Ok, caught back up. Book 12 is a discussion of the creation – what relation does time have to creation? how are angels good and demons bad? does God ever create anything bad? how does nature relate to our goodness and badness? Augustine argues that everything that God creates is good by nature and that humanity has fallen because of a bad will. That will was not created bad but was deficient, in that it chose good things that are not God to pursue. Again, God creates only good things, and so there is nothing bad in creation, but we can prioritize the wrong things. God is the only immutable good and the only true and proper good for humanity. All other goods are relative. So, humans must properly order our loves and desires.
Angels are in the same boat as humans. God creates the angels as good but some of them fall by a deficient will. Augustine also gets into a discussion of time here, saying that the angels have “always” been, even though there is a point at which they were created. “Always”, he says, refers to time, and before the creation of creation there was no time. So, the angels came into being at the same time as time and therefore have always existed even though they did not exist in eternity outside of time. This leads Augustine into a conversation with the Platonists over the nature of time and creation – many of the Platonists argue for a cyclical understanding of time, where creation undergoes the same processes and human souls are put into bodies again and again. Augustine rejects that argument. Instead, creation goes through one iteration and then off into eternity. Otherwise human existence is made up of various forms of misery.
“In some cases, therefore, there can exist things which are wholly good; but there can never be things which are wholly evil. For even those natures which have been vitiated by the rise of an evil will are indeed evil insofar as they are vitiated, but they are good insofar as they are natures.”
“The defections of the will are not toward evil things, but are themselves evil: that is, they are not defections toward things which are evil by nature and in themselves; rather, it is the defection of the will itself which is evil, because against the order of nature. It is a turning away from that which has Supreme Being and toward that which has less.”
“God alone is the Author of all natures, since He neither uses in His work any material which itself has not been made by Him, nor any workmen who were not themselves created by Him. Moreover, if He were to withdraw His creative power, so to speak, from things, they would no more exist than they did before they were created.”
Good enough for today. Many blessings,