Chapter 4: The Establishment of Almighty God

God of Empowering Love: A History and Reconception of the Theodicy Conundrum
by David P. Polk

Chapter 4: The Establishment of Almighty God

The early fourth century CE saw a tectonic shift in the fortunes of the oppressed but ever growing Christian community: The emperor Constantine handed over the reins of religious leadership in his empire to the church.

One might readily surmise that the course of that century would bring forth significant theological developments demonstrating the connection between the power of God reigning in heaven and imperial power being wielded on earth. But that was not the case.1 The two overriding issues occupying the attention of the church’s theologians were the definitive formulating of a doctrine of the Trinity and the resolving of christological issues deriving from that. At the same time, the new official status of the church allowed an imposing of orthodox positions against all the losing sides, backed by imperial Rome. The time for freewheeling explorations into alternative theological possibilities of understanding was now in the past.

This chapter presents and evaluates the relevant contributions of two champions of this victorious theological synthesis: the Cappadocian Gregory of Nyssa in the East, and the brilliant but flawed work of perhaps the West’s greatest theologian, Augustine of Hippo.



Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 334) was the younger brother of Basil of Caesarea and a good friend of another Gregory, of Nazianzus, the three together known in history as the Cappadocian Fathers. All three being elevated to bishoprics, Basil was the abler administrator, and the Nazianzen was the more eloquent orator. But the Nyssen was by far the most outstanding theologian of the three, wherefore it is to his work that I wish primarily to direct our attention.

The Cappadocian Fathers crystallized the trinitarian debates that followed the Council of Nicaea with formulations that found wide favor in ensuing epochs. Their fundamental position can be readily summarized from the Five Theological Orations (ca. 380)of Gregory of Nazianzus.2 There he affirmed the absolute unity of God’s essence (ousia), discerned by us in an interlocking trio of distinct but equal relations,3 identified as hypostases or “persons.” This dance of internal divine relations—accessible to us only by virtue of the incarnation of God in Jesus the Christ and the subsequent witness of the church to the gifts of God’s enlivening Spirit—is between the unbegotten Father and the begotten Son, but also equally and essentially including the Holy Spirit who “proceeds” from the Father. In this understanding, there is no “before” of God that does not entail this Trinity of divine relations.

Does this positing of a unified God impacting us and the world in a Trinity of relations provide helpful insights into the subject of this inquiry, the relationship between God’s power and God’s love? The first point that must quickly be conceded is that whatever may be said of the attributes of one person in the relational triad must be affirmed of all three. The Father alone is not powerful, even in initial creation, which occurred according to John 1:3 as in and through the Word (Son). The Son alone is not loving, and so on.4 “Christ,” Gregory of Nyssa affirmed in An Answer to Ablabius (ca. 380), “is the power of God,” but by this same principle, “power is a unity in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”5

Gregory then went on to maintain that “the divine nature is unlimited and incomprehensible . . . altogether infinite,” and that “infinity entirely transcends limitation.”6 His explorations surrounding this claim [55] center on divine activity and the power by which that activity is operative. Infinite power, by extension, utterly transcends limitation.

Does this also apply to love? Does God’s infinite love utterly transcend limitation? That focus is absent from the discussion here, but it receives attention elsewhere, where Gregory tried to integrate these two aspects of divine reality. In his Address on Religious Instruction some three years later, he recognized the self-limiting dimension of God’s unlimited power:

It is universally agreed that we should believe the Divine to be not only powerful, but also just and good and wise and everything else that suggests excellence. It follows, therefore, in the plan of God we are considering, that there should not be a tendency for one of his attributes to be present in what happened, while another was absent. For not a single one of these sublime attributes by itself and separated from the others constitutes virtue. What is good is not truly such unless it is associated with justice, wisdom, and power . . . Power, too, if it is separated from justice and wisdom, cannot be classed as virtue. Rather it is a brutal and tyrannical form of power.7

