De Ordine, Part 1

“Some cauterize the wound of disordered opinion inflicted on them in day-to-day life by retreating into solitude. Others do the same by cultivating the liberal arts.”
-St. Augustine, De Ordine

In one of his earliest works, Augustine debates the accident of order with a few students and his mother. The questions which fuel their pursuit of understanding are that of unity. How can we reconcile that “on the one hand, God takes care of human affairs, on the other these same affairs are shot through with so much evil,” that God is good, that he is omnipotent, that nothing occurs outside God’s order, and yet that evil occurs? If evil contradicts the nature of God’s order, we cannot then hold that it occurs within it, but neither can we say evil is powerful to overcome God’s order and thus act outside of it, for then God is not omnipotent. If God causes evil, he is its author, and thus cannot be called good. So mankind observes in his world orderliness: that it does occur, that it seems good, and that it appeals to the wise as worthy of imitation and perpetuation, and he is haunted by the persistence of disunity. If this “clashing of contraries gives body to the overall beauty of the universe,” then is evil necessary for beauty? Is it necessary for the occurrence of order? If all was good, would all be order, or would order not exist? Then, what of God’s justice?

The work of Christian philosophy is discerning the eternal from the midst of a broken yet hope-filled world.

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