Relations between Divine Grace and human Free Will


Augustine: Divine Grace and Free Will

One of the Doctors of the Church, St. Augustine’s teachings have been profoundly influential since earliest times. In particular, St. Augustine expounded upon the relationship between Divine Grace and human Free Will and the roles that the two did, or did not play, in the achievement of individual human salvation.

The argument represented a major doctrinal dispute of Augustine’s day, most notably between his own teachings and those of Pelagius. The ideas of Pelagius, which taught that Divine Grace was not the sole necessity for achieving salvation, were ultimately condemned as heretical at the Council of Carthage in 418. Augustine himself believed that Divine Grace, above all, was essential for the salvation of human beings; that men and women born inheriting Original Sin, and that salvation would be impossible without God’s Grace. The writings of St. Augustine on Divine Grace and Free Will have formed the basis of countless theological arguments down through the centuries. His works have been used both to defend and attack his basic propositions, and to bolster or condemn the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and the various Protestant denominations. Divine Grace and Free Will are, in some way or other, central to the teachings and beliefs of every Christian community. Among the points that have merited controversy are whether Free Will diminishes, or merits, Divine Grace, and whether a belief in the primacy or absolute necessity of Divine Grace strips individuals of the need and responsibility to exercise Free Will in the making of moral choices.

St. Augustine’s ideas remain persuasive and controversial to this day.

St. Augustine was prompted to set forth his views on the significance of Divine Grace by what he believed were the grossly erroneous opinions of Pelagius. For men like Augustine, Divine Grace was not merely a component in humanity’s achievement of salvation; it was the sole power that made possible that very salvation. Since the time of Adam and Eve, humankind had been conceived in Original Sin, deprived of the natural sinless condition in which it had been created. Without God’s special favor, or Divine Grace, it was completely impossible for men and women to ever achieve the pure and sinless condition with which it would be possible to enter into Heaven. An attack upon the doctrine of Divine Grace was, therefore, in Augustine’s eyes, tantamount to denying a fundamental condition of being human. As Augustine put it himself in the Anti-Pelagian Writings, “The human race wrongly brings a complaint against its own nature.”

If the essence of human nature then was sin, any attempt to alter or explain away that nature could only be perceived as an affront to the natural order of things, to the Divine plan for the cosmos. According to mortal men and women the ability to change their natures amounted to the substitution of human laws for Divine dictates. Good works might conform to God’s plan, but they did not remove from men the taint of sin. Noble and godly acts were not to be confused with sinlessness – a condition only God could bestow.

Augustine compared those who believe such things to, “[They] who have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge; for they, not knowing the justice of God, and seeking to establish their own, have not submitted themselves to the justice of God.” person who believes fervently in God, and who does everything in his or her power to follow God’s commandments, and to do good in the world, cannot be holy and worthy of salvation, if he or she ignores the most central aspect of Christ’s teachings – that only God can save. God alone grants entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Good works, noble thoughts, austerities, penances, and so forth, count for nothing in terms of who is saved and who is not. Augustine sums up the doctrine thus,

This grace of Christ, then, without which neither children nor adults can be saved, is given gratuitously and not for our merits, and for this reason it is called “grace.” “[They are] justified, says the Apostle, “freely by his blood.” Consequently, those who are not liberated through grace, either because they have not yet been able to hear, or because they have not wished to obey, or also because, when on account of their age they were not capable of hearing, they did not receive the bath of regeneration, which they could have received and by means of which they would have been saved, are justly condemned. For they are not without sin, either that which they contracted originally or that which they added through their own misconduct. “For all have sinned,” either in Adam or in themselves, “and are deprived of the glory of God.”

Clear in Augustine’s description of the Doctrine of Divine Grace is the belief that it is applicable equally to all human beings. It is also an irrevocable fact of human existence, one that has been passed down to us all ever since the Original Sin of Adam and Eve.

The great thinker’s views on Divine Grace introduce a number of interesting concepts, each of which further refutes the possibility that human beings can, by their own Free Will, avoid the condemnation of Original Sin, and can escape the necessity of obtaining Divine Grace in order to achieve ultimate salvation. First of all, Grace is something that is not earned. It is not based on any perceived merits within an individual. Grace is simply granted by God without reference to any action whatsoever on our part. In on Genesis: Two Books on Genesis against the Manichees, Augustine attacks the Manichees for refuting what they do not understand. Employing the example of how a craftsman’s will is reflected in his work, the Doctor of the Church shows how the Spirit of God exists, but not in a way which can easily be understood or perceived by human beings. Specifically, Augustine draws attention to the Manichees’ critique of the account in Genesis that “the Spirit of God was borne over the water.” The Manichees viewed this Biblical episode as describing a quandary in which God’s spirit was a physical thing, an entity that somehow dwelt in the water in order that it could be carried out of and over the water.

