Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

There is no injustice in God



augustine_webWhy does God make certain men sheep and not others, since there is no partiality in him? This is the question which certain people pose with more curiosity than mental capacity, and the blessed Apostle answers, Who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Does the clay pot say to its maker: Why have you made me so? This is the question involving that depth at which, when he tried to examine it, the same Apostle gasped and cried out, Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and unsearchable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor? Or who has first given him something so that he will be repaid? For from him and through him and in him are all things; to him be glory for ever.

And so, let these people not dare to search out this unsearchable question, for in defending merit before grace and, therefore, in opposition to grace, they want first to give God something so that they will be repaid. They want first to give him something from their free choice so that grace might be given to them in return as a reward. Let them understand with wisdom or believe with faith that they received from him from whom are all things, through whom are all things, and in whom are all things, even what they suppose that they first gave him. But as for the question why this one receives and that one does not receive, when neither of them merits to receive and whichever of them receives does not receive something owed to him, let them take measure of their powers and not search out mysteries that are beyond them.

Let it suffice for them to know that there is no injustice in God. For when the Apostle found no merits by which Jacob was preferred before God over his twin brother, he said, What then shall we say? Is there injustice in God? Heaven forbid! For he said to Moses, I shall take pity on whom I shall take pity, and I shall show mercy, to whom I shall show mercy. Therefore, it does not depend on the one who wills or runs, but upon God who takes pity. Let his gratuitous mercy, then, be gratefully received, even if this profound question remains unsolved. It is, nonetheless, solved to the extent that the Apostle solved it, when he said, What if in wishing to show his anger and demonstrate his power, God tolerated with great patience the vessels of anger which were made for destruction in order to make known the riches of his glory toward the vessels of mercy which he prepared for glory. He does not, of course, reveal his anger unless it is deserved so that there is no injustice in God, but his mercy, even when it is offered without being deserved, is not injustice in God. From this the vessels of mercy understand how gratuitously he shows them his mercy, because he reveals his deserved and righteous anger to the vessels of anger with whom they form a common mass and share the same grounds for their destruction. And let this answer suffice against those who want to destroy the generosity of grace through the freedom of choice.

St Augustine
An Answer to the Two Letters of the Pelagians 4.6.16


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