Augustine and Total Depravity

Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by Daniel Dunivan, Sep 27, 2004.

  1. Daniel Dunivan

    Daniel Dunivan
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    It is often said that Calvinist theology is rooted in Augustine of Hippo's (later) theology. This seems obvious simply by looking at the number of times that Calvin quotes Augustine that Augustine's thinking is influential. However, my question is whether they agree at every point. Specifically, how do they agree or disagree on total depravity? It is historically problematic to equate Augustine and Calvin. I think that the first step would be to define exactly what total depravity means for calvinism.

    What definition would you propose for a Calvinist understanding of total depravity?

    Grace and Peace, Danny [​IMG]
     
  2. Paul33

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    That is a key question. Some prefer the term total inability (Boettner) to total depravity.

    I think that total depravity at interpreted by most Calvinists overstates the Scriptural record.

    We are unable to save ourselves. We cannto earn salvation. But is our will so depraved that we can never desire anything that is good?

    We may will something, but because of total inability, we are not able to carry out what we will. I think Romans 7 is the best example if it refers to preconversion Paul.

    Unregenerate man may will that which is good but is not able to do the good. Who can rescue us? Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit enables us to actually do the good (Galatians 5).
     
  3. pinoybaptist

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    Dan Sailer said:

    I think the thing to do is to define what 'good' means in the Scripture.

    Whenever Arminians interact with Calvinists on Total Depravity, it appears the understanding of Arminians is that Calvinists are saying man is absolutely not only totally incapable of doing anything good spiritually, but, that man is also not capable of doing anything good morally, not capable of the common decency of loving his own kind, etc., etc.

    'Good' needs to be defined, because you can call it 'depravity' or you can call it 'inability' the argument will still go around and around.

    Take a look at the arguments already made on Total Depravity on this board.
     
  4. Primitive Baptist

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    I'm glad to finally see a thread on total depravity because it's not until we understand total depravity that we can proceed to discuss the doctrines connected with it. This is where Arminians and Calvinists part ways, and it surprises me how more often than not the issue debated between Arminians and Calvinists is not depravity but election. If I can't get an Arminian past the first point, I go no further. I'll just be wasting my breath.

    Whether you call it total depravity or total inability, it's just plain Bible doctrine.
     
  5. Aaron

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    I think Calvin was influenced more by St. Paul. [​IMG]
     
  6. Daniel Dunivan

    Daniel Dunivan
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    Or maybe the better way to put it, is St. Paul through the eyes Augustine. ;)

    Would you say that the Calvinist perception of depravity not only recognizes human "inability" in saving oneself, but also the continued depravity of the person following conversion? In other words do we continue to be depraved after salvation? Or another way, is there such a thing as pervenient(sp?) grace that makes free will a possibility after conversion? Is Arminianism univocal about this question?

    Grace and Peace, Danny [​IMG]
     
  7. BobRyan

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    Didn't Augustine open the door for evolutionism to enter the church?

    In Christ,

    Bob
     
  8. Frogman

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    I believe the question of the degree of the freedom of the will after being quickened is a very significant question.

    Anyone have any thoughts?

    Bro. Dallas
     
  9. Daniel Dunivan

    Daniel Dunivan
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    Bob,

    What specifically are you refering to?

    Grace and Peace, Danny [​IMG]
     
  10. npetreley

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    As I documented in another thread, Arminius believed in total depravity/inability or whatever you want to call it. So that's not where true Arminians and Calvinsits differ.
     
  11. Frogman

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    Dear Npetreley,
    I don't know if you are referring to my post or not. But I wanted to clarify that I was referring to a regenerated believer's will.

    What degree of that will is 'free'?

    If I am not mistaken Arminius believed God enlightens each individual at some point [this is prevenient grace, right?].

    But my post was a response to Primitive Baptist's post. In the sense that Calvin and Arminius agreed on Tot. Depravity does differ when you consider Arminius taught prevenient grace permitting the ability to accept or reject redemption in Christ.

    bro. Dallas
     
  12. Daniel Dunivan

    Daniel Dunivan
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    Prevenient grace frees the will to accept redemption, and the will remains free after this act. Therefore, Arminianism believes that the individual's will remains free to choose not to sin (right?). And the Calvinist position would never allow the individual to choose not to sin (right?).

    Sooner or later we will get around to Augustine on this issue (and not Calvin(ists) and Arminus (Arminians)) Maybe in my next post.

    Grace and Peace, Danny [​IMG]
     
  13. npetreley

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    Bro Dallas,

    I was responding to PB's message, where he says TD is where Arminians and Calvinists disagree. IMO, that's not where they SHOULD disagree, since Arminius agreed with TD.

    "Prevenient grace" may account for the differences, but I'd love to see a Biblical defense of "prevenient grace". Heck, I'd love to see a simple definition of it.
     
  14. qwerty

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    The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination
    By Loraine Boettner D.D.a

    http://www.ccel.org/b/boettner/predest/28.htm

    1. Before the Reformation

    It may occasion some surprise to discover that the doctrine of Predestination was not made a matter of special study until near the end of the fourth century.

