Faith and Reason
From the apologetics of the patristic period through the medieval period, philosophers tried to understand the proper mix of the two faculties of reason and faith in a person's life. Which of the two should someone use to understand the world? According to Augustine, philosophy must include both.
Augustine believed that reason can never be religiously neutral. Reason is not one independent approach to the truth while faith is another. Reason is a function of the whole person and is affected by the orientation of your heart, your passion, and your faith. As he puts it, “Faith seeks, understanding finds; whence the prophet says, ‘Unless ye believe, ye shall not understand.'”
The faith and reason issue also applies to moral knowledge. Contrary to the Socratic dictum that “Virtue is knowledge,” and that knowing leads you to pursue the truth, Augustine maintained, as a result of his own moral struggles, that knowledge does not produce goodness.” According to Augustine, “Faith goes before; understanding follows after.”
“I Believe That I Might Understand”
Augustine used reason to work out his own doctrines and to agree with or refute the doctrines of others. He was also a man of faith. As a philosopher, however, he had to inquire and pursue the truth. True philosophy had to join faith and reason, he thought. But according to Augustine, faith was primary.
Augustine embraced the dictum
Thomas Aquinas would later write, “Whenever Augustine, who was imbued with the theories of the Platonists, found in their writings anything consistent with the faith, he adopted it; and whatever he found contrary to the faith, he amended.”
Creation Ex Nihilo
Augustine believed in a supreme being who created the world
But for Augustine matters are different. There is a sharp distinction between God and the things he created. Augustine speaks of God as bringing into existence what did not exist before. He could not have created the world out of existing matter, because matter, even in a primary form, would already be something. Everything, including matter, is the result of God's creative act. Matter is essentially good in nature since God creates matter, and God cannot create anything evil. This affects his theory of God and evil, which we will cover in the next section.
Augustine accepted the notion of Creation as recounted in
Augustine said that if the heavens and earth could speak they would cry out, “We did not make ourselves, we were made by him who abides for eternity.”