Augustine's Soteriology

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iacobus

Puritan Board Freshman
Until recently I was one of those guys that just assumed Augustine was for the most part "ours". He seems familiar enough to me in his thinking on grace in "On Rebuke and Grace," to make me feel uncomfortable.

What I mean to say is. I was wondering if anyone on the board could help me to understand the mechanics of Augustine's soteriology; how his doctrines of grace coexist with infused righteousness and sacramentalism (I haven't quite nailed down his opinion on the Eucharist, and skeptical of the idea that he believes in a "real presence" in the modern Catholic sense of the word -- more like a proto real presence that operates without transubstantiation, but I may of course be mistaken). I also have come to think that he possessed at least an incipient view of penal substitution, but again, it is really hard to nail down exactly what Augustine thought, since so much heated debate clouds the airways.

I'm trying to figure out exactly how Augustine viewed salvation, and in what ways he erred. I read "On Rebuke and Grace", but it took me a good many re-reads to realize what Augustine meant by co-operation and merit.

So far my understanding of Augustine is thus:

1) Baptismal Regeneration 2) Operative Grace and infusion of righteousness followed by co-operative grace and 3) Good works/sacraments which merit further grace and justification???

I'm not sure exactly what to make of him, or how he was able to arrive at some of his conclusions exegetically. Any help would be appreciated.
It would be of personal benefit to me to know the justification that Augustine had for his views, and what would be a sounder exegesis of the relevant texts.
 
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Willem van Oranje

Puritan Board Junior
My take on justification and the church fathers is that they were unclear on the subject. They had not yet had the chance to clarify their thinking on it, though the roots of Sola Fide are present in their thinking (with a lack of consistency.) There had not been a controversy which forced them to clarify their thinking on justification. (Their soteriology perhaps comes out best in the Christological debates.) This would not come fully until the Reformation.

When the Reformation did come, Rome should have decided the question scripturally and embraced the Reformation doctrines. Instead, she became hardened in error, in effect abandoning the true catholic faith.
 

iacobus

Puritan Board Freshman
Its this lack of clarity, largely due to having to read Augustine through catholic lenses, that's confusing me. I'm wondering exactly how he was able to come up something approximating penal substitution, sovereign grace, and yet maintain that righteousness is something infused and that justification is progressive? It seems to me that what his system works somewhat like: God infuses righteousness into you so that you merit the salvation that he gradually gives to you by influencing your will to the good works required of you. This requires making some kind of distinction between "works of the law" and the works required of us "under grace" (at least, this is what my catholic friend led me to believe. My understanding of Augustine gets hazy at this point). Hence we fulfill the "law" through love (whatever that means, although I think he means that we perform good works through love of God rather than fear of punishment, and that's what makes them pleasing to Him).

The obvious problem to me is that it ignores the strength of the antithesis between law and grace, and erects some new "easier" law that we can fulfill by God's grace if we love Him. What I am perplexed about is how this system all plays out. My friend seems to think that Christ's sacrifice rendered God propitiatory, and that if he lives a good life and takes the sacraments to forgive his venial sins, he's good. I'm also unsure if Augustine took "sins unto death" and concluded that sin came in two categories.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Augustine confounds regeneration, justification and sanctification: he views them all as one on-going process, a process which is only completed on the day of one's earthly death.

Augustine used a Latin translation (only began to study Greek later in life), and gathered his meaning of justification from the Latin verb "justificare" (to make righteous), rather than the Greek verb δικαιόω which means to declare righteous. Thus, for Augustine, if justification means "to make righteous" then righteousness is infused.

It is my understanding of Augustine that he is with us entirely on predestination and perseverance, though some would disagree with me on the latter.
 

iacobus

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks guys. I found an an except from Fesko's work on justification:

Second, one must take in account the greater scope of Augustine’s thought, particularly realism, which seems a more likely source for his confusion of justification and sanctification. (Clark, “Letter and Spirit, ” 334) The apostle Paul works exclusively in legal or forensic categories in his doctrine of justification, whereas Augustine did not strictly do the same. Augustine understood original sin and its transmission in realistic categories, in that sin is transmitted through natural descent. Conversely, the grace of God is infused in the sinner to counteract the effects of original sin. (Augustine, On Forgiveness of Sins and Baptism, 1.20, in NPNF 5:22) Augustine also understood Romans 5:12 in realistic terms and, as noted above, was insistent upon reading the passage, in spite of his knowledge of the Greek codices, as a locative, in quo omnes peccaverunt (“in all whom sinned”). It seems like a reasonable possibility that his philosophical presuppositions rather than his knowledge of Greek grammar could have driven his exegesis. Moreover, in baptism, the church washes away original sin:

“For by this grace He engrafts into His body even baptized infants, who certainly have not yet become able to imitate anyone. As therefore He, in whom all are made alive, besides offering Himself as an example of righteousness to those who imitate Him, gives also to those who believe on Him the hidden grace of His Spirit, which He secretly infuses even into infants. (Augustine, On Forgiveness of Sin and Baptism 1.10, in NPNF 5:18-19)

My impression from the rest of the article (Augustine and His Realism, on monergism dot com), is that Augustine did have access to the Greek NT, although along the lines of what DTK was saying, he was probably influenced greatly by the other fathers and dominant theological trends of the time, and if you have forensic categories in Romans, there is no need for sacramentalism.

This is where I feel pretty ignorant. Particularly on Romans 5:12, what is the contextually accurate way to exegete this verse? Is Romans 5:12 to be understood in purely covenantal terms? I ask because Calvin seemed to think that 5:12 referred to the transmission of the fallen nature, whereas the latter part of the chapter refers to the imputation of Christ's righteousness, the break occuring with the words "not like" and "even more". The editor of Calvin's commentaries seemed to take exception with this interpretation, preferring a more forensic interpretation of 5:12 and hence a direct parallelism between Adam and Christ as covanental heads. This may be a mis-characterization of Calvin, but this particular passage has always eluded me somewhat.
 
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