Augustine's Writings on Perseverance of the Saints: Origins of Calvinism and Islam
In Calvinism, the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints is one of the half truths that deceives the most people into believing it. A simplified definition of this doctrine is:
A true believer has a 100% chance of getting to Heaven (Biblical and True)
Every true believer will do good works/deeds and repent of their sins (or at least some sins) as evidence of their faith (Satanic and Lie)
The belief that works are evidence of salvation is the hangup that is keeping many professing Christians from being saved today. They know that works don't get a person saved and they don't keep a person saved, but they refuse to believe that a person can not have any good works, deeds, or repentance of sin after salvation and still go to Heaven when they die. In this post, we will be going over Augustine's beliefs about works being part of salvation and how they influenced the religions of Islam and Calvinism. For other content that specifically relates to salvation and also refutes Augustine's interpretations of scripture in this post, you can also read Easy Believism is the True Gospel and Debunking Lordship Salvation (False Repentance).
Augustine of Hippo's Views on Faith and Why He Thought it Wasn't Enough
Augustine (354 - 430 A.D.) stated in his writings about how a person would have "the gift of perseverance" in addition to the "gift of faith." We see in these commentaries how Augustine would always twist the verses that he was quoting by weaving both faith and works together for his false gospel. These are some of the most influential damnable heresies in Christian history, which is why many pastors today have the same interpretations of scripture as Augustine did.
(Augustine) On Predestination and the Saints Book 2 Ch.58 The Doctrine to Be Applied with Discrimination: "For if any are not yet called whom by His grace He has predestinated to be elected, they will receive that grace whereby they may will to be elected, and may be so; and if any obey, but have not been predestinated to His kingdom and glory, they are for a season, and will not abide in the same obedience to the end."
In these next two quotes, we will see how Augustine turns believing facts about Jesus into serving Jesus for the rest of one's life. Both of these interpretations are debunked in the two articles linked above.
(Augustine) Homily 10 on the First Epistle of John: "'Whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.' (1 John 5:1) Who is he that believes not that Jesus is the Christ? He that does not so live as Christ commanded. For many say, I believe: but faith without works saves not."
(Augustine) Homily 10 on the First Epistle of John: "A Physician, He came to the sick: a Way, He extended Himself to them that were in a far country. Let us be saved by Him, let us walk in Him. This it is to believe that Jesus is the Christ, as Christians believe, who are not Christians only in name, but in deeds and in life, not as the devils believe. 'For the devils also believe and tremble,' (James 2:19) as the Scripture tells us."
(Augustine) On Predestination and the Saints Book 2 Ch 46: "But it is said, It is by his own fault that any one deserts the faith, when he yields and consents to the temptation which is the cause of his desertion of the faith. Who denies it? But because of this, perseverance in the faith is not to be said not to be a gift of God. For it is this that a man daily asks for when he says, 'Lead us not into temptation;' (Matthew 6:13) and if he is heard, it is this that he receives. And thus as he daily asks for perseverance, he assuredly places the hope of his perseverance not in himself, but in God."
Here, when Augustine talks about the man who "assuredly places the hope of his perseverance not in himself, but in God" shows that the hypothetical man is not really trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross and His resurrection for his salvation, but instead the works that he thinks God will make him do as evidence of his salvation. This is the lie that is most difficult to correct when dealing with people who believe like this because it cannot be debunked only by quoting verses, but the correcting of their interpretations of the scriptures is also required.
Influence on Calvinism and Islam
Both Calvinism and Islam state that a person has to do good works/deeds as part of their faith. To them, these are not optional, but sure signs that one is a true believer.
Compare these next two quotes with Augustine's quote from On Predestination and the Saints Book 2 Ch.58. They both link predestination with one's faithfulness to the church.
(Calvinism) The Westminster Confession of Faith Ch.10 Sec.4: "Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the laws of that religion they do profess. And to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested."
The Westminster Confession of Faith is much more lax when compared to Augustine and Calvin's writings, but it still conveys the same message that they believe the people who are not God's chosen elect cannot be saved even if they hear the ministry of the Word.
(Calvinism) The Institutes By John Calvin Book 2 Ch.5 Para.3: "Therefore, while we all labour naturally under the same disease, those only recover health to whom the Lord is pleased to put forth his healing hand. The others whom, in just judgement, he passes over, pine and rot away till they are consumed. And this is the only reason why some persevere to the end, and others, after beginning their course, fall away. Perseverance is the gift of God, which he does not lavish promiscuously on all, but imparts to whom he pleases. If it is asked how the difference arises – why some steadily persevere, and others prove deficient in steadfastness, we can give no other reason than that the Lord, by his mighty power, strengthens and sustains the former, so that they perish not, while he does not furnish the same assistance to the latter, but leaves them to be monuments of instability."
Calvin, though more flowery in the language that he uses, talks about a person who starts getting involved in church and his religion, but then decides to leave later, was actually not one of God's chosen ones. He also gives all power to God by saying that the gift of perseverance is "not lavish promiscuously on all," but only those chosen. This creates a doctrine that is perfect for emotional abuse, which can be logically boiled down to two statements.
If you do good, it is not because of you, but because God chose to use you.
If you do evil, it is because of you, even though God didn't choose you for the good.
Islam is the same way, linking good deeds to the predestinated and the bad deeds to the damned.
(Islam) Sahih Muslim 2647 The Book of Al-Qadr: "We were in a funeral in the graveyard of Gharqad when Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) came to us and we sat around him. He had a stick with him. He lowered his head and began to scratch the earth with his stick, and then said: There is not one amongst you whom a seat in Paradise or Hell has not been allotted and about whom it has not been written down whether he would be an evil person or a blessed person. A person said: Allah's Messenger, should we not then depend upon our destiny and abandon our deeds? Thereupon he said: Acts of everyone will be facilitated in that which has been created for him so that whoever belongs to the company of the blessed will have good works made easier for him and whoever belongs to the unfortunate ones will have evil acts made easier for him."
(Islam) Sahih Muslim 6724 The Book of Al-Qadr: "One of you may do the deeds of the people of Paradise until there is nothing between him and it but a cubit, then the Decree overtakes him and he does the deeds of the people of the Fire and enters it. And one of you may do the deeds of the people of the Fire until there is nothing between him and it but a cubit, then the Decree overtakes him and he does the deeds of the people of Paradise, and enters it."
Whether it is Roman Catholicism, Islam, Calvinism, or other forms of thought that claim to be based on the Bible, the vast majority of people believe that their good works and deeds are part of them getting into Heaven, which is why most people are not going there.
This post is part of the series The Hard Truth About Calvinism and Islam under The Catholic Origins of Calvinism and Islam