Grace for Grace in our Salvation

The following is a highly modified reply I gave to a fellow who argued that God predestinates people based on His foreknowledge of who would love him and who wouldn’t. After making this point, he reacts to the possible objection that some might consider the act of having love a “work,” and that God therefore saves according to debt for labor provided. You can find the original exchange here: http://www.gracecentered.com/christian_forums/theology/is-love-a-work-suppose-god-foreknew-those-who-loved-him/30/, which might still be ongoing by the time of this posting. I thought this was worth sharing here on the blog, and also expanding it here.

This is not meant to be a reply to him on my blog (I am replying to him directly over there). Think of this as just a regular post, but using him as a spring board for my content. Therefore, it will likely be expanded, changed in some way, include more quotations, whatever I thought would make it better.

My opponent wrote, trying to preempt the charge that he argues that salvation is by merit:

Is Love a work? If love is not a work, then God is not indebted. For example, a stalker love you, but you are under no obligation to respond positively, or negatively. You can ignore if that is the good pleasure of your will.

The easy response is, “love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (KJV, 1 John 4:7). The ESV translates the verse in this way: “for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” Love is not something that is native to ourselves in the first place, as we are born “children of wrath,” (Eph 2) walking in both the vanity of the flesh and of the mind, and incapable of believing in God, as seen in Romans 3 and other places. We are explicitly told “there is none that are righteous, no not one”(Rom 3:10). I once had someone claim that Paul here was speaking only of the Jews because he quotes from the Psalms, but Paul condemns both Jews and Gentiles in the preceding verse, saying that he had “proved” that all were under sin, all are condemned and incapable of believing or seeking after God, because our ways are evil from the very core of our being. We have no love for God, and must rely on receiving it from above. Thus love is not a quality that we have which is rewarded by God. It is evidence that we are the children of God, made so by the grace of God.

Love also is clearly a work, it must be done to “fulfill” the commandments. We are ordered to “love one another, as I [Christ] have loved you” (John 15:12). It is also a merit that differentiates us from those who are condemned. We do not say “I love you,” and not intend the “love” here to be a verb. We do not say that we are “filled” with love, if we do not mean that love is a characteristic of our heart. If a person possesses love in their heart, it is a favorable characteristic which, the Arminians and Pelagians of the world would hold, God rewards with salvation. But since love is given by God, when God rewards our love, He crowns only His own grace which had worked in us. Therefore it is not we who are rewarded, but God giving grace for grace.

He goes on, and he is dealing in his post with verses out of Romans 8 and 9, so you understand the context:

So if God chose to foreknow (specially and uniquely know) those who loved Him, and elected them to be predestined according to His purpose—its still salvation by grace alone, according to the good pleasure of His will—and not according to anything in the chosen. God can have Mercy upon whom He will have Mercy:

But if love in the heart of the believer is the factor that determines who He predestinates, or we may also consider “faith” as well, then it is a merit that God rewards with salvation that others do not possess. They are condemned because they lack love and faith, and we are given salvation because we have love and faith. But the scripture says we are all guilty and dead in sin, and thus salvation is all of God and owes nothing to ourselves. When God saves us therefore, or gives us a new heart that willingly believes in Him, this is His act of mercy, because we were His enemies before He intervened. If God chooses not to intervene, it is in righteous judgment that He chooses not to, for the man is guilty of His sins and God is not obligated to bestow His mercy.

He goes on:

This solves a lot of problems with free will and Reprobation. It would mean God foreknew those whose free will would not be subverted if He predestined them unto salvation, but left the rest to make their choice after the Fall. In other words, God foreknew those who loved Him before the founding of the world, as they would have been before the fall; AND lest any of these be lost after the fall, He predestines them to salvation.

This is all over-complicated silliness and is the result of defending something that does not exist. If man has free-will, then he should be able to choose God at any time. But the scripture says that a person cannot confess Christ “but by the Holy Ghost.” (1 Co 12:3). Now you can either interpret this verse in two different ways (but not equal in merit). The first is, that a person cannot believe but by the working of the Holy Ghost. The second interpretation is, a person cannot have the opportunity to believe until God enables him by the Holy Ghost. In this latter instance, only then would your “free will” exist, and that under the power of the Holy Spirit. But then you must affirm that there is some island of goodness within the man that differentiates himself from those who refuse under the same influence. The convert must have his “love,” he must have his “faithfulness,” he must have his wisdom, he must differ in some way from the infidel. But if he differs from the infidel because of some merit in himself, then this is cause for boasting, and contradicts the Apostle who asks “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Co 4:7).

If salvation is not gratuitous– based on the pure goodwill of God alone and not based on our merits– but is based on differences in the quality of our hearts in comparison to the infidel, either of faith dwelling within us or love, then Paul’s question is absurd. Christians must differ from the infidel in some way, and this difference is not a gift from God.

This next bit actually occurred on a separate thread (http://www.gracecentered.com/christian_forums/theology/arminius’-conditional-and-calvin’s-unconditional-election-are-logically-unsound/), with the same guy, but the topics are basically the same.

In this section, he addresses the scripture from Romans 9 dealing with the twins and says this:

As God loved Jacob, but Esau He hated, election cannot be unconditional, God saw something in Jacob and Esau that inspired these opposite responses.

Just looking at this comment here, my response is: this contradicts how Paul’s own hypothetical opponent understood these words. To say that God hated Esau but loved Jacob “before” either had been born or had done good or evil is the same as saying that it was not because of any merits or demerits in them that they were elected. Otherwise it serves no purpose except to invite misunderstanding. Paul might have simply said, “God chose them for election based on His foreknowledge of their meriting it,” but this is never done, even when the opponent complains “Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?” (Rom 9:19). Now this response is impossible if the interpretation of this passage is that God foresaw something in Jacob and Esau. If salvation is determined not by man, but by the purpose of God’s will, then and only then can a man object “for who have resisted his will?”, because God’s will is directly implicated as the sole factor for salvation. There is no sense of injustice (for the human mind, which believes itself righteous and not sinful), for example, in the idea that God elects someone based on foreseen merits, whether of faith or good works. Yet Paul declares,

Rom 9:14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
Rom 9:15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
Rom 9:16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

Now this passage on God’s mercy can also only make sense if God’s mercy isn’t given to all, but only some. If God’s mercy is offered to all, and not given to some, then a man cannot object since everyone has a “fair chance” to get to heaven. But if God’s mercy is exclusive and based on no merit in man, then the human heart naturally complains, which leads Paul to justify God in acting as He does.

