By Harry Austryn Wolfson  

A chapter from the book Religious Philosophy 1961

Of the many problems involved in the controversy between Augustine and Pelagius in the early part of the fifth century I shall deal here this morning only with one problem, the problem of free will, and of the several aspects of this problem I shall deal only with one, its philosophical aspect.

To Greek philosophers, human action is the resultant of a conflict of forces. Man is conceived by them as being constantly pulled by two opposite forces, called emotion and reason, and at every turn of his life man is faced with the problem of deciding whether to follow the one or the other. But the decision is not his. It is made for him by the relative strength of these two forces, and the strength of these forces is determined by nature, for man is part of nature and is governed by its laws. But what are the laws of nature? Greek philosophers, because of their belief in the inexorableness of these laws, described them by the mythological term fate. Thus Plato in his Timaeus (41e) refers to them as the "fated laws" (nomoi eimarmenoi) which the Demiurge declared to constitute the nature of the universe, Aristotle in his Physics (V, 6, 230a, 32), by implication, refers to generation according to nature (kata fusin) as generation determined by fate (eimarmenh), and the Stoics, through many of the fragments which have preserved their teachings, use "nature," and "fate" as synonymous terms.1 And it was the Stoics who in their doctrine of palingenesis have given the ultimate expression to this conception of human action, for according to this doctrine of an eternally recurrent world-process we are all bound to do what infinite predecessors had done in an infinite succession of worlds before us.

Still all these philosophers speak of freedom of the will and in their discussion of legal responsibility and moral virtue they distinguish between actions done voluntarily and involuntary actions. But free will or choice, according to them, does not mean man's absolutely unlimited power to choose between several alternative actions; it means to them only man's power to choose between alternative actions without external compulsion, even though by his internal nature he has already been determined from eternity to act only in one single way. A man's act is called by them free even if it could not be otherwise, provided only that he was not compelled to do it by some force external to him. Freedom means to act by the necessity of one's own nature, a nature which itself is pre-fated and predetermined.

This is the relative conception of freedom.

In Palestinian Judaism at the time of the rise of Christianity man was also conceived as being constantly drawn by two opposite forces. These forces were called the good impulse and the evil impulse. But Hellenistic Judaism, through its spokesman Philo, identified these good and evil impulses with what the philosophers called emotion and reason. To both Palestinian and Hellenistic Judaism, however, human action was not the resultant of these two forces; it was the result of the unrestrained choice of the human will. Man indeed is a part of nature, and as a part of nature it often happens that one of these two forces is the stronger. Still it is not always the stronger force that prevails. Man can decide in favor of the weaker force. As expressed by Philo, God has endowed man with part of His own power and freedom, and, just as God who implanted in the world the laws of nature has reserved for himself the right to override these laws of nature and work what is called miracles, so also man has the miraculous power to override the laws of his own nature. Moreover, even when man, because he is part of nature, finds himself powerless to fight the evil force within him, if he only makes an honest effort to do so, he may receive help from God. This is what is called divine grace, a merited or auxiliary kind of grace. Man is therefore asked to pray for this divine help or grace. It is this kind of grace, a merited or auxiliary kind of grace, that was meant when the rabbis prayed that the evil impulse might not have sway over them and that their souls might pursue the divine commandment, or when Philo urged people to offer a prayer to God, petitioning for assistance in their effort to do good. It is also this kind of merited or auxiliary grace that was meant when Jesus instructed his disciples to pray to God to deliver them from "evil" or rather "the evil one" (Matthew 6:13, Luke 11:4), that is, the evil impulse. It was a prayer for divine assistance or grace to overcome the evil impulse, without any implication that by their own effort they had no freedom to overcome him. This is the conception of absolute freedom of the will.2 It is these two conceptions of freedom that the Fathers of the Church were confronted with. Though the earliest Church Fathers, from Aristides to Clement of Alexandria, were all converts to Christianity, coming from a pagan background and trained in pagan philosophy, they all chose to follow the Philonic conception of absolute freedom.

