Sunday, July 17, 2005

Did Augustine teach eternal security?

It is often claimed by Protestants that St. Augustine taught the Calvinist doctrine of eternal security. I disagree. Futhermore, for those who make this claim, I can't imagine they have actually read Augustine's works. Observe...

The Calvinist doctrine of eternal security can be summarized as follows...

From the Protestant source, Easton's Bible Dictionary:

Perseverance of the saints: their certain continuance in a state of grace. Once justified and regenerated, the believer can neither totally nor finally fall away from grace, but will certainly persevere therein and attain everlasting life.

Said alternatively, those who are predestined to God's grace are also predestined to eternal glory. In other words, God's grace is irresistible, and if he gives his grace to a sinner, that sinner cannot help but go to heaven. Those that go to hell are only those that God chose not to give his grace. God gives his grace only to the elect. In fact, his atonement was not for all, but only for the elect (ie. limited atonement). According to this thesis, the gift of faith is made the same as the gift of final perseverence. Catholicism rejects this teaching because the gift of faith and the gift of perseverence are separate gifts, according to the Word of God.

Calvin is quoted a saying: "Augustine is so completely of our persuasion, that if I should have to make written profession, it would be quite enough to present a composition made up entirely of excerpts from his writings."

I think Calvin must have been a poor student of Augustine. If Calvin had just stuck to quoting Augustine, he would not have been a heretic. Unfortunately, he added a mixture of erroneous assertions, which clearly contradict Augustine's teachings.

Augustine describes the gift of faith and the gift of perseverance as being two distinct gifts.

A Treatise on the Gift of Perseverance by Augustine (A.D. 428 OR 429)

CHAP. I --OF THE NATURE OF THE PERSEVERANCE HERE DISCOURSED OF.. I HAVE now to consider the subject of perseverance ... I assert, therefore, that the perseverance by which we persevere in Christ even to the end is the gift of God; and I call that the end by which is finished that life
wherein alone there is peril of falling.
Therefore it is uncertain whether any one has received this gift so long as he is still alive. For if he fall before he dies, he is, of course, said not to have persevered; and most truly is it said. ... For if any one ... have righteousness ... if even faith, and fall away, he is rightly said to have had these virtues and to have them no longer; for he was ... righteous, or he was ... believing, as long as he was so; but when he ceased to be so, he no longer is what he was. ... And the believer of one year, or of a period as much shorter as may be conceived of, if he has lived faithfully until he died, has rather had this perseverance than the believer of many years' standing, if a little time before his death he has fallen away from the stedfastness of his faith.
Augustine asserted that the grace of God is like light that illuminates every man (against limited atonement):

That light, however, does not nourish the eyes of irrational birds, but the pure hearts of those men who believe in God and turn from the love of visible and temporal things to the fulfilling of His precepts. All men can do this if they will, because that light illuminates every man coming into this world. (Genesis Defended Against the Manicheans, AD 389)
Grace, according to Augustine, is obviously not always efficacious grace (against irresistible grace). God gives some more grace than others (and perhaps differing kinds of grace).

Augustine teaches that some of those regenerated and justified in Christ are among the elect, but some are not.

We, then, call men elected, and Christ's disciples, and God's children, because they are to be so called whom, being regenerated, we see to live piously; but they are then truly what they are called if they shall abide in that on account of which they are so called. But if they have not perseverance,--that is, if they continue not in that which they have begun to be,--they are not truly called what they are called and are not; for they are not this in the sight of Him to whom it is known what they are going to be,--that is to say, from good men, bad men. ("On Rebuke and Grace" (De Correptione et Gratis), Ch 22)

... But those who do not belong to this number of the predestinated ... [some] receive the grace of God, but they are only for a season, and do not persevere; they forsake and are forsaken. For by their free will, as they have not received the gift of perseverance, they are sent away by the righteous and hidden judgment of God (ibid, Ch. 42)

If, however, being already regenerate and justified, he relapses of his own will into an evil life, assuredly he cannot say, "I have not received," because of his own free choice to evil he has lost the grace of God, that he had received. (ibid, ch 9)
Does the above sound like Augustine taught eternal security to you?

I think what Calvin did was reinvent an ancient heresy called predestinarianism, condemned by the Catholic Church in the 6th century and again in the 9th century. See here:

Augustine taught that those given the gift of final perseverance could not fail to persevere to the end. However, according to Augustine, so long as one is alive, one cannot know if one has the gift of perseverence. Compare this to those professing eternal security of the saved. They contend that all those given the gift of faith are saved and can never lose their salvation. They differ from Augustine substantially as they have merged the gift of faith with the gift of perseverance as though they were one and the same gift. They also insist that one can know with certainty that they are eternally saved. This contrasts with Augustine's view that even those given the gift of perseverance cannot know it while they are still alive.