    The earlier church fathers placed chief emphasis on good works such as faith, repentance, almsgiving, prayers, submission to baptism, etc., as the basis of salvation. They of course taught that salvation was through Christ; yet they assumed that man had full power to accept or reject the gospel.

    Some of their writings contain passages in which the sovereignty of God is recognized; yet along side of those are others which teach the absolute freedom of the human will. Since they could not reconcile the two they would have denied the doctrine of Predestination and perhaps also that of God's absolute Foreknowledge. They taught a kind of synergism in which there was a co-operation between grace and free will. It was hard for man to give up the idea that he could work out his own salvation.

    But at last, as a result of a long, slow process, he came to the great truth that salvation is a sovereign gift which has been bestowed irrespective of merit; that it was fixed in eternity; and that God is the author in all of its stages.

    This cardinal truth of Christianity was first clearly seen by Augustine, the great Spirit-filled theologian of the West. In his doctrines of sin and grace, he went far beyond the earlier theologians, taught an unconditional election of grace, and restricted the purposes of redemption to the definite circle of the elect. It will not be denied by anyone acquainted with Church History that Augustine was an eminently great and good man, and that his labors and writings contributed more to the promotion of sound doctrine and the revival of true religion than did those of any other man between Paul and Luther.
     
  15. Eric B

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    So this "cardinal truth" just disappeared after the apostolic age, and then was "discovered" by Augustine? I think not. As the Church tried to define and codify its doctrines, it often used philosophy, read into scripture as "inferential doctrine", and over speculated on many doctrines about God that were rally beyond our comprehension, and nit revealed. Even his concepts of the Trinity (which became influential in the West) were criticized by those on the East as too rationalistic. And in both areas of theology, people came up and taught some things that were truly false, and thus the Church reacted by setting up doctrines purely in opposition. So as Nicea reacted against Arius and Sabellius; Augustine debated Pelagius, whose theology suggested man could save himself, and thus felt it convenient to propose a doctrine of total inabilty necessitationg unconditional election. All the scriptures, especially Paul, were then read in light of this.
     
  16. Paul33

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    What you're saying is interesting, Eric.

    What would systematic theology look like if we could formulate it from Scripture without having to develope it in the context of heresy?

    I know. Mine!

    But seriously, I agree with you. It seems that some positions/doctrines are overstated.
     
  17. Daniel Dunivan

    Daniel Dunivan
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    Most mainline patristic scholars would say that we have Augustine to blame for a poor and individualistic interpretation of Paul (because Augustine took what Paul intenended for the entire church and made it a reflection of the microcosm of the individual--e.g. Krister Stendahl). If this is true, and the evidence is pretty good, then many strictly biblical defenses of Calvinism may need to be rethought (though I doubt that a full discussion of this issue can be taken up here--and that is not my intention, if you would like to discuss it then start another thread).

    I also question whether Augustine truly held to the doctrines of grace and sin as are defined by Calvinists today (afterall, Catholics perceive him as a true father of their tradition as well). The question is what part of Augustine are you reading (the early Augustine is different than the later Augustine basically because he is fighting different heresies). Augustine seemed to never allow for a completely depraved anthropology--humanity was able to be sinless through an act of the will following conversion.

    Grace and Peace, Danny [​IMG]
     
  18. Eric B

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    Wasn't he, as a Catholic a believer in salvation by baptism? I wonder how he figured that squared with "not of works"; "not of the will of the flesh, or the will of man...", etc. I guess it's like what Gilmore, who's Lutheran and holds both doctrines (TD/UE, and salvation by baptism) would explain. I forgot how he puts it, but something about that baptism is gace that comes upon you, or by grace you are led to be baptized, or whatever.
     
  19. Daniel Dunivan

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    Augustine's theology of the sacraments was very broad. He understood sacraments simply as signs that point us to the divine (very vague--and inclusive of tons of things no Roman Catholic today would see as a sacrament). Would he have had a "sacramental" understanding of baptism--yes, I think so, but not magical (I'm not an expert on that aspect of Augustine's theology, so don't quote me).

    As far as the development of theological positions in the context of heresy, I would say that you would be hard pressed to find such a thing. There is no theology outside the lived experience of a living faith. Theology by its nature is bound within our relationships to both God and one another. Struggle and discussion (even arguement) are part of the glory of this enterprise. Keep discussing or otherwise we cease to be in a living tradition of faith.

    Augustine was impacted by his need to answer heretics--afterall, he wasn't an ivory tower intellectual. He was the bishop of an important North African provience, and was dealing with the issues that his church was dealing with. Many theologians today (and that is what I do professionally, so I'm speaking to myself here) would do well to place the church as the primary locus of their theological reflection.

    Back to the question at hand. If Augustine didn't hold to an ongoing depravity of the human person (after conversion), then should Calvinism hijack him as one of its poster boys. Wouldn't this lead him at least marginally into the Arminian position.

    Grace and Peace, Danny ;)
     
  20. Matt Black

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    Wasn't Augustine influenced by gnosticism, neo-Platonism and Manicheeism? In addition to baptismal regeneration these are good enough reasons for me as a Baptist to take what he wrote with a large dose of salt

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     

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