.16.

16. On the Nature of the Good, 22; Confessions, 7.5.7.

17. Commentary on the Gospel of John, 19.6.

18. On Christian Doctrine, 1.7.7.

19. The Trinity, 8.3.4.

20. Sermon 254, 6. "When I turn my attention to God I can think of no better way to describe him than to say simply `The Good'. ... There is no good to be found which does not derive its goodness from him. Since he is the good which makes all things good, he is properly called `The Good'." Commentary on Psalm 134, 4.

21. The Trinity, 3.4.10 -> 3.5.11.

22. Commentary on the Gospel of John, 20.4; Confessions, 7.4.6.

23. Commentary on the Gospel of John, 99.4. Cf. The Trinity, 6.7.8; 6.10.11; 5.10.11.

24. Confessions, 11.4.6.

25. The Trinity, 14.15.21. Cf. Commentary on Psalm 101/2, 10.

26. Sermon 70, 2.3.

27. City of God, 16.5.

28. Commentary on the Gospel of John, 31.9; 34.6; 35.5. Grabowski (op cit., p. 163) notes that Augustine, following earlier traditions, emphasized the "dynamic" presence of God in the universe rather than stressing the presence of the Divine Essence. However, since Augustine identifies the powers of God with his essence, there is reason for saying that God not only "works" everywhere; he "is" everywhere.

29. The Nature of the Good, 22.

30. Confessions, 22. Cf. On Christian Doctrine, 1.7.7.

31. Commentary on the Gospel of John, 13.6.

32. A Literal Commentary on Genesis, 8.26.48.

33. Commentary on the Gospel of John, 38.4. On the pantheistic currents existing in Augustine's day, cf. Grabowski, op. cit., 211-238.

34. Confessions, 13.11. Augustine was well aware of the difficulty in understanding the mystery of the Trinity. As he began his attempt, he warned his readers: "I now begin to talk about topics which are beyond the powers of any person (including myself) to express in words that accurately reflect what is in the mind. Our mind realizes the distance even between its thinking and the God about whom it is thinking. ... The human mind simply cannot comprehend God as he is; it can only see him as the apostle Paul said: `through a darkened mirror' [1 Corinthians, 12-12]." (The Trinity, 5.1.1). In another place Augustine describes his mental anxiety, admitting that in facing the project he was troubled and felt the need to "sweat over the task" and perhaps thereby free himself of the troublesome venture by completing it. (Cf. Commentary on the Gospel of John, 21.12). One of the earliest recounting of the story of Augustine's conversation with the young boy on the beach appeared towards the end of the fifteenth century in John Caxton's English translation of and addition to James of Voragine's biography of Augustine, the Legenda aurea. On this cf. Edmund Colledge, O.S.A., "Caxton's Addition to the Legenda sancti Augustini," Augustiniana, vol. 34 (1984). Cf. by the same author, "James of Voragine's Legenda sancti Augustini and its Sources," Augustiniana, vol. 35 (1985), pp. 281-313. As Colledge points out, this story was not unique to Augustine. It appeared in the legends of other saints from the same period, perhaps demonstrating the principle that a good story is worth repeating whether it is true or not.

35. Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1971), I, pp. 211 & 171. Richardson writes: "Augustine wrote at a time when the main lines of the doctrine of the Trinity had been settled. The Council of Constantinople in A.D. 381 had witnessed the final triumph of the Nicene cause ... (that) the one essence or ousia of the Godhead expressed itself in three modes of being to which they (the Cappadocian Fathers) applied the term hypostases." (Cyril C. Richardson, "The Enigma of the Trinity", A Companion to the Study of St. Augustine, Roy W. Battenhouse, ed. [New York: Oxford University Press, 1955], p. 237.) Teselle adds that when Augustine came to write his own lengthy work on the Trinity (400-416), the problem was not to explain how one God could yet be three but rather to show (against the Arians) how God being three could yet be one. Eugene Teselle, Augustine the Theologian (New York: Herder & Herder, 1970), p. 122.

