Saturday, August 4, 2007

Augustine on Scripture


"The faith will totter if the authority of the Holy Scripture loses its hold on men. We must surrender ourselves to the authority of Holy Scripture, for it can neither mislead nor be misled"

-Augustine of Hippo

40 comments:

Reginald de Piperno said...

This statement does not prove that St. Augustine believed in sola scriptura. Catholics have repeatedly demonstrated that he fully accepted the authority of the Church and Tradition. Pull-quotes like this, ripped from the greater context of St. Augustine's life and writings as a bishop of the Catholic Church, only demonstrate an unwillingness on the part of the quote-puller to acknowledge the truth about the great saint.

Do you seriously believe that the Catholic Church would consider him one of the greatest doctors of the faith if he were to have blundered on something so fundamental as sola scriptura?

No way.

Carrie said...

Where did I say anything about Augustine believing in Sola Scriptura?

It's just an Augustine quote on the authority of scripture

kmerian said...

Augustine on the authority of the Catholic Church:

"If you should find someone who does not yet believe in the gospel, what would you answer him when he says, ‘I do not believe’? Indeed, I would not believe in the gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so" (Faith and Creed 5:6)

Carrie said...

Augustine also said:

"God alone swears securely, because He alone is infallible."

Reginald de Piperno said...

If you understood Catholic ecclesiology, you would understand that there is absolutely no contradiction between it and what Augustine says.

As it is, unfortunately you are criticizing what you do not understand, and in this instance you think that someone agrees with you who does not.

Reginald de Piperno said...

BTW Carrie,

I see that your source for this quotation does not contain a reference as to where in his writings Augustine is supposed to have said this.

I'm not saying that he didn't write this, but can you produce a reference to it in his works?

I have found something similar, but definitely not the same, here: "Now faith will totter if the authority of Scripture begin to shake. And then, if faith totter, love itself will grow cold."

I think it's also very interesting that the great Saint also says this (on the very same page, in chapter 39): "And thus a man who is resting upon faith, hope and love, and who keeps a firm hold upon these, does not need the Scriptures except for the purpose of instructing others. Accordingly, many live without copies of the Scriptures, even in solitude, on the strength of these three graces" (emphasis added).

So - do you still want to say that he believed in sola scriptura?

Also interestingly, on that same page (a little higher up, in chapter 18, Augustine says that God gave the keys to the Church, and associates the keys with the forgiveness of sins: "He has given, therefore, the keys to His Church, that whatsoever it should bind on earth might be bound in heaven, and whatsoever it should loose on earth might be loosed in heaven; that is to say, that whosoever in the Church should not believe that his sins are remitted, they should not be remitted to him; but that whosoever should believe and should repent, and turn from his sins, should be saved by the same faith and repentance on the ground of which he is received into the bosom of the Church."

Notice how he does *not* say that the keys were given only to Peter and the Apostles, but to the Church, as if the Church still has them - which strongly implies the truth and necessity of apostolic succession as well.

And how can it be possible that what the Church binds will be bound in heaven? If the Church can err, then does that mean that God is binding himself to approve of error? Yes, that is exactly what it means if the Church can err. And that is one very good reason why there are circumstances in which the Church cannot err: because God is the guarantor of what the Church does in certain ways.

Now if you wish to approve these things that Augustine clearly believed, I will rejoice. But if not, then I respectfully suggest that you might be better served by not ripping quotations from Augustine out of the context of his writings, as though he were in some way a crypto-Protestant. :-) St. Augustine was a Catholic, and a very great one.

Carrie said...

Reginald,

The original Augustine quote I found in a book called "Battle for the Bible". That book reference "The Ante-Nicene Fathers" which is a book of extensive ECF quotes. Someday when I can get over to an academic library I will check the original source.

As far as the rest of your comment, I am fully aware that Augustine had some very Catholic beliefs, but I do not believe he is 100% Roman Catholic as Roman Catholics are today. He did hold some more Protestant views and that is why I post ECF quotes in general.

Reginald de Piperno said...

You say that he held "Protestant views".

