Monday, February 26, 2007

St. Augustine: Are Reformed Protestants or Catholics Closer Theologically to His Teaching?

I expressed to a Protestant apologist friend:

At the same time you (and people like R.C. Sproul - especially him -, as on his radio show today) pretend that Augustine and Aquinas were these wonderful, spiritual "proto-Protestants" and theological ancestors and overlook the fact that they are in actuality the quintessential Catholics. These are our guys! You can't respect them so much and claim them as your own, ignoring large aspects of their teaching which you claim to despise when others express the same thing, and then read their true legatees out of the Church. The whole enterprise is ridiculous, laughable (if it weren't so tragic and aggravating) and fundamentally intellectually dishonest.

I. Augustine and Sola Fide (Faith Alone)

To begin, I would like to cite at length Joe Willcoxson's excellent paper: Did St. Augustine Teach Sola Fide?:

In a previous tract on St. Augustine, I made the case that St. Augustine would properly be classified as Catholic and not Protestant. In their attempts to make St. Augustine into a Protestant, men like John Calvin and other Reformed Protestants (RP) have tried to make the case that St. Augustine taught justification by faith alone, also known by the Latin slogan "sola fide". RPs cite all the bountiful (but IMHO, selective) quotes of St. Augustine in Calvin's "Institutes of the Christian Religion" as proof that Augustine taught sola fide. Like all other myths, the myth that Augustine was some kind of proto-Protestant in the fifth century dies hard. I have found that proving that Augustine is a Catholic is like trying to prove Karl Marx was a Communist to someone who believes Marx was a capitalist.
Regarding St. Augustine, Luther wrote:

Augustine has sometimes erred and is not to be trusted. Although good and holy, he was yet lacking in the true faith, as well as the other fathers...But when the door was opened for me in Paul, so that I understood what justification by faith is, it was all over with Augustine.

(Luther's Works 54, 49)

It was Augustine's view that the law...if the Holy Spirit assists, the works of the law do justify...I reply by saying "No".

(Luther's Works 54, 10)

Well, why would Luther say Augustine erred by not teaching sola fide? Every RP knows that St. Augustine was a Protestant, right? Well, before we say that, let's take a look at what St. Augustine has written:

When you shall have been baptized, keep to a good life in the commandments of God so that you may preserve your baptism to the very end. I do not tell you that you will live here without sin, but they are venial sins which this life is never without. Baptism was instituted for all sins. For light sins, without which we cannot live, prayer was instituted. . . . But do not commit those sins on account of which you would have to be separated from the body of Christ. Perish the thought! For those whom you see doing penance have committed crimes, either adultery or some other enormities. That is why they are doing penance. If their sins were light, daily prayer would suffice to blot them out. . . . In the Church, therefore, there are three ways in which sins are forgiven: in baptisms, in prayer, and in the greater humility of penance.

(St. Augustine, Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed 7:15, 8:16)

In the above quote, Augustine writes that sins are forgiven in baptism, prayer, and in penance. Does that sound like sola fide to you? However, there is more:


Unintelligent persons, however, with regard to the apostle's statement: "We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law," have thought him to mean that faith suffices to a man, even if he lead a bad life, and has no good works. Impossible is it that such a character should be deemed "a vessel of election" by the apostle, who, after declaring that "in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision," adds at once, "but faith which worketh by love." It is such faith which severs God's faithful from unclean demons,--for even these "believe and tremble," as the Apostle James says; but they do not do well. Therefore they possess not the faith by which the just man lives,--the faith which works by love in such wise, that God recompenses it according to its works with eternal life. But inasmuch as we have even our good works from God, from whom likewise comes our faith and our love, therefore the selfsame great teacher of the Gentiles has designated "eternal life" itself as His gracious "gift."


And hence there arises no small question, which must be solved by the Lord's gift. If eternal life is rendered to good works, as the Scripture most openly declares: "Then He shall reward every man according to his works:" how can eternal life be a matter of grace, seeing that grace is not rendered to works, but is given gratuitously, as the apostle himself tells us: "To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt;" and again: "There is a remnant saved according to the election of grace;" with these words immediately subjoined: "And if of grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace"? How, then, is eternal life by grace, when it is received from works? Does the apostle perchance not say that eternal life is a grace? Nay, he has so called it, with a clearness which none can possibly gainsay. It requires no acute intellect, but only an attentive reader, to discover this. For after saying, "The wages of sin is death," he at once added, "The grace of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."


This question, then, seems to me to be by no means capable of solution, unless we understand that even those good works of ours, which are recompensed with eternal life, belong to the grace of God, because of what is said by the Lord Jesus: "Without me ye can do nothing." And the apostle himself, after saying, "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast;" saw, of course, the possibility that men would think from this statement that good works are not necessary to those who believe, but that faith alone suffices for them; and again, the possibility of men's boasting of their good works, as if they were of themselves capable of performing them. To meet, therefore, these opinions on both sides, he immediately added, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." What is the purport of his saying, "Not of works, lest any man should boast," while commending the grace of God? And then why does he afterwards, when giving a reason for using such words, say, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works"? Why, therefore, does it run, "Not of works, lest any man should boast"? Now, hear and understand. "Not of works" is spoken of the works which you suppose have their origin in yourself alone; but you have to think of works for which God has moulded (that is, has formed and created) you. For of these he says, "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." Now he does not here speak of that creation which made us human beings, but of that in reference to which one said who was already in full manhood, "Create in me a clean heart, O God;" concerning which also the apostle says, "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God." We are framed, therefore, that is, formed and created, "in the good works which" we have not ourselves prepared, but "God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."

It follows, then, dearly beloved, beyond all doubt, that as your good life is nothing else than God's grace, so also the eternal life which is the recompense of a good life is the grace of God; moreover it is given gratuitously, even as that is given gratuitously to which it is given. But that to which it is given is solely and simply grace; this therefore is also that which is given to it, because it is its reward;--grace is for grace, as if remuneration for righteousness; in order that it may be true, because it is true, that God "shall reward every man according to his works."

(A Treatise on Grace and Free Will)

Now, if the wicked man were to be saved by fire on account of his faith only, and if this is the way the statement of the blessed Paul should be understood--"But he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire"--then faith without works would be sufficient to salvation. But then what the apostle James said would be false. And also false would be another statement of the same Paul himself: "Do not err," he says; "neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the unmanly, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the Kingdom of God."

(Enchiridion, Chapter XVIII, paragraph 3).

II. Augustine, Predestination, and Human Free Will

From the Catholic Encyclopedia (vol. II, 1907), TEACHING OF ST. AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, by Eugene Portalie:

Absolute sovereignty of God over the will

This principle, in opposition to the emancipation of Pelagius, has not always been understood in its entire significance. We think that numberless texts of the holy Doctor signify that not only does every meritorious act require supernatural grace, but also that every act of virtue, even of infidels, should be ascribed to a Gift of God, not indeed to a supernatural grace (as Baius and the Jansenists pretend), but to a specially efficacious providence which has prepared this good movement of the will (Retractations, I, ix, n. 6). It is not, as theologians very wisely remark, that the will cannot accomplish that act of natural virtue, but it is a fact that without this providential benefit it would not. Many misunderstandings have arisen because this principle has not been comprehended, and in particular the great medieval theology, which adopted it and made it the basis of its system of liberty, has not been justly appreciated. But many have been afraid of these affirmations which are so sweeping, because they have not grasped the nature of God's gift, which leaves freedom intact. The fact has been too much lost sight of that Augustine distinguishes very explicitly two orders of grace: the grace of natural virtues (the simple gift of Providence, which prepares efficacious motives for the will); and grace for salutary and supernatural acts, given with the first preludes of faith. The latter is the grace of the sons, gratia fliorum; the former is the grace of all men, a grace which even strangers and infidels (filii concubinarum, as St. Augustine says) can receive (De Patientiae, xxvii, n. 28).

