"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

dissociated from himself?

When considering the things Augustine has to say about God's sovereignty and free will in his work "Confessions" I can firmly say that it is clear he puts much more emphasis on God's sovereignty. From the very first paragraph he starts off by praising God and giving Him the glory for the praise He receives from man. "You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." (P.3) Even more striking is his statements later on the same page "My faith, Lord, calls upon you. It is your gift to me. You breathed it into me by the humanity of your Son, by the ministry of your preacher." This I believe gives God credit for His work and the vessels through which His providence was executed. Jesus Christ and the man (Ambrose) who preached Christ to Augustine. The message of this statement is in total accord with scripture. Romans 10:14b "And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" Augustine gives God the credit and understand how God works in this world. Not only was Augustine not able to come to God on his own. God "breathed" faith into him and used the testimony of Christ and the words of Ambrose as part of the equation.
I also think it important to notice the language Augustine consistently uses though his work. I can not readily think of any example of him taking credit for his conversion. All praise is given to God. This does not necessarily prove that Augustine sees no role for his free will in conversion. But rather he sees it better to ascribe all credit to God then to speculate to deeply on his own cleverness in figuring out God and discovering Him. When others turn to Christ, he thanks God. Speaking of his friend who loved the Gladiator games he said "Nevertheless, from This you delivered him by your most strong and merciful hand and you taught him to put his confidence not in himself but in you (Isa 57:13)."
What I find most interesting though is how unresolved the issue is when he deals with it directly. I can not make sense of his language on P148 section 22. He does not divide a person into different wills. He says, "the self which willed to service was identical with the self which was unwilling. It was I. I was neither wholly willing nor wholly unwilling. So I was in conflict with myself and was dissociated from myself. The dissociation came about against my will." As a modern Evangelical Calvinist I immediately think "Ah Ha! He is speaking of God's calling him out. Working him toward repentance. But as I read on I am not so sure. He then goes on to say, "Yet this was not a manifestation of the nature of an alien mind but the punishment suffered in my own mind. And so it was 'not I' that brought this about 'but sin which dwelt in me' (Rom. 7:17,20), sin resulting from the punishment of a more freely chosen sin, because I was a son of Adam." Yikes, that does not wrap up where I thought he was going with it. I will humbly submit the only place I can go with it to make a bit of sense with it. Sin is what dissociated himself from his true will at the fall. As it did Adam. We now live with sin dwelling within us. It is now part of us. But God in His sovereignty can restore us to our original state. So the dissociation that was against his will is because his will was in bondage to sin. He is dissociated from his true self "A child of God" and is instead a "Child of wrath" in need of redemption, because he "was a son of Adam". He is now after conversion a son of God, reunited to his creator. Romans 7, Paul is aware that while he is a new creation in Christ at conversion also realizes that sin still dwells in him. It is part into his body. But one day he will be free of it. Therefore it is not what is most true or what is eternal about him. Let us focus on the eternal and be about the business of Heaven, in total dependence on God, as much as possible right here and now. Sin wars against our members and bring with it bondage of the will so we desperately need Him who has power over it (Romans 7:23). Yet we are also responsible. It is a great mystery.
This was done on the fly and is the work of a layman trying hard to exegete a passage of scripture that there is great ambiguity and debate over what it means (Rom 7:17-20), and Augustine. So it may be fraught with error and heresies. But I humble submit it as a possible explanation as to one aspect of Augustinian and Biblical teaching on the subject of the will. Another one that I would like to understand to add clarity is what is Augustine getting at when he speaks of "not a manifestation of the nature of an alien mind". But no time or clue on how to go down that rabbit hole now.

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