CatholicismAugustine of Hippo

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Transcript of CatholicismAugustine of Hippo

  • 7/27/2019 CatholicismAugustine of Hippo


    Augustine of HippoTo Simplician On Various Questions(De Diversis Quaestionibus Ad Simplicianum)

    The translation is that of John H. S. Burleigh, Regius Professorof Ecclesiastical History, University of Edinburgh and was

    published in Augustine: Earlier Writings, Volume VI of theLibrary of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: The WestminsterPress, 1953.)

    Introductory note

    This work contains Augustines early discussion of the doctrineof gratuitous election to salvation ante praevisa merita, of

    election without regard to foreseen co-operation or merits.It is an early work in which he pondered why Jacob was electedand Esau reprobated when they were nowise different; heconsidered possible solutions and concluded that it was duesimply to the will of God with no reason in the brothers. This is,of course, a figure of our own election or reprobation.In this work, Augustine taught that grace is congruous to therecipient by giving him delight. God calls his elect in themanner that will produce their consent (ch. 13); he couldeffectually call all but has opted not to (ch. 14); he gives the

    elect a delight in those things by which they advance to himand gives them the assent, earnest effort and the power to dogood (ch. 21).

    This was his first literary production after becoming bishop ofHippo and was written about 396 in response to diversquestions put to him by Simplician who succeeded Ambrose asbishop of Milan in 397. It contains the essential features thathe would have to defend against the Pelagians for the rest ofhis life; his ultimate exposition of the matter is contained in hisfinal, twofold book called,The Predestination of the Saints and

    The Gift of Perseverance.

    We provide here the portion of the text discussing thequestion concerning predestination. Augustine later summedup this discussion in his Retractions as follows. (TheRetractions are an overview of his lifes work, nothing in thisdiscussion was retracted.)

    The second question concerns Romans 9:10-29. In answering

    St. Augustine, Doctor of G
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    this question I have tried hard to maintain the free choice ofthe human will, but the grace of God prevailed. Not otherwisecould I reach the understanding that the apostle spoke withabsolute truth when he said, Who made thee to differ? Whathadst thou that thou didst not received? But if thou didstreceive it, why dodst thou glory as if thou didst not receivedit? This truth Cyprian the martyr too wanted to make clear,and he expressed it completely in a phrase In nothing mustwe glory since nothing is ours.

    If our co-operation and merits were not predestined then weshould have something to boast of, which is contrary to allChristian humility.

    The portion of the text of Paul to the Romans that Augustinecommented on, regarding the gratuitous election by God of

    Jacob over Esau, is as follows.

    10: And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived

    by one, even by our father Isaac;11: (For the children being not yet born, neither having doneany good or evil, that the purpose of God according toelection might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)12: It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.13: As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.14: What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness withGod? God forbid.15: For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I willhave mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will havecompassion.16: So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him thatrunneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

    17: For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this samepurpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power inthee, and that my name might be declared throughout all theearth.18: Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy,and whom he will he hardeneth.19: Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault?For who hath resisted his will?20: Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hastthou made me thus?21: Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lumpto make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

    22: What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make hispower known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels ofwrath fitted to destruction:23: And that he might make known the riches of his glory onthe vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,24: Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, butalso of the Gentiles?25: As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, whichwere not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

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    26: And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it wassaid unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they becalled the children of the living God.27: Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number ofthe children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnantshall be saved:28: For he will finish the work, and cut it short inrighteousness: because a short work will the Lord make uponthe earth.29: And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth hadleft us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made likeunto Gomorrha.

    Professor Burleigh gave the following overview of the contentsof Augustines discussion, according to the chapter divisions.

    Here the much harder problem of the relation of grace andfree-will is faced.

    (2) The clue to its solution is to be sought in the purpose ofthe Epistle as a whole, which is to show that no man mayglory in his own good works.

    (3) This is strikingly illustrated in the extreme case of Jacobsbeing chosen and Esaus being rejected before either wasborn or had done aught of good or evil. There could havebeen no question of selection, or election, on the strength ofgood works performed, or even of faith, in either case.

    (5) The suggestion must be ruled out that the selection wasmade on the ground of the presence or absence of faith orgood works which God foresaw would be forthcoming.

    (7) Faith is due to the calling of God and must be numberedamong the gifts of grace. It is therefore not meritorious.(8) If we say that God graciously calls a man, bestows faithupon him and the power to do good works, no difficulty arises;but(10) why does he not do so in all cases? Is it because someare willing to hear and believe, and others are unwilling? Forwe cannot believe unwillingly.(12) Formally we have the power to will, but the good will isthe gift of God, so that even willing is not wholly ours.(13) What, then, of those who reject Gods call? Can theyfrustrate his gracious purpose? Rather we must say that someare effectually called, others not so. To some the call is madein such a way that they will hear and obey. Others arehardened.(16) Two truths are sure (a) There is no unrighteousness withGod. (&) He treats men differently as he wills. There is a

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    higher hidden justice which is, however, reflected in humanaffairs. A creditor may exact or remit a debt, and in neithercase is he chargeable with injustice. Certainly the debtorshave no cause for complaint. Man may not question the waysof God.(17) Like the potter with the clay, God makes vessels, some tohonour, some to dishonour.(19) All men are made of one lump, a massa peccati, andsome are to be saved, others are to be lost.(21) To those whom he wills to save God provides a motiveadequate to win them to faith and obedience.(22) Election, therefore, precedes justification. God elects ofhis mere good pleasure those who are to be justified so thatthey may attain eternal life. Without election there can beneither faith nor obedience. But Gods judgments areinscrutable and his ways past finding out. For all that he doeshe is to be praised.

    The text is as follows. We have added our own chapterheadings.

    1. Now I think it is time to turn to the second question youhave propounded, which concerns the interpretation ofRomans 9:10-29, from Not only so, but Rebecca alsoconceived down to We had been made like unto Gomorrah.

    You ask that the whole passage be discussed, and indeed it israther obscure. But, to be sure, I know your regard for me andam certain that you would not bid me expound that passageunless you had prayed the Lord to give me the ability to do so.With confidence in his help I approach the task.[Good works do not merit grace but follow from it]2. First I shall try to grasp the apostles purpose which runsthrough the whole Epistle, and I shall seek guidance from it. Itis that no man should glory in meritorious works, in which theIsraelites dared to glory, alleging that they had served the law

    that had been given to them, and that for that reason theyhad received evangelical grace as due to their merits. So theywere unwilling that the same grace should be given to theGentiles, as if they were unworthy of it unless they undertookto observe the Jewish sacred rites. This problem arose and issettled in the Acts of the Apostles. The Jews did notunderstand that evangelical grace, just because of its verynature, is not given as a due reward for good works. Otherwisegrace is not grace. In many passages the apostle frequently

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    bears witness to this, putting the grace of faith before works;not indeed that he wants to put an end to good works, but toshow that works do not precede grace but follow from it. Noman is to think that he has received grace because he hasdone goo