Man remains free, even under the action of grace

The second principle, the affirmation of liberty.... under the action of efficacious grace, has always been safeguarded, and there is not one of his anti-Pelagian works even of the latest, which does not positively proclaim a complete power of choice in man; "not but what it does not depend on the free choice of the will to embrace the faith or reject it, but in the elect this will is prepared by God" (De Praedest. SS., n. 10). The great Doctor did not reproach the Pelagians with requiring a power to choose between good and evil; in fact he proclaims with them that without that power there is no responsibility, no merit, no demerit; but he reproaches them with exaggerating this power. Julian of Eclanum, denying the sway of concupiscence, conceives free will as a balance in perfect equilibrium. Augustine protests: this absolute equilibrium existed in Adam; it was destroyed after original sin; the will has to struggle and react against an inclination to evil, but it remains mistress of its choice (Opus imperfectum contra Julianum, III, cxvii). Thus, when he says that we have lost freedom in consequence of the sin of Adam, he is careful to explain that this lost freedom is not the liberty of choosing between good and evil, because without it we could not help sinning, but the perfect liberty which was calm and without struggle, and which was enjoyed by Adam in virtue of his original integrity.

The reconciliation of these two truths

But is there not between these two principles an irremediable antinomy? On the one hand, there is affirmed an absolute and unreserved power in God of directing the choice of our will, of converting every hardened sinner, or of letting every created will harden itself; .... on the other hand, it is affirmed that the rejection or acceptance of grace or of temptation depends on our free will. Is not this a contradiction? Very many modern critics, among whom are Loofs and Harnack, have considered these two affirmations as irreconcilable. But it is because, according to them, Augustinian grace is an irresistible impulse given by God, just as in the absence of it every temptation inevitably overcomes the will. But in reality all antinomy disappears if we have the key of the system; and this key is found in the third principle: the Augustinian explanation of the Divine government of wills, a theory so original, so profound, and yet absolutely unknown to the most perspicacious critics, Harnack, Loofs, and the rest.

Here are the main lines of this theory: The will never decides without a motive, without the attraction of some good which it perceives in the object. Now, although the will may be free in presence of every motive, still, as a matter of fact it takes different resolutions according to the different motives presented to it. In that is the whole secret of the influence exercised, for instance, by eloquence (the orator can do no more than present motives), by meditation, or by good reading. What a power over the will would not a man possess who could, at his own pleasure, at any moment, and in the most striking manner, present this or the other motive of action? - But such is God's privilege. St. Augustine has remarked that man is not the master of his first thoughts; he can exert an influence on the course of his reflections, but he himself cannot determine the objects, the images, and, consequently, the motives which present themselves to his mind. Now, as chance is only a word, it is God who determines at His pleasure these first perceptions of men, either by the prepared providential action of exterior causes, or interiorly by a Divine illumination given to the soul. - let us take one last step with Augustine: Not only does God send at His pleasure those attractive motives which inspire the will with its determinations, but, before choosing between these illuminations of the natural and the supernatural order, God knows the response which the soul, with all freedom, will make to each of them. Thus, in the Divine knowledge, there is for each created will an indefinite series of motives which de facto (but very freely) win the consent to what is good. God, therefore, can, at His pleasure, obtain the salvation of Judas, if He wishes, or let Peter go down to perdition. No freedom, as a matter of fact, will resist what He has planned, although it always keeps the power of going to perdition. Consequently, it is God alone, in His perfect independence, who determines, by the choice of such a motive or such an inspiration (of which he knows the future influence), whether the will is going to decide for good or for evil. Hence, the man who has acted well must thank God for having sent him an inspiration which was foreseen to be efficacious, while that favour has been denied to another. A fortiori, every one of the elect owes it to the Divine goodness alone that he has received a series of graces which God saw to be infallibly, though freely, bound up with final perseverance.

Assuredly we may reject this theory, for the Church, which always maintains the two principles of the absolute dependence of the will and of freedom, has not yet adopted as its own this reconciliation of the two extremes. We may ask where and how God knows the effect of these graces. Augustine has always affirmed the fact; he has never inquired about the mode; and it is here that Molinism has added to and developed his thoughts, in attempting to answer this question. But can the thinker, who created and until his dying day maintained this system which is so logically concatenated, be accused of fatalism and Manichaeism? It remains to be shown that our interpretation exactly reproduces the thought of the great Doctor. The texts are too numerous and too long to be reproduced here. But there is one work of Augustine, dating from the year 397, in which he clearly explains his thought - a work which he not only did not disavow later on, but to which in particular he referred, at the end of his career, those of his readers who were troubled by his constant affirmation of grace. For example, to the monks of Adrumetum who thought that liberty was irreconcilable with this affirmation, he addressed a copy of this book "De Diversis quaestionibus ad Simplicianum," feeling sure that their doubts would be dissipated. There, in fact, he formulates his thoughts with great clearness. Simplician had asked how he should understand the Epistle to the Romans 9, on the predestination of Jacob and Esau. Augustine first lays down the fundamental principle of St. Paul, that every good will comes from grace, so that no man can take glory to himself for his merits, and this grace is so sure of its results that human liberty will never in reality resist it, although it has the power to do so. Then he affirms that this efficacious grace is not necessary for us to be able to act well, but because, in fact, without it we would not wish to act well. From that arises the great difficulty: How does the power of resisting grace fit in with the certainty of the result? .... It is here that Augustine replies: There are many ways of inviting faith. Souls being differently disposed, God knows what invitation will be accepted, what other will not be accepted. Only those are the elect for whom God chooses the invitation which is foreseen to be efficacious, but God could convert them all: "Cujus autem miseretur, sic cum vocat, quomodo scit ei congruere ut vocantem non respuat" (op. cit., I, q. ii, n. 2, 12, 13).

Is there in this a vestige of an irresistible grace or of that impulse against which it is impossible to fight, forcing some to good, and others to sin and hell? It cannot be too often repeated that this is not an idea flung off in passing, but a fundamental explanation which if not understood leaves us in the impossibility of grasping anything of his doctrine; but if it is seized Augustine entertains no feelings of uneasiness on the score of freedom. In fact he supposes freedom everywhere, and reverts incessantly to that knowledge on God's part which precedes predestination, directs it, and assures its infallible result. In the "De Done perseverantiae" (xvii, n. 42), written at the end of his life, he explains the whole of predestination by the choice of the vocation which is foreseen as efficacious. Thus is explained the chief part attributed to that external providence which prepares, by ill health, by warnings, etc., the good thoughts which it knows will bring about good resolutions. Finally, this explanation alone harmonizes with the moral action which he attributes to victorious grace. Nowhere does Augustine represent it as an irresistible impulse impressed by the stronger on the weaker. It is always an appeal, an invitation which attracts and seeks to persuade. He describes this attraction, which is without violence, under the graceful image of dainties offered to a child, green leaves offered to a sheep (In Joannem, tract. xxvi, n. 5). And always the infallibility of the result is assured by the Divine knowledge which directs the choice of the invitation.