They ask, “Was the water, then, the dwelling of the Spirit of God, and did it contain the Spirit of God?” With their perverted minds they try to distort everything, and their malice blinds them. For when we say, “The sun is borne over the earth,” do we want to imply that the sun dwells in the earth and that the earth contains the sun?

To say that the Spirit of God was “borne over the water” no more implies that God “lives” in the water than the idea that the sun is “borne over the Earth” necessitates the sun taking up residence somewhere inside the planet. The argument is false as is the logic employed to reach it. Augustine sees, rightly, that there is no need to assume that either God, or the sun, resides in the place over which it crosses. Nevertheless, the Spirit of God is borne over the waters. It exists, regardless of whether we can comprehend or perceive the manner in which it exists, or can understand how, whatever exactly it is, it is “borne over the water.” As with the spirit, or will, of the craftsmen being made manifest in his work, so too is it with the Spirit of God. As human beings, it should be obvious to us that God is visible everywhere as is his Spirit, and also his Grace.

Divine Grace is real and palpable in precisely the same way as the craftsman’s will. It too represents a creative urge. It too denotes a conscious act, a voluntary undertaking. To say that one could compel a craftsman to produce such and such a thing in such and such a way would also be logically false. One might be able to force a craftsman to produce, say, a chair, but the precise form of that chair, the intimate details of that chair, the precise strokes of his tools, etc. would flow naturally out of his own inner creativity. God’s Spirit; however, is infinitely more complex and powerful than the will of a craftsman, the creative spirit of a mere human being. God is all-powerful and all-knowing. What flows from Him must naturally partake of that same essence. Still later in the same text, Augustine discourses at length on the meaning of the Spirit of God in the First Chapter of Genesis. Augustine takes the description of the Spirit being borne over the waters as a way of saying that God encompasses everything, the material as well as the spiritual. He tears down those who say that the description of Creation is contradictory, as in the verses in Genesis that, on the surface, appear to say that God is “borne over the water” before “the water” is created. In Chapter 5, the great churchman informs us that Water is in fact an apt designation for the Divinity, better than any of the other elements.

Water possess the unique properties of being more moveable than earth (though less movable than air) while at the same time being essential to the creation and sustaining of life, as in the way water must be added to the soil in order for plants to grow.

This signification of matter first conveys its end, that is, that for the sake of which it was made; secondly, its formlessness; thirdly, its service and subjection to the Maker. Therefore, it is first called heaven and earth; for its sake matter was made. Secondly, the earth invisible and without form and darkness over the abyss, that is, the formlessness itself without the light, as a result of which the earth is said to be invisible. Thirdly, water subject to the Spirit for receiving its acquired disposition and forms.

The various descriptions of “Heaven and Earth,” “water,” and so on, are actually metaphors for an all-encompassing God. Heaven and Earth are not the visible, tangible Heaven and Earth we know today, but an invisible blueprint that exists only within the “mind” of God. It is a sort of emanation, but it also has real substance, and the potential to take on physical form as God so directs. As God both precedes the Creation, and is the Creation, there can be nothing in the universe that is not of God, and which does not conform to His Will. Thus, anything decreed by God is absolute. His creations cannot overturn His laws. Men and women cannot achieve salvation on their own because it is not theirs for the taking. It does not belong to them. Those who are saved only because God permits them to be saved… And for no other reason.

On a very personal level, St. Augustine attributed his own reformation to the intervention of Divine Grace – “thou hast put away from me such wicked and evil deeds. To thy grace I attribute it and to thy mercy, that thou hast melted away my sin as if it were ice.”

Augustine had originally led a very dissolute life, and had been attracted to the very Manichaeism that he later condemned. His attribution to Divine Grace of his own transformation and enlightenment shows how strongly he believed that such a change would otherwise have been impossible.

Bemoaning his own sinful condition, he realized that human beings were naturally lured into sin by the pleasures of the flesh, that these same pleasures of the flesh were things of the devil, and that humankind suffered the ultimate penalty for its sinfulness in having to face death, for death was the ultimate sinner:

Thou art righteous, O Lord; but we have sinned and committed iniquities, and have done wickedly. Thy hand has grown heavy upon us, and we are justly delivered over to that ancient sinner, the lord of death. For he persuaded our wills to become like his will, by which he remained not in thy truth. What shall “wretched man” do? “Who shall deliver him from the body of this death,” except thy grace through Jesus Christ our Lord; whom thou hast begotten, coeternal with thyself, and didst create in the beginning of thy ways….”

