Did St. Augustine Believe in Predestination According to Calvinism or Catholicism?

In my live debate with James White on January 13, 2001, one of the callers mentioned some quotes by St. Augustine regarding predestination. He claimed that he used to believe in Free Will until reading Augustine. Well, I believe it was this same caller who later provided me with the actual quote from St. Augustine. He specifically pointed to Chapter 14 of that document (quoted below). It is also from that same chapter that Calvinist often quote St. Augustine saying, "O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Doth the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay of the same lump?" How can the clay question the Potter? Interesting point, and left to strictly the context of Chapter 14 the Calvinist argument seems convincing. But we mustn't look solely at this one chapter. Within the same document we find clarification of St. Augustine's teaching!

Note in Chapter 7 St. Augustine is retracting an error from an earlier statement of his:

I carried out my reasoning to the point of saying: `God did not therefore choose the works of any one in foreknowledge of what He Himself would give them, but he chose the faith, in the foreknowledge that He would choose that very person whom He foreknew would believe on Him,-to whom He would give the Holy Spirit, so that by doing good works he might obtain eternal life also.'
His error was saying "God did NOT therefore choose the works of any one in foreknowledge..." hence, it IS based on foreknowledge that we are predestined! This is the Catholic understanding of predestination!

St. Augustine encourages prayers not only for "believers" but also for those who do not believe:

Or if God does not make men willing who were not willing, on what principle does the Church pray, according to the Lord's commandment, for her persecutors? For thus also the blessed Cyprian would have it to be understood that we say, "Thy will be done, as in heaven so in earth,"-that is, as in those who have already believed, and who are, as it were, heaven, so also in those who do not believe, and on this account are still the earth. What, then, do we pray for on behalf of those who are unwilling to believe, except that God would work in them to will also? Certainly the apostle says, "Brethren, my heart's good will, indeed, and my prayer to God for them, is for their salvation." He prays for those who do not believe,- for what, except that they may believe? For in no other way do they obtain salvation.
(Chapter 15).
Then, Chapter 19 shows us an even more clear representation of the Catholic understanding of foreknowledge/predestination:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus in good works," it is grace; but what follows-"which God hath prepared that we should walk in them "-is predestination, which cannot exist without foreknowledge, although foreknowledge may exist without predestination; because God foreknew by predestination those things which He was about to do, whence it was said, "He made those things that shall be."
So again we have shown that the great St. Augustine cannot be "stolen" by the Calvinists to support their novel claims and beliefs regarding predestination.

Complete Text


Why, then, does He not teach all that they may come to Christ, except because all whom He teaches, He teaches in mercy, while those whom He teaches not, in judgment He teaches not? Since, "On whom He will He has mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth." But He has mercy when He gives good things. He hardens when He recompenses what is deserved. Or if, as some would prefer to distinguish them, those words also are his to whom the apostle says, "Thou sayest then unto me," so that he may be regarded as having said, "Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardeneth," as well as those which follow,-to wit, "What is it that is still complained of? for who resists His will?" does the apostle answer, "O man, what thou hast said is false?" No; but he says, "O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Doth the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay of the same lump?" and what follows, which you very well know. And yet in a certain sense the Father teaches all men to come to His Son. For it was not in vain that it was written in the prophets, "And they shall all be teachable of God." And when He too had premised this testimony, He added, "Every man, therefore, who has heard of the Father, and has learned, cometh to me." As, therefore, we speak justly when we say concerning any teacher of literature who is alone in a city, He teaches literature here to everybody,-not that all men learn, but that there is none who learns literature there who does not learn from him,-so we justly say, God teaches all men to come to Christ, not because all come, but because none comes in any other way. And why He does not teach all men the apostle explained, as far as he judged that it was to be explained, because, "willing to show His wrath, and to exhibit His power, He endured with much patience the vessels of wrath which were perfected for destruction; and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy which He has prepared for glory." Hence it is that the "word of the cross is foolishness to them that perish; but unto them that are saved it is the power of God." God teaches all such to come to Christ, for He wills alI such to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. And if He had willed to teach even those to whom the word of the cross is foolishness to come to Christ beyond all doubt these also would have come. For He neither deceives nor is deceived when He says, "Everyone that hath heard of the Father, and hath learned, cometh to me." Away, then, with the thought that any one cometh not, who has heard of the Father and has learned.

