Friday, May 4, 2012

An Outline of “Miscellany of Questions in Response to St. Simplicianus”: The early Augustinian doctrine on Grace and Law (Question 2 of 2)

This post regards the second main question in the Miscellany of Questions in Response to St. Simplicianus, that is the proper way of understanding God’s election of the blessed, His reprobation of the damned, predestination in general, and how to reconcile this with the free will. It is a preliminary look by St. Augustine on what grace, the law, justification, and eternal predestination mean for the Catholic Church. Much of St. Augustine’s terminology and early thoughts will continue to be used further on by the saint in his doctrines of grace, though as with all things he sharpens them, though as far as I have read much of his early thought is only deepened, developed, looked to with greater care, and not much changes in the saint’s thoughts (recall he became a bishop during what we would call the middle of life [though in those times it was not very common for every person to reach St. Augustine’s age]). All of this account then precedes the Pelagian controversy, and it is remarkable to read the orthodoxy of St. Augustine’s theology of grace so early on, in fact it is beauty to the eyes to behold it. With all of this in mind then, let us proceed to strive to understand our holy father, St. Augustine, though I must warn that it gets quite bleak towards the middle of this document, do not be disheartened for the Church has not yet decided completely how to comprehend authoritatively God’s most ineffable mystery and revelation for man, the call to election and glory with Him in eternity. Read carefully and let me know if anything herein disturbs you. St. Augustine’s doctrine as it appears to me seems orthodox and true to the Gospel, but to the untrained eye and those young in the faith, may not understand entirely what the Doctor of Grace is explaining to us.

To go to the summary of this enormous post and the post that goes along with this post, go here:


The Scripture in Question:
Romans 9:10-29;

10 And not only she. But when Rebecca also had conceived at once of Isaac our father. 11 For when the children were not yet born, nor had done any good or evil (that the purpose of God according to election might stand): 12 Not of works, but of him that calls, it was said to her: The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written: Jacob I have loved: but Esau I have hated.

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice with God? God forbid! 15 For he says to Moses: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy. And I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy. 16 So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. 17 For the scripture says to Pharao: To this purpose have I raised you, that I may show my power in you and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. 18 Therefore he has mercy on whom he will. And whom he will, he hardens. 19 You will say therefore to me: Why does he then find fault? For who resists his will? 20 O man, who are you that reply against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it: Why have you made me thus? 21 Or has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour? 22 What if God, willing to show his wrath and to make his power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction, 23 that he might show the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy which he has prepared unto glory? 24 Even us, whom also he has called, not only of the Jews but also of the Gentiles. 25 As in Osee he says: I will call that which was not my people, my people; and her that was not beloved, beloved; and her that had not obtained mercy; one that has obtained mercy. 26 And it shall be in the place where it was said unto them: you are not my people; there they shall be called the sons of the living God. 27 And Isaiah cried out concerning Israel: If the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved. 28 For he shall finish his word and cut it short in justice: because a short word shall the Lord make upon the earth. 29 And Isaiah foretold: Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been made as Sodom and we had been like unto Gomorrha.

Analysis of St. Augustine’s reply:

St. Augustine’s brief summary of the Epistle to the Romans and trouble.
St. Augustine begins his response to St. Simplicianus in reply that the selection from which St. Simplicianus has trouble with is exceedingly obscure (see Catholic Nick’s intricate discussion of Romans 9 to exemplify this) and that he will begin by summarizing St. Paul’s entire letter to the Romans in his own words.

This is then primarily that St. Paul aims to teach us that “no one should boast of the merits of his works.” (2.1). Furthermore, St. Augustine teaches that the Catholic Israelites were proud of their keeping of the Jewish law, such that they boasted openly of having received the law and then the grace of the Gospel as reward for their works. The Jewish Christians then believed that in order for the Gentiles to receive the grace of the Gospel they had to make themselves worthy by preserving the Jewish law in its entirety (St. Augustine literally says that the Gentiles were made to carry out the Jewish Sacraments before becoming Christian) before conversion to Christ. He then critiques that these Israelites did not understand that the grace of the Gospel is not dependent on our works, that is grace proceeds without any merit on our part, otherwise it is no longer grace.

Grace precedes Works and flows from Faith:
St. Augustine then tells us that “the Apostle frequently testifies that grace comes before works not in order to do away with works but in order to show that works do not precede but follow upon faith- in other words, so that a person may not think that he has obtained grace because he has done good works but that he cannot do good works unless he has obtained grace through faith.” (2.1) That is then that grace precedes all good works, and enables us to do good works which are impossible to do without faith and grace which proceeds from faith [later he will show that even faith is by grace].

Degrees of Grace and the Necessity of the Sacraments for Eternal Life:
The Doctor of Grace then expounds that “it is important to know if grace is poured out more fully and more manifestly at certain moments of time or at the celebration of the sacraments.” to which he remarks that catechumens, nor Cornelius who received an angel in the Scriptures, were bereft of belief, nor were they absent of prayer and almsgiving. St. Augustine writes that Cornelius was making himself worthy by prayer and almsgiving (perhaps foundational to later medieval thoughts on making one’s self congruent to receive regenerating grace), but that no catechumen nor Cornelius would have done these things had he not believed beforehand. This St. Augustine conjectures would have been impossible (for them to have faith) unless called internally or externally to have faith and believe.

St. Augustine then remarks that certain persons like catechumens and Cornelius himself though possessed of a great grace, the gift of faith, it is prior to being incorporated into the Church by participation in the Catholic sacraments is “insufficient to attain to the kingdom of heaven” (as St. Peter remarks that Cornelius ought to be baptized in Acts 10, though Protestants will dispute this will avail Cornelius to incorporation in the Church and salvation). However St. Augustine does remark that in some men faith is so great that it counts them as already belonging to the body of Christ and being a holy temple of God. It is possible here that St. Augustine has in mind martyrs, but he does not clarify, but the context immediately following regards Our Lord’s commandment that unless a man be born of water and the Holy Spirit that he shall not enter the kingdom of heaven, so that I believe St. Augustine to hold that faith alone is insufficient and regeneration need occur through a greater faith received after the holy washing. St. Augustine states in great eloquence then of faith and baptism:
“Certain beginnings of faith, therefore, are like conceptions. Yet, in order to arrive at eternal life, one must not only be conceived but also be born. But none of this is without the grace of God’s mercy, because even if works that are good follow that grace, as they say, they do not precede it.”
And hence we have from St. Augustine the great vanquishing of sola fide, it is insufficient says the Doctor of Grace, only faith added to the holy sacraments and a holy obedience to God are sufficient, all granted by God’s grace which proceeds all of our deeds.

