Historie – Otázky – Problémy

Augustinian Theology in Bohemia in the Transition from the Baroque Period to the Age of Enlightenment – the Theological Work of Hilarius Robek


Abstract: The paper deals with the life and work of Hilarius Robek (1734–1785), a professor of Augustinian theology at Charles University in Prague. It presents his theological opinions, especially on the nature of efficacious grace. Robek held the view of Cardinal Enrico Noris and his school, according to which efficacious grace moves the will by heavenly design and thus man performs infallibly a salutary act. He castigated Molinism, which he regarded as a system dangerously close to Semi-Pelagianism, and promoted the historical method in the field of dogmatic theology. He was a characteristic representative of the first (still quite moderate) generation of Catholic pro-reform clergy in Bohemia.
Towards the close of the 16th century, a great controversy arose among Catholic theologians regarding the relationship between grace and free will. While the Molinists (mainly Jesuits) maintained that the efficacious nature of actual grace was dependent on consent of the free will, Thomists and Augustinians insisted on the opinion that it derived from the grace itself. According to them, grace causes infallibly its effect by moving the will (physically or morally).
When the Enlightenment entered the picture, some kind of alliance was formed between the Aufklärer and Augustinians, whereas the Jesuits were left to play the role of their opponents. In Bohemia, the controversy was strengthened, especially after the reforms of Maria Theresa, when Augustinian theology was favored at the expense of that of the Jesuits and some Augustinians were appointed university professors. Besides Cosmas Schmalfus and Jordan Simon, Hilarius Robek must also be mentioned in this context.
Hilarius Robek was born in Leipa (today Česká Lípa, Northern Bohemia) 13th January 1734. Having entered the Order of Hermits of St. Augustine in 1751, he became a philosophy and theology lecturer in the schools of the order, and in 1767 a professor of Augustinian theology at Charles University (Universitas Carlo-Ferdinandea) in Prague. This office he held until his death in 1785. Robek wrote a number of books, including monographs on christology (De Verbo Dei incarnato libri tres, 1769), sacramentology (De poenitentiae, extremae unctionis, ordinis et matrimonii libri quatuor, 1770) and church law (De matrimonii in infidelitate consumati indissolubilitate, 1775). The most important of his works is a treatise on grace which appeared in 1770 (De divina gratia actuali et habituali libri duo). In this book, Robek firmly defended the Augustinian doctrine of actual grace (held by Enrico Noris and his school) against the Jesuit concept of Molinism. The divine grace is efficacious intrinsically and by its very nature (ab intrinseco). This efficacious nature consists in the heavenly delight (delectatio) which is inserted into the soul of the sinner and thus prevails over the evil delight of the flesh (concupiscentia). The will therefore follows the relatively stronger influence of grace infallibly (infallibiliter), although nevertheless not necessarily. Hence, the influence of the grace is not irresistible (as Jansenius had thought).
The impact of the Enlightenment shows itself clearly in Robek’s historical criticism. However, with his interest in the second scholastic topics and intolerant attitude toward Protestants, Robek remains a child of the Baroque era.

Key words: Augustinian theology, Hilarius Robek, eigteenth century, Bohemia, controversy on grace, Enlightenment