Let us sketch briefly the salient points in their discussion of the problem of freedom. Following Jewish tradition, both Hellenistic and Palestinian, they all begin with the statement that God created Adam free and master over his own will and actions. And because Adam was a free agent, when he fell, it was by his own free will that he fell. Then they all begin to debate whether there were any consequences of that fall. From Jewish tradition they inherited the question whether physical death was a consequence of that fall or not. Most of them said yes, some said no - a difference of opinion the like of which existed also in Judaism. Then, without any support from Jewish tradition, but as an interpretation of a statement by Paul, there was introduced the view that the sin of Adam itself was transmitted to his descendants. This is the doctrine of original sin. Then, again, from Jewish tradition there was introduced the view that the fall of Adam left a taint or corruption upon the moral character of his descendants. This is the doctrine of original corruption. These two doctrines are sometimes combined by the Church Fathers or identified, but, as they each have a different origin, they should be distinguished from each other and, in fact, some Church Fathers treat of them as if they were two distinct doctrines. What the Fathers before Augustine meant by the original corruption, as may be gathered from their statements about it, is that, by his fall, Adam's own power, as well as the power of his descendants, to resist the evil impulse within them was weakened, so that they became more in need of divine assistance to overcome it. With none of the Fathers did it mean a complete loss of the power of freedom. Man was still free and he was free in two senses. In the struggle between the spirit and the flesh, he still had the power to resist the flesh, even though he was now in greater need of divine grace. And if divine grace was extended to him, he still had the power to resist that grace. When, therefore, the Fathers repeated the Lord's prayer, petitioning God to deliver them from evil or from the evil one, they only asked to help them to make the right choice and to carry out into action the choice they have made by their own free will. Freedom of the will was still absolute.

This was the situation toward the end of the fourth century.

But in 400, Augustine's Confessions appeared, which contained the following prayer: "Give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt." 3 Five years later, as Augustine himself informs us, a Bishop in Rome recited it in the presence of Pelagius.4 Now, by itself, out of its context, this prayer could be taken only as a prayer for divine auxiliary grace without any implication of a denial of free will. But it happens that in the Confessions, immediately after the prayer Augustine wrote his own commentary on it. In that commentary he made it clear that grace did not follow free will, as something merited and auxiliary, but preceded it and created it. A similar view was expressed by him in another work5 which had appeared about three years prior to the appearance of the Confessions. Pelagius evidently knew the true meaning of the prayer, and so the Pelagian controversy started.

In this controversy, Pelagius maintained that there was no loss of free will in the descendants of Adam as a result of the fall. Accordingly, in every man today, as in Adam before the fall, there still abide two impulses, the good and the evil, and every man today, again as Adam before the fall, is free to choose between the two impulses, even when one of them happens to be dominant, for, as he is reported to have said, "newborn infants are in the same condition as Adam was before the fall." 6 Philo similarly had taught that "the soul of an infant ... has no share in either vice or virtue" 7 or that "by nature all we men, before the reason in us is fully grown, lie in the borderline between vice and virtue, without ever inclining as yet to either side." 8 This is the prevailing view among the Fathers before Augustine, both Greek and Latin.

Denning freedom of choice (libertas arbitrii) as consisting "in the capacity (possibilitas) of abstaining from sin," 9 Pelagius conceives of this freedom as absolute. Like Philo, who maintains that, even though free will is the "most peculiar possession of God," by His having bestowed it upon His rational creatures, man "has been made to resemble Him," 10 Pelagius maintains that, even though free will "properly belongs to God," God "has bestowed it upon His creatures" 11 and thereby man has become "emancipated from God." 12 This was also the prevailing view among the Fathers before Augustine. For the purpose of illustration we may cite here a Latin Father, Tertullian. "I find," he says, "that man was by God constituted free master of his own will and power," for "in nothing else does man show more the image and likeness of God" than "in that essence which he derived from God himself, the spiritual, which answered to the form of God, and in the freedom and power of his will," 13 and in support of his belief in free will, like Philo,14 he quotes the Old Testament verses, "See I have placed before thee this day life and good, and death and evil . . . therefore choose life" (Deut. 30:15,19).

