On Faith, Hope, and Love


                       Saint Augustine

                          CHAPTER I

          The Occasion and Purpose of this "Manual"

     1.  I cannot say, my dearest son Laurence, how much your
learning pleases me, and how much I desire that you should be wise
-- though not one of those of whom it is said: "Where is the wise?
Where is the scribe?  Where is the disputant of this world?  Hath
not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?"[1]  Rather, you
should be one of those of whom it is written, "The multitude of
the wise is the health of the world"[2]; and also you should be
the kind of man the apostle wishes those men to be to whom he
said,[3] "I would have you be wise in goodness and simple in
     2.  Human wisdom consists in piety.  This you have in the
book of the saintly Job, for there he writes that Wisdom herself
said to man, "Behold, piety is wisdom."[5]  If, then, you ask what
kind of piety she was speaking of, you will find it more
distinctly designated by the Greek term qeosebeia, literally, "the
service of God." The Greek has still another word for "piety,"
ensebeia, which also signifies "proper service." This too refers
chiefly to the service of God.  But no term is better than
qeosebeia, which clearly expresses the idea of the man's service
of God as the source of human wisdom.
     When you ask me to be brief, you do not expect me to speak of
great issues in a few sentences, do you?  Is not this rather what
you desire: a brief summary or a short treatise on the proper mode
of worshipping [serving] God?
     3.  If I should answer, "God should be worshipped in faith,
hope, love," you would doubtless reply that this was shorter than
you wished, and might then beg for a brief explication of what
each of these three means: What should be believed, what should be
hoped for, and what should be loved?  If I should answer these
questions, you would then have everything you asked for in your
letter.  If you have kept a copy of it, you can easily refer to
it.  If not, recall your questions as I discuss them.
     4.  It is your desire, as you wrote, to have from me a book,
a sort of enchiridion,[6] as it might be called -- something to
have "at hand" -- that deals with your questions.  What is to be
sought after above all else?  What, in view of the divers
heresies, is to be avoided above all else?  How far does reason
support religion; or what happens to reason when the issues
involved concern faith alone; what is the beginning and end of our
endeavor?  What is the most comprehensive of all explanations?
What is the certain and distinctive foundation of the catholic
faith?  You would have the answers to all these questions if you
really understood what a man should believe, what he should hope
for, and what he ought to love.  For these are the chief things --
indeed, the only things -- to seek for in religion.  He who turns
away from them is either a complete stranger to the name of Christ
or else he is a heretic.  Things that arise in sensory experience,
or that are analyzed by the intellect, may be demonstrated by the
reason.  But in matters that pass beyond the scope of the physical
senses, which we have not settled by our own understanding, and
cannot -- here we must believe, without hesitation, the witness of
those men by whom the Scriptures (rightly called divine) were
composed, men who were divinely aided in their senses and their
minds to see and even to foresee the things about which they
     [5].  But, as this faith, which works by love,[7] begins to
penetrate the soul, it tends, through the vital power of goodness,
to change into sight, so that the holy and perfect in heart catch
glimpses of that ineffable beauty whose full vision is our highest
happiness.  Here, then, surely, is the answer to your question
about the beginning and the end of our endeavor.  We begin in
faith, we are perfected in sight.[8]  This likewise is the most
comprehensive of all explanations.  As for the certain and
distinctive foundation of the catholic faith, it is Christ.  "For
other foundation," said the apostle, "can no man lay save that
which has been laid, which is Christ Jesus."[9]  Nor should it be
denied that this is the distinctive basis of the catholic faith,
just because it appears that it is common to us and to certain
heretics as well.  For if we think carefully about the meaning of
Christ, we shall see that among some of the heretics who wish to
be called Christians, the _name_ of Christ is held in honor, but
the reality itself is not among them.  To make all this plain
would take too long -- because we would then have to review all
the heresies that have been, the ones that now exist, and those
which could exist under the label "Christian," and we would have
to show that what we have said of all is true of each of them.
Such a discussion would take so many volumes as to make it seem
     6.  You have asked for an enchiridion, something you could
carry around, not just baggage for your bookshelf.  Therefore we
may return to these three ways in which, as we said, God should be
served: faith, hope, love.  It is easy to _say_ what one ought to
believe, what to hope for, and what to love.  But to defend our
doctrines against the calumnies of those who think differently is
a more difficult and detailed task.  If one is to have this
wisdom, it is not enough just to put an enchiridion in the hand.
It is also necessary that a great zeal be kindled in the heart.