Death, that is, sin can only be avoided in the end through God’s Grace. Here, St. Augustine is categorically rejecting the notion that his reformation was occasioned by any other discoveries he might have made or experiences he might have had. Though he read much of the works of the Greek philosophers and discovered their similarity to God’s Word, he realized that the two were not the same.

Augustine states this in another way, in Chapter XVIII of Book VII:

Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus,” “who is over all, God blessed forever,” who came calling and saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and mingling with our fleshly humanity the heavenly food I was unable to receive. For “the Word was made flesh” in order that thy wisdom, by which thou didst create all things, might become milk for our infancy.

Though in this passage, he is speaking of the “Word” of God, the Word is clearly associated with his other ideas about Divine Grace. The Word, the wisdom or inspiration that comes from God, can only proceed directly from Him, or come through his mediator, Jesus Christ, who is at once both human and divine. The illumination that the Word provides is but another emanation of the Godhead, another example of Divine Grace. Once more, Augustine is telling us that we would be completely lost without God’s special intercession, his gift of Grace.

In emphasizing Divine Grace above all other things, St. Augustine is also calling attention to another point put forth by Pelagius – that humanity’s Free Will plays an important role in its achievement of salvation. Clearly, Augustine disagrees with this proposition, holding firmly to the idea that Free Will is but an illusion. It plays no role whatsoever in the fulfillment of our ultimate destiny. The Saint discussed at length the issues surrounding Free Will in De Libero Arbitrio Voluntatis, a work the title of which commonly translated as “Of the Free Choice of the Will,” but which actually means, “Of the Free Judgment of the Will.”

The real meaning of the title is enormously significant in that it raises the question of,

In what sense, if any, can choices, decisions, and “practical judgments be regarded as acts (or actions) of will? To act is to “bring something about,” and an act or action is the bringing about of something. That which by definition is brought about by an act or action may be called… its “result.”

The point is whether or not human beings truly possess freedom of action. If salvation can only be granted by God, then it can be assumed a priori that whatever actions an individual might take that appear to lead toward that salvation are, in fact, preordained, or least somehow guided by the Hand of God. The concept would appear, as well, to bring up the idea of some sort of pre-existing Divine Plan, the fulfillment of which is represented – in terms of salvation – by the saving of some souls, and not others. Pelagius specifically countered this argument with the idea that individuals did indeed possess the Free Will to undertake right actions that would lead, or at least aid in, the achievement of their own salvation.

One especially interesting aspect of the debate concerned the commission of “evil deeds.” If one were to believe Augustine, evil acts were as much pre-ordained by God as good ones. Wrote Augustine,

No one has said that man was so made that he could indeed move from justice to sin, and yet could not return from sin to justice; however, to descend into sin, that free will, through which man corrupted himself, was sufficient, whereas to return to justice he needed a physician, since he was sick, he needed a giver of life, since he was dead.”

Free Will, or in other words, the free ignoring of God’s laws, could cause a person to commit evil acts. One could sin through willfulness. However, much as a sick man or woman could not be cured but with the help of a physician, so too was it impossible for the sinner to find his or her way back to the true path without the aid of Divine intervention, or Grace. Once more, the Doctor of the Church is speaking of holiness as something that can be found only in God. Sin, not being holy, can be found in other places, in other beliefs and philosophies. One does not need God to find these erroneous paths. One simply makes the choice to follow them, and to reap the consequences of that decision. It is as if to say that Truth is self-immanent. One need only be aware of existence, possess the necessary Faith, and everything will follow naturally from that point. God will guide us all, if we only let Him. Yet, he appears to place before us a multitude of temptations – of these Pelagius dealt at length.