By the same token, man also has absolute power to do good. But as in Philo and the rabbis and the Church Fathers before him, Pelagius draws a distinction between man's freedom of doing evil and his freedom of doing good. In both cases the choice of his will is absolutely free. But in the effectuation of his choice there is a difference. Once man has chosen to do evil, he is left to himself to carry out the decision of his will. God will neither help him nor hinder him. But once man has chosen to do good, and meets with difficulty in carrying out the good decision of his will, God will come to his help. This is Pelagius' conception of grace-a grace which is merited and only auxiliary. As reported in his name by Augustine:

"Pelagius says that what is good is more easily (facilius) fulfilled if grace assists." 15

In contradistinction to all this, Augustine maintains that as a result of the corruption produced by the fall of Adam and inherited by his descendants that freedom consisting of the ability to sin or not sin which was possessed by Adam before his fall is no longer possessed by his descendants. Whatever man today does he does it not by his own free choice but by necessity. This view is expressed by him in a variety of ways. In one place, he raises the question, "By what means is it brought about that man is with sin-by the necessity of nature, or by the freedom of choice?" In answer to this he says: "It came by freedom of choice that man was with sin; but a penal corruption (vitiositas) closely followed thereon, and out of liberty produced necessity," 16 so that "because the will has sinned, the hard necessity of having sin has pursued the sinner." 17 In another place, he raises again the question, "Can men do anything by the free determination of their own will?" and again his answer is: "Far be it, for it was by the evil use of his free will that man destroyed both it and himself." 18 Man thus both sins and does good not by freedom of choice but by necessity. This necessity is described by Augustine by two terms, one applied to the necessity by which one sins and the other to the necessity by which one refrains from sinning and acts righteously.

As to the necessity by which one sins, Augustine describes it by the term concupiscence, which he identifies with sexual desire and considers it as the source of all sin. He is uncertain whether concupiscence in this sense existed in Adam before the fall or did not exist in him, but he is certain that, if it did exist in him before the fall, it existed in him then in some innocent form and only later was it corrupted by the fall.19 He is also certain that, as a result of the fall, concupiscence in the descendants of Adam is "a corruption" (vitium), which, "like a bad state of health is implanted in man from a corrupt origin, by which corruption," and here Augustine quotes from the New Testament (Gal. 5:17) the words, "'the flesh lusteth {concupiscit, epiqumei) against the spirit.' " 20 Moreover, this lusting of the flesh against the spirit cannot be resisted by man, for, he maintains, "the power of good living . . . is not given save by God's grace" 21 and by grace, he goes on to explain, he does not mean merely God's helping man to carry out the decisions of his free will.22

There is no statement by any of the Fathers prior to Augustine in which the corruption transmitted by Adam to his descendants as a result of the fall is called concupiscence; unless it be the statement in the Apocalypse of Moses that the "poison" (ios) with which the serpent infected Eve, and was evidently transmitted to future generations, is called epiqumia, "concupiscence." 23 But there is no evidence that this statement existed before the time of Augustine or that it was known to him. Nor is there any statement by any of the Fathers before Augustine which identifies the inherited corruption exclusively with sexual desire described by some other term. In fact, Augustine himself does not always use the term concupiscence in a bad sense and in the exclusive sense of sexual desire, for on the basis of such verses as "My soul hath coveted (concupivit, epepoqhsen) to long (desiderare, epiqnmhsai) for thy justifications, at all times" (Ps. 118/9:20) and "The desire (concupiscentia, epiqnmia) of wisdom bring-eth to a kingdom" (Wisdom 6:20) and "Thou shalt not covet (concupisces, epiqnmhseis)" (Exod. 20:17) he infers that concupiscences may be either laudable or condemnable.24 Moreover, of condemnable concupiscences, on the basis of the verse, "For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world" (I John 2:16), he infers that the pleasure of the flesh, curiosity, and pride include all sins,25 and he explicitly explains that "concupiscence of the flesh" in the verse quoted refers to "food" 26 and he also explicitly uses the expression "the concupiscence of eating and drinking." 27 The reduction of all bad concupiscences to the concupiscence of sex and the identification of sexual concupiscence with the inherited corruption is something new introduced by Augustine into Christian theology.

