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Abstract

In this paper I seek to summarize and critique John Rist’s article “Augustine on Free Will and Predestination.” Rist treats Augustine with honesty. When someone is as prominent, loved, and recognized as Augustine, when someone has as much authority as he does, the temptation to manipulate his writings into saying things which agree with one’s own position is strong. Rist resists this temptation, even concluding that Augustine holds a position on free will and predestination which Rist finds highly objectionable. But in his objections to Augustine’s position, Rist does not do justice to the whole system of Augustine’s thought. In my critique I will focus on two points where Rist takes issue with Augustine: 1) Augustine’s lack of an account of how God acts justly in election and 2) the demeaning of man to the level of a “puppet.” I will attempt to demonstrate that Rist’s criticisms are accounted for by extending Augustine’s teachings of, regarding 1), causality and the will and, in regard to 2), the solidarity of humanity with Adam. The aim of this paper is not to prove that Augustine’s articulation of free will and God’s predestination is the correct one but only that his position can withstand the criticisms Rist brings against it.