"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.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Expanding my thoughts

In the beginning of Book 9 Where Augustine says "But where through so many years was my freedom of will?" I think he basically says conversion is being given a new will, a truly freed will. I think his bit of rhetoric in asking the question is to say "I had no free will, but received a freed will." But Augustine, I believe would shy away from saying it was "compulsed," he often says compulsion is negative, but maybe would say he is drawn: pulled, not pushed.

Piper has a quote from one of Augustine's letters where Augustine states: "Who has it in his power to have such a motive present to his mind that his will shall be influenced to believe?...If those things delight us which serve our advancement towards God, that is due not to our own whim or industry or meritorious works, but to the inspiration of God and to the grace which he bestows." So I guess then Augustine is very Edwardsian or more properly, Jonathan Edwards is very Augustinian. A will is free to pursue that which it delights most in, but not to chose what it delights most in.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

So Where does Augustine fall?

[Read my posts on Augustine on Free Choice and Grace first]

Question: Can freedom resist Grace?
Augustine writes on pg 13 - "Deliver also those who do not as yet pray, that they may call upon you and you may set them free." is this Compulsion? Effectual calling? Then on pg 141 - "I had no answer to make to you when you said to me 'arise, you who are asleep, rise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light." Was this delayed and resisted grace? Must we cooperate with grace?

Q: What is the Relationship of Grace and Free Choice?
138 - AUGUSTINE QUOTES LUKE 15:32 "who was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found."

I see the idea of freedom of choice introduced as a solution to the problem of evil. Grace is used in relation to Providence and Salvation. Thus there are two possible solutions to the relation of freedom of choice and grace:

1. Submission of will to Grace. Uncompulsed surrender
Grace may not necessarily move a "free will," but we are still chosen and pursued even if we do not surrender to the Pursuer. Grace may be emphasised as power here, as an outlet to plug our faculty of the will into, leaving the driving and directing of the will to us to follow or not follow God with that power. We are the riders on the back of Grace, able to direct its power. Grace fills the fuel tank of our engine of the will.

2. The parable of the Lost Sheep. Compulsed surrender.
We are sheep that wander off by our own free choice. We may rightly say it was our own free choice to wander, to sin, but our freedom to sin does not mean we have the freedom to find our way back. We have lost ourselves. But it takes someone else to "find" us. The coin was found by the widow, not by itself. The sheep is found by the shepard, it does not "find" itself. We are brought back by the Grace of the Shepard. The Shepard does not come nearer to the sheep who come nearest to Him, they are too stupid to know how. Found Sheep are found by the power and willing of the Shepard, not the sheep.

Augustine's Answer (?):
Pelagius described us as riders on the back of a horse of grace, an Uncompulsed surrender and submission to God's will. Augustine called this heresy and [I think rightly] deduced that this reduced Christianity to a morality religion. I think Augustine would shy away from saying election is "compulsed" but it certainly is orcestrated through Providence, Power, Revelation, and Faculty as to make the role of "free choice" seem more like bondage to ignorance than the true Liberty of a Christian Augustine finds with the gift of a "new will." But then again, I could be wrong.

Things in Augustine Attributable to Grace:

[Read my Augustine on Free Choice post first]

1. The Creation of the Faculty of the Will
pg 131 - "[with your grace]...so that he who sees should 'not boast as if he had not received' both what he sees and also the power to see. 'For what has he which he has not received."

2. Energy of the Faculty of the Will [Grace as Power]
pg 32 - "No one who considers his frailty would dare to attribute to his own strength his chastity and innocence, so that he has less cause to love you."
pg 69 - "I wanted to stand still and hear you and rejoice with joy at the voice of the bridegroom. But that was beyond my powers."
pg 71 - "But when our support rests on our own strength, it is infirmity."
pg 138 - "Those who receive it obtain from you 'power to become your sons.' [John 1:9,12]"
pg 147 - "But I could have willed this and then not done it if my limbs had not possessed the power to obey. So I did many actions in which the will to act was not equalled by the power."

