Augustine and Calvinism


#1

I’m have a discussion right now with a Calvinisit who seems to think St. Augustine was a kind of proto-calvin in theology.

What was Calvin’s stand on pre-destination? Co-operative grace? Did he think human beings had a role in forming faith or did he believe that human beings were so morally depraved that we are incapable of any spiritual good without God’s full intervention to the exclusion of our own consent?


#2

Augustine did write things that have a Calvinist sound to them.

These are the great works of the Lord, sought out according to all His pleasure, and so wisely sought out, that when the intelligent creation, both angelic and human, sinned, doing not His will but their own, He used the very will of the creature which was working in opposition to the Creator’s will as an instrument for carrying out His will, the supremely Good thus turning to good account even what is evil, to the condemnation of those whom in His justice He has predestined to punishment, and to the salvation of those whom in His mercy He has predestined to grace. .-Augustine (The Enchiridion, Chapter 100)
newadvent.org/fathers/1302.htm

…but they who believe at the voice of the preacher from without, hear of the Father from within, and learn; while they who do not believe, hear outwardly, but inwardly do not hear nor learn;—that is to say, to the former it is given to believe; to the latter it is not given… so also faith is the gift of God, …faith is required of us, and salvation is proposed to us as a reward. For these things are both commanded us, and are shown to be God’s gifts, in order that we may understand both that we do them, and that God makes us to do them… This is the changeless truth concerning predestination and grace. For what is it that the apostle says, “As He has chosen us in Himself before the foundation of the world”?..And assuredly, if this were said because God foreknew that they would believe, not because He Himself would make them believers, the Son is speaking against such a foreknowledge as that when He says, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you;”… Therefore they were elected before the foundation of the world with that predestination in which God foreknew what He Himself would do; but they were elected out of the world with that calling whereby God fulfilled that which He predestinated…-Augustine (On the Predestination of the Saints, Book 1)
newadvent.org/fathers/15121.htm


#3

I am no theologian by a long shot, but from the very little that I’ve seen I’d say that you could argue that Luther followed Augustine even more closely…at least with respect to Augustine’s opinion on the sinful nature of mankind. I suppose this makes sense considering that Luther was an Augustinian monk.


#4

I would suggest going to the link posted by SyCarl and read the entire entry. Then go to this link at New Advent as well:

newadvent.org/cathen/12378a.htm

These articles will help in your discussion of Augustine and predestination.


#5

Was St Augustine a Protestant?
Here are the facts:
socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/11/st-augustine-was-catholic-not-proto.html


#6

I’ve had many similar discussions myself. The most helpful resource for me in these discussions are some of the writings of Father William Most, including:

catholicculture.org/library/most/getchap.cfm?worknum=31&chapnum=0&id=2157&repos=7&subrepos=0&searchid=121203

catholicculture.org/library/most/getchap.cfm?worknum=29&chapnum=0&id=2155&repos=7&subrepos=0&searchid=121203

catholicculture.org/library/most/getwork.cfm?worknum=2


#7

The only thing I would concede to your Calvinist friend is that Augustine believed in limited atonement (ie. he did not believe that God willed all men to be saved.) He was wrong. Many of his writings against pelagianism were heavy on monergism (by necessity one might presume) there is no doubt about it, which is why Calvinists think they see a Church father who supports their notions of grace and election. But elsewhere he defends the Catholic notion of man’s free will cooperation with God’s saving grace. Calvinists will counter that these were early writings and that Augustine evolved, and at the end of his life, he was a monergist. This, however is wrong. In Rebuke and Grace, written in 426, he again supports the Catholic understanding of free will and cooperation.


#8

That is not true. St Augustine did NOT believe in limited atonement. Limited atonement is a Protestant invention which teaches Christ was PUNISHED specifically for a select amount of People. St Augustine and the Catholic Church teach Christ died for all men but not all men will have Christ’s merits applied to them (eg through Baptism). Protestants have an invented/heretical view of the Atonement (see post #4 on this thread).

He was wrong. Many of his writings against pelagianism were heavy on monergism (by necessity one might presume) there is no doubt about it, which is why Calvinists think they see a Church father who supports their notions of grace and election.

No. St Augustine strongly believed that grace would lead to the free cooperation of men’s wills with God’s plan and this is well a part of Catholic teaching.

But elsewhere he defends the Catholic notion of man’s free will cooperation with God’s saving grace.

Yes.

Calvinists will counter that these were early writings and that Augustine evolved, and at the end of his life, he was a monergist. This, however is wrong. In Rebuke and Grace, written in 426, he again supports the Catholic understanding of free will and cooperation.

You are basically correct. St Augustine believed justified men could fail to persevere (and thus be damned) and he believed nobody knew if they would persevere until they got to Heaven. Both of those teachings go directly against Calvinism.


