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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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Chapter 7: Broader Theological Implications of the Doctrine 231


Chapter 7 Broader Theological Implications of the Doctrine As the preceding chapters have demonstrated, the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo was a pervasive feature of Augustine's defense of orthodoxy against Manichaeism. But the relevance of this teaching for Augustine was extremely wide-ranging. In actuality, it exerted an continuing in- fluence upon his work in the turbulent decades that followed. For this reason, the doctrine offers a useful starting point for investigating Augustine's theology in what at least approximates a systematic man- ner-even if that theology does not allow for a complete systematiza- tion or any neat categorization of its themes. In a very real sense, the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo established the general framework in which the fundamental aspects of Augustine's theology emerged. By virtue of its implications regarding the relationship between God and the universe of created being, the doctrine provides the nexus of a cluster of closely related topics that permeate Augustine's thought. This concluding chapter focuses upon five topics which are inti- mately connected with the fundamental Christian teaching that God created all things from nothing: first, the Divine nature and the act of creation; secondly, the finitude of creatures; third, human nature, free will, and sin; fourth, redemption and grace; and fifth, Divine sovereignty and predestination. To a great extent, Augustine's under- standing of these topics remained relatively stable throughout his long career. But despite this constancy, we also must be alert to his refine- ment of certain key teachings over the course of his...

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