Still this theological innovation is not without its philosophical background. Concupiscentia is one of the Latin terms by which the Greek term , epiqnmia. is translated in philosophical literature, the other Latin terms being libido 28 and cupiditas.29 In Plato the underlying Greek term is used as a description of one of his three parts of the soul and as the opposite of the rational soul.30 In Aristotle it is used in the technical sense of an irrational appetite.31 Among the Stoics it is one of the four primary emotions and is again an irrational appetite.32 Then, in Plato there are the statements that "the concupiscent soul" is the largest part of our soul and "contains bodily pleasures" 33 and that "pleasure is the strongest allurement to evil." 34 In Aristotle there is the statement that "concupiscence is the appetite for what is pleasurable" 35 and also the statement that "the pleasure of coition is more vehement (sfodrotera) 36 than other pleasures, which is reflected in Philo's statement that the pleasures connected with coition are "the most vehement (sfodrotatai)." 37 All these must have created in the minds of students of philosophy the view that the concupiscence for the most vehement of pleasures, namely, the sexual pleasure, is the strongest allurement to evil. This, we may assume, is how Augustine arrived at his identification of concupiscence with sexual desire and at his description of that desire as the source of all evil.

How Augustine arrived at the belief in the irresistibility of concupiscence is explained by himself. Early in his life, he reminisces, even though in himself he did not find the power to overcome his sexual concupiscence, he still believed that continency was in our power.38 But a verse in the Latin translation of the Wisdom of Solomon convinced him that continency was not in the power of man. The verse in question (8:21) reads: Et ut scivi quoniam aliter non possem esse continens, nisi Deus det, which was taken by Augustine to mean:

"And as I knew that I could not otherwise be continent, except God gave [it]." If this is really what has led Augustine to the belief in the irresistibility of concupiscence, and it would seem to be so, for he quotes this verse twenty-odd times in his works in support of it, then this belief of his has its origin in a misunderstanding of the meaning of the verse. In the original Greek, the verse quite unmistakably refers to wisdom, which is mentioned previously, and it reads: "And as I knew that I could not otherwise obtain (egkraths) [it], except God gave [it]." This is undoubtedly what the Latin translation also meant, for in two other places it uses the term continens as a translation of the Greek egkraths, namely, in Ecclesiasticus 6:27/8 and 15: i, and in both these places there can be no doubt that the term continens is used in the sense of "obtaining" or "possessing." 39 What happened here, then, is that Augustine misunderstood the meaning of the term continens, taking it in the sense of "continent," and thus derived therefrom his belief in the powerlessness of man to abstain from sin. A similar misunderstanding of the same verse in its Latin translation seems to be found also in Tertullian,40 but Tertullian does not derive from it the same belief as Augustine.

The necessity by which man can refrain from sin and act righteously is divine grace, which alone, as said by him in the passages quoted above, can resist concupiscence. Then Augustine goes on to maintain that, just as man is powerless to resist his concupiscence, so he is also powerless to resist the grace bestowed upon him by God; and consequently, just as by the necessity of his concupiscence man must sin, so by the necessity of grace man must refrain from sinning and act righteously. This irresistibility of grace is expressed by him in passages wherein he speaks of the human will as being "indeclinably (indeclinabiliter) and invincibly (insuperabiliter) influenced by divine grace" 41 and of God as He "whom no man's will resists when He wills to give salvation." 42 The irresistibility of grace is also suggested in the statement that of "whomsoever He has mercy. He calls him in a manner which He knows would befit him that he would not reject Him who called him." 43 Since man has no power of his own to resist concupiscence, or even to will to resist it, the grace bestowed upon him by God could not be a merited grace or an auxiliary grace; it must be a free gift of God which creates in man not only the will to resist concupiscence but also the power to carry out the decision of the will which He himself has created in man. Augustine formally distinguishes between these two aspects of grace, the former being described by him as prevenient or operative grace and the latter as subsequent or cooperative grace.44 Both these two aspects of grace are free grace, for according to him there is no other kind of grace. "Grace," he lays it down as general principle, "is not rendered for any merits, but is given gratis, on account of which it is called grace (gratia)." 45 From this he is led to say that "no man ought, even when he begins to possess good merits, to attribute them to himself and not to God." 46 Augustine, of course, knew that men were instructed to pray to God to deliver them from evil or from the evil one, and this would seem to imply that God's help in delivering men from evil, which comes as an answer to prayer, is a merited grace. But, in anticipation of such reasoning, Augustine maintains that even God's answer to man's prayer cannot be considered a merited grace, for the will to pray as well as the act of praying does not come from man but from God. Thus, referring to those "who think that our seeking, asking, knocking is of ourselves, and is not given to us," he says that "they are mistaken" and that they do not understand "that this is also of the divine gift, that we pray; that is, that we ask, seek, and knock."47