(4) The Augustinian predestination presents no new difficulty if one has understood the function of this Divine knowledge in the choice of graces. The problem is reduced to this: Does God in his creative decree and, before any act of human liberty, determine by an immutable choice the elect and the reprobate? - Must the elect during eternity thank God only for having rewarded their merits, or must they also thank Him for having, prior to any merit on their part, chosen them to the meriting of this reward? One system, that of the Semipelagians, decides in favour of man: God predestines to salvation all alike, and gives to all an equal measure of grace; human liberty alone decides whether one is lost or saved; from which we must logically conclude (and they really insinuated it) that the number of the elect is not fixed or certain. The opposite system, that of the Predestinationists (the Semipelagians falsely ascribed this view to the Doctor of Hippo), affirms not only a privileged choice of the elect by God, but at the same time (a) the predestination of the reprobate to hell and (b) the absolute powerlessness of one or the other to escape from the irresistible impulse which drags them either to good or to evil. This is the system of Calvin.

Between these two extreme opinions Augustine formulated (not invented) the Catholic dogma, which affirms these two truths at the same time:

the eternal choice of the elect by God is very real, very gratuitous, and constitutes the grace of graces; but this decree does not destroy the Divine will to save all men, which, moreover, is not realized except by the human liberty that leaves to the elect full power to fall and to the non-elect full power to rise.

Here is how the theory of St. Augustine, already explained, forces us to conceive of the Divine decree: Before all decision to create the world, the infinite knowledge of God presents to Him all the graces, and different series of graces, which He can prepare for each soul, along with the consent or refusal which would follow in each circumstance, and that in millions and millions of possible combinations. Thus He sees that if Peter had received such another grace, he would not have been converted; and if on the contrary such another Divine appeal had been heard in the heart of Judas, he would have done penance and been saved. Thus, for each man in particular there are in the thought of God, limitless possible histories, some histories of virtue and salvation, others of crime and damnation; and God will be free in choosing such a world, such a series of graces, and in determining the future history and final destiny of each soul. And this is precisely what He does when, among all possible worlds, by an absolutely free act, He decides to realize the actual world with all the circumstances of its historic evolutions, with all the graces which in fact have been and will be distributed until the end of the world, and consequently with all the elect and all the reprobate who God foresaw would be in it if de facto He created it.

Now in the Divine decree, according to Augustine, and according to the Catholic Faith on this point, which has been formulated by him, the two elements pointed out above appear:

The certain and gratuitous choice of the elect - God decreeing, indeed, to create the world and to give it such a series of graces with such a concatenation of circumstances as should bring about freely, but infallibly, such and such results (for example, the despair of Judas and the repentance of Peter), decides, at the same time, the name, the place, the number of the citizens of the future heavenly Jerusalem. The choice is immutable; the list closed. It is evident, indeed, that only those of whom God knows beforehand that they will wish to co-operate with the grace decreed by Him will be saved. It is a gratuitous choice, the gift of gifts, in virtue of which even our merits are a gratuitous benefit, a gift which precedes all our merits. No one, in fact, is able to merit this election. God could, among other possible worlds, have chosen one in which other series of graces would have brought about other results. He saw combinations in which Peter would have been impenitent and Judas converted. It is therefore prior to any merit of Peter, or any fault of Judas, that God decided to give them the graces which saved Peter and not Judas. God does not wish to give paradise gratuitously to any one; but He gives very gratuitously to Peter the graces with which He knows Peter will be saved. - Mysterious choice! Not that it interferes with liberty, but because to this question: Why did not God, seeing that another grace would have saved Judas, give it to him? Faith can only answer, with Augustine: O Mystery! O Altitudo! (De Spiritu et litterae, xxxiv, n. 60). But this decree includes also the second element of the Catholic dogma: the very sincere will of God to give to all men the power of saving themselves and the power of damning themselves. According to Augustine, God, in his creative decree, has expressly excluded every order of things in which grace would deprive man of his liberty, every situation in which man would not have the power to resist sin, and thus Augustine brushes aside that predestinationism which has been attributed to him. Listen to him speaking to the Manichaeans: "All can be saved if they wish"; and in his "Retractations" (I, x), far from correcting this assertion, he confirms it emphatically: "It is true, entirely true, that all men can, if they wish." But he always goes back to the providential preparation. In his sermons he says to all: "It depends on you to be elect" (In Ps. cxx, n. 11, etc.); "Who are the elect? You, if you wish it" (In Ps. Lxxiii, n. 5). But, you will say, according to Augustine, the lists of the elect and reprobate are closed. Now if the non-elect can gain heaven, if all the elect can be lost, why should not some pass from one list to the other? You forget the celebrated explanation of Augustine: When God made His plan, He knew infallibly, before His choice, what would be the response of the wills of men to His graces. If, then, the lists are definitive, if no one will pass from one series to the other, it is not because anyone cannot (on the contrary, all can), it is because God knew with infallible knowledge that no one would wish to. Thus I cannot effect that God should destine me to another series of graces than that which He has fixed, but, with this grace, if I do not save myself it will not be because I am not able,
but because I do not wish to.

Such are the two essential elements of Augustinian and Catholic predestination. This is the dogma common to all the schools, and formulated by all theologians: predestination in its entirety is absolutely gratuitous (ante merita). We have to insist on this, because many have seen in this immutable and gratuitous choice only a hard thesis peculiar to St. Augustine, whereas it is pure dogma (barring the mode of conciliation, which the Church still leaves free). With that established, the long debates of theologians on special predestination to glory ante or post merita are far from having the importance that some attach to them. (For a fuller treatment of this subtile problem see the "Dict. de theol. cath., I, coll. 2402 sqq.) I do not think St. Augustine entered that debate; in his time, only dogma was in question. But it does not seem historically permissible to maintain, as many writers have, that Augustine first taught the milder system (post merita), up to the year 416 (In Joan. evang., tract. xii, n. 12) and that afterwards, towards 418, he shifted his ground and went to the extreme of harsh assertion, amounting even to predestinationism. We repeat, the facts absolutely refute this view. The ancient texts, even of 397, are as affirmative and as categorical as those of his last years, as critics like Loofs and Reuter have shown. If, therefore, it is shown that at that time he inclined to the milder opinion, there is no reason to think that he did not persevere in that sentiment . . .

(6) Does this mean that we must praise everything in St. Augustine's explanation of grace? Certainly not. And we shall note the improvements made by the Church, through her doctors, in the original Augustinism. Some exaggerations have been abandoned, as, for instance, the condemnation to hell of children dying without baptism. Obscure and ambiguous formulae have been eliminated. We must say frankly that Augustine's literary method of emphasizing his thought by exaggerated expressions, issuing in troublesome paradoxes, has often obscured his doctrine, aroused opposition in many minds, or led them into error. Also, it is above all important, in order to comprehend his doctrine, to compile an Augustinian dictionary, not a priori, but after an objective study of his texts. The work would be long and laborious, but how many prejudices it would dispel! . . .