But in the first place, you haven't demonstrated this at all. These pull-quotes that I have seen here so far take on an entirely different character when seen in the light of his Catholic faith and of his writings as a whole.

It's not credible, for example, to say that he believed in sola Scriptura when (aside from very many other reasons) he says that a Christian doesn't even need the Bible.

Secondly, the Catholic Church doesn't teach that Protestants are entirely in error. Protestants get a good many important things right. It would be unsurprising, therefore, to find Protestants agreeing with some things that St. Augustine says. The fact that they do so doesn't mean that he believed things that were "more Protestant" - which would be silly. It only means that Protestants happen to believe the same things that Catholics do - probably on more things than you care to admit. If you deny this, I'm afraid that it would only mean that you are woefully uninformed about what the Church actually teaches. :-(

Carrie said...

Reginald,

Do you surrender yourself to the authority of the Scriptures or to the authority of the magisterium?

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hello Carrie,

Please clarify:

The authority of Scripture as interpreted by whom?

Reginald de Piperno said...

BTW - that's not just a nitpicky question :-)

It's the interpretation of the Bible that is the crux of the question. For Mormons, JWs, Protestants, Quakers, and Catholics all interpret the Bible differently on certain points. Among Protestants, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Charismatics, etc. all differ as to how to interpret the Bible on certain points, and their differences are NOT all of the "things indifferent" sort.

So merely to "submit to the authority of the Bible" is to mouth empty words. What matters is what ... someone ... says that the Bible means.

Carrie said...

I was thinking in terms of Augustine's quote. He doesn't mention interpretation, he seems to speak of a direct relationship between the person and the scripture.

Since he also says that scripture cannot mislead, I don't see how interpretation plays in for him. To me, you cannot serve two masters, so either scripture is your authority or the magisterium is - it can't be both.

Reginald de Piperno said...

But - as I quoted in an earlier comment on this same thread - St. Augustine also says in Book I of On Christian Doctrine that "a man who is resting upon faith, hope and love, and who keeps a firm hold upon these, does not need the Scriptures except for the purpose of instructing others."

Furthermore, as kmerian pointed out in this same thread, St. Augustine rather famously said: "I would not believe in the gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so."

So on two scores it's clear that St. Augustine did not treat the Bible the same way as Protestants do. For him, the holy Catholic Church was the authority when it comes to matters of salvation. And if you're asking me whether I would agree with St. Augustine about this, then I most certainly do.

Lastly, what sort of "relationship" do you have in mind when you speak of a "relationship" between the Bible and a person? The Bible is not a person. It's a book. I must confess that I never heard anyone talk about a relationship with the Bible before. But maybe that's a distinctive of your particular denominational flavor.

Carrie said...

For him, the holy Catholic Church was the authority when it comes to matters of salvation.

I don't see it that way. Certainly not the way the RCC portrays it today.

"Relationship" is not always a person to person thing. From MW: "1 : the state of being related or interrelated (studied the relationship between the variables>)". This is not some "denominational flavor".

Since scripture is my authority, it is a direct relationship while I think of the Catholic relationship to scriptural authority as indirect since everything has to pass through the Church.

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hi Carrie,

You said: I don't see it that way. Certainly not the way the RCC portrays it today.

Well, at the moment we're not talking about anything other than what St. Augustine believed. But you disagree with what seems to me to be the rather obvious sense of this sentence: I would not believe in the gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so.

If by this he does not mean that the authority of the Catholic Church was pivotal in his decision to become a Christian - in moving him to become one - in such a way that apart from the Catholic Church's authority he would not have become a Christian, then what do you say that he meant by that sentence?

Reginald de Piperno said...

kmerian,

Your attribution for the quotation from St. Augustine turns out to be incorrect. I'm sure this was not your fault; I see that Catholic Answers has the attribution wrong here, and it appears to have been picked up from there by many other sites.

It's not from Faith and Creed 5:6; it's from Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental 5:6. It can be found here.

Reginald de Piperno said...

