Part I: Historical Survey
to the Reformation
be a rare thing indeed for a man as prolific with his pen as
Augustine was to live a long and eventful life without
ever modifying his theology. Inasmuch as he had written down
his thoughts in both the earlier and later stages of development,
it was inevitable that there should be some divergence of opinion
in what he wrote. The intensity of his experience was reflected
in the depth of his conviction at each stage of his spiritual
progression, so that he warned at one time to recognize nothing
but the crucial importance of the Church as an institution for
the mediation of God's grace to man and for the preservation
of truth. Later, the same intensity underlies all that he writes
about the appalling depravity of human nature. Augustine was
a man of deep feeling.
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It thus came about that two diametrically
opposed streams of theology stemmed from one man's thoughts:
the Roman Catholic and the Reformed theologians both drawing
the inspiration for their particular theologies very largely
from the writings of this one profound Christian scholar and
philosopher: the Roman Catholics from his earlier writings, the
Reformers from his later ones. In the confrontation which finally
occurred between Luther and the Roman Catholic Church and which
came to a head in the Council of Trent (15451563), both
parties appealed for their authority to the same great "Father"
of the Church, Augustine.
Augustine had owed his conversion
to the church in Rome and as a consequence, not unnaturally,
came very early to believe that the Church of Rome was the sole
vehicle of God's grace. But as his Christian understanding matured,
his interest was turned from the vehicle of God's grace to the
object of it and he became increasingly convinced that spiritually
man was utterly impotent. In his own struggle to rise above the
rebellious nature that was part and parcel of his greatness as
an original thinker, Augustine discovered the total depravity
of his own heart, and his writing was occupied increasingly with
the exploration of this fact. Thus his earlier writings placed
more emphasis upon the Church as God's vehicle of blessing and
his later ones upon sinful man as the object of God's grace.
These two emphases
were later to lead on
the one hand to the claim of the Church of Rome that it is the
sole vehicle of man's salvation on earth, and on the other hand
to the commitment by the Reformers to the position that man is
totally depraved. The first led to the arrogant claims of exclusiveness
as God's agent of salvation which were to characterize the Roman
Catholic Church, and the second led to the tremendous emphasis
upon the sovereignty of God which was to characterize the great
Confessions of the Reformers.
But it was to be centuries before
this confrontation would come to such a head as to split Christendom
into two opposing camps on a scale which was to become worldwide.
Meanwhile from Augustine to the Reformation one has the impression
that true faith was virtually eclipsed, and that centuries of
almost complete spiritual darkness intervened. Here and there
a few kept the faith in almost total isolation but no substantial
body of believers existed in Europe with sufficient status to
seriously challenge the Church of Rome. At least this is the
impression one is apt to gain. Of course, it was not entirely
so. It was rather that giants stood at each end of this bleak
corridor of time who shone so brightly that they seemed by their
very brilliance to darken the road between, even as a searchlight
casts deeper shadows by its power to concentrate its beam. William
Cunningham in his Historical Theology remarked in this
The substance of the matter
is this: the apostolic fathers [prior to Augustine] generally
use the language of Scripture upon these subjects, but they scarcely
make any statements which afford us materials for deciding in
what precise sense they understood them. They leave the matter
very much where Scripture leaves it, and where, but for the rise
of errors needing to be contradicted and opposed, it might still
have been left. He who sees Augustinian or Calvinistic doctrines
clearly and explicitly taught in the Bible, will have no difficulty
in seeing also plain traces of them at least in the works of
the apostolic fathers; and he who can pervert the statements
of Scripture into an anti-Calvinistic sense, may, by the same
process, and with equal ease, distort the apostolic fathers.
said with keen insight, apropos of the conflict which was to
come at the time of the Reformation: (2)
Calvinists and anti-Calvinists
have both appealed to the early Church in support of their respective
opinions, although we believe it cannot be made out that the
fathers of the first three centuries gave any very distinct deliverance
concerning them. The important topics did not become subjects
of controversial discussion during that period; and it holds
almost universally in the history of the Church. that until a
doctrine has been fully discussed in a controversial way by men
of talent and learning taking opposite sides, men's opinions
regarding it are generally obscure and indefinite, and their
language vague and confused, if not contradictory.
1.Cunningham, William, Historical Theology,
London, Banner of Truth Trust, 1969 reprint , vol.1, p.180.
2. Ibid., p.179.
These long years of apparent barrenness were not without
their flashes of light and many great figures emerged to keep
alive a testimony to the truth. What was lacking was not persecution
but open controversy between contestants who had power enough
to force their opponent to meet them on a more or less equal
footing. The persecuted "minorities" of these intervening
centuries were not silent or ineffective, but they were never
in a position to force the issues into the open as Luther did,
and Calvin, and the Reformers generally.
It was this
open confrontation along a wide front with the backing of powerful
men with strong convictions, and wealth and independence, that
seems to have made the difference. For it allowed the contestants
to hone their terminology and crystallize the issues in an entirely
new way, and it gave men "handles" with which to wield
the weapons of truth they had now seized so firmly and begun
to use with such effectiveness. As a consequence, the Council
of Trent was virtually forced upon the Roman Catholic Church
and it marked the end of the reformation of that
Church for several centuries, even as it marked the beginning
of the revolution among Protestants.
And so the lines of divergence
between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism really have their
roots in this one man, Augustine, * although the process of divergence
was not to be made manifest fully until the convergence of two
circumstances which were largely responsible for the Reformation.
The first was an almost total breakdown of Christian morality
in the Roman Catholic Church, and the second was the appearance
of a new spirit of free inquiry and independence in every area
of human endeavour, including the exploration of the true meaning
of the Gospel.
Pelagius had come
to Rome at a crucial moment, for there stood to oppose him one
man, Augustine, who could best profit by the challenge to the
true Gospel which was presented by his humanism. There thus were
opposed what are really the only two wholly consistent positions
with respect to man's salvation. Either man is his own saviour,
or God is his saviour. There is really no middle ground that
is logically defensible. If man plays any crucial part whatever,
he must in the end have the final say. If this is the case, every
man in heaven will have reason to boast, since it will have been
by his own will that he has gained admission. But it was pride
that caused Satan's fall (Isaaih 14:12, 13) and Satan who caused
man's; so pride is probably at the root of all man's sin. And
a heavenly community assembled on
* It was Pope Gregory the Great (540604)
who took certain aspects of Augustine's theology and made them
explicit as a foundation for the exclusiveness of the Church
of Rome. Augustine's theology thus became the religion of the
Middle Ages and underwent but little further development. (See
"Gregory I", in The New Schaff-Herzog
Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, edited by S. M. Jackson,
Grand Rapids, Baker, 1969).
such a basis as to justify
pride could scarcely be a heaven. The issue is clear. The salvation
of man must be all of God, or heaven is worthless and we have
hope only in this world a bleak prospect indeed!