#9

Brother, I would love to believe that Augustine interpreted the plain words of 1 Timothy 2:4 to mean that God wills ALL men to be saved. From my experience, however, I think that is really tough to prove. And if he believed that God does not will all men to be saved, it follows that God does not will His atonement to apply to all men. Augustine, in several of his writings, appears to deny this universal salvific will of God. I’m no great scholar, so I could be wrong. If you can show me that this was not the case, I will gladly stand corrected.

Augustine devotes a whole chapter (chapter 103) of Enchiridion of Faith Hope and Charity (420 AD) to discuss 1 Timothy 2:4 newadvent.org/fathers/1302.htm
Reading it does not give one the impression that Augustine believed that God wills all men to be saved. He interprets it to mean that God wills men of every kind to be saved and/or that God wills all the elect to be saved but he does not interpret it to mean that God wills ALL men to be saved.

In Rebuke and Grace, chapter 44, newadvent.org/fathers/1513.htm) he says the same thing.

In his Letter to Vitalis (Letter 217, 427 AD,) he says the same thing.

Again, I will gladly stand corrected, if you can show where Augustine believed that God wills all men to be saved.


#10

What do you mean by “No”? Are you disputing that many of Augustine’s anti-pelagian writings (especially late in life) were heavy on grace? Many of them were so heavy on affirming grace, in fact, that it troubled some of his followers. Its not for nothing that Calvinists claim (in error) Augustine as their own. However, as I pointed out, and you noted, Augustine never wavered in also affirming free will and cooperation. Its just that when he was rebuking the pelagians he hammered home, again and again, the idea of God’s preparation of the will, God’s gift of perseverance, the folly of man saving himself apart from the grace of God etc. etc. In many of those writings he touched little upon free will and cooperation, because these were not being disputed by the pelagians.


#11

That is not what limited atonement means. Limited atonement means that Christ died only for those whom the Father has elected and whom the Spirit will call. Augustine did not believe this, and arguably Calvin didn’t either.

Both Augustine and Aquinas did teach that God only wills all to be saved in a highly qualified sense. Of course for any orthodox Christian theology the universal salvific will must be qualified in some way, since there is a sense in which everything God wills comes to pass, and traditional Christian theology has never accepted the idea of universal salvation. However, Augustine and Aquinas both taught that God has not chosen to give to everyone the help that will cause them to respond to grace and persevere to the end (and so be saved). God wills that all who repent and believe be saved, and it is by the uncoerced choice of sinful wills that human beings reject salvation–God does nothing to cause them to do so. However, God chooses not to take the actions that would lead them (again, without coercion) to accept grace, persevere to the end, and be saved.

Edwin


#12

You are posing this as a false dichotomy–indeed, a thoughtful Calvinist wouldn’t put it this way either. God’s gracious action does not (in Augustinian theology) exclude our consent, but rather enables it. “Enable,” however, does not mean that there is any chance that we will reject it. After all, Augustine taught that the highest freedom was the inability to sin.

Augustine did believe that human beings were incapable of any spiritual good without God’s intervention, and he believed that God chose to intervene only in some people, and that only some of those would receive the gift of perseverance (this latter idea, of course, was rejected by the Reformed).

Edwin


#13

I remember reading St Aug say apply it to all men in places like On the Spirit and Letter ch 57-58:
newadvent.org/fathers/1502.htm

You are correct though that in places like the Enchiridion (at least two spots) he was interpreting it differently. As Contarini pointed out though this is NOT the same doctrine as the Protestant “Limited Atonement”. Limited Atonement means Christ took the PUNISHMENTS that a select few deserved and that is why those elect will be saved because the PUNISHMENT for all their sins was taken for them (and thus they would never be held liable). Protestants turn to places like 2 Cor 5:21 for this, yet it is reading into the text an invented and blasphemous idea (the Father punishing the Son). That is not how Augustine understood the atonement and interprets 2 Cor 5:21 in the Enchridion and elsewhere in the normal Catholic sense (“sin” = “sin offering”, not “sin” = imputed sin and punishment).

Also, as Contarini pointed out St Augustine was not outside the parameters of Catholicism because the fact is not everyone is saved and thus in a very true yet mysterious sense God does not will all men be saved in the sense of Universalism (all will be saved and in Heaven). Also as Contarini correctly pointed out St Augustine believed not all men who were saved/justived were given the grace of perseverance (and thus fell from their justification) and this is perfectly in line with Catholic teaching (but incompatible with Calvinism), and this demonstrates also that St Aug didnt teach “Limited Atonement”.

I see what you are saying and your general idea is true, but you need to tweak some of it and dont use terms like “limited atonement”.


#14

But then you can also find the following in Augustine.