God’s inherent goodness is a far more typical emphasis in Gregory (and in these early centuries overall) than God’s love. Even so, the conjoining of power and love explicitly is identified several paragraphs later. In the Gospel story, Gregory wrote,

the union of power with love for man is displayed. In the first place, that the omnipotent nature was capable of descending to man’s lowly position is a clearer evidence of power than great and supernatural miracles. For it somehow accords with God’s nature, and is consistent with it, to do great and sublime things by divine power. It does not startle us to hear it said that the whole creation, including the invisible world, exists by God’s power, and is the realization of his will. But descent to man’s lowly position is a supreme example of power—or a power which is not bounded by circumstances contrary to its nature.8

In these reflections, Gregory saw the love of God displayed rather particularly in God’s activity through the Son to grant eternal salvation [56] beyond our mortal life on Earth by virtue of the “superabundance of Omnipotence” displayed in the resurrection.9 But this activity in no way affects God’s own being, which is eternally perfect and therefore not subject to change.10 This doctrine of divine immutability denies any interactivity on the part of God’s love (except internally, in the relations of the Trinity), which led him to conclude: “in order that the Supreme Being may not appear to have any connection whatever with things below, we use, with regard to His nature, ideas and phrases expressive of His separation from all such conditions; we call . . . that which is unreceptive of change, or sufferance, or alteration, passionless, changeless, and unalterable.”11

And therein lies the rub. The full-blown championing of Greek categories of static supremacy has denied utterly the biblical witness to a God sublimely interactive with the cosmic forces God set in motion. Fundamental convictions have been stood on their head: God cannot appear to have any connection with “things below” that would reflect back on God’s utter self-sufficiency. Power flows only in one way, outward from the divine. Love, similarly, flows only one way, outward from a “passionless” God who is not all affected by what and whom God loves because that would necessarily diminish God’s unalterable perfection.

What we have seen bubbling to the surface in the previous centuries of Christian thought has now resulted in a distillation of pure uncontaminated divinity: power without real opposition,12 love without real interactive engagement. One recalls the old quip about the farmer being asked directions to a traveler’s destination and replying, “Well, you can’t really get there from here.” That’s the dilemma the church set for itself. It so defined the nature of power, divine power, that one can no longer move from that place to a destination that includes any meaningful understanding of the full nature of divine love. The church, and the Western world, suffered for centuries from that wrong turn.


There is no denying the astonishing breadth, depth, and brilliance of Augustine’s body of work. He was the one who put it all together in a [57] way that the church in the West has had to live with, and write footnotes on, ever since. The simple equation is that the Bible/Gospel + Plato = Augustine. The devil, of course, is in the details.

Born in 354, Augustine came late to Christian faith (age 30), as he spelled out in his Confessions (398). His was an intensely philosophical mind, and he struggled with the dualism and essential corporeality of Manichaeism before finding conceptual liberation in the neo-Platonism of Plotinus, who enabled him for the first time to envision a sublime reality unaffected by material corruption.13 Apart from a few years in Italy in the 380s, he lived his life chiefly in Tagaste, Hippo (where he served as bishop), and Carthage on the Mediterranean coast of northern Africa, adjacent to today’s city of Tunis. By the time he died in 430, the barbarians had sacked Rome twenty years earlier and would capture his own city shortly after his death.

In regard to the vast body of original resources available to us, Augustine recognized and called attention to his own tendency toward excessive verbiage—an exhaustiveness that itself is exhausting to the reader—in the prayer with which he closed On the Trinity: “I am not silent in thoughts, even when silent in words . . . set me free from such multitude of speech.”14 Of all that is varyingly valuable in the corpus of Augustine’s insights, it is essential here only to lift up those components that contribute to his attempt to reconcile convincingly God’s power and love. The task is not unlike that of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective Sherlock Holmes, who repeatedly observed the necessity of separating what is of critical importance (i.e., to our inquiry) from what is merely interesting or incidental. Much that is vitally interesting in Augustine will not receive attention here. I propose that we embark upon four intersecting avenues of exploration, with a concluding caveat.