Next, if it is not of “him that wills,” and anyone who has faith in God surely wills to do so, and it if not of “him that runs,” that is, him who works for his salvation, then it follows it is all of God’s mercy that anyone is saved. Otherwise we will be forced to say, “It is not of God who has mercy, but man who contributes his willing and running to be saved.” But such an idea is blasphemous and contradicts the clear spirit of the text which attributes salvation solely to God’s will, running and mercy.

Another quote of his I reply to:

God called to those who loved God because “all things” work together for the good of those who love God and God’s calling is “a thing.”

I didn’t really understand where he was going with this, so I just responded in this way (though I have changed some things I wrote and expanded others– see the link for the original):

All things can only work together for good for the elect because God works all things together for them. And not only “some” things, but every action that occurs on this Earth. This makes the concept of free-will and the contingent nature of God’s foreknowledge untenable, since God can only allow you to “will” what will work together for His purpose.

Luther says basically the same thing when he writes: “It is fundamentally necessary and healthy for Christians to acknowledge that God foreknows nothing uncertainly, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His own immutable, eternal and infallible will. This bombshell knocks “free-will” flat, and utterly shatters it; so that those who want to assert it must either deny my bombshell, or pretend not to notice it, or find some other way of dodging it.”

To prove that God does indeed rule over all events, let’s begin with “matters of chance,” which are shown to be the work of God.

God rules over all matters of “chance,” such as the casting of lots:

Pro_16:33 The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.

This includes even the “chance” actions of men that results in a loss of life, despite their not planning to kill (see Deut 19:5 for an example of an “accidental” killing):

“He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death. And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.” (Exo 21:12-13)

Or the “chance” doings of evil men, such as invading at the best moment to rescue David:

1Sa 23:27 But there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land.

God moves the heart of the King however He desires:

Pro_21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

Even the words from our lips cannot utter forth but by God’s permission:

“The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord,” (Prov. 16:1)

The man does not determine His own steps, but it is God who directs him:

“O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” (Jer 10:23)

“Man’s goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?” (Pro 20:24)

Man’s life is not his own in any way, but it is God who has absolutely established the time of his birth and death:

Job_14:5 Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass;

We are God’s hirelings, our life is in His hands:

“Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling?” (Job 7:1)

This is true even of the smallest and most insignificant animals:

Mat_10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.

He grants food to all flesh, and determines when it shall rain or when it will not, when the grass shall grow and when it will not; the withholding of it is His doing:

“Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.” (Psa 147:8-9)

“There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein. These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.” (Psa 104:26-30)

The same is true of men, for whom no good thing can come unless it is granted from heaven:

Joh_3:27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

He determines who will be promoted and who will not, who will be rich and who will be poor:

“Promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down ones and setteth up another,” (Ps. 75:6, 7)

Good and “evil” things come from the Lord. The loss of our jobs, our spouses, tragedies (upon first glance) on friends and family, all these things are from the Lord, though what seems evil to us is really for God’s own good purpose.

For example, the selling of Joseph into slavery by his brothers:

Gen_50:20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

The tragedies that befell Job:

Job_1:21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

The evil acts of spirits ordained by God. Compare these two verses:

1Ch_21:1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel./2Sa 24:1 And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.

Another example:

“And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.” (1Ki 22:20-22)

How does God remain clean of the evil deeds of evil spirits and of men, and yet be the first cause of it? Because what they mean for evil, God does for righteous and holy ends. It is a question of motivations. For example, 1) The devil wants to destroy, and thus he tempts wicked men. The evil impulse is always present in the devil, and is thus regulated by God’s providence and commands; 2) men do evil, perhaps, because of jealousy and wickedness, and thus they willingly go forth when pricked. The will to do evil is always there, but is restrained by Grace and God’s providence; 3) but God works all for holy ends. Thus the former remain dead in their guilt, but God reigns supreme over all acts. Hence we read that the men who crucified Christ did so as they were both “foreknown” and “ordained” to do so, and yet are counted as “wicked”:

Act_2:23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

“For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” (Act 4:27-28)

I like the way Augustine explains this also. From Chapter 33 of his book On the Predestination of the Saints, the chapter is titled “It is in the Power of Evil Men to Sin; But to Do This or That by Means of that Wickedness is in God’s Power Alone.”

“What is the meaning of, ‘as concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sake,’ but that their enmity wherewith they put Christ to death was, without doubt, as we see, an advantage to the gospel? And he shows that this came about by God’s ordering, who knew how to make a good use even of evil things; not that the vessels of wrath might be of advantage to Him, but that by His own good use of them they might be of advantage to the vessels of mercy. For what could be said more plainly than what is actually said, ‘As concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sakes?’ It is, therefore, in the power of the wicked to sin; but that in sinning they should do this or that by that wickedness is not in their power, but in God’s, who divides the darkness and regulates it; so that hence even what they do contrary to God’s will is not fulfilled except it be God’s will. [Note from me: Augustine here distinguishes between the prescriptive will of God– such as don’t sell your brother into slavery or crucify a holy man– and God’s secret counsel] We read in the Acts of the Apostles that when the apostles had been sent away by the Jews, and had come to their own friends, and shown them what great things the priests and elders said to them, ‘they all with one consent lifted up their voices to the Lord and said, Lord, you are God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein; who, by the mouth of our father David, your holy servant, hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the princes were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ. For in truth, there have assembled together in this city against Your holy child Jesus, whom You have anointed, Herod and Pilate, and the people of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and counsel predestinated to be done.’ See what is said: As concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sakes. Because God’s hand and counsel predestinated such things to be done by the hostile Jews as were necessary for the gospel, for our sakes.”