The debate between Augustine and Pelagius ran the normal course of all religious debates. They quoted Scripture against each other. They hurled ancient authorities at each other. They spun arguments against each other. Then, as so often happens in theological discussions, they began to call each other names. Said Augustine to Pelagius: You are a Jew in all but name.48 Said Pelagius to Augustine: You are a fatalist; you assert fate under the name of grace.49 And both of them shouted at each other: You are a Manichaean.50 We do not know what Pelagius' answer would have been, and I shall not try to reconstruct on the basis of what we know of his views what his answer would have been, though it could be done. But Augustine answered it in many places of his works and in many different ways. I shall try to give a brief analysis of his answer.

Quoting a passage from Seneca, he derives therefrom the Stoic definition of fate. Fate, according to the Stoics, he says, contains among others the following points: (i) There is an order and connection of causes which makes everything become what it does become. (2) This order and connection of causes is traceable to the will and power of God. (3) This will and power of God "extends itself irresistibly through all things." 51

With this view, that there is an order of nature predetermined by an irresistible will of God, Augustine agrees.52 He would be even willing to use the term "fate" as a description of this predetermination of the will of God, for, etymologically, he argues, the Latin fatum, "fate," means "that which is spoken," and Scripture describes the determination of God's will by the expression, "God hath spoken once" (Ps. 62/1: i2).53 Still he is reluctant to use the term fate, and this because in popular language the term "fate" means the belief in "the influence of that particular position of the stars which may exist at the time one is born or conceived," 54 and so, he says, "if any one," like the Stoics, "calls the will of God or the power of God itself by the name of fate, let him keep his opinion but correct his language." 55 Still he considers the whole matter as "a merely verbal controversy." 56

But despite all this, Augustine maintains that man is free. If he sins, he sins freely, even though his sinning is predetermined by his irresistible concupiscence. Thus answering to the charge that he believed that "by the sin of the first man, that is, of Adam, free will perished; and that no one has now the power of living well, but that all are constrained to sin by the necessity of the flesh," 57 he exclaims: "For who of us can say that by the sin of the first man free will perished from the human race?" and proceeds to explain that only the freedom enjoyed by Adam in Paradise, the freedom "to live well and righteously," was lost, but not the freedom by which all sin, "especially they who sin with delight (delectatione) and with love (amore) of sin; they will what pleases them." 58

Similarly, if man does good, he does good also freely, even though his doing of good was predetermined by an irresistible grace. Thus, while on the one hand, he describes divine grace as being indeclinable and invincible and the divine will to give salvation as irresistible, he still says that "to yield our consent, indeed, to God's summons, or to withhold it, belongs to our will" 59 and that "we know that those who with their own heart believe in God, do this with their will and with their free choice." 60 But when he was asked how the two statements could be reconciled, all he answered is this:

"The reason, however, why in doing a right action there is no bondage of necessity, is that liberty comes from charity (charitatis)."61

It is obvious then that Augustine himself believed that even under the power of concupiscence or of grace man acts not by necessity but by free will and the reason given by him why man, who can only act in one predetermined way, is still said to act by free will is that when man sins he sins "with delight (delectatione) and love (amore) and when he does a right action his action comes from charity (charitatis)." But this is hardly an explanation on the basis of what we know to have been Augustine's view on the nature of "delight" and "love" and "charity." According to Augustine, delight in the pleasures of this world is to be called a "delight of concupiscence" (delectatio concupiscentiae) 62 and similarly the love with which one sins is to be called cupiditas or libido 63 - terms which are synonymous with the term concupiscentia as translations of the Greek epiqumia.64 And so also with regard to charity by which one does right actions, Augustine repeatedly says that "charity" (charitas), like grace, is a free gift from God.65 How then could Augustine offer "delight" and "love" and "charity" as explanations of why certain actions are actions of free will and not of necessity, when he himself ascribes "delight" and "love" to "concupiscence" and "charity" to a sort of "divine grace," and "concupiscence" and "grace" themselves are according to him, irresistible and render all actions proceeding from them necessary? Since Augustine does offer these terms as an explanation of actions which are voluntary and not necessary and since he expects his opponents to be satisfied with this explanation without any further elucidations on his part, he undoubtedly must have touched here upon some distinction between the terms voluntary and necessary which was well known to students of philosophy of his time, so that he could be confident that only by alluding to it the matter would be clear to them without the need of any further elucidation.