The understanding of a triune God is at the very heart of Augustine’s reflections on divinity. He did not substantially advance the Cappadocians’ formulation of the doctrine of one divine essence in three “persons” or hypostases, nor was his grasp of the Greek language all that strong,15 though he did champion emphatically the overarching significance of the unity of the three. His major contributions seem [58] to lie in the numerous summations he penned but also in the way in which he defended the absolute equality of Father, Son, and Spirit in their relations to one another and the co-reality of all God’s attributes in each member of the Trinity.

In regard to the latter, “whatsoever is said of each in respect to themselves, is to be taken of them, not in the plural in sum, but in the singular,” so that it must be said, concerning greatness, or goodness, and so forth, “not three greats, but one great . . . not three goods, but one good . . . So the Father is omnipotent, the Son omnipotent, and the Holy Spirit omnipotent; yet not three omnipotents, but one omnipotent.”16

In regard to the former, Augustine’s lack of facility with Greek terminology allowed him to concentrate on the trifold distinctions within the unity of God as a matter of internal divine relations as opposed to the positing of three distinct “persons.” At the very outset of his treatise on the Trinity, he championed both the Son’s equality with the Father as well as the equality of the Holy Spirit with both. We teach, he said,

this doctrine, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit intimate a divine unity of one and the same substance in an indivisible equality; and therefore that they are not three Gods, but one God; although the Father hath begotten the Son, and so He who is the Father is not the Son; and the Son is begotten by the Father, and so He who is the Son is not the Father; and the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son, but only the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, Himself also co-equal with the Father and the Son, and pertaining to the unity of the Trinity.17

He insisted emphatically that there can be no subordination of Father over Son, reading all scriptural indications of the Son’s varied limitations—e.g., John 14:28, “the Father is greater than I”—as having only to do with the human aspect of the divine-human Jesus.18

Further along, Augustine returned to this theme with a renewed emphasis on the internal relationships of the Holy Spirit: “So also the Holy Spirit is one with them, since these three are on . . . for the same Spirit is not without reason said to be the Spirit both of the Father and of the Son . . . For the Spirit of God is one, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, the Holy Spirit, who worketh all in all.”19



God’s triune immutability stands at the very forefront of Augustine’s pilgrimage of faith. His extended flirtation with Manichaeism had led him to struggle with the corruptibility of all substantial reality, which became a dilemma for him. He poured out his confusion to God in his Confessions:

with all my heart I believed You incorruptible and inviolable and immutable, for though I did not see whence or how, yet I saw with utter certainty that what can be corrupted is lower than what cannot be corrupted, that the inviolable is beyond question better than the violable, and that what can suffer no change is better than what can be changed . . . I could not but think of You as some corporeal substance, occupying all space . . . Yet even at this I thought of You as incorruptible and inviolable and immutable, and I still saw those as better than corruptible and violable and mutable.20

The breakthrough came for Augustine when he read “some books of the Platonists translated from Greek into Latin.”21 He found himself liberated to a non-corporeal understanding of this divine incorruptibility, “and there was from that moment no ground of doubt in me.”22

This became a pivotal conviction from which Augustine would not waver for the rest of his life and is the conceptual axis around which Western theology has been spinning ever since. In the corpus of Augustine’s works the subject is not so much argued, through logical procession, as posited, through a myriad of analogies presumably demonstrating the superiority of immutability over being subject to change.

The strongest presentations of this theme are to be found in Books 4 and 5 of On the Trinity (400–428). “For the essence of God, whereby He is, has altogether nothing changeable, neither in eternity, nor in truth, nor in will; since there truth is eternal, love eternal; and there love is true, eternity true; and there eternity is loved, and truth is loved.”23 Necessarily, then, “that is not properly called eternal which undergoes any degree of change.”24 Truth itself, in true neo-Platonic understanding, “remains immortal, incorrupt, unchangeable.”25 The [60] ultimate conclusion follows: “He who is God is the only unchangeable substance or essence, to whom certainly being itself . . . most especially and most truly belongs.”26