To Pelagius, the idea that a choice must exist was obvious. Though the world was filled with temptations to do evil, not every individual chose to undertake such actions. Sin was everywhere, but true sinners were not. One way of looking at these differences in opinion would be, perhaps, to consider the differences in the two men, Pelagius and St. Augustine. Central to St. Augustine’s discovery of his true calling and of what he believed to be the true nature of Christianity, was his own prior life of sin. St. Augustine was the classic repentant sinner. Having led a remarkably dissolute life, in his youth, he was later turned from these unholy ways by nothing less than a sort of miracle. He certainly considered it such, as is shown above – the miracle of Divine Grace. For how else could a sinner such as himself have deserved such a fate? Pelagius, on the other hand, was very different. He had never given into temptation like Augustine. Though a resident of the same world as the celebrated theologian, his path in that world had always been guided by righteous decision; decisions that had led him to lead an exemplary life while others around him succumbed to evil. Pelagius,

Seems himself to have been endowed with a temperament singularly free from the storms and stresses of temptation, and this would tend to make him intolerant of excuses which appealed to the frailty of human nature.”

In essence, Pelagius was putting forward the argument that, “if he could resist temptation, why not other men?” For Pelagius, Augustine’s succumbing to the temptations of evil was not to be blamed on some natural weakness inherent within humankind, but on a lack of will, or what might be better termed, willpower. To blame God, and some Divine Plan, for a life of sin was foolish, and represented only an attempt to blame someone, or something, else for one’s refusal to embark upon the path of righteousness.

Augustine categorically disagreed. Never wishing to see his early life as a “choice,” he looked instead to God as the source of these experiences, as he was indeed, to him, the source of all experience. In the City of God, St. Augustine returns to the theme of Free Will as it relates to the apparent opposition between Divine Justice and human justice. He analyzes Cicero’s earlier statements to the effect that a complete lack of Free Will – a complete belief in Fate – would necessarily undermine all human institutions and laws:

But if there is a certain order of causes according to which everything happens which does happen, then by fate, says he, all things happen which do happen.

But if this be so, then is there nothing in our own power, and there is no such thing as freedom of will; and if we grant that, says he, the whole economy of human life is subverted. In vain are laws enacted. In vain are reproaches, praises, chidings, exhortations had recourse to; and there is no justice whatever in the appointment of rewards for the good, and punishments for the wicked. And that consequences so disgraceful, and absurd, and pernicious to humanity may not follow, Cicero chooses to reject the foreknowledge of future things, and shuts up the religious mind to this alternative

If everything is fated, what point can there be to any enactment the purpose of which appears to be the alteration of that fate? Augustine is interpreting Cicero’s words to mean that Free Will must exist, or else there would no reason to attempt to alter anyone’s behaviors. Religion, as well as law, is an endeavor to change, or teach. God’s commandments lay down specific patters of behavior but, if the particular behaviors of any one individual are already foreordained by that same Divinity, what could be the reason for proscribing things that can never be avoided, or by encouraging individuals along a path that they will automatically follow anyway? On the surface, Cicero’s ideas appear incapable of logical refutation.

St. Augustine does not dispute the existence of Free Will. In fact, he takes it as a given, a central tenet of Christianity. For Augustine, Free Will exists because “will” itself exists,

Augustine states that if God has foreknowledge of our wills, he must have foreknowledge of something rather than nothing and, therefore, we must have wills. If we have freedom of the will, we can be held accountable for our choices, the role assigned to God within Christian theology.

It is, like Cicero’s, a purely rational argument – in order for God to know that such-and-such will happen, there must be something that will happen, therefore, the will must exist. Nonetheless, the proposition taken by itself does not explain how a will that is already known can possibly also be “free.” In on the Trinity, Augustine cleverly makes use of certain other concepts, central to Christina theology, that serve to give form to his argument that human beings do possess a Free Will that is, a the same time, not linked to their achievement of ultimate salvation. The theologian cites Book I, Chapter Ten,

When Christ] shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father,”-that is, when He shall have brought those who believe and live by faith, for whom now as Mediator He maketh intercession, to that contemplation, for the obtaining of which we sigh and groan, and when labor and groaning shall have passed away,-then, since the kingdom will have been delivered up to God, even the Father He will no more make intercession for us.