What then is that well-known distinction alluded to here by Augustine?

That distinction, we shall try to show, is based upon two passages in Aristotle. In one of these passages, Aristotle distinguishes between two usages of the term necessary (anagkaion), one in the sense of that which is compelled (to biaion) by something external to itself, and the other in the sense of that which cannot be otherwise, as, for instance, a demonstration is said to be a necessary thing, because the conclusion cannot be otherwise, not because it is compelled by something external to itself, but because it is the nature of the first premise that that particular conclusion must proceed from it by necessity.66 In the other passage, using the term necessary in the sense of being compelled by an external cause, he contrasts with it any action caused by an internal tendency (ormh ), such as appetite (orexis), concupiscence (epiqumia), and reason (logos) in animate beings, and this kind of action he describes as voluntary (ekousios) .67 From a combination of these two passages it would be possible for one to form the opinion that necessary in the true sense of the term is to be applied only for that which is compelled by an external force, and that any action in animate beings caused by an internal tendency and not by an external force, even if it is necessary in the sense that it cannot be otherwise, may be described as voluntary. Such a use of the terms necessary and voluntary had in fact already become common among the Church Fathers long before Augustine. Thus the generation of the Logos from God, which was eternal and could not be otherwise, was described by the early Church Fathers as a voluntary act on the part of God, voluntary as used of that which is not necessary in the sense of being compelled by an external force. It was only when Arms used the term voluntary to imply that the Logos was created ex nihilo that the Fathers rejected that term and substituted for it the term natural,68 using it, again, as the opposite of necessary in its use as that which is compelled by an external force - a sense in which the term natural is also used by Aristotle.69 Augustine himself follows this usage of the term natural in the case of the generation of the Logos.70 Moreover, the internal tendency, called by Aristotle nature, by which the simple elements have their uncompelled motion, is called by Augustine love (amor).71 And so when Augustine argues that man sins or acts righteously not by necessity but by will on the ground that he sins by delight and love and acts righteously by charity, he means thereby that when man sins or acts righteously not by the necessity of an external force but by the necessity of an internal tendency, his action may be described as voluntary, even if it could not be otherwise. In other words, the free will which Augustine grants to man is not absolute free will but only relative free will.

This conception of relative free will is more clearly brought out by Augustine in two passages.

In one of these passages, a Pelagian opponent of Augustine argues that necessity and free will are mutually exclusive terms, and so Augustine is wrong in maintaining that sin is both necessary and voluntary. To this Augustine's answer is as follows: "If you knew what you were saying, you would not make the statement that necessity and will could not exist simultaneously. Death is a necessity, and yet would any one dare deny that it could also be an object of voluntary desire?" 72 What Augustine means to say is that natural death, coming as it does not by external but by internal causes and is inevitable and cannot be otherwise, may still be described as something voluntary, as when, for instance, the dying person, for some reason or other, happens to welcome death.

In another passage,73 Augustine tries to show that, if necessity is denned as that "according to which we say that it is necessary that anything be of such and such a nature or be done in such and such a manner," then that kind of necessity does not take away "the freedom of our will," that is, it does not make us act by compulsion. He illustrates it by such a proposition as "God is immortal" or "God is infallible," which, he argues, does not mean that because God must live forever and cannot die or because He must foreknow all things and cannot be wrong that He has life and foreknowledge by compulsion. By the same token, he also argues, man's action, whether sinning or acting righteously, is not to be described as compelled because of the fact that man could not but sin under concupiscence and could not but act righteously under grace. What Augustine means to say is quite evident. Man's action, though always determined either by concupiscence or by grace and could never be otherwise, is still to be described as voluntary on the ground that concupiscence and grace are within man himself, so that man's action, when only so determined, flows from his own nature and is not compelled by any force external to it.

