Saint Augustine was the most important philosopher and theologian of the early Christian church era. The son of a Christian mother and non-Christian father, Augustine partook in the lusts of the world as a young man. He visited prostitutes and took a mistress as discussed in his book, Confessions. Eventually, Augustine returned to the faith of his mother and converted to Christianity.
In addition to being influenced by the Bible and the truths of Christianity, Augustine was also influenced by philosophy. At age 18 he gained a love for philosophy and had a special fondness for the works of Plato. Augustine also admired the Stoics.
Augustine believed there was a close connection between reason and the Christian faith. In fact, he tried to reconcile faith and reason. For Augustine, belief in the Christian God was the key to understanding reality. Thus his famous statement, “I believe in order that I may understand.”
Augustine Christianized Plato’s theory of forms asserting that the perfect eternal “forms” of which Plato taught existed in the mind of God (Plato never said where these “forms” existed). Also like Plato, Augustine said the soul was a higher form of existence than the body.
Augustine argued that God created the world without using prior existing materials. He also promoted the teleological argument—the view that the design of the universe shows that God created it. Augustine also stated that before God created the world there was no time. Thus, God himself is outside of time.
Augustine developed the concept of “just war”—the view that nations can declare war on other nations that act wickedly. Participation in a “just war,” though, does not violate the “do not kill” command in the Bible. Augustine argued that evil in the world comes from our participation in the sin of Adam and Eve. Since Adam was the father of the entire human race, everyone was present in Adam in seed form when Adam sinned.
Augustine was one of the first philosophers to offer a philosophy of history. He promoted a linear view of history in which history has a purpose and is headed toward a divinely-appointed completion. In his important work, The City of God, Augustine said history can be divided into two cities. The earthly city consists of everything that is known by love of self. The city ofGod, though, consists of everything that is known by love of God. It can be rightly said thatThe City of God was the first major work to address a philosophy of history.