So we see interestingly enough it is one thing to receive the grace of God but not be saved, and another thing to receive the fullness of God’s grace and be saved. Here we see degrees of God’s saving work in St. Augustine’s theology of grace.

Good Works are a Gift of Grace; Jacob’s election:
St. Paul’s reference then to Jacob is emphasized in Ephesians 2:8-9, “It is not because of us but is a gift of God it is not because of works, lest perhaps anyone be inflated.” And so St. Augustine begins by saying that Jacob who was not yet born had no merits before God because he had no works, and as such the words “The older shall serve the younger” and other promises made by God to Jacob were before Jacob could even merit anything, and even before Jacob existed. Hence the divine promise to Jacob was before his existence, that he might be a co-heir with Christ, to share in the life of the saints, that is not boasting in any merits of his own, but answering and attributing everything to the grace of his calling. Here it is interesting that everything in a saints life is the response to the grace of his calling (sainthood) and not on account of anything that the saint provided, lest he boast of anything having been given to him that he did not receive.

Furthermore, St. Augustine relates that Jacob and Esau were twins so none should think that Jacob’s election over Esau was a matter of fact of their different times of birth (as suggested by the astrologers of Northern Africa of the time as St. Augustine suggests).

Grace given without consideration of merit; justification depends on God to grant grace:
St. Augustine remarks that one of the purposes for God calling and granting grace without consideration of merit is to overturn the pride of persons who are unthankful for God’s grace, or who boast of the goodness of their own works and merits, which could not have been achieved without God’s grace. St. Augustine comments then on Romans 9:11-12; “For when they were not yet born and had not done anything good or evil, not because of their works but because of him who called them it was said to her [Sarah] that the older should serve the younger”, by saying that grace comes from Him who calls, but good works come as a consequence from him who receives grace, that is we are begotten by grace and do not beget grace by our own will. “A fire does not heat in order to burn but because it burns, nor does a wheel run well in order to be round but because it is round. Thus no one does good works in order to receive grace but because he has received it.”, which is to say then that nobody does something good in order to receive God’s grace, but rather God’s grace makes a truly good work become manifest; a person does not become holy of his own will alone, but his holiness depends entirely on God to grant the grace to seek Him, to bid His will, and to carry forward in adoring Him. “For how can a person live righteously who has not been made righteous? In the same way that a person cannot live holily who has not been made holy or live at all if he has not been given life. It is grace that makes righteous, so that one who has been made righteous can live righteously. Grace, therefore, comes first, and good works are second.” This then is St. Augustine’s theology of justification is that God makes us righteous by grace (i.e. granting the grace to desire to fulfill the law by filling our hearts with love and an indwelling of the Holy Spirit) so that we might live righteously. Regeneration and what follows are all part of being made righteous, that is being just before God is standing upright in the will to keep God’s law. Justification is in the regeneration whereby our will and hearts are restored and regenerated by grace, and ongoing as our newly regenerated souls are brought to carry out God’s law (and in time of crisis/temptation humbly seek His grace to overcome it) whereby our justification is shown and made manifest. Our justification then is wrapped in our being made truly righteous and in every step of the way being righteous, not by our own works that none should boast, but by God’s grace which sustains us. This is directly contrary to Luther’s simul iustus pecador (simultaneously sinner and justified).

In justification, St. Augustine remarks on St. Paul’s words on fighting the good fight, finishing the race, keeping the faith, and the reward of a crown of righteousness which God will reward him with. St. Augustine remarks that the Scriptures use will render (reddet) as if to indicate that it is a matter of debt that God owes it to St. Paul to give him the crown of righteousness as if St. Paul did something of himself that God did not prepare for him. But St. Augustine is quick to understand that Christ ascended on high and led captivity captive, and from His victory He did not render but gave (dedit) gifts to men. That is the Apostle has nothing to presume a debt of, for the Apostle, St. Paul, was the worst of sinners, a blasphemer, reviler, persecutor but he received mercy, not on account of his previous works, but as God’s gracious and loving gift. Hence God’s rendering is on account of His gracious promise of a reward to those who love Him, but all of this is on account of God’s work in us. It is God who makes us upright by making us righteous, and so any righteousness on our account that we might demand the Lord grant us a reward for is by the work of God Himself who gave us righteousness though we neither deserved it nor had any claim to being regenerated by His grace.

Divine Election and the question of Election’s arbitrariness:
Next follows then St. Augustine’s remarks on verse 12, “Not because of their works, but because of him who called them it was said to her that the older would serve the younger” how this refers back to verse 11 that neither Jacob nor Esau had done anything good or bad yet, but that we should ask then why God chose one over the other to give a divine promise to, that is what does the Apostle mean when he says “that God’s purpose would abide in accordance with his choice” (verse 11)? How is God acting righteously in preferring Jacob over Esau if neither one has done anything yet? Can God judge between two persons who have not yet done anything? How was it fair for God to say, “I loved Jacob but I hated Esau” (Romans 9:13) when neither one had done anything? St. Augustine remarks that they were not of different natures since they were twins and from the same act of intercourse, nor could we think Jacob was better than Esau, since Jacob had not yet even done anything to make himself more pleasing to God.

St. Augustine then asks whether Jacob’s election over his brother was based on God’s foreknowledge of Jacob’s future faith or then later on his good works. St. Augustine asks questions of whether this is a viable explanation of Jacob’s divine election but is clear to remark that the election isn’t on any account of their current works or faith since St. Paul ruled this out when remarking on their not having done anything good or evil.

Then St. Augustine turns us to consider the phrase that God’s purpose would abide in accordance with His choice (verse 11) and that His choice was not because of their works but because of Him who called them was it said that the older would serve the younger. And as such God’s choice was not done in consideration of any good works or consideration of person, but rather God’s choice was on account of which God’s purpose would abide, that is His will be carried out. Hence it is with sinners, He does not consider their sins or persons, but makes them righteous by His grace and mercy. God’s purpose does not abide on account of a choice or an election, but His election results from His purpose and will, which is to say that God does not discover in human beings some good works that He desires to choose us to become regenerated, righteous, and granted divine election, but rather that God’s choice makes men righteous, grants them the grace of faith, and from then men discover good works that he may be given the opportunity to work for the kingdom of Heaven. Unless God made a choice of whom to grant grace, there would not be any chosen ones, by which St. Paul said, “Who will accuse God’s chosen ones” (Romans 8:33)

Further considering justification and election, St. Augustine writes that God’s making a choice for our election is not preceded by making us righteous but rather His decision to make us righteous is before His divine election, since no one is chosen unless he is already a different person than those rejected. Hence the early St. Augustine puts forward that St. Paul’s quote in Ephesians 1:4, “God chose us before the foundation of the world” so as to mean that God’s foreknowledge was at work to show those who were called and fought the good fight through God’s assistance as those who were chosen, to which he says that God’s choice then is not based upon merits, but on God who grants grace and gifts to let men persevere, that is God’s choice carries forth all those who He allowed to become regenerate (some of which He did not preserve it seems).