Christ, though guiltless, took our punishment, that He might cancel our guilt, and do away with our punishment.-Augustine (Contra Faustum Book 14, Chapter 4)
newadvent.org/fathers/140614.htm

  1. The believer in the true doctrine of the gospel will understand that Christ is not reproached by Moses when he speaks of Him as cursed, not in His divine majesty, but as hanging on the tree as our substitute, bearing our punishment, any more than He is praised by the Manichæans when they deny that He had a mortal body, so as to suffer real death. In the curse of the prophet there is praise of Christ’s humility, while in the pretended regard of the heretics there is a charge of falsehood. If, then, you deny that Christ was cursed, you must deny that He died; and then you have to meet, not Moses, but the apostles. Confess that He died, and you may also confess that He, without taking our sin, took its punishment. .-Augustine (Contra Faustum Book 14, Chapter 7)
    newadvent.org/fathers/140614.htm

Then in another passage he says: “To him that works is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that works not, but believes in Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describes the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputes righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no sin.” Romans 4:4 8 And then after no long interval he observes: “Now, it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe in Him that raised up Jesus Christ our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”-Augustine (On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants, Book 1 Chapter 43)
newadvent.org/fathers/15011.htm


#15

Thanks for bringing those passages to my attention. I will have to look into them deeper tomorrow, but from the first one you quoted the context is not talking about a substitutionary punishment by God on Jesus which is the Protestant understanding. From the context both before and after I dont think Augustine was teaching substitutionary atonement. 3. Death comes upon man as the punishment of sin, and so is itself called sin; not that a man sins in dying, but because sin is the cause of his death. … … So sin means both a bad action deserving punishment, and death the consequence of sin. Christ has no sin in the sense of deserving death, but He bore for our sakes sin in the sense of death as brought on human nature by sin. This is what hung on the tree; this is what was cursed by Moses. Thus was death condemned that its reign might cease, and cursed that it might be destroyed. By Christ’s taking our sin in this sense, its condemnation is our deliverance, while to remain in subjection to sin is to be condemned.

The apostle boldly says of Christ, “He was made a curse for us;” for he could also venture to say, “He died for all.” “He died,” and “He was cursed,” are the same. Death is the effect of the curse; and all sin is cursed, whether it means the action which merits punishment, or the punishment which follows. Christ, though guiltless, took our punishment, that He might cancel our guilt, and do away with our punishment.

  1. These things are not my conjectures, but are affirmed constantly by the apostle, with an emphasis sufficient to rouse the careless and to silence the gainsayers. “God,” he says, “sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, that by sin He might condemn sin in the flesh.” Romans 8:3 Christ’s flesh was not sinful, because it was not born of Mary by ordinary generation; but because death is the effect of sin, this flesh, in being mortal, had the likeness of sinful flesh. This is called sin in the following words, “that by sin He might condemn sin in the flesh.” Again he says: “He has made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 Why should not Moses call accursed what Paul calls sin?
    Here he links 2 Cor 5:21 with Rom 8:3 and he does not appear to be describing the Protestant notion of penal substitution.

Taking a look at the second quote really quick I would say you are misreading that as well for you left off the rest of the context:Now the punishment of sin cannot be blessed, or else it would be a thing to be desired. The curse is pronounced by divine justice, and it will be well for us if we are redeemed from it. Confess then that Christ died, and you may confess that He bore the curse for us; and that when Moses said, “Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree,” he said in fact,** To hang on a tree is to be mortal, or actually to di**e. He might have said, “Cursed is every one that is mortal,” or “Cursed is every one dying;” but the prophet knew that Christ would suffer on the cross, and that heretics would say that He hung on the tree only in appearance, without really dying. So he exclaims, Cursed; meaning that He really died.
Augustine is not arguing for penal substitution in this context but rather trying to prove that Christ really died in opposition to the Manichaeans. The “curse” here is dying a humiliating death on a tree/cross, thus the “punishment of sin cannot be BLESSED” in this context appears to contrast CURSED, and cursed means he really died a human death. “He bore the curse for us” is equivalent to taking the punishment, yet Augustine is simply talking about Christ undergoing an actual death.

From what I remember is this from the Enchiridion ch 41 he comments on 2 Cor 5:21:…therefore having no sin of His own; nevertheless, on account of the likeness of sinful flesh in which He came, He was called sin, that He might be sacrificed to wash away sin. For, under the Old Covenant, sacrifices for sin were called sins. And He, of whom all these sacrifices were types and shadows, was Himself truly made sin. Hence the apostle, after saying, “We pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God,” forthwith adds: “for He has made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” He does not say, as some incorrect copies read, “He who knew no sin did sin for us,” as if Christ had Himself sinned for our sakes; but he says, “Him who knew no sin,” that is, Christ, God, to whom we are to be reconciled, “has made to be sin for us,” that is, has made Him a sacrifice for our sins, by which we might be reconciled to God.


#16

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