We must note here that even Protestant critics, with a loyalty which does them honour, have in these latter times vindicated Augustine from the false interpretations of Calvin. Dorner, in his "Gesch. der prot. Theologie," had already shown the instinctive repugnance of Anglican theologians to the horrible theories of Calvin. W. Cunningham (Saint Austin, p. 82 sqq.) has very frankly called attention to the complete doctrinal opposition on fundamental points which exists between the Doctor of Hippo and the French Reformers. In the first place, as regards the state of human nature, which is, according to Calvin, totally depraved, for Catholics it is very difficult to grasp the Protestant conception of original sin which, for Calvin and Luther, is not, as for us, the moral degradation and the stain imprinted on the soul of every son of Adam by the fault of the father which is imputable to each member of the family. It is not the deprivation of grace and of all other super-natural gifts; it is not even concupiscence, understood in the ordinary sense of the word, as the struggle of base and selfish instincts against the virtuous tendencies of the soul; it is a profound and complete subversion of human nature' it is the physical alteration of the very substance of our soul. Our faculties, understanding, and will, if not entirely destroyed, are at least mutilated, powerless, and chained to evil. For the Reformers, original sin is not a sin, it is the sin, and the permanent sin, living in us and causing a continual stream of new sins to spring from our nature, which is radically corrupt and evil. For, as our being is evil, every act of ours is equally evil. Thus, the Protestant theologians do not ordinarily speak of the sins of mankind, but only of the sin, which makes us what we are and defiles everything. Hence arose the paradox of Luther: that even in an act of perfect charity a man sins mortally, because he acts with a vitiated nature. Hence that other paradox: that this sin can never be effaced, but remains entire, even after justification, although it will not be any longer imputed; to efface it, it would be necessary to modify physically this human being which is sin. Calvin, without going so far as Luther, has nevertheless insisted on this total corruption. "Let it stand, therefore, as an indubitable truth which no engines can shake," says he (Institution II, v, § 19), "that the mind of man is so entirely alienated from the righteousness of God that he cannot conceive, desire, or design anything but what is weak, distorted, foul, impure or iniquitous, that his heart is so thoroughly environed by sin that it can breathe out nothing but corruption and rottenness; that if some men occasionally make a show of goodness their mind is ever interwoven with hypocrisy and deceit, their soul inwardly bound with the fetters of wickedness." "Now," says Cunningham, "this doctrine, whatever there may be to be said for it, is not the doctrine of Saint Austin. He held that sin is the defect of a good nature which retains elements of goodness, even in its most diseased and corrupted state, and he gives no countenance, whatever to this modern opinion of total depravity." It is the same with Calvin's affirmation of the irresistible action of God on the will. Cunningham shows that these doctrines are irreconcilable with liberty and responsibility, whereas, on the contrary, "St. Austin is careful to attempt to harmonize the belief in God's omnipotence with human responsibility" (St. Austin, p. 86). The Council of Trent was therefore faithful to the true spirit of the African Doctor, and maintained pure Augustinism in the bosom of the Church, by Its definitions against the two opposite excesses. Against Pelagianism it reaffirmed original sin and the absolute necessity of grace (Sess. VI, can. 2); against Protestant predestinationism it proclaimed the freedom of man, with his double power of resisting grace (posse dissentire si velit - Sess. VI, can. 4) and of doing good or evil, even before embracing the Faith (can. 6 and 7).

From: Christ and the Soul: Augustine on Grace, Salvation, and Pelagianism by James J. O'Donnell. O'Donnell is a Professor of Classics (whether he is Catholic or Protestant I don't know), who runs the Augustine of Hippo website. Jaroslav Pelikan said of him, in his review of Gary Wills' biography of Augustine: ". . . James J. O'Donnell, the prodigy of current Augustinian studies, who has produced not only the definitive three-volume critical edition of the Confessiones but also the celebrated Augustine Web Site . . .":

Free Will

Readers with little taste for paradox find many frustrations in Augustine. Those frustrations are about to come to a peak. For the fallen human intellect to understand the workings of divine salvation is, for Augustine, a task destined to glorious failure. Failure, because such understanding will be incomplete, but glorious, because the more intensely that failure is realized, the closer the knowing person comes to God.

To begin with, as always for Augustine, there is God. To God, all that transpires is intelligible and reasonable. God is omniscient, but also omnipotent. All that is, is of God; creation is encompassed by God and dwarfed by him. Appearances are only complicated shadows cast by simple realities we will never fully comprehend. Human beings, created in the image and likeness of God, possess the faculty of reason, and in theory nothing should prevent them from sharing divine knowledge. But
in practice something does interfere. Sin leads to ignorance and misunderstanding, and in this life grace itself leads only to partial and incomplete restoration of the intellect.

But human beings pretend otherwise. They perceive small fragments of the reasonableness of divine creation and think they know the whole story. They grasp a piece of the truth and identify it with the whole. Then attention is drawn to a crucial theological puzzle, a system of logic fails to resolve all the issues that are raised, and scapegoats are sought. Men blame the system, blame the puzzle, blame God himself, but never blame themselves.

The problems raised by Augustine's theology of sin and grace and its limitations were thrust upon with most painful force in the last decade of his life, when some monks in Africa and Gaul, concerned that the value of their own self-denying way of life was undermined by what they saw as defeatist quietism, began propagating ideas that have received in modern times the inaccurate name of "semi-Pelagianism" . . . . The conclusion they reached was that God's grace is a reward for well-intentioned initial efforts by human beings. In other words, some limited role for human merit remains at the root of the theology of salvation. What matters about this opposition is not so much its conclusions as the line of reasoning that led to the dispute.

The monks observed that a thoroughgoing system of divine grace leads to logical difficulties. If grace is absolutely sovereign and human merit entirely nonexistent, does not freedom of the will disappear? Worse, does it not mean that it is God who chooses, not only who will go to heaven, but also who will go to hell? Cannot those who go to hell rightly blame the negligence and cruelty of a God who denied them the free gift given to others just as undeserving? Can God be just if such whimsy reigns? Is God really merciful?

A related question attacks the problem neatly: Is grace resistible? This would seem to suggest an attractive escape route, for if grace is resistible, then those who are damned are responsible for their own damnation. But if the answer to this question is affirmative, we must ask if that means that grace is also acceptable, that is, if it is in the power of human beings to reject it, is it not also in their power to accept it? And has not merit returned to the system? If it is not in our power to accept grace, but only to reject it, the justice and mercy of God remain in question, for God must foreordain which people will be allowed to resist and which will be compelled to accept--and divine whimsy, a terrifying notion, re-enters.

Augustine does not have a simple, comprehensive solution acceptable to all for these dilemmas. His principle, as in the question of original sin, is to cling to what he knows for certain, to attempt to provide explanations for difficulties, but then to stand with what he knows by faith even when logical difficulties remain. Here as always, revelation and experience are everything for Augustine; the arguments of the dialecticians have no authority.

With those warnings, we can turn with trepidation to the Augustinian solution. Augustine believes in predestination, but only in single predestination. God actively chooses certain individuals to be the recipients of his grace, confers it on them in a way that altogether overpowers their own will to sin, and leaves them utterly transformed, to live a life of blessedness. But God does not choose beforehand to send others to hell. God wills that all men be saved (cf. 1 Tim. 2.4), even as he takes
actions that save only certain individuals. Those who are damned, are damned by their own actions.

On these points, Augustine will not be shaken. His opponents (and a fair number of would-be friends) through the centuries will insist that this solution is indistinguishable from double predestination. It will be claimed that this view is pessimistic and proclaims a tyrannical and arbitrary God. Psychology will be invoked to explain the growing gloom of the aging Augustine.

Before we judge Augustine, however, we should attempt to understand him. He knew his answer could only be half a solution. Evil and its sources were still wrapped in mystery for him as the manifestation of non-being in the world of being. Augustine can only attempt to explain the workings of God and his goodness, which are clear and intelligible. To understand the condition of the evil creatures who will not win eternal blessedness is painfully difficult. All this makes hard doctrine.

If the divine deliberation by which some are saved and some are damned is a mystery, however, something less obscure can be said about the condition of the will of the redeemed creature. We must consider for a moment the nature of the faculty of will itself.