[Note, these paragraphs are confusing as is St. Augustine's comments in 2.6, I feel]

Does Grace precede Faith?:
St. Augustine asks whether faith merits humankind’s being righteous, that is whether acquiring faith deserves God’s granting us righteousness. St. Augustine answers with St. Paul’s, Not because of their works, and also remarking that the Apostle did not say, but because of their faith it was said that the older would serve the younger, but rather the Apostle did say, “But because of Him who called them”. No one believes who is not called, says St. Augustine, it is God’s mercy and grace that calls, bestowing the grace of calling when there are no merits of faith, and so the merits of faith are an after effect of God’s call. The African Doctor notes that St. Paul in Romans 10:14 states that how will anyone believe if they have not yet heard or have not been given a preacher, and hence that God’s mercy precedes by way of a call. Before every true merit, grace is there, since Christ died for the wicked (and Christ is the fountain of all grace). Thus Jacob received power over his brother because God called him to it, God loved Jacob because of God’s choice and call for Jacob, not on account of anything that Jacob did.

What does St. Paul mean when he says God hated Esau?:
How could God hate Esau if Esau had not done anything? Did God make Esau lower than Jacob because of Esau’s future bad works? But we have already seen that Jacob was not called because of works, and St. Paul says of both of them, not because of their works. St. Augustine retorts that though Esau was not given his lower status because of his own works, but rather that Esau is loved by God since God loves all that He creates, for it is all declared good. Then he remarks it is said of the sun that it is more excellent than say the moon, but this is not on account of anything that the sun did to make it better than the sun, but rather God’s choice. However, St. Augustine remarks though the moon may be thought in some part lower than the sun, God does not say that he loves the sun and hates the moon, so then we wonder whether it was on account of the righteousness of faith that Jacob was preferred to Esau, but this condition makes no sense if the divine election is before their existence, as well as that election is not based on works, but on God’s choice whereby works are made manifest.

The solution is offered by St. Paul in “What, then shall we say? Is there injustice with God? Of  course not!” (Romans 9:14) and “For Moses says, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will show compassion to whom I will be compassionate” (Romans 9:15) but this is only a partial solution says St. Augustine. Why did God lack compassion for Esau who did nothing? God’s mercy and compassion fuels the entire spiritual life, from calling, to faith, to works, to election, but not that any man could boast since it is God’s gift to give. St. Augustine remarks with St. Paul, “For what do you have, that you have not received? But if you have received, why do you boast as if you had not received” (1 Corinthians 4:7) that is that God’s mercy goes where He wills and nobody ought to boast of receiving more from God for to boast is to think He gave it to us on account of our own deservedness, instead of His total condescending mercy.

 While all good and true, this does not answer why God did not have compassion on Esau. It wasn’t because Jacob did something better than Esau, i.e. later believed, since all of that was God’s initiative and mercy. Jacob was called, willed to believe because of the call, and hence had faith; so then though many are called by grace, but few are chosen, that is believe and follow Christ [yes, St. Augustine is floundering about here]. St. Augustine asks what then does “It is not a matter of willing or of running, therefore, but of a merciful God (Romans 9:16). We cannot will [the good] unless God calls, and even then our willing counts for nothing unless God helps to bring our work to completion, but it is still necessary that men will and run, as is said, “Peace on earth to men of good will” (Luke 2:14) and “Run in such a way that you may seize the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24). Thus it is a matter of mercy to receive a will and arrive where we will to. Esau claims St. Augustine did not will or run, but if he had done either, he would have arrived and done so by the will of God, who bestows willing and running upon persons by calling him. Esau became disapproved of by disdaining the call. There are two ways of God’s grace it seems, He bestows upon us so that we may will, and then bestows what we ourselves have willed (this is later termed operative and co-operative grace in later of St. Augustine’s works). God then grants and bestows, and He alone bestows what a man wills, that is He brings it to fruition for a good work, that is He grants the ability to act well and to live blessedly forever. But then St. Augustine has come full circle and asked if Esau wasn’t born yet why did God disapprove of him when he could neither will nor not will.

If God did this on foreknowledge of Esau’s evil why not grant grace on foreknowledge of Jacob’s goodness? St. Augustine here goes on a tangent but remarks that God’s mercy is not after our willing, but God’s mercy causes our willing and completion of the willed thing by God’s grace carrying us. [For now St. Augustine’s problem will not be answered yet]

Grace and the Will [2.12 of the Miscellany]:
St. Augustine next moves to a discussion of “It is not a matter of willing or of running, therefore, but of a merciful God,” by first remarking that this text must be balanced by Philippians 2:12-13, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who, for the sake of a good will, works in you both the willing and the working.” To this St. Augustine writes that a good will is the work of God in us, and for this reason salvation isn’t simply an act of willing the good (as Pelagius will later on argue some many years after St. Augustine’s rise to the episcopacy) but of God who is merciful. For if it is only said that it is not a matter of willing but of a merciful God, because the human will does not suffice for us to live in rectitude and righteousness unless we are aided by God’s mercy, it can therefore also be said that it is not a matter of a merciful God but of human willing, because God’s mercy alone does not suffice unless our will’s consent is joined to it. But it is evident that we will to no avail unless God is merciful.” As such then we can say that God’s grace gives us the will to do good, and carries us through actually willing the good, but unless there is a man to will (and at that he wills freely otherwise for St. Augustine there is no will, though this does not mean the man is not influenced internally and externally; internally by a change of disposition/habits [grace elevating the will above slavery to vice’s temptation], externally by a recognition in the mind of what the good is). So it is that man’s free will participates in God’s grace, but man can only have a truly just and free will by grace [this is not part of the text, but follows from earlier discussion on the slavery of the will in sin].

As such a call precedes a good will. If God is merciful we also will, but we cannot will unless God is merciful. St. Augustine remarks that it cannot be said that God is merciful to no avail if we will, whereby God’s mercy accompanies our willing and accomplishment of good works (see Philippians above). Thus a call precedes every good work and good will.

