Augustine and Monergism

Kurtis Dahlin December 4, 2002

 
It is a hermeneutical error to universalize an ad hoc situation. For instance, God hardened Pharaoh. But how did he harden Pharaoh? Does God harden by sovereign decree or by knowing how Pharaoh would respond to his miracles? If Pharaoh was hardened by an irresistible decree, it still doesn’t translate that every single person that ever lived is hardened by decree. For example, Lot’s wife was turned into a salt pillar. By universalizing this ad hoc event we conclude that everyone who disobeys God is turned into a salt pillar. Judas betrayed Christ.
Therefore, everyone has betrayed Christ. Jesus was born of a woman. Therefore, everyone born of a woman is Jesus. Pharaoh was hardened. Therefore, everyone is hardened like Pharaoh. Even if God hardened Pharaoh by decree it does not follow that God hardens all, everywhere by decree.How would a Pharisaic Jew like Paul believe that God hardened Pharaoh? We shouldn’t fabricate a non-Biblical hardening process and superimpose it on the Biblical text. For instance, I think God hardens by using cement. Cement when wet will dry and become hard. The Greek word for hard is the same word used in Romans 9:18. This type of biblical interpretation is flawed.
 
However, it is impossible in Paul’s mind that Pharaoh would be hardened by a divine monergistic decree. Paul, a Jew, could only think in terms of foreknowledge and synergism. Paul was not a western, Latin, white, reformed American Protestant. Paul is not asking the question that Calvin answers. Calvin answers his own question that no one is asking. Does Paul say that God damned Pharaoh to hell by an everlasting decree? Paul is not asking if God damns untold millions of people, including newborn infants, to eternal hell by an irresistible and irreversible decree before the foundation of the world.  Paul is not asking the Roman church to believe that the five points of Calvinism are God breathed. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart does not validate Calvinism.If God hardened by decree, God would be unjust. Yet, God is not unjust according to his own standard of Justice. Therefore, he hardens by degrees knowing how Pharaoh will respond to his grace. The problem is one of paradigms. Does God harden by monergism or by synergism?  Philip Schaff noted,         The Greek, and particularly the Alexandrian fathers, in opposition to the dualism and fatalism of the Gnostic systems, which made evil a necessity of nature, laid great stress upon human freedom, and upon the indispensable cooperation of this freedom with divine grace; while the Latin fathers, especially Tertullian and Cyprian, Hilary and Ambrose, guided rather by their practical experience than by speculative principles, emphasized the hereditary sin and hereditary guilt of man, and the sovereignty of God’s grace, without, however, denying freedom and individual accountability.  The Greek church adhered to her undeveloped synergism, which coordinates the human will and divine grace as factors in the work of conversion; the Latin church, under the influence of Augustine, advanced to the system of a divine, monergism, which gives God all the glory, and makes freedom itself a result of grace; while Pelagianism, on the contrary, represented the principle of a human monergism, which ascribes the chief merit of conversion to man, and reduces grace to a mere external auxiliary. After Augustine’s death, however the intermediate system of Semi-Pelagianism, akin to the Greek synergism, became prevalent in the West (786).1
 
·        synergism: coordinates the human will and divine grace as factors in the work of conversion
 
·        monergism: God irresistibly acts to save those he wills
 
Even though Philip Schaff held a low view of synergism one must appreciate the fact that the entire church prior to Augustine interpreted the scripture through a synergistic paradigm. A monergistic interpretation of Romans was not possible until Augustine introduced it. It is common sense that if the unified voice of the Fathers promoted synergism that synergism was passed on to them by the apostles. It would be impossible to imagine that the entire church in every quarter of the world uniformly conspired to pervert apostolic tradition. Therefore, the paradigm through which Paul wrote Romans was synergistic. Schaff correctly noted that Augustine introduced monergism to the Western church. Paul did not introduce monergism to the church. There is a big difference in the way Romans and the NT is interpreted using the opposite paradigms of synergism and monergism.  Augustine interpreted Romans through a monergistic refractor. His view was influenced or at least reflected the Stoic doctrine of predestination, which was repudiated by the entire universal church. The Stoics had a thorough going foundation of predestination.
 
Will Durant wrote about the Stoic definition of predestination,
the chain of causes and effects is an unbreakable circle, an endless repetition. All events and all acts of will are determined; it is as impossible for anything to happen otherwise than it does as it is for something to come out of nothing; any break in the chain would disrupt the world. God, in this system, is the beginning, the middle, and the end (Will Durant. The Life of Greece, The Story of Civilization: Part II. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1966 653).
 
