Tuesday, October 11, 2005

It is Finished!

Well after much travail the thesis has been accepted. The good news is that the continuation fee is only $302 instead of the anticipated $585. There was a bit more drama there at the end but lately I've been thinking that I complain too much--I'm moving on.

Below is a link to my the thesis, entitled Augustine and the Justification Debates: Did Calvin Step Too Far in the Right Direction? I don’t really anticipate many (if any) of you actually downloading it, but after all this work, well… It just feels right to stick it here on my blog.

Potential readers would include those interested in the ongoing justification debates (though it only briefly touches on the New Perspective), Reformed theology, Augustinian sotieriology, Free Grace theology, and those concerned with the current state of Christian piety. Below is the abstract. Due to formatting issues, it must be downloaded in three parts: The title page and table of contents, the thesis body, and the bibliography. It is 190 pages, and, if nothing else, would perhaps make some good bathroom reading (Dave H).

For evangelical Protestants, the Reformation stands unparalleled in church history as the vital point of renewal for evangelical piety. For many, the great triumph of the Reformation is bound up in its recapturing of Augustine’s understanding of grace, an understanding that had been significantly diminished by the 1500’s. And yet though Augustine’s doctrine of grace provided the theological foundation for much of the Reformation, the appropriation of Augustine by the reformers was not total, neither in substance nor semantics. Most notable among these differences was the definition given by the reformers to the doctrine of justification. Unlike Augustine, who saw justification as bound up in regeneration, the reformers (Calvin in particular) equated justification with acquittal.

The following thesis examines Augustine’s doctrine of justification in light of Reformed theology and the eventual rise of Free Grace sotieriology (the view that perseverance in the faith is not necessary for final salvation), arguing that the Reformed movement away from Augustine regarding the doctrine of justification has been the key contributor to the predominance of antinomianism in contemporary evangelicalism. To this end, Augustine’s wider sotieriological paradigm, particularly his concepts of original sin, culpability, and merit will be examined, and compared with, that of Reformed sotieriology. It will be demonstrated that for Augustine, justification is the singular act of God whereby he graciously, and apart from merit, transforms the inner man through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, initiating a process that eventually culminates in the total renewal of both the spiritual and natural man. Further, it is through the grace given in justification (as well as perseverance) that man is not only made capable of performing, but actually wills to performs, good deeds fit for meriting the reward of eternal life.

The second half of the thesis will attempt to briefly summarize Calvin’s understanding of justification, as well as trace the roots of Free Grace sotieriology from Calvin to Charles Ryrie, a contemporary Free Grace theologian. Ultimately it will be argued that the unintended antinomianism of Free Grace sotieriology is grounded in, and born out of, the Reformed doctrine of justification. The main body of the thesis will close with a preliminary attempt to appropriate Augustine’s doctrine of justification for contemporary evangelicalism, arguing that it provides a more systematic and biblical sotieriology than that of Reformed thought. Could it be that Calvin, in counteracting the abuses of a semi-Pelagian Roman church, developed a sotieriological paradigm that went farther beyond Augustine than was necessary, ignoring crucial elements of his doctrine of culpability (and thus his doctrine of justification), and leading eventually to today’s current state of faltering evangelical piety? Perhaps Calvin took a step too far in the right direction.

Those of you who read my PhD proposal will notice the similarities. I hope to do a dissertation that builds off of this thesis and gives more attention to Reformed sotieriology and the progression from it to Free Grace theology. Basically, this really is two theses, one about Augustine’s sotieriology, and one about the source of Free Grace theology. I perhaps tried to cover too much ground and feel like I rushed the second section. But at 190 pages, I was starting to feel like I was writing a dissertation for the price of a thesis. Lord willing, the future will allow time to fill out the holes, as well as provide a more thorough biblical and theological defense of Augustine than I was able to do here.

For those looking for the basic gist but don’t want to read the whole thing, try Chapters 1-2, 5-7, and Appendix B.


the forester said...

Hurrah! I'm excited to be the first to congratulate you here. What a long and ugly road it was to get to this point. Good job on sticking through to the end and seeing success.

I guess this means I should rescind my blackmail threat against your reviewer ...

Ha ha, just kidding. You did it on your own, Gerald. Great work! It must be nice to know that few people in the world are currently as well-versed in the nuances of Microsoft Word formatting as your reviewer and yourself.

Jimmy said...

Hooray for completed theses!

Scottie P said...

Congrats. Of course we all know this is another step in the right direction to becoming "Dr. Gerry".

David Nebraska said...

Thanks Gerald. I was running out of "good" bathroom reads. Hope you have "bathroom length" breaks in the text. :-)

No, really, congratulations. It's nice to see your finally done with this stepping stone in your life. Praise God.

At least now we won't have to call in the Goombas.

David Nebraska said...

Although, isn't there suppossed to be a period after the A In M.A. on the title page? Just kidding. :-)

The Cubicle Reverend said...

I think he's lying, it ain't really done. they denied it again didn't they? it's ok to admit it. What for this time, wrong font size?

Gerald said...

Dear Gentlemen (and MS),

Thanks for all of your support--I could have done it without you but it wouldn't have been nearly as fun. I feel somehow strangely bonded to you all now.

Perahps I can interest you in sticking around for my second MA in New Testament (starting next semester, Lord willing--sorry Scottie, you'll have to wait a bit for Dr. Gerry). The second thesis should prove just as entertaining. But I'm punch-wise now and sense a Rocky II ending this time.

the forester said...

I just tried emailing you at your new address (gjhiestand@sbcbglobal.net, which I copied and pasted from the email you sent), but it came back with this error:

This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification
Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:
Technical details of permanent failure:
PERM_FAILURE: DNS Error: Domain name not found

Anyway, here's the RSS feed to my blog -- I had to do some research, and hope it's as easy as this:


I'm guessing you might be able to navigate to that URL, then bookmark it or add it in some way to your blogroll. (I don't use RSS myself ... so does this make sense?)

Hope that helps. Thanks for reading!!!

- Mike