In this week’s excerpt from Pastor Thomas Allin’s “The Augustinian Revolution in Theology” we finish with Augustine’s teaching on double predestination and move into his teaching on persecution.
As we go through these quotes and I reread them I still can’t believe the coldness shown in Augustine’s writing and it bothers me deeply that these writings have had such a long term effect on the Church. I do not believe that what Augustine teaches accurately reflects God’s character as revealed in scripture. However as I’ve said many times I will let any readers decide for themselves.
Here is Pastor Allin:
The next stage is the question, Does God then directly predestinate the lost? An authority so friendly to Augustine as Professor Mozley can see no distinction, in essence, between Augustine’s doctrine of Predestination and that of Calvin. This is, I believe, true. In numerous passages Augustine asserts God’s direct agency in the reprobation of sinners. He says that God predestinated some to the extremest pain; (a) that God predestinated some to eternal death; (b) that He justly predestinated some to punishment. (c) Or take such phrases as these: “Damnandi predestinati [predestined to damnation?],” “Tanquam in furore quo iniquos damnare statuisti.” (d) There is certainly a distinction between Augustine and Calvin on this point. Calvin is technically “supra-lapsarian” and Augustine “sub-lapsarian.” That is to say, Calvin teaches that God reprobates prior to any human act; Augustine that God reprobates having given all men a free power of choosing in Adam! Thus Augustine can say that the evil will of the lost, and not God’s decree, is the cause of their ruin. (e) Substantially the case stands thus: If mankind enjoyed free choice in Adam, then God condemns to all eternity those who have freely chosen evil. This Ausgustine’s meaning. That it differs from Calvin’s teaching is verbally true.
We must here remark once more, on this point, Augustine succeeds in adding to the painful impression he has already made. There are those among the baptized who fear God, with whom he plays as a cat with a mouse. I can find no apter language to express my meaning. To some, it may be to very many, there is given, he tells us, a sort of quasi-grace, real but not permanent. He describes this class variously. They are regenerate and adopted, (f) devout, (g) God’s righteous ones. (h) They live well and piously; they live according to God, who gives them that love by which they lead a Christian life – they have faith, hope and love; they obey God. (i) Yet their tears are unavailing, their prayers are in vain, their love fruitless. God withdraws His gifts, and they sink into the pit of hell, and there for ever lie. For they are – these are Augustine’s very words – “children of perdition.” (j) When even Augustine shudders at his own doctrine, the case must be desperate indeed. Even from him this strange doctrine draws the cry that it is “most true,” yet “most evil,” most awkward, most unseemly, most outrageous. (k) It only remains if we would make our picture complete, for us to point to Augustine as a persecutor, or more accurately an apologist for, and an earnest inciter to persecution. (l) He cannot indeed claim to be the first who approved persecution. Lucifer of Cagliari and Julius Firmicus Maternus anticipated him in this in the West, and his own words show that his North African contemporaries were of the same mind. But there is one thing the credit – or discredit – of which must be confessed to be truly his – he first drew up in form and order the arguments for persecution. When he had written his “Contra Gaudeutium” and his 93rd, 185th and 204th Epistles, the Church was virtually in possession of a Manual of Persecution, and the most horrible chapter in [the] Western ecclesiastical story has received the virtual sanction of the greatest of Western doctors. In earlier life he had opposed persecution. (m) And we are bound to admit that he opposed the infliction of the death penalty on the Donatists. (n) Yet on this we can only lay slight stress, for these plain reasons: – First, his arguments justify the death penalty; next, consistently with this he elsewhere does advocate it. (o) And thirdly, exile and confiscation in such a state of things as he himself described as existing in the North African Church would often mean death.
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”
(a) Cf. “Epistolae,” 204.
(b) “Qui est et illis prædestinavit ad æternam mortem justissimus supplicii retributor [His is the most just punishment for those destined to eternal death]”: “De Anima,” iv. II.
(c) “Enchiridion de Fide, Spe et Charitate,” 100, I.
(d) “De Peccatorum meritis et remissione et de Baptismo parvulorum ad Marcellinum,” ii. 17.
(e) “De Peccatorum meritis et remissione et de Baptismo parvulorum ad Marcellinum libri tres,” ii. 18; see “De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio,” 21. [The passage is one of some difficulty, and has obviously been altered by transcribers. –Ed.]
(f) “Contra Iulianum opus imperfectum,” i. 130.
(g) “Ex duobus autem piis cur huic donetur perseverantiam usque ad finem, illi non donetur”: “De Dono Perseverantiae,” 9.
(h) “De Peccatorum meritis et remissione et de Baptismo parvulorum ad Marcellinum,” iii. 13.
(i) “De Correptione et Gratia,” 7-9, 13, “Mirandum est quidem multumque miraculum, quod filiis suis quibusdam Deus quos regeneravit in Christo, quibus fidem, spem, dilectionem dedit, non dat perserverantiam;” also “De Dono Perseverantiae,” 22.
(j) “De Correptione et Gratia,” 13. [Augustine says nothing in this particular passage about tears, prayers, or love. –Ed.]
(k) “De Dono Perseverantiae,” 22, “Improbissimum, importunissimum, incongruentissimum.”
(l) “Epistolae,” 97: “Accelerandum suggero, peto, obsecro, flagitor.”
(m) “Epistolae,” 93: “Mea prima sentential non erat nisi neminem ad unitatem Christi esse cogendum.”
(n) “Epistolae,” 100, 139.
(o) “De Utilitate Ieiunii,” 9; “Contra Gaudentium Donatistarum episcopum,” i. 28. Thus he says, “Your ancestors handed Cæcilianus over to kings for punishment by their slanders – let the lions be turned on to crushing the bones of the slanderers”: “Epistolae,” 95, 5.