Grace is never owed. It is a gift, pure and simple, which is gratuitous. The gift of grace is needed for initial conversion as well as perseverance in faith unto final glory. That's what Augustine insisted upon. However, that is not quite the same as saying that eternal salvation comes regardless of man's free will cooperation. Man's willful cooperation is involved, although man's natural deservedness is not.

For example, we can pray for God's saving grace. God owes nothing by our prayers, but it seems God desires for us to pray nonetheless, and if it be in accord with His will, the faithful believe that He answers our prayers, not as something owed, but as a gratuitous gift.

Augustine taught that a sinner's prayers may be rewarded with the grace of justification and enlightenment, if that be in accord with God's will:

For God does listen to sinner too. If God did not listen to sinners it would have been all in vain for the publican to cast down his eyes to the ground and stike his breast saying: 'Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.' And that confession merited justification, just as the blind man merited enlightenment. (Homilies on John,44, 13]
In speaking of the gift of perseverance, Augustine asserted that it too can be given in response to prayer:

This gift of [perseverance from] God, therefore, can be obtained by supplication (Gift of Perseverance, 6, 10)

There are some, morevover, who either pray not at all or pray coldly, because they know from the Lord's having said it that God knows what is necessary for us even before we ask it of Him. Must the truth of this statement be given up or is it to be supposed that it should be deleted from the gospel on account of such peoplel? On the contrary, while it is a fact that God prepares some things to be given even to those who do not pray, such as the beginning of faith, and other things not to be given except to those who pray for them, such as perseverance to the end, certainly one who thinks that he has this of himself does not pray to have it. We must beware, then, lest, while we fear that exhortation may grow cool, prayer be extinguished and presumption advanced. (ibid., 16, 39)
Augustine seems to insist that all the just (those given the saving grace of regeneration) are able to persevere if they will it:
The excuse would seem more just of those who say: "We did not receive hearing," than those who say "We did not recieve perseverance," because reply can be made: "Man, in what you heard and kept, in that much you could have persevered if you had will" (Admonition and Grace, 7, 11)

God, therefore, gave man a good will, because He made him in that will when He made him upright (i.e., justified or regenerated). He gave man assistance (i.e. saving grace) without which man could not continue in the will even if he would; but that he would, God left to his free choice. Man was able, therefore, to continue if he would, because the assistance was not lacking whereby he was able, and without which he would not be able, to persevere in holding to the good that he might will. But because he willed not to continue, certainly the blame is his whose merit it would have been if he had willed to continue. (ibid., 11, 32)

Whatever one thinks of Augustines view of predestination, it seems clear to me that his view was "once saved not always saved" coupled with "no one can know they are among the elect while they are still alive." This is opposed to "eternal security" taught by Calvinists. In my opinion, Calvin, therefore, did not merely take Augustine into another direction, but took Augustine into an opposing direction.

God bless,


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

When God stops giving the gift of life...


How do we, as Catholics, justify a just God when non-believers want to know about the teachings of Jesus regarding (Matthew 5:43) 'love your enemies...', when compared with the teachings of the Book of Law, where in Deuteronomy we are taught that the Lord commanded that, (Deut. 20:16) '...of the cities of these peoples, that Jehovah thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth,' and in Joshua (6:21), 'they devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it-men and women, young and old...'?

When you live, every breath you take, is a gift from God. You are not entitled to it. Neither are you entitled, after receiving the gift of life, to continue to receive it according to YOUR will. It is God's will whether you live or die, and if God ceases to stop giving the gift of life to you, for his own reasons, he is not unjust in doing so.

He is the Lord of life, not anyone else. Killing is wrong precisely because it is a violation of rights of God, the Lord of life. When you understand the reason killing is wrong, then when God decides to wipe out all the living things on the earth excepting Noah and his family, then you can understand that his choice to cease giving his gift, is not and can never be unjust.

Gifts are called gifts because they are gratuitous, and never owed. Think of a teenager demanding $20 from the parent on the basis that the parent gave him a gift of $20 last week. Is it unjust that I give a gift one week, but decide, for my own financial reasons which I don't necessarily share with my teenager, not to give him a monetary gift the next week?

I think many have come to take God's gifts for granted, and now think of them as entitlements, something owed to us. Somehow God OWES me life, and it is unjust of the gift-giver to stop giving his gift!!! Imagine the gall of the Giver of Life to not get my approval or explain to me why he ceased to give HIS gifts!!!

You must stop thinking of life as some kind of entitlement, as if God owed you or anybody else such a gift.

See more here:
God sometimes ordered Hebrews to wipe out a city. Was it immoral? - View

God bless,


Sunday, July 10, 2005

Concerning the words "pro multis" - did Jesus shed his blood for all or for many?

In the editio typica of the Roman Missal, the Latin words of consecration of the Holy Eucharist "pro multis" means "for many." So why does the English translation translate this to "for ALL?" Is this correct? Is this an invalid consecration?

