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In the end, imperial military force was called in to support the Catholic side in the dispute. Augustine's attempts to deal with this ecclesiastical conflict were long, tiring, and largely futile. In the end, he reluctantly agreed to support the imperial policy of coercion, as long as it was limited to the use of pressure and "rebuke" rather than crude physical force. However, no sooner was the Donatist situation under control than Augustine faced another mounting heresy, the Pelagian heresy, which denied the need for inner regeneration of the soul by God's invisible, divine grace.

This controversy would involve St. Augustine in theological labors that would last most of the rest of his life. In addition to these ecclesiastical and theological trials and tribulations, Augustine had to contend with the horrors of the barbarian invasions. The whole of Western Roman civ- ilization was rapidly crumbling around him. In , barbarian tribes overran Roman Gaul, then crossed into Spain in , bringing pillage, rape, and murder wherever they went.

In , the city of Rome itself was sacked by Alaric and the Goths. Refugees poured into North Africa and the safer Christian East. To gain an appreciation of what Augustine and his fellow bishops had to face in those dark times, here is a passage from the historian Henry Chadwick's book The Early Church that vividly describes the scene:. It was in the midst of this dreadful situation that St.

Augustine finished writing his most famous work, The City of God , in which he tried to show that although human history is a record of war and strife, still, by the mercy of God, the city of God the kingdom of heaven endures, and it is built up through the means of grace that God gives to us in the Church, which will abide forever, and whose duty it is now to convert the barbarian invaders to the Christian faith.

This was also the time in Augustine's life when he put the final form on his doctrine of salvation as a manifestation of the mercy of God. Whether or not Augustine's doctrine in this regard truly manifests God's merciful love in the way that he intended, however, remains a contentious theological point in the Christian world to this very day. Augustine's fully developed doctrine of salvation. Chadwick writes:. While Chadwick's summary is true as far as it goes, he does not give St.

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Augustine sufficient credit for seeking to preserve the reality of human free will in the process of salvation, or for recognizing that this whole matter of predestination is a deep and unfathomable mystery. Patristics scholar Richard Price rounds out the picture for us:. The Catholic Church has never endorsed some aspects of this full-blown Augustinian doctrine of salvation and predestination - and for good reason, for it is hard to see how it entirely fits with the Church's faith in the merciful love of God. For example: a The Church has never taught that the corruption of the soul from original sin is transmitted to each infant by the inordinate passions involved in the sexual intercourse that conceived it see the Catechism of the Catholic Church , Saint Augustine's view here contradicts God's mercy because it seems to imply that He has permitted sin completely to corrupt the natural process by which He brings new life into the world.

But the Church has never taught that the inheritance of original sin ascribes to each new generation the kind of "guilt" that involves personal moral responsibility for that state of original sin, and therefore it would in no way be just for God to condemn unbaptized infants even to a "mild form of damnation" on account of an inherited sin that involved no voluntary fault on the part of the infants themselves see Catechism , Saint Augustine's view here contradicts the Church's understanding of God's compassion for our fallen condition and His merciful love for unbaptized infants.

But the Church has never taught that God's saving grace is irresistible. As the Council of Trent clearly taught, salvation is a work of grace, but it does not happen without the free consent of the souls of the elect Catechism , and Saint Augustine's view here seems to contradict God's merciful love because it seems to imply that in some way God compels certain sinners - the elect - to repent and be saved.

Again, we need to acknowledge that St. Augustine had no real intention of entirely eliminating human free consent in the salvation process. As he said in one of his sermons: "He who created you without your cooperation does not justify you without your cooperation. He created you without your knowing it, He does not justify you without your wanting it" Sermon 11, The paradox in Augustine's theory is that our "wanting it" if we are among God's "elect" is somehow solely the result of divine action on our will without violating our freedom.

Augustine's theology lies the principle of "the omnipotence of the divine action which, although no one can be saved who does not wish to be, can transform every person, without violating his freedom, from one who does not wish to be saved into one who does. God always has in reserve a grace which no heart, no matter how hard, resists, since it is given precisely for taking away the hardness of the heart" De praed.

