AUGUSTINE: FOUNDER OF ROMAN CATHOLICISM
This report on Augustine is excerpted from the book Rome and the Bible: Tracing the History of the Roman Catholic Church and of Its Persecution of the Bible and of Bible Believers by David Cloud, copyright 1996 by David W. Cloud. I highly recommend purchase of this book for an extensive and well researched book by David Cloud on the subject of Roman Catholicism. See footnote. 1 (Bolding is mine for attention and emphasis.)
February 29, 2000 (David W. Cloud Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061) - Many modern Evangelical theologians exalt the fifth century Augustine, but for our part we reject him as a heretic. Many historians have wisely observed that Augustine (354-430) rejected the New Testament faith to such a degree and wielded such vast influence that he laid the foundation for the formation of the Roman Catholic Church. To support this footnote.2
Benjamin Warfield said that "in a true sense" Augustine is "the founder of Roman Catholicism" (Warfield, Calvin and Augustine, p. 22). The Roman Catholic Church itself acknowledges Augustine as one of its "major Church Doctors," and has canonized him as a saint.
Augustine was a persecutor, and the father of generations of persecutors. "Augustine of Hippo did not shrink from giving a dogmatic basis to what had come to be the practice of the church, and even professed to find warrant for it in Scripture. 'It is, indeed, better that men should be brought to serve God by instruction than by fear of punishment, or by pain. But because the former means are better, the latter must not therefore be neglected. Many must often be brought back to their Lord, like wicked servants, by the rod of temporal suffering, before they attain the highest grade of religious development. . . . The Lord himself orders that guests be first invited, then compelled, to his great supper.' And Augustine argues that if the State has not the power to punish religious error, neither should it punish a crime like murder. Rightly did Neander say of Augustine's teaching, that it 'contains the germ of the whole system of spiritual despotism, intolerance, and persecution, even to the court of the Inquisition.' Nor was it long before the final step was taken in the church doctrine of persecution. Leo the Great, the first of the popes, in a strict sense of that term, drew the logical inference from the premises already provided for him by the Fathers of the church, when he declared that death is the appropriate penalty for heresy" (Vedder, Our New Testament, pp. 97,98).
The bitter persecutions poured out upon the Bible-believing Donatists were largely at the instigation of Augustine. The Donatists contended for pure New Testament churches comprised only of those who evidenced repentance and faith. They practiced a congregational form of church government. They baptized those who came to them from churches they considered to be heretical, arguing that baptisms at the hands of men and churches which did not follow the New Testament Faith are invalid. Thus they were labeled "rebaptizers," but their leaders argued that they believed in only one baptism--one true baptism. Donatist Pastor Petilian stated: "He who accuses me of baptizing twice, does not himself truly baptize once. ... The apostle Paul says there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; this one baptism we openly profess, and it is certain that they who think there are two, are insane" (David Benedict, History of the Donatists, 1875, p. 49). Augustine opposed these people, arguing for a lax church discipline which allowed for unregenerate pagans and immoral ecclesiastical leaders, and demanding that the Donatists submit themselves to a centralized Catholic church system. Because the Donatists refused to submit to these heresies, the Catholic authorities joined hands with the secular powers to persecute them. Many of their church leaders were put to death and great numbers of them were forced into exile. David Benedict, who labored for 10 years on his history of the Donatists, working largely from ancient Latin texts, gave this summary:
"The Novatians and Donatists were called Puritans because they held that the visible church of Jesus Christ does not, and ought not to, consist of any but those who are free from spots and falls, and that all others should be cast out. When the Catholic church was notoriously full of bad members, it was said by Augustine, the Donatist discipline would split it into a thousand schisms. The reforms of North Africa, unlike the reformers of later times, did not leave their work half done. Having repudiated the head of the church which they left, they also disowned its members, its baptisms, its ordinations, and all its official unctions; and all who came to them from the old body, whether bishops, elders, deacons or lay members, were required to be rebaptized, reordained and reappointed in their new connection, in their different stations" (Benedict, History of the Donatists, pp. 186,187).
Though we would not agree with the Donatists on every point of doctrine or practice, we have included this testimony because these ancient Christians have been either ignored or slandered in many church histories.
Augustine, akin to the other "doctors" and "fathers" of the Catholic Church, was polluted with many heresies. Like Jerome, he was baptized in Rome, the very seat of apostasy. He adopted some of the allegorical methods of biblical interpretation which were championed by Origen, and he redefined the church and the kingdom of God as an ecclesiastical-political alliance in this present world. He was the father of a-millennialism. "Augustine was the first who ventured to teach that the Catholic Church, in its empirical form, was the kingdom of Christ, that the millennial kingdom had commenced with the appearing of Christ, and was therefore an accomplished fact" (Encyclopedia Britannica).
