Augustine, Spirit and the Letter

Initial argument: to respond to Pelagius’s claim that one can live a sinless life.

Other topics addressed: justification by free grace, spiritual interpretation, the nature of human willing and choosing.

Observations:  There are many important topics in this book, yet it is neither an easy nor a pleasant read.  Augustine jumps from point to point, only to return without warning to an earlier point.

  1. The Law as Letter that Killeth
    1. Without the Spirit, the Letter (law) inflames concupiscence.
    2. Whoever obeyed the law without the Spirit, did only because of reward/fear (c.14).
  2. Justification by free grace
    1. Our soul wants to attribute to itself that which it freely received from God (c. 18).
    2. Law: what we do, not simply “external ritual markers” (c.23).
    3. Works do not precede justification, otherwise it is pointless to say we are justified freely by his grace (c. 45).
  3. Human nature and grace
    1. Grace restores nature (c. 47).
    2. Grace establishes free will
      1. When we say we do something “in our power,” we presuppose two things:
        1. Will: the assenting to of something
        2. Ability: the capacity to do it.
      2. The Free Will of man is an intermediate power–it can incline towards faith or unbelief.
      3. The very will comes from God but that is not the same thing as saying, “God made me will it.”
      4. The will probably follows the intellect.  Augustine isn’t clear on this point (c. 60) but it seems to be his argument.
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