All events, therefore, are for “our sakes,” since they are under the control of God in order to work together for the good of God’s elect. If any events are random, then, so also is their consequence, but the scripture dismisses this:

Rom_8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Another quote from him, this time referring to the verses on the vessels of wrath and mercy, and how we might interpret the phrases that would contradict his views:

“What if” God gave these space to repent, endured them much long suffering although He knew ultimately these who hated Him before the foundation of the world would reject Him in this life—YET He waited patiently giving them all an equal opportunity to repent and be saved. What if God did that, is there still unrighteousness with God? Of course not!

Yet it does not say that God had “long suffering” over them for the purpose of mercy, but instead for the purpose of wrath for the sake of the elect. For example, of Pharaoh:

Rom 9:17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

God rose him up not to plead with him to be saved, but to show His power.

And of the vessels of wrath:

Rom 9:22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
Rom 9:23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

God’s purpose, again, is to raise up the vessels of wrath “to make his power known… [on] the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.” This is the purpose for His long suffering, not to save them, but to destroy them when the time is just right, for His own good purposes. They are being fitted to destruction, and not weighed in the balance. Obviously, God already knows they will be damned from before the foundation of the Earth. This is their purpose, for which they were made:

Pro 16:4 The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

A final quote:

God’s sovereignty does not reduce humans to helpless automatons.

Of course, but to say that God saves us and damns another is not to make us automatons. It merely expresses a sad necessity of how God must deal with our own evil wills. We are children of wrath by nature, and incapable of being saved. We are, to paraphrase David, shapen in iniquity; and in sin did our mothers conceive us (Ps 51:5). It is not really so much a problem with our “will” as it is a problem with our hearts. We are evil and unwilling to believe, and thus we are free only to do evil. This can only be changed if God gives us a new heart that has been given sight, and life, and ears to hear, that it may believe and be saved by the Father. But if God elects one of us to salvation, it must follow that He chooses to make the other a vessel of wrath in this same choice.

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The Evil Fruit of Man-Centered Theology

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“Can you say, ‘We will first walk in His righteousness, and will observe His judgments, and will act in a worthy way, so that He will give His grace to us’? But what good would you evil people do? And how would you do those good things, unless you were yourselves good? But Who causes people to be good? Only He Who said, ‘And I will visit them to make them good,’ and, ‘I will put my Spirit within you, and will cause you to walk in my righteousness, and to observe my judgments, and do them'(Ezek.36:27). Are you asleep? Can’t you hear Him saying, ‘I will cause you to walk, I will make you to observe,’ lastly,’I will make you to do’? Really, are you still puffing yourselves up? We walk, true enough, and we observe, and we do; but it is God Who He makes us to walk, to observe, to do. This is the grace of God making us good; this is His mercy going before us.” (Augustine – Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, 4:15)

Today I saw a post by a man on a forum questioning whether his suffering was a result of “persecution” (by this he means, the devil attacking the faithful), or chastisement (by which he means, God attacking the faithful for being unfaithful). He had come to the conclusion that the more he “intersects” with God’s plan for him, the more he could expect to be on the road to prosperity, but a bumpy road that would contain frequent attacks from the Evil One, and a road with many false turns he must be careful to avoid, lest he, presumably, even lose his salvation by stepping off the narrow “way”. I noticed that his posts had a general feeling of despair, a feeling of uncertainty of not being “right” with God, and wondering whether or not he had more to perform for the deity. It was, unfortunately, a plight I was quite familiar with.

I remember, maybe 9 or 10 or 11 years ago, I was in the same boat as he, lost in these Man-Centered doctrines of “what WE must do for Christ” rather than what Christ has done for us and continues to do within us. For it is God who “works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure,” and it is God who secures His promises to complete that which he has “begun” within you (Php 1:6, 2:13). While I had grown up Catholic, I knew nothing of Christ until I was converted as a result of witnessing a debate between an Atheist and a Pentecostal. I was filled with new zeal and life, and desperately devoured the Bible from that moment on (at least, at first) because I had suddenly realized that belief in Jesus Christ was quite important, that there was a God in heaven who cared what I thought and did, and called me to fellowship with Him. What I had before was no “faith,” really, but just a matter of going through the motions, of merely affirming vague notions about God, and family, and tradition and pride (though my family did not observe anything they verbally affirmed or ritualistically practiced– they were a host of perverts and thieves). To come to Faith, a true and spirit given faith, is like breathing for the first time after having been dead all your life. Or, at least, that is how it was for me. My bones were given flesh, a soul was breathed into my body, and with new eyes I explored a strange, though marvelous new world.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of becoming a Pentecostal, because I assumed that the man who had preached the Gospel message that had led to my conversion must be, of course, the best example of a Christian. His church, I assumed, and his doctrines, must be the correct ones! (It was Catholicism all over again!) I didn’t suspect that though God used him for my salvation, that this man could be far from it! (Though I do think he was saved, despite his doctrines) My early zeal was quickly eaten up by the Arminian (or sometimes outright Pelagian) approach to the Christian life which ultimately kills rather than saves anything, even after a good beginning.

Consequently, like this man, I was constantly in torments on whether or not I was even a Christian. When I compared my works with others, I came up woefully short. When I compared my lack of spiritual gifts (as I understood them at the time), with the people claiming they had the power to heal, of prophecy and dreams, and would boast about the number of conversions they had produced, I was filled with great shame. Despite being a Christian, I had nothing to show for it. My prayers for God to speak to me were always unanswered. I never had dreams about the future. I never healed anyone with my touch. Nor had I been directly responsible for anybody’s conversion. I remember once being attacked because of it, once when I had gotten involved in a dispute between one set of “Prophets” and another rival group of “prophets”. A man challenged me asking “How many people have you healed? How many people have you saved?” (If only I knew then what I know now, then I would have slapped that wretch with 1 Co 3:6!).

Eventually I came to a point of total despair. A despair so deep that to even READ the Bible would cause me hurt, because I felt it was not for me. I had been “forgotten” by God, or so I thought. I was not “intersecting” with His will due to my failures as a Christian, and so I was losing the opportunities he had offered to me. Such is the mindset of these lost souls trapped in Man-centered doctrines!

