“Understand that it is in hope of our conversion that he spares us, for he desires no one’s damnation”

The Gospel tells us that some people were rebuked by the Lord because, clever as they were at reading the face of the sky, they could not recognize the time for faith when the kingdom of heaven was at hand. It was the Jews who received this reprimand, but it has also come down to us.

The Lord Jesus began his preaching of the Gospel with the admonition: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Mt 4:17).” His forerunner, John the Baptist, began his in the same way: “Repent, ” he said, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Mt 3:2).” Today, for those who will not repent at the approach of the kingdom of heaven, the reproof of the Lord Jesus is the same. As he points out himself, “You cannot expect to see the kingdom of heaven coming. The kingdom of heaven,” he says elsewhere, “is within you (Lk 17:21).” Each of us would be wise therefore to take to heart the advice of his teacher, and not waste this present time.

It is now that our Savior offers us his mercy; now, while he still spares the human race. Understand that it is in hope of our conversion that he spares us, for he desires no one’s damnation.

As for when the end of the world will be, that is God’s concern. Now is the time for faith. Whether any of us here present will see the end of the world I know not; very likely none of us will. Even so, the time is very near for each of us, for we are mortal. There are hazards all around us.

We should be in less danger from them were we made of glass. What is more fragile than a vessel of glass? And yet it can be kept safe and last indefinitely. Of course it is exposed to accidents, but it is not liable to old age and the suffering it brings. We therefore are the more frail and infirm. In our weakness we are haunted by fears of all the calamities that regularly befall the human race, and if no such calamity overtakes us, still, time marches on. We may evade the blows of fortune, but shall we evade death? We may escape perils from without but shall we escape what comes from within us? Now, suddenly, we may be attacked by any malady.

And if we are spared? Even so, old age comes at last, and nothing will delay it.

St Augustine of Hippo

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4 Responses to “Understand that it is in hope of our conversion that he spares us, for he desires no one’s damnation”

  1. “For God desires the damnation of no one….”


    Well, if you are a dedicated hellist, I would say that looking at the actions of God in this world, I wouldn’t be able to believe that for a red-hot second. In fact, I would believe exactly the opposite:

    Allowing darkend minds and souls to be decieved by evil spirits .
    Allowing the evil one, a defeated foe, free reign to tempt, trick, and decieve as many people into an eternity of torment as he can.
    Allowing heretics to preach soul-damning theologies which will damn the soul forever instead of striking them dead on the spot.
    Never warning the ancient peoples of the world by some means that there is an eternal hell and we must do all we can to escape it.
    Restrainging the truth faith to one particular ethic set of people and letting the others fall into idol worship, thus damning themselves, even though they have no idea at all of the true God.

    These and other actions are not the actions of a God who does not desire the damnation of people. They seem, in fact, the contrary.

    DBH makes it clear in the first part of TASBS that things are created with intent, that is, a telos to which they are designed. If God did not create mankind with the intent that all should be saved, that being the proper telos of Creation, then He created mankind with the intent that some should be saved and the vast majority damned forever. For all his brilliance, Augustine didn’t put 2+2 together in this manner. Probably because being a Roman citizen, he regarded everything about God as being about the Great Roman Judge who waits to condemn rather than the Loving Heavenly Physician who heals all.


  2. Jack says:

    Contrary to much evidence, and the opinions of virtually all scholars, I believe Augustine, in some small corner of his soul, held out at the least a small hope that all or most will be saved. On the one hand he talks as if hell is a preordained conclusion for most because that’s the way God wants it. On the other he is constantly admonishing everyone to repent immediately and do all they can to stave off damnation. His sense of urgency and care here doesn’t make sense if he truly believes that most are damned for eternity, and this by an arbitrary divine decree. I also don’t understand how some one who writes with incomparable beauty about the Trinity can really relish damnation a few pages later. Cognitive dissonance doesn’t even begin to be the appropriate term to describe that.


  3. John H says:

    And, to complicate things further, the early Augustine, like the early St. Jerome, believed in the apokatastasis as taught by Origen of Alexandria. At least that is the opinion of Ilaria Ramelli in her magnum opus, The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis. In his youth Augustine was a Manichaean, a late gnostic group which taught double predestination. When Augustine converted to Christianity, he made use of Oriegen’s thought to combat the Manichaean heresy.

    Of course, in his latter years Augustine was combatting the Pelagians, who held the view that human beings could attain to salvation through their own efforts without the assistance of divine grace. To combat that heretical view, Augustine adopted the view expressed in Book XXI of the City of God that only a small number of individuals elected by the grace of God would escape eternal damnation. Which ironically seems to be a return to the Manichaean belief of Augustine’s youth.


    • Iain Lovejoy says:

      I think a lot of theologians would vehemently disagree with themselves if their younger and older selves could meet.


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