It was not thus that pious and humble teacher thought-I speak of the most blessed Cyprian-when he said "that we must boast in nothing, since nothing is our own." And in order to show the, he appealed to the apostle as a witness, where he said, "For what hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received it, why boastest thou as if thou hadst not received it?" And it was chiefly by this testimony that I myself also was convinced when I was in a similar error, thinking that faith whereby we believe on God is not God's gift, but that it is in us from ourselves, and that by it we obtain the gifts of God, whereby we may live temperately and righteously and piously in this world. For I did not think that faith was preceded by God's grace, so that by its means would be given to us what we might profitably ask, except that we could not believe if the proclamation of the truth did not precede; but that we should consent when the gospel was preached to us I thought was our own doing, and came to us from ourselves. And this my error is sufficiently indicated in some small works of mine written before my episcopate. Among these is that which you have mentioned in your letters wherein is an exposition of certain propositions from the Epistle to the Romans. Eventually, when I was retracting all my small works, and was committing that retractation to writing,of which task I had already completed two books before I had taken up your more lengthy letters,-when in the first volume I had reached the retractation of this book, I then spoke thus:-"Also discussing, I say, `what God could have chosen in him who was as yet unborn, whom He said that the elder should serve; and what in the same elder, equally as yet unborn, He could have rejected; concerning whom, on this account, the prophetic testimony is recorded, although declared long subsequently, "Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated,"' I carried out my reasoning to the point of saying: `God did not therefore choose the works of any one in foreknowledge of what He Himself would give them, but he chose the faith, in the foreknowledge that He would choose that very person whom He foreknew would believe on Him,-to whom He would give the Holy Spirit, so that by doing good works he might obtain eternal life also.' I had not yet very carefully sought, nor had I as yet found, what is the nature of the election of grace, of which the apostle says, `A remnant are saved according to the election of grace.' Which assuredly is not grace if any merits precede it; lest what is now given, not according to grace, but according to debt, be rather paid to merits than freely given. And what I next subjoined: `For the same apostle says, "The same God which worketh all in all;" but it was never said, God believeth all in all;' and then added, `Therefore what we believe is our own, but what good thing we do is of Him who giveth the Holy Spirit to them that believe:' I certainly could not have said, had I already known that faith itself also is found among those gifts of God which are given by the same Spirit. Both, therefore, are ours on account of the choice of the will, and yet both are given by the spirit of faith and love, For faith is not alone but as it is written, `Love with faith, from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.' And what I said a little after, `For it is ours to believe and to will, but it is His to give to those who believe and will, the power of doing good works through the Holy Spirit, by whom love is shed abroad in our hearts,'-is true indeed; but by the same rule both are also God's, because God prepares the will; and both are ours too, because they are only brought about with our good wills. And thus what I subsequently said also: `Because we are not able to will unless we are called; and when, after our calling, we would will, our willing is not sufficiently nor our running, unless God gives strength to us that run, and leads us whither He calls us;' and thereupon added:' It is plain, therefore, that it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy, that we do good works'-this is absolutely most true. But I discovered little concerning the calling itself, which is according to God's purpose; for not such is the calling of all that are called, but only of the elect. Therefore what I said a little afterwards: `For as in those whom God elects it is not works but faith that begins the merit so as to do good works by the gift of God, so in those whom He condemns, unbelief and impiety begin the merit of punishment, so that even by way of punishment itself they do evil works'-I spoke most truly. But that even the merit itself of faith was God's gift, I neither thought of inquiring into, nor did I say. And in another place I say: `For whom He has mercy upon, He makes to do good works, and whom He hardeneth He leaves to do evil works; but that mercy is bestowed upon the preceding merit of faith, and that hardening is applied to preceding iniquity.' And this indeed is true; but it should further have been asked, whether even the merit of faith does not come from God's mercy,-that is, whether that mercy is manifested in man only because he is a believer, or whether it is also manifested that he may be a believer? For we read in the apostles words: `I obtained mercy to be a believer.' He does not say, `Because I was a believer.' Therefore although it is given to the believer, yet it has been given also that he may be a believer. Therefore also, in another place in the same book I most truly said: `Because, if it is of God's mercy, and not of works, that we are even called that we may believe and it is granted to us who believe to do good works, that mercy must not be grudged to the heathen;'-although I there discoursed less carefully about that calling which is given according to God's purpose."