Out of this central proclamation arises the corollary of God’s essential timelessness. Time, of course, is the arena in which change continually occurs. But if God were subject to the sequentially of time, would God not then be subject to change? Absolutely: “nothing happens accidentally to God in time, because He is incapable of change,”27 Augustine affirmed in his magisterial City of God (413–426). Rather, God is outside of and, of course, not affected by time, working “visible miracles” consistent with “his unchanging counsel, in whose plan all future events are already present. For he moves events in time, while himself remains unmoved by time. He knows what is to happen as already having happened.”28

It is only our faulty perspective that subjects God to the vagaries of time. We experience creation by a triad of memory, awareness, and anticipation or will. Not so for God. God’s triune eternity is in no way circumscribed by three modes of relating to the passing of time. Rather, God “sees all without any kind of change” and “comprehends all . . . in a stable and eternal present” that simultaneously embraces all of time’s finite flow.29 “There was no time before times began . . . that which begins to be spoken of God in time, and which was not spoken of Him before, is manifestly spoken of Him relatively; yet not according to any accident of God.”30

So the Father is Father and the Son is Son and the Spirit is Spirit in a timeless eternity of unchanging relationships that affect all of time without being affected by any of time, wherefore God is not in any way liable to “passions” insofar as that involves God’s timeless essence.31 The triune God “lives” unchangingly in the sufficiency of the divine interrelations.32

Finally, here, it is relevant to note that Augustine affirmed rather curiously the doctrine of God’s simplicity: “There is then one sole Good, which is simple, and therefore unchangeable; and that is God.”33 Immutability and simplicity clearly go hand in hand. “What is meant by ‘simple’ is that its being is identical with its attributes . . . The reason why a nature is called simple is that it cannot lose any attribute it possesses, that there is no difference between what it is and what it has.” [61] Accordingly, he concluded, “the epithet ‘simple’ applies to things which are in the fullest and truest sense divine, because in them there is no difference between substance and quality.”34


I have already had occasion to quote Augustine’s statement that “the Father is omnipotent, the Son omnipotent, and the Holy Spirit omnipotent; yet not three omnipotents, but one omnipotent.”35 This theme is a repetitive drumbeat in his City of God, where he asserted that, regardless of our finite sense of historical developments occurring under the sway of merely human forces:

It is therefore this God, the author and giver of felicity, who, being the one true God, gives earthly dominion both to good men and to evil . . . he gives in accordance with the order of events in history, an order completely hidden from us, but perfectly known to God himself . . . he is himself in control, as the master of events, and arranges the order of things as governor.36

We must attribute to the one true God alone the power to direct the fortunes of empires. It is none other than God who “rules and guides these events, according to his pleasure.”37

We recognize that God is called “Almighty” for the very reason that God’s unopposable omnipotence entails the power to do whatever God wills,38 without obstruction or counterpotency. The immutable God is unchangingly in control of all that comes to be, without qualification.

Writing about initial creation, Augustine affirmed that God is “the one Creator, by whose unspeakable power it comes to pass.”39 When creation began, time began. When creation reaches its end, time will cease. And all that creation is composed of cannot be out of God, which would make God mutable, and it cannot be out of other pre-existing components, which would set up an eternal co-existent with God.40 Therefore creation can only be comprehended as ex nihilo, “out of nothing.” And it is God alone who created from nothing all things both spiritual and corporeal.

In that creative activity, God has bestowed on humans a freedom of the will to choose between the good of God and the lack of good [62] not of God. Without such a freedom, there is no meaning in any divine action of condemning us for our waywardness. But is this nothing more than a chimera? Augustine endeavored valiantly to hold free will and God’s omnipotence in union, particularly in regard to God’s unlimited foreknowledge of what, from our time-bound perspective, is yet to occur but from God’s eternal perspective does not truly possess the character of a “not yet.”

we confess his [God’s] supreme power and foreknowledge. We are not afraid that what we do by an act of will may not be a voluntary act, because God, with his infallible prescience, knew that we should do it.41

God foreknew, of course, that we would sin; God “knew beforehand how evil the man would become whom God himself had created good; he also knew what good, even so, he would bring out of man’s evil.”42

Evil men do many things contrary to the will of God; but so great is his wisdom, and so great his power, that all things which seem to oppose his will tend towards those results or ends which he himself has foreknown as good and just.43

In spite of all the inherent tensions, Augustine could not surrender an insistence that, although God is eternally powerful over everything and knows from a timeless perspective all decisions arising within creation, we and not God are nonetheless responsible for our own misdeeds. It is a curious logic that has bedeviled the church for centuries.

