Sovereignty and Salvation: Engaging the Problem of Free Will with the Augustinian Tradition
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The problem of the relationship between divine sovereignty and human activity in conversion is one theologians continue returning to over the centuries. Augustine established one line of interpretation by arguing that divine choice is determinative in conversion. However, others have leveled criticism against this view for leaving no room for human agency, violating free will, or making loving human response impossible. This thesis engages in a close reading of primary texts, from Augustine (ancient), John Calvin (Reformation) and John Piper (modern) to examine their response to these problems. Through attention to the particular vocabulary of each theologian, this thesis argues that four common tenets are foundational to their understanding and argumentation: inability of the human will, divine initiative, decisive divine work, and human free willingness upon conversion. Their defense against objections hinges on establishing the first tenet and then the logical compatibility of these four ideas. I explore how language of both God leading the will and moving the will, and also language of conversion over time and conversion as a moment, are consonant with this shared framework and contribute to the broader reformed understanding.