Saint Augustine’s “river of theology”. Questions for Discussion: Lesson 19A- “Part V A Tale of Two Churches”; Chapter 17 “Augustine Confesses God’s Glory & Human Depravity” from The Story of Christian Theology by Roger E. Olson
1. In this chapter Olson refers to the distinctive “river of theology” that flowed from Augustine’s contributions; and this invites the question how should we summarize the main emphases of his theology, especially his doctrine of salvation?
2. The term “monergism”, frequently contrasted with “synergism”, is applied to the Augustinian perspective on providence and salvation. How would you explain monergism to a Sunday School class while contrasting it with synergism.
3. Why do you think Augustine’s Confessions is still being so widely read? What were his distinctive accomplishments in this work?
4. Augustine’s theology first posited a concept of free will that was not monergistic; he argued for a “libertarian idea of human freedom against the deterministic Manicheans”, as Olson points out; but Augustine matured in his theology and eventually argued… what? Define the position he formulated in his contrast to his early libertarianism?
5. What were the main tenets of the Manicheanism that Augustine finally rejected?
6. Can you summarize the metaphysical and moral arguments Augustine offered on the issue of how can a good nature created by a good God go wrong and become evil?
7. Augustine, with his conception of grace and salvation, sharply attacked the theology being advanced by the British monk Pelagius. What was the role Pelagius accorded to grace in his soteriology? Original sin? Free will? Why would one modern writer label Pelagius a “reluctant heretic”?
8. What is “human depravity” in the context of Augustine’s soteriology? How does original sin tie to this concept? When the Latin phrase “non posse non peccare” is employed, what is the writer suggesting about man’s nature?
9. Was God the ultimate author of evil for Augustine? If not, can you explain the reasoning he used when examining the problem of evil inclinations in man’s will that permitted Augustine “to get God off the hook”, as Olson terms it?
See Lesson 19B for Correlated Readings:
Selections from St. Augustine’s Confessions
Bible Verses for Reflection