                          CHAPTER II

      The Creed and the Lord's Prayer as Guides to the
                    Interpretation of the
        Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love

     7.  Let us begin, for example, with the Symbol[11] and the
Lord's Prayer.  What is shorter to hear or to read?  What is more
easily memorized?  Since through sin the human race stood
grievously burdened by great misery and in deep need of mercy, a
prophet, preaching of the time of God's grace, said, "And it shall
be that all who invoke the Lord's name will be saved."[12]  Thus,
we have the Lord's Prayer.  Later, the apostle, when he wished to
commend this same grace, remembered this prophetic testimony and
promptly added, "But how shall they invoke him in whom they have
not believed?"[13]  Thus, we have the Symbol.  In these two we
have the three theological virtues working together: faith
believes; hope and love pray.  Yet without faith nothing else is
possible; thus faith prays too.  This, then, is the meaning of the
saying, "How shall they invoke him in whom they have not
     8.  Now, is it possible to hope for what we do not believe
in?  We can, of course, believe in something that we do not hope
for.  Who among the faithful does not believe in the punishment of
the impious?  Yet he does not hope for it, and whoever believes
that such a punishment is threatening him and draws back in horror
from it is more rightly said to fear than to hope.  A poet,
distinguishing between these two feelings, said,

       "Let those who dread be allowed to hope,"[14]

but another poet, and a better one, did not put it rightly:

     "Here, if I could have hoped for [i.e., foreseen]
               such a grievous blow..." [15]

Indeed, some grammarians use this as an example of inaccurate
language and comment, "He said 'to hope' when he should have said
'to fear.'"
     Therefore faith may refer to evil things as well as to good,
since we believe in both the good and evil.  Yet faith is good,
not evil.  Moreover, faith refers to things past and present and
future.  For we believe that Christ died; this is a past event.
We believe that he sitteth at the Father's right hand; this is
present.  We believe that he will come as our judge; this is
future.  Again, faith has to do with our own affairs and with
those of others.  For everyone believes, both about himself and
other persons -- and about things as well -- that at some time he
began to exist and that he has not existed forever.  Thus, not
only about men, but even about angels, we believe many things that
have a bearing on religion.
     But hope deals only with good things, and only with those
which lie in the future, and which pertain to the man who
cherishes the hope.  Since this is so, faith must be distinguished
from hope: they are different terms and likewise different
concepts.  Yet faith and hope have this in common: they refer to
what is not seen, whether this unseen is believed in or hoped for.
Thus in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which is used by the
enlightened defenders of the catholic rule of faith, faith is said
to be "the conviction of things not seen."[16]  However, when a
man maintains that neither words nor witnesses nor even arguments,
but only the evidence of present experience, determine his faith,
he still ought not to be called absurd or told, "You have seen;
therefore you have not believed." For it does not follow that
unless a thing is not seen it cannot be believed.  Still it is
better for us to use the term "faith," as we are taught in "the
sacred eloquence,"[17] to refer to things not seen.  And as for
hope, the apostle says: "Hope that is seen is not hope.  For if a
man sees a thing, why does he hope for it?  If, however, we hope
for what we do not see, we then wait for it in patience."[18]
When, therefore, our good is believed to be future, this is the
same thing as hoping for it.
     What, then, shall I say of love, without which faith can do
nothing?  There can be no true hope without love.  Indeed, as the
apostle James says, "Even the demons believe and tremble."[19]
     Yet they neither hope nor love.  Instead, believing as we do
that what we hope for and love is coming to pass, they tremble.
Therefore, the apostle Paul approves and commends the faith that
works by love and that cannot exist without hope.  Thus it is that
love is not without hope, hope is not without love, and neither
hope nor love are without faith.