This is the doctrine of "irresistible grace" to use Chadwick's phrase that the Church has hesitated to endorse. One reason for the Church's hesitation here is that "love" as we know it in human personal relationships is not "irresistible": when authentic love is offered, it always respects the real freedom of the beloved not to return that love. A love that irresistibly causes a free response of love, therefore, might be a contradiction in terms. Moreover, the idea of irresistible grace inevitably raises another question. Trape explains:. The most one could say with any confidence is that only very few enter heaven immediately upon their death Mt and therefore vast numbers must have their purification completed in purgatory, by God's great mercy, before they are ready for heaven Catechism , Again, St.

Augustine's view seems to contradict God's merciful love, for God's mercy would be weak and ineffective if the great mass of humanity is eternally lost. Despite the extremes of St. Augustine's teaching in his later years, however, we can still trace within his theology a deep appreciation for the merciful love of God. After all, since he sincerely believed that all human beings apart from divine grace are worthy of eternal damnation even unbaptized infants , and since none of us has any capacity at all on our own to repent of our sins and seek divine aid and forgiveness, the fact that anyone at all repents and is saved can only be the work of God's merciful love, pouring out His saving grace upon those who do not deserve it.

Salvation of the Damned: To a Greater Purpose by Liza Hanoman -

Moreover, while St. Augustine did call the human race a "lump of perdition" "massa damnata" , Fr. Trape points out that he also wrote of the human race as, in essence, a lump of redemption "massa redempta" : "Through this Mediator [Jesus Christ] there is reconciled to God the mass of the entire human race which is alienated from Him through Adam" Sermon , 8. In fact, St. Augustine's sermons are filled with passages that vividly portray for us God's compassionate, healing love for sinners. For example, he takes the parable of the Good Samaritan as an allegory of God's healing, sanctifying love for weak and sinful souls:.

Indeed, throughout St.

Does God Desire the Salvation of the Damned?

Augustine's writings there are passages that show us how the Lord seeks to establish an intimate, personal union with the human soul, so that even the first taste of that intimate union in the soul's depths leads to an insatiable hunger and thirst for more. In his Confessions , St. Augustine offers himself as a paradigm of this mysterious courtship of the human soul by the merciful God:.

He starts out the section entitled "Faith in Christ the Redeemer" by apportioning credit and blame for the human condition: "We must in no way doubt that the only cause of good things that come our way is the goodness of God, while the cause of our evils is the will of changeable good falling away from the unchangeable good, first the will of an angel [Satan], and then the will of a human being [Adam]. Augustine quotes St. Paul in Romans "So it comes not from the one who runs, but from God who shows mercy. Augustine comments:.

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For Augustine, the sending of Christ into the world was a gift of pure, undeserved grace no. In fact, Augustine writes, forgiveness of sins is so readily available in the Church that the only unforgivable sin - the sin against the Holy Spirit - is not to believe that sins are forgiven in the Church see no.

The only unfortunate aspect of St. Augustine's treatment of Divine Mercy in his Enchidrion comes in his discussion of predestination. Saint Paul says in Romans that God's will is to "have mercy on all" Rom , and in his first epistle to Timothy he writes: "His will is for all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" It is hard to see how this scriptural teaching about God's offer of mercy to "all" fits with what St. Augustine writes here:.

The underlying thought here is that God wills to have mercy on some sinners, but not on all of them. Original and actual sin has left all people worthy only of damnation. By His eternal decree, however, and as an act of sheer mercy, God has elected some sinners to be the objects of His mercy, objects of His evidently irresistible saving grace, while others His mercy has simply passed by. They are treated solely as objects of His justice, for he leaves them wallowing in sin and its con- sequences. They have no right to complain, however, because they are only receiving what they deserve.

What has happened here is that St. Augustine has treated God's justice and God's mercy almost as alternatives, almost as if they are two distinct "sides" of God's nature, so to speak.

84 Bible Verses about Salvation

He reaches out to some sinners with His mercy-side, while other sinners encounter only His justice-side. Yet it is not at all clear how God could be said to will the gift of mercy for "all" Rom or will "all to be saved" 1 Tim. Paul clearly taught, if God in fact bestows His mercy only on some, while others are completely passed by.

The damned may indeed only receive in the end what they truly deserve, but how can God be said to desire to have mercy on them if He never gave to them, at some point in their lives, grace sufficient for them to be saved, if only they would have received and cooperated with it?

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