On Distinction Between and Privation of Goods

So I was assigned Augustine's The City of God against the Pagans, and I'm realizing how true that full title is. Augustine is clearly a Platonist against Platonists. That is to say, he uses the method and metaphysics of classical Greek thought, but rejects its content assertions. Because his physics are certainly not basically different -- he simply adapts them to what he knows as Christian content. I suppose this is little different from Reinhold Niebuhr, who becomes a Liberal against the Liberals. It is sublation, Aufhebung, neutralization by elevation.

And yet the Fathers are our best defense against this fault in ourselves -- and the scriptures, our best defense against its existence in the Fathers.

In book 10, Gus gets himself tied up in knots confusing the place of angelology in the creation of the heavens and the earth. And he does this because of arguments he's having at the time -- he aims to present a better place for the creation of angels than they have yet been assigned. And so he determines that the angels belong to the discrimination of light and darkness, and that they are light. And the result of this is that darkness becomes evil, in ways that skotos simply does not imply.

Light is distinguished from darkness -- just as the sun is distinguished from the moon, the land from the sea, the waters above from the waters below -- and this is not privation, but rhetoric. It is merism, the description of a continuum by its extremes. There may be higher and lower, but there is not good and evil here -- for all of this is God's creation. If the light is called good, the darkness is not called evil! You had as well say that the sky is good, and the earth, evil, or that the land is good, and the sea, evil. God does not create a sphere of conflict between good and evil, as though evil had existence.

And so Augustine errs when he imports the heavenly beings into the creation of earth, in the first place. The story is uninterested in speaking of the creation of heavenly beings in the realm above the sky. If we must import the creation of the sphere of the heavens into Genesis 1, we must leave it in 1:1, and trust that it happens offstage as we observe closely the good creation of the earthly sphere and everything therein.


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