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Augustine and Free Will Research Papers

In Augustine and free will research papers, you may want to show that Augustine believed God’s decision to make humans moral requires that they be endowed with free will.  Augustine believed God judged it better to bring good out of evil rather than prohibit evil altogether. The redemption of humanity by Christ was the good that came from the evil of Adam’s sinAugustine and Free WillAt the same time, God, being omniscient, also knew that some humans would use the freedom of will to commit sin.  Sin is the price of freedom, and humans could not enjoy the gift of free will if they were not at liberty to lapse into wrongdoing. In De libero arbitrio, he was uncertain whether free will existed as part of God’s plan for his creatures to learn moral maturity, or was a punitive consequence of Adam’s fall.  As the doctrine of Augustine evolved, however, an element of predestination was to creep into Augustine’s thinking that tempered the absolute freedom of the will.

Free Will

The existence of free will was necessary to defend the justice of divine punishment, which otherwise might seem arbitrary.  This point becomes important in Augustine’s criticism of the Manicheans, since they cannot be guilty of sin if they do not have the power to refrain from sinning. Nonetheless, Augustine often mentioned that a condition might arise in humans so that the will was not totally free.  It could be prisoner of desire, which would lead to sin out of habit.  In this category, he includes sexual attraction, which he believed could not be controlled by the will or reason. He states in City of God, “For we do many things which we should certainly not do if we willed not to”. This condition of habit, however, can be overcome by grace, which is a divine intervention that restores the will to choose between right and wrong to its proper function.

Augustine and God’s grace

Augustine denounces any defense of free decision that attributes to humans the ability to perform good works without God’s grace. Augustine believes that there are two kinds of grace, empowering and cooperative: 

  1. The empowering type allows the gift of free decision to exist.
  2. The cooperative type allows free will to function, since humans can accomplish nothing without God’s cooperation. 

At first glance, this seems to run counter to Augustine’s earlier development of his ideas of free will.  If God created humans with free will, they logically had the power to choose right without any further assistance from God in the form of grace.

To escape from this dilemma, Augustine postulated that even in Eden before the fall, cooperative grace was present, as an indispensable component of his will. The price of Adam’s fall was that cooperative grace was taken away from humanity. It was now a merciful but inexplicable gift of divine intervention granted to some people, but not to others.  This implied that original sin had transformed free will, making it as imperfect as the rest of the world.  God could grant or withhold the gift of grace to restore free will to its perfect state. This led Augustine to strongly suggest that humans were predestined, with the implication that good works would not affect an individual’s salvation.

Augustine’s contemporary critics such as Julian and Pelagius believed that in Augustine’s view, God had not really given humans the power to freely choose between right and wrong.  The implication was that people did not have to exercise their freedom of choice to perform good works, since they could not be certain if such works were indeed meritorious. Rather than respond directly to this criticism, Augustine convinced the Council of Carthage to anathematize anyone who claims that grace is not a necessary component of free will.

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