At the end of this story, I was totally broken down to my most basic elements. I had lost faith in all these Prophets and Miracle-Mongers, because I noticed, though perhaps not quickly enough, that their “prophecies” were usually all horribly vague. When not vague, they never came true (I’m still waiting on the swine-flu to kill us all, as one person predicted would occur several years ago). And their healings and other miracles– absolutely unverifiable. (In fact, even the Oneness Pentecostals, who are heretics, claim to heal and perform all sorts of miracles.) I interpreted this at the time to mean that there was no “truth” at all. That everyone was deluded, and that there was no hope anywhere! But it was at my lowest that God began to perform His miracles in my life (but not of the Charismatic/Pentecostal sort), moving so strongly that I could almost tangibly see His hand at work in my life. From a person who had tried and failed to be “holy” for the almighty, who doubted his own salvation because he could not be good enough for God, I became a person who knew God as a God for whom no sin was too big to be forgiven; I became a man who met a God who “works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure”; and who knew a God who, truly, “works all things together unto good for them who love God, who are the called according to His purpose”.

Mind you, I do not argue here for idleness in our Christian walk, as my former “comrades” (or, rather, former tormentors!) would probably accuse me. But God is a God who, as Augustine might put it, commands us what He wills, and then gives what He commands. He is a God who, though He chastises us for our errors, is even able to turn our errors and our weaknesses around, and to bring good out of our many faults, no matter how many they may be. Though the world burns down around us! Though the ground gives way beneath our feet! Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death! I shall fear no evil, for God is always with us, always “working all things” for our sake, no matter how terrible they may be on the outside, no matter how dark the world becomes, no matter how intense our failures are, or how deep into despair we fall.

This is the greatest strength of the God-Centered, as opposed to Man-Centered, doctrine of Calvin, and of Luther, and of Augustine, and of the Apostles. While the world and the flesh claim that the Gospel is all about what we must do for Christ, the Spirit tells us that it is not what we do for God, but what God has done already for us, and continues to do within us, shaping us and conforming us into the image of His Son– not according to the vain ideas of the flesh, which thinks of how good WE are or must be, but according to the Grace of God who gives us all spiritual blessings and fruit!

Augustine, 1 Tim 2:4 & Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption)

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Before I begin, I want to apologize for writing a SECOND post when I still haven’t setup my About page or other elements of the site. I will do so eventually, just be patient.

Awhile back I had a Roman Catholic send me a message on a forum and state that, after reading Augustine’s commentary on 1 Tim 2:4, that the blessed saint “on that regard” (on the interpretation of that passage) wasn’t “Catholic” or scriptural. Since that time I’ve made it a point to always provoke my Catholic opponents to use verses that I know Augustine gives explicit treatment of. This way I can bring them into a debate, not with myself, but with one of their own Church Fathers. There is a great deal of pleasure to be had in such a show, and Augustine’s writings are so excellent and thorough that one can almost just sit back and let him do all the work while you need only post his commentaries.

In the case of 1 Tim 2:4 (or 1 Tim 2:3-6 as a whole), Roman Catholics usually apply this verse to disprove the doctrine of Limited Atonement due to its declaration that God “will have all men to be saved”. They argue that it teaches that God wills the salvation of all people–that is, every single individual, who need only consent to what God wants of them in order to be saved. In the CCC, for example, (speaking under the context of explaining why anyone can baptize provided they have the right desire) states that “[t]he Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation,” and as proof it cites our passage (1256). The Catholic NAB in its commentary of the passage gives the same sense, using the words “salvation for all” and “universal salvation,” though the latter in reference to verse 7 (not to be confused with Universalism). Ronald Conte Jr., in another example, also cites this passage and declares:

“God wills all persons to be saved without any exception. But He also wills that we freely choose the love of God and neighbor which is the foundation of salvation. After the fact of a free and full choice, enabled by prevenient grace, in which the human person turns away from the love of God and neighbor in an actual mortal sin, AND in which the human person refuses to repent through the last moment of his life, only in view of such a sinful truly free choice does God will that some be reprobate (i.e. be condemned to Hell).”

From http://www.catechism.cc/articles/catholic-soteriology-versus.htm

Augustine, responding to various assertions that the Pelagians were making, who used this verse to prove that God willed the salvation of all men, addresses 1 Tim 2:4 and says the following:

“Or, it is said, “Who will have all men to be saved;” not that there is no man whose salvation He does not will (for how, then, explain the fact that He was unwilling to work miracles in the presence of some who, He said, would have repented if He had worked them?), but that we are to understand by “all men,” the human race in all its varieties of rank and circumstances,—kings, subjects; noble, plebeian, high, low, learned, and unlearned; the sound in body, the feeble, the clever, the dull, the foolish, the rich, the poor, and those of middling circumstances; males, females, infants, boys, youths; young, middle-aged, and old men; of every tongue, of every fashion, of all arts, of all professions, with all the innumerable differences of will and conscience, and whatever else there is that makes a distinction among men. For which of all these classes is there out of which God does not will that men should be saved in all nations through His only-begotten Son, our Lord, and therefore does save them; for the Omnipotent cannot will in vain, whatsoever He may will? Now the apostle had enjoined that prayers should be made for all men, and had especially added, “For kings, and for all that are in authority,” who might be supposed, in the pride and pomp of worldly station, to shrink from the humility of the Christian faith. Then saying, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour,” that is, that prayers should be made for such as these, he immediately adds, as if to remove any ground of despair, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” [I Tim. 2:1-4]. God, then, in His great condescension has judged it good to grant to the prayers of the humble the salvation of the exalted; and assuredly we have many examples of this. Our Lord, too, makes use of the same mode of speech in the Gospel, when He says to the Pharisees: “Ye tithe mint, and rue, and every herb” [Luke 11:42]. For the Pharisees did not tithe what belonged to others, nor all the herbs of all the inhabitants of other lands. As, then, in this place we must understand by “every herb,” every kind of herbs, so in the former passage we may understand by “all men,” every sort of men. And we may interpret it in any other way we please, so long as we are not compelled to believe that the omnipotent God has willed anything to be done which was not done: for setting aside all ambiguities, if “He hath done all that He pleased in heaven and in earth” [Ps. 115:3]. as the psalmist sings of Him, He certainly did not will to do anything that He hath not done.” (Augustine, Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and Love, Ch. 103. Interpretation of the Expression in I Tim. 2:4: “Who Will Have All Men to Be Saved”.)

