Is there a difference between Augustinianism and (Five Points) Calvinism as they relate to the doctrine of salvation?

If so, what is the difference?


5 Answers 5


Augustinianism is not nearly as specific as 5-points, Dordt Calvinism. For instance, I don't know of anyplace where Augustine specifically addresses limited atonement.

The largest difference is that Augustine held to single predestination (God chooses the elect, but does not actively reprobate anyone - he simply "passes over" them), while Calvin held to double predestination (God choose the elect to salvation, and the reprobate to damnation).


Here are some specific quotes of Augustine's, as they relate to some of the points of Calvinism:

Unconditional Election

On The Predestination of the Saints, ch. 11

Therefore the election obtained what it obtained gratuitously; there preceded none of those things which they might first give, and it should be given to them again. He saved them for nothing. But to the rest who were blinded, as is there plainly declared, it was done in recompense.

On The Predestination of the Saints, ch. 16

Faith, then, as well in its beginning as in its completion, is God’s gift; and let no one have any doubt whatever, unless he desires to resist the plainest sacred writings, that this gift is given to some, while to some it is not given. But why it is not given to all ought not to disturb the believer, who believes that from one all have gone into a condemnation, which undoubtedly is most righteous; so that even if none were delivered therefrom, there would be no just cause for finding fault with God.

Irresistable Grace

Enchuridion ch. 25

Furthermore, who would be so impiously foolish as to say that God cannot turn the evil wills of men—as he willeth, when he willeth, and where he willeth—toward the good? But, when he acteth, he acteth through mercy; when he doth not act, it is through justice. For, "he hath mercy on whom he willeth; and whom he willeth, he hardeneth."

On The Predestination of the Saints, Ch. 13

This grace, therefore, which is hiddenly bestowed in human hearts by the Divine gift, is rejected by no hard heart, because it is given for the sake of first taking away the hardness of the heart.

Perseverence of the Saints

On The Predestination of the Saints, ch. 33

For all who are teachable of God come to the Son because they have heard and learned from the Father through the Son, who most clearly says, “Every one who has heard of the Father, and has learned, cometh unto me.” But of such as these none perishes, because “of all that the Father hath given Him, He will lose none.” Whoever, therefore, is of these does not perish at all; nor was any who perishes ever of these.

Single vs. Double Predestination Look at the quotes under "unconditional election" above. Augustine speaks passively about the non-elect. God witholds the grace of election, but is not actively reprobating. Contrast this with Calvin on reprobation:

Institutes III.xxii.11:

At last, he concludes that God has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth (Rom. 9:18). You see how he refers both to the mere pleasure of God. Therefore, if we cannot assign any reason for his bestowing mercy on his people, but just that it so pleases him, neither can we have any reason for his reprobating others but his will.

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    An anonymous user thinks your conception of Augustine's predestination isn't right and I tend to agree with them. Can you site the source (and maybe a source saying that this is the correct interpretation of Augustine)?
    – Peter Turner
    Nov 3, 2011 at 21:47
  • Yes, I can look some things up when I get home. What would you like clarity on? Do you just want evidence he believed in single-predestination and not double-predestination?
    – gmoothart
    Nov 4, 2011 at 17:18
  • More like evidence that his conception of predestination had anything to do with Calvin's. I've read what he says about predestination in City of God but I didn't understand it in light of Catholic teaching. As a Doctor of the Church, I'm pretty sure his position informed Catholic doctrine and the way St. Paul's writings on predestination has been read by the Catholic Church and Calvin's main point was in opposition to Catholic teaching on predestination so I'm just wondering where the disconnect is.
    – Peter Turner
    Nov 4, 2011 at 17:37
  • You've set up a scenario whereby Calvin would defend an active reprobation as opposed to a passive one. Your quote of Calvin neither defends nor denies this claim. There is nothing in the quote that says Calvin believed that it requires God to actively do something in order to harden and reprobate. The Calvinist authors I read believe that when God hardens, he actually does nothing (in other words, he leaves them as they are in their default state of rejection), as opposed to working in the hearts of His chosen that they would repent. Can you find a better quote or else change your answer? Dec 18, 2012 at 16:22
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    @SanJacinto By "active" I was just trying to speak about God's choices. For Calvin, God chooses to elect some and chooses to reject others - whether or not he has to "do" anything to reject the reprobate - and that choice is prior to any (lack of) merit on their part. I linked the Calvin quote, if you look at all of section 11 he is really clear about that. Augustine never spoke of reprobation in that way.
    – gmoothart
    Dec 18, 2012 at 19:35

1,000 years before John Calvin was an idea. After His apologetic battle with Pelagius. Augustine wrote a book called On Grace and Free Will. This was necessitated by two extremes that he saw and had concluded (in agreement with all the fathers before him) that both extremes were in error and he would not be accused (as some were saying) that because of his arguments against Pelagius that he was denying the role of men's freedom of will. Augustine believed in neither a "total" depravity (as in absolute incapability) or in a post-Dordt Reformed position.