The supratemporal reality of God’s unchanging essence required Augustine to champion the apostle Paul in insisting that whatever our post-mortal fate may turn out to be has been predestined by God from all eternity. It is, once again, God’s unopposable omnipotence that underlies the argument.

[God] promised not from the power of our will but from His own predestination. For He promised what He Himself would do, not what men would do. Because, although men do those good things which pertain to God’s worship, He Himself makes them to do what He has commanded; it is not they that cause Him to do what He has promised. Otherwise the fulfillment [63] of God’s promises would not be in the power of God, but in that of men.44

So, in regard to the “two societies of human beings” that Augustine named the City of God and the City of Man, one “is predestined to reign with God for all eternity, the other doomed to undergo eternal punishment with the Devil.”45

The dilemma is of colossal magnitude. We have earned our own damnation through our perverted utilization of our God-given free will, but God in God’s ineffable mystery not only knew of our corruption from all eternity but even ordained it in the exercise of God’s all-embracing power. Albert Outler has summarized this problematic enigma in a helpful way:

Against all who minimize grace or who assert man’s abilities and power, after the Pelagian fashion, he [Augustine] opposes a harsh doctrine of God’s omnipotence, which allows not the slightest qualification, or even paradox. In this ‘polemical mood’, Augustine declares that God’s grace is irresistible and inexorably effectual in accomplishing the divine purposes. Salvation is a sheer miracle wrought by God’s inscrutable will on behalf of a part of ruined mankind and is in no way congruent with human action or ability. Damnation is, likewise, sheer justice wrought by the same inscrutable will. God’s mercy and justice are both alike beyond human questioning. The elect rejoice in God’s mercy; the damned must acknowledge His justice. Both take their destiny from His choice and by His fixed decree.46

I will return to this issue in the next section, in raising once again the question of how this understanding of divine power is coordinated with divine love. First, however, one remaining topic merits our attention here, and that is the matter of how the overarching power of God is not at all responsible for the existence of evil.

Augustine’s position, like that of Gregory of Nyssa,47 is that evil is nothing in itself, nothing at all substantial, but is conceivable only as a privation of the good, an absence of something rather than anything real—and therefore, it is in no way a component of God’s creative activity. To God, Augustine wrote in his Confessions, “evil is utterly not.”48 [64] An apt analogy would seem to be that blindness is not some substantial reality but an absence of sight.

Although “theodicy” as a conceptual term only arose in the eighteenth century with Gottfried Leibniz, the issue it identifies is certainly as old as the Book of Job, to wit, how can God be perceived as both good and powerful if evil exists? Augustine essentially swept the ground out from under theodicy’s moorings by maintaining that evil in fact has no independent existence at all. To the extent that we experience evil, that is due to the perversion of our wills in our failure to actualize God’s intentions for us49—which of course, unsatisfyingly, leads us right back to the previous threads of the omnipotent God’s foreknowledge and predestination. The enigma remains.


Over a century ago the German scholar Otto Sheel recognized that, for Augustine, “the idea of absolute causality and omnipotence is raised to a position of greater importance than the Father’s love.”50 There are understandable reasons for that. Augustine read his Bible in a Latin translation and was not directly conversant with the Hebrew and Greek terms hesed and agape. He had to rely on what was available to him in his native Latin, primarily, caritas, from which the English “charity” is derived, but which for Augustine contained the meaning of “desiring.”