Freedom thus to Augustine does not mean the choice to act one way or the other, for there is no such freedom; everything is determined to act only one way. Freedom is only relative, and it means to act according to one's own nature, without external compulsion. It is in this sense that man is free either to sin or to act righteously, for each man has a determinate nature either to sin or to act righteously. Men, according to Augustine, are not all of one nature. There are two kinds of human beings and correspondingly two kinds of human natures, and each man belongs either to the one or to the other. For Augustine, the old definition of man as a rational animal would not do; for him, some men are concupiscent rational animals and some are grace-endowed rational animals. And he has a theological explanation for this division of mankind. Prior to the creation of the world. God in His infinite wisdom, for reasons unknown to us, had elected out of the future sinful lump of humanity a certain number of persons whom He "predestined to grace" 74 or to "everlasting life" 75 or "to reign eternally with God." 76 They are those whom Augustine calls by the New Testament term (Rom. 8:33) "the elect" (ekletoi, electi). These are governed by grace, and grace constitutes their nature. For them to do good is to act by the necessity of their own nature, and without external compulsion. They are thus free. Those who were not elected for grace or for everlasting life or for eternal reign with God are called by the New Testament term (II Cor. 13:5) "the reprobate" (adokimoi, reprobi), that is, the not-approved, the rejected, the castaway, and are described by Augustine as those "predestined to eternal punishment" or "to condemnation." These are governed by concupiscence, and concupiscence constitutes their nature. For them to sin, is, again, to act by the necessity of their own nature, and not by external compulsion. They are thus also free. And in support of such a restricted conception of freedom he quotes the Stoics, though not without a grumble against their particular classification of causes.

These are some of the philosophical implications of one of the problems involved in the Pelagian controversy. I have stated the problem in the form of a thesis and presented it in its bare outline, with only partial documentation and without discussing different interpretations of passages cited and recalcitrant passages not cited.77

And let us now add one concluding remark. The name-calling, especially with regard to Pelagius, is still a favorite pastime among some historians of dogma. Pelagius is still called a pagan, a Stoic, a follower of the New Academy, and, in fact, everything in the history of philosophy disliked by the particular historian dealing with him. Augustine is represented as the exponent of true Christianity and his concupiscence is being heralded as an anticipation of the Freudian libido. In our judgment, Pelagius, on the problem of freedom, represents the original Christian belief. It was Augustine who introduced something new from without. On the showing of his own statements, his doctrine of grace is only a Christianization of the pagan Stoic doctrine of fate. As for his concupiscence, it is not clear whether it is based upon his own personal experience before his conversion or whether it is based upon a misunderstanding of the Latin translation of a Greek verse in the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon.

          Delivered in part at the autumn meeting of the American Philosophical Society, 1958, and in a more expanded form as one of the three Walter Turner Candler Lectures at Emory University, 1959. Published in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 103 (1959): 554-562.