He writes in chapter 1

"*But since there are some persons who so defend God's grace as to deny man's free will, or who suppose that free will is denied when grace is defended, I have determined to write somewhat on this point to your Love, my brother Valenti*us, and the rest of you, who are serving God together under the impulse of a mutual love…*"

He goes on page after page defending the necessary requirement by God of man to respond to the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation. God speaks (whether through the word preached or read or heard through another) and God has sovereignly determined from before the foundation of the world that man must demonstrate belief (which is not a work according to Romans 4:2-5). He quotes form over 30 scriptures which in the Greek are in the imperative mood which precludes man can turn unto Him, receive, open the door when He knocks, etc.,

Opening chapter 2 he relates that

"Now He has revealed to us, through His Holy Scriptures, that there is in a man a free choice of will. But how He has revealed this I do not recount in human language, but in divine. There is, to begin with, the fact that God's precepts themselves would be of no use to a man unless he had free choice of will, so that by performing them he might obtain the promised rewards. For they are given that no one might be able to plead the excuse of ignorance, as the Lord says concerning the Jews in the gospel: If I had not come and spoken unto them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin…"

In chapter 4 he asks the logical question

"What is the import of the fact that in so many passages God requires all His commandments to be kept and fulfilled? How does He make this requisition, if there is no free will?"

And then answers it...he says ...

"...there are so many commandments which in some way are expressly adapted to the human will; for instance, there is, Be not overcome of evil, Romans 12:1 and others of similar import, such as, Be not like a horse or a mule, which have no understanding; and, Reject not the counsels of your mother; Proverbs 1:8 and, Be not wise in your own conceit; Proverbs 3:7 and, Despise not the chastening of the Lord; Proverbs 3:11 and, Forget not my law; Proverbs 3:1 and, Forbear not to do good to the poor; Proverbs 3:27 and, Devise not evil against your friend; Proverbs 3:29 and, Give no heed to a worthless woman; Proverbs 5:2 and, He is not inclined to understand how to do good; and, They refused to attend to my counsel; Proverbs 1:30 with numberless other passages of the inspired Scriptures of the Old Testament. And what do they all show us but the free choice of the human will? So, again, in the evangelical and apostolic books of the New Testament what other lesson is taught us? As when it is said, Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth; Matthew 6:19 and, Fear not them which kill the body; Matthew 10:28 and, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself; Matthew 16:24 and again, Peace on earth to men of good will. Luke 2:14 So also that the Apostle Paul says: Let him do what he wills; he sins not if he marry. Nevertheless, he that stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well. 1 Corinthians 7:36-37 And so again, If I do this willingly, I have a reward; 1 Corinthians 9:17 while in another passage he says, Be sober and righteous, and sin not; 1 Corinthians 15:34 and again, As you have a readiness to will, so also let there be a prompt performance; 2 Corinthians 8:11 then he remarks to Timothy about the younger widows, When they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they choose to marry. So in another passage, All that will to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution; 2 Timothy 3:12 while to Timothy himself he says, Neglect not the gift that is in you. 1 Timothy 4:14 Then to Philemon he addresses this explanation: That your benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but of your own will. Servants also he advises to obey their masters with a good will. Ephesians 6:7 In strict accordance with this, James says: Do not err, my beloved brethren . . . and have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ with respect to persons; and, Do not speak evil one of another. James 4:11 So also John in his Epistle writes, Do not love the world, 1 John 2:15and other things of the same import. Now wherever it is said, Do not do this, and Do not do that, and wherever there is any requirement in the divine admonitions for the work of the will to do anything, or to refrain from doing anything, there is at once a sufficient proof of free will. No man, therefore, when he sins, can in his heart blame God for it, but every man must impute the fault to himself. Nor does it detract at all from a man's own will when he performs any act in accordance with God. Indeed, a work is then to be pronounced a good one when a person does it willingly; then, too, may the reward of a good work be hoped for from Him concerning whom it is written, He shall reward every man according to his works. Matthew 16:27"

This is the exact opinion (the mutual existence of predestination and free will and NOT TOTAL depravity) that one will find going all the way back to Justin. All the fathers in whatever church, in whatever nation, regardless of which Apostle founded the church and taught and appointed these earliest teachers, all taught the self same one unified doctrine. After Calvin a theological war began that has lasted 500 years (you shall know then by their fruit)...Calvin is precisely the extreme error Augustine here refutes.

