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Does anyone doubt that it is preferable for people to be drawn to worship God by teaching rather than forced by fear of punishment or by pain? But because the one type of people are better, it does not mean that the others, who are not of that type, ought to be ignored. Experience has enabled us to prove, and continue to prove, that many people are benefited by being compelled in the first place through fear or pain; so that subsequently they are able to be taught, and then pursue in action what they have learnt in words.

Some people suggest the following maxim from a secular author: “I am sure it is more satisfactory to restrain a child by shame and generosity, than by fear.” This is certainly true. However, just as boys guided by love are better, so boys reformed by fear are more numerous. Indeed, if we want to reply to them by quoting the same author, they can also read in him: “You can’t do anything properly, unless trouble makes you do it!” (Augustine: Political Writings, 186)

Is anyone able to love more generously than Christ, who laid down his life for his sheep? Now when he called Peter and the other apostles, he did so with a single word. However, Paul, formerly known as Saul, who was to become a great builder of his church, was at first a fearsome destroyer of it; and Christ did not restrain him with a single word. Rather, he used his power to knock Paul down: with the aim of encouraging a man who had been raging in the dark of faithlessness to long for light in his heart, he first struck him with physical blindness. If that was not a punishment, he wouldn’t have been healed later on; and if his eyes had been sound (when he could see nothing with them open) scripture would not have described how something like scales, which had been covering them, fell from them when Ananias laid his hands on Paul, so that their gaze was opened up. Where do they get that cry of theirs? “We are free to believe or not to believe: did Christ apply force to anyone? Did he compel anyone?” Look–they have the apostle Paul! They should realise that Christ first used force on him and later taught him, first struck him and then consoled him. It is amazing, moreover, how Paul, who came to the gospel under the compulsion of a physical punishment, afterwards struggled more for the gospel than all of those who were called by word alone; although a greater fear drove him to love, still his perfect love casts out fear. (187)


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