It might be thought that there
could be many alternatives, each tending more or less to one
or the other extreme and all of them offering equally reasonable
paths to salvation. But logical analysis shows that these alternatives
do not form a succession of options approaching more and more
nearly to the truth until they effectively merge in a continuous
series from salvation achieved by man alone to salvation achieved
by God alone. They do not have this character at all. Every alternative
which attributes to man any part whatever in securing his own
salvation ultimately falls within a single category which must
be titled under the general heading, "Man is his own saviour."
And the other alternative, that which makes God the sole and
absolute saviour of man's soul, stands entirely by itself as
the only representative of the other category. There are but
Inevitably, when man plays any
role whatever he plays the crucial role, for fulfillment ultimately
hinges entirely upon himself. There can never be an equal partnership,
for in such a co-operative process man, and not God, must always
have the last say. Man either does or does not perform his part:
if he does, he is saved; if he does not, he is lost. That is
the end of the matter. The part which God plays is secondary
in this scheme of things.
The truth is that every theological
system that allots to man some responsibility in the saving of
his own soul inevitably ends up by making man his own saviour.
And hereby we see an illustration of the principle that error
can assume a thousand forms but the truth has only one, even
as a line can be crooked in a million ways but straight in only
one. So salvation as a co-operative exercise can be presented
in many different forms, but there is only one way that is the
true way and it is not co-operative at all.
Now, it would be natural, were
there various degrees of self-help genuinely open to man, to
conclude that some men stand a better chance of helping themselves
than do others. And were this true, there would be every reason
to suppose that God, whose foresight is perfect, would take note
of such differences in potential and would elect to salvation
those whom He knows would be most likely to respond to his offer
of help if that kind of help is really the true nature
of saving grace. But saving grace is not an offer of help. Saving
grace is unmerited favour favour because not rewarded,
and unmerited because it is not contingent in any way on foreseen
While it is clear, accordingly,
from many intimations in Scripture that Election to Salvation
is not based on foreseen worthiness or any kind of merit resident
in the individual but is based solely on God's good pleasure,
it is also clear that there is another kind of election which
is not to salvation but to the performance of specific tasks
which require special gifts, special
endowments. And such
endowments are themselves the result of God's providential oversight
of the distribution of genetic materials, and the ordering of
circumstance. And both of these factors, being of his arranging,
are assuredly foreknown to Him who thus obtains them. Such a
form of election to service clearly applies to the saved and
unsaved alike. Thus we have Judas among the elect (John 6:70,
71), but clearly not to salvation; and certain angels (1 Timothy
5:21) who also were not elected to salvation for we know that
they never fell. In both instances election must be to a role
to be played in the working out of God's purposes. Moreover,
the Lord Jesus Himself was elect (1 Peter 2:6), but certainly
not to salvation.
But the Election which is unto
salvation and is related to the destiny of fallen man is a biblical
principle which has been admitted by the great theologians of
the Roman Catholics and Protestants alike. In the latter case
it is admitted equally by the Calvinist and Arminian branches
of the Protestant community. But the problem is, On what is this
Election based? On divine foreknowledge of the response of the
It does not seem that the Bible
as a whole supports any such view. Only one passage of Scripture
can be appealed to in this regard Romans 8:29: "For
whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed
to the image of his Son." But a closer examination of this
passage indicates that the word rendered "foreknow"
in this instance does not have the simple meaning of foreknowing
that we commonly ascribe to it in English [See further on this
in Chapter 7].
The problem is that an Election
to Salvation based on nothing that can be to the credit of the
individual seems wholly arbitrary and the non-elect appear to
be appointed to reprobation by a process that is equally arbitrary
and therefore inherently unjust. For if God has predestinated
some to be saved for no apparent reason, has He not automatically
condemned the rest to be lost for no apparent reason? But the
proposition is a non sequitur. If all men are sinners
to begin with (an assumption few will dispute), then all men
are already under judgment. Men are not placed under judgment
simply because they are not elected to salvation. Predestination
to judgment is conditioned by the fact that the wages of sin
is death (Romans 6:23) and all have sinned (Romans 3:23). We
live in a universe that is governed not only by natural law but
by spiritual law also. These spiritual laws are as absolute in
their operation, barring miracle, as the material laws are
barring miracle. The stone is destined to fall to the earth if
it is not held up; the soul that sins is destined to judgment
if it is not redeemed.
Election to Salvation is a reflection
of the will of the Creator who determined to perform a miracle
in order to reverse the spiritual law which operates everywhere
in the universe. But the performance of the miracle of redemption
is not the cause of the fate of the unredeemed. It is
a sovereign act which God has every right to perform when and
where He will. He does
not need to act to bring
the rest to judgment they are already under condemnation
by their own choice.
But it has never
appealed to the natural man to be warned that he is under judgment
and cannot redeem himself, nor improve his standing in the sight
of God by his own good behaviour. Pelagius was realistic enough
to admit that the improvement of human nature was not likely,
but he did see it as possible, as a goal to strive for, by education,
cultural conditioning, and good breeding. The virtue of Jesus
Christ, as he saw it, was not in some penal aspect of his sacrifice
but in the example He set by it and in the principles of living
which were part and parcel of his teaching. To teach men that
no amount of effort on their part would avail to improve their
standing was, he felt, a counsel of despair. Unlike Luther he
did not view such despair as being "near to grace."
Besides, such a proposition clearly undermined any incentive
to holiness even in the Christian. Man cannot be blamed for failure
if his constitution is such that failure is inevitable. Why then
should he strive to be good? And Pelagius had many followers.
As we have seen, not a few of the Church Fathers were already
teaching that man must do his best to merit the grace of God.
Pelagius regarded it as a fatal
mistake to suppose that the nature of man could be so corrupt
that his will is powerless to obey God's commands. For it seemed
to him essential to the very notion of morality that in all sin
there is a personal assent, and that without this assent there
could be no guilt. He was therefore driven to conclude that in
a newborn child there could not possibly be either guilt or sin,
since there is no power of assent. What makes the innocent child
to become guilty is actual sin, inspired by example. (3) If such a child could
be brought up to follow the supreme moral example of Christ,
he could inherit eternal life. And Pelagius was convinced that
such a thing would happen if the circumstances were favourable
enough. We should therefore seek to create those favourable circumstances.