Call to Grace and being Chosen [2.13 of the Miscellany]:
St. Augustine went to great pains to show that doing good works and having a good will necessitated a divine call to such things in order to occur, but do all God’s calls result necessarily in good works and a good will? St. Augustine remarks on “many are called, but few chosen” (Matthew 20:16) that if it is in the power of the person who is called to decide whether he is chosen or not, that is reject the call of his own will then this contradicts what was said earlier regarding ‘it is not a matter of willing but of God’s mercy’, and then so too it would be that God’s mercy would be insufficient unless it is up to the person to decide the efficacy of God’s mercy, but as we have gone about and about before on Esau and Jacob, this is not possible that man’s work precedes God’s grace. St. Augustine offers here an alternative, that is that many are called, but few chosen because many have been called in one way only, but only a select few have been called in a way that is fitting to their reception of the Gospel, that is some were not found fitting in order to grasp the call. If so then we have aligned this teaching with that of St. Paul’s reference, that it is not a matter of willing or of running, but of a merciful God. Thus the call has come to many but it was as such that they could not be moved by it, and were not well suited to grasp the call, and in like way they were called but not chosen. Hence reasons St. Augustine that the efficacy of God’s mercy cannot be in man’s power, because if so then God’s mercy could be of no avail if a person was simply unwilling, and then God could not call them in a way appropriate for them to be chosen, which would not be acceptable if I am reading St. Augustine correctly. As such then, God calls many men, but only some respond to the call and are chosen because God’s call was appropriate for these men to become obedient and follow the call. Then we have thus appropriated this to the teaching, it is not a matter of willing or of running but of a merciful God. Thus, God calls many and has mercy on those whom He calls in an appropriate way for them to follow, but it is incorrect to say that God has mercy on anybody in vain, that is that it is a matter of man’s willing and running and not God’s being merciful.

Call to Grace and Obedience [2.14 of the Miscellany]:
“Why wasn’t Esau called in such a way that he would will to obey?” asks St. Augustine, noting that when God calls us in such a way our souls are moved to obey Him, but some receive a call, but not the grace to have will to have faith and obey the Lord. Next, St. Augustine lists examples of persons who did receive the call and did obey, thereby noting that God calls men in diverse ways, whereby each individual is called, and many chosen individually by a call that was diversely appropriate for them to be chosen. Some neglect the first few calls, but are finally chosen in another call, and thus it is inappropriate to say that God could not have called Esau in an appropriate way. Thus he wonders whether the resistance of a person’s will can be so great that he rejects every call from God, though this hardening St. Augustine notes, would be a result of divine punishment, whereby God has abandoned a person by not calling him in a sufficient manner. But it is not to be understood that God lacked a capacity to persuade the small created will of the hardened sinner. If one can see the inferences next we are going to talk regarding the pharaoh of Egypt.

The hardening of the heart and God’s mercy and justice[2.15 in the Miscellany]
Now then, what are we to make of how St. Paul says that the pharaoh was raised up so that God might display His power in him and His name might be made known to all the earth? St. Augustine notes that it is strongly connected with the verse prior regarding not running or willing but of God’s mercy, further showing this with verse 18 that God has mercy on whom He will and hardens whom He will. This concludes St. Augustine is the manner in which God shows His unwillingness to be merciful, which results in a hardening of the heart, because it cannot receive God’s mercy to be chosen for the life in the Gospel. In like manner thus, God grants nothing to the sinner, though He imposes nothing that the sinner become any worse, but again nothing that the sinner might become better; it is like a parent who puts a teenager in time out in his room for an hour, though the teenager is not given any instruction or anything to make him better, he is not given anything per se to make his condition worse, if all he does is stay in his room, as opposed to the teenager deciding to run away out the window and make things worse for himself. Thus is to be understood St. Paul’s words, “And so you say to me, Why is there still complaint? For who resists His will?”, (Romans 9:19). In likewise, manner the parent isn’t to blame for anything that the teen did, though the parent because he is loving will not abandon the teen who may become worse, though in the case of God He does not strictly owe anything to us, since everything is from His mercy. So concludes then my example of a teen [which I still am] and a parent. And so God stands in a position of granting so many things to us, despite the fact that countless are sinful and unobservant, says St. Augustine. St. Augustine says something ambiguous to my mind now, “Hence those who are faithful and carry out God’s will are said to live without giving rise to complaint (Luke 1:6), because scripture does not complain of them.”  Does this mean that the faithful do not complain because they are grateful for all they have received or that none can complain of their misdeeds because God Himself does not complain about them? Or perhaps a third way? Anyways, now St. Augustine strives to consider the nature of God that we have learned from our theological discussion.

Granted these considerations, we must always adore and be humble before God’s will. [2.16 of the Miscellany]
St. Augustine the holy Doctor of the Sacred Church instructs then that we must bare something always at the front of our minds, as we pierce every sacred mystery provided by God for us to contemplate in wonder, and this is that there is no injustice in God. Many it seems are likely to be shocked that God could do all these things to men, we who treasure our lives so much, and depend on God for everything, but that it must be believed that it is not a matter of our willing but of God who has mercy, and that this pertains to a hidden justice in God’s love and kindness. Thus, if we do not hold this our minds would be lost in consideration of God’s most high decrees regarding our eternal life, thus we in our frail efforts to understand must consider our poor condition with humility. Christ spoke to us, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice for they shall be satisfied, and in such manner if we are to demand justice of God in understanding all these things or saying, “why did you not have mercy on me O God!” that if God considered us with the smallest inkling of justice, we would wither away from His justice in a way far quicker than that by which we thirst for justice. So it is with man that he is always indebted to another for his faults and shortcomings, and though he may not be judged for all these things if such and such offenses are forgiven that he still is indebted to the one who he owes the debt, not the other way around. [Such we may humbly consider it with the Lord who grants what He wills, not because He owes it to us, but because of His love.] St. Augustine remarks that this understanding of debt and justice is what God gave us to understand our necessary relation to His highest justice.

