AUGUSTINE'S DOCTRINE OF THE BONDAGE OF THE WILL

Augustine argued that there are four states, which are derived from the Scripture, that correspond to the four states of man in relation to sin: (a) able to sin, able not to sin (posse peccare, posse non peccare); (b) not able not to sin (non posse non peccare); (c) able not to sin (posse non peccare); and (d) unable to sin (non posse peccare). The first state corresponds to the state of man in innocency, before the Fall; the second the state of the natural man after the Fall; the third the state of the regenerate man; and the fourth the glorified man.

Augustine’s description of the person after the fall “not able not to sin (non posse non peccare)” is what it means for humanity to have lost the liberty of the will. Fallen man’s will is free from coercion yes, but not free from necessity… ie. he sins of necessity due to a corruption of nature.

With this in mind we better understand the following statements of Augustine:

“Without the Spirit man’s will is not free, since it has been laid under by shackling and conquering desires.” – Augustine, Letters cxlv 2 (MPL 33. 593; tr FC 20. 163f.)

“When the will was conquered by the vice into which it had fallen, human nature began to lose its freedom.” – Augustine, On Man’s Perfection in Righteousness iv 9 (MLP 44. 296; tr. NPNF V. 161)

“Man, using free will badly, has lost both himself and his will”

“The free will has been so enslaved that is can have no power for righteousness.”

“What God’s grace has not freed will not be free.”

“The justice of God is not fulfilled when the law so commands, and man acts as if by his own strength; but when the Spirit helps, and man’s will, not free, but freed by God, obeys.”

“Man when he was created received great powers of free will, but lost them by sinning.”

“Why then, do miserable men either dare to boast of free will before they have been freed, or of their powers, if they have already been freed? And they do not heed the fact that in the term ‘free will” freedom seems to be implied.  ‘Now where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.’ [II Cor 3:17]. If therefore, they are slaves of sin, why do they boast of free will?  For a man becomes the slave of him who has overcome him. Now if they have been freed, why do they boast as if it had come about through their own effort?  Of are they so free as not to wish to be slaves of him who says: ‘Without me you can do nothing’” [John 15:5]

Note: There are times when Augustine uses the term ‘free will’ in a positive sense, As R. C. Sproul explains, “Augustine did not deny that fallen man still has a will and that the will is capable of     making choices. He argued that fallen man still has a free will (liberium arbitrium) but     has lost his moral liberty (libertas). The state of original sin leaves us in the wretched     condition of being unable to refrain from sinning. We still are able to choose what we     desire, but our desires remain chained by our evil impulses. He argued that the freedom     that remains in the will always leads to sin. Thus in the flesh we are free only to sin, a     hollow freedom indeed. It is freedom without liberty, a real moral bondage. True liberty     can only come from without, from the work of God on the soul. Therefore we are not     only partly dependent upon grace for our conversion but totally dependent upon   grace.”

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The additional passages form Augustine quoted in the above sentences are Enchirdion ix. 30 (MPL 40. 246; tr LCC VII. 356 f.); Against Two Letters of the Pelagians III. viii. 24 (MPL 44. 607; tr. NPNF V. 414); I. iii. 6 (MPL 44. 553; tr. NPNF V. 379); III. vii. 20: “Hominis libera, sed Dei gratia liberata, voluntas” (MPL 44. 607 tr. NPNF V. 412); Sermonscxxxi. 6 (MPL 38. 732).

Also see Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter xxx. 52 (MPL 44. 234; CSEL 60. 208 f.; tr. LCC VIII. 236 f.); On Rebuke and Grace xiii. 42 (MPL 44. 942; tr. NPNF V. 489); Against Two Letters of the Pelagians I. ii. 5 (MPL 44. 552; tr NPNF V 378). (Online source)

HT: Monergism.com

See also:

MAN-CENTERED METHODS OF RICK WARREN ALA ROBERT SCHULLER

ROB BELL DEFENDING LOVE WINS MYTHOLOGY

FULLER SEMINARY PROMOTING EMERGING CHURCH HERETIC DOUG PAGITT