God Crowns His Own Gifts: Augustine, Grace, and the Monks of Hadrumetum


By Ian Hugh Clary

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was the model pastor-theologian who both defended orthodox theology from heresy and shepherded those under his care as bishop. During the Pelagian controversy we see this clearly illustrated in his defense of predestination against radical affirmations of the freedom of the will. However, during the so-called “semi-Pelagian” controversy Augustine demonstrated his pastoral sensitivity wherein he articulated a view of the will that did not absolve humans of their moral responsibility before God. Late in his ministry he was led to address the concerns of a group of unwitting monks in Hadrumetum who feared that his earlier view of grace and predestination made humans mere automatons. With great care he showed that humans were indeed free moral agents, even if their wills were bound by sin and requiring of saving grace. With this balance we see Augustine, without contradiction, strenuously defend predestination against the Pelagians and affirm the freedom of the will in dialogue with the monks of Hadrumetum. This is well illustrated in a selection of his anti-Pelagian writings, namely his Letter 194 to Pope Sixtus and in the series of writings to the monks of Hadrumetum. In this book Ian Clary relates these works with the aim of elucidating the twofold role of Augustine as pastor-theologian: a fierce defender of orthodoxy and a humble teacher of the faith.

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