The Fall and how God is both just and merciful to us in our condition [continuation of 2.16 of the Miscellany]
Now then let us recall that all die in Adam (1 Cor 15:22) says St. Augustine and in such the “origin of the offense against God spread throughout the whole human race”, whereby all human beings “are a kind of single mass of sin owing a debt of punishment to the divine and loftiest justice, and whether [the punishment that is owed] be exacted or forgiven there is no injustice.” Those of us who say that such and such deserves such and such, as St. Augustine notes well of the parable of workers in the vineyard, are proud and do not understand that all are indebted to God, and it is for God’s mercy to grant what He wills, nor that all understand what they fully give in their works. Thus, St. Paul remarks, “O man, who are you that you talk back to God?” (Romans 9:20), and this thus, says St. Augustine, is the proud man who talks back to God about God’s complaints about sinners, as if God compelled sinners to sin, though He does not need to and sometimes does not grant mercy for their becoming righteous, though this proud man does not realize how much he owes and cannot talk at all back to God Who is giving him so much already. Thus when God grants judgment on those whom He has not granted mercy, He judges them by His secret and inscrutable justice which is so far above our ways as are the Heavens above the Earth [which is really, really far considering the size of the universe!]. Hence writes St. Paul, “inscrutable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways” (Romans 11:33), and St. Augustine notes how justly God complains of sinners especially in the manner by which He does not compel them to sin. Likewise does God complain of sinners so that those to whom He shows mercy may possess a call to grace, from which we understand that as God complains of sinners the hearts of those called and chosen may be pricked so as to turn the hearts of the faithful back to the way of grace, now being wary of how sin can destroy them. Thus God’s complaints of sinners is both just and merciful.

Is God to be blamed for being merciful and just where He wills? [2.17 of the Miscellany]
St. Augustine asks whether it is disturbing to say that no one resists God’s will, and whether it is disturbing that God’s will sustains him who He wills and abandons whom He wills, and whether it is disturbing that God does this from us, the same mass of sinners who all owe a debt of punishment, though some have remittance and others do not through Him. So then says St. Paul, “O man, who are you to talk back to God?” and likewise puzzles St. Augustine, “Are you not men and do you not walk as men do?” In likewise manner, St. Augustine warns, do not be too fleshy, that this doctrine is yet too spiritual for those who are as of yet still too carnal. He repeats then who are you O man to talk back to God, does what has been fashioned say to the one who fashioned it, ‘Why did you make me thus?’ Or does the potter indeed have the power to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for honor and another for reproach? (Romans 9:20-21) In like manner than does St. Augustine cite that St. Paul is trying here to speak to the fleshy man, and in an obscure phrase refers back to Genesis 2:7, here: “With those very words [Romans 9:20-21] he seems to show with sufficient clarity that he is speaking to fleshy man, because the mire itself alludes to that from which the first man was formed.” Perhaps this refers to the potter and clay reference, ah! Progressing further St. Augustine notes that as the Apostle said all die in Adam, so does St. Augustine state that it is likened to all humanity being as one lump with Adam, that is a single lump for all. One vessel, individual, may be made for honor and others for reproach, though being of both the same lump and clay-nature, even the vessel of honor must rise from the mire by rising up in spiritual maturity, which has already been made [perhaps prepared?] for them through being born in Christ [I cannot judge if he means sanctification occurs and then spiritual maturity, or that the sanctification is prepared for them and imparted to them from all eternity, it sounds like the latter, but probably is the latter {?} ]. Further clarification in the text seems to offer that St. Paul is addressing spiritual children, or carnal persons in Romans, [perhaps St. Augustine means catechumens] whom need to receive this admonition so that when they are finally spiritually born they may understand. Likewise then there is a spiritual progress imparted by grace here that allows them to become spiritually born, says St. Augustine. Henceforth then he sums up by saying that nobody can ever say that there is injustice in God who either forgives or exacts that which is owed to him. None can boast before God or complain of God’s will then concludes St. Augustine.

Does God hate anything He has made? Why not be merciful to all? [2.18 of the Miscellany]
Considering this then, let us seek God’s assistance to move forward, [as a Bl. Junipero Serra said, always forwards, never backwards]. How can we understand then, Scripture which says, “You hate nothing that you have made,” and “I loved Jacbo but I hated Esau”? If God made Esau a vessel of reprobation how is it even conceivable that God could say to Esau, “I hate nothing that I have made”? The problem is solved if we consider the Augustinian consideration of good and evil, for God loves all things as every creature contains some good, and every human being therefore as a creature is good before God’s eyes. Sin is then what God hates, it is the disorder and perversion of the human being, and it “is, a turning away from the Creator, who is more excellent, and a turning to created things, which are inferior.” Likewise then, God does not hate Esau the man, the human being, but He hates Esau the sinner, to which God says “You do not hear me because you are not of God” (John 8:47) and “He came unto His own, and His own did not accept Him” (John 1:11). But what does it mean, enquires the priest of Hippo [though perhaps a Bishop by some estimates of when this was written], for Esau to be made by God, yet not of God? This is to be understood in that Esau is of God via his humanity, body and soul, produced by God, but not of God as Esau is the sinner who has made himself that way of his own will.

How so though that God did love Esau, we recognize that Esau was a sinner, and so God did not love the guilt and sin in Esau, but then we must understand then that is God’s grace that removes guilt and sin, and Christ offered this even to the wicked, not that the wicked would remain wicked but that they be converted to righteousness. God hates wickedness, and in His inscrutable judgments He forgives some of their sins and others He commits His justice to them. In such manner those vessels of reproach He does not hate having made them, for they serve a use to the vessels of honor as a warning, that these glorified vessels might advance in holiness [and recognize their condition with humility]. Hence He hates nothing He has made, since He has not made their wickedness, it does not come from Him, but so too does He make use of their wickedness for the instruction of the vessels of honor. St. Augustine compares this to a judge who condemns a thief to work in the mines, that is that the theft is despised by the judge, but not the work of justice given to the thief as an appropriation for his crime. As such says St. Augustine, God does not hate that which He makes out of the lump of wicked, because the perdition of the wicked is part of his justice owed to their wickedness, and the vessels of honor receive their opportunity for salvation in His mercy.

Thus it was said of pharaoh that God raised him up so that God’s power and name could be known throughout the world, to which such a calling might be appropriate to those whom God willed to call. This call was such to inspire fear and desire for righteousness in sinners. Then St. Augustine moves on to Romans 9:22, “But if God, who is willing to display his wrath and to manifest his power, has borne with great patience the vessels of wrath that have been produced for perdition” to which he says that the main thrust is the same as when St. Paul said, “Who are you that you talk back to God?”, and its relevance to verse 21 was that if God, who is willing to display His wrath, has held up so long with vessels of wrath, who are we to talk back to God? In God’s patience then we, those faithful, see even further the fullest extent to which are given “the riches of His glory for the vessels of mercy” (Romans 9:23) St. Augustine further adds that the just shall see the punishment of the unrighteous and shall from the fear of God desire to wash his hands of his sins. And so the hardening of the sinner demonstrates fear to those who have been weak in following God, and demonstrating what the mercy of God has saved another sinner from having to justly suffer. If then, St. Augustine muses, the punishment wrought on the sinner is seen as unjust then it would be true that God did not have mercy on the regenerated sinner, that He did not forgive anything of the regenerated sinner, and this would be completely untrue [since we all know that baptism forgives sins.] And thus we must all give thanks for God’s mercy since there is no injustice in Him whatsoever.