1 Cf. Index Verborum to Arnim's S.V.F., under eimarmenh.  

2 See chapter on "Free Will" in my Philo, rev. ed. (Cambridge, Mass., 1948), 1,424-462.

3 Confessiones X, 29, 40.

4 De Dono Perseverentiae 20, 53.  

5 De Diversis Quaestlonibus ad Simplicianum I, 7 (PL 40, 115).

 6 Augustine, De Gestis Pelagii 24 (PL 44, 334).

7 Leg. All. II, 15, 53.

8 De Praemiis 11,62.  

9 Contra Julianum Opus Imperfectum I, 78 (PL 45, 1102).

10 Immut. 10, 47-48.  

11 De Gratia Christi I, 4, 5 (PL 44, 362).

12 Contra Julianum Opus Imperfectum I, 78.

13 Adversus Marcionem II, 5.                    

14 Immut. 10, 40-50.

15 Contra Duas Epistolas Pelagianorum II, 8, 17 (PL 44, 583).  

16 De Perfections Institiae Hominis 4, 9  (PL 44, 295)

17 Ibid. (296).

18 Enchiridion 30 (PL 40, 246).

19 Contra Julianum Opus Imperfectum VI, (PL 45, 1553).

20 Contra Julianum VI, 18, 55 (PL 44, 855).

21 Contra Duas Epistolas Pelagianorum I, 2, 5 (PL 44, 552).

22 Ibid. 1,2, 6.

23 Cf. C. Tischendorf, Apocalypses Apocryphae, 10-11.  

24 Enarr. in Psalm., Ps. 118, Sermo 8, No. 3.

25 Ibid., Ps. 8, No. 13 (PL 36, 115). 

26 Ibid. (116).  

27 Confessiones X, 31, 47.

28 Cf., for instance, Cicero's Latin translation of the Stoic four principal emotions (Tusc. Disp. Ill, n, 24; IV, y, 14; De Finibus III, 10, 35).

29 Cf., for instance, Augustine's Latin translation of the Stoic four principal emotions (De Civ. Dei XIV, 5).

30 Republic IV, 435 E-439 E.

31 De Anima III, 10, 433a, 25-26.

32 Diogenes Laertius, VII, 113.            

33 Republic IV, 442 A.                  

34 Timaeus 69 D.

35 De Anima II, 3, 4140, 5-6.

36 De Gen. Animal. I, 18, 7230, 33, according to the reading in MS. Vat. 261 recorded in Bekker. Other MSS, read sfodra (cf. I, 17, 72ib, 15).

37 Leg. All. II, 18,74.  

38 Confessiones VI, n, 20.

39 Cf. W. J. Deane's note in his edition of The Book of Wisdom, ad loc.

40 De Virglmbus Velandis, 13.  

41 De Correptione et Gratia 12, 38 (PL 44, 940).

42 Ibid. 14, 43 (942).

43 De Diversis Quaestionibus ad Simplicianurn I, 7 (PL 40, 115).

44 Enchiridion 32 (PL 40, 248); De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio 17, 33 (PL 44,901).

45 De Natura et Gratia 4, 4 (PL 44, 249).  

46 De Gratia et Libero Arbitrio 6, 13 (PL 44, 889).

47 De Dono Perseverantiae 23, 64 (PL 45, 1032).

48 Epistolae 196, i, 7 (PL 33, 893).  

49 Augustine, Contra Duas Epistolas Pelagiamrum II, 5, 10 (PL 44, 577).

50 Augustine to Pelagians: ibid. IV, 4, 6 (613). Pelagians to Augustine: ibid. I, 2, 4 (552); Contra Julianum I, 3, 5, (PL 44, 643).  

51 De Civ. Dei V, 8.                                   

52 Ibid.                                               

53 Ibid. V,9.

54 Ibid. V, i.

55 Ibid.

56 ibid. V,8.

57 Contra Duas Epistolas Pelagianorum I, 2, 4 (PL 44, 552)

58 Ibid. 1,2, 5 (PL 44, 552).

59 De Spiritu et Littera 34, 60 (PL 44, 240).

60 Epistolae 217, 5, i6 (PL 33,985).

 61 De Nauira et Gratia 65, 78 (PL 44, 386).

62 Sermo 153,8 (PL 38, 830).

63 Enarr. in Psalm. Ps. 9, No. 15 (PL 36, 124); cf. Ps. 31, Enarr. 2, No. 5 (260).

64 Cf. above at n. 28.  

65 Cf. Contra Julianuin Opus Imperfectum III, 114 (PL 45, 1296).

66 Metaphysica V, 5.  

67 Ethica Eudemia II, 8, 12243, 9ff.

68 Cf. my Philosophy of the Church Fathers, I (Cambridge, Mass., 1956), 223-232.

69 Physica VIII, 4, 225a, 28-29.

70 De Trinitate XV, 20, 38. Later, in order to express the view that Jesus acted without external compulsion, Maximus Confessor describes Jesus as acting both by will and by nature (cf. The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, I, 485-486).                              

71 De Civ. Dei XI, 28.  

72 Contra fulianum Opus Imferfectum IV, 103 (PL 45, 1398).

73 De Civ. Dei V, 10.  

74 Enchiridion 100.

75 De Anima et Ejus Origins IV, n, 16.

76 De Civ. Dei. XV,I,I.  

77 This paper is based upon a longer, more fully documented, and differently constructed study of the same subject to be included as a chapter in Volume II of my Philosophy of the Church Fathers.

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