The following parenthesis is the first useful response Augustine gives to our Roman Catholics. He asks, if this verse really declares that God desires the salvation of all men, “how, then, explain the fact that He was unwilling to work miracles in the presence of some who, He said, would have repented if He had worked them?” This is a reference to Matt 11:21-24 where Christ, condemning the Jews of his day, states that “if the mighty works, which were done in you,” that is, the works of his ministry, his mighty miracles and words, “they [cities such as Sodom] would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” If a city like Sodom could have been saved by an angel coming to preach to them, or the working of miracles, why then was this not done? Instead, God withheld mercy from those who would have been saved, and performed miracles before those whom He knew would be destroyed! This is not because God has a dark sense of humor, but because God “has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens” (Rom 9:18).

What follows next in Augustine’s quote is the classic Reformed interpretation (and this response is applicable to all such verses which seem to have the same meaning), that reads the “all” here as a reference only to “all sorts of men,” taking into consideration the context of the passage which begins with the Apostle calling for prayer for kings and those in authority. He also gives the example of Luke 11:42 for the purpose of demonstrating that the scripture might speak of “every” and “all,” but have in view only “every kind” of thing.

Augustine’s interpretation here works for a number of reasons. First, the context, as he explains on his own. Secondly, because it is consistent with how the Jews themselves make use of language. For example, from Gill’s commentary on 1 Tim 2:4, commenting on the Jewish use of the words “all the world, the world, the whole world, all the men of the world,” etc, Gill begins by quoting Jewish examples where these words and phrases are used in radically different ways from how we would use it today:

“Nothing is more common in Jewish writings than to call the Gentiles, “the world”; and “the whole world”; and “the nations of the world” (l); See Gill on John 12:19; and the word “world” is so used in Scripture; see Joh_3:16; and stands opposed to a notion the Jews have of the Gentiles, that “there is no propitiation for them” (m): and it is easy to observe, that when this phrase is not used of the Gentiles, it is to be understood in a limited and restrained sense; as when they say (n),

‘it happened to a certain high priest, that when he went out of the sanctuary, “the whole world” went after him;’’(n)

which could only design the people in the temple. And elsewhere (o) it is said,

“amle ylwk, “the “whole world” has left the Misna, and gone after the “Gemara”;’’

which at most can only intend the Jews; and indeed only a majority of their doctors, who were conversant with these writings: and in another place (p),

“amle ylwk, “the whole world” fell on their faces, but Raf did not fall on his face;’’

where it means no more than the congregation. Once more, it is said (q), when

“R. Simeon ben Gamaliel entered (the synagogue), “the whole world” stood up before him;’’

that is, the people in the synagogue: to which may be added (r),

“when a great man makes a mourning, “the whole world” come to honour him;’’

i.e. a great number of persons attend the funeral pomp: and so these phrases, “the whole world” is not divided, or does not dissent (s); “the whole world” are of opinion (t), are frequently met with in the Talmud, by which, an agreement among the Rabbins, in certain points, is designed; yea, sometimes the phrase, “all the men of the world” (u), only intend the inhabitants of a city where a synagogue was, and, at most, only the Jews: and so this phrase, “all the world”, or “the whole world”, in Scripture, unless when it signifies the whole universe, or the habitable earth, is always used in a limited sense, either for the Roman empire, or the churches of Christ in the world, or believers, or the present inhabitants of the world, or a part of them only, Luk_2:1; and so it is in this epistle, 1Jo_5:19; where the whole world lying in wickedness is manifestly distinguished from the saints, who are of God, and belong not to the world; and therefore cannot be understood of all the individuals in the world”

(From Gill’s Commentary on 1 John 2:2, quoting from (l) Jarchi in Isa. liii. 5. (m) T. Hieros. Nazir, fol. 57. 3. Vid. T. Bab. Succa, fol. 55. 2. (n) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 71. 2. (o) T. Bab. Bava Metzia, fol. 33. 2. (p) T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 22. 2. (q) T. Bab. Horayot, fol. 13. 2. (r) Piske Toseph. Megilla, art. 104. (s) T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 90. 2. & Kiddushin, fol. 47. 2. & 49. 1. & 65. 2. & Gittin, fol. 8. 1. & 60. 2. (t) T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 48. 1. (u) Maimon. Hilch. Tephilla, c. 11. sect. 16.)

Thirdly, this mode of speaking, beyond just Augustine’s example from Luke, is also common in scripture. Scriptural examples of this include:

Luk 2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.

By this Luke means, not the whole habitable world, as much of it was still undiscovered, and not even the whole known world, which even in those days was not all under the power of the Roman empire, but just the Roman empire itself, or perhaps only Israel.

Another one, which Gill mentioned:

1Jn 5:19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

Obviously we are no longer under the power of Satan, but have been released from his clutches by the power of Jesus Christ.

Another example:

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”
(Rom 3:10-11)

Obviously this cannot mean that no one seeks or understands, as, obviously, all Christians seek and understand (though not because they have the power of it native to themselves). But, Paul’s meaning is more general, referring to the depraved world, or of all Christians prior to Christ saving them, who, before that time, are incapable of seeing, believing or understanding until the Holy Spirit moves on them.

Another example, Christ distinguishing between the world and those given to Him out of the world:

Joh 17:9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

Thus the world does not mean everyone in the world (which would have to include us), but all those not given to Him.

Finally, more direct examples, by comparing seemingly contradictory verses with their parallels:

1Jn_2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

Joh_11:52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.

In these passages, compared together, the meaning is, Christ is the atonement for all the sins of the children of God scattered abroad, of every nation and tribe.

Since I have gotten tired, I will go ahead and conclude here for now. I will go through the rest of Augustine’s reasoning at a later date, and I will also address the other claims of Conte that are seen within that quote, namely, what he wrote in regards to “free choice” and the like. It is not really so much a problem of the will itself, for neither the Reformed nor Augustine deny the will, but rather, as Augustine views it, it is a problem of the affections, of the human heart itself, which is “free only to do evil.” For a will can only will that which the heart and the intellect inclines it towards. An evil heart, therefore, can only “will” evil, for the same reason why an evil tree can only produce bad fruit. Salvation is not a matter of God violating our will, but God granting to us a new heart that, now freed from the shackles of sin, willingly desires Christ!

