“A Work of Divine Art:” An Assessment of Augustine’s Early Theological Anthropology

Augustine of Hippo (354–430), as a prolific thinker in the Western theological tradition, has much to say on the nature of creation and the subject of good and evil. As one who wrestled with how to best relate these ideas together, as evidenced in his Confessions, Augustine’s theological and philosophical quest was heavily influenced by questions of anthropology. These thoughts continued to take shape in his earliest post-conversion reflections. Specifically, the first decade of Augustine’s theological writings show a basic, yet developing, biblical affirmation of the goodness of human life based on the goodness of creation from a good God. Most renderings of Augustine’s anthropology are based in his later writings such as those on nature and grace, centered on the Pelagian controversy. Later interpreters of Augustine often develop his thought from later writings without as much regard to his earlier thought. His early anthropology promoted the goodness of human life and demonstrated creation as a basic good, Thus, Augustine’s early thought provides additional layers to his later anthropological thought. This essay explores the early thought of Augustine on the goodness of life, approximately from 387 to 397, to strengthen the foundation of Augustinian anthropology and demonstrate how he perceived mankind as a good creation. Augustine, even in his early thought, helps us to see how life and creation are in fact good and worthy to be cherished and valued.

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