Saturday, January 22, 2005

Augustine and Justification - Part I

The following two posts are excerpts from my M.A. thesis, Augustine and the Justification Debate: Was the Reformation a Step Too Far in the Right Direction? In my mind, the justification question hinges upon the doctrine of culpability. What is it that invokes the wrath of God against sin - volition or essence or both? And if essential corruption in some way serves as the basis of culpability, then shouldn't our doctrine of justification address this issue as a matter of justice? For Augustine, justification includes essential change in a way that is lost by Calvin and later Reformed theology. For Augustine, justification is regeneration.

"Though Augustine does not attempt to systematically arrive at doctrine of culpability, delineating between original sin as an act versus original sin as a condition, his frequent comments about the guilt of original sin demonstrate that he views culpability as primarily an essential/ontological affair. He writes, “God therefore condemns man because of the fault wherewithal his nature is disgraced…” and again, “The fault of our nature remains in our offspring so deeply impressed as to make it guilty…” and again “The guilt, therefore, of that corruption of which we are speaking…”

Ultimately then, for Augustine, it is primarily original sin as a condition of essential corruption (rather than simply an act) that invokes the wrath of God. Though it is true for Augustine that the corruption of original sin itself was, in the first place, a form of punishment meted out in response to Adam’s sin, Augustine saw it as locking mankind in bondage to the divine displeasure.

Augustine’s doctrine of culpability greatly influences his understanding of justification. Augustine frequently uses the terms “born again” and “regeneration” as synonymous with justification. “For what else does the phrase ‘being justified’ signify than ‘being made righteous’ – by Him of course, who justifies the ungodly man, that he may become a godly one instead?” Essential justification becomes for Augustine the solution to the essential culpability of original sin. Just as man sins himself into a depraved essence, and is thus condemned, he is justified through faith in Christ into a righteous essence, and thus inherits eternal life. For Augustine, justification involves an inward change in the constitution of the sinner, precisely because culpability is grounded the sinner’s essence. Justification must do more than forgive and provide correct legal standing before God in relation to the Law."

1 comment:

David Nebraska said...

amen brother!!!