Granted that there is no root of
corruption inherited from Adam, the newborn child could be viewed
indeed as a clean sheet, with all the potential of maintaining
that purity provided that the circumstances are such as to eliminate
bad example. If, on the other hand, the newborn begins life already
corrupted by sinful nature, the situation is very different.
The heart of the problem was then, as it is now, to know precisely
what it is that has been inherited. Is it some sort of disease
that inevitably and fatally corrupts the spirit in due course,
or is it a spiritual corruption to which is added imputed guilt?
And can infant baptism wash away either the corruption, or the
Pelagius was convinced that the
spirit of the child is uncorrupted to begin
3. Henry Chadwick, The Early Church,
Harmondsworth (England), Penguin Books, 1967, p.228.
with, and even after
committing actual sins and thereby becoming guilty the individual
still retains some of the goodness with which God had endowed
man in Eden. When Pelagius spoke of grace this is what
he meant, this remnant capacity for goodness.
(4) His use of this term, to which he
applied his own personal meaning, at first confused his contemporaries
who assumed his orthodoxy. They apparently supposed he meant
by grace what they meant, but gradually it became clear that
he was far from orthodox.
In time, due to Augustine's relentless
pursuit, Pelagius was declared a heretic and his Christianized
humanism was temporarily nipped in the bud. Though his followers
in England (whence he had originally come) carried on his teaching,
Pelagius himself seems to have withdrawn from the fray and disappeared
from history, probably dying in Egypt.
Almost immediately after Augustine's
death in 430 A.D., a reaction set in against his teaching regarding
the spiritual depravity of man. If grace alone makes man acceptable
in the sight of God, the call to a life of holiness by way of
preparation to receive this grace has little practical importance.
If Augustine was correct and man has no power to prepare himself,
he therefore has no responsibility for doing so either. This
seemed a clear invitation to spiritual indifference if not outright
One of Augustine's
contemporaries was a man named John Cassian, an introvert with
a great love for the contemplative life of the monastery and
a yearning for holiness and purity. He was probably of Scythian
stock, coming from somewhere near the Black Sea and uprooted
by the turmoil of the period that witnessed the sack of Rome
by Alaric in 410 A.D.
Settling in southern France near
Marseilles, he established a monastery. Many people in those
turbulent days were attracted to the life of retreat. Here, convinced
in his own soul of the fundamental truth of Augustine's assessment
of human nature, and having supported him in his attacks against
Pelagius, Cassian now devoted himself to the working out of Augustine's
theology as a way of life. But as he observed the effects of
the doctrine of free grace upon those who joined his community,
he came to the conclusion that Augustine had gone too far.
Men (and women) came to him, desiring
to live a life of holiness that they might make themselves worthy
recipients of the grace of God and receive the free gift of his
salvation. Cassian found it necessary to encourage them to persevere
when the flesh and the world proved too much for them. But he
soon faced a dilemma if such a striving after holiness
contributed nothing towards ensuring the grace of God unto salvation,
then on what basis could he persuade them to continue the struggle?
If Augustine was right, the incentive towards godliness was undermined.
If such preparation of the soul
4. Ibid., p.230.
was not at all necessary,
then would not God extend his salvation equally to those who
took advantage of their freedom and lived immoral lives and to
those who struggled earnestly to prepare themselves?
Cassian did not at first suppose
that good behaviour formed the basis of man's salvation, but
reason suggested to him that it must surely predispose God to
look with favour upon the earnest endeavour of the suppliant
and, though it was still an act of pure grace, to be more ready
in granting salvation to the prepared soul. But Augustine had
insisted that the grace of God preceded any such personal fitness.
Man was not called upon to seek to be holy in order that he might
be the recipient of grace; he became the recipient of grace in
order that he might be holy.
Cassian's theology was, of course,
not the theology of revelation but of common sense. The kind
of preparatory holiness which he was promoting came to be known
as precedent grace, and in a very real sense it was a
reflection of the natural grace which Pelagius believed remained
to man even in his fallen state. In Cassian's view it did not
contribute directly to the salvation of the suppliant but it
predisposed God to look upon him with more favour. Cassian did
not suppose that man could ever achieve that measure of holiness
which would merit eternal life but he did believe that man contributed
something by proving himself worthy of God's favour and grace.
And he was convinced that unless this was true, the whole concept
of monastic life and man's endeavour to seek after holiness would
be without purpose. He was not Pelagian in his theology, but
in a sense he became the founder of semi-Pelagianism.
He was by nature strongly drawn to cloistered life at a time
when cloistered life had a tremendous appeal to those who saw
the impending collapse of Western civilization. And he saw this
kind of life in jeopardy. As a result he made his fears widely
known, even though he still considered himself a true disciple
of Augustine in every respect.
One individual who learned of these
new doubts about Augustinianism was a man named Prosper Tyro
of Aquitaine (c. 390463), about whom comparatively little
is known save that he had been an ardent disciple of Augustine
though he had never actually met him face to face. Prosper attempted
to answer Cassian's criticisms but without apparent success.
Accordingly, he wrote to Augustine and asked him to intervene.
As a consequence Augustine wrote two treatises: the first was
entitled On the Predestination of the Saints, and the
second On the Gift of Perseverance. In the first, Augustine
re-affirmed that Predestination is in no way based upon foreseen
merit in the elect. All a man's strivings in his own strength
to achieve holiness of life apart from the indwelling presence
of the Holy Spirit are in vain, and Augustine explained why this
is so. In the second treatise Augustine showed that the Perseverance
of the Saints, by which he meant (in modern terminology) the
eternal security of the believer, is not dependent upon the good
works of the individual believer which would
result from his conversion,
but entirely upon the constancy and unchangeableness of God's
elective choice. Both these replies clearly downgraded the importance
of good works or holiness of life in so far as these were regarded
as contributing to a man's salvation. Good works were not relevant
to salvation. They were, however, relevant to man's fellowship
with God and his enjoyment of his Christian life. The reason
for "being good" was not to the end of being saved
but to the end of living a holy life pleasing to the heavenly
Father. These two treatises were sent to Prosper and a co-worker
named Hilary, and although neither appears to have made any great
contribution of their own, Prosper himself did become a leading
representative of Augustinian theology after Augustine's death.