But this will be a topic for another day. For now, thanks for reading!

P.S. I also want to note that I don’t intend to just write about Augustine all the time (though he is very fun to write about). It just so happens I am in an Augustinian mood. Later posts on this blog might address different church fathers, or delve into scripture purely, or any number of things. Stay tuned!

Augustine & Transubstantiation

augustine

Greetings dear visitors! Thank you for reading my very first blog post! This site will primarily be a place for any and all research I accumulate as a result of my frequent battles in defense of Christianity across the wasteland of the internet. (Though, to a lesser extent, I will discuss my other interests on this website as well, which may range from reviews of good books to comments on political happenings across the world.)

For a number of years I have had the fortune (or misfortune) of spending long long hours debating Roman Catholics, Mormons, Armstrongites, Hebrew Roots folks, Benny Hinn advocates, strange Russian Orthodox “Christians,” and other specimens from the diabolical bestiary, when I could have been studying for my university classes instead. (Yet I have maintained my perfect 4.0GPA and will graduate in just one more semester!) While battle has eaten up a lot of my time, I have been blessed with a great deal of material that is worth sharing with others. On this blog I will, little by little, present what I know (as time permits) and store arguments and research on this site, in the hopes that it may arm my Christian brethren so that they’re “ready always to give an answer” (1 Peter 3:15).

To start things off, I thought it would be good idea to present a strong collection of quotations that undermine the Roman Catholic myth that their doctrines derive from a 2,000 year old and unchanging tradition. Below is a quote that is an example of this rather vulgar Catholic myth– vulgar in the sense that this is a common belief that is shunned by more educated Catholics (though this doesn’t stop this myth from being spread on even the most popular of Catholic websites). This following quote is an example of what I’m talking about:

“A lot of Protestants ignore [the] early Christian leaders, preferring instead to believe that the history of Christianity began with Jesus and the 12 apostles, and then somehow skipped over 15 centuries to Martin Luther… For some reason, a lot of Protestants will refuse to read any of the writings of the early Church Fathers, proudly proclaiming to everyone that “Those writings are not in my Bible!”

… The writings of the early Church Fathers elucidate what is taught in the Bible, so that it’s no mystery whether or not the Eucharist is the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, whether or not Mary is the new Eve, or whether or not there is a purgatory. After all, the early Church Fathers were taught by the 12 apostles, handed on the faith to the next generation…”

From http://www.catholicbible101.com/theearlychurchfathers.htm

While this balloon can be popped a thousand different ways, for now I thought I’d focus on Augustine’s view on the Eucharist. While there is no question that Augustine believed in a “real presence” of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, this is not the same thing as Transubstantiation, which teaches that the bread and wine becomes in reality the body and blood of Jesus Christ, although the outward appearance, or what is perceived by the senses, remains what they started off as. In other words, though it looks and tastes like bread and wine, its substance, what it really is, is in fact the body of Christ.

I will note, for example, that the Westminster Confession also calls Christ “really… present” (though they add, in a “spiritual” way). This is not to be confused with the local presence of Christ in the Eucharist as the Lutherans see it, but rather places Christ as still in heaven, but communed with, in a mysterious way, through the faith of the believer during the supper:

“Christ is present in heaven but by virtue of the Holy Spirit our souls are lifted to partake the flesh and blood of our Lord. Our mouth eats the sign (bread and wine) whereas the mouth of faith eats that which the sign signifies, namely, Christ and the benefits of the covenant of grace” (Hyde, Daniel. In Living Color: Images of Christ and the Means of Grace. p. 154. Grandville: Reformed Fellowship, 2009.).

Found on http://onwordandsacrament.blogspot.com/2011/01/lords-supper.html

The bottom line is, many Christians believe in a “real presence,” they simply define it differently than the Roman Catholics, and have no hesitation in calling the bread and wine “Christ’s body and blood.” Nevertheless, the Catholics make the assumption that every time someone speaks in this way of the sacrament, that it MUST be proof of belief in transubstantiation. This is not true at all!

In Augustine’s case, his view closely resembles Calvin’s Suprasubstantiation (Calvin probably got it from Augustine in the first place), as will be seen after a careful reading of these quotes. While Augustine frequently refers to the bread and the wine as being Christ’s body and blood, we find that his understanding is distinctly spiritual. The bread and wine retain their existence, and, yet, Christ is really present within the faith of the believer.

To focus on the key points of this quote you are about to see (here Augustine is commentating on John chapter 6), note that Augustine says that the body and blood of Christ is consumed through faith without eating or drinking. Believe, saith Augustine, and thou hast eaten already:

“They said therefore unto Him, What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” For He had said to them, “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto eternal life.” “What shall we do?” they ask; by observing what, shall we be able to fulfill this precept? “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He has sent.” This is then to eat the meat, not that which perisheth, but that which endureth unto eternal life. To what purpose dost thou make ready teeth and stomach? Believe, and thou hast eaten already. (Augustine, Tractate 25)

Compare with Father John Bartunek, LC., whose interpretation requires the actual use of “teeth and stomach”:

“This was the perfect opportunity for Christ to say, “Wait a minute, what I really meant was that my body and blood will just be symbolized by bread and wine. Of course I didn’t mean that bread and wine really would become my body and blood. Don’t be foolish!” The strange thing is he doesn’t say that. He does not water down his claim, as if eating his flesh were just a metaphor for believing in his doctrine; on the contrary, he reiterates the importance of really eating his flesh and drinking his blood.”

http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog/2012/08/15/258-eating-right-jn-652-59#ixzz2pZMDVk3c

Catholics have a nasty habit of staring at these sorts of quotes and saying, like good zombies, “I see no contradiction with my view!” But ask them to explain it, and they cannot do so. This quote in particular is especially useful when dealing with Catholics who are trying to prove their doctrine out of John chapter 6. While Augustine here isn’t specifically discussing the Lord’s Supper, the Catholics are always doing so and using the language in this chapter as evidence of transubstantiation and the necessity of physically eating Christ for salvation. Augustine’s quote effectively condemns this, and instead considers Christ “eaten already” through faith.