Christ, who is one with God the Father in the Trinity, is required to make intercession on behalf of human beings in their bid for eternal salvation. In this one passage, it is clear that, whatever their actions on Earth, they are not alone enough to achieve redemption. Once more, it is a return to Augustine’s closely held belief that Salvation is something that can only be given as a gift by god. if, in Cicero’s, or Pelagius’, terms, Free Will led directly to complete freedom of action, or predestination, led to complete denial of freedom of action, there would be no need for the Christ’s intercession. Interestingly enough, in either case, the arguments put forward by Cicero and Pelagius would seem to be inverted by the pronouncements of Scripture, as interpreted by St. Augustine. Following Cicero’s logic, complete lack of free will would mean that Salvation, too, was simply fated, and if fated, what need would there be for any intercession on the part of Christ? And again, in Pelagius’ terms, if salvation were wholly dependent on humanity’s own actions, then, once more, why would Christ intercede on the behalf of all? Presumably, the good would be guaranteed entrance into Heaven, while the evil would be cast down. Of course, one could view Christ’s intercession as an act of mercy, an appeal on behalf of those who may not be quite deserving, but who are, nevertheless, worthy of consideration. Ye this too, would seem to strike at Pelagius’ belief that temptations can be resisted by acts of will. A God who chooses to reward equally those who choose to commit sin and those who choose not to commit sin would be a capricious God indeed. What then would be the real qualifications for salvation? What the real need for following the path of righteousness? The questions this belief raises brings up, once more, Augustine’s appeal to Scripture.

The Book of Job offers an excellent field of research for St. Augustine as it deals with what appears to be the caprices of the Deity. In Job, an apparently upright man is constantly plagued by tragedy and disaster, yet he is somehow favored by God. All is a test. Job’s faith is being examined through adversity. Augustan quotes Hilary and Job in his Anti-Pelagian Writings,

For if God were to despise sinners, he would indeed despise everyone, for no one is without sin. But he despises those that fall away from him, who are called apostates.” Notice how he does not say that no one was without sin, as if he were speaking of people of the past, but no one is without gin. On this point, as I have said, I have no quarrel. But if someone does not yield to the Apostle John, who does not himself say, “If we say that we had no sin,” but, “If we say that we have no sin”…. I raise my voice in the defense of the grace of Christ, without which no one is justified, as though the free will of our nature were sufficient [emphasis added}. Indeed, it is Christ himself who raises his voice in defense of this; let us submit to him when he says, “Without me you can do nothing.”

Human beings are not now, nor have they ever been, without sin, except at the very beginning, before Adam and Eve committed the original sin. Augustine finds in Job, scriptural support for his assertion that, no matter how apparently righteous an individual may be, he or she is still not free of the taint of at least that Original Sin. One could, perhaps, make the argument that a truly sinless individual could attain salvation based on his or her own actions; that the free will exercised by that person might be entirely and completely directed only toward what is holy and good. But such a person does not, and cannot possibly exist, because it is one of the givens of being human, that one is – from the moment of birth – burdened by a sinful nature that cannot be erased except through Christ’s intercession.

It is possible, too, to conceive of a situation in which the distinction between sinful human being and righteous human being is absolute. The sinful being can never hope to gain admittance to Paradise. The righteous human being merits paradise, but only if he or she is truly righteous. God’s seemingly capricious actions toward Job may be looked at in this light. As a sinner – like all other human beings – he is imperfect and unworthy of salvation. Unworthy of salvation, he is worthy of whatever punishments and torments God deems fit to apply to him. These might be seen as necessary correctives for him personally, or perhaps even as examples to others. It is as if one were saying that a person who had stolen something always carried within himself or herself the propensity to steal again – that this individual always remained at heart, a potential thief, and merited being treated as such. In Augustine’s view. Which he supports with Scripture, we are all “thieves,” we are all sinners, or at least possessed of the ability to sin. Christ’s intercession is the ultimate act of mercy, a sign of God’s boundless benevolence toward His Creation. Free Will exists, because human beings are faced with situations in which choice exists. Job, for example, could have chosen to spurn God as result of God’s punishments.

Augustine’s position is that human beings can be seen to have free choice of the will because there are at least some situations in which “the doing or not doing of something is in the power of a person. And when he says that an action is in one’s power, he means that one does that thing if she or he wants to and chooses to and does not do that thing if she or he wants not to and chooses not to.

God has decreed that we are all sinners, but even this condition is a result of a free choice made by Adam and Eve when they committed the original sin. In choosing to sin, the first man and first woman were undertaking truly momentous decision. Rather than accept that which was freely given to them – a beautiful and eternal paradise – they chose to question, and therefore to sin against God. By their choice in the beginning, all humanity was condemned to a life outside Eden, one that necessarily entailed sin. It is like the case of a man who chooses to emigrate from the country of his birth knowing that, once his decision is made, he can never return. He makes his choice, takes with him his wife, and goes to another country. The two have children in that country, and forever afterwards, their descendents are now citizens of that place. Those descendents can, of course, choose to change their habitations at some future date, even possibly deciding to return to the land from which they originally came, but they can never pick up from where their ancestors left off. It is possible, in fact, that the land, or nation, from which their forebears emigrated might no longer exist. At the very least, the position of their family in that country would have changed. It is the same with humankind and the Paradise that was Eden.