Carrie,

While you're considering what St. Augustine meant when he said "I would not believe in the gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so," perhaps you ought also to consider what he meant by this passage, taken from the same source as that statement:

"For in the Catholic Church, not to speak of the purest wisdom,... which you do not believe to be in the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate. And so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house. Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should, though from the slowness of our understanding, or the small attainment of our life, the truth may not yet fully disclose itself" (Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental, Chapter 4:5; emphasis added).

Peace be with you.

Carrie said...

Reginald,

Believing in the authority of the Church as a witness to the truth of the scriptures is different than the Church being the ultimate authority. That is the context I read in Augustine.

I have yet to see a quote from Augustine that says that scripture must be solely interpreted by the Catholic Church or that the Church is of a higher authority than scripture. If you have one I would be glad to see it.

Reginald de Piperno said...

Carrie,

Once again, as kmerian pointed out that St. Augustine said: "I would not believe in the gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so."

Show me where Scripture is in that statement.

Reginald de Piperno said...

More importantly though.

The Church has always taught that Scripture is one of two parts of divine revelation, the other being Sacred Tradition, and that both are to be equally revered.

The Magisterium is not of a "higher authority", however, than divine revelation. But scripture and tradition do not interpret themselves, unintelligible Protestant claims about "scripture interpreting scripture" notwithstanding. God has given the task of interpreting revelation to the Church.

Reginald de Piperno said...

And - when St. Augustine says (as previously pointed out in this thread) that a faithful Christian doesn't actually *need* the Bible...how is that "sola scriptura"?

Reginald de Piperno said...

If the Church, as the authoritative interpreter of Scripture and Tradition, is (as you say) giving itself "higher authority" than revelation, then it is absolutely inescapable that Protestants give themselves "higher authority" than the Bible, since they make themselves the interpreters of the Bible.

Carrie said...

Show me where Scripture is in that statement.

The "gospel" is scripture.

From the same passage:

"Perhaps you will read the gospel to me, and will attempt to find there a testimony to Manichæus. But should you meet with a person not yet believing the gospel, how would you reply to him were he to say, I do not believe? For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church."

"For the names of the apostles, as there recorded, do not include the name of Manichæus. And who the successor of Christ's betrayer was we read in the Acts of the Apostles; Acts 1:26 which book I must needs believe if I believe the gospel, since both writings alike Catholic authority commends to me."

"Read me now, if you can, in the gospel where Manichæus is called an apostle, or in any other book in which I have professed to believe."

Carrie said...

If the Church, as the authoritative interpreter of Scripture and Tradition, is (as you say) giving itself "higher authority" than revelation, then it is absolutely inescapable that Protestants give themselves "higher authority" than the Bible, since they make themselves the interpreters of the Bible.

God has given the task of interpreting revelation to the Church.

Wrong.

First of all, this whole business of "interpretation" is a bit blown out of proportion by you Catholics. You act like the Bible is written in some obscure language and I am just there with my English-Bible dictionary trying to figure it all out. The apostles wrote the NT in greek, the common language of the people, written to the common people. We now have that greek translated for us into English.

Second, most of the concepts are really not that difficult, especially when it comes to salvation. Are you really going to admit that you could not read the Book of John and understand how to be saved? “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” – was that statement by John just meant for an infallible interpreter?

Lastly, me reading God’s Word and understanding what God expects of me is not putting myself at a higher authority – it’s just hearing what my authority is telling me. Does my daughter put herself above my authority when she listens to what I tell her to do?

You, on the other hand, have to listen to the authority of God’s Word filtered through your magesterium, therefore they are the authority to you. If they were just reading the words out loud then it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but they are not just reading, they are interpreting the “true meaning”.

You do what they say, therefore, they are your authority. Without them, scripture is just a “dead letter” (ccc 111), therefore, according to your church, scripture has no authority on its own without the interpretation of your magisterium. By your own admission, without the magisterium to guide you, you would be lost. Just you and your bible is a “blueprint for anarchy”, so how could it the Bible ever be YOUR authority.

Now, this is the last time I want to veer off into authority. We can continue this discussion another time.

Reginald de Piperno said...