What of the call of the Jews and the Gentiles in Scripture [2.19 of the Miscellany]
St. Augustine here strives to explain Romans 9:24, “Us whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the gentiles”, so as to mean that the vessels of mercy prepared for glory and honor are not all Jews but though still in a manner from the Jews, and again that not all the people are Gentiles, but that they are from the Gentiles. And here St. Augustine states that all are from Adam as a single mass of sinners and wicked persons, that is both Jews and Gentiles being one lump unclean and sinful [see the Parable of the Samaritan for more on how none is clean]1. From this lump then does the Lord make a vessel of honor or a vessel of reproach, and as such the Jews and Gentiles are of rather the same sinful lump. Next St. Paul, says St. Augustine, recalls the prophetic testimonies of a few individual cases in salvation history in reverse chronological order.

So then, “As Hosea says, I will call a people that was not mine, my people, and that was not loved, loved, and in the place where it was said, You are not my people, there shall be called the children of the living God” (Romans 9:25-26) which is interpreted that the Gentiles will be called, and that the Apostles were sent to the Gentiles for the express purpose of calling them to become children of God, of which the Gentiles would then offer a sacrifice of praise (Psalm 50:14).

“But Isaiah, cries out for Israel” (Romans 9:27) to which St. Augustine says that not all of Israel shall be sent into perdition, but some to honor and others to reproach. This is explained then “If the number of the children of Israel were like the sands of the sea, a remnant will be saved” (Romans 9:27) and those who are not among those the saved will be children of perdition. “For the Lord will carry out his brief and swift sword upon the earth” (Romans 9:28), which is to say, according to St. Augustine, that the Lord in order to save those who believe through grace by the simplicity of their faith, not through innumerable laws and ordinances which oppress and burden those who do not have the means to carry them all out, carried out a brief and swift word upon us where He taught us that His yoke is easy and burden is light (cf Matthew 11:30). While this expression might seem quite inarticulate, my understanding is that St. Augustine is explaining how grace punctures the soul and heart swiftly and powerfully like a sword, to which God’s word and commandment is expressed, that is that those enlivened by grace will find His yoke sweet and light. To this St. Augustine adds Romans 10:8-10, regarding how the word is near us, in our heart and mouth, and that this word of faith is to be preached. This word then when confessed by the mouth and of the heart (in Christ and His saving work [the events of Easter Triduum]) is a belief and faith from the heart unto righteousness, and the confession of faith is the salvation of the soul. He adds this in saying that the Lord is swift and brief in carrying out His grace in the soul, remarking how quickly the good thief on the Cross was moved and brought to grace in so much an instance, being brought from wickedness into righteousness and the greatness of faith. St. Augustine remarks that the good thief believed with his heart unto righteousness that day and confessed with his mouth unto salvation, and immediately received what his heart begged, “Today you shall be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). St. Augustine then remarks that the good thief’s good works would have followed after receiving grace had he lived a longer life. Before the good thief could carry out any good works though, he, the saint hanging next to Christ was regenerated through no merit of his own, but rather given the free grace and love of our Lord Who hung before him.

Moving on then to Romans 9:29, “And, as Isaiah predicted, Unless the Lord of hosts had left us offspring, we would have become like Sodom, and we would have been like Gomorrah” St. Augustine understands the offspring as the same remnant that St. Paul was discussing earlier, as well saying that what was owed of us who were not called is the debt of punishment for our sins, [like Sodom and Gomorrah]. Those who were the remnant did not do anything to merit being called apart but it was rather the grace of God that cultivated something vessels of honor. This is where St. Augustine looks to St. Paul, “And so, therefore, at this time as well a remnant exists that was chosen by grace. But if by grace, then not by works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. What then? What Israel was seeking it did not find. The chosen found it, however, while the rest were blinded” (Romans 11:5-7) St. Augustine remarks, “The vessels of mercy found it but the vessels of wrath were blinded; yet, like all the Gentiles, they are from the same lump.” [This then is the understanding of how God did not grant grace and mercy upon some, in His inscrutable justice and the mysteriousness of His ways. This is how hearts were hardened and blinded, not by God’s acting upon, but His withholding from, that perhaps they might be called in another time or in another way, or that the Lord made them an example for others. It is difficult to understand predestination, but it is the truth, and we submit to God who is Just Judge above all.]

The Book of Ecclesiasticus and how to understand St. Paul [2.20 of the Miscellany]:
As St. Augustine moves onwards, he tasks us to consider the wisdom of Scripture, especially those of the Sapiential books [the Books of Wisdom in the Catholic canon, etc.]. Looking to Jesus Sirach, also known as Ecclesiasticus, he quotes: “All human beings come from the ground, and from the earth Adam was created. In the abundance of discipline the Lord separated them and changed their ways. Some he blessed and exalted, and these he sanctified and brought to himself. Some he cursed and humbled and turned to dissension. Like clay in a potter’s hand, for shaping and forming all its ways according to his plan, so is man in the hands of the one whom made him, the one who deals with him according to his judgment. In contrast to evil there is good, and opposed to death there is life; in the same way the sinner is opposed to the righteous man. Look thus upon the work of the Most High, in twos, one opposed to the other.” (Sirach 33:10-15) Here St. Augustine exegetes that the Lord separates men, that is some to the blessedness of paradise, some not, in the abundance of His discipline, and changed their ways so that man might truly live. A single mass was made of all of them explains St. Augustine, coming from the transmission of sin and the punishment of mortality. Even in this though, God grants a certain goodness to each in forming them and creating them. In all people there is the beauty and cohesion of the body, with which there is a cohesion among men, who joined by charity can become like angels. In like manner then the human individual has a vital spirit that gives him life and movement, and a soul and nature which if regulated in the mastery of the soul and the servitude of the body [i.e. temptations, inordinate passions, etc.] Though this be true, many of the fleshy desires that result from the punishment of sin has, because of original guilt, cast confusion into the whole human being, and now this fleshy desire presides over the whole human race as one complete lump. Though we have hope, for the Lord by Blessed Sirach says, “Some he blessed and exalted, and them he sanctified and brought to himself. Some he cursed and humbled and turned to dissension.” (Sirach 33:12)

