Can someone provide a summary of Augustine's soteriological views, and their differences from contemporary views?

I'm particularly interested in a comparison of Augustine's soteriology with the soteriologies of Calvinists, Arminians, and Catholics.

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    In order of decreasing human participation, i think it goes Catholics --> Arminians --> Augustine --> Calvin. Other than that I'm going to have to dig up my homework on Augustine and i'm not in the mood. :P. Hoping for some good answers on this one, though! Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 15:21
  • Augustine is also the originator of the concept of original sin. With original sin and first / second order violition, you get to raise questions questions like 'ante previsa merita' or 'post previsa merita' Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 17:37
  • Looking through what I have by Augustine (Confessions, City of God, On Christian Doctrine), I'm not finding anything that really lays it out there. There's a lot of thankful praise of God's grace in Confessions, but nothing really systematic that would allow for good comparison with other soteriologies. I'll keep looking, though. Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 18:13
  • @Shields Arminians -> Orthodox -> Catholics -> Calvin Is more accurate. The Arminians supposedly held that man could essentially save himself without direct help from God. Catholics have from time to time believed in a works salvation in effect, but the works only saved inasmuch as they were accepted by God, which is not the idea of 'saving oneself through works' exactly as the Arminians would have it. The Orthodox hold that Salvation only occurs through synergy, a common work of God and Man together.
    – user304
    Commented Apr 5, 2012 at 20:24
  • @RiverC, that doesn't seem right to me. I guess doctrinally I'd consider myself sort of Arminian (4/5 points), and I certainly would reject works salvation. From the wikipedia page: Arminius has a very high theology of grace. He insists emphatically that grace is gratuitous because it is obtained through God's redemption in Christ, not through human effort. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacobus_Arminius)
    – user971
    Commented Apr 5, 2012 at 20:43

2 Answers 2


Upon examining the second book of Calvin's Institutes, I found that Calvin and Augustine are pretty much 100% on the same page.

Calvin, Institues, 2.5.2

Thus [Augustine] asks, "What is human merit? He who came to bestow not due recompense but free grace, though himself free from sin, and the giver of freedom, found all men sinners" (Augustine, In Psalmum 31). Again, "If you are to receive your due, you must be punished. What then is done? God has not rendered you due punishment, but bestows upon you unmerited grace. If you wish to be an alien from grace, boast your merits" (In Psalmum 70). Again, "You are nothing in yourself, sin is yours, merit God's. Punishment is your due; and when the reward shall come, God shall crown his own gifts, not yoru merits" (Epist. 52) To the same effect he elsewhere says (De verb. Apost. serm. 15), that grace is not of merit, but merit of grace.

Considering the wealth of quotes, it's pretty obvious Calvin agrees with Augustine on God's grace. Considering the total shunning of any human merit, this at least distinguishes Calvin and Augustine from the Catholics.

Later, in 2.5.8, Calvin quotes Augustine again:

As Augustine says, "What God promises, we ourselves do not through choice or nature, but he himself does by grace."

The mention of the inability of human choice (based, likely, on passages like Romans 9:16) separates Calvin and Augustine again from the Arminians.

The one disagreement I found was in 2.4.3, where Augustine appears to differ on the views of God's "hardening." Calvin believed that God "hardened the hearts" of those whom he did not choose. So here, perhaps, Calvin was even more "frozen-chosen-ish" than Augustine, but otherwise they are in agreement regarding God's grace as the sole means of salvation.

  • Given that the Catholic church considers Augustine "the greatest of the doctors" I seriously doubt that you can demonstrate a major disagreement between Augustine and Catholicism. It is certainly not enough to say that "because Calvin frequently quotes Augustine, Augustine must agree with Calvin". The Catholic church quotes Augustine much more frequently. Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 20:10
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    @DJClayworth to be fair, I didn't say "Augustine must agree with Calvin", I said that because Calvin quotes Augustine (more than any other source) and explicitly praises Augustine on that particular section, he obviously agrees with Augustine about that particular part. Good point though, about the catholic church, but again, I was only referring to his understanding of grace and human involvment, not all his teachings, period. Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 20:58
  • "So here, perhaps, Calvin was even more "frozen-chosen-ish" than Augustine, but otherwise they are in agreement regarding God's grace as the sole means of salvation." Ahh, so Augustine was a Lutheran. Got it. ;) Commented Apr 9, 2012 at 11:51

Augustine's Soteriology is hard to nail down because in the particular work we most cite when we think of his soteriology as though it were so fixed, he was reacting to Pelagius who was basically promoting a kind of Deism where God made man able to save himself and had to do nothing to help him. Of course, not everyone would achieve it, only people who were very exceptional. So you must know a bit about Pelagius' supposed teaching when reading Augustine - I somewhat doubt we actually know Augustine's final position on the issue. Those who quote his works to favor a Monergist approach abuse him greatly.

  • I'm a little confused - didn't Arminius live around 1000 years after Augustine?
    – user971
    Commented Apr 5, 2012 at 20:36
  • You're right. I mean Armenius.
    – user304
    Commented Apr 5, 2012 at 20:38
  • I've never heard of Armenius. Who is he? Do you mean Arius? Also, do you have a reference for the claim that "he was reacting to Armenius [Arius?]"? In what work[s] is Augustine reacting to Armenius (Arius?)? What work of Armenius (Arius?) is Augustine reacting to? Commented Apr 5, 2012 at 20:41
  • Wait, I'm all confused here. its Pelagius that he was responding to. I've fixed my response.
    – user304
    Commented Apr 5, 2012 at 20:46
  • oh of course! Pelagius. Gotcha. Commented Apr 5, 2012 at 20:51

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