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«Creatio ex nihilo» and the Theology of St. Augustine

The Anti-Manichaean Polemic and Beyond


N. Joseph Torchia

This study proceeds from an investigation of the significance of the Christian doctrine of creatio ex nihilo in some of the key components of St. Augustine's extended anti-Manichaean polemic. To a great extent, his devastating critique of the Manichaeans' world view, their conception of evil, and their most fundamental theological presuppositions relied heavily upon the affirmation that God ultimately created everything that exists from nothing. In broader terms, the study demonstrates how the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo provided Augustine with an effective means of defining the character of created being as finite and mutable, and drawing a crucial ontological distinction between the Divine Nature and that which God creates. Such teachings were operative in some of the key themes of Augustine's theology.


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Preface Initial Observations/The Christian Doctrine of Crea tio ex nihilo: Some General Presuppositions/The Signifi- cance of Creatio ex nihilo for Augustine/Methodology/ The Relation Between Augustine's Life and Thought/ Augustine and Neoplatonism/A Word on Texts/ Acknowledgements/Notes Introduction The Scriptural, Patristic, and Philosophical Background of St. Augustine's Doctrine of Creatio ex nihilo Creatio ex nihilo in Scripture/Patristic Theories of Creation: The First to the Fourth Centuries/The Philo- sophical Background/The Debate Concerning Plato's Timaeus/Later Platonism and Early Patristic Theories of Creation/Possible Influences on Augustine: A Tentative Hypothesis/Concluding Remarks/Notes Chapter 1 The Manichaean Cosmogony: ix 1 A Point of Reference 65 The Religion of Mani/Methodology/The Manichaean Cosmogony/Assessment: The Three 'Moments'/The Manichaeans' Understanding of Creation: Salient Themes/Concluding Observations: Augustine's Knowledge of Manichaeism/Notes Chapter 2 Saint Augustine's Exegesis of Genesis 97 The Act of Creation/The Ontological Status of Amor- phous Matter/The Ontological Status of the Nihil! Creatio ex nihilo Defined/Conclusion/Notes VIII Contents Chapter 3 Augustine's Refutation of the Manichaean Cosmogony 135 Opposition to Manichaean Claims of Authority/The Primordial Conflict/The Two Bordering Regions/Creatio de nihilo Affirmed/The Five Natures of the Region of Darkness/The Goodness of the Whole/Evil as a Corrup- tion of the Good/Salient Features of Augustine's Refuta- tion of the Manichaean Cosmogony/Conclusion/Notes Chapter 4 Augustine's Theodicy 165 Introductory Remarks/The Divine Nature/Corruption Redefined/The Order of Creation/Evil Defined/Diverse Senses of Evil/Creation and the 'Nihi/'/Conclusion/ Notes Chapter 5 A Defense of Monotheism 193 The Contra Faustum Manichaeum : Salient Features of Faustus's Critique of Catholic Teaching/Monotheism vs. Polytheism/Monotheism vs. Dualism/Conclusion/Notes Chapter 6 Creatio ex nihilo in Augustine's Anti-Manichaean Polemic: A...

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