If the Fathers inherited monergistic predestination from the apostles, it would have been easy for them to Christianize the Stoic, secular philosophy.  Yet, universally and unanimously the Fathers, with one voice, rejected the Stoic definition of predestination. For example Justin Martyr wrote in The Second
Apology, Chapter 7, But neither do we affirm that it is by fate that men do whatthey do, or suffer what they suffer, but that each man by free choice acts rightly or sins;....The Stoics, not observing this, maintained that all things take place according to the necessity of fate. But since God in the beginning made the race of angels and men with free-will, they will justly suffer in eternal fire the punishment of whatever sins they have committed. And this is the nature of all that is made, to be capable of vice and virtue. For neither would any of them be praiseworthy unless there were power to turn to both (virtue and vice). And this also is shown by those men everywhere who have made laws and philosophized according to right reason, by their prescribing to do some things and refrain from others. ...For if they say that human actions come to pass by fate, they will maintain either that God is nothing else than the things which are ever turning, and altering,... and to have looked on God Himself as emerging both in part and in whole in every wickedness; or that neither vice or virtue is anything; which is contrary to every sound idea, reason, and sense.
 
·        The Stoics maintain that all things take place according to fate.
 
·        Justin argues that freewill is our true condition and necessary for just punishment.
 
·        The fact that men everywhere understand certain actions to be virtuous and worthy reveal the power we retain to choose virtue or vice.
 
·        If all human actions are the products of fate, God himself is an accomplice in every wickedness.
 
·        If all is fate then virtue or vice are nothing. This is contrary to sound reason.
 
When and where did monergism as an interpretive paradigm become introduced to the Church? Historians agree that Augustine bishop of Hippo first championed monergism. However, neither the West nor the East fully embraced Augustinianism. The Council of Orange A.D. 528 only approved a modified Augustine. His doctrine of double predestination was condemned at the Council of Mainz A.D. 848 and at the Council of Quiercy in A.D. 849 (The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, “Gottschalk”). Only John Calvin has been successful in proliferating Augustine’s views, which were rooted in Gnosticism and Stoicism. The Church had rejected the very foundation of Augustine’s doctrine of predestination for 400 years prior to him. 
Augustine is not needed to add anything to orthodoxy. All the major theological issues had already been settled. Orthodoxy had been bequeathed to Augustine from the apostolic church. The Fathers had rejected as heresy the distinctives that mark Augustine’s “contributions” to the Western Church. The unique tenets of Augustine’s distinctive theology are rooted in extra-Biblical heresies. Augustine drew upon his vast experiences but he drew from the wrong well. It is little wonder that Augustine had no influence on the Eastern Church.
 
1. Monergism = Stoicism2. Predestination = Stoicism
3. Total Depravity = Tatian
4. Secret Election = Gnosticism
5. The Corruption of Nature = Gnosticism
6. Sex in Marriage is Lust = Gnosticism
7. The Loss of Freewill = Gnosticism
 
Jews and Predestination

In the Jewish world at the time of Jesus, there were three major sects or denominations: Sadducees, Essenes and Pharisees. Each group had a distinctive understanding of God’s sovereignty and human will. Josephus, a Jewish historian living during the NT period, defined the differences in his account. The Sadducees did not believe that God had any part to play in human affairs. The Essenes believed that fate, Providence or destiny governed all things. The Essene view would be known as monergism. The Pharisees believed that the sovereignty of God incorporated the free choices of men. This would be a synergistic worldview. God works with and around the free actions of men to complete his purposes. Paul, the author of the epistle to the Romans, was an educated Pharisee. Paul, as a trained Pharisee, would not and could not compose Romans from an Essene perspective. The pharisaic view would be the foundation for Paul’s understanding of God.
 
THREE VIEWS OF PREDESTINATION

    1.    Sadducees: All man no God
    2.    Essenes: All God no man
    3.    Pharisees: Some God some man
 
The first view would include Humanists, Deists Atheists and the Open God.
 
The Second view would include Stoics, Astrologers and Augustine.
 
The Third View would include Jesus, the apostles and the early church Fathers.
 
    1.    The Sadducean view is easily rejected since we know from the Bible and personal experience that God interacts with humanity.  
 
    2.    The Essene view makes God responsible for both good and evil.    3.    The Pharisaic view retains the sovereignty of God yet allows true human choice and responsibility.
 
Josephus Antiquities of the Jews. Book 13.5.9

9. (171) At this time there were three sects among the Jews, who had different opinions concerning human actions; the one was called the sect of the Pharisees, another the sect of the Sadducees, and the other the sect of the Essenes.  (172) Now for the Pharisees, they say that some actions, but not all, are the work of fate, and some of them are in our own power, and that they are liable to fate, but are not caused by fate.  But the sect of the Essenes affirm, that fate governs all things, and that nothing befalls men but what is according to its determination.  (173) And for the Sadducees, they take away fate, and say there is no such thing, and that the events of human affairs are not at its disposal; but they suppose that all our actions are in our own power, so that we are ourselves the cause of what is good, and receive what is evil from our own folly.  However, I have given a more exact account of these opinions in the second book of the Jewish War.[1]
 
    •    Fate would be destiny, Providence or predestination.
 
Josephus Antiquities of the Jews. Book 18.1.2-5
 
2.  (11) The Jews had for a great while three sects of philosophy peculiar to themselves; the sect of the Essenes, and the sect of the Sadducees, and the third sort of opinions was that of those called Pharisees; of which sects although I have already spoken in the second book of the Jewish War, yet will I a little touch upon them now.
 
