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St. Augustine and Free Will

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St. Augustine and Free Will

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  • April 2009
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By Christine Murray
©Catholic Online 2004
People have always to determine the role of the free will in life indeed, whether they have one at all. As we approach the Catholic feast day of St. Augustine on Aug. 28, it is good to examine his writings on the subject, especially in Free Choice of the Will. He assumes the will is free and seeks to determine how we choose good or evil. This continues to be “debated” in our age and has great implications on one’s perspective on life. The Catholic faith helps us understand how free will works. Sadly, many in society do not. How one answers the question of free will often helps determine whether one believes life has any ultimate “meaning” at all. Augustine’s approach to the “free choice of the will” assumes that “there can be no denying that we have a will.” Instead, Augustine defines “good will” as “a will by which we seek to live a good and upright life and to attain unto perfect wisdom” which, of course, assumes that it is free. This is worth meditating on while considering the literal Latin translation of the first two are not meant for “stuff,” but rather for God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church echoes this, saying, “Endowed with a spiritual soul, with intellect and with free will, the human person is from his very conception ordered to God and destined for eternal beatitude.” (1711). In fact, a free will that does not seek God clings to material things, which are so easily lost in everything from hurricanes to death. Those who choose evil are ruled by their passion and desire for things of this world. This is futile because they only have, as Augustine says, “the love of things which each one can lose against his will.” It is ironic, isn’t it? One who chooses to do good ultimately gains everything because there is no fear of losing “things” due to lack of attachment to them. Those who becomes perfect could lose every material thing and still gain all precisely because they are trying to attain the...

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