Augustine taught that salvation was by grace alone, but he confused the issue by claiming that the sacraments were actual means of grace, therefore perverting the Gospel of the grace of Christ and intermingling works with grace (Berkhof, The History of Christian Doctrines, pp. 206,207). Schaff says that the center of Augustine's doctrinal system was "the free redeeming grace of God in Christ, OPERATING THROUGH THE ACTUAL, HISTORICAL CHURCH" (Schaff, III, p. 998). This is to confuse grace with church sacramentalism. The true grace of Jesus Christ is not channeled through a church; it is offered directly to the sinner through the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no mediator between Christ and man. Augustine's error pertaining to grace is one of the chief errors of Romanism.
Augustine also taught that Mary is sinless, blasphemously claiming for her that which belongs exclusively to the immaculate Lord Jesus Christ. He also taught a form of purgatory.
Augustine is one of the fathers of the heresy of infant baptism and he further taught that man is regenerated through baptism. He claimed that unbaptized babies are lost. "Originally, only adults were baptized; but at the end of the second century in Africa, and in the third, generally, infant baptism was introduced; and in the fourth century it was theologically maintained by Augustine" (Armitage, A History of the Baptists, I, pp. 216,17). Of infant baptism Augustine pompously declared, "He that does not believe it, and thinks it cannot be done, is indeed an infidel" (Orchard, Concise History of the Baptists, p. 96). Augustine provided leadership for the Council of Mela, in 416, which made the wicked proclamation "that whosoever denieth that infants newly born of their mothers are to be baptized, let him be accursed" (David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist Denomination, I, p. 59).
Augustine exalted the authority of the "church" over that of the Bible, saying, "I would not believe the gospel, if I were not compelled by the authority of the universal church."
The noted Baptist historian Thomas Armitage observes that Augustine "became the champion of ecclesiasticism, sacerdotalism and sacramentarianism, all distorted into monstrous proportions" (Armitage, I, p. 217).
Excerpted From Catholic Encyclopedia, Teaching of St. Augustine of Hippo: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02091a.htm I think that the Catholic Encyclopedia endorsed by the Catholic Church will be highly instructive concerning Augustine.
Lastly, Augustine's doctrine bears an eminently Catholic stamp and is radically opposed to Protestantism. It is important to establish this fact, principally because of the change in the attitude of Protestant critics towards St. Augustine. Indeed, nothing is more deserving of attention than this development so highly creditable to the impartiality of modern writers. The thesis of the Protestants of olden times is well known. Attempts to monopolize Augustine and to make him an ante-Reformation reformer, were certainly not wanting.
Of course Luther had to admit that he did not find in Augustine justification by faith alone, that generating principle of all Protestantism; and Schaff tells us that he consoled himself with exclaiming (op. sit., p. 100): "Augustine has often erred, he is not to be trusted. Although good and holy, he was yet lacking in true faith as well as the other Fathers." But in general, the Reformation did not so easily fall into line, and for a long time it was customary to oppose the great name of Augustine to Catholicism. Article 20 of the Confession of Augsburg dares to ascribe to him justification without works, and Melanchthon invokes his authority in his "Apologia Confessionis."
In the last thirty or forty years all has been changed, and the best Protestant critics now vie with one another in proclaiming the essentially Catholic character of Augustinian doctrine. In fact they go to extremes when they claim him to be the founder of Catholicism. It is thus that H. Reuter concludes his very important studies on the Doctor of Hippo: "I consider Augustine the founder of Roman Catholicism in the West....This is no new discovery, as Kattenbusch seems to believe, but a truth long since recognized by Neander, Julius Köstlin, Dorner, Schmidt,...etc.."
Then, as to whether Evangelicalism is to be found in Augustine, he says: "Formerly this point was reasoned out very differently from what it is nowadays. The phrases so much in use from 1830 to 1870: Augustine is the Father of evangelical Protestantism and Pelagius is the Father of Catholicism, are now rarely met with. They have since been acknowledged to be untenable, although they contain a particula veri." Philip Schaff reaches the same conclusion; and Dorner says, "It is erroneous to ascribe to Augustine the ideas that inspired the Reformation."
No one, however, has put this idea in a stronger light than Harnack. Quite recently, in his 14th lesson on "The Essence of Christianity," he characterized the Roman Church by three elements, the third of which is Augustinism, the thought and the piety of St. Augustine. "In fact Augustine has exerted over the whole inner life of the Church, religious life and religious thought, an absolutely decisive influence." And again he says, "In the fifth century, at the hour when the Church inherited the Roman Empire, she had within her a man of extraordinarily deep and powerful genius: from him she took her ideas, and to this present hour she has been unable to break away from them." In his "History of Dogma" (English tr., V, 234, 235) the same critic dwells at length upon the features of what he calls the "popular Catholicism" to which Augustine belongs.
These features are (a) the Church as a hierarchical institution with doctrinal authority; (b) eternal life by merits, and disregard of the Protestant thesis of "salvation by faith" - that is, salvation by that firm confidence in God which the certainty of pardon produces (c) the forgiveness of sins - in the Church and the Church; (d) the distinction between commands and counsel - between grievous sine and venial sins - the scale of wicked men and good men - the various degrees of happiness in heaven according to one's deserts; (e) Augustine is accused of "outdoing the superstitious ideas" of this popular Catholicism - the infinite value of Christ's satisfaction salvation considered as enjoyment of God in heaven - the mysterious efficacy of the sacraments (ex opere operato) - Mary's virginity even in childbirth - the idea of her purity and her conception, unique in their kind." Harnack does not assert that Augustine taught the Immaculate Conception, but Schaff (op. cit., p. 98) says unhesitatingly: "He is responsible also for many grievous errors of the Roman Church...he anticipated the dogma of the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, and his ominous word, Roma locuta est, causa finite est, might almost be quoted in favour of the Vatican decree of papal infallibility."
Nevertheless, it were a mistake to suppose that modern Protestants relinquish all claim upon Augustine; they will have it that, despite his essential Catholicism, it was he who inspired Luther and Calvin. The new thesis, therefore, is that each of the two Churches may claim him in turn.
Divine predestination from all eternity separating the elect, who were to be snatched out of the mass of perdition, from the reprobate who were destined to hell, as well as the irresistible impulse of God drawing some to salvation and others to sin - such was the fundamental doctrine of the Reformation. Calvinism even adopted a system which was "logically more consistent, but practically more revolting," as Schaff puts it (St. Augustine, p. 104), by which the decree of reprobation of the non-elect would be independent of the fall of Adam and of original sin (Supralapsarianism). It was certain that these harsh doctrines would bring their reaction, and in spite of the severities of the Synod of Dordrecht, which it would be interesting to compare with the Council of Trent in the matter of moderation, Arminianism triumphed over the Calvinistic thesis.
We must note here that even Protestant critics, with a loyalty which does them honour, have in these latter times vindicated Augustine from the false interpretations of Calvin. Dorner, in his "Gesch. der prot. Théologie," had already shown the instinctive repugnance of Anglican theologians to the horrible theories of Calvin. W. Cunningham (Saint Austin, p. 82 sqq.) has very frankly called attention to the complete doctrinal opposition on fundamental points which exists between the Doctor of Hippo and the French Reformers.
In the first place, as regards the state of human nature, which is, according to Calvin, totally depraved, for Catholics it is very difficult to grasp the Protestant conception of original sin which, for Calvin and Luther, is not, as for us, the moral degradation and the stain imprinted on the soul of every son of Adam by the fault of the father which is imputable to each member of the family. It is not the deprivation of grace and of all other super-natural gifts; it is not even concupiscence, understood in the ordinary sense of the word, as the struggle of base and selfish instincts against the virtuous tendencies of the soul; it is a profound and complete subversion of human nature' it is the physical alteration of the very substance of our soul. Our faculties, understanding, and will, if not entirely destroyed, are at least mutilated, powerless, and chained to evil. For the Reformers, original sin is not a sin, it is the sin, and the permanent sin, living in us and causing a continual stream of new sins to spring from our nature, which is radically corrupt and evil. For, as our being is evil, every act of ours is equally evil. Thus, the Protestant theologians do not ordinarily speak of the sins of mankind, but only of the sin, which makes us what we are and defiles everything.
Hence arose the paradox of Luther: that even in an act of perfect charity a man sins mortally, because he acts with a vitiated nature. Hence that other paradox: that this sin can never be effaced, but remains entire, even after justification, although it will not be any longer imputed; to efface it, it would be necessary to modify physically this human being which is sin. Calvin, without going so far as Luther, has nevertheless insisted on this total corruption. "Let it stand, therefore, as an indubitable truth which no engines can shake," says he (Institution II, v, § 19), "that the mind of man is so entirely alienated from the righteousness of God that he cannot conceive, desire, or design anything but what is weak, distorted, foul, impure or iniquitous, that his heart is so thoroughly environed by sin that it can breathe out nothing but corruption and rottenness; that if some men occasionally make a show of goodness their mind is ever interwoven with hypocrisy and deceit, their soul inwardly bound with the fetters of wickedness."
"Now," says Cunningham, "this doctrine, whatever there may be to be said for it, is not the doctrine of Saint Austin. He held that sin is the defect of a good nature which retains elements of goodness, even in its most diseased and corrupted state, and he gives no countenance, whatever to this modern opinion of total depravity." It is the same with Calvin's affirmation of the irresistible action of God on the will. Cunningham shows that these doctrines are irreconcilable with liberty and responsibility, whereas, on the contrary, "St. Austin is careful to attempt to harmonize the belief in God's omnipotence with human responsibility" (St. Austin, p. 86).
The Council of Trent was therefore faithful to the true spirit of the African Doctor, and maintained pure Augustinism in the bosom of the Church, by Its definitions against the two opposite excesses. Against Pelagianism it reaffirmed original sin and the absolute necessity of grace (Sess. VI, can. 2); against Protestant predestinationism it proclaimed the freedom of man, with his double power of resisting grace (posse dissentire si velit - Sess. VI, can. 4) and of doing good or evil, even before embracing the Faith (can. 6 and 7).
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