Wednesday, September 29, 2010

St Augustine affirmed free will

This should be unsurprising, because he was a Catholic. Nevertheless it is unfortunately necessary to make these things crystal-clear, so that Protestants who persist in misrepresenting the great Doctor of the Church will be without excuse.

In today’s episode, we see that St Augustine re-affirms that which he previously said in On Free Choice of the Will.

If the defect we call sin overtook a man against his will, like a fever, the penalty which follows the sinner and is called condemnation would rightly seem to be unjust. But in fact sin is so much a voluntary evil that it is not sin at all unless it is voluntary. This is so obvious that no one denies it, either of the handful of the learned or of the mass of the unlearned. We must either say that no sin has been committed or confess that it has been willingly committed. No one can rightly deny that a soul has sinned who admits that it can be corrected by penitence, that the penitent should be pardoned, or that he who continues in sin is condemned by the just law of God. Lastly if it is not by the exercise of will that we do wrong, no one at all is to be censured or warned. If you take away censure and warning the Christian law and the whole discipline of religion is necessarily abolished. Therefore, it is by the will that sin is committed. And since there is no doubt that sins are committed, I cannot see that it can be doubted that souls have free choice in willing. God judged that men would serve him better if they served him freely. That could not be so if they served him by necessity and not by free will. [Of True Religion, xiv, 27; in the Library of Christian Classics volume Augustine: Earlier Writings, p. 238; emphasis added]

This flies directly in the face of the Reformed error of “Irresistible Grace,” according to which men are unable to reject the grace that God gives them to believe.

Unquestionably some folks will suggest that perhaps St Augustine later rejected this view. But as noted earlier in regard to On Free Choice of the Will, he did nothing of the sort in the Retractations. Happily, the LCC editors saw fit to include the Retractations associated with Of True Religion (see pages 218-221). Did Augustine later in life reject what this book says about free will? No he did not.

5. In another place (chap xiv) I say, “Sin is so much voluntary evil, that there would be no such thing as sin unless it were voluntary.” That may appear a false definition; but if it is diligently discussed it will be found to be quite true. [ibid., p. 219]

I am reminded of suddenly of something said by Captain Jack Sparrow: “pirate is in your blood, boy, so you'll have to square with that some day.” Like it or not, some day Calvinists are going to have to square with the fact that St Augustine isn’t one of them. He was no proto-incipient-Calvinist; he was Catholic.

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