Moving on to another quote:

Augustine, writing on his “rule for interpreting commands,” calls the eating of Christ to be figurative, since otherwise it compels us to do something that is unlawful:

“If the sentence is one of command, either forbidding a crime or vice, or enjoining an act of prudence or benevolence, it is not figurative. If, however, it seems to enjoin a crime or vice, or to forbid an act of prudence or benevolence, it is figurative. Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, says Christ, and drink His blood, you have no life in you. John 6:53 This seems to enjoin a crime or a vice; it is therefore a figure, enjoining that we should have a share [communicandem] in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet and profitable memory [in memoria] of the fact that His flesh was wounded and crucified for us. Scripture says: If your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink; and this is beyond doubt a command to do a kindness. But in what follows, for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head, one would think a deed of malevolence was enjoined. Do not doubt, then, that the expression is figurative; and, while it is possible to interpret it in two ways, one pointing to the doing of an injury, the other to a display of superiority, let charity on the contrary call you back to benevolence, and interpret the coals of fire as the burning groans of penitence by which a man’s pride is cured who bewails that he has been the enemy of one who came to his assistance in distress. In the same way, when our Lord says, He who loves his life shall lose it, we are not to think that He forbids the prudence with which it is a man’s duty to care for his life, but that He says in a figurative sense, Let him lose his life— that is, let him destroy and lose that perverted and unnatural use which he now makes of his life, and through which his desires are fixed on temporal things so that he gives no heed to eternal. It is written: Give to the godly man, and help not a sinner. The latter clause of this sentence seems to forbid benevolence; for it says, help not a sinner. Understand, therefore, that sinner is put figuratively for sin, so that it is his sin you are not to help.” (Augustine, Christian Doctrine, Ch. 16)

When the Eucharist is offered, it is ourselves who we receive. (Are we transubstantiated into the bread?) A spiritual lesson is to be received from it:

“How can bread be his body? And the cup, or what the cup contains, how can it be his blood? The reason these things, brothers and sisters, are called sacraments is that in them one thing is seen, another is to be understood. What can be seen has a bodily appearance, what is to be understood provides spiritual fruit. So if it’s you that are the body of Christ and its members, it’s the mystery meaning you that has been placed on the Lord’s table; what you receive is the mystery that means you.” (Augustine, Sermon 272)

The Catholics will often quote the first part of this sermon, but will avoid coming to terms with the latter part. In fact, throughout this sermon, sacraments are tools to impart spiritual lessons. For example, Augustine discusses the sacrament of the Holy Spirit (smearing oil on the believer), but he does not actually believe it is the Holy Spirit captured in oil form. There is a spiritual lesson at the bottom of this act:

“Then came baptism, and you were, in a manner of speaking, moistened with water in order to be shaped into bread. But it’s not yet bread without fire to bake it. So what does fire represent? That’s the chrism, the anointing. Oil, the fire-feeder, you see, is the sacrament of the Holy Spirit.” (Same as above)

Another, the sacrament of the kiss of peace:

“After that comes Peace be with you; a great sacrament, the kiss of peace. So kiss in such a way as really meaning that you love. Don’t be Judas; Judas the traitor kissed Christ with his mouth, while setting a trap for him in his heart. But perhaps somebody has unfriendly feelings toward you, and you are unable to win him round, to show him he’s wrong; you’re obliged to tolerate him. Don’t pay him back evil for evil in your heart. He hates; just you love, and you can kiss him without anxiety.” (Same as above)

Note that in both cases, these sacraments are instructional in nature.

Same theme, different sermon:

“I haven’t forgotten my promise. I had promised those of you who have just been baptized a sermon to explain the sacrament of the Lord’s table, which you can see right now, and which you shared in last night. You ought to know what you have received, what you are about to receive, what you ought to receive every day. That bread which you can see on the altar, sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. That cup, or rather what the cup contains, sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ. It was by means of these things that the Lord Christ wished to present us with his body and blood, which he shed for our sake for the forgiveness of sins. If you receive them well, you are yourselves what you receive. You see, the apostle says, We, being many, are one loaf, one body (1 Cor 10:17). That’s how he explained the sacrament of the Lord’s table; one loaf, one body, is what we all are, many though we be.” (Augustine, Sermon 227)

Moving on:

The Eucharist, which symbolizes both the entire church and Christ, “not really consumed.” The Eucharist signifies an invisible reality, and is not that reality. Christians should take the spiritual lesson of unity from the Lord’s supper. Also from sermon 227:

“What you can see passes away, but the invisible reality signified does not pass away, but remains. Look, it’s received, it’s eaten, it’s consumed. Is the body of Christ consumed, is the Church of Christ consumed, are the members of Christ consumed? Perish the thought! Here they are being purified, there they will be crowned with the victor’s laurels. So what is signified will remain eternally, although the thing that signifies it seems to pass away. So receive the sacrament in such a way that you think about yourselves, that you retain unity in your hearts, that you always fix your hearts up above. Don’t let your hope be placed on earth, but in heaven. Let your faith be firm in God, let it be acceptable to God. Because what you don’t see now, but believe, you are going to see there, where you will have joy without end.” (Augustine, Ser. 227)

Note that Augustine consistently emphasizes the spiritual benefits of the Eucharist. It functions not as a means of salvation or literally as the body of Christ, but as a spiritual experience that should cause us to set our heart on unity and faith in Christ. Moving on:

To believe in Christ is to eat the living bread. There’s also a nice sentence in support of double predestination:

“Wherefore, the Lord, about to give the Holy Spirit, said that Himself was the bread that came down from heaven, exhorting us to believe in Him. For to believe in Him is to eat the living bread. He that believes eats; he is sated invisibly, because invisibly is he born again. A babe within, a new man within. Where he is made new, there he is satisfied with food. (12) What then did the Lord answer to such murmurers? Murmur not among yourselves. As if He said, I know why you are not hungry, and do not understand nor seek after this bread. Murmur not among yourselves: no man can come unto me, except the Father that sent me draw him. Noble excellence of grace! No man comes unless drawn. There is whom He draws, and there is whom He draws not; why He draws one and draws not another, do not desire to judge, if you desire not to err.” (Augustine, Tractate 26)

