Nancy and Carroll,
Don't we normally define "gift" as something not only "free of charge" but also "freely given"? Merriam-Webster defines gift as "something *voluntarily* transferred by one person to another without compensation" (emphasis mine). I don't think of my taxes as a gift to the government. (Of course, there are gray areas; I will joyfully give my wife a birthday gift, but if I forget, I might be in trouble.) So I still think that "free gift" is technically redundant even if if it means "freely given."
"Redundant" doesn't necessarily mean "pointless," though; I do think that "free" can be used to put extra emphasis on a quality (either "freely given" or "free of charge," or both) already contained within the word "gift."
It's interesting that Luther uses the expression "free gift" to suggest that God's mercy is both free of (monetary) charge, unlike papal indulgences, and also freely given by God--though its recipients are not "free" to decline it without being punished and damned.
From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Carrol Cox [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Monday, June 15, 2009 11:40 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: OT - St Augustine
"O'Sullivan, Brian P" wrote:
> Nancy asked
> "When did "gift" become "free gift," as if one ever paid for a gift?"
> I realize that this is a rhetorical question, but Google Books can suggest an actual answer: it happened sometime before 1520, when Luther wrote the following in his "Letter to the Christian Nobility of the Nation of Germany, Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate":
> "Let this be your fixed rule: What you must buy from the pope is neither good nor of God; for what is from God, to wit, the Gospel and the works of God, is not only given without money, but the whole world is punished and damned because it has not been willing to receive it as a free gift."
I think it is possible to gloss "free gift" (of/from God) in a
non-redundant sense: It (presumably grace) is a gift which God _freely_
gives: The gift is neither a _necessary_ expression of the Nature of God
nor is it given for the purpose of receiving anything back. God does not
_need_ to create, nor does God _need_ the love of humans; hence all his
actions with respect to humans (creation, gift, etc) are _free acts."
"Necessity approach not me" (or something like this) the Father
proclaims someplace in Book III of PL. God is self-sufficient and need
not create in order to be Himself.