Sunday, August 30, 2009

August 28: Feast of St. Augustine

Because I was traveling on Friday, August 28, I failed to acknowledge the Feast of St. Augustine (AD 354-430). So, I am acknowledging it this evening of August 29 (I am presently in the Pacific Time Zone). Although St. Augustine is admired by many Reformed thinkers, such as R. C. Sproul, the Bishop of Hippo was unambiguously Catholic. In fact, it is clear from St. Augustine's writings that he would be much more at home at the Council of Trent than with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. As I write in Return to Rome:

St. Augustine, whose genius helped rid the Church of the Pelagian and semi-Pelagian heresies,[1] would not be welcomed in [the Evangelical Theological Society] or as a faculty member at virtually any evangelical seminary, because the Bishop of Hippo accepted the deuterocanonical books as part of the Old Testament canon,[2] the deposit of sacred tradition,[3] apostolic succession,[4] the gracious efficacy of the sacraments,[5] the Real Presence of the Eucharist,[6] baptismal regeneration, [7] and the infusion of God’s grace for justification.[8]

[1] St. Augustine, On the Proceedings of Pelagius (AD 417), available at (20 April 2008)
[2] St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine (AD 397), 2.8.13, available at (19 April 2008)
[3] "See, for example, the following: [T]he custom [of not rebaptizing converts] . . . may be supposed to have had its origin in apostolic tradition, just as there are many things which are observed by the whole Church, and therefore are fairly held to have been enjoined by the apostles, which yet are not mentioned in their writings" (St. Augustine, On Baptism, Against the Donatists 5:23[31] [A.D. 400], available at [19 April 2008]). "As to those other things which we hold on the authority, not of Scripture, but of tradition, and which are observed throughout the whole world, it may be understood that they are held as approved and instituted either by the apostles themselves, or by plenary Councils, whose authority in the Church is most useful, e.g. the annual commemoration, by special solemnities, of the Lord's passion, resurrection, and ascension, and of the descent of the Holy Spirit from heaven, and whatever else is in like manner observed by the whole Church wherever it has been established." (St. Augustine, Letter 54, to Januarius, 1:1 [A.D. 400], available at [19 April 2008]).
[4]“For if the lineal succession of bishops is to be taken into account, with how much more certainty and benefit to the Church do we reckon back till we reach Peter himself, to whom, as bearing in a figure the whole Church, the Lord said: `Upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!’….The successor of Peter was Linus, and his successors in unbroken continuity were these…. In this order of succession no Donatist bishop is found.” (St. Augustine, Letter 53, to Generosus, 1:2 [A.D. 400], available at [19 April 2008])
[5]On the sacrament of baptism: “So the grace of baptism is not prevented from giving remission of all sins , even if he to whom they are forgiven continues to cherish hatred towards his brother in his heart. For the guilt of yesterday is remitted, and all that was before it, nay, even the guilt of the very hour and moment previous to baptism , and during baptism itself.” (St. Augustine, On Baptism, Against the Donatists 1:12[20] [A.D. 400], available at [19 April 2008]). On the sacrament of confession and penance: "When you have been baptized, hold fast a good life in the commandments of God, that you may guard your Baptism even unto the end. I do not tell you that you will live here without sin ; but they are venial, without which this life is not. For the sake of all sins was Baptism provided; for the sake of light sins , without which we cannot be, was prayer provided. . . . Only, do not commit those things for which you must needs be separated from Christ's body: which be far from you! For those whom you have seen doing penance, have committed heinous things, either adulteries or some enormous crimes: for these they do penance. Because if theirs had been light sins , to blot out these daily prayer would suffice.. . . . In three ways then are sins remitted in the Church; by Baptism, by prayer, by the greater humility of penance; yet God does not remit sins but to the baptized. The very sins which He remits first, He remits not but to the baptized. When? when they are baptized. The sins which are after remitted upon prayer, upon penance, to whom He remits, it is to the baptized that He remits." (St. Augustine, Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed, 15,16 [A.D. 395], trans. Rev. C. L. Cornish, available at [19 April 2008])
[6] See for example, the following: “For He took upon Him earth from earth; because flesh is from earth, and He received flesh from the flesh of Mary. And because He walked here in very flesh, and gave that very flesh to us to eat for our salvation; and no one eats that flesh, unless he has first worshipped: we have found out in what sense such a footstool of our Lord's may be worshipped, and not only that we sin not in worshipping it, but that we sin in not worshipping..” (St. Augustine, Exposition on Psalm 99 [8], available at [20 April 2008]). “`And was carried in His Own Hands:’ how `carried in His Own Hands’? Because when He commended His Own Body and Blood, He took into His Hands that which the faithful know ; and in a manner carried Himself, when He said, `This is My Body.’” (St. Augustine, Exposition on Psalm 34 [1], available at [20 April 2008])
[7] “In three ways then are sins remitted in the Church; by Baptism, by prayer, by the greater humility of penance; yet God does not remit sins but to the baptized.” (St. Augustine, Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed, 15 [A.D. 395], trans. Rev. C. L. Cornish, available at [19 April 2008])
[8] “We run, therefore, whenever we make advance; and our wholeness runs with us in our advance (just as a sore is said to run when the wound is in process of a sound and careful treatment), in order that we may be in every respect perfect, without any infirmity of sin whatever,— a result which God not only wishes, but even causes and helps us to accomplish. And this God's grace does, in co-operation with ourselves, through Jesus Christ our Lord, as well by commandments, sacraments, and examples, as by His Holy Spirit also; through whom there is hiddenly shed abroad in our hearts…that love , “which makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered,” … until wholeness and salvation be perfected in us, and God be manifested to us as He will be seen in His eternal truth.” (St. Augustine, On Man’s Perfection in Righteousness, 20 [43] [A.D. 415], available at [20 April 2008])

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