Original Research

Calvin’s modification of Augustine’s doctrine of original sin

N. Vorster
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 44 | a181 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v44i0.181 | © 2010 N. Vorster | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 July 2010 | Published: 26 July 2010

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N. Vorster, School of Ecclesiastical Studies, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, South Africa

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Augustine was Calvin’s main source of reference in the “Insti- tutes”. However, his treatment of Augustine’s views was not uncritical. This article discusses the way in which Calvin modi- fied Augustine’s doctrine of original sin. The main differences can be attributed to different theological aims. Augustine deve- loped his doctrine of original sin against the teachings of the Manicheans and Pelagians, whereas Calvin shifted the focus to knowledge of God and the self. Calvin understood original sin noetically as religious and moral blindness – whereas Augus- tine viewed sexual concupiscence as the main principle of original sin. Augustine made a considerable effort to explain that sin does not find its origin in God. God foresaw the fall, but did not compel it. Calvin located sin in God’s eternal decree and permission. Augustine, furthermore, understood the transmis- sion of original sin biologically, whereas Calvin ascribed it to God’s eternal permissive will. These differences culminated in a different understanding of the meaning of Jesus’ virgin birth. The article concludes by discussing the relevance of Calvin’s noetic approach to original sin.


Augustine; Calvyn; Noetic; Original Sin


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