Having previously established that God is not the source of evil, St. Augustine has thereby shown in On Free Choice of the Will that we don’t do evil because we were made that way. Well, is there some other external wellspring for our sin? Have we, for example, been taught to do evil?
Evodius. I do not know whether anyone sins who has not learned how to sin; but if this is the case, from whom, I ask, have we learned how to sin? (p. 3)
But St. Augustine rejects the suggestion that we sin because we were taught to do so.
[S]ince education is good…evil cannot be learned. For if evil is learned, then evil is a part of education and education will not be something good. However, as you yourself grant, it is good. Therefore evil is not learned and it is useless to ask from whom we learn evil. Or, if we learn evil, we learn so as to avoid it, not to do it (p. 4).
We weren’t made evil, as he said previously, and we don’t learn it either. The point is to reject any hint of a Manichaean scheme whereby it could be said that we have a good God responsible for good in the world, and an evil one who is the source of evil in the world. One consequence of this is that we don’t get to shift the blame for our sins someplace else: “I can’t help it. You made me this way” or “I’m only doing what I was taught to do” are both illegitimate excuses.
I suppose that the subject must surely come up more directly elsewhere in the mass of St. Augustine’s writings, but it seems worth pointing out here a particular way in which his views are contradicted by Calvin. We see above that Augustine considers education to be a good thing, and he goes even further than that: “So stop trying to find some unknown evil teacher. If he is evil, he is not a teacher; if he is a teacher, he is not evil” (p. 5). In other words, the act of teaching is not sinful. To the contrary, to teach is to do something good.
In contrast, Calvin’s view of human actions precludes even the possibility of such a thing. I first learned of this thanks to Dr. David Anders, in a comment he left at Called to Communion. Here’s something that Calvin wrote in the Catechism of the Church of Geneva:
[A]ll the works which proceed from us, so as properly to be called our own, are vicious, and therefore they can do nothing but displease God, and be rejected by him.
It’s not possible on such a view for teaching to be anything but evil. But this is the exact opposite of what St. Augustine says about it. Consequently we see that on this subject that Calvin was no Augustinian, and St. Augustine was no Calvinist.