36. The Trinity, 2.1.3; 6.10.11. Cf. Teselle, op. cit., pp. 298-99.

37. The Trinity, 15.17.27 -> 15.18.32. Teselle summarizes the following important aspects of Augustine's position. "Person" refers to one divine being insofar as it is related to itself in three ways. (The Trinity, 7.4.9; 7.5.10). Each person possesses the divine nature in its fullness and is not anything less in itself that what it is together with the other persons. (The Trinity, 7.6.11; 14.7). Teselle, op. cit., pp. 298-99.

38. Cf. Teselle, op. cit., pp. 294-297.

39. The Trinity, 14.7.9-104. Portaliť (op. cit., pp. 132-33) lists three special Augustinian contributions to the development of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity:

1. emphasis on one Divine Nature more than on the Three Persons while yet emphasizing the equality of the Three Persons;

2. insisting that all actions ad extra (creation, redemption, sanctification) are the work of all Three Persons;

3. establishing the foundation for the psychological theory of the processions where the Son processes from the mind of the Father as "Word" (or "Thought"), and the Spirit processes from the will of the Father and Word (i.e. Son) as "Love".

40. Cf. On Order, 1.1.2.

41. Augustine writes: "When humans think of a particular substance as something which is alive, everlasting, all-powerful, infinite, present everywhere in its entirety but confined in no place ... when they combine all these perfections in one concept, then they are thinking of God." (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1.8) Grabowski remarks (op. cit., p. 61) that being "present" in creation is one of the central characteristics of Augustine's idea of God.

42. Confessions, 7.5.7. Translation by R. S. Pine- Coffin, Saint Augustine: Confessions (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1961, p. 138.

43. A Literal Commentary on Genesis, 8.26.48.

44. Ibid., 4.18.32.

45. Cf. A Commentary on the Gospel of John, 38.4; Sermon 277, 13.13.

46. Letter 187, 5.17.

47. Sermon 68, 6 (Verbraken) (Mai 126), Miscellanea Agostiniana, I, p. 360.

48. "God is not anywhere. For what is somewhere is contained in a place, and what is contained in a place is body. But God is not body, so he is not anywhere. Nevertheless, since he is and yet is not in a place, all things are in him rather than he himself being anywhere." (On 83 Diverse Questions, q. 20). "God is spread throughout all things, not as a characteristic or quality of the world but as the creator of the substance of the world, ruling creation without work and filling it without effort." (Letter 187, 4.14). Cf. Confessions, 1.2.2; 7.15; A Literal Commentary on Genesis, 4.12.23; 8.26.

49. Commentary on Psalm 81, 2; Confessions, 6.3.4; On the Magnitude of the Soul, 1.34.77; A Literal Commentary on Genesis, 5.20.40.

50. Commentary on the Gospel of John, 2.10. Cf. A Literal Commentary on Genesis, 4.12.22; 8.26.48.

51. A Literal Commentary on Genesis, 4.12.22.

52. Cf. Ibid., 4.12.22; 8.26.48; City of God, 22.24; Letter 187, 4.14.

53. Confessions, 7.11.17; 1.2.2.

54. Cf. An Incomplete Commentary on Genesis, 16, 57; City of God, 12.2; Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1.17. "Individual things are created in accord with "reasons" (models, forms) which are unique to them ... These "reasons" cannot be thought to exist anywhere but in the mind of the Creator ... By participating in these exemplars, whatever "IS" exists in whatever fashion it does exist." 83 Diverse Questions, 46.2.