In practical terms, it is scarcely too strong to say that the will is the personality. The will is the part of the soul that chooses and acts. All choices are choices of will, and all acts are acts of appetite, hence acts of love, either the divinely inspired love Augustine calls caritas, or the sinful selfish love he calls cupiditas. Personal, conscious existence is not somewhere outside the instrumental faculty we call will, rationally deliberating how to employ that faculty to achieve its ends. Instead, existence, knowledge, and will are an indissociable whole, and all deliberation and choice is of the will--of love. Given this psychology, it is then logical to argue that the power of sin over the individual must be considered when freedom is assessed. The will is always free of external control. There is no such thing as a compelled act for Augustine, one that goes "against the will." Even when we are "compelled" to do something, it is only that the conditions in which the will freely operates are altered.

So freedom of the will from external constraint is always absolute. Its freedom becomes impaired when it begins to choose the wrong kind of love and so to bind itself to inferior choices in a self-perpetuating, self-damning process. When divine grace intervenes, it liberates the individual from the bondage of wrong past choices. Precisely how this happens is a little unclear to Augustine, but it is clear that God, without ever tampering with the interior working of the will itself, can still direct its choices by altering, in perfect omniscience, the circumstances that affect the will.

The whole process of grace is seen by God, eternally knowing all things, as a single unity, but it appears to men as a series, sometimes a lifelong series, of events no one of which necessarily entails any further event. Thus when human beings speak of grace, they speak imperfectly. God's grace cannot be said to be working in the life of an individual even when that individual is destined, at a later date, to rebel, fall into sin, and choose damnation. Augustine describes this process best in another late treatise, The Gift of Perseverance. From a human point of view, the divine grace that effects salvation is best described as Initial Grace plus the Grace of Perseverance. From the divine point of view, it is better to say that unless the Grace of Perseverance is present, the Initial Grace is not finally grace at all but only some lesser gift . . .

Practically, therefore, the life of the Christian is lived on the horns of a dilemma. Grace must be firmly believed to be omnipotent; without grace nothing good can be done. All that is good in the soul must come from God, while all that is bad is of one's own doing. And yet all this appears to the individual as a matter of individual choices of that frustratingly free will. The faithful Christian, therefore, is one who believes utterly in God but who responds to the exigencies of daily life by living as though everything, salvation included, depends on his own actions. God is all-powerful and predestining, but the will is free, and the one who believes and hopes in God must act as though for himself, but act out of a completely disinterested, selfless love--caritas, not cupiditas . . .

One further irony must be faced. The dilemmas of predestination create an urgent sense of frustration by the absence of clear, logically compelling answers. Believers wonder at the ineptitude of the theologians, while skeptics take the failure of the Christians to settle the problem as evidence of the incoherence of the creed. The irony is that both positions are correct, but neither is complete. For what is most significant is precisely that insistence of the human mind on being given a straight answer. The human mind, here and now, naturally expects all problems to have solutions. Men expect, even demand, to make sense of the world. But that quality of the human mind is, to Augustine, a proud and Pelagian trait. The intellect does not willingly yield its control over action. Rebellion and skepticism are more characteristic, as is evident from (and explained by, Augustine would say) the story of Adam and Eve.

The Pelagian position on Christianity is finally a pagan one. God creates the world and issues his commands. Men are to learn the commands, obey them, and so win salvation. The situation is simple, requiring merely that the rules be clear and intelligible and devoid of paradox and confusion. The entire Augustinian system is radically opposed to this. That God appears to us as a master of paradox tells him something about mankind, but nothing about God. Faith, which is what grace instills in the heart, is the assertion that God is God, despite the paradoxes that make him seem arbitrary, unjust, or mysterious. For Augustine, God was always God, he was himself always a sinner, and paradox and mystery were the price he had to pay.

* * * * *

I assert, therefore, that the perseverance by which we persevere in Christ even to the end is the gift of God; and I call that the end by which is finished that life wherein alone there is peril of falling. Therefore it is uncertain whether any one has received this gift so long as he is still alive. For if he fall before he dies, he is, of course, said not to have persevered; and most truly is it said.

(On The Gift Of Perseverance)

He was handed over for our offenses, and he rose again for our justification. "What does this mean, "for our justification" So that He might justify us; so that he might make us just. You will be a work of God, not only because you are a man, but also because you are just. For it is better that you be just than that you be a man. If God made you a man, and you made yourself just, something you were doing would be better than what God did. But God made you without any cooperation on your part. For you did not lend your consent so that God could make you. How could you have consented when you did not exist? But He who made you without your consent does not justify you without your consent. He made you without your knowledge but He does not justify you without your willing it.

{Sermons 169,13}

Alister McGrath - certainly no enemy of Calvin (he published a biography of him in 1990) - writes:

Predestination, for Augustine, refers only to the divine decision to redeem, not to the act of abandoning the remainder of fallen humanity.

For Calvin, logical rigour demands that God actively chooses to redeem or to damn. God cannot be thought of as doing something by default: he is active and sovereign in his actions. Therefore God actively wills the salvation of those who will be saved and the damnation of those who will not.

[Reformation Thought, 2nd ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1993, p.125]

Salvation thus lies outside the control of the individual, who is powerless to alter the situation.

[Ibid, p.127]

Likewise, his description of Zwingli's belief seems to me to illustrate that he held to essentially the same idea:

Whether an individual is saved or condemned is totally a matter for God, who freely makes his decision from eternity.

[Ibid., p.121]

But to recognize that Calvin taught double predestination . . . is not to say that this must be taken to be the very centre of his teaching . . .

Calvin was never content with the statement that God, in his goodness, elected to salvation a certain number of men taken from the mass of sinners; he thought that those who had not been chosen had also been the object of a special decree, that of reprobation . . . on this particular point Calvin diverges from St. Augustine, for whom the elect alone are the object of a special decision which withdraws them from the 'massa perditionis,' while the reprobate are simply abandoned by God to the ruin they have incurred by their sins (De correptione et gratia, 7,12, M.L. xliv, 923).

[Francois Wendel, Calvin: The Origins and Development of His Religious Thought, tr. Philip Mairet, New York: Harper & Row, 1963, pp. 264, 280]

Calvin advanced beyond Augustine in two ways. The great African theologian had represented God as active in election to life only. The lost were simply passed over and left to the deserved consequences of sin. To Calvin's thinking, election and reprobation are both alike manifestations of the divine activity. In Augustine's estimate, not all believers even are given the grace of perseverance . . . Calvin's severe logic, insistent that all salvation is independent of merit, led him to assert that damnation is equally antecedent to and independent of demerit .... The sole cause of salvation or of loss is the divine choice.

[Williston Walker, John Calvin, New York: Schocken Books, 1969 (orig. 1906), p. 417]

Calvin goes beyond Augustine in his explicit assertion of double predestination, in which the reprobation of those not elected is a specific determination of God's inscrutable will . . . He feels under obligation to close the door to the notion that anything happens otherwise than under the control of the divine will . . .

He is not content to confine the function of God's will to his having 'passed by' the nonelect in bestowing his saving grace: the action of his will is not 'preterition' but 'reprobation' . . .

This passage briefly shows Calvin as FAVORING THE SUPRALAPSARIAN as opposed to the infralapsarian view of the decrees of God. The issue became controversial in the Netherlands shortly after Calvin's death.

[John T. McNeill, editor of Calvin's Institutes, from his own edition, tr. Ford Lewis Battles, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960, v. 1, pp. lviii-lix, 469]

Deacon John Whiteford (Orthodox):

Even St. Augustine said that Adam's will was neither inclined towards evil or good, but as as such, a neutral power, as can either incline toward faith, or turn towards unbelief... (NPNF2, Vol 5, p 109).