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    Welcome to the site. This is a really good answer. As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites? Sep 5, 2013 at 3:58
  • Very nice first answer!
    – RSW
    Sep 5, 2013 at 5:12

Five Point Calvinism teaches is based on five key points:

Calvinism in regards to salvation is rooted in Augustinianism to the point where it's often called Augustinianism.

While Augustinianism did not have five distinct points (as outlined above), it did agree with (and was the source of) each of these.

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    Calvinism as I understand it see the five points as an inherently coherent system, where each point is logically dependent on the 4 others. Is there such an idea of a unified system of soteriology in Augustinianism?
    – raphink
    Aug 24, 2011 at 16:46
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    That's a fascinating question! Having studied this topic for a full hour now, I'm sure I'm the expert. :P j/k. Seriously, though... From what I've seen, there does seem to be a common thread or theory that unites these concepts, but I don't think that Augustine went so far as to say that they are all reliant on each other. However, all the concepts together seem to be unified in a way that can't be separated--a belief in any one seems to lead to a belief in the rest. But I haven't seen anything specific stating that from Augustine.
    – Richard
    Aug 24, 2011 at 16:56

Calvinism is merely a political ideology dressed up as theology that uses Augustine as cover.

The Five Points (and more generally the Five Solae) are a byproduct of Calvin's effort to circumvent the role of the Papacy in validating the divine right of kings.

A king who enjoys a divine right is absolutely sovereign. His sovereignty does not require the assent of his subjects (nor even their existence, for that matter). But his subjects, to be subjects, do require the the king's acknowledgement, at the very least.

This was a one-way relationship that flowed from the Papacy to the royalty and then to the citizenry. Calvin merely sought to remove the Papacy and royalty from this political hierarchy. Doing so required establishing the Divine as being the only absolute sovereign who could exercise acknowledgement of "subjects." And He does so by either extending grace or withholding it. The subjects themselves, on the other hand, aren't even necessary for God to be what He is. After all, He is absolutely sovereign.

The Five Points then became, in the earthly realm, the necessary suppositions of Calvin's design, otherwise the entire theological schema would be incoherent.

This envelops too many ironies and self-contradictions to enumerate here. But just to whet the appetite.

1) When Calvinism established that humans belong to one of two categories: the unconditionally elected and reprobates -- he might have as well labeled them "angels" and "brute animals."

2) Calvin wasn't very bright. Most "thinkers" who appropriate the ideas of others usually aren't. One of the prime examples that his thinking was pedestrian is that his whole theological schema assumes a pre-critical (if not antiquated) understanding of time. And to compound his mistake, he conflated temporality with eternity. If I explained any further, I'd need the space of the a dissertation. But it makes one wonder if he simply glossed over Augustine on that account.

3) I'm sometimes asked, if those who are saved are "unconditionally elected," what is their impetus to do good? After all, sola fide, no? Reformed adherents will tell you, the obvious reason is that those who are saved can do nothing but good. But the real answer simply is: they do good, not because they are unconditionally elected, but because they need to prove to themselves and their neighbor they are unconditionally elected. What's doubly ironic, is that such a motive is an absolute rejection of Augustine's teaching on Christ's Two Fold Rule of Charity.

[I will take any and all "down votes" as a sign that it is hopefully someone who might one day begin to think critically about how morally bankrupt Reformed Theology actually is. I care far more about your salvation than being right about Calvin's politically nefarious formulation of the nature of salvation.]


I appreciate "gmoothart" addressing your question of where they differ, while I, biblical scholars, historical scholars, and laymen who care about the truth should be mortified by "Brother Paul"'s & "Jamie Andrew"'s responses.

To answer the original question:
Augustine taught on the free will of man, if memory serves, as a response to the Manichean lack of free will ideology 1. As many modern Pelagians will point out, Augustine "changed his mind" later in life when refuting Pelagian and his followers. This was truly an adjustment of focusing so heavily on the freedom of the will against those who didn't think it existed to focusing on the sinful nature of man when Pelagians took the freedom of the will to the opposite heretical extreme.