Moving on:

In this quote, the idea of the body of Christ being physically held by the believer is dismissed. Instead, we lay “hold” on Christ not through carnal means, but through faith. This cannot be so if transubstantation is true:

“Let them come to the church and hear where Christ is, and take Him. They may hear it from us, they may hear it from the gospel. He was slain by their forefathers, He was buried, He rose again, He was recognized by the disciples, He ascended before their eyes into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of the Father; and He who was judged is yet to come as Judge of all: let them hear, and hold fast. Do they reply, How shall I take hold of the absent? how shall I stretch up my hand into heaven, and take hold of one who is sitting there? Stretch up thy faith, and thou hast got hold. Thy forefathers held by the flesh, hold thou with the heart; for the absent Christ is also present. But for His presence, we ourselves were unable to hold Him.” (Augustine, Tractate 50)

Next quote– Christ must be understood spiritually, not carnally:

“It seemed unto them hard that He said, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, ye have no life in you:” they received it foolishly, they thought of it carnally, and imagined that the Lord would cut off parts from His body, and give unto them; and they said, “This is a hard saying.” It was they who were hard, not the saying; for unless they had been hard, and not meek, they would have said unto themselves, He saith not this without reason, but there must be some latent mystery herein. They would have remained with Him, softened, not hard: and would have learnt that from Him which they who remained, when the others departed, learnt. For when twelve disciples had remained with Him, on their departure, these remaining followers suggested to Him, as if in grief for the death of the former, that they were offended by His words, and turned back. But He instructed them, and saith unto them, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, but the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I have spoken unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” Understand spiritually what I have said; ye are not to eat this body which ye see; nor to drink that blood which they who will crucify Me shall pour forth. I have commended unto you a certain mystery; spiritually understood, it will quicken. Although it is needful that this be visibly celebrated, yet it must be spiritually understood.” NPNF1: Vol. VIII, St. Augustin on the Psalms, Psalm 99 (98)

In another place, he tells us that it is weakness to interpret the sign as being what it signifies:

“To this class of spiritual persons belonged the patriarchs and the prophets, and all those among the people of Israel through whose instrumentality the Holy Spirit ministered unto us the aids and consolations of the Scriptures. But at the present time, after that the proof of our liberty has shone forth so clearly in the resurrection of our Lord, we are not oppressed with the heavy burden of attending even to those signs which we now understand, but our Lord Himself, and apostolic practice, have handed down to us a few rites in place of many, and these at once very easy to perform, most majestic in their significance, and most sacred in the observance; such, for example, as the sacrament of baptism, and the celebration of the body and blood of the Lord. And as soon as any one looks upon these observances he knows to what they refer, and so reveres them not in carnal bondage, but in spiritual freedom. Now, as to follow the letter, and to take signs for the things that are signified by them, is a mark of weakness and bondage; so to interpret signs wrongly is the result of being misled by error. He, however, who does not understand what a sign signifies, but yet knows that it is a sign, is not in bondage. And it is better even to be in bondage to unknown but useful signs than, by interpreting them wrongly, to draw the neck from under the yoke of bondage only to insert it in the coils of error.” (Augustine, Christian Doctrine, Ch. 9)

In another place, he compares saying “The Lord is risen tomorrow” to “the sacrament of Christ’s body is Christ’s body”:

“You know that in ordinary parlance we often say, when Easter is approaching, Tomorrow or the day after is the Lord’s Passion, although He suffered so many years ago, and His passion was endured once for all time. In like manner, on Easter Sunday, we say, This day the Lord rose from the dead, although so many years have passed since His resurrection. But no one is so foolish as to accuse us of falsehood when we use these phrases, for this reason, that we give such names to these days on the ground of a likeness between them and the days on which the events referred to actually transpired, the day being called the day of that event, although it is not the very day on which the event took place, but one corresponding to it by the revolution of the same time of the year, and the event itself being said to take place on that day, because, although it really took place long before, it is on that day sacramentally celebrated. Was not Christ once for all offered up in His own person as a sacrifice? And yet, is He not likewise offered up in the sacrament as a sacrifice, not only in the special solemnities of Easter, but also daily among our congregations; so that the man who, being questioned, answers that He is offered as a sacrifice in that ordinance, declares what is strictly true? For if sacraments had not some points of real resemblance to the things of which they are the sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all. In most cases, moreover, they do in virtue of this likeness bear the names of the realities which they resemble. As, therefore, in a certain manner the sacrament of Christ’s body is Christ’s body, and the sacrament of Christ’s blood is Christ’s blood.” (Augustine, Letters 98)

Well, there you go. I believe this provides enough of Augustine’s writing that you will be able to understand their incompatibility with transubstantiation. I also highly recommend becoming familiar with the quotes Catholics use from Augustine to prove the opposite. You will note that, often times, they are within the very same writings that teach a distinctly anti-transubstantiation view. You must hold them accountable and force them to explain, in specific terms, why such and such quote you have provided actually means the opposite of what it clearly says. Pin them down like a wrestler, and if they squirm and simply begin repeating themselves over and over again without answering your questions, you have won, and you can freely move on.

With the doctrine of transubstantiation being something that was not universally believed nor acquired from the “source,” that is, from the Apostles, Catholics must concede that not all the ECFs held to Romish views. They might then state they don’t have to, since, supposedly, it is in the power of the Magisterium to make decisions in all matters of faith, even if the Church Fathers do not support it. But once they flee to the idea of the “development” of doctrine by an authority as opposed to inheriting it, Catholicism loses the appeal of tradition. It cannot reconcile new doctrine, or competing doctrines among church fathers or different parts of the church, with the idea that the ECF like Augustine were just reporting what they inherited from the teachers all the way back to the Apostles.

Thanks for taking the time to read my rather lengthy first post. I pray you will put the information herein to good use. In the coming weeks, I will be fleshing out the website, working on my “about” page, building a blog roll, adding gadgets and any other goodies that are useful. Be patient, and check back for further updates.