                         CHAPTER III

                   God the Creator of All;
               and the Goodness of All Creation

     9.  Wherefore, when it is asked what we ought to believe in
matters of religion, the answer is not to be sought in the
exploration of the nature of things [rerum natura], after the
manner of those whom the Greeks called "physicists."[20]  Nor
should we be dismayed if Christians are ignorant about the
properties and the number of the basic elements of nature, or
about the motion, order, and deviations of the stars, the map of
the heavens, the kinds and nature of animals, plants, stones,
springs, rivers, and mountains; about the divisions of space and
time, about the signs of impending storms, and the myriad other
things which these "physicists" have come to understand, or think
they have.  For even these men, gifted with such superior insight,
with their ardor in study and their abundant leisure, exploring
some of these matters by human conjecture and others through
historical inquiry, have not yet learned everything there is to
know.  For that matter, many of the things they are so proud to
have discovered are more often matters of opinion than of verified
     For the Christian, it is enough to believe that the cause of
all created things, whether in heaven or on earth, whether visible
or invisible, is nothing other than the goodness of the Creator,
who is the one and the true God.[21]  Further, the Christian
believes that nothing exists save God himself and what comes from
him; and he believes that God is triune, i.e., the Father, and the
Son begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeding from
the same Father, but one and the same Spirit of the Father and the
     10.  By this Trinity, supremely and equally and immutably
good, were all things created.  But they were not created
supremely, equally, nor immutably good.  Still, each single
created thing is good, and taken as a whole they are very good,
because together they constitute a universe of admirable beauty.
     11.  In this universe, even what is called evil, when it is
rightly ordered and kept in its place, commends the good more
eminently, since good things yield greater pleasure and praise
when compared to the bad things.  For the Omnipotent God, whom
even the heathen acknowledge as the Supreme Power over all, would
not allow any evil in his works, unless in his omnipotence and
goodness, as the Supreme Good, he is able to bring forth good out
of evil.  What, after all, is anything we call evil except the
privation of good?  In animal bodies, for instance, sickness and
wounds are nothing but the privation of health.  When a cure is
effected, the evils which were present (i.e., the sickness and the
wounds) do not retreat and go elsewhere.  Rather, they simply do
not exist any more.  For such evil is not a substance; the wound
or the disease is a defect of the bodily substance which, as a
substance, is good.  Evil, then, is an accident, i.e., a privation
of that good which is called health.  Thus, whatever defects there
are in a soul are privations of a natural good.  When a cure takes
place, they are not transferred elsewhere but, since they are no
longer present in the state of health, they no longer exist at

