Cooperation with Grace

I just heard something interesting on Catholic radio.

Father Wade Menizis made a good point. Saint Augustine, of the ECFs quoted by Luther; said that God won’t save you if you don’t cooperate with Him. To me, this is a great refutation of much Protestant soteriology.

How do you Protestants reconcile that statement in your theology?

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Two ways:

  1. They won’t, because Augustine isn’t infallible. In their view, he’s right when what he says is supported by scripture, wrong when it isn’t. Catholics don’t agree with everything he wrote, either.
  2. Some would say that this is true, but you’re reading the causation backwards, that it’s being saved that causes cooperation, not cooperation that causes salvation.
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So, if I’m understanding you right; Reb is that they’ll cherry pick what supports their position from the ECFs and Sacred Scripture?

I’m saying they’ll reject the parts of the ECFs they think contradict scripture. Catholics also don’t believe every idea that Augustine put forth, such as some of his ideas about the body in the afterlife.

Do you think that the Catholic Church holds that every ECF is infallible on every theological point?


Catholics agree with Augustine on this topic. Calvinists disagree with Augustine on this topic.

God gave us gift of free will, which he did not give to other creatures; hence we are made in his image. God will not violate our free will (this is why acts like rape are considered sinful).

The difference in opinions comes down to whether we use free will in the salvific process. The confusion of Protestants is often attributed to understanding of a line in the NT regarding “predestination”.

So their argument would likely be supported by the verse that mentions “predestination”, and since Protestant understanding is based on wrong interpretation, it can’t be reconciled to agreement with Catholic Understanding.

If you are going to debate Protestants forget about bringing up Church fathers. They won’t even listen when you bring up official Church dogma. And as was said the fathers aren’t official dogma. Just debate them using scripture. That alone suffices to refute most of their arguments.

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I’m not sure what to think in regards to the infallibility of the ECFs. My take is usually along the lines of: “ Well, these men are more knowledgeable and have a better spiritual life than me; so, I’ll defer to older, wiser heads than mine. “

As for the Church’s stance: I honestly don’t know. Again, I’ll just defer to older and wiser heads than mine.

You’re going to need to narrow that down a bit. Plenty of Protestants do, in fact, care about the Church Fathers.

Sometimes the ECFs’ teachings disagree with the Church’s teachings. This is my point – they have to be read against the actual teachings of the Church, because a point is not necessarily true just because an ECF said it.

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:thinking: I get what you’re saying, Zach.

The problem in debating Protestants is that they don’t do relatively straightforward reading of Sacred Scripture. It seems that they take a slanted reading of it, build a system off of it and then just use semantics and nit picking over exact wording of Scripture and go from there. They don’t even admit the possibility that they could be wrong and they’ll use every sophistic means to defend the indefensible.

:thinking: How does the Church reconcile them? Or: Is it even necessary?

Some Protestants would agree. And here’s more from Augustine, from “On the Spirit and the Letter”, written when he was battling Pelagianism:

"That these assertions are vain will be clear enough, after it has been also plainly shown that even man’s righteousness must be attributed to the operation of God, although not taking place without man’s will; and we therefore cannot deny that his perfection is possible even in this life, because all things are possible with God Mark 10:27 — both those which He accomplishes of His own sole will, and those which He appoints to be done with the cooperation with Himself of His creature’s will."

It’s not necessary. They were men thinking through questions, not Popes infallibly declaring doctrine. Sometimes they were right, sometimes they were wrong.

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:thinking:Thank you for what you said, hansen. So, it seems Saint Augustine would refute Luther’s “ Illusion of free will “ quite handily.

Okay, Reb. Makes sense. So, in cases where an ECF’s position is problematic; I should always refer to Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium?

I agree they do but like with Catholics they can choose what suits their purposes. As was said not even Catholics believe everything the fathers wrote. And Protestants aren’t interested in the official Church dogma, so my point is debate them using scripture.

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Bingo. Unless that ECF actually was a Pope infallibly declaring doctrine or dogma. But St Augustine wasn’t that.

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My problem remains: Debating Protestants using only Scripture ends up being an endless go around. They quote a passage; they’re refuted and then quote another one… So on and so forth. It’s impossible to get them to understand.

What’s worse is that I feel that the endless theological debate really locks my mind into an intellectual mode of thinking that distracts me from the practice of the Faith. It seems to me that they over intellectualize the Faith into a philosophical debate and not about the heart.

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They say the exact same thing about Catholicism – too many rules, too much philosophizing, less focus on one’s actual relationship with Christ.


My point exactly about the Faith is that it should be about a real relationship with God. I feel that a real relationship with God is based on the heart responding to God’s love and living out faith and works based on that. In essence: God-human heart; bypassing the mind. Mind should discern; not analyze.

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Am I making any sense, Reb?

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