Augustine, free will and predestination: Early Christian doctrines

You think some blog debates get old real fast? Well the "predestination/no free will" debate was old in Augustine's lifetime and he was the one who made the biggest case for it. This is another quote from J.N.D. Kelly's Early Christian Doctrines. See previous posts on this book 1, 2, 3 .
...we should recall his [Augustine's] distinction between free will and freedom. Freedom is free will put to a good use, and that man is free in the full sense who is emancipated from sin and temptation; he is free to live the life God desires him to live. It's first stage, which Adam enjoyed, is the ability not to sin; its culminating stage, to be enjoyed in heaven, is the inability to sin. In this sense not only could there be no opposition between grace and freedom, but it is grace which confers freedom. Man's free will is most completely itself when it is in most complete subjection to God, for true liberty consists in Christ's service.
The problem of predestination has so far only been hinted at. Since grace takes teh initiative and apart from it all men form a massa damnata [all doomed to hell based on original sin], it for God to determine which shall receive grace and which shall not. This he has done, Augustine believes on the basis of Scripture, from all eternity. The number of teh elect is strictly limited, being neither more nor less than is required to replace the fallen angels. Hence he has to twist the text 'God will all men to be saved' (1 Tim. 2,4), making it mean that He will s the salvation of all the elect, among whom men of every race and type are represented. God's choice of those to whom grace is to be given in no way depends on His foreknowledge of ther future merits, for whatever good deeds they will do will themselves be the fruit of grace. In so far as His foreknowledge is involved, what He foreknows is what He Himself is going to do...Augustine is therefore prepared to speak of certain people as being predestined to eternal death and damnation; they may include, apparently, decent Christians who have been called and baptized, but to whom the grace of perseverance has not been given...These [the one predestined to heaven] alone have the grace of perseverance, and even before they are born they are sons of God and cannot perish. (368-9)

Just as people today have a hard time with this so did many in the church, East and West, reject this as the solution to the heresy of Pelagius, that we can be good enough to enter heaven.

See other posts on theology, book reports, hell and heaven


Taylor Marshall said…
Catholic perspective on predestionation:
jpu said…
thanks for sharing your link. as i commented at your blog i'll take a both/and position instead of either/or, in other words an acknowledgment of mystery.
God is good

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