Big Nate recently wrote a great post on Melanchthon, his relationship to Luther, and his theological work on justification. I never knew this, but his view on forensic Justification was brought forth in light of Augustine’s view of faith and works. This peaked my interest because I have always loved Augustine but I have never thought of his views on this topic. So I checked out Augustine’s book On Faith and Works and read it last night and found it really helpful. I recommend it because it is real short and insightful.
Here some random thoughts on his view.
- It is important to know that this book was written against a certain group of people who wanted the Church to allow people to be baptized and partake in communion regardless of whether or not they have repented of sin. They were antinomian. So Augustine is hammering down a certain point that we need works to be saved. This is the opposite of when he was arguing against Pelagius when he argued that we are saved by Grace alone. So we need to consider who he is arguing against when examine his argument. (Nate points this out in one his comments)
- When it comes to faith and works here are a couple quotes that kind of give you a taste of what he thought.
- This is to preach Christ: to not only say what one must believe about Christ but also how one must live who wishes to be joined to the body of Christ. Or We can’t preach Christ the head, with out preaching Christ the body.
- If we are not to give the sinner a false security, or even an authorization to commit sin, this then, in accordance with true and sound doctrine, is the procedure we must follow in our instructions, namely, that all who are to be baptized are to believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as is prescribed in the Creed; that they are to do penance for their sins; and that they are not to doubt that all their past sins will be forgiven them when they receive baptism. They must be told that this forgiveness is not a license to commit sin, but a release from sin; that it is a remission of sin, not a permission to sin. Then it can be truly said tof them, in a spiritual sense; “You are made whole, sin no more.”….. How can the opponents say this. For if adultery is not a disease, and a serious and fatal disease, then I do not know what it is.
- I agree with Big Nate in that his categories are not clear when it comes to justification. But in his view it is clear that man is saved completely by grace. He enters the Church only on the account of the blood of Christ. But he produces good works only on the account of the Spirit. He sees at least two purposes (probably more) in the cross: (1) It reconciles sinners to God and (2) It crucifies sinners to the wicked world. It removes the stain of sin from man and it removes man from the world of sin.
- So does Augustine think people are justified by their good works? No, he thinks that we are all saved by Grace, but one cannot say they have faith in God if they are still loving sin more than Him. For God sets us free from sin to love Him and not the World.
- His view on works is this, before Christ we could never live up to the law because of our sin and because we don’t have the Spirit. All are condemned by the Law. But because we are part of the Church, by Grace we have the Holy Spirit and now we can live in faith and produce live according to His law. It has a eschatological connotations.
- I think the confusion is in this, his opponents only wanted to preach the forgiveness of sins without the repentance from sins. Augustine’s whole book centers on the fact that people are saved by Grace. That means that Jesus died for our sins, so that we can leave them and pursue God. If you don’t have to leave your sins then you are destroying the Gospel.
- His high view of the Spirit, Sacraments, and the Church was refreshing. I think we have lost a lot of the significance of these aspects of our faith.
- I also appreciate his view on Church discipline. If anybody wants a well rounded thought on this topic this book will flesh out a healthy concept of it.
In the end, I think if Melancthon and Augustine were to meet in a room and talk they would both agree with eachother. Melancthon was arguing against legalism and Augustine against anitnomianism. Both believe in the utter grace of God in both Justification and Sanctification.