This then is where we may come back to discuss St. Paul who asks rhetorically in Romans 9:21 whether the potter has the power to take from the same mass of a common lump of clay one vessel for honor and another vessel for reproach? This is much found then in Sirach 33:13-14, “Like clay in a potter’s hand, for shaping and forming all its ways according to his plan, so is man in the hands of the one who made him.” St. Augustine then repeats from St. Paul, “Is there injustice with God?” to which he places Sirach’s words, “He deals with them according to his judgment” (Sirach 33:14). Just punishments are assigned to those who’ve been condemned, yet, these things are turned to advantage to those to whom mercy is shown as a way to help them better pay attention to a holy life. “In contrast to evil there is good, and opposed to death there is life; in the same way the sinner is opposed to the righteous man. Look thus upon all the work of the Most High, in twos, one opposed to the other.” (Sirach 33:15) is taken by St. Augustine to mean that from the conjunction of the righteous man and the evil man, that something better emerges, that we must look at the work of the Lord in each, though they be opposed, and realize that God works in both for different ends, though with patience as we have seen before. From this St. Augustine understands the remnant that comes from grace, one of which Sirach is a part of, saying, “And I have been the last to keep watch, like someone who gleans after the vintagers [one who helps harvest the grapes for making wine]” (Sirach 33:16). Sirach attributes this all to grace, remarks St. Augustine, “In the blessing of the Lord, I myself have hoped, and like one who gathers the vintage I have filled the winepress” (Sirach 33:17), noting that grace came before merit, hence in the blessing, and thus led to good works, hence filling the winepress.

Grace and Man as St. Paul and St. Augustine discusses [2.21 of the Miscellany]
“The main thought of the Apostle, then, as well as of those who have been made righteous, through whom an understanding of grace has been given to us, is none other than that whoever boasts should boast in the Lord. For would anyone question the works of the Lord, who from the same lump condemns one person and makes another righteous? The free choice of the will counts for a great deal, to be sure. But what does it count for in those who have been sold under sin? ‘The flesh’, [the Apostle] says, ‘lusts against the spirit, the spirit against the flesh, so that you do not do the things that you want’ [Galatians 5:17]” writes St. Augustine. The Lord commands us to live uprightly, and a reward is offered to those who do so, says St. Augustine, “that we merit to live blessedly forever.” “But who can live uprightly and do good works without having been made righteous by faith? It is commanded that we believe so that, having received the gift of the Holy Spirit through love, we may be able to do good works.” And this belief stems from a call, not from our own brute will, but from the Lord who touches the mind in such a way as to move the will to faith. How could a man embrace something like faith in his heart unless something attracted him, unless something called, unless something compelled him? “When, therefore, things attract us whereby we may advance towards God, this is inspired and furnished by the grace of God; it is not obtained by our own assent and effort or by the merits of our works because, whether it be the assent of our will or our intense effort or our works aglow with charity, it is He who gives, He who bestows it. We are ordered to ask so that we may receive, and to seek so that we may find, and to knock so that it may be opened to us.” It is then this prayer when said too lukewarmly that causes us to stumble and to give up on asking for mercy to keep from sinning, and so we understand in the fullest humility that “It is not a manner of willing or of running, therefore, but of a merciful God”, because it is not possible to will or run fully and well unless He rouses us and raises us up to do His holy will.

Salvation offered abundantly and mercifully to a full variety of men and women [2.22 of the Miscellany]:
The salvation of that remnant taken from the lump is part of God’s inscrutable and hidden plan, to which those who still belong in part to the lump can never hope to understand in this life. The choice to a life of glory and love and abundance in His mercy was God’s prerogative and choice, not ours. St. Augustine then says that to him this hidden plan is indiscernible, but defers in saying that many minds wiser than him may see it better and discern God’s justice and love better than he. St. Augustine admits from his own experience that he would think God chose from those with the best endowments of virtues, those with the least sins, those most useful, those most learned and reflective, but admonishes himself knowing that God confounds the wise, choosing the weak things of the world and raising them up (as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:27, “But the foolish things of the world has God chosen, that he may confound the wise: and the weak things of the world has God chosen, that he may confound the strong”, and in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “And he said to me: My grace is sufficient for you: for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”) St. Augustine then reflects as he does in his Confessions (written at about the same time as this document) that the Lord has in some manner laughed at him who goes by as so wise, but goes on checked by shame in the way he used to mock those lowly ones who were in fact more saintly and continent than the learned men and women he admired. St. Augustine reflects on the sudden actions by which even the worst of sinners is made into a greater Christian by such a sudden conversion than those who were living their faith and became lukewarm or even of pagans and heretics who live greater moral lives than some Christians.

The will is chosen St. Augustine remarks, but unless the soul is attracted and beckoned, the will cannot be moved to some end. This was with St. Paul who had a rabid, vain, and blind will, but as God touched him with a vision from Heaven, he became the most famous persecutor of the Gospel and the most famous preacher of Christianity. There is no injustice in God who works such mercies and beautiful acts. O man, who are you? Who are you to complain of God, who works so much for you? That He should not save some and have mercy on millions? Who are you to place judgment on God, are your hands free from any sins that you might claim that God owes you something, did you mold yourself from the clay, breathe life into yourself that you do not owe anything to God, that you are not indebted to Him for your whole entirety? Do not be ridiculous, you have no reason to complain, but let us be with humble heart that the Lord who made all of the world, the entire universe, the structures of our bodies and minds, of everything that we see, the corporeal and spiritual, given everything its weight and number, [who came to dwell with us in the Incarnation], is to be held with great love and gratefulness. “Inscrutable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways” (Romans 11:33).

The only appropriate response then is, Alleulia, and not to wonder “Why this? or Why that?” as if everything was for us to know, but to realize with the grace and love in our hearts, that “all things have been created in their own time” (Sirach 39:21, cf Wisdom 11:20)

This has been an enormous project to undertake and the work of many days of typing late into the night. But it has been profitable and fruitful. Our lives are in the hands of the Lord, and though we are called to co-operate in His love for us by fulfilling His holy will, it is disproportionate to think I made it this far without the Lord’s help. Everything is a gift from the Lord, every good thought a blessing from Him, every kindly disposition something He has left for us, and every good work intended for His love and charity is then because He led me to it, through it, and guided me. Who could do anything without the Lord? It is in God’s grace that we realize true freedom, the freedom to do the good, to love the Lord, to respond to His call. God’s grace awakens the heart and the heart lives on His mercy, becoming ever transfigured to resemble the Sacred Heart of our Savior, it is not a matter of our willing or running, but of God who calls us and brings us in. He calls us to run, but we do not understand that it is the might of His love that fuels us, we are never left alone to our own devices, even when we believe ourselves to be. Rejoice then brothers and sisters, because this day the Lord has made, for each and every one of us to rejoice in the salvation He pours out from His heart, from His sacrifice, from His life, from His everything given up for our sake. Let us not dwell on the fact that not all will receive the call to grace in a manner that will prevail in their lives. Some people experience God’s mercy but for a few moments, but when God puts them to the trial after these moments, they do not pray, they do not beseech God’s grace, but rather they become hardened in these trials and abandon God. May our sweet Jesus deliver us from the fires of Hell, grant pardon to all souls, especially to those in need of His mercy the most. Amen.

