Theology of Election
Religion 310 Paper #2
The Theology of Election
Within the framework of Christianity, God’s role in salvation is undoubtedly one of the biggest conundrums Christians have sought to answer. Historically, theologians have discussed, contemplated and questioned: who is it that God intends to grant salvation? Is salvation intended and offered to all, or does God predetermine those who will receive salvation? Biblical evidence and justification for either side of the argument exists, and on occasion this has resulted in a divided Christian community. As believers struggle to find truth in their interpretation of God’s will, many find themselves taking sides on either ends of the spectrum. This division amongst Christian thought exists primarily due to the seemingly incompatible nature of predestination and free will theologies. If God predetermines those who will be saved, then naturally it can be assumed that humans are incapable of freely acting towards salvation. Similarly if all humans have the ability to act on behalf of our salvation, it can be inferred that predestination is in fact false. However, I would argue that because the Bible supports the theologies of free will and predestination, both theologies must equally be correct despite their apparent inharmoniousness.
In order to better understand free will, we must first familiarize ourselves with Christian theologian and philosopher Saint Augustine. In his early years, Augustine followed Manicheanism, which is the belief in a dualistic world where there are two Gods, one evil and one good. Soon however, this strain of thought didn’t satisfy Augustine, he felt as if it alleviated us from any sort of accountability for the evil we commit. Thus, he looked towards Platonism for answers; yet his struggle for fulfillment was only attained upon his conversion to Christianity. After his conversion, Augustine reformed his former views on evil in which he expressed his thoughts in the book On Free Will. Within the book Augustine argues with his friend Evodius, and explains how evil comes from the free will of humans, contrasting the Manicheanism belief of evil coming from a divine power. Augustine, argues that God is wholly good, however he gives us a free will in which we as humans can decide to sin. He states: “Justice is praised as a good thing because it condemns sins and honors righteous actions. How could that be done if man had not free will?” (Vol. 1 Placher 107)
In regards to Augustine’s argument, naturally, Evodius questioned how Gods foreknowledge fit in with free will. Evodius inferred that if God knows that an individual will sin, then the individual will sin out of necessity rather than free will. To which Augustine responds to this accusation by explaining that God’s foreknowledge of sin is the result of God’s inherit ability to know how we will choose to use our free will as we voluntarily act. In other words, the sins we commit are carried forth by our own will, without regard to God’s foreknowledge of how we will use our free will. Convincingly, Augustine shows that two seemingly mutually exclusive ideas can work together.
While Augustine commented on free will and Gods foreknowledge in his book On Free Will, it wasn’t until his dispute with the British monk Pelagius, that the first doctrine of predestination was developed. Upon reading Augustine’s book Confessions Pelagius found himself in disagreement with the phrase “Give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt.”(Gonzalez 70) To Pelagius, Augustine’s views on grace made it such that it relieved the sinner from any sense of obligation to live justly. Further, Pelagius didn’t like the idea that sinners where unable to actively seek God’s grace. Additionally, Pelagius criticized Augustine’s notion of the inheritance of original sin. Augustine’s response to the criticisms of Pelagius, forced Augustine to expand his notion...
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