Augustine – Promise and Predestination

In his work The Predestination of the Saints, Augustine argues that God brings about the very faith and good works that lead to man’s salvation. In the course of the argument, he brings up the promise God made to Abraham. The very nature of a promise, Augustine asserts, is that it must be accomplished by the one who made it. What God promises, he must himself fulfill. Since God promised “the faith of the nations” to Abraham, faith must come ultimately from God, not man:

God therefore promised to Abraham in his offspring the faith of the nations when he said, I have made you the father of many nations (Gn 17:4-5). Because of this the Apostle says, Therefore, on the basis of faith in order that the promise according to grace may be firm for every descendant (Rom 4:16). God made this promise not on the basis of the power of our will but on the basis of his predestination. For he promised what he himself was going to do, not what human beings were going to do. For, though human beings do good actions which pertain to worshiping God, he himself brings it about that they do what he commands; they do not bring it about that he does what he promised. Otherwise, it would lie not in God’s power but in the power of human beings that God’s promises are kept, and human beings themselbes would give to Abraham what God promised.

But Abraham did not believe in that way; rather, giving glory to God, he believed that he is also able to do what he promised (Rom 4:20-21). He does not say, To foretell; he does not say, To foreknow. For he can also foretell and foreknow what others do. Rather, he says, He is also able to do—and, for this reason, to do, not what others do, but what he himself does. (praed. sanct. 10.19, trans. Roland Teske)

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Published in: on February 7, 2012 at 5:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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