Friday, September 25, 2009

If St. Augustine Was Wrong...

This is my Opinion on the matter not a scholarly argument etc. Just bear that in mind when you comment


Catholic patristic scholars since the 1560s have been showing that the Council of Trent's doctrine of justification is the same doctrine of justification held by St. Augustine of Hippo.

"the righteousness of God,— not that whereby He is Himself righteous, but that with which He endows man when He justifies the ungodly." - St. Augustine "On the Spirit and the Letter" Chapter 15

is the constant definition used. Now some folks like Alister McGrath say that poor Augustine didn't have Erasmus' Greek Manuscript (which had mistranslations of it's own) and that iustificare isn't the same as logozomai etc. Basically to short it to the point of triviality: Augustine was wrong, Luther was right. (Ironically another member of McGrath's church has argued that both Augustine and Luther are wrong (N.T. Wright), but there's the "perspicuity of scripture" for you)

But anyone who has read the wikipedia article on Augustine could tell you if Augustine was wrong, pardon my Anglo-Saxon but... Western Christianity is fucked, God is dead, etc...

If the Church which labelled itself as Augustinian for over a millenia was wrong about Original Sin, Predestination, Salvation, Pelagianism, Donatism, etc. Then God's Spirit is so impotent at leading the Church that there's no point in even believing.

That's my opinion. And if you think the Church was wrong about salvation for 1200 years then you might as well just become an Anabaptist and make it 1500 years, or a Mormon and make it 1800 years. Heck why not start your own church and just believe EVERYONE was wrong and it's actually justification by extrinsic interpretative-danced righteousness.

Finally: to Protestants, please give up the title Augustinian if you're just going to say he was wrong about salvation, you can't just pick and choose, even Luther said later in life that reading the bible through the interpretation of Augustine was like pouring milk through a bag of coal. So keep the title and accept infused righteousness, or give it up and keep imputed righteousness...or just remain keep your illogical idea that Augustine somehow taught what Luther taught even though he openly repudiated your doctrines.

I'm gonna regret posting this as all the Reformed will start attacking me like a Jew in the Gaza strip....and if any Jews read this I'm gonna regret posting this.



  1. There's still the East. Plenty of fathers there who used the Greek text, and not Latin translations. I know also that the East considers Augustine a saint, but they don't follow him on every point. (I know soteriology is not where I am most proficient (go figure) so feel free to take me to task). Is it possible that the way the West did soteriology was okay, even if they described it all wrong?

  2. Ah the Orthodox, last hope of Protestants. In this area of justification, the Orthodox are in complete agreement with the Roman Church. More than this as proof, the Tubingen (Lutheran) theologians' theology of justification was called heretical by the Eastern theologians.

    So no dice, but good try. Further evidence that this isn't a thing in the past, Karl Barth (Reformed) called the Eastern Orthodox view of justification/theosis "an idolatrous glorification of man"

  3. I would not claim to be Augustinian about justification. Usually the title "Augustinian" is refering to Augustine's doctrines relating to grace, God, predestination, human inability, etc. If Protestants can't call themselves Augustinian, since they agree with most of Augustine and disagree on a few issues, the Catholic Church REALLY can't call themselves Augustinian.

    Was the Church wrong for 1500 years? No. The church was not dogmatic on justification until the 1500s. Justification by faith is present in several theologians of the Middle Ages. If we are speaking of the relationship between faith and works, it is a nuanced issue. Luther, Calvin and the Reformed and Lutheran traditions will not be afraid to say "works are necessary to salvation." Not as payment, but evidence of a true not dead faith.

    But Justification is important because it reveals the rest of one's theology. The Church in the first millenium developed their theology around Theology Proper and Christology. Luther did not invent a doctrine for fun. He explored the doctrine of justification in Paul because the Roman Church was putting merit on the human side of the scoreboard and confusing people on the nature of forgiveness with Indulgences. In the first millenium, one did not have to flesh out a doctrine of justification that preserved the orthodox Theology Proper and Christology of the Church, for it was not undermined by Latin theology.

  4. I'm not defending protestant soteriology (as I said, it's not a subject I'm proficient in). Protestants will ultimately write off (or rather rewrite and redefine the meaning of) all of church history in all of the East and West if they wish to retain their views. If both East and West ended up in the wrong place, we're all toast and should all become genuine cessationists. But the Protestants have no recourse with the East (nor with any who profess a succession of bishops, really).

    Jared, Luther did not submit to either East or West: he charted his own course and created his own tradition (complete with his own marks). He could have gone East, but elected not to. I think Andrew's point is that if soteriology is so important to Protestants (it obviously is) they should not call themselves Augustinian, because they depart from him on an issue that is ultimately non-negotiable.

    But determinism is important because it reveals one's theology. The early Church in the first millennium rejected determinism and affirmed free will around Theology Proper and Christology. I could keep going, but I feel I'm being rude (sorry Jared). I can't find a home even with the confessional Reformed, because I can't affirm its monergism, because the fathers don't affirm it. To echo Andrew, if St. Maximus was wrong...

    I didn't know Barth had such a negative view of EO. I'm not sure what he would say about us being made "partakers of the divine nature," but I always felt that Protestants took it rather metaphorically. (Digressing here, but for some reason, that strikes me as an iconoclastic way of thinking...) I keep meaning to get into Barth, and real life keeps getting in the way.