Augustine vs. Maximus

“The Spirit does not generate a will that is not willing, but he transforms into deification a will that has the desire for salvation.”[1]

Does this describe Mormonism?

A large strain of Western Christianity is shaped by Augustine’s reaction to Pelagianism. The Oriental side of the family went a different direction. A bit of that seems to be leaking into Protestantism, at least what we used to call, the “mainline.” Is this good for them? I think so, but who can tell? All this entails the funnest of theological issues like foreknowledge and human free will. Most Latter-day Saints don’t want to go there when it comes to a down and dirty discussion of the antipodes of free will, accountibilty and foreknowledge. When we assert exhaustive foreknowledge as an attribute of God while in the same breath arguing that man is responsible for choices made, we run where most angels might fear to tread, I hope. But witness Joseph Smith:

I believe that God foreknew every thing; but did not fore ordain every thing; I deny that foreordain and foreknow is the same thing. He fore ordained the fall of man; but all merciful as he is, he foreordained at the same time, a plan for Redemption for all mankind.

I believe, said he, that a man is a moral, responsible, free agent, that although it was foreordained he should fall, and be redeemed, yet after the redemption it was not fore ordained that he should again sin. In the Bible a rule of conduct is laid down for him, In the old and new Testaments the law by which he is to be governed may be found. If he violates that law, he is to be punished for the deeds done in the body.

So Joseph Smith is a compatibilist of some stripe. Hmmmmm?

[1] Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 2: The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600-1700). (Chicago: Univ. Chicago P, 1977) p.11.

4 Responses to Augustine vs. Maximus

  1. Mark D. says:

    A believer in “simple foreknowledge” (God knows the the future by “seeing” it) yes. A “compatibilist” (someone who believes that free will and determinism are compatible) no.

    Of course some would say that simple foreknowledge implies determinism. But most believers in simple foreknowledge either don’t see it that way or don’t know.

    • WVS says:

      So is prayer an empty exercise for Joseph? Or is he automatically in the camp of “if you pray for the foreseen, you get it. Otherwise, not?” Mormons don’t really have a “before time” kind of scenario either, do they? Simple foreknowledge seems to imply this kind of thing, does it not?

      • Mark D. says:

        I think you are assuming that those who believe in simple foreknowledge require that their beliefs be rationally consistent, where most would probably just describe the problems as a divine mystery beyond their comprehension. Sort of like Calvinists who claim that everything that happens is according to God’s sovereign decree, and yet God is somehow not the author of sin.

  2. J. Stapley says:

    My general sense from all sorts of data, is that JS didn’t believe in absolute foreknowledge at all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: