I am reading St. Augustine’s Confessions. It’s a great read and I recommend it to anyone interested enough to pick it up and read it. Tonight I ran across this quote, which made me laugh. Speaking of a book he had written when he was younger he says,
“I regarded it admiringly, though no one else joined me in doing so.” [4.14.23]
I love this admission of both the foolishness and pride of his youth.
A little later, he writes, addressing God,
“And what greater pride could there be for me than, with a marvelous madness, to assert myself to be that nature which you are? … I preferred to contend that your immutable substance was involved in error through necessity rather than admit that my own mutable substance had gone astray of its own free will and had fallen into error as its punishment.” [4.15.26]
Calvin claimed that his doctrine, which denied free will, was a reiteration of St. Augustine’s beliefs. Calvinists today make the same claim – that they are more in line with St. Augustine’s teaching than any other branch of Christianity. But St. Augustine very clearly says here that he had gone astray through his own free will.
Did Calvin get his denial of free will from St. Augustine? Emphatically, no.
For those interested in more of what St. Augustine believed and taught on the subject, check out his treatise On Grace and Free Will.