“The Augustinian Revolution in Theology” Part III

In this week’s extended quote from Pastor Allin we get an introduction to Augustine’s teaching on free will and sin. For years it has been my belief that Calvinism makes God the author of sin (I have read many Calvinists who strongly deny that). After reading these few pages I understand where John Calvin got his teaching from and it reinforces my belief that any theology with Augustinian roots makes God the author of sin.

However you shouldn’t take my word for any of this; read this extended quote below and make up your own mind:

There results also from the Fall a total loss of free will. (a) And here we have to notice the mode in which Augustine plays with words. Sometimes he says that freedom is not destroyed by grace, because grace makes men truly free. This is, in fact, an adroit substitution of one proposition for another. (b) Sometimes he claims freedom for fallen man, while what he means is freedom only to sin. (c) Another characteristic sophism is his assent to the proposition that without free will there can be no sin, but he adds, “Without free will there is that sin which is the penalty of sin,” (d) and which in his theory, now about to be explained, constitutes the great mass of actual transgression.

The total loss of free will must next be added, as a result of the Fall, a necessity to sin in man, which is penal. Sin in Augustine’s theory now changes to a possibli in necessarium [a possible need for]. (e) Nay, God himself steps in judicially and vindictively as ordinator peccatorum [ordinator/establisher of sins]. (f) He is justissimus ordinator malarum voluntarum [just establisher of volutary evil (?)]. (g) God orders even that which he does not create (sin). (h) For wicked men to commit this or that sin is not in their own power, but in God’s hand, who divides the darkness (sin) and orders it. (i) To understand this, a very awful part of Augustine’s theory must be kept in view. He holds that God punishes sin by ordering fresh sin, and makes a clear distinction between sin per se and sin as the pœna peccati [punishment for sin]. To the latter, being judicially inflicted, man’s consent is not necessary. He must sin. (j) Augustine hence concludes that after the Fall an obligation to sin was (penally) transmitted in posteros [in posterity]. (k) Liberty has gone, and there has come peccatum habendi dura necessitas [a harsh necessity of having sin]. (l) There is a necessarium peccatum [necessity to sin] from which we cannot abstain. (m) When we explore Augustine’s theology a fresh terror is in store for us at each step. We have here, for instance, a representation of God as One who ordains an ever-fresh and ever-growing crop of sins, whose deadly vengeance takes the form of compelling the multiplication of sins; who thus, I am forced to say, seems to do the devil’s work.

Nor does even this exhaust the list of Augustine’s assumptions. “The appetite grows with what it feeds on,” and the next step is a declaration that God actually forces sin on man. We must ever bear in mind the advance in severity, the gradual crystallization by Augustine of theory into dogma, if we would understand his ultimate position. At one time he sanctioned the Catholic view that God permits but does not force sin on man. (n) About twenty-five years after he is found stating (o) that by God’s occult justice perversity of the heart takes place ut … inde peccatum, et sit ipsum peccatum prœcedentis atiam pœna peccati [that … then the sin, and the punishment of sin is the sin of the preceding (?) spite]. (p) This is “quite clear,” he thinks (liquido apparet). His meaning here is placed beyond doubt by what follows immediately. He expressly mentions Julian’s view that God abandons the sinner and does not compel him to sin (relicti non compulsi impeccata [left, not driven, to sin]), only to reject it. As if, retorts Augustine, the Apostle (q) did not assert both! Once launched, he calls it madness to doubt that God hands men over to such passion of disgrace, ut ende peccetur, in order that sin may be committed. God does not, indeed, create the evil will, but he employs it. So far as direct Divine agency is asserted, God bends the wills of men to good or to evil. (r) That in this sense God forces sin on men seems clearly taught, though, as a rule, Augustine contents himself with the phrase that God punishes sin and deserts the sinner. (s) To all these terrors it is a mere anti-climax – though necessary to complete the theory of the results of the Fall – to add that to it are to be ascribed bodily death and generally all pains and infirmities whatsoever. (t)

The Augustinian Revolution in Theology
By Thomas Allin

Pp. 146-150

For a list of all posts in this series please see: Posts Quoting From Thomas Allin’s “Augustinian Revolution in Theology”


(a) Augustine’s own free will theories show three stages. He is not far from the Pelagian standpoint in his early anti-Manichæn books; he has reached a semi-Pelagian standpoint in such treatises as “De pecc. Mort.,” ii. 5; “De spiritu et litterâ,” 34. This was probably a very brief stage. His latest books assert man’s total incapacity for good – the only freedom being freedom to sin – and claim that grace is irresistible (Wiggers, i. 265).
(b) “De spiritu et litterâ,” 30; “De nuptiis et concupiscentiâ,” ii. 3.
(c) Wiggers, i. 136; “Contra Duas Epistolas Pelagianorum libri ad Bonifacium quatuor,” i. 2, 3.
(d) “Contra Iulianum opus imperfectum libri sex,” vi. 17, 21.
(e) “Contra Iulianum opus imperfectum libri sex,” v. 64.
(f) “Confessions” i. 10. See “De Natura et Gratia contra Pelagium, ad Timasium et Iacobum liber unus,” 22.
(g) “The City of God,” ii. 17.
(h) “Enarrationes in Psalmos” in Psalm vii.
(i) “De Praedestinatione Sanctorum ad Prosperum et Hilarium liber unus,” 16.
(j) “Contra Iulianum opus imperfectum libri sex,” i. 104, 5; iv. 90, 100; v. 28, 47, 51; “De Natura et Gratia contra Pelagium, ad Timasium et Iacobum liber unus,” 23.
(k) “The City of God,” xiv.
(l) “De Pecc. Just.,” iv.
(m) “Contra Iulianum opus imperfectum libri sex,” v. 59; cf. 64 and “Contra Julian de Eclanum,” v. 3.
(n) “De spiritu et litterâ,” 31.
(o) “De diversis Quaestionibus ad Simplicianum libri duo,” ii.
(p) “Contra Julian de Eclanum,” v. 3.
(q) Romans ix. 22.
(r) “De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio liber unus,” Arts. 20, 21.
(s) E.g. “De Natura et Gratia contra Pelagium, ad Timasium et Iacobum liber unus,” 23.
(t) It has already been stated that a change for the worse in our whole nature has ensued (“C. Gal.,” iii. 26). Elsewhere this is called a “penalis vitiositas” [“painful viciousness”], Adam’s sin is so enormous as to vitiate all his posterity, to change human nature for the worse (“Contra Iulianum opus imperfectum libri sex,” i. 105; iv. 133; v. 29). Yet by one of the inconsistencies that grate painfully on our ears and hearts, Adam, of whose sin the enormity receives special recognition (“Contra Iulianum opus imperfectum libri sex,” vi. 22), is yet unhesitatingly pronounced an heir of salvation, while countless myriads of innocent infants go to hell for that very sin. One would hardly envy the feelings of Adam in Paradise as he thinks of these helpless ones in the endless flame.

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