55. On Genesis Against the Manicheans, 1.2.4; City of God, 12.15.3. Cf. Grabowski, op. cit., pp. 221-22. Teselle (op. cit., p. 115) explains the difference between the procession of the "Word" (the second person of Trinity) and formation of creatures as follows: "The Word is the only proper image and likeness of God ... "likeness" because he is in no way unlike the Father; "image" because he is derived directly from or expressed by the Father. Therefore, it cannot be said that man is the image and likeness of God (in the sense above) ... However, (in the words of Augustine) `Because man is able to participate in Wisdom through the inward man, it is according to the latter that he is said to be created ad imaginem in order that he might be fully formed by this Image (i.e. the Word) with nothing intervening and in such a fashion that nothing could be closer to God. Thus he would truly know and live and be. No created thing could be greater." (83 Diverse Questions, 51.2; 74) Teselle (op. cit., p. 225) sums up the comparison between Word and creature by saying: "The Word is the Image or Likeness of the Father, whereas the creatures are unlike him and gain their similarity to God through participation in the Word."

56. On the Morals of the Catholic Church, 2.4.6.

57. "I cannot observe the body and members of any living thing without finding that measure, number, and order contribute to its harmonious unity. I cannot understand where these perfections come from if they do not come from the highest measure, number, and order which are to be found only in the unchanging and everlasting sublimity of God." On the Morals of the Catholic Church, 1.16.26.

58. Cf. Teselle, op. cit., pp. 117-122.

59. "Everything reaches the perfection determined by its nature when it is in a state of rest. This comes about through the direction established through its natural tendencies, not simply in the universe of which it is a part, but more especially in the God to whom it owes its being and in whom the universe itself exists." (A Literal Commentary on Genesis, 4.18.34). Cf. Grabowski, op. cit., pp. 156-57.

60. Cf. A Literal Commentary on Genesis, 5.22.43; 8.23.44.

61. For the influence of Providence in the development of the Roman Empire, cf. City of God, 5.1.

62. "God moves all of creation by a hidden power and all things are subject to that force: angels follow out His commands, the stars move across the sky, the winds blow now one way and then another, deep pools at the base of waterfalls seethes and explode in mist, meadows spring to life as seeds produce the grass, animals are born and live out their lives following their natural instincts, and evil humans are permitted to harass the just." A Literal Commentary on Genesis, 5.20.41.

63. Ibid., 4.12.22-23; Letter 205, 3.17.

64. A Literal Commentary on Genesis, 8.25.46.

65. Cf. Ibid., 8.9.17.

66. Ibid.

67. Ibid., 8.9.18.

68. Cf. Ibid., 8.26.48; 5.23.46; 5.4.10; Confessions, 7.1.2.

69. A Literal Commentary on Genesis, 5.21.42.

70. Cf. Ibid., 5.20.41.

71. Ibid., 5.21.42. In another place Augustine says: "It is the God we worship who constituted, for each of the natures He created, an origin and purpose of its being and powers of action. He holds in His hands the causes of things, knowing them all and connecting them all. It is He who is the source of all energy in seeds, and He who put rational souls, or spirits, into the living beings. It was He who selected and gave us the gifts of speech and language." City of God, 7.30.

72. Cf. A Literal Commentary on Genesis, 9.17-18.32-33.

73. Cf. Commentary on Psalm 43, 4; The Trinity, 3.5- 6.11.

74. A Literal Commentary on Genesis, 8.10.23.

75. Confessions, 1.1.1.

76. On God's gifts to fallen humanity, cf. City of God, 7.31.

77. Letter 194, 4.16.

78. A Literal Commentary on Genesis, 8.12.25-27.

79. Ibid., 8.23.44.

80. Sermon 171, 3.3.

81. Sermon 263a, 1 [Verbraken], (Mai 98), Miscellanea Agostiniana, I, p. 348.

82. A Literal Commentary on Genesis, 5.16.34.

83. Confessions, 3.6.11.

84. On the story of the Prodigal Son, cf. Questions on the Gospels, 2.33. On the story of the Good Samaritan, cf. Sermon 131, 6.6.

85. Cf. Commentary on Psalm 102, 5-6.

86. Commentary on Psalm 26/2, 18.

87. Sermon 171, 5.

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