                          CHAPTER IV

                      The Problem of Evil

     12.  All of nature, therefore, is good, since the Creator of
all nature is supremely good.  But nature is not supremely and
immutably good as is the Creator of it.  Thus the good in created
things can be diminished and augmented.  For good to be diminished
is evil; still, however much it is diminished, something must
remain of its original nature as long as it exists at all.  For no
matter what kind or however insignificant a thing may be, the good
which is its "nature" cannot be destroyed without the thing itself
being destroyed.  There is good reason, therefore, to praise an
uncorrupted thing, and if it were indeed an incorruptible thing
which could not be destroyed, it would doubtless be all the more
worthy of praise.  When, however, a thing is corrupted, its
corruption is an evil because it is, by just so much, a privation
of the good.  Where there is no privation of the good, there is no
evil.  Where there is evil, there is a corresponding diminution of
the good.  As long, then, as a thing is being corrupted, there is
good in it of which it is being deprived; and in this process, if
something of its being remains that cannot be further corrupted,
this will then be an incorruptible entity [natura
incorruptibilis], and to this great good it will have come through
the process of corruption.  But even if the corruption is not
arrested, it still does not cease having some good of which it
cannot be further deprived.  If, however, the corruption comes to
be total and entire, there is no good left either, because it is
no longer an entity at all.  Wherefore corruption cannot consume
the good without also consuming the thing itself.  Every actual
entity [natura] is therefore good; a greater good if it cannot be
corrupted, a lesser good if it can be.  Yet only the foolish and
unknowing can deny that it is still good even when corrupted.
Whenever a thing is consumed by corruption, not even the
corruption remains, for it is nothing in itself, having no
subsistent being in which to exist.
     13.  From  this it follows that there is nothing to be called
evil if there is nothing good.  A good that wholly lacks an evil
aspect is entirely good.  Where there is some evil in a thing, its
good is defective or defectible.  Thus there can be no evil where
there is no good.  This leads us to a surprising conclusion: that,
since every being, in so far as it is a being, is good, if we then
say that a defective thing is bad, it would seem to mean that we
are saying that what is evil is good, that only what is good is
ever evil and that there is no evil apart from something good.
This is because every actual entity is good [omnis natura bonum
est].  Nothing evil exists _in itself_, but only as an evil aspect
of some actual entity.  Therefore, there can be nothing evil
except something good.  Absurd as this sounds, nevertheless the
logical connections of the argument compel us to it as inevitable.
At the same time, we must take warning lest we incur the prophetic
judgment which reads: "Woe to those who call evil good and good
evil: who call darkness light and light darkness; who call the
bitter sweet and the sweet bitter."[23]  Moreover the Lord himself
saith: "An evil man brings forth evil out of the evil treasure of
his heart."[24]  What, then, is an evil man but an evil entity
[natura mala], since man is an entity?  Now, if a man is something
good because he is an entity, what, then, is a bad man except an
evil good?  When, however, we distinguish between these two
concepts, we find that the bad man is not bad because he is a man,
nor is he good because he is wicked.  Rather, he is a good entity
in so far as he is a man, evil in so far as he is wicked.
Therefore, if anyone says that simply to be a man is evil, or that
to be a wicked man is good, he rightly falls under the prophetic
judgment: "Woe to him who calls evil good and good evil." For this
amounts to finding fault with God's work, because man is an entity
of God's creation.  It also means that we are praising the defects
in this particular man _because_ he is a wicked person.  Thus,
every entity, even if it is a defective one, in so far as it is an
entity, is good.  In so far as it is defective, it is evil.
     14.  Actually, then, in these two contraries we call evil and
good, the rule of the logicians fails to apply.[25]  No weather is
both dark and bright at the same time; no food or drink is both
sweet and sour at the same time; no body is, at the same time and
place, both white and black, nor deformed and well-formed at the
same time.  This principle is found to apply in almost all
disjunctions: two contraries cannot coexist in a single thing.
Nevertheless, while no one maintains that good and evil are not
contraries, they can not only coexist, but the evil cannot exist
at all without the good, or in a thing that is not a good.  On the
other hand, the good can exist without evil.  For a man or an
angel could exist and yet not be wicked, whereas there cannot be
wickedness except in a man or an angel.  It is good to be a man,
good to be an angel; but evil to be wicked.  These two contraries
are thus coexistent, so that if there were no good in what is
evil, then the evil simply could not be, since it can have no mode
in which to exist, nor any source from which corruption springs,
unless it be something corruptible.  Unless this something is
good, it cannot be corrupted, because corruption is nothing more
than the deprivation of the good.  Evils, therefore, have their
source in the good, and unless they are parasitic on something
good, they are not anything at all.  There is no other source
whence an evil thing can come to be.  If this is the case, then,
in so far as a thing is an entity, it is unquestionably good.  If
it is an incorruptible entity, it is a great good.  But even if it
is a corruptible entity, it still has no mode of existence except
as an aspect of something that is good.  Only by corrupting
something good can corruption inflict injury.
     15.  But when we say that evil has its source in the good, do
not suppose that this denies our Lord's judgment: "A good tree
cannot bear evil fruit."[26]  This cannot be, even as the Truth
himself declareth: "Men do not gather grapes from thorns," since
thorns cannot bear grapes.  Nevertheless, from good soil we can
see both vines and thorns spring up.  Likewise, just as a bad tree
does not grow good fruit, so also an evil will does not produce
good deeds.  From a human nature, which is good in itself, there
can spring forth either a good or an evil will.  There was no
other place from whence evil could have arisen in the first place
except from the nature -- good in itself -- of an angel or a man.
This is what our Lord himself most clearly shows in the passage
about the trees and the fruits, for he said: "Make the tree good
and the fruits will be good, or make the tree bad and its fruits
will be bad."[27]  This is warning enough that bad fruit cannot
grow on a good tree nor good fruit on a bad one.  Yet from that
same earth to which he was referring, both sorts of trees can

