In a recent essay, Brian Daley has considered the evidence that Maximus the Confessor knew Augustine’s theology based on a number of foundational resonances between the thought of the two fathers (Daley, 2008). These include the affirmation, by both Augustine and Maximus, of two distinct wills in Christ: a human will and a divine will. Building on this observation, this paper considers Augustine’s insistence, in the early fifth century, on the idea that Christ had two distinct wills.
Focusing on Augustine’s affirmation of this notion in his Enarratio of Psalm 93 and his treatise Contra sermonem Arianorum, the paper evaluates how Augustine articulates the idea of Christ’s two wills in each of these contexts and explores his possible motivations for developing the notion as he does in each case. It considers, in other words, the role of Augustine’s affirmation of Christ’s two wills in the polemical contexts of the debates, late in his life, with Pelagianism and with the Homoian Arianism represented by Palladius of Ratiaria and the Arian bishop Maximinus.
With respect to the latter case, this paper will show how Augustine posits two wills in Christ to secure a Christologically appropriate interpretation of a litany of scriptural quotations, cited by his “Arian” opponents, in which Jesus submits to the will of the Father. Reading John 6:38 (“I came down from heaven, not to do my will, but to do the will of him who sent me”) through the lens of Romans 5:15-21, Augustine shows that the submission of Christ’s human will to the divine will signifies, not his lack of a fully divine nature, but rather his possession of a fully divine and human nature in one person. In Augustine’s exegesis of John 6:39, the very possibility of Christ’s human will overcoming the natural human temptation to oppose God autonomously (his capacity to say “not my will) presupposes his possession of a fully divine nature and will. Thus, in this exegetical-polemical context, Augustine’s affirmation of the two wills of Christ secures his affirmation of Christ’s possession of a divine substantia as well as a human substantia.
The paper will conclude by contrasting how and why Augustine articulated the notion of Christ’s two wills in these two instances with the motivations and polemical concerns that led Maximus to strikingly similar conclusions in the seventh century.