In this week’s excerpt from Pastor Thomas Allin’s “The Augustinian Revolution in Theology” we continue with Augustine’s teaching on double predestination. Augustine has had more of an impact on Western Christianity than any other theologian I know of and that is a sad thing. There is a certain callousness in today’s quotes of Augustine that I find disturbing. Maybe this teaching is true to God’s character but I have my doubts. In the end you need to decide for yourself.
Here is Pastor Allin:
The real inference to be drawn from what has been said is that far fewer souls will be saved than those which are lost. Here, too, Augustine had held the opposite doctrine. He had said that “very few remained to the devil.” (a) Yet at almost the same time he took the opposite view, significantly adding that to God a multitude of sinners is nothing, He knows what to do with them. (b) And this remained his final opinion. The number of infants who are adopted by God and given grace (c) is far fewer than those who are not saved. (d) Those called are many – those elected are few. (e) Extremely few are saved (this is Augustine’s latest conclusion.) (f) An epistle of his declining years throws a painful light on the temper of his mind at that period. Incomparably greater than the number of predestinated is the number of the lost, “in order that by the very multitude of the rejected there should be declared how a just God cares nothing whatever about any number, however great, of those most justly damned”. (g) A sentence which is surely among the most awful and most callous in the whole range of thought I must add what goes before: “If no others were born except those adopted by God, the benefit (grace) which is granted to the unworthy would escape notice.” Hell fires, in a word, are kept blazing for ever, in order that the ten saved, who are really no better than the lost, may see by the light of the eternal agony of their brethren “what great things the Lord hath done for them.” All this is too awful for comment. (h)
The Augustinian Revolution in Theology
By Thomas Allin
For a list of all posts in this series please see: Posts Quoting From Thomas Allin’s “Augustinian Revolution in Theology”
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(a) “De Trinitate libri quindecim,” iv. 13.
(b) “De Catechizandis rudibus liber unus,” 19. [Speaking of the lost, Augustine here says, “neque hoc nos moveri debet, quia multi diablo consentiunt, et pauci deum sequuntur … sicut Agricola novit quid faciat de ingenti acervo paleæ, sic nihil est Deo multitude peccatorum, qui novit quid de illis agat.” I fell in lately with an edition of this treatise intended chiefly for young students of theology. Yet not one word is said of this remarkable observation of a famous theologian, save that our Lord does not answer the question which the great Church Father is not afraid to answer, and that “the whole chapter is an excellent exposition of the hard and fast Augustinian doctrine of Predestination and Election.” It is, indeed, a very excellent one. But does not the average clergyman need some caution that on these points Augustine is in conflict with the Catholic Church before and after his time, and that, therefore, like Origen – and much more than Origen – he should be read with caution? – Ed.]
(c) “Contra Iulianum haeresis Pelagianae defensorem libri sex,” iv. 8.
(d) “Enchiridion de Fide, Spe et Charitate liber unus,” 99.
(e) “De Correptione et Gratia liber unus,” 9, 10.
(f) “Contra Iulianum opus imperfectum libri sex,” He here does not attempt to deny that the number of such infants is “perexigui [small indeed],” as Julian objects.
(g) “Ep.,” 190. Quam nullis sit apud justum judicem quantilibet numerosits justissime damnatorum.
(h) Cf. “Ep.,” 194, 186. Strangely paradoxical, supremely paradoxical is this spectacle of a heart seemingly aglow with love to God and harder than the nether millstone to the endless agony of his brothers and sisters.