During this time of struggle, Augustine accepts Neoplatonism, thus completely rejecting the Manichean concepts of God that he had adopted earlier. This new philosophy leads him to the question of evil’s origin. “I kept seeking for an answer to the question: Where does evil come from? And I sought it in an evil way, and I did not see the evil in my very search.” This question plagues him, until he realizes that all things are good, even if they are corrupted. “They could not be corrupted if they were supremely good,” he says, referring to the supreme goodness of God. “But unless they were good they could not be corrupted,” he adds, referring to man. This leads him to his final conclusion about evil. Evil does not exist as a substance, but it is a perversion of the will bent aside from God. He reaches a similar conclusion with the idea of falsehood, it being “nothing except the existence in thought of what does not exist in fact.”
Now that he has solved the problem of evil, Augustine has come closer than ever to accepting the Christian faith. He already feels a love for God, but has not yet “settled down” to enjoy God. “I had now found the priceless pearl,” he says, “and I ought to have sold all that I had and bought it – yet I hesitated.” Augustine admits that he has two wills struggling inside him – one will drawing him to God’s love that “satisfied and vanquished me” and one will pulling him to his own lust that “pleased and flattered me.”
It is during this time, after he has realized the source of evil, that Augustine realizes his own wickedness. “And now You set me face to face with myself, that I might see how ugly I was, and how crooked and sordid, bespotted and ulcerous. And I looked and I loathed myself.” This change in Augustine’s esteem of himself leads him to the sin he knows he must repent from and turn from in order to become a Christian: his rampant immorality.
Caught in the battle of these two wills, Augustine heads out into the courtyard with his friend Alypius. With his heart raging and filled with fear and anxiety, he has his watershed struggle with God – a moment so powerful that even Alypius does not dare speak to Augustine, opting instead to leave him alone in the agony of his soul searching. “I neither willed with my whole will, nor was I wholly unwilling,” explains Augustine about this deep struggle. His torment and soul sickness reaches its climax, when suddenly, Augustine throws himself on the ground and gives way to the tears that have been flooding his heart. He cries out to God in despair, asking like the psalmist, “How long, O Lord?”
“I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when suddenly I heard the voice of a boy or a girl (I know not which) – coming from the neighboring house, chanting over and over again. ‘Pick it up, read it; pick it up, read it.'” Augustine darts back to where he left Alypius, opens up the Scriptures and sees Romans 13:13 – a passage that speaks directly to the sin that Augustine cannot seem to escape from. “I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away,” he testifies.
Augustine and Alypius rejoice with Monica over their newfound faith, and Augustine confesses to God that “You had pierced our heart with Your love.” Now that his long journey to Christ had ended, Augustine stops teaching rhetoric and later is baptized along with Alypius and his son, Adeodatus. Shortly after she sees her prayer answered, Monica takes ill and dies – the woman who won over both her husband and son to Christ. “She neither died unhappy nor did she altogether die,” reminds Augustine, although his grief for her is profound.
written by Trevin Wax. © 2007 Kingdom People Blog