1.      Here I mean what my friend Alvaro Vargas has, I think, astutely pointed out in the parable of the Good Samaritan as told by Christ is a remark that none among us is clean, and that Christ preaches the fullness of the Law, the Law of Love, which seeks out the benefit of the other and does not puff itself up with pride at our own holiness or standing with God. Here is his statement:
Alvaro Vargas:
To abide in God and walk in light is to be guided by the Spirit. It is not to uphold moral platitudes which we presume to be the indicator of our goodness and merit before men AND God. The readings which the Church provides during the Christmas octave are at once peculiar and paradoxical: at once we are offered hope in the birth of our savior, yet at the same time we are reminded that this same child will lead to “the fall of many” (Luke 2: 34). What gives? The first reading from 1 John 2:3-11 talks about living in the light, coming out of darkness, and in doing so “abide in him” (1 John 2:6). The quote there used is taken from Jesus’ parable in John’s gospel in which he mentions that he is the vine and we are the branches, who without the vine, have no life (John 15: 1-9). Where do we receive this heavenly life (and love) which allows there to be “no cause for stumbling” (1 John 2:10)? From the Spirit, who is the vine which gives life to the branches, or rather apart from which the branches have NO LIFE. As the Gospel mentions, Simeon was guided to the temple “in the Spirit” (Luke 2:27) where his eyes were granted the grace to view the savior of Israel. To walk in light is to be like the Good Samaritan and recognize MY own uncleanliness, to recognize as Simeon that it is the “Master” (Luke 2:29) who grants the grace to see the salvation of Israel. The Psalmist asks “who shall dwell in your tabernacle,” (Psalm 15:1) to find the answer to be “He that walks without blemish” (Psalm 15:2). Yet St. Paul clearly affirms that he (and we) are “sold under sin” (Romans 7:14), as “my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:5), as NO ONE WALKS WITHOUT BLEMISH. Then how are we to walk with God? Grace. To recognize, again as the Samaritan, that I am unclean enough to approach that rotten person lying in sin. The priest and the Levite COULD NOT APPROACH BECAUSE THEY WERE PRIESTS, not because they were wicked, necessarily. For them to fulfill their priestly duty they could not even be AROUND a dead body. The Samaritan knew that he was unclean and therefore helped. We must recognize that if NOT for the grace of the Spirit, even the most horrible of sinners am I. And so, we walk in the light which is recognition of our own futility before God, for even if we are good tempered, it is so by nature, and thus a gift of God “so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:9). In the end, as the gospel proclaims, Christ reveals what “the thoughts of many hearts” (Luke 2:35) are; whether we acknowledge that our goodness comes from God’s love for us or in a contemporary, self-righteous sense God’s love for me as a result, a price, of MY OWN GOODNESS (Aquinas). To truly walk in the light we must recognize that while sinners, we are sent to proclaim God’s message and DO AS HE DID, for sinners that we are, we CAN approach that which is unclean.

The rest of the dialogue I have omitted due to length constraints


  1. Please note that I used the term regeneration generously, which isn't found at all in my English translation of the text. I also included my own glosses in brackets, [ ], though towards the beginning of the text I do not think I did this as much. Much of this document is my own interpretation of the text; you are encouraged to read it on your own.

    It is very interesting to note how St. Augustine's doctrine of original sin more or less develops intensely from the first question in the Miscellany:

    as compared to the discussion of grace and original sin in this article.

    It is I think in the consideration of this very question that the St. Augustine as Doctor and champion of grace is most truly born. The change and reflection is gradual at the first question, and I think completed and perfected in one manner or another here in this second question. St. Augustine vessel of Divine Wisdom, shining mirror of all holiness, indefatigable adorer of the Most Holy Trinity, who's heart was aflame beyond repair with the affection for God's own heart, pray for us.

  2. I think it's fitting that I write this article about my patron on my birthday. Sancte Augustinus ora pro nobis.

  3. Sorry, I'll add a proper conclusion that sums up this whole article sometime later today. I forgot that that sort of thing would be very important....

  4. This is a tough read because there is so much there, but I'm kind of troubled that I don't see much in the way of examining the OT texts which Paul is quoting. Surely Augustine didn't ignore the OT texts like that. I'm trying hard to see this as exegesis rather than more of a 'pontificating' about the gratuitous nature of our salvation.

    1. Yes, I think you're right, there is almost no explicit reference to the Old Testament references in St. Paul's text. Do keep in mind that this is St. Augustine's first real tackling of this text, though he has wrestled intellectually with the Pauline letters before (I'll write about that soon) [St. Augustine is barely taking on his 30 year bishopric, or at least being a helper to the bishop of Hippo]. I've made a much smaller summary of the two posts I made on this document earlier.

      What it seems to me that St. Augustine wants to get at is that God really does predestine men according to His own inscrutable judgments not according to any considerations of merit, since at that man's creation he has no merits. St. Augustine emphasizes that our salvation is totally up to God's grace, though our free will is moved by God's grace in a way that leads us to choosing an act that God moves us to choose. I don't know whether one can consider that free will, but I think he passes the test on that part, though he gets in trouble with the early Church for some of his statements.

      I am not so sure that St. Augustine ever picks up on the OT references, though I think these chapters of St. Paul are actually on predestination in a manner similar to the Augustinian analysis presented, though perhaps as well the election of Israel and the call to grace of the Gentiles. I think St. Thomas of Aquinas, known best in the 13th century for his commentaries on Scripture, might be best to consult to see whether it's better to see this text as part of predestination or as concerning the election of Israel and the coming of the Gentiles.

      One thing I recall though is that Esau and Jacob are reconciled in the OT and that the part about Esau being cursed refers to his people, not he himself. Though I think you noted this already in your post.