St. Augustine and Free Will
FREE Catholic Classes
By Christine Murray
©Catholic Online 2004
People have always to determine the role of the free will in life - indeed, whether they have one at all. As we approach the Catholic feast day of St. Augustine on Aug. 28, it is good to examine his writings on the subject, especially in Free Choice of the Will.
He assumes the will is free and seeks to determine how we choose good or evil. This continues to be "debated" in our age and has great implications on one's perspective on life. The Catholic faith helps us understand how free will works. Sadly, many in society do not. How one answers the question of free will often helps determine whether one believes life has any ultimate "meaning" at all.
Augustine's approach to the "free choice of the will" assumes that "there can be no denying that we have a will." Instead, Augustine defines "good will" as "a will by which we seek to live a good and upright life and to attain unto perfect wisdom" which, of course, assumes that it is free. This is worth meditating on while considering the literal Latin translation of the first two are not meant for "stuff," but rather for God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church echoes this, saying, "Endowed with a spiritual soul, with intellect and with free will, the human person is from his very conception ordered to God and destined for eternal beatitude." (1711).
In fact, a free will that does not seek God clings to material things, which are so easily lost in everything from hurricanes to death. Those who choose evil are ruled by their passion and desire for things of this world. This is futile because they only have, as Augustine says, "the love of things which each one can lose against his will." It is ironic, isn't it? One who chooses to do good ultimately gains everything because there is no fear of losing "things" due to lack of attachment to them. Those who becomes perfect could lose every material thing and still gain all precisely because they are trying to attain the perfect, which is wisdom. Wisdom cannot be lost as long as someone has good will.
So why would we choose evil? Humans always choose to do good, it's just a matter of whether one chooses a lesser "good." This occurs when one chooses to allow passions and desires rule the soul, which tend toward things of this world. While Augustine's friend Evodius can claim "there is a great difference between" passion-desire and fear, fear is a part of passion. We fear because we abhor something, which may or may not correspond with reason. Therefore someone of good will necessarily seeks to order oneself perfectly with God's help.lines of the Gloria: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to men of good will" (Lk 2:14).
Augustine begins to answer the age-old question why man chooses to do evil by clarifying that what makes humans distinct from animals is the fact that humans have the capability of reasoning and animals do not. Then he points out that some things that men possess uniquely as opposed to animals, such as the "power to jest and laugh" and "the love of praise and glory," are "of a lower order." Therefore, when reason rules the soul, "the more perfect [reason] is made subject to the less perfect [desire and passion]." In our day, most people do not even realize they should work toward having reason rule their lives.
The psychological model that has been in vogue for more than one hundred years concludes that humans need to have their passions and desires rule their lives. Actually, this model claims that it is for the best that humans are ruled by them. In this worldview, those who have reason rule their lives are thought to be "rigid" because reason assumes that someone can find truth, which many now claim is impossible.
These days, this outlook on life manifests itself by people thinking they can determine their own morality or even their own reality. On the flipside, people tend to think they're at the mercy of the bad things that happens to them to explain away their need to eliminate their faults.
Augustine helps Christians today understand the importance of understanding the use of one's free will. We live in an age when its ramifications to one's life are practically denied. If we have a free will, then we also have the duty to make decisions based on a well-formed conscience and what is good and evil. What determines whether a particular action is good does not depend on one's own judgment on whether "it feels good" or "does not hurt anyone."
Instead, we have a duty to determine good and evil based on truth and to have it rule one's life, with passion and desire subject to it. When people are ruled by feelings, it necessarily diminishes the dignity of a person. When a soul is not well-ordered, the ability to use one's will freely is diminished, but not obliterated completely. Rather, we have the duty to work to order our souls correctly, no matter how low we've gotten.
Augustine had a mistress for several years before turning from evil to do good (cf. Ps 34:15). With His grace, Augustine rose from a life of sin to become one of the greatest Doctors of the Church. If we seek our Lord's grace, we too can choose to become men of good will.
https://www.catholic.org , US
Christine Murray - writer, 586 5669218
Augustine, free will
More Catholic PRWire
Showing 1 - 50 of 4,717
A Recession Antidote
Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell
Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell
Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Franchising to Evangelize
Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Three words to a deeper faith
Relections for Lent 2009
Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell
World Food Program Director on Lent
Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Glimpse of Me
The 3 stages of life
Sex and the Married Woman
A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Modernity & Morality
Just a Minute
Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Edging God Out
Burying a St. Joseph Statue
George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell
Easter... A Way of Life
Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
by Catholic Online
- St. Daniel: Saint of the Day for Saturday, February 16, 2019
- Daily Reading for Monday, February 18th, 2019 HD Video
- Daily Readings for Saturday, February 16, 2019
- Liturgy is not 'styles, recipes, trends,' pope tells Divine Worship ...
- Esta es la primera imagen de la Virgen Maria que llego a Mexico hace ...
- Catholic Online School - Deacon Keith's Personal Message to All ...
- Ordenan por primera vez sacerdote a miembro de una tribu de Indonesia
- Prayer Requests Live for Friday, February 15th, 2019
- Daily Reading for Sunday, February 17th, 2019 HD
- Prayer Requests Live for Thursday, February 14th, 2019
- Daily Reading for Saturday, February 16th, 2019 HD
Learn about Catholic world
Inform - Inspire - Ignite
Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained
Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need
Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online
Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye
Today's bible reading
Products and services we offer
Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books
The California Network
Inspiring streaming service
Learn the Catholic way
Teacher lesson plans & resources
Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education