3.  (12) Now, for the Pharisees, they live meanly, and despise delicacies in diet; and they follow the conduct of reason; and what that prescribes to them as good for them, they do; and they think they ought earnestly to strive to observe reason’s dictates for practice.  They also pay a respect to such as are in years; nor are they so bold as to contradict them in anything which they have introduced; (13) and, when they determine that all things are done by fate, they do not take away the freedom from men of acting as they think fit; since their notion is, that it hath pleased God to make a temperament, whereby what he wills is done, but so that the will of men can act virtuously or viciously.  (14) They also believe that souls have an immortal vigor in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but that the former shall have power to revive and live again; (15) on account of which doctrines, they are able greatly to persuade the body of the people; and whatsoever they do about divine worship, prayers, and sacrifices, they perform them according to their direction; insomuch that the cities gave great attestations to them on account of their entire virtuous conduct, both in the actions of their lives and their discourses also.
 
4.  (16) But the doctrine of the Sadducees is this: That souls die with the bodies; nor do they regard the observation of anything besides what the law enjoins them; for they think it an instance of virtue to dispute with those teachers of philosophy whom they frequent; (17) but this doctrine is received but by a few, yet by those still of the greatest dignity; but they are able to do almost nothing of themselves; for when they become magistrates, as they are unwillingly and by force sometimes obliged to be, they addict themselves to the notions of the Pharisees, because the multitude would not otherwise bear them.
 
5.  (18) The doctrine of the Essenes is this: That all things are best ascribed to God.  They teach the immortality of souls, and esteem that the rewards of righteousness are to be earnestly striven for; (19) and when they send what they have dedicated to God into the temple, they do not offer sacrifices, because they have more pure lustrations of their own; on which account they are excluded from the common court of the temple, but offer their sacrifices themselves; yet is their course of life better than that of other men; and they entirely addict themselves to husbandry.  (20) It also deserves our admiration, how much they exceed all other men that addict themselves to virtue, and this in righteousness; and indeed to such a degree, that as it hath never appeared among any other man, neither Greeks nor barbarians, no, not for a little time, so hath it endured a long while among them.  This is demonstrated by that institution of theirs which will not suffer anything to hinder them from having all things in common; so that a rich man enjoys no more of his own wealth than he who hath nothing at all.  There are about four thousand men that live in this way, (21) and neither marry wives, nor are desirous to keep servants; as thinking the latter tempts men to be unjust, and the former gives the handle to domestic quarrels; but as they live by themselves, they minister one to another.  (22) They also appoint certain stewards to receive the incomes of their revenues, and of the fruits of the ground; such as are good men and priests, who are to get their corn and their food ready for them.  They none of them differ from others of the Essenes in their way of living, but do the most resemble those Dacae who are called Polistae  [dwellers in cities.]
 
6.  (23) But of the fourth sect of Jewish philosophy, Judas the Galilean was the author.  These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty; and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord.  They also do not value dying any kind of death, nor indeed do they heed the deaths of their relations and friends, nor can any such fear make them call any man Lord; (24) and since this immovable resolution of theirs is well known to a great many, I shall speak no farther about that matter; nor am I afraid that anything I have said of them should be disbelieved, but rather fear, that what I have said is beneath the resolution they show when they undergo pain; (25) and it was in Gessius Florus’s time that the nation began to grow mad with this distemper, who was our procurator, and who occasioned the Jews to go wild with it by the abuse of his authority, and to make them revolt from the Romans; and these are the sects of Jewish philosophy. [2]
 
Josephus War of the Jews 2. 8. 14

14.  (162) But then as to the two other orders at first mentioned: the Pharisees are those who are esteemed most skillful in the exact explication of their laws, and introduce the first sect.  These ascribe all to fate [or providence], and to God, (163) and yet allow, that to act what is right, or the contrary, is principally in the power of men, although fate does cooperate in every action.  They say that all souls are incorruptible; but that the souls of good men are only removed into other bodies,—but that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment.  (164) But the Sadducees are those that compose the second order, and take away fate entirely, and suppose that God is not concerned in our doing or not doing what is evil; (165) and they say, that to act what is good, or what is evil, is at men’s own choice, and that the one or the other belongs so to every one, that they may act as they please.  They also take away the belief of the immortal duration of the soul, and the punishments and rewards in Hades.  (166) Moreover, the Pharisees are friendly to one another, and are for the exercise of concord and regard for the public.  But the behavior of the Sadducees one towards another is in some degree wild; and their conversation with those that are of their own party is as barbarous as if they were strangers to them.  And this is what I had to say concerning the philosophic sects among the Jews. [3]

[1]Josephus, Flavius, The Works of Josephus, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997.

1Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church Vol III, Chapter 9, sec 146. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing Co.1867, reprinted 1994.
 
[2]Josephus, Flavius, The Works of Josephus, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997.
 
[3]Josephus, Flavius, The Works of Josephus, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997.