Yet he departed from one facet of his master's teaching, which
others have also found difficult: namely, that Christ died only
for the elect. This doctrine was to be termed Limited Atonement
by the Reformers who, like Augustine and Calvin, saw it not merely
as a view logically consistent in the light of the Sovereignty
of Grace but as the plain teaching of the New Testament.
Gradually Augustinian theology
was emasculated by Roman Catholic theologians as a whole, who
retained only his emphasis upon the Church of Rome as the sole
vehicle of God's dealings with man and the sole channel of salvation.
Through the succeeding centuries, semi-Pelagianism became the
basic theology of Catholicism; less and less attention was paid
to the spiritual impotence of fallen man while more and more
was paid to the remnant grace and inherent goodness of man's
religious impulses. Man could not be saved apart from the sacrifice
of Jesus Christ but that sacrifice alone was not sufficient in
itself. It was necessary that man not only accept the Lord's
sacrifice but that he strive sincerely after holiness in order
to balance the debit account of his own sinful ways. Neither
man alone nor Christ alone could save him. Human grace and divine
grace must be wedded. Penitence and penance made up for what
was lacking in human grace, and God for Christ's sake would then
forgive what remained of offense after man had done his best.
Baptism, as a rite with magic that worked whether performed by
believer or unbeliever, restored the capacity of a person for
salvation; good works and faith in Christ's redemption did the
Here and there
individuals appeared on the scene who recaptured something of
the theology of Augustine in its wholeness, but some of these
over-emphasized one aspect of this theology and some another,
and the wholeness was distorted into a new error. One of these
was Gottschalk of Orbais (c. 805869), who argued that if
God had predestinated some men to salvation, He must necessarily
have predestinated the remainder to reprobation. "There
is a twofold predestination," he said, "of the elect
to blessedness, and of the reprobate to death." Augustine
had come to this conclusion also, as Calvin was later to do.
But like Calvin, Gottschalk was not altogether convinced
that this was a logical corollary. It is not essential that the
non-elect be driven to reprobation. They may merely be allowed
to have their own way, being passed by and permitted to remain
in the way they had freely chosen for themselves. But Gottschalk
was so insistent that he came very near to making God the author
This unhappy man whose life was
so plagued by misfortune and injustice that he was attracted
by the works of Augustine, who had also experienced much misery
in life, had been placed as a child in a Franciscan monastery
at Orbais against his will. Subsequently in 829 at the age of
twenty-four he was officially released from his vows on the ground
that he had been coerced as a minor. Unfortunately his abbot,
Rabanus Maurus, refused to let him go, arguing that all such
vows were irrevocable. As a means of escape from his wretched
predicament, Gottschalk immersed himself in the study of the
works of Augustine.
Looking deeply into his own soul
he saw in himself what Augustine had seen. And he came to realize
that both he and the Church were carrying semi-Pelagian hearts
under a cloak of pretended Augustinian orthodoxy. But the issue
which really captured his imagination above all was the fact
of Election, and in due time he became trapped in the logic of
Double Predestination. Whether he wholly believed it or was merely
writing in the hope of resolving the problem for himself, is
uncertain. At any rate his superiors assumed that this was his
opinion and that he was in fact guilty of making God the author
of sin. Neither he nor his superiors considered the alternative
possibility that God did not need to predestinate men
to be lost in the sense that He predestinated the elect to be
saved. He had only to leave the non-elect to suffer the consequences
of their own free choice.
What was very clear to Gottschalk
was that little or no importance could be attached to the natural
goodness of man or to any supposed works of merit performed before
conversion. God's elective choice was in no way influenced by
precedent grace, whether witnessed at the time or foreseen. As
he wrote and preached about his convictions, especially during
a lecture tour of northern Italy, he aroused much consternation
in many quarters, and the authorities decided it was time to
Gottschalk was accused of heresy,
tried, and condemned. He was allowed no opportunity to defend
himself or present his own case in a reasoned form. He was flogged
mercilessly and imprisoned under cruel conditions until his death.
Even some of his foes protested at the unchristian character
of his treatment. Yet he died without recanting and apparently
with great peace of mind, holding firmly to his Augustinian theology.
He is one in a long line of martyrs for the Gospel, and in a
manner of speaking his was the last personal protest against
the corrupted theology of the Roman Catholic Church until
Luther awakened to the truth some six hundred years
later. Some of the great
figures in church history who came later protested against the
morality of the Roman Catholic Church but they did not,
like Gottschalk, have a clear vision of the Church's theological
error. As J. L. Neve observed, semi-Pelagianism retained its
great hold upon the Church's theology throughout the entire Middle
Ages. But one of the ironies of this circumstance is that because
of the breadth of Augustine's theological sweep, even this fundamental
departure from his position was justified as orthodox by appeal
to certain of his earlier writings (which he had later retracted)
and came to be known as "the preaching of Augustine"
(Sermo Augustini) (5)
The result was inevitable. Precisely
because man's will is utterly corrupt, his strongest exertions
to build a credit balance in the sight of God only carried him
further and further in the corruption of all that was holy, until
the religious communities which had started out to make themselves
the guardians of truth and purity of life became the most appalling
dens of iniquity. The corruption of the good always produces
the greatest potential for evil.
The kind of holiness that self-effort
thus produces is not sanctity but sanctimoniousness, and there
is something pitifully powerless about it. It is a "form
of godliness but denying the power thereof" (2 Timothy 3:5).
It is powerless because it springs out of the activity of the
corrupted will of natural man. Just because it is an expression
of man's sinful will, it only confirms that will, making it stronger
even while appearing to suppress it. If circumstances later encourage
the enjoyment of sensual things, it is all too easy to slip from
one kind of exercise that seems to have the appearance of purity,
into the opposite kind which has all the earmarks of debasement.
The man who has so strengthened his will that he can resist great
temptations may later reach a position where he can exercise
the same will power to get what he wants even when it is evil.
And this happened all too frequently when "holiness"
achieved by self-control was afterwards rewarded with authority
and power over others. What transpired in monastic life may well
have inspired the Reformers to declare that good works done out
of Christ, precisely because they are expressions of human willfulness,
no doubt "partake of the nature of sin," as the Church
of England in Article XIII has aptly expressed it.
two hundred years after Gottschalk, Anselm was born in Aosta
in Piedmont in 1033 of a pious mother, Ermenberga, and an indifferent
though well-to-do father. From a very early childhood his mother's
influence played a strong part in his development and he occupied
himself in meditation on the things of God as he grew. His relations
with his father were much less happy, and when he was a young
man he left
5. For life of Gottschalk, see J. L. Neve.
A History of Christian Thought, Philadelphia, Muhlenberg
Press, 1946, vol.I, p.178.
home to travel in France.