                          CHAPTER V

               The Kinds and Degrees of Error

     16.  This being the case, when that verse of Maro's gives us

     "Happy is he who can understand the causes of things,"[28]

it still does not follow that our felicity depends upon our
knowing the causes of the great physical processes in the world,
which are hidden in the secret maze of nature,

     "Whence earthquakes, whose force swells the sea to flood,
     so that they burst their bounds and then subside again,"[29]

and other such things as this.
     But we ought to know the causes of good and evil in things,
at least as far as men may do so in this life, filled as it is
with errors and distress, in order to avoid these errors and
distresses.  We must always aim at that true felicity wherein
misery does not distract, nor error mislead.  If it is a good
thing to understand the causes of physical motion, there is
nothing of greater concern in these matters which we ought to
understand than our own health.  But when we are in ignorance of
such things, we seek out a physician, who has seen how the secrets
of heaven and earth still remain hidden from us, and what patience
there must be in unknowing.
     17.  Although we should beware of error wherever possible,
not only in great matters but in small ones as well, it is
impossible not to be ignorant of many things.  Yet it does not
follow that one falls into error out of ignorance alone.  If
someone thinks he knows what he does not know, if he approves as
true what is actually false, this then is error, in the proper
sense of the term.  Obviously, much depends on the question
involved in the error, for in one and the same question one
naturally prefers the instructed to the ignorant, the expert to
the blunderer, and this with good reason.  In a complex issue,
however, as when one man knows one thing and another man knows
something else, if the former knowledge is more useful and the
latter is less useful or even harmful, who in this latter case
would not prefer ignorance?  There are some things, after all,
that it is better not to know than to know.  Likewise, there is
sometimes profit in error -- but on a journey, not in morals.[30]
This sort of thing happened to us once, when we mistook the way at
a crossroads and did not go by the place where an armed gang of
Donatists lay in wait to ambush us.  We finally arrived at the
place where we were going, but only by a roundabout way, and upon
learning of the ambush, we were glad to have erred and gave thanks
to God for our error.  Who would doubt, in such a situation, that
the erring traveler is better off than the unerring brigand?  This
perhaps explains the meaning of our finest poet, when he speaks
for an unhappy lover:

          "When I saw [her] I was undone,
          and fatal error swept me away,"[31]

for there is such a thing as a fortunate mistake which not only
does no harm but actually does some good.
     But now for a more careful consideration of the truth in this
business.  To err means nothing more than to judge as true what is
in fact false, and as false what is true.  It means to be certain
about the uncertain, uncertain about the certain, whether it be
certainly true or certainly false.  This sort of error in the mind
is deforming and improper, since the fitting and proper thing
would be to be able to say, in speech or judgment: "Yes, yes.  No,
no."[32]  Actually, the wretched lives we lead come partly from
this: that sometimes if they are not to be entirely lost, error is
unavoidable.  It is different in that higher life where Truth
itself is the life of our souls, where none deceives and none is
deceived.  In this life men deceive and are deceived, and are
actually worse off when they deceive by lying than when they are
deceived by believing lies.  Yet our rational mind shrinks from
falsehood, and naturally avoids error as much as it can, so that
even a deceiver is unwilling to be deceived by somebody else.[33]
For the liar thinks he does not deceive himself and that he
deceives only those who believe him.  Indeed, he does not err in
his lying, if he himself knows what the truth is.  But he is
deceived in this, that he supposes that his lie does no harm to
himself, when actually every sin harms the one who commits it more
that it does the one who suffers it.