He also says:

God no doubt wishes all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the Truth; but yet not so as to take away from them free will... (Ibid, p.109)

...if he had willed by his own free will to continue in this state of uprightness . . . without any experience of death and unhappiness he would have received by the merit of that continuance the fulness of blessing with which the holy Angels are also blessed; that is the impossibility of falling any more, and the knowledge of this with absolute certainty.

(On Rebuke and Grace, ch 28, NPNF2 5:483)

The first man had not that grace by which he should never will to be evil, but assuredly he had that in which if he willed to abide he would never be evil, and without which, moreover, he could not by free will be good, but which, nevertheless, by free will he could forsake. God therefore, did not will even him to be without his grace, which he left in his free will: because free will is sufficient for evil but is too little for good, unless it is aided by omnipotent good. And if that man had not forsaken that assistance of his free will, he would always have been good; but he forsook it, and he was forsaken. (Ibid., 484)

St. Augustine on merit:

The Lord made Himself a debtor not by receiving something, but by promising something. One does not say to Him "Pay for what You received," but, "Pay what You promised."

[Commentary on Psalms 83:16. From Jurgens, William A., ed. and tr., The Faith of the Early Fathers, 3 volumes, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1970, vol. 3, p.19]

You are glorified in the assembly of your Holy Ones, for in crowning their merits you are crowning your own gifts. (En. in Ps. 102:7)

What merit of man is there before grace by which he can achieve grace, as only grace works every one of our good merits in us, and as God, when He crowns our merits, crowns nothing else but His own gifts?

[Ep. 194,5,19; in Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p.265]

From my Biblical Treatise on Justification (part of my upcoming book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism):

In 427 St. Augustine wrote a book entitled Grace and Free Will, in which he sought to instruct those "who believe that free will is denied, if grace is defended . . ." . . . Thus, he espoused a view on human free agency which is diametrically opposed to the positions of Luther and Calvin, even though they constantly attempted to cite him as their forerunner . . . St. Augustine's perspective (and that of the Catholic Church) on human free will is that it mysteriously and paradoxically coexists with God's sovereign prevenient grace, which encompasses it within the sphere of His Providence. It is one thing to acknowledge inscrutable mysteries, another altogether to thereby outright deny elements such as human free will, because we don't possess full understanding of God's ways.
From my "Dialogue on Grace and Predestination":

Calvinism claims to uphold the legacy of St. Augustine, yet St. Augustine wrote in one of his last works, Against Julian (c.428-430):

It is certain that in willing anything, it is we that do the willing, but it is He that enables us to will what is good . . . It is certain that in doing anything, it is we that act but it is He that enables us to act, by His bestowing efficacious powers upon our will.

[II, 157, CSEL, 85.1, 279; from Robert Sungenis, Not By Faith Alone, Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Pub. Co., 1997, p. 652]

Again, this is the orthodox Catholic, Tridentine, "paradoxical," and Pauline view (Phil 2:13-14). It is not Luther's and Calvin's view.

Augustine wrote in The City of God (c.426):

We are, therefore, in no way compelled, if we retain the foreknowledge of God, to discard our choice of will, or, if we retain choice of will, to deny - which were shocking - God's foreknowledge of future events. Rather, we embrace both . . . Man, therefore, does not sin because God foreknew that he would sin.
[PL 41, 5, 10, 2; in Sungenis, ibid., p. 653]

Likewise, in Grace and Free Choice (427):

Because there are some persons who defend grace to such an extent that they deny man's free will or who think that, when grace is defended, free will is denied, I have decided to write . . . God has revealed to us through his holy Scripture that there is free will in man . . . all these precepts of love would be given to men to no purpose at all if men did not have free will [cites Jas 1:13 ff. and Prov 19:3 in support]. . . See how clearly free will is taught here [goes on to cite accordingly Prov 1:8; 3:7,11,27,29; 5:2; Ps 35:4; Mt 6:19; 10:28; 1 Cor 15:34; 1 Tim 4:14; Jas 2:1; 4:11; 1 Jn 2:15].
[PL 44, 1, 1 / 44, 2, 2 / 44, 18, 37 / 44, 2, 3-4; in Sungenis, ibid., pp. 654-655; many other supporting Augustinian passages given as well]

To sum up: if the Holy Scripture, the Fathers, St, Augustine, Trent, Catholic Tradition, and much of (Arminian) evangelical Protestant theology all espouse this same paradoxical dialectic between grace and free will, I will accept it also. The thought of Luther and Calvin on this is a late-breaking "tradition of men." Why would or should I accept their word on this, if I am serious about following apostolic and patristic Christianity?

And hence there arises no small question, which must be solved by the Lord's gift. If eternal life is rendered to good works, as the Scripture most openly declares: Then He shall reward every man according to his works: how can eternal life be a matter of grace, seeing that grace is not rendered to works, but is given gratuitously, as the apostle himself tells us: To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt; and again: There is a remnant saved according to the election of grace; with these words immediately subjoined: And if of grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace? How, then, is eternal life by grace, when it is received from works? Does the apostle perchance not say that eternal life is a grace? Nay, he has so called it, with a clearness which none can possibly gainsay. It requires no acute intellect, but only an attentive reader, to discover this. For after saying, The wages of sin is death, he at once added, The grace of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. This question, then, seems to me to be by no means capable of solution, unless we understand that even those good works of ours, which are recompensed with eternal life, belong to the grace of God, because of what is said by the Lord Jesus: Without me ye can do nothing. And the apostle himself, after saying, By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast; saw, of course, the possibility that men would think from this statement that good works are not necessary to those who believe, but that faith alone suffices for them; and again, the possibility of men's boasting of their good works, as if they were of themselves capable of performing them. To meet, therefore, these opinions on both sides, he immediately added, For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath ordained that we should walk in them."
(On Grace and Free Will, 19-20)
Despite the astonishing theological diversity of the late medieval period, a consensus relating to the nature of justification was maintained throughout. The Protestant understanding of the nature of justification represents a theological novum . . . . It will be clear that the medieval period was astonishingly faithful to the teaching of Augustine on the question of the nature of justification, where the Reformers departed from it.
[Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, the Beginnings to the Reformation. 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 1:184-5]
Through this mediator there is reconciled to God the mass of the entire human race which is alienated from Him through Adam.
[Sermons 293,8]
Free will is not taken away because it is assisted, but is assisted in order that it not be taken away.
[Ep 152,2,10]
If grace does not exist, how does he save the world? If there is no free will, how does he judge the world?
[Ep 214,2]

Augustine thought that God condemns but cannot cause wickedness (Ep 194,6,30). He distinguishes between predestination and foreknowledge and explained that sins are the object of the latter (De an. et eius or. 1,7,7; De praed. s. 10,19)

God is good. God is just. Because He is good, He can set free without any merits; because He is just, He cannot condemn anyone without blameworthy actions.
[C. Iul. 3,18,36]
Someone says to me: 'Since we are acted upon, it is not we who act.' I answer, 'No, you both act and are acted upon; and if you are acted upon by the good, you act properly. For the spirit of God who moves you, by so moving, is your Helper. The very term helper makes it clear that you yourself are doing something.'
[Sermons 156,11]
But if someone already regenerate and justified should, of his own will, relapse into his evil life, certainly that man cannot say: 'I have not received'; because he lost the grace he received from God and by his own free choice went to evil.
[Admonition and Grace 6,9]