In one of his earliest works, On Christian Doctrine (397), Augustine proposed that God can love us in only two possible ways: by enjoying us (frui), or using us (uti). This seems to be an unfortunate distortion of the biblical meaning of love as willing—and acting for—the well-being of the beloved. But for Augustine:

If He [God] enjoys us, He needs some good of ours, but no sane person would say this. For every good of ours either is God or comes from God . . . Therefore He does not enjoy us but uses us. For if He did neither, I cannot see how He could love us.51

But God, being utterly impassive and wholly self-contained, truly has “no use” for us either, after all. God, strictly speaking, needs only God.52 As Thomas Oord has concluded, regarding Augustine’s view, [65] “God has no desires we could possibly satisfy. We do not contribute to a God who has all value eternally in God’s unchanging person.”53

In searching for a clear path through this conceptual morass, we return to the centrality of focus with which this section began, God’s Trinity of equal relations. God as trinitarian is eternally “One [the Father] who loves Him [the Son[ who is from Himself, and One [the Son] who loves Him [the Father] from whom He is, and Love itself [the Holy Spirit].”54 Accordingly, Augustine maintained that the Holy Spirit is none other than “the bond of love that exists between the Father and the Son,”55 and the “person” within the Trinity to which we are indebted for the gift of God’s love outward to us and to all of creation.56 “Therefore the Holy Spirit, of whom He hath given us, makes us to abide in God, and Him in us; and this it is that love does. Therefore He is the God that is love.”57 But the gift of love we receive from the Holy Spirit is not so much God’s love of us as it is our own God-derived ability to love. As is expressed in 1 John 4:16, “We love because he [God] first loved us.”58

Augustine could pen eloquent paeans to this facet of God. In his sermon on 1 John 4, he waxed poetic:

I do not know whether love could be commended to us more magnificently than in the words, ‘God is pure love’. Brief praise and great praise! Brief in word and great in meaning. How quickly one says it: ‘God is love’. And this is brief: if you were to count it, it is one thing; if you were to weigh it, how substantial it is!59

Would that he had stayed true to this insight. But because God in God’s self-sufficiency desires nothing from us and has no constitutive use for us, affirming any substantial meaning to the notion that God “loves” us becomes problematic. There is certainly a component of love in God’s sanctifying grace that saves (some of) us from eternal damnation. But nothing within creation can be worthy as a recipient of God’s perfect love because that love can have as its true object only that which is also perfect—namely, God’s trinitarian self.

The key implication is an obvious one, discerned by many: The only valid object of God’s love . . . is God! And that is because only God is truly and perfectly worthy of God’s love. John Burnaby saw rightly [66] that “Augustine in his zeal for the divine self-sufficiency is too fearful of representing the loving will of God as a real seeking of our human love. Perfect love must be eternally in the Holy Trinity.”60 God’s love of anything and anyone not God can only be a wholly disinterested love,61 which renders the meaning of such love problematic. Oord concludes that for Augustine, “God ceaselessly loves Godself in contemplation and enjoyment in the Trinity’s inner life.”62 It is only the understanding of the threefold interrelationship of persons within the Trinity that allows Augustine barely to escape the charge that his position amounts to a sort of divine narcissism.


Augustine erected the conceptual edifice that dominated the landscape of Christian thinking for a millennium and a half, with doctrines reaching far beyond the select focus presented here. But in this critical arena of the relationship between God’s power and God’s love, he established a structure of thought that proved problematic to the extreme. In his overarching concentration on God’s absolute immutability, the living God of the biblical witness “lives,” now, only in a timeless eternity of trinitarian interrelatedness, sans passion, sans timely interaction, sans any affect creation can have on God.