In due time under Lanfranc he became a monk in the monastery
of Bec. In 1063 he became its prior, and finally in 1078 its
abbot. In 1093 he was called to be Archbishop of Canterbury.
In a remarkable number of ways
Anselm was like Augustine: in his gentleness, in his love for
man and for God, in his contemplative nature, in his desire for
holiness of life, and in his zeal to suppress his baser nature.
Augustus Neander in his General History of the Christian Religion
and Church says, "He was the Augustine of his age."
What gave him his great importance was the unity of spirit in
which he thought and did everything, a harmony between life and
knowledge which in his case nothing disturbed. And love seems
to have been the inspiring soul of his thought.
He was constantly occupied with
public duties appropriate to each station of his life as he rose
to become Archbishop. Rather like Augustine he felt himself throughout
to be a wretched sinner unworthy of his office and privately
longing to be free to return to a life of contemplation. When
he died in 1109, in spite of the many conflicts in which he unwillingly
became involved, he seems to have had no enemies but was completely
at peace with God and everywhere revered by man.
There was one important difference,
however, between the two men, Augustine and Anselm, namely, in
the turmoil of the former's life as he grew up as contrasted
with the comparative tranquillity of the latter's.
Both men agreed absolutely upon
this fact, that faith precedes understanding. Interestingly,
both seemed to have based their conviction in this not upon Hebrews
11:3 ("through faith we understand. . . .") but upon
the Septuagint version of Isaiah 7:9 which reads: "If you
believe not, neither will you at all understand." Anselm's
principle of handling Scripture was to sit down as a little child
before the Word of God and accept its statements. Then, believing,
to seek for understanding. Augustine's guiding principle had
been that obedience to the Word in faith was the key to understanding
it: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine
whether it be of God" (John 7:17). Similarly Anselm wrote:
"Self-confident human wisdom will sooner break its own horn
than succeed in overturning this rock." Faith, he held,
precedes intellect. (7)
In Anselm we find heart and mind beautifully balanced. Yet he
made singularly little use of Scripture itself. . . . (8)
In his De Libero Arbitrio ("Of
Freedom of Will") Anselm controverts any idea of free will
in man as being the power to choose between good and evil. (9) Man has only the power
to choose between evils and since he sometimes chooses the lesser
evil, he appears to be choosing the good. Pelagius
6. For Anslem, see Neander, Augustus, General
Hiistory of the Christian Religion and Church, Edinburgh,
T.& T. Clark, translated by Joseph Torrey, 1852, vol.VIII,
7. Ibid., p.104.
8. Anslem: A. C. McGiffert, A History of Christian Thought:
The West: From Tertullian to Erasmus, New York, Charles Scribner's
Sons, vol.II, 1933, p.187.
9. Anselm: Augustus Neander, General History of the Christian
Religion and Church , Edinburgh, T.& T. Clark, translated
by Joseph Torrey, 1852, vol.VIII, p.261
had argued that the
effect of Adam's Fall was not inherited by his descendants, that
every man is born as Adam was created, with complete freedom
to choose between good and evil. This freedom is partially but
not wholly lost as the individual matures, and this loss can
be corrected by following the example of Jesus Christ. Anselm,
with Augustine and Paul, denied this possibility. Since salvation
was an absolute good, man could not choose it. The realization
of this truth seems to have sprung out of Anselm's own experience
with himself, as it had with Augustine. Augustine appears to
have tried always to bring his thought captive to Scripture,
combining the Word of God with every means at his disposal in
order to base his theology on something more secure than experience.
This policy transformed Augustine's thinking and theology and
gave it a more secure foundation, besides vastly illuminating
it. Anselm agreed with this principle entirely but did not exploit
the Word of God as Augustine had done. Consequently their agreement
is more implicit than explicit.
as time went by, the emphasis in so-called Christian life had
been shifted towards making man responsible for the preparation
of his own heart to merit the infusion of the grace of God. This
had not improved the spiritual life as a whole: it had tended
only to increase the severity of the penalties imposed upon those
who were manifestly failing. But this, too, had little effect
in correcting the steady decline in Christian morality. Men remained
selfish and inhumane and carnal as they had always been. And
the question began to be asked, Why do Christian principles generate
so little genuine goodness? Why if some men so earnestly desire
to be holy, and if the reward for holiness of life is so great
and the penalty for failure so terrible, do not men of good intent
achieve their goal? Was there, after all, something really wrong
with man's will to good?
Such was the lasting influence
of Augustine's thought upon the centuries following that a number
of Church councils still paid lip service by denying man's free
will in the matter of salvation. Anselm in this spirit wrote
not only his Dialogue on Free Will but also a treatise
on the harmony between foreknowledge, Predestination, grace and
free will. But while the theologians in their councils admitted
that the will of fallen man was in bondage, the authorities in
their religious houses in whose hands were the lives of the Church's
flock continued to operate on the principle that man's will is
free and therefore responsible to do something about achieving
to reconcile the apparent contradiction. He used an analogy:
the will of man has a capacity for good as the eye has a capacity
for light. But so long as the eye is in the dark its capacity
is ineffective and undiscovered. The capacity of man's will for
good is like this, latent only
10. Amselm: Neander, ibid., p. 301.
until the sunlight of
God's grace shines upon it. (11) By Luther's time this "capacity" had become
a "passive aptitude". It was an aptitude because it
was already present waiting to respond, but it was passive because
the light that effects this response must be supplied from outside.
It was a light receptor, not a lamp. The eye of the soul
is blind until God shines into it. It is God, not the eye, who
gives the light of the knowledge of his glory (2 Corinthians
4:6). Until God moves in the will, according to Anselm, the will
is impotent towards spiritual good. Yet God does not bend the
will by force. The will is drawn in such a way that it follows
without resistance as if impelled by an inner necessity.
There is a deeply
rooted feeling in the heart of man that he ought to contribute
something of his own to his salvation. This contribution has
taken a number of different forms. The most obvious contribution
he can make is good works, but good works can operate in several
different ways. They may secure his salvation directly by some
kind of overbalance against his hurts, or they may predispose
God to favour him and grant him salvation as a gift otherwise
unattainable, or they may be added to the weight of merit in
the sacrifice of Jesus Christ which by itself is not sufficient.