                          CHAPTER VI

                     The Problem of Lying

     18.  Here a most difficult and complex issue arises which I
once dealt with in a large book, in response to the urgent
question whether it is ever the duty of a righteous man to
lie.[34]  Some go so far as to contend that in cases concerning
the worship of God or even the nature of God, it is sometimes a
good and pious deed to speak falsely.  It seems to me, however,
that every lie is a sin, albeit there is a great difference
depending on the intention and the topic of the lie.  He does not
sin as much who lies in the attempt to be helpful as the man who
lies as a part of a deliberate wickedness.  Nor does one who, by
lying, sets a traveler on the wrong road do as much harm as one
who, by a deceitful lie, perverts the way of a life.  Obviously,
no one should be adjudged a liar who speaks falsely what he
sincerely supposes is the truth, since in his case he does not
deceive but rather is deceived.  Likewise, a man is not a liar,
though he could be charged with rashness, when he incautiously
accepts as true what is false.  On the other hand, however, that
man is a liar in his own conscience who speaks the truth supposing
that it is a falsehood.  For as far as his soul is concerned,
since he did not say what he believed, he did not tell the truth,
even though the truth did come out in what he said.  Nor is a man
to be cleared of the charge of lying whose mouth unknowingly
speaks the truth while his conscious intention is to lie.  If we
do not consider the things spoken of, but only the intentions of
the one speaking, he is the better man who unknowingly speaks
falsely -- because he judges his statement to be true -- than the
one who unknowingly speaks the truth while in his heart he is
attempting to deceive.  For the first man does not have one
intention in his heart and another in his word, whereas the other,
whatever be the facts in his statement, still "has one thought
locked in his heart, another ready on his tongue,"[35] which is
the very essence of lying.  But when we do consider the things
spoken of, it makes a great difference in what respect one is
deceived or lies.  To be deceived is a lesser evil than to lie, as
far as a man's intentions are concerned.  But it is far more
tolerable that a man should lie about things not connected with
religion than for one to be deceived in matters where faith and
knowledge are prerequisite to the proper service of God.  To
illustrate what I mean by examples: If one man lies by saying that
a dead man is alive, and another man, being deceived, believes
that Christ will die again after some extended future period --
would it not be incomparably better to lie in the first case than
to be deceived in the second?  And would it not be a lesser evil
to lead someone into the former error than to be led by someone
into the latter?
     19.  In some things, then, we are deceived in great matters;
in others, small.  In some of them no harm is done; in others,
even good results.  It is a great evil for a man to be deceived so
as not to believe what would lead him to life eternal, or what
would lead to eternal death.  But it is a small evil to be
deceived by crediting a falsehood as the truth in a matter where
one brings on himself some temporal setback which can then be
turned to good use by being borne in faithful patience -- as for
example, when someone judges a man to be good who is actually bad,
and consequently has to suffer evil on his account.  Or, take the
man who believes a bad man to be good, yet suffers no harm at his
hand.  He is not badly deceived nor would the prophetic
condemnation fall on him: "Woe to those who call evil good." For
we should understand that this saying refers to the things in
which men are evil and not to the men themselves.  Hence, he who
calls adultery a good thing may be rightly accused by the
prophetic word.  But if he calls a man good supposing him to be
chaste and not knowing that he is an adulterer, such a man is not
deceived in his doctrine of good and evil, but only as to the
secrets of human conduct.  He calls the man good on the basis of
what he supposed him to be, and this is undoubtedly a good thing.
Moreover, he calls adultery bad and chastity good.  But he calls
this particular man good in ignorance of the fact that he is an
adulterer and not chaste.  In similar fashion, if one escapes an
injury through an error, as I mentioned before happened to me on
that journey, there is even something good that accrues to a man
through his mistakes.  But when I say that in such a case a man
may be deceived without suffering harm therefrom, or even may gain
some benefit thereby, I am not saying that error is not a bad
thing, nor that it is a positively good thing.  I speak only of
the evil which did not happen or the good which did happen,
through the error, which was not caused by the error itself but

(continued in part 2...)

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