Sunday, August 30, 2009

The City of God I,9: Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

So, I am reading Augustine, The City of God Against the Pagans. Since I kind of want to do political theology based on the early Church, it is more or less mandatory reading, isn't it? I'll be posting down the things that strike me as interesting, mostly for future reference. I have only read parts of it before, even though Augustine was a kind of first love to me as a undergraduate.

Augustine's argument here is simply that everybody do commit some sins, so everybody deserves the bad things that happen to them. He qualifies this a bit later on, but what strikes me about this is how very "western" this kind of thinking in, perhaps even Augustinian. Augustine refers to the difference between laymen and ascetics. Even those that have chosen "a higher order of life" do commit the sin of not rebuking other peoples crimes.

This, I would argue, is an idea that is not very likely to show up in the eastern fathers. First of all, they would not actually refer to sin to answer the question, they would say that God lets bad things happen to people in order to make it possible for them to improve their way of life. "Without temptations, no one could ever be saved". (Isaac of Nineveh)

Secondly, at least among eastern ascetics, to argue that people should pay more attentions to other people's sins would be very unusual. In fact, I think that would be considered a very grave temptation!

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