Theology for the Masses

November 16, 2006

Intro to “To Simplician – On Various Questions”

Filed under: Calvinism,Doctrine,Origional Sin,Salvation — Henry Imler @ 12:12 am

This post looks very briefly at Augustine’s letter “To Simplician – On Various Questions,” with the hope of gaining some insight on Augustine’s turn away from a libertarian view of salvation. I am not trying to set forth an all-inclusive view of TULIPS, but instead to simply get a view of the development of Augustine’s thought.

In the letter, “To Simplician – On Various Questions,” Augustine wrestles with the question of why Esau was rejected by God and Jacob was accepted by God in conjunctions with Paul’s treatment in Romans 9.10-29. This creates a whole heaping mound of confusion for Augustine, but does lead him to several important doctrines, or at least lays some of the foundations of later doctrines. It is absolutely fundamental that humans are saved solely by God, so that none may boast. Augustine beings with the idea that God hated Esau and loved Jacob from before the time they were born. He then presents arguments on why this could not have been due to any deeds that they did, because the calling preceded their birth. Similarly, it was not done on account of their faith, for the same reason. Augustine then examines if God based the calling on his foreknowledge of either’s works. This cannot be the case, for this would imply that God does choose on the merit of the individual. It also could not have been a result of God’s foreknowledge of faith because grace precedes belief. For Augustine, the path of salvation follows the following sequence:

Calling → Birth → Grace → Hearing → Believing → Faith → Justification → Power to do good works

Augustine cannot find any reason for God to choose one over the other. He can find no reason for God to reject on over another. They are twins, so there is no ontological difference between the two. Augustine does maintain that God can have mercy on who he decides to have mercy on. There is a freedom there because all persons are sinners. He concludes that while there is a reason that God chose to love Jacob and not Esau, it is left unknown to humans. There is some discussion about God calling more than are chosen, but I was not able to ascertain his final position on the matter. The question here is, “Can a person reject the calling of God?” Augustine seems to think that a person can reject the calling, but not being chosen. How this works out exactly, I am not sure. The last section of the latter deals with the idea that the only people with true free will (the will to do good) are those that God elects. No other humans are able to truly do good works.

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