In most cases, the salvation is viewed as a co-operative effort.
Yet it has always been felt by theologians that the idea of co-operation
is not a worthy one. And so the effort is made to introduce co-operation
without letting it appear as such.
Many Roman Catholic theologians
took the position that man must prepare himself to merit the
grace of God without which he cannot be saved. Arminian theologians
have modified this somewhat and now take the position that while
man cannot by good works merit the grace of God, he can prepare
himself to receive it by declaring his willingness to do so.
The end result is much the same; the one is as much a co-operative
process as the other, and Roman Catholics have as easily adopted
the non-resistance alternative as they adopt the preparatory
works alternative. In either case, man plays a vital role is
his own salvation. Thus while Lutherans today teach that man's
vital role is non-resistance of the Holy Spirit, the older Roman
Catholic theologians like Cardinal Robert Pullein held virtually
the same position. Pullein, who died in 1146, wrote: (12)
As often as grace offers itself
to anyone, the individual either acts in cooperation with that
grace or, rejecting it, still goes on in sin. The first cause
of all goodness is grace. But the free will also has a part to
perform, though a subordinate one. Free will also has some merit;
namely this, that it ceases to resist the divine will
11. Ibid., pp. 301f.
12. Pullein: quoted in Neander, ibid., p. 302.
The contrary will that resists the grace of God is
not constrained to yield against its own inclination but is inclined
to a willingness by the same grace. This was the logical manoeuver
by which some token acknowledgment was made to the autonomy of
man's will. It was in effect the same device by which Lutheranism
(though not Luther himself, I think) was to skate around the
problem of the Sovereignty of Grace.
Luther was to struggle with this
same problem and arrived at much the same conclusion, speaking
of how the Spirit of God "sweetly breathes" upon the
will to cause it to act "not from compulsion but responsively"
Thomas Aquinas (12241274) had also postulated a "certain
susceptibility" in man which was required for the operation
of grace. But Aquinas traces even this susceptibility to the
"preparation of God." He was nearer to Augustine in
this than Anselm had been.
In his Summa Theologica written
between 1265 and 1273, Aquinas adopted a technique for the expounding
of his theology which others before him had employed, including
Anselm in his famous little work Cur Deus Homo. This involved
a kind of question-and-answer approach which in Aquinas took
the following form: first, the stating of the question; second,
the presentation of opinions contrary to his own; third, his
own view of the matter; and fourth, his reply to each of the
contrary opinions treated seriatim. In dealing with the
matter of free will he begins by posing the question: "Can
man merit eternal life without grace?" (Q. 109, article
5). This is one of ten questions appearing in the section of
his work under the general subject of the "Grace of God."
The first contrary opinion, which
Aquinas terms Objection 1, is stated as follows: "It
would seem that man can merit eternal life without grace. For
our Lord says (Matt. 19:17), 'If thou wilt enter into eternal
life, keep the commandments,' from which it would seem that
to enter into eternal life rests with man's will. Hence it seems
that man can inherit eternal life of himself."
A second contrary opinion, Objection
2, is given as follows: "Further, eternal life is the
wage or reward bestowed by God on men according to Matthew 5:12,
'your reward is very great in heaven.' But wage
or reward is meted by God to everyone according to his works,
according to Psalm 62:12: 'Thou wilt render to every man
according to his works.' Hence, since man is master of his works
it seems that it is within his power to reach eternal life."
It is interesting to note how subtly
error can creep in through the back door and colour all that
follows. The very form of Aquinas' question ("Can man merit
eternal life without grace?") starts the process of reasoning
on the wrong foundation. Grace by definition is unmerited
favour and eternal life
is a gift. If we ask
whether man can merit eternal life, we start with an impossibility,
and it is no wonder that we end up with a falsehood. And as the
error in the question is subtle, so the error in the final answer
Aquinas then presents his own view
Man, by his own natural powers,
cannot produce meritorious works proportional to eternal life,
but for this a higher power is needed, namely, the power of grace.
And thus, without grace man cannot merit eternal life; yet he
can perform works leading to a good which is connatural to man
such as to toil in the fields, to drink [convivially?],
to eat, or to have friends, and the like, as Augustine
says in his third Reply to Pelagians.
to Objection 1 takes the following form: "Man, by
his will, does works meritorious of eternal life, but as Augustine
says in the same book, for this it is necessary that the will
of man be prepared with the grace of God."
In reply to Objection 2:
As the Gloss [i.e., comment] upon Romans 6 23 ("the grace
of God is life everlasting") says: it is certain that
everlasting life is meted to good works, but the works to which
it is meted belong to God's grace, What is more, it has been
said that to fulfill the commandments of the law, whereby their
fulfillment may be meritorious, requires grace.
So here we have
Aquinas on the old question of the relation between good works,
grace, and eternal life. Grace is necessary to enable man to
perform meritorious works of which the reward is eternal life.
So has the Gospel been eroded. These good works are within man's
reach if he is assisted by the grace of God. Man is saved with
grace, not by grace. Man and God thus co-operate, God
enabling man to merit life.
Aquinas' next question is, "Can
a man by himself and without the external aid of grace prepare
himself for grace?" His hypothetical opponent suggests that
"man prepares himself to grace by doing what he has ability
to do. And if he does God will not deny him grace." In support
of this proposition, his opponent quotes Matthew 7:11: "God
giveth the spirit to them that ask Him." His own view is
that "man cannot prepare himself to receive the light of
grace except by the gratuitous help of God moving him inwardly."
And in support of this, Aquinas quotes John 15:5: "Without
Me ye can do nothing."
So we conclude that even though
man must work to merit eternal life, he will not even initiate
such work without the enabling of God's grace. And thus in the
final analysis we seem to be back with Augustine. However, a
complication has been introduced. For even though the grace of
God lies at the very heart of man's salvation, it is nevertheless
a salvation merited by good works. It might seem that
Aquinas was not in essential disagreement with Reformed theology
as to the receiving of grace, but in truth this grace
serves a different purpose
in each. For the Reformers, it was the beginning and the end
of man's eternal life, and the good works which he performed
were an expression of something he already possessed. In Aquinas,
grace was to enable man to achieve eternal life by his own efforts.
