Skip to content
Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

St. Augustine and Free Will

Free World Class Education
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.

Contact

Catholic Online
https://www.catholic.org , US
Christine Murray - writer, 586 5669218

Email

cjmstmary@catholic.org

Keywords

Augustine, free will

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,717

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

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.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

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

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb


FREE Classes on LENT & SAINTS from Catholic Online School

Our Mission is to Provide a Free World Class Catholic Education for Anyone, Anywhere. Help our Mission >

Pick a class, you can learn anything.



Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity
DAN SHEA

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Information
Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
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

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Services
Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on catholic.org

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Education
Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Socials
Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2019 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.