In particular, Augustine’s position on predestination, necessitated by his championing of God’s unopposable omnipotence, gives one pause. Did God create us out of love? Why, then, are most souls damned to eternal Hell by the justice of God while only some are saved by the grace of God? What kind of God deliberately creates subjects that are foredoomed to be the eternal victims of God’s powerful and righteous wrath? For Pelikan, the “sovereignty of divine power and divine grace” was the double focus of Augustine that led to his presenting his doctrine of double predestination, which protected the absoluteness of God’s power while denying the absoluteness of God’s love!63 And Burnaby saw that “Augustine never realized that his own conception of grace required nothing less than a revolution in his thought of the divine omnipotence.”64

Power has triumphed. Love has been truncated, soaring flames reduced to mere ash. Must it ever be so? Let us explore how this [67] theological architecture held up or was extended and modified over the ensuing centuries.


  1. The doctrine of the divine right of kings, for example, was not explicity promulgated until the reign of James I of England in the seventeenth century.
  2. See The Library of Christian Classics, vol. III: Christology of the Later Fathers, ed. Edward Rochie Hardie (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1954), 113–214.
  3. This critical emphasis on internal triune relatedness in God is explicitly spelled out in Oration 3:16 (LCC III, 171).
  4. Gregory of Nyssa, An Answer to Ablabius, LCC III, 262.
  5. Ibid., 263. All subsequent references to “Gregory” in this chapter are to Gregory of Nyssa.
  6. Ibid., 264.
  7. Gregory of Nyssa, An Address on Religious Instruction, LCC III, 296 (sec. 20).
  8. Ibid., 300f. (sec. 24), emphasis mine. He went on to say: “God’s transcendent power is not so much displayed in the vastness of the heavens, or the luster of the stars, or the orderly arrangement of the universe or his perpetual oversight of it, as in his condescension to our weak nature . . . We marvel at the way the Godhead was entwined in human nature and, while becoming man, did not cease to be God” (301).
  9. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Soul and Resurrection, in Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, 2nd Series (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1893), 5:465. Available online in the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at www.ccel. org/ccel/schaff/npnf205.toc.html
  10. See particularly Gregory’s presentation of this notion in his Against Eunomius, in Schaff and Wace, op. cit., sections 1:22 and 2:2.
  11. Gregory of Nyssa, Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book, in Schaff and Wace, op. cit., 5:308, emphasis mine.
  12. Gregory denied that evil has any positive existence. Understood as [68] the absence of the good, it is therefore not anything God created or is in any way responsible for. See An Address on Religious Instruction, LCC III, 282, 285 (sec. 7, 8).
  13. See Augustine’s Confessions, the whole of Book 7.
  14. Augustine of Hippo, On the Trinity, tr. Arthur West Haddan, in Philip Schaff, ed., A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Vol. 3 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1886), Book 15, Ch. 28, Para. 51. Available online at
  15. Ibid., 3. Preface.
  16. Ibid., 5.8.9.
  17. Ibid., 1.4.7.
  18. Ibid., 1.11-12.
  19. Ibid., 4.20.29. See also the preceding paragraphs in this chapter.
  20. Augustine, Confessions, 7:1. This and subsequent quotes are from the translation by F. J. Sheed, The Confessions of St. Augustine: Books I–X (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1942); here, p. 107.
  21. Ibid., 7:9 (Sheed, 116). See also 7:20: “Now that I had read the books of the Platonists and had been set by them towards the search for a truth that is incorporeal” (Sheed, 123.)
  22. Ibid., 7:10 (Sheed, 118).
  23. Augustine, On the Trinity, 4.Preface.
  24. Ibid., 4.18.24.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Ibid., 5.2.3.
  27. Ibid., 5.16.17.
  28. Augustine, The City of God, X.12. The translated quotes are by Henry Bettenson in the Penguin edition (Baltimore: 1972), 390f. Toward the end of this massive tome, Augustine challenged the biblical narratives on God’s having a change of mind or will by affirming that “it is the people who change, rather than God; and they find him, in a sense, ‘changed’ in their experience.” Whatever we perceive as new from our perspective within history “has been prepared from all eternity in his [God’s] unchanging will.” XXII.2 (Bettenson, 1023, 1025).