In his exposition
of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England,
E. Harold Browne said succinctly, "In philosophy Aquinas
was a realist; in theology, a disciple of Augustine; and therefore
opposed to the belief too prevalent among the Schoolmen, that
the gift of grace was dependent on the manner in which men exercised
their purely natural endowment." (13) The Church of Rome produced many great minds that
harboured strange combinations of profound truth and profound
error. One often wonders how it could come about that the conflict
between the two did not become more apparent to the individual.
who thus presumed a grace that conditioned the will, also presumed
a predestination which involved such a conditioning. But he held
that it is possible to distinguish what proceeds from a genuine
free will so conditioned and what from predestination. He wrote,
"All leads back to the goodness of God. To this must be
traced the reason why some are predestinated and others reprobated."
(14) He might have
noted Romans 2:4 in which Paul asserts that it is the goodness
of God, not the goodness of man himself, that leads men
wrote: "It was God's will to manifest his goodness to a
part of mankind those whom He had foreordained to this
end, in the form of mercy sparing them; to others, the reprobate,
in the form of punitive justice. And this is the reason why He
elected some and rejected others; and the ground of this difference
lies only in the divine will." (15) Here we have a clear enunciation of the principle
of Unconditional Election, and yet Aquinas still struggled to
find some way of so presenting the case as to allow man freedom
of will. While his doctrine seemed to annihilate the concept
of man's free will, he still argued that this is not really what
he meant but rather that by divine intervention God constrains
the will of man in another direction. (16) But if this is an imposed change, a change that God
effects in man willy-nilly, is this not an overriding of man's
will? Aquinas answered: "God brings it about that man should
freely will the change he experiences and thus all constraint
is removed. For to suppose otherwise, namely, that the man did
not will the change which is a change in his will, would involve
a contradiction." Such was the subtlety of reasoning of
13. E. Harold Browne, An Exposition of
the Thirty-Nine Articles: Historical and Doctrinal,
London, John W. Parker& Sons, 1860, p.258.
14. Aquinas: quoted in Neander, General History of the Christian
Religion and Church, Edinburgh , T.& T. Clark,
1852, vol.VIII, p.251.
15. Aquinas: ibid., p.252.
16. Aquinas: ibid., p.255.
These endless chains
of "therefores," without constant reference to Scripture,
inevitably left men no wiser and no clearer than they were before.
If the individual can by his disobedience
lose his salvation, then it follows that he can in this "lost"
position gain back his salvation by appropriate acts of obedience.
And so there is once more restored to man a crucial role in his
own salvation. The pull towards Arminianism is to man what gravity
is to the material world. It is a subtle ever-acting downward
pull that is never absent and that, once yielded to, causes an
increasingly rapid debasement of the truth of the Gospel. The
believer's intelligence has constantly to be brought into subjection
to the revealed Word of God as a monitor of his thoughts. Like
Abelard we try first to understand in order that we might believe.
But understanding is not the basis of faith. Understanding is
only the basis of knowledge. Faith requires a positive exercise
of will, and demonstration of any theorem removes the necessity
for exercising will. We merely assent. Unfortunately many people
assent to the Gospel, supposing that they are thereby believing
The determination to restore the
place of free will in the exercise of saving faith, on the ground
that by this means alone could the incentive to holiness be maintained,
was logical enough if there was any merit in such holiness as
exhibited in the unredeemed life. But there is no such merit.
Indeed, the notion that there is such merit in man is in fact
offensive to God, for it reflects unfavourably upon the sufficiency
of the sacrifice of Christ for man's salvation if man himself
must also make his little contribution. As for holiness afterwards
this is a different matter entirely, for then such holiness is
meritorious because it is now an outgrowth of the life of God
in the individual.
But Aquinas, not recognizing the
significance of the new birth and its attendant inward revitalizing
moral power, championed the benefits of uncertainty, of insecurity,
of lack of assurance, and of the practical necessity of not
believing in the eternal security of the believer, in order
to provide the incentive otherwise lacking. Better, then, to
retreat from the world with its temptation whereby one might
easily lose one's salvation and to take refuge from its conflicts
in the monastic life of sheltered contemplation.
But here men gradually surrendered
the witness of the Holy Spirit in the inner life and increasingly
substituted the man-made and humanly enforced disciplines of
the monastery. These disciplines were interpreted and exercised
by strong men who often became ambitious and unscrupulous when
they found themselves invested with absolute authority over their
fellow men. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
corruption is extremely dangerous because it tends by its nature
not to be tempered by conscience. Here and there a few notable
souls served God
17. Lord John Acton in a letter to Bishop
with great zeal and
effectiveness, but the great majority became "princes"
in the community or in the world. Theological error has many
It has sometimes been asked, Where
was Protestantism before Luther? This question in effect supposes
that what we now see as a recovery of the true Gospel, which
for fifteen hundred years had been almost lost sight of, was
in reality a novel invention. Opponents of true evangelicalism
could not believe that God would really permit the total eclipse
of the truth and leave men in darkness for so many centuries.
Had not the Church of Rome during those previous years leavened
the whole of European society and created a Christian civilization,
as well as evangelized the heathen world in Africa and America?
Admittedly, the Catholic Church had its faults and needed cleansing
and restoring in its faith from time to time, but surely the
truth was never so completely lost that a total revolution of
theology was needed! The Western world had been kept Christian,
or so men like Chesterton assured us, more Christian in fact
than it had been since Luther and Calvin and the Reformers shattered
that monumental unity which was Catholic Christendom.
But is this really so? Was this
monumental unity an organic unity of the Spirit or merely a religio-political
unity preserved essentially by a civil and hierarchical aristocracy
working hand in hand for each other's mutual worldly benefit?
The need for
reform was increasingly evident as the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries rolled by. In England John Wycliffe (13201384)
thundered against the Church of Rome and the abuses of religious
orders even in his own country where they were less powerfully
entrenched than in continental Europe. It is true that in some
ways he had comparatively small influence upon England herself
until considerably later, but by means of his teaching and preaching
in Oxford (where many Bohemian students from Prague were studying)
he had a more profound theological influence on the continent
through the followers of John Huss.
His theology was clearly Augustinian,
though like Gottschalk he went beyond Augustine in the matter
of Predestination and virtually made God responsible for man's
Fall and therefore for all his subsequent sin. He categorically
rejected the idea that man before his conversion can contribute
anything by his moral behaviour towards influencing God's sovereign
decision to grant him the grace of the Holy Spirit needful to
conversion. Dyson Hague considered that five of the Thirty-Nine
Articles of the Church of England (Articles X-XIV) could almost
be taken word for word from Wycliffe's writing. (18)
18. Dyson Hague. The Life and Work of John
Wycliffe, London, Church Book Room, 1935, p.149.
