Augustine’s conversion from traditional free choice to “non-free free will”: a comprehensive methodology

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Thesis

Augustine’s conversion from traditional free choice to “non-free free will”: a comprehensive methodology

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Abstract:

This thesis will explore whether Augustine of Hippo altered his theological views and what influences might have precipitated the alleged modifications. Augustine’s early “De libero arbitrio” argued for an individual’s ability to respond freely to God while his later anti-Pelagian writings rejected any human ability to believe until God infuses grace creating belief as his gift. Does his theology exhibit continuity or discontinuity?

Four commonplace assertions within Augustinian studies are questioned in this thesis:

  • 1.) Augustine changed his theology in AD 396,
  • 2.) while he was writing the letter to Bishop Simplicianus (Simpl.),
  • 3.) with his transition occurring through reading scripture (Rom.7, 9;1 Cor.15),
  • 4.) which he developed through merely modifying prevalent doctrines.

No scholarly work has researched Augustine’s entire corpus from AD 386–430 specifically analyzing his theology in the five final doctrines of: 1.) God giving initial faith as a gift, 2.) inherited damnable reatus from Adam, 3.) the gift of perseverance, 4.) unilateral pre-determination of persons’s eternal destinies independently of foreknowledge, and 5.) God’s neither desiring nor providing for the salvation of all persons. Only a comprehensive methodological approach—reading systematically, chronologically, and comprehensively through his entire corpus—can legitimately demonstrate changes.

Did a Patristic consensus exist regarding post-Adamic free choice? What was Augustine’s contribution to this theology? To what degree did the combination of Stoicism, Neoplatonism, and Manichaeism contribute to his liberum arbitrium captivatum?

Chapters include an introduction followed by chapters on free choice versus determinism in the: 1.) ancient philosophical-religious world, 2.) Christian authors AD 95–215, 3.) Christian authors AD 216–430, 4.) Augustine’s works AD 386–395, 5.) Augustine’s works AD 396–411, 6.) Augustine’s works AD 412–426, 7.) Augustine’s works AD 427–430, 8.) sermons and epistles, 9.) Augustine’s exegesis of scripture, and 10.) conclusion. Conclusions will be established via extensive primary quotations and references with supporting secondary sources.

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