Carrie, you said:

The "gospel" is scripture.

Yes, and what does he say about it? He says (for the umpteenth time in this thread) "I would not believe in the gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so."

So by your own reckoning he must be saying that he would not believe in the Scripture apart from the authority of the Catholic Church (because, after all, you say that the gospel is Scripture).

There is flatly no way that this statement can be colored as in any way expressive of a Protestant sentiment.

Reginald de Piperno said...

Carrie, you say:

First of all, this whole business of "interpretation" is a bit blown out of proportion by you Catholics. You act like the Bible is written in some obscure language and I am just there with my English-Bible dictionary trying to figure it all out. The apostles wrote the NT in greek, the common language of the people, written to the common people. We now have that greek translated for us into English.

Oh, okay. So that's why all you Protestants agree about everything. Because it's all so easy now that it's in English.

Oh. Wait. No, that's not it, is it?

Then you say:

Second, most of the concepts are really not that difficult, especially when it comes to salvation. Are you really going to admit that you could not read the Book of John and understand how to be saved? “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” – was that statement by John just meant for an infallible interpreter?

Oh, okay. So that's why all you Protestants agree on things that cannot credibly be described as adiophora, right?

Oh. Wait. No, that's not it, either.

Then you say:

Lastly, me reading God’s Word and understanding what God expects of me is not putting myself at a higher authority – it’s just hearing what my authority is telling me. Does my daughter put herself above my authority when she listens to what I tell her to do?

So do Baptists and Presbyterians agree about the sacraments?

Are the sacraments a matter of indifference? Or does the truth about them matter?

Carrie said...

Reginald,

Do you believe that the majority of sola scriptura-believing Protestants are saved?

Are any Baptists saved? Any Presbyterians?

Reginald de Piperno said...

Carrie,

The fact that Protestants commit errors about the Sacraments doesn't by itself mean that they will not be saved (which I take to be your point). But it would be preposterous to pretend that the truth about the Sacraments doesn't matter just because Protestants might be saved in spite of their errors about this. They are also gravely mistaken in their errors about assurance, the Pope, the Blessed Virgin, and a host of other things. But truth matters, Carrie.

This is why I left Protestantism. Because Protestantism provides absolutely no means whatsoever for distinguishing who is right and wrong about important doctrines like the Sacraments. The impossibility of distinguishing this on Protestant terms is precisely why Protestantism is wrong: there is no basis for absolutely knowing what the truth is on Protestant terms. Period.

Carrie said...

I say Protestants agree on the essential doctrines as related to salvation. You seem to disagree.

You also keep bringing up sacraments.

So tell me, which denominations are mostly likely not saved because of their doctrines?

You contrasted Baptists and Prebyterians on sacraments - which of the two is not saved? Or is it both?

Reginald de Piperno said...

I asked you first :-)

Are the sacraments a matter of indifference?

Or does the truth about them matter?

Carrie said...

Are the sacraments a matter of indifference?

Since Protestants are saved by faith alone, then the sacraments are not contributing to anyone's salvation.

You seem to disagree, so tell me who is not saved?

Reginald de Piperno said...

You took a stab at answering. But that's not really the answer. I didn't ask you if they were essential for salvation. :-)

The question is whether it matters. Is it a question of adiophora, like food and drink (Romans 14), or does it matter?

Now, even though you didn't answer the question I asked (and I am still waiting for that) I will answer your question. And really, if you know as much about the Catholic Church as it seems you would have us believe, you should know the answer I'm going to give.

"Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church: "For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. Justified by faith in Baptism, [they] are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church." "Baptism therefore constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing among all who through it are reborn." (CCC 1271; emphasis added)

Now, please answer the question that I asked, and not some question that you think I am asking. :-)

Carrie said...

I did answer you. The sacraments are important, but not a requirement for salvation.

I know what the catechism says about non-Catholic baptism. But I didn't think your proposal of widespread disagreement amongst Protestants jived with us all simply being justified through baptism.

Reginald de Piperno said...

If the sacraments matter, then why don't Protestants agree about them?

