The problem of evil that Augustine struggled with so mightily was neither the inductive problem of evil that so exercises contemporary philosophers of religion nor the deductive argument from evil that the ancients worried about. Augustine's problem of evil was a metaphysical paradox generated by four plausible claims:
- Evil exists.
- Everything that exists is God or created by God.
- God has not created evil.
- God is not evil.
Augustine's famous solution was to deny (1). Evil is but a privation of good. Granted, this does not mean that evil is a lack of good, but a lack of a due good. Hence, a claim that some evil has occurred is ontologically reduces to a claim of the form: (a) a good g does not exist, but (b) g is due. To my knowledge, Augustine does not say quite enough about what grounds (b), but what grounds (b) is not the evil in question, since (b) hold even if g existed. Claim (a) is true not in virtue of a truthmaker but in virtue of there not being a falsemaker. To make all this go, we need to also say something about what "g" stands for—presumably, a definite description of some good.
Augustine in his solution was not addressing either the deductive or the inductive problem of evil. That he was not addressing the inductive problem is obvious. That he was not addressing the deductive problem is also clear from the fact that a crucial premise in the deductive problem of evil, viz., that God is omnipotent, is not present. We need not, thus, think that Augustine's solution tells us anything very helpful with regard to these two problems. However, the fact that it was this problem that Augustine found difficult, and not the deductive or inductive, may be significant. Why was he unmoved by the arguments from evil? He does, of course, address these arguments, but it is not a matter for existential struggle. His response is basically that if we do black deeds, God will use us to paint the mustache in the cosmic painting that he is painting. It is a kind of sceptical theist move, based on the fact that we are in no position to see the whole picture.