"Why," say they, "does He not teach all men?" If we should say that they whom He does not teach are unwilling to learn, we shall be met with the answer: And what becomes of what id said to Him, "O God, Thou writ turn us again, and quicken us"? Or if God does not make men willing who were not willing, on what principle does the Church pray, according to the Lord's commandment, for her persecutors? For thus also the blessed Cyprian would have it to be understood that we say, "Thy will be done, as in heaven so in earth,"-that is, as in those who have already believed, and who are, as it were, heaven, so also in those who do not believe, and on this account are still the earth. What, then, do we pray for on behalf of those who are unwilling to believe, except that God would work in them to will also? Certainly the apostle says, "Brethren, my heart's good will, indeed, and my prayer to God for them, is for their salvation." He prays for those who do not believe,- for what, except that they may believe? For in no other way do they obtain salvation. If, then, the faith of the petitioners precede the grace of God, does the faith of them on whose behalf prayer is made that they may believe precede the grace of God?-since this is the very thing that is besought for them, that on them that believe not-that is, who have not faith-faith itself may be bestowed? When, therefore, the gospel is preached, some believe, some believe not; but they who believe at the voice of the preacher from without, hear of the Father from within, and learn; while they who do not believe, hear outwardly, but inwardly do not hear nor learn;-that is to say, to the former it is given to believe; to the latter it is not given. Because "no man," says He, "cometh to me, except the Father which sent me draw him." And this is more plainly said afterwards. For after a little time, when He was speaking of eating his flesh and drinking His blood, and some even of His disciples said, "This is a hard saying, who can hear it? Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples murmured at this, said unto them, Doth this offend you?" And a little after He said, "The words that I have spoken unto you are spirit and life; but there are some among you which believe not." And immediately the evangelist says, "For Jesus knew from the beginning who were the believers, and who should betray Him; and He said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me except it were given him of my Father." Therefore, to be drawn to Christ by the Father, and to hear and learn of the Father in order to come to Christ, is nothing else than to receive from the Father the gift by which to believe in Christ. For it was not the hearers of the gospel that were distinguished from those who did not hear, but the believers from those who did not believe, by Him who said, "No man cometh to me except it were given him of my Father."

Moreover, that which I said, "That the salvation of this religion has never been lacking to him who was worthy of it, and that he to whom it was lacking was not worthy,"-if it be discussed and it be asked whence any man can be worthy there are not wanting those who say-by human will. But we say, by divine grace or predestination. Further, between grace and predestination there is only this difference, that predestination is the preparation for grace, while grace is the donation itself. When, therefore the apostle says, "Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus in good works," it is grace; but what follows-"which God hath prepared that we should walk in them "-is predestination, which cannot exist without foreknowledge, although foreknowledge may exist without predestination; because God foreknew by predestination those things which He was about to do, whence it was said, "He made those things that shall be." Moreover, He is able to foreknow even those things which He does not Himself do,-as all sins whatever. Because, although there are some which are in such wise sins as that they are also the penalties of sins, whence it is said, "God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient," it is not in such a case the sin that is God's, but the judgment. Therefore God's predestination of good is, as I have said, the preparation of grace; which grace is the effect of that predestination. Therefore when God promised to Abraham in his seed the faith of the nations, saying, "I have established thee a father of many nations," whence the apostle says, "Therefore it is of faith, that the promise, according to grace, might be established to all the seed," He promised not from the power of our will but from His own predestination. For He promised what He Himself would do, not what men would do. Because, although men do those good things which pertain to God's worship, He Himself makes them to do what He has commanded; it is not they that cause Him to do what He has promised. Otherwise the fulfilment of God's promises would not be in the power of God, but in that of men; and thus what was promised by God to Abraham would be given to Abraham by men themselves. Abraham, however, did not believe thus, but "he believed, giving glory to God, that what He promised He is able also to do." He does not say, "to foretell"-he does not say, "to foreknow;" for He can foretell and foreknow the doings of strangers also; but he says, "He is able also to do;" and thus he is speaking not of the doings of others, but of His own.


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