3. Object of the Faculty of the Will [Revelation]
pg 131, again - "[with your grace]...so that he who sees should 'not boast as if he had not received' both what he sees and also the power to see. 'For what has he which he has not received."
pg 74 - "By the proud you are not found, not even if their curiosity and skill number the stars and the sand, measure the constellations, and trace the paths of the stars"

4. Providence - Events in natural world leading to knowledge of Revelation
pg 74, again - "By the proud you are not found, not even if their curiosity and skill number the stars and the sand, measure the constellations, and trace the paths of the stars"
pg 72 - "But you melt that when you wish, either in mercy or in punishment."

5. Perserverence of the Will
pg 18 - "Deliver me from all temptation to the end."
pg 83 - "For your mercy is for ever."
pg 110 - AUGUSTINE QUOTES ISAIAH 46:4 - "Run, I will carry you, and I will see you through to the end, and there I will carry you."

Augustine's use of the concepts of "Liberty" or "Freedom"

Okay, I went super dork and just outlined everything. I've actually been trying to answer these questions in my mind for a year so here are my catagories I see in Augustine:

1. Liberty to sin, Freedom of directing the Will - Free Choice

pg 16 -[God does not cause sinners to sin]- "but of sinners only the orderer."
pg 28 - "Lord, and by the law written in the hearts of men which not even iniquity itself destroys."
pg 38 -"The liberty I loved was merely that of a runaway."
pg 68 - "'why then does God err?' I used to argue that your unchangable substance is forced into mistakes rather than confess that my mutable nature deviated by its own choice and that error is its punishment."
pg 113 - "I directed my mind to understand what I was being told, namely that the free choice of the will is the reason why we do wrong and suffer just judgement."
pg 114 - "people suppose that evil is something that you suffer rather than an act by humanity."
pg 138 - "Human beings obtain normal pleasures of human life not as they come on us unexpectedly and against our will, but after discomforts which are planned and accepted by deliberate choice." [Our discomfort is chosen]

2. Liberty from sin
pg 13 - "Deliver also those who do not as yet pray, that they may call upon you and you may set them free"
pg 107 - "Like a man whose wound has been hit, I pushed aside the words of good advice like the hand loosing the bond."
pg 120 - "[I am] inferior to you, and you are my true joy if I submit to you."
pg 140 - [New will, old will free?] "The new will, which was beginning to be within me a will to serve you freely and to enjoy you..."

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Kreeft on Desire

As we approach the conversion of Augustine I thought this article on desire by Peter Kreeft is very applicable! Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Boston College. http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/desire.htm
So far Augustine has tried just about everything to fulfill his desires and attain happiness. All has failed. Perhaps our hearts are created for something else?

Tuesday, August 10, 2004


I am sure this link ties into Augustine somehow. Or not...

The Simpsons

The Simpsons where the Flanders try to baptize Bart, Lisa and Maggie without Homer and Marge's consent was on last night. In some great satire Homer arrives just as Flanders is saying;

Ned Flanders "Bart, do you resist Satan and all his empty promises?"
Homer: "Noooooo!!!" Jumps on Bart and gets hit by the water intended for Bart. Gets up and looks at Bart.
Bart: "Wow Dad you took a baptismal for me! How do you feel?"
Homer with a serene look on his face and in calm voice: "Oh Bartholomew, I feel just like Saint Augustine of Hippo after he was converted by Ambrose of Milan."
Flanders: "What!?"
Homer: Comes to senses "I said shut up Flanders!"

Thursday, August 05, 2004

DaVinci Code

Cool facts about the DaVinci Code book! I thought this would be of interest since we tied it into our discussion on Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Chapter Summary

Here is a very short summary of each chapter. This is the free version of the book on-line.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004


(n.) A believer in the doctrines of Manes, a Persian of the third century A. D., who taught a dualism in which Light is regarded as the source of Good, and Darkness as the source of Evil.

A Sick and Wounded Heart

I notice he uses the term "return to our heart" often as well as references to healing. For example "the healing of my soul's sickness." In searching for the cure he admits "I could not even find myself, much less you." I just like the language. I would say we are wounded and sick, God brings healing. When we find Him we gain this as well as find out who He created us to be. We can not find ourselves till we find God and (as Eldredge would say) He gives us our name. Good stuff!