Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lecture 5 Study Questions

Comments on Augustine's theology concerning these questions would be appreciated. I've found that most of these lectures are simply not deep enough, nor do they provide much in the way sources references.

Describe the main themes in Augustine's theology of grace.

Augustine’s theology of grace breaks down into four main themes: grace as a remedy for original sin; grace as preparation for and coincidental with good works; grace as a healing response to fallen nature that liberates man from sin; and grace as a mean of assistance toward sanctification.

Grace is needed as a remedy for original sin. While Adam was created good, he willed to disobey God and fell from the state of grace (at which time he lost also many of the preternatural gifts of original justice). This sin was passed from Adam and Eve to all mankind. Grace, particularly infused at baptism, eliminates original sin and restores man to a state of grace.

Grace precedes and accompanies good works. Grace is prevenient in that it prepares the will for good works, and it is also accompanies the good works. So grace prevents man from sinning and assists man in developing habitual grace or virtue.
Grace heals fallen nature and frees the will. Concupiscence acts to lean man’s will toward evil. Grace does the opposite and encourages man to do good. Augustine described both grace and concupiscence as binding. The former bound us to righteousness while the latter bound us to sin. However we can also see grace as a force freeing us from the bonds of sin.

Augustine reflects the Greek Fathers’ understanding of grace also as divinizing force. However, he also repeatedly invokes the image of Christ as a healer and grace as medicinal. While grace infused in baptism removes the guilt of original sin, there’s still a process of healing that must take place to address the wound to our nature.

Grace assists and strengthens the will to persevere toward sanctification. While the Pelagians denied the necessity of grace for sanctification, Augustine insisted that man needs continual assistance. Grace is both prevenient (preventive) and occurrent (immediate or coincidental) so that it precedes the works we do but also accompanies them to bear us up to persist in our efforts.

Describe Augustine's use of analogies as a contribution to Trinitarian theology.

Augustine used analogies, particularly analogies of the human psyche, as a way of explaining the relationality of the three Persons of the Trinity. His starting point or platform from which he starts is Genesis 1:26, in which God says, “Let us make man in our own image.” So Augustine expects, then, to see the Trinitarian reality reflected in some way in man’s psychological make-up.

Augustine starts with the notion of love, which involves the subject who loves, the object of love, and the love itself. In the human person, this trifold relationship comprises the mind, the mind’s knowledge of itself, and the love of itself. These three things are one, and when they are perfect, they are equal—that is, when the mind knows itself and loves itself as it is, then all are equal. And while each has a relationship to the other, the three are distinct but not separate and are the soul itself. Each also permeates the others so that the three distinct ‘substances” extend through out and cannot be seen as distinct in essence. Yet they remain three relationally.

Augustine also suggested other psychological analogies: a thing seen by the imagination, the act of seeing by the imagination, and the willing focus on the thing seen; the memory, the internal internal seeing by the memory, and will; mind, knowledge, and love/desire; memory, understanding, and will.

However, with each model he proposed, he acknowledged how they fell short of describing the Trinity, but the intent was give people some more concrete way in which to understand how there could exist three Persons in one Divine nature.

If anyone would like to comment on these analogies, I’d be grateful for some elaboration. I’ve delved a bit into the first, but the others I haven’t found in the source yet. The course lecture tends toward breadth at the expense of depth.

Describe the three main steps in Augustine's approach to the mystery of the Trinity.

Augustine’s first step in approaching the mystery of the Trinity is to draw some conclusions about the implications of the Three in One. In his examination of the mystery of the Trinity, Augustine starts by examining the various scriptural expressions about God, those pointing both to the distinctiveness within God and those that affirm the Oneness and unity of God as absolute, simple, indivisible, and unchangeable. The unity is identical with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The three are identical with it. However, they are distinct from each other. From this point, Augustine comes to three conclusions. First, all of the absolute perfections of God should be expressed in the singular. Although, Father, Son, and Spirit are each good, there are not three separate goods, but one; not three separate wisdoms, but one; not three distinct omnipotences, but one. Second, the three act in concert, inseparably, in common. There is one Divine will, so the three all act in accord with it. Third, we can attribute to one Divine Person what belongs to all three Persons together.

The second step in Augustine’s approach is to respect the true distinctiveness of each Person of the Trinity, despite the essential unity. Augustine built upon the ideas of the Cappadocian Fathers concerning the relationality of the three Persons, noting that each Person is related to the Person (or Persons) from whom He originates. Father is distinct from Son and Son from Father. The relationship is mutually opposing, and each cannot be the other. The Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father and the Son. Augustine didn’t like using the term Person because it connoted independence of substance. However, because of the inadequacies of language, we have the limitations we do. The Greek Fathers used the term hypostasis or prosopon to refer to the same idea. Human vocabulary will always fall short of capturing the truth about God and the Trinity.

The third step in St. Augustine’s approach concerns the procession of the Holy Spirit. The original Nicene-Constantinople Creed notes that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. The Doctor of Grace came to the conclusion that Father and Son are one principle or source with respect to the Holy Spirit. The Greek Fathers (at least some) accepted the notion that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. Saint Augustine notes that whatever the Son has of the Father, He should certainly have that the Holy Spirit should also proceed from Him.

Describe how Pelagius and Augustine differ as to their understanding of grace.

Augustine held the traditional view that by Adam, death entered the world but that Adam was immortal otherwise immortal prior to sinning. Pelagians held that Adam would have died even if he hadn’t sinned.

Augustine held that Adam’s sin caused a wound to his nature that was subsequently passed down by heredity to all mankind. Pelagians denied that this was the case and believed that Adam’s sin harmed only himself in any substantive way and that his impact on mankind was merely through his sinful example, which individuals emulate.
Augustine uses the tradition of infant baptism as support to the position that original sin is passed down from parents to their children and that mankind inherits the wound caused by Adam’s fall. While Pelagians accepted the necessity of baptism for salvation, they held that newborns were in the same state of original innocence as Adam.

Augustine held that mankind inherited death through Adam’s disobedience but will rise again because of Christ’s resurrection. Pelagians denied that mankind experiences death because of Adam’s sin and contraction of death. They also denied that mankind rises again because of Christ’s resurrection.

Pelagians held that the law (Mosaic Law) is as effective a path to salvation as the Gospel of Christ. Augustine indicates that this position empties the gospel of its meaning and makes it such that Christ died in vain.

Pelagians held that even before the Gospel, there were men who lived righteous lives without sin. Augustine does not deny this, but he notes that they are still righteous because of grace, not despite it. He also points out that we don’t know that these men were without sin but that scripture simply doesn’t dwell on those details.
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