III. Augustine on Prayers for the Dead, Intercession of the Saints, Penance, and Purgatory

Prayer, however, is offered for other dead who are remembered. For it is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended.
[Sermons: 159,1]
By the prayers of the Holy Church, and by the salvific sacrifice, and by the alms which are given for their spirits, there is no doubt that the dead are aided . . . For the whole Church observes this practice which was handed down by the Fathers . . . If, then, works of mercy are celebrated for the sake of those who are being remembered, who would hesitate to recommend them, on whose behalf prayers to God are not offered in vain? It is not at all to be doubted that such prayers are of profit to the dead; but for such of them as lived before their death in a way that makes it possible for these things to be useful to them after death.
[Sermons: 172,2]
The man who perhaps has not cultivated the land and has allowed it to be overrun with brambles has in this life the curse of his land on all his works, and after this life he will have either purgatorial fire or eternal punishment.
[Genesis Defended Against the Manicheans, 2,20,30]
Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment.
[The City of God, 21,13]
The prayer . . . is heard on behalf of certain of the dead; but it is heard for those who, having been regenerated in Christ, did not for the rest of their life in the body do such wickedness that they might be judged unworthy of such mercy, nor who yet lived so well that it might be supposed they have no need of such mercy.
[The City of God, 21,24,2]
That there should be some such fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired into and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in the greater or lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish, - through a certain purgatorial fire.
[Enchiridion of Faith, Hope & Love, 18,69]
The time which interposes between the death of a man and the final resurrection holds souls in hidden retreats, accordingly as each is deserving of rest or hardship, in view of what it merited when it was living in the flesh. Nor can it be denied that the souls of the dead find relief through the piety of their friends and relatives who are still alive, when the Sacrifice of the Mediator is offered for them, or when alms are given in the church.
[Enchiridion of Faith, Hope & Love, 29,109-110]
We read in the books of the Maccabees [2 Macc 12:43] that sacrifice was offered for the dead. But even if it were found nowhere in the Old Testament writings [Augustine regarded 1st and 2nd Maccabees as Scripture], the authority of the universal Church which is clear on this point is of no small weight, where in the prayers of the priest poured forth to the Lord God at His altar the commendation of the dead has its place.
[The Care That Should be Taken of the Dead, 1,3]

Yet the all-knowing, all-wise John Calvin opines (interspersed with my critical comments in red):

Purgatory is constructed out of many blasphemies . . . it was devised apart from God's Word in curious and bold rashness [32 biblical arguments are given in my biblical treatise on the topic, of which many were multi-faceted and cross-referenced; Calvin deals with five in this obscurantist diatribe in his Institutes] . . . some passages of Scripture were ignorantly distorted to confirm it [Calvin, of course, knows better than all the Liturgies and the Fathers, including St. Augustine!] ...

When expiation of sins is sought elsewhere than in the blood of Christ, when satisfaction is transferred elsewhere, silence is very dangerous [false dichotomies, based on Calvin's own "ignorance" of Catholic soteriology] . . . Purgatory is a deadly fiction of Satan, which nullifies the cross of Christ [ditto], inflicts unbearable contempt upon God's mercy [ditto], and overturns and destroys our faith [where, then, was the faith for 1500 years before Calvin?] . . . When the notion of satisfaction is destroyed, purgatory itself is straightway torn up by the very roots [17 biblical arguments for penance, satisfaction, etc. are given in my treatise on that subject as well]. But if it is perfectly clear . . . that the blood of Christ is the sole satisfaction for the sins of believers, the sole expiation, the sole purgation, what remains but to say that purgatory is simply a dreadful blasphemy against Christ? [It indeed would be if it required the false dichotomy that Calvin attributes to it, i.e., isolating our meritorious acts from God's grace which always and necessarily precedes and engulfs them] . . .

Surely, any man endowed with a modicum of wisdom easily recognizes that whatever he reads among the ancient writers concerning this matter was allowed because of public custom and common ignorance. I admit that the fathers themselves were also carried off into error. For heedless credulity commonly deprives men's minds of judgment [ah, luckily we have Calvin to enlighten us, when far inferior guides such as St. Cyprian, St. Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, and St. Augustine have been foolishly led down the primrose path of incredulity!] . . .

Though I concede to the ancient writers of the church that it seemed a pious act to help the dead [gee, thanks for small favors], we ought ever to keep the rule that cannot deceive: that it is not lawful to interject anything of our own in our prayers. But our requests ought to be subjected to the Word of God [i.e., Calvin's interpretation of it, over against the universal Tradition of the Church up to his time] . . .

The ancients rarely and only perfunctorily commended their dead to God in the communion of the Sacred Supper [above historical data would lead one to think otherwise].

[Institutes, Book 3, ch. 5, sec. 6,10; first volume, pp. 676, 682-683 in 1960 edition]

IV. Various Other Catholic Beliefs

Augustine's many explicit statements concerning the literal, actual, Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass are detailed in my paper St. Augustine's Belief in the Real Presence.

St. Augustine also accepted baptismal regeneration, papal supremacy and jurisdiction and the primacy of Rome, Mary's sinlessness, apostolic succession, authoritative Tradition (even oral), and the so-called Apocryphal books of the Old Testament.

Some Protestant, huh? Some precursor of Calvin and Luther . . . If Augustine was more Protestant than Catholic, then I am more the man in the moon, made of green cheese than I am an Anglo-Saxon, half-Canadian middle class Michigander. Those of us who believe such things detailed above today are supposedly not even Christians, and lost in gross idolatry and paganism, according to our (anti-Catholic brand) "Reformed" overlords and judges, yet those same people heap praise upon the greatness of St. Augustine and pretend that he is one of them. Go figure. I always believed that truth was stranger than fiction.

See the closely-related companion piece:

Dialogue: Is Sola Fide (Faith Alone) a Legitimate Development of Patristic and Augustinian Soteriology?

Uploaded by Dave Armstrong on 24 November 2000, from public list discussions.

1 Corinthians 3:9 and John Calvin's Distorted Understanding of the Council of Trent's Doctrine of Grace

For we are laborers together with God; ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
The following is from John Calvin's commentary on Corinthians:
9. For we are fellow-laborers with God. Here is the best argument. It is the Lord's work that we are employed in, and it is to him that we have devoted our labors: hence, as he is faithful and just, he will not disappoint us of our reward. That man, accordingly, is mistaken who looks to men, or depends merely on their remuneration. Here we have an admirable commendation of the ministry -- that while God could accomplish the work entirely himself, he calls us, puny mortals, to be as it were his coadjutors, and makes use of us as instruments. As to the perversion of this statement by the Papists, for supporting their system of free-will, it is beyond measure silly, for Paul shows here, not what men can effect by their natural powers, but what the Lord accomplishes through means of them by his grace. (emphasis added)
Of course, Calvin's caricature is not Catholic teaching at all. Catholics don't believe men can do any good "by their natural powers," nor do we deny sola gratia in the slightest. Simply cooperating with the grace is not "human generation"; it is "God generation." The Council of Trent is very clear on this:
Canons on Justification

CANON I.-If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.

CANON III.-If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.

CANON X.-If any one saith, that men are just without the justice of Christ, whereby He merited for us to be justified; or that it is by that justice itself that they are formally just; let him be anathema.

CHAPTER V - . . . the beginning of the said justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God through Jesus Christ . . . without any merits existing on their parts . . . yet is he not able, by his own free-will, without the grace of God, to move himself into justice in His sight . . .

CHAPTER VIII - . . . none of those things which precede justification -- whether faith or works -- merit the grace itself of justification. For if it be a grace, it is not now by works; otherwise, as the same Apostle says, grace is no more grace.