  29. Ibid., XI.21 (Bettenson, 452).
  30. Augustine, On the Trinity, 5.16.17.
  31. Ibid., 5.8.9.
  32. See Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, 1.8; tr. J. F. Shaw, in Philip Schaff, ed., A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church , Vol. 2. (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1886). Online at
  33. Augustine, The City of God, XI.10 (Bettenson, 440).
  34. Ibid. (Bettenson, 440–42, ital. original).
  35. Augustine, On the Trinity, 5.8.9. (Footnote 16, above.) See also The City of God, XI.24.
  36. Augustine, The City of God, IV.34 (Bettenson, 176). Augustine interpreted God’s activity in relation to the sack of Rome by Alaric and his Goths. “God’s providence constantly uses war to correct and chasten the corrupt morals of mankind.” Ibid., I.2 (Bettenson, 6).
  37. Ibid., V.22 (Bettenson, 215f.)
  38. Ibid., XXI.7 (Bettenson, 977).
  39. Augustine, On the Trinity, 3.9.17.
  40. See Augustine, Confessions, 12.7-8. See also Scott MacDonald, “The Divine Nature,” in Eleonore Stump and Norman Kretzmann, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Augustine (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 84; and William A. Christian’s cogent discussion on Augustine’s doctrine of creation out of nothing in his essay on “The Creation of the World,” in Roy W. Battenhouse, ed., A Companion to the Study of St. Augustine (New York: Oxford University Press, 1955), 332–36.
  41. Augustine, The City of God, V.9 (Bettenson, 190).
  42. Ibid., XIV.11 (Bettenson, 568).
  43. Ibid., XXII.2 (Bettenson, 1023).
  44. Augustine, On the Predestination of the Saints, X.19, tr. Peter Holmes and Robert Ernest Wallis, tr. rev. Benjamin B. Warfield, in Philip Schaff, ed., A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church , Vol. 5. (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1886). Online at
  45. Augustine, The City of God, XV.1 (Bettenson, 595).
  46. Albert C. Outler, “The Person and Work of Christ,” in A Companion to the Study of St. Augustine, 360.
  47. See ft. 12, above.
  48. Augustine, Confessions, 7:13. So also, in The City of God, XII.7, he wrote: “The truth is that one should not try to find an efficient cause for a wrong choice. It is not a matter of efficiency, but of deficiency; the evil will itself is not effective but defective” (Bettenson, 479).
  49. Augustine’s position on God and evil is insightfully spelled out by John Hick in his Evil and the God of Love, rev. ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), chs. 3-4, 8, cogently summarized by Tyrone Inbody, The Transforming God (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), 40–42.
  50. Otto Sheel, Die Anschauung Augustins über Christi Person und Werk, 145, as quoted (and translated) by Jaroskav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, 1:295.
  51. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Bk 1, Ch. 31, tr. D. W. Robertson, Jr. (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1958), 27.
  52. Ibid., 1.32: “That use which God is said to make of us is made not to His utility but to ours” (Robertson, 27).
  53. Thomas Jay Oord, The Nature of Love: a Theology (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2010), 68.
  54. Augustine, On the Trinity, 6.5.7.
  55. Ibid.
  56. Ibid., 15.18–19.
  57. Ibid., 15.17.31.
  58. See, e.g., Augustine, Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John, 7.6, tr. H. Browne, in Philip Schaff, ed., A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church , Vol. 7. Online at www.ccel. org. John Burnaby saw perceptibly that when Augustine wrote of the love of God, he meant our love of God, not God’s love of us. But this is, indeed, “God’s own love which is ours by His gift.” Burnaby, Amor Dei: a Study of the Religion of St. Augustine (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1938), 99.
  59. Ibid., 9.1.
  60. Burnaby, op cit., 166.
  61. Ibid., 167.
  62. Oord, The Nature of Love, 69, referencing Augustine, On the Trinity, 9.2.
  63. Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, 1:297.
  64. Burnaby, 230. So also, Daniel Day Williams noted that Augustine’s “determination to keep all time and becoming apart from God led to disastrous consequences for the understanding of God’s love,” particularly including the loss of genuine human freedom. See The Spirit and the Forms of Love (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), 75.