Article X is most explicit:
The condition of man after the
fall of Adam is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself
by his own natural strength and good works to faith and calling
upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant
and acceptable to God without the grace of God by Christ preventing
us that we may have a good will. . . .
is equally explicit in this regard:
Works done before the grace
of Christ and the inspiration of the Spirit, are not pleasant
to God for as much as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ,
neither do they make men meet to receive grace or [as the School
authors say] deserve grace of congruity [i.e., as a consequence]:
yea rather, because they are not done as God hath willed and
commanded them to be done, we doubt not that they partake of
the nature of sin.
are directly contrary to the teaching of Thomas Aquinas but fully
in harmony with that of Augustine, who summed up his position
on the matter of works done out of Christ by using the words
of Scripture: "What is not of faith is of sin" (Romans
Julianus of Eclanum (380c.455),
(19) a Pelagian
theologian, postulated the case of a heathen who covered the
naked and did works of mercy, and asked, "Is this act of
his therefore sinful because it is not of faith?" Augustine
replied unequivocally, "It is sinful." And with this
Wycliffe concurred because, while the act itself was good towards
man, it was not pleasing to God since it was prompted by a corrupt
will as an expression of a sinful self. (19) We only need to reflect upon the reaction of a man
who has done a good deed (let us say, he has sent an anonymous
gift to a person in need) when someone else is given the credit
for it! The true motive is quickly made apparent. And a good
deed may thus prove to be a work of iniquity even when done in
the name of the Lord (Matthew 7:22, 23).
God often turns such works to truly
good ends, yet in themselves they may be works of iniquity when
performed out of Christ because they are expressions of a fallen
nature. Indeed it was argued in Wycliffe's day that "a man
sinneth the more by how much the more he laboureth to dispose
himself to grace." Or to put it in plainer language, a man's
good works are all the more sinful when they are undertaken with
the express hope and purpose of predisposing God to favour the
doer by granting him salvation upon the strength of them.
When performed by the unbelieving
in aid of the Lord's children, works are rewarded in this world,
the reward being a form of kudos. But when they are judged in
the moral light of eternity, they can be seen only as works of
iniquity. Wycliffe saw clearly the unreality of man's supposed
19. Julianus: see E. Harold Browne, An
Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles: Historical and
Doctrinal, London, John W. Parker & Sons, 1933, p.324.
goodness, and he recognized
piety in the unredeemed for what it was. He spoke against it
fearlessly as a snare and a deception, for unredeemed men were
being easily persuaded to emulate the saints of the past in the
belief that they would thereby make themselves more worthy of
receiving God's grace and a passage into heaven. The Gospel had
become superfluous except as an assist to men's natural goodness.
The grace of God served only to crown the grace of man. There
was a need to return to the biblical position which states in
no uncertain terms that "all our righteousnesses are as
filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6).
It is an extraordinary thing that
while Wycliffe continued to thunder away against the heresy of
salvation by good works he remained essentially at liberty and
unharmed by the religious authorities of his day, and he died
peacefully in his bed at the good age (in those days) of sixty-four
years. He has rightly been called the "Morning Star of the
Reformation," not merely because he cried out against unrighteousness
in high places but because he called for a return to the Gospel.
Various reformation movements within
the Church of Rome had been witnessed before Wycliffe and were
to be witnessed after him, as for example in Florence under Savonarola
from 1490 until his death eight years later. These were genuine
outcries against the gross wickedness and immorality of the Church.
But they were doomed to failure because, while the righteousness
of God was exalted and the sinfulness of man was exposed, there
was no attendant proclamation of the Gospel of personal salvation
by regeneration which is the only basis for any true reformation
of the Church or of society. Reformation must always start with
regeneration, and regeneration is a personal matter. It is such
individuals who then become the salt not for the building of
a perfect society but for the preservation of a society from
total corruption. A return to the teaching of Paul and of Augustine
was what was required, and it was not very far in the future.
Meanwhile the Church's denunciation of the
evils of the world were nothing compared with the world's denunciation
of the evils of the Church. The famous troubadours or popular
singers of the day took as a major theme of their songs the avarice
and heartless greed, the cruelty and arrogant use of power, and
the craftiness and treachery of all kinds which compacted together
blatantly and without shame in the courts of the Church of Rome.
had to change or be changed.
The change was to come not by a
more persuasive call to holiness but by a re-discovery of the
fundamental fact that man is, spiritually, so completely dead
that he is without the power to win the approval of God by good
works unless God has first of all granted him new life and a
saving faith to believe in the total sufficiency of the sacrifice
of the Lord Jesus Christ to
20. Wyclifffe: see Augustus Neander, General
History of the Christian Religion and Church, Edinburgh,
T.& T.Clark, vol.VIII, p.422.
make him once more acceptable
in the sight of God. Man is lost and cannot by any means save
himself by his works or even prepare himself to be saved. Salvation
is entirely an act of grace dependent upon the sovereign will
of God and made effective in the life of the individual only
in God's time. Luther rediscovered this truth and proclaimed
it; Calvin worked it out and made explicit its implications.
influence and teachings had never been entirely lost, but neither
had they been preserved entire by any one individual, after the
passing of Prosper. Gottschalk was clear on the fact of Predestination
and Limited Atonement, and he was probably reasonably clear on
the Total Depravity of man and on Irresistible Grace. His position
on the Perseverance of the Saints was perhaps sound, but it was
implicit rather than explicit. The wholeness of Augustine's soteriology
was gradually being eroded and the logical cohesion of his theology
was not again to be worked out as a total system for centuries.
The implications of the Gospel were not exploited in strictly
biblical terms as Augustine had exploited them, until Calvin
published his Institutes. Thomas Aquinas, the great master
of the Medieval Schoolmen, caught some of Augustine's vision
of the whole, but Aquinas' view was muddied by erroneous embellishments
and fanciful extensions dependent entirely upon human reason
that introduced all kinds of error which Augustine would have
repudiated. These embellishments were soon made the basis of
a whole new set of propositions which were far from the pure
Gospel, and the Gospel itself was virtually submerged in a sea
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
Previous Chapter Next
John Wycliffe seems to stand out
from the mainstream as a lone figure and yet there is no doubt
that he stood firmly in the tradition of Augustine. As the harbinger
of the Reformation he formed a further link in a continuous chain
which reaches from Paul in the New Testament through Augustine,
Prosper, Gottschalk, and Anselm, to Luther, Calvin, and the Reformers.