Calvin never taught five points. Whether in his first rendition of his institutes at the age of 26 (~three years after becoming a Christian) 2, or by the final working before his death, he saw the fullness of Scripture being interconnected, systematic, from cover to cover (as if God is one God speaking with one unified voice). The common notion that Calvin led the charge on 'predestination' (Paul's words 1500 years before) is false given Luther wrote Bondage of the Will in 1525 3 after having written and preached on most of the Bible for a decade & when Calvin was 16 (10 years before the first of the Institutes). One can read that Luther wrote more, and more zealously, on the bondage of the will, borrowing from Augustine, than Calvin ever did. The 'Five Points' are a misnomer attributed to Calvin because the Canons of Dort published their response to Arminius' disciple's 'Five Point' Remonstrance in 1610 (46 years after Calvin died). The response was actually formatted as "U.L.T/I.P." or in four points but is referenced in five because of the formatting of The Remonstrance 4. 'Calvinists' likewise is a misnomer to limit the scope of a person's theology away from the fullness and interconnectedness of Biblical theology (Reformed) to a soteriological hyper-fixation (typically to Strawman as a philosophical Fatalist).

Difference: Depends on when you stop reading. Augustine, Luther, Calvin, your local preacher; everyone has some theological point in error and cannot see the fallacy they are committing (typically because it hasn't been pointed out or because they don't like the idea that reversing 1 theological point means other connected internal viewpoints would necessarily have to change, thus admitting to themselves or others they have been wrong). On the topic of soteriology: they - Reformed theologians such as Luther and Calvin - and Augustine, who they captured insight from and saw historical footing in, are on the same page.

As to the notions of Brother Paul that Augustine 'did not believe man had original sin [in its relation to the gospel as a whole: through the sin of Adam man fell (Romans 5:19), thus is unable to choose salvation apart from God's grace alone (Romans 3:9-18)(original sin); but through the propitiation of the sacrificial blood of His only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ (1 John 4:10; Romans 3:24-26), we are adopted as sons and heirs (Romans 8:16-17)]' this is in direct contradiction to Augustine's writings:

The Manicheans rebuke the concupiscence of the flesh, not as if it were an accidental vice, but as if it were a nature bad from eternity; the Pelagians approve it as if it were no vice, but even a natural good. The catholic faith condemns both, saying to the Manicheans, It is not nature, but it is vice; saying to the Pelagians, It is not of the Father, but it is of the world; in order that both may allow it as an evil sickness to be cured — the former by ceasing to believe it, as it were, incurable, the latter by ceasing to proclaim it as laudable. The Manicheans deny that to a good man the beginning of evil came from free will; the Pelagians say that even a bad man has free will sufficiently to perform the good commandment. The catholic Church condemns both, saying to the former, God made man upright, Ecclesiastes 7:30 and saying to the latter, If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed. John 8:36 The Manicheans say that the soul, as a particle of God, has sin by the commixture of an evil nature; the Pelagians say that the soul is upright, not indeed a particle, but a creature of God, and has not even in this corruptible life any sin. The catholic Church condemns both, saying to the Manicheans, Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree evil and its fruit evil, Matthew 12:33 which would not be said to man who cannot make his own nature, unless because sin is not nature, but vice; and saying to the Pelagians, If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8" 5

Much more can be read by Augustine's own hand as he summarizes his arguments against the Pelagians and their plague on the church as he writes to Bonafice. Luther - and as a consequence Calvin - is confirmed by Augustine.

To Jamie Andrews:
The venomous straw-manning and ad hominin fallacies presented are not helpful and outright horrendous to spout to a young believer who is asking a fundamental question. Clearly, the warning Jesus gives in Matt18:6 about misleading children escapes you. 'Calvinism' - starting nearly 50 years after his death while Reformed theology started a decade after Calvin was born - cannot be a political movement. Both Luther and Calvin wrote against the rebellion of people "A Sincere... Against Insurrection and Rebellion" - Luther 1522[3]. It's no illusion that people who differ from ad hominin assaults do so because they don't have logical arguments to stand by, but given this level of venom, I'd like to ask the moderators to remove his post.

Calvin wasn't very bright? The next "as bright/brighter" young geniuses included Pascal (+100) & Motzart (+200), and if you include those credited as geniuses later in their lives: Newton & Leibniz 100 years later, Edwards and Tesla 200 years later, and so on into relatively modern times (Einstein, Feynman, etc). That's an incredibly small list of geniuses (abbreviated obviously to prove a point). Biblical seminaries still teach out of his institutes (for strengths and few errors) 500 years later compared to pillars of thought like Plato or Aristotle which if taught the full corpus of their works would be showing well over 50% errors (and did they restructure all of philosophy in a mere three years of being introduced to it?). Agree or disagree with his work, his genius is unquestioned.

1 NPNF1-04. Augustine: The Writings Against the Manichaeans and Against the Donatists
2 The Development and Impact of John Calvin’s ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’
3 A Chronological List of Luther’s Works from the American Edition
4 The Canons of Dort
5 Against Two Letters of the Pelagians (Book II)

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