Calvin himself, in his Acts of the Council of Trent, with the Antidote (1547), states regarding Canons I and III above,
To Canons I, II, and III, I say Amen.
(from Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, Volume 3, Tracts, Part 3, edited and translated by Henry Beveridge, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1983, p. 147; reprinted from the same work, published by the Calvin Translation Society, Edinburgh, 1851)

So what is Calvin's problem? It would seem to be a difficulty in understanding logic, for how can he agree, on the one hand, with the Tridentine statement, denying:

1) ". . . that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ . . . "
yet also assert in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:9 that Catholics supposedly believe, pertaining to this passage, that:
2) "men can effect by their natural powers" (rather than being "instruments" of "what the Lord accomplishes through means of them by his grace").
The former claim of #2 above is a gross distortion of Catholic teaching, whereas the latter clause is precisely the Catholic teaching. Calvin simply doesn't know it. Perhaps his commentary was written before the clarifications of Trent, and we can grant his ignorance, in charity. His Antidote to Trent, however, continues to distort and misrepresent Tridentine, Catholic teaching on soteriology; for example:
. . . their definition at length contains nothing else than the trite dogma of the schools: that men are justified partly by the grace of God and partly by their own works; thus only shewing themselves somewhat more modest than Pelagius was.

(Ibid., p. 108)

In fact, this never has been Catholic teaching. Calvin couldn't be more mistaken. Catholicism has always condemned Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, and Trent does so as well:
[Semi-Pelagianism], while not denying the necessity of Grace for salvation, maintained that the first steps towards the Christian life were ordinarily taken by the human will and that Grace supervened only later.

(Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. F.L. Cross, Oxford Univ. Press, rev. 1983, 1258)

The Encyclopedia Britannica (1985 ed., vol. 10, 625) states:
The result of Semi-Pelagianism, however, was the denial of the necessity of God's unmerited, supernatural, gracious empowering of man's will for saving action . . . From [529] . . . Semi-Pelagianism was recognized as a heresy in the Roman Catholic Church.
The Second Council of Orange (529 A.D.), accepted as dogma by the Catholic Church, dogmatically taught in its Canon VII:
If anyone asserts that we can, by our natural powers, think as we ought, or choose any good pertaining to the salvation of eternal life . . . without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit . . . he is misled by a heretical spirit . . . [goes on to cite Jn 15:5, 2 Cor 3:5]
St. Augustine wrote (and the Catholic Church wholeheartedly concurs):
What merit of man is there before grace by which he can achieve grace, as only grace works every one of our good merits in us, and as God, when He crowns our merits, crowns nothing else but His own gifts?

(Ep. 194,5,19)

Yet Calvin continues in his rather spectacular and inexcusable misrepresentation of Tridentine teaching:
But the Neptunian fathers, in a new smithy, forge what was unknown to Augustine, viz., that the reception of grace is not of God, inasmuch as it is by the free movement of our own will we assent to God calling.

(Ibid., 111)

This is expressly contradicted by Chapter V:
. . . yet is he not able, by his own free-will, without the grace of God, to move himself into justice in His sight . . .
and Chapter VIII:
. . . none of those things which precede justification -- whether faith or works -- merit the grace itself of justification. For if it be a grace, it is not now by works; otherwise, as the same Apostle says, grace is no more grace.
Therefore, the "reception of grace" in Catholic soteriology is not only not "not of God" (as Calvin wrongly thinks), but -- quite the contrary -- ALL of God, since free-will could do nothing towards God and grace, but for God's grace itself. Free-will and anything it could do are also part of "those things which precede justification," referred to in Chapter VIII. It cannot merit grace or do anything on its own to predispose it in that direction. Calvin is flat-out wrong.

Part of his problem, and that of Calvinists generally, is a false notion of free-will and God's grace somehow being inexorably, inherently opposed: an "either/or" mentality where there need not be one. St. Paul views them as working together, with the free will being entirely caused by God. Our work is God's work insofar as we do what He commands us and enables us to do, as St. Augustine notes above, and seen in many passages; notably Ephesians 2:8-10 and Philippians 2:12-13.

Even Calvin himself realizes this in some fashion, by citing St. Augustine in supposed opposition to Catholic teaching. Once again, he assumes that St. Augustine is teaching something the Catholic Church doesn't teach, when in fact, we agree entirely, as shown in the above decrees. Here is what Calvin cites from Augustine:

We therefore will, but God works in us also to will. We work, but God causes us also to work.

The good which we possess not without our own will we should never possess unless he worked in us also to will.

It is certain that we will when we are willing, but he makes us to be willing. It is certain that we do when we do, but he makes us to do by affording most effectual strength to the will.

(Aug. Lib. ii de Bon. Persev. cap. 13; Lib. ii 23, de Grat. et Liber. Arbit. / Ibid., 112-113)

So Calvin gets it, but he doesn't, at the same time. It is strange that he can't see that Augustine's teaching is also Catholic teaching. Right after these citations of Augustine he resumes his absurd distortion of Trent:
The whole may be thus summed up -- Their error consists in sharing the work between God and ourselves, so as to transfer to ourselves the obedience of a pious will in assenting to divine grace, whereas this is the proper work of God himself. (Ibid., 113)
Catholics wholeheartedly agree with St. Augustine and Calvin that "this is the proper work of God himself." We (and also Protestant Arminians) absolutely deny that we teach a Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian notion of "sharing the work between God and ourselves," as if man's part of that generates or produces grace or merit on its own. The true biblical and Catholic teaching is paradoxical, but it doesn't deny that man has free-will altogether. Calvin is the one who is sadly bound by unnecessary false dichotomies in his thought.

Now back to Calvin's commentary:

As to the exposition given by some -- that Paul, being God's workman, was a fellow-workman with his colleagues, that is, with the other teachers -- it appears to me harsh and forced, and there is nothing whatever in the case that shuts us up to have recourse to that refinement. For it corresponds admirably with the Apostle's design to understand him to mean, that, while it is peculiarly the work of God to build his temple, or cultivate his vineyard, he calls forth ministers to be fellow-laborers, by means of whom He alone works; but, at the same time, in such a way, that they in their turn labor in common with him. As to the reward of works, consult my Institutes.
This is also precisely Catholic teaching (if only Calvin could figure it out). In the Institutes of the Christian Religion, in commenting on 1 Corinthians 3:9, he expresses it another way, also in complete concurrence with Catholic thought:
. . . they are called "co-workers" not because they bring anything of themselves, but because God uses their work after he has rendered them capable of it and furnished them with the necessary gifts.

(Inst., II, V, 18, vol. 1, p. 338 in McNeill / Battles ed., Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960)

. . . the apostles express the power of the Spirit in their preaching, as far as God uses the instruments ordained by himself for the unfolding of his spiritual grace. Nevertheless, this distinction is to be kept: we should remember what man can do of himself, and what is reserved to God.

(Inst., IV, XIV, 11, vol. 2, pp. 1286-1287)

And in an altogether excellent, insightful commentary, Calvin writes:
Briefly, in many passages he not only makes himself a co-worker of God but also assigns himself the function of imparting salvation [1 Cor. 3:9 ff.]. In mentioning all these things Paul did not intend to credit to himself even a particle apart from God . . . Surely we ought to remember those statements in which God, ascribing to himself illumination of mind and renewal of heart, warns that it is sacrilege for man to claim any part of either for himself.

(Inst., IV, I, 6, vol. 2, 1021)

One would hope that the above exposition would come as good news to Reformed, who are inclined to be suspicious of Catholic theology, as it shows yet again that the two competing systems are indeed in quite close agreement in several respects. I submit that 1 Corinthians 3:9 is one instance where there is little or no disagreement at all, once Catholic teaching is correctly comprehended. Unfortunately, John Calvin (while correctly exegeting the verse) did not do such a good job in portraying a Catholic view of it (which is virtually identical to his).

Uploaded by Dave Armstrong on 28 February 2003.