Thursday, January 6, 2011

St. Augustine's Teaching On Free-Will Grossly Misrepresented By The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia

In discussing the position of St. Augustine on the condition of man's will after the fall, the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia states:
...Thus, when he [Augustine] says that we have lost freedom in consequence of the sin of Adam, he is careful to explain that this lost freedom is NOT the liberty of choosing between good and evil, because without it we could not help sinning, but the perfect liberty which was calm and without struggle, and which was enjoyed by Adam in virtue of his original integrity. (epmhpasis added)
In the above quotation, man is portrayed as merely weakened, by his fall, in his natural ability and inclination of will with regards to righteousness. He didn't become totally depraved in Sin. In and of himself he can still choose good over evil but with struggle. As an implication, grace is viewed only as something like a crutch given/offered to man so he might perform his duties more easily and thus be saved. This is how many Catholics explain grace & free will today, and their online encyclopedia claims this was St. Augustine position, too.

Now I'm absolutely sure the New Advent is not being truthful to us here. The truth is that the position on free will which the New Advent would have us to believe to be advocated by St. Augustine is actually the position that was held by those whom St. Augustine had vigorously opposed during his days regarding the subject, namely the semi-Pelagians! In his treatise Against the Two Letters of the Pelagians, the blessed doctor states (emphasis mine):
...But this will, which is free in evil things because it takes pleasure in evil, is NOT FREE in good things, for the reason that it has not been made free. Nor can a man will any good thing unless he is aided by Him who cannot will evil—that is, by the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (St. Augustine, Against the Two Letters of the Pelagians, Bk. I, Ch. 7)
In another book he states:
For the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord must be apprehended—as that by which alone men are delivered from evil, and without which they do absolutely no good thing, whether in thought, or will and affection, or in action; not only in order that they may know, by the manifestation of that grace, what should be done, but moreover in order that, by its enabling, they may do with love what they know. (On Rebuke and Grace, Ch. 3-ii)
And again,
For either they lie under the sin which they have inherited by original generation, and depart hence with that inherited debt which is not put away by regeneration, or by their free will have added other sins besides; their will, I say, FREE, but not freed—FREE FROM RIGHTEOUSNESS, but ENSLAVED TO SIN, by which they are tossed about by various mischievous lusts, some more evil, some less, BUT ALL EVIL; and they must be adjudged to diverse punishments, according to that very diversity. (On Rebuke and Grace, Ch. 42)
This doesn't sound like St. Augustine being "careful to explain that the lost freedom is not the liberty of choosing between good and evil." It actually appears to be the contrary. The blessed father explicitly taught that the fallen sinners are free only with regards to evil things, but not to good things. They couldn't help but sin because it is in their corrupted nature to sin. In other words they are not sinners because they sin; they sin because they are sinners. It is only when God gives a depraved sinner a new nature that he is able to choose life over death, to choose light over darkness. St. Augustine puts it this way:
But what good would ye evil men  do, and how should you do those good  things, unless you were yourselves good? But who causes that men should be good save Him who said, "And I will visit them to make them good"? And who said "I will put my Spirit  within you, and will cause you to walk in my righteousness, and to observe my judgments, and do them"? Are ye thus not yet awake? Do ye not yet hear, "I will cause you to walk, I will make you to observe," lastly, "I will make you to do"? What! Are you still puffing yourselves up? We indeed walk, it is true; we observe; we do; but He makes us to walk, to observe, to do. This is the grace of God  making us good; this is His mercy preventing us. (St. Augustine, Against the Two Letters of the Pelagians, Bk. IV, Ch. 15)
To put it simply, saving grace--as viewed by St. Augustine--is absolutely necessary for sinners to be able and willing to perform what is good, and not merely a crutch sinners must grab a hold (synergism) in order for them to win the "struggle" more easily. Sinners in the first place do not struggle with sin; they delight in it. Such idea that man's freedom of will (with regards to righteousness) is only weakened and not totally destroyed as a consequence of his fall was condemned by the 5th century church as aberrant and heretical. At the 113th canon of the fourth Council of Carthage (AD 419), we read:
Canon 113. It seemed good that whosoever should say that the grace of justification was given to us only that we might be able more readily by grace to perform what we were ordered to do through our free will; as if though grace was not given, although not easily, yet nevertheless we could even without grace fulfil the divine commandments, let him be anathema. For the Lord spoke concerning the fruits of the commandments, when he said: "Without me you can do nothing," and not "Without me you could do it but with difficulty." 
Not to mention that the pronouncement above is actually an affirmation to the Augustinian position in opposition to the heresies of semi-Pelagianism.
For Pelagius says that what is good is "more easily" fulfilled if grace assists. By which addition— that is, by adding "more easily"— he certainly signifies that he is of the opinion that, even if the aid of grace should be wanting, yet good might be accomplished, although with greater difficulty, by free will. But let me prescribe to my present opponents what they should think in this matter, without speaking of the author of this heresy himself. (St. Augustine, Against the Two Letters of the Pelagians, Bk. II, Ch. 17)
Now compare all these evidences with how the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia portrays St. Augustine's view. Notice how they falsely attribute to the doctor of grace an erroneous teaching which the blessed doctor himself rejected as heresy! I've once heard a prominent Catholic apologist arrogantly claiming that to be deep in history is to cease being a Protestant. Were the NACE writers too deep in history that they deliberately misrepresented St. Augustine? Lol.



  1. Thank you Jeph. A most useful presentation.

  2. This is not a historical issue, but rather a doctrinal matter. I realize Protestants don't understand history. If they did they would stop being Protestants.

  3. This is also a historical issue. If the New Advent deliberately misrepresented St. Augustine just to make the ancient father appear to agree with the modern conclusions of Rome, how sure are we that this isn't done with other church fathers as well?

    The truth is, Rome is fond of quoting early fathers to support her man-made dogmas, but upon serious examination of history, what we'll find is just identical to what I have exposed in my article above.

    To be truly deep in history is to discover the many distortions of Catholicism to history, and therefore cease being a Catholic.


Commenting Rules:

1. No trolling or baiting; submit relevant responses to appropriate blog-posts.
2. No name calling, bashing, flaming or posting of any ad hominems or personal attacks or insults of any kind
3. No spamming, advertising or soliciting.
4. No littering in the comment-box (multi-posting or cross-posting).
5. No blasphemous post and no links to occultic and cultic materials and immoral sites.
6. No negative one-liners.
7. No impersonating
8. No heckling; harrassments
9. No posting in all caps; no posting in all bold letters
10. If you're posting Anonymously, please provide a name so you can be addressed properly.

*All mature, sensible, and honest comments are welcome and encouraged. Comments will be filtered by the blog-owner before granting them to be published.