Augustine viewed his own personal conversion as an act of Free Will. All his life, he had been faced with real choices in regard to his thoughts and actions. Throughout his youth, he had chosen to ignore the Path of God, and to follow false philosophies and indulge the pleasures of the flesh. The other choice – to accept Christ’s teachings – was always open to him yet, until he consciously made it, could not possibly furnish any stimulus for change in his way of living. St. Augustine explains his discovery in Against the Manicheans:

But where was my free choice for so long a time, and from what profound and secret hiding place was my free will suddenly called forth at the moment in which I bowed my neck under your “easy yoke” and my shoulders under your “light burden,” O. Christ Jesus, my Helper and my Redeemer (Ps 12:15)?

How sweet it suddenly became for me to be without the sweetness of trifling things! And how glad I was to give up the things that I had been so afraid to lose!”

Augustine realized that the Path of Christ had always been open to him. He simply had not chosen it. For along time, he had refused to see that it was there, but this was only because of his own willful blindness. Choosing the Way of God required “submission” to God’s Will. As he has stated on many other occasions, the decision to follow one’s own will is a purposeful decision not to choose the Will of God. God is not merely the author and the substance of all things, He is also the sole Truth in all of the Cosmos. The great thinker and theologian explained many times that nothing that exists does not come from God. To believe otherwise its to believe a falsehood. Any path, or philosophy, that does not conform to God’s Will is, by its very nature, a false path to a false belief. That each of us possesses Free Will is obvious from the fact that we can choose to believe or not believe, to sin or not sin, to give ourselves to God… Or not. None of this; however, changes another fact, one that is repeated again and again in Scripture – that only through Christ can we hope to achieve salvation. We do not control God. We merely follow Him. Acceptance of God requires acceptance of a Will that is greater than our own, that encompasses our own decisions, but goes beyond them. God may know what we will do, because He knows all, but this does not change the fact that we make choices by our own volition. Knowing the future is not the same as willing it to happen, especially if, as a first cause, we are given the power to make our own choices as to whether we shall be good or not, godly or ungodly. Each of us saved ultimately through God’s Divine Grace, but our individual choices in life are determined by the Free Will which God gave to us all, just as he gave it to our ultimate ancestors, Adam and Eve.

Celebrated theologian and Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine resolved the apparent conflicts between Divine Grace and Free Will through access to Scripture. He noted that the bible reveals that God, and God alone, has the power to grant salvation to humankind. Only through the intercession of Jesus Christ can men and women possibly hope to be saved. Divine Grace is freely given. It is not subject in any way to the actions or decisions of human beings. There is no way that a mortal human being can compel God to grant him or her eternal life in Paradise. Not even good actions on our part demand our admittance into the kingdom of Heaven. Nothing we do is binding on God. We do; however, possess Free Will. This, too, is a gift of God. It enables us to make decisions regarding our deeds, thoughts, and beliefs. Possessed of Free Will, we can choose to be righteous, and to follow in God’s Path. We can choose to put our faith in Christ, and hopefully make ourselves more worthy of His intercession on our behalf. God knows what we will or will not do, but he does not command us to undertake a single one of these actions. He knows whether will shall merit His Grace, but we as sinful human beings forever tainted by the Original Sin, can never know if we shall merit that Grace. Human beings are inherently imperfect, and cannot have the kind of knowledge and power and goodness that God has. In the end, we must always depend on Him for our Salvation. Free Will exists alongside Divine Grace but can never influence it. God commands and humankind follows.


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Augustine, Four Anti-Pelagian Writings trans. John a. Mourant and William J. Collinge, (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1992), 40.

Gerald Bonner, St. Augustine of Hippo: Life and Controversies (London: Canterbury Press, 1986), 317.

Saint Augustine, the City of God trans. Marcus D.D. Dods, (New York: Modern Library, 1950), 153.

Andrew Koch, “Interpreting God’s Truth: A Postmodern Interpretation of Medieval Epistemology,” International Social Science Review (2000): 47.

Augustine, De Trinitate, translation, (No Date), I.x.21. URL:

Augustine, Four Anti-Pelagian Writings trans. John a. Mourant and William J. Collinge, (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1992), 79.

T. Kermit Scott, Augustine: His Thought in Context (New York: Paulist Press, 1995), 159-160.

Augustine, Augustine of Hippo, Selected Writings trans. Mary T. Clark, (New York: Paulist Press, 1984), 100.

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