And if the sacraments matter, and since Protestants don't (and will not ever) agree about them, don't you think that says something about the way that Protestants attempt to get truth from the Bible?

You folks disagree amongst about things that matter.

And this is because there is no final - wait for it - authority among Protestants when it comes to interpreting the Bible correctly!

So - since you have no such authority - how do you know that you have anything right? At all? You acknowledge that Protestants differ about things that matter, so how do you know that you have got it right on other matters just because you all might happen to agree about them? After all, you say you use the exact same method to arrive at your beliefs about the sacraments and other things that you say matter. How can your method give you all absolute certainty in one case, but not in the other? That is incoherent.

I contend that you all have no basis whatsoever for certainty for precisely this reason, on your own terms. And consequently you have no basis for claiming to have any certainty about revealed truth that isn't ultimately pure subjectivity.

This incoherence is why I am no longer Protestant. The truth of divine revelation is not and cannot be a question of human opinion. And yet Protestant methods for arriving at certainty about that truth can't and don't provide certainty (as I have just demonstrated).

Reginald de Piperno said...

Arrgh. That should say: You folks disagree amongst yourselves about things that matter.

Sorry for the typo :-(

Reginald de Piperno said...

I'm thinking that I may be wearing out my welcome. So I'm going to take a break.

I apologize if it seems that I am trying to browbeat you. Truly that is not my intent. I can't wrestle you back into the Church, and I wouldn't presume to try :-)

My primary purpose in posting here at all has been simply to ensure that Catholics and the Catholic Church are fairly, honestly, and accurately represented: viewed not as Protestants would describe her, but as she would describe herself. Present the Catholic Church's teachings honestly, and you can disagree all day long (although I hope you won't! :-)

Peace be with you.

phd4jesus said...

Reg, you said Because Protestantism provides absolutely no means whatsoever for distinguishing who is right and wrong about important doctrines like the Sacraments.

I guess what I am trying to figure out is why Catholics are always comparing RCC with Protestantism. In essence, you are comparing a denomination to a bases of faith (sola scriptura). Would it not be more accurate to either compare RCC to any one protestant denomination or compare “scripture with an infallible interpreter” to “sola scriptura" thereby comparing systems of faith?

I guess the second question is that if we cannot infallibly interpret scripture, how do you know that the RCC is the “one true church”.

Carrie said...

Reginald,

We will have to agree to disagree on this one.

I don't agree with you that Protestants are in as much disgreement as you suggest. The differing views in Protestantism about the sacraments really isn't that great while the RC view is way out there on its own (and unbiblical).

I understand that you perceive disagreements in non-salvific views as being large and problematic in Protestantism, but finding another organization that tells you can have certainty in all beliefs doesn't make it true. And in fact, that kind of unity is a hallmark of most cults so I don't find that viewpoint at all appealing.

And has I have shown from Catholic surveys, Catholics are not in agreement over their own personal beliefs. So if you are going to judge a system by results, then the Catholic system doesn't look good. Throw in there the fact that more than a few in leadership positions have committed one of the most heinous crimes there is while others in leadership tried to hide it - and there is no way from a results-based judgment you can convince me that the RCC is the real thing.

I could go on and on, but I think you can follow my point. The RCC is counter-biblical, that is problem with it. But in addition to that, I don't find your arguments from a results-based viewpoint at all persuasive.

Leo said...

St. Augustine of Hippo, Against the fundamental Epistle of Manichaeus, Ch.5 #6: "For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church."

Leo said...

Who judges what is in scriptures, when and where did it fall out of heaven complete and unabridged, or at least ,which book of the Bible contains a complete list of the books of the Bible?

This implies a dead law for the new law, who can say what the true interpretation is? Is it mine, the guy across the street, the Lutheran, the Calvinist, the Methodist, the Pentecostal, and on what authority is their interpretation judged wrong, the use the Bible do they not?

But men cannot be infallible, we are all fallen and can do nothing, so, since men are fallible, how can we call what men wrote infallible, on what authority?

Who says that those books of the Bible to Revelation are inspired?