Election and Reprobation in Augustine

This paper is a study of Augustine’s understanding of election and reprobation. The paper seeks to demonstrate the following two-fold thesis: (1) Augustine’s doctrines of election and reprobation did in fact develop from what might be called the “earlier” Augustine to the “later” Augustine (somewhat contra scholars like Carol Harrison, see below), and (2) Augustine’s doctrines of election and reprobation are intricately linked to, and inseparably bound up with, his own understanding of and affirmation of the primacy of grace, the efficacy of grace, and the persevering nature of grace. Augustine’s understanding of grace is likewise inextricably and organically tied to his own anthropology, especially his doctrine of sin (especially as all of these doctrines developed over the course of his life and writings).

To grasp the logic and nature of Augustine’s understanding of election and reprobation means one must grasp the interlocking relations between Augustine’s multi-faceted thinking on grace (its primacy, its efficacy, and its persevering nature) and how this understanding of grace relates to election and reprobation. Likewise, Augustine’s own anthropology—especially his understanding of sin—must be kept in view in order to grasp Augustine’s understanding of grace.

This two-fold thesis will be demonstrated mainly through an analysis of key texts of Augustine, especially: On Free Will (387/388-395), To Simplicianus (394), Unfinished Commentary to the Romans (394/395), Letter 194 to Sixtus (418/419), On Grace and Free Will (426), On Admonition and Grace (426), City of God (413-427), Letter 217 to Vitalis of Carthage (427), On the Predestination of the Saints (429), and On the Gift of Perseverance (429). There will also be engagement with some of the key scholars in the field, especially Carol Harrison’s Rethinking Augustine’s Early Theology: An Argument for Continuity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).

One contribution which this paper seeks to make to the field is to illustrate in a new way an old truth, and this truth is the famous saying of B.B. Warfield: “The Reformation, inwardly considered, was just the ultimate triumph of Augustine’s doctrine of grace over Augustine’s doctrine of the church.” This paper is about Augustine and not a thorough explication of the Reformers. Nonetheless, this paper hopes to illustrate—via a study of Augustine’s understanding of election and reprobation—that Warfield is essentially right: The seeds of what will flower in the Reformation—in terms of the Reformers’ understanding of grace—were there in Augustine. These Augustinian seeds of grace were inextricably linked to his own understanding of election and reprobation. The Reformers affirm and perpetuate the fundamental components of Augustine’s doctrine of grace, but also move beyond Augustine in certain related areas—especially in later Reformation (especially Reformed) construals of election and reprobation.

4 thoughts on “Election and Reprobation in Augustine”

  1. Modelling perseverance
    While I value the work on election and reprobation in Augustine here, especially the primary source work, this paper was delivered in 2022 national meeting. The proposer admits that he is representing to improve it for publication.

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  2. Agree that Brad is an
    Agree that Brad is an excellent choice as a presenter, and this proposal looks solid. If it was presented in 2022, however, this makes it less likely for 2023 – I didn’t see this detail but I may have missed it?

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