Dr D Long
Saint Augustine was a 4th century theologian. According to Augustine, the nature of humans changed considerably following the first sin that Adam committed in the Garden of Eden. He refers to the first Adam’s sin as “ the fall”. To Augustine, the fall led to the bond of original sin that had several consequences. Augustine believed that the first consequence of the fall was death as seen in the Confessions where he states thus, “ over and above the bond of original sin where we all die in Adam” (St. Augustine 85). The second consequence is that the first sin changed the nature of humans thereby leading to a tendency to commit sin. As such, Augustine opined that people became inevitably sinful right from birth. He perceives the state of sinfulness as a just punishment from God after the fall. He believed that following the first sin by Adamhumans were no longer free to choose whether or not to commit sin, they were already sinners. After his salvation, Augustine became aware of two wills within him: a strong desire to know God and another that rejected God. Without the intervention from God he believed that the will that rejected God triumphed.
According to Augustine, habits are an important aspect that help in limiting the fallen will. He understood habit to be a pattern of conduct that adapts the will to commit sin. As such, he believed that sin was a consequence of his wayward will. He stated “ habit not resisted became a habit” therefore it is the habit that binds the fallen people in the bondage of sin.
His views on salvation were that salvation follows a logical sequence from his understanding of the fallen human will considering that human will cannot desire God on its own accord. As such, he concluded that God must initiate the process of salvation. He reflects on his salvation by stating thus, “ for there was nothing I could reply when you called me” (149). To Augustine, once a conversion to salvation is complete, God restores a person’s free will. He reckoned that his free will was summoned upon his salvation. He also believed that once a person undergoes salvation then their sins are forgiven hence converting the person from the condition of sin. He considers salvation as a process whereby God re-creates his living being. Accordingly, when the process of salvation is ongoing the life of the beneficiary remains a constant struggle between the body and soul, prone to temptations and a persistent tendency to commit sin. To Augustine, resurrection with Christ and admission to the “ blessed country” known as heaven is the ultimate goal of Christian salvation. Further, the process of transformation begins with the salvation and continues until the day of entry into heaven.
According to Augustine, Christ is the central symbol of salvation. He characterized the humanity shown by Christ as superior than other men although it was mortal. Augustine further referred to the divine nature of Christ as the “ word of God” that was “ equal with God” and “ God himself”. As such, he believed in the holy trinity. He believed that Christ was the intermediary between God and humans. Consequently, he believed that Christ played several roles in the salvation of humanity. These Christ roles according to Augustine are: first that the sacrificing Christ paid the debt of sin on behalf of humanity therefore by sacrificing himself, Christ atoned the human sin. The second role of Christ in salvation is that Christ accepted his death in a bid to nullify the death of the sinners whom he vindicated. The third role is that Christ’s sacrifice brought about reconciliation as his forgiveness on the cross caused the dissolution of ill will that had been in existence between humanity and God. Fourth is that Christ conquered the evil powers on the cross as Augustine refers to Christ as “ victor”. He also declares that in Christ, people have prevailed over the enemy. Lastly, Augustine believed that Christ was a perfect living example of modesty and good works.
Pelagius differs with the theology and beliefs of Augustine by raising several issues. First, he argued that if as Augustine suggests the will of humans is inclined towards sin in the fallen state, then God cannot hold humans responsible for committing sin. As such, Pelagius opined that the fact that God holds humans to account for their sins, Augustine’s assertion cannot be correct. Secondly, if people are certainly inclined towards sin, they could not achieve God’s moral commandments. As such, Pelagius wondered whether God could command things that were impossible. He also believed that Augustine undervalued the power of human nature. He observed that the goodness in the nature of humanity was obvious even within the gentiles who were non-believers. Therefore, human nature cannot be as evil as Augustine suggests. Consequently, if salvation is commenced by God and all people are equally inclined to sin and incapable of helping themselves, God would be unjust if he condemns some people and saves others. As such, the choice about salvation is up to the humans (Duffy 89).
The foregoing shows that Augustine’sopinions relating to the salvation and Christian life differs fundamentally with Pelagius views. These views differ because of the perspectives and the significance accorded to Adam’s sin and the nature of salvation. For Augustine, the sin by Adam was criticalforthehuman race such that human nature is inevitably inclined towards sin hence incapable of serving God’s interests. For purposes of anthropology, Augustine believed that Christ instigated and completed salvation.
Duffy, Stephen. The Dynamics of Grace: Perspectives in Theological Anthropology.
Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1993, p. 89.
St. Augustine and FrankSheed. Confessions(Second Edition). Hackett Publishing, 2007.