St. Augustine was influenced by St. Paul and his Romans 7 statement, which says: ‘I want to do well, but can’t’. This shows that humans are weak creatures who need God to save them. In his theodicy, he attempts to solve Epicurus’ Inconsistent Trinity and hypothesizes a post-lapsarian worldview that implies our human nature has always been corrupt. This viewpoint, however, is very different from Dawkins or Irenaeus.
Augustine is pessimistic in his view of human beings because, prior to the Fall (Genesis 3) there was an ‘era of harmony’ when Adam and Eve obediently obeyed God. But, after the Fall they chose to disobey God and all humanity was created from scratch. They can choose to act morally, or not. That will ultimately determine what we are as people and our human nature. The view of Augustine is very pessimistic in this respect, because the Original Sin-2nd Death (inherited deaths as punishments for Adam’s and Eve’s rebellion) creates a “chain” of disasters. This contrasts with views like Pelagius, which argues that God should not punish us for something beyond his control as he has omnibenevolence. Augustine emphasizes that we cannot be excused (except Jesus) from being inherently sinful. Does this mean our human nature, no matter how good it may be, is not enough to overcome the sin that is predestined for us?
Augustine, on the other hand, may have a more optimistic view of human nature because in his “Enchiridion”, he claims that evil is not a part of human nature, but is merely deprived of (‘Privatio Boni) good. It is a comforting idea to know that people are not inherently evil but only need to do more to increase their good nature. Augustine said that God had already predestined some people by way of ‘election’. It also suggested that their good deeds would not go in vain. They will still be saved despite inheriting the original sin. Irenaeus or Biblicists would disagree, saying that this view is pessimistic. Genesis 1 tells us that ‘we were created in the likeness of God’. If our nature resembles God’s then it must be a good one.