Religion Augustine: Divine Grace and Free Will Term Paper

Pages: 20 (6715 words)  ·  Style: Chicago  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion


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.

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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.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Religion Augustine: Divine Grace and Free Will Assignment

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… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Religion Augustine: Divine Grace and Free Will.  (2007, March 27).  Retrieved December 2, 2021, from

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"Religion Augustine: Divine Grace and Free Will."  March 27, 2007.  Accessed December 2, 2021.