Augustine on Perseverance and Trent Horn

Had a enjoyable little Twitter chat with Trent Horn today regarding his debate with James R. White on perseverance. I accused him of only partially quoting Augustine and he and I went around and round mostly about free will, predestination and compatibilism.

Horn is a nice fellow, and in the end I asked him to provide me resource that expressed his viewpoint on Augustine best, and he gave me a link to a JETS article in which he said the author, “a Calvinist” agreed with him.

[ It’s come to my attention that this same article is reposted (without permission?) on the biblicalcatholic.com website.  This really shows you one problem Protestants and Roman Catholics have in discussing these matters, we can read the same material and come away with completely different understandings.]

So I read the article, I come to the end and find this:

“God’s sovereignty in election and predestination, then, is the basis for Augustine’s understanding of final perseverance. The grace of God… Like Augustine, Aquinas and Luther before him, Calvin grounded the understanding of final perseverance on the doctrine of election… Calvin, Arminius and Wesley agreed that if election were unconditional, then final perseverance would logically follow as a matter of course. Augustine and Aquinas affirmed unconditional election but taught that believers did not enjoy infallible certitude of their election and hence of their final perseverance.”  The Perseverance Of The Saints: A History Of The Doctrine, John Jefferson Davis, JETS 34/2 (June 1991) 213-228

So basically, Augustine affirmed unconditional election – and since election is unconditional, final perseverance logically follows. This resource says the opposite of what Trent claimed.

One caveat: Augustine’s and Aquinas’ use of the terms justification and regeneration differ from the modern Reformed understanding and therefore it is possible to find Augustine saying that some “justified” will fall away. But this is different from the elect. Augustine views election as unto perseverance.

Next I went to a primary resource, Augustine – On the Free Choice of the Will, On Grace and Free Choice, and Other Writings edited and translated by Peter King.

Here Augustine writes:
“Anyone who has been elected has no doubt also been called. But anyone who has been called has not thereby been elected. The ones who have been elected, then, as is often said, are those who “are called in accordance with His plan,” who also are foreknown and predestined. If any of them perishes, God is in error. But none of them perishes, since God does not err. If any of them perishes, God is overpowered by human vice. But none of them perishes, since God is not overpowered by anything. Furthermore, they have been elected to reign with Christ, not the way Judas was elected for the work to which he was suited. Judas, of course, was elected by Him Who knew well how to use even evil people, so that even through his damnable work He might bring to completion the work for which He came (which we hold in reverence). “

Basically, Augustine is commenting on John 6, and in agreement with James White states: “The ones who have been elected… If any of them perishes, God is in error. But none of them perishes, since God does not err. If any of them perishes, God is overpowered by human vice. But none of them perishes, since God is not overpowered by anything.”

This is the opposite of what Trent Horn was saying, and the opposite of what he claimed Augustine said in his quoting tiny snippets of another document.

Elsewhere in the same document, Augustine writes:

“On the other hand, those who are not going to persevere, and so are going to fall away from Christian faith and conduct – and as a result the end of this life finds them such – then even while they are living well and religiously they should undoubtedly not be counted in the number of the elect. For God’s foreknowledge and predestination has not singled them out from the mass of perdition,35 and hence they are neither “called in accordance with His plan” [Rom. 8:28] nor, for that reason, “

Again, Augustine’s view is that those who are not going to persevere “should undoubtedly not be counted in the number of the elect”. Again, the complete opposite of Horn’s claim.