I think it is better translated "for many," but believe it is valid with either translation. The form of the Sacrament are the words of consecration: "This is my body" and "This is my blood." Throughout the history of the Church, there have been many variations of the formula, some of which omitted "pro multis" entirely. Thus, the "pro multis" part may be omitted entirely and the Sacrament would still be valid.

From Jason Evert, Catholic Answers Q&A:

Throughout the history of the Church, there have been at least 89 variations of the formula of consecration approved by the Church (see Likoudis and Whitehead, The Pope, the Council, and the Mass, 109). Many of these entirely exclude the phrase in question. For example, the canon of Hippolytus, which dates back to the beginning of the third century, gives the following as the words of consecration for the cup: "And likewise, taking the cup, he said: ‘This is my Blood, which is shed for you. When you do this, make memory of me.’" More to the point, St. Paul himself omits the phrase and gives the words of consecration as: "In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’" (1 Cor. 11:25). Ultimately, when a matter has not been settled infallibly, prior writings and writers cannot be used to attack a later practice that has been approved by the Holy See. And the translation of the phrase pro vobis et pro multis as "for you and for all" has been approved. This principle is something that Aquinas specifically endorsed. In his Questiones Quodlibetales, he stated: "We must abide rather by the pope’s judgment than by the opinion of any of the theologians, however well versed he [sic] may be in divine Scripture" (IX:8). John Henry Newman adds: "Before it [the Church] speaks, the most saintly may mistake; and after it has spoken, the most gifted must obey" (Letters of John Henry Newman, 236).

How do you know that the Church, when omitting "pro multis" in the past, did not invalidate the Sacrament? According to Pius VI, the proposition that the Church may establish approved ecclesiastical disciplines that are harmful or dangerous to the faithful is condemned as erroneous. Thus, the Church is protects from establishing a liturgy that is invalid, as this would be harmful to the faithful.

Pius VI, Auctorem Fidei, 78 (1794):
The prescription of the synod [of Pistoia] ... it adds, "in this itself (discipline) there is to be distinguished what is necessary or useful to retain the faithful in spirit, from that which is useless or too burdensome for the liberty of the sons of the new Covenant to endure, but more so, from that which is dangerous or harmful, namely, leading to superstituion and materialism"; in so far as by the generality of the words it includes and submits to a prescribed examination even the discipline established and approved by the Church, as if the Church which is ruled by the Spirit of God could have established discipline which is not only useless and burdensome for Christian liberty to endure, but which is even dangerous and harmful and leading to superstition and materialism,--false, rash, scandalous, dangerous, offensive to pious ears, injurious to the Church and to the Spirit of God by whom it is guided, at least erroneous. (Pius VI, Auctorem Fidei, 78 (1794), cited in Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, translated by Roy F. Deferari from the 13th ed. Of Henry Denzinger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum, 1954, Loreto Publications, 2nd printing, 2004, pg. 393)]

For further reading, see:

by Fr. John F. McCarthy

Diocese of Colorado Springs - Q&A on "pro multis"
by Peter Howard, STL

Why "For All" in the Words of Consecration?
by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Prayers to Mary and the saints?

A Protestant said:

if y'all are praying to them....that's different from asking someone to pray for don't pray here on earth for your fellow sisters and brothers in Christ to pray for ask them

Let me place the meaning of the word "pray" in the above paragraph to help illustrate some confusion on the matter. Catholics understand "pray" to mean "humbly request" which is in accord with Webster's definition, and the usage found in the Protestant KJV translation of the Bible.

if y'all are humbly requesting them....that's different from asking someone to humbly request for don't humbly request here on earth for your fellow sisters and brothers in Christ to humbly request for ask them

Hmmmmm.....If you read through the above paragraph, you can't help but scratch your head in wonder at what it is you are objecting to.

Didn't the Psalmist give us a Scriptural example of invoking (humbly requesting, aka praying) the heavenly angels and saints directly in prayer? (Ps. 103:20–21). In Psalms 148 we pray (humbly request), "Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!" EeeeeeK! We're praying to angels and all his hosts!!! How unScriptural is our Scripture!!

When you get a chance, check out your hymnal and see the prayer to Mary and Joseph that you sing in Angels We Have Heard On High. Protestants, whether knowingly or not, ask (PRAY) for Joseph and Mary's help when they sing the hymn, Angels We Have Heard on High. The relevant verse goes: "See Him in a manger laid / Whom the choirs of angels praise / Mary, Joseph, lend your aid / While our hearts in love we raise." Double eeeeek!!! Prayers to Mary and Joseph in our hymnals!!!!

In the the KJV of the Bible, people "pray" to other people. Triple eeeeeek!!

"Whose daughter [art] thou? tell me, I pray thee" (Gen 24:23)

According to the Protestant lexicon, Vine's Expository of New Testament Words, the Biblical word translated "pray" is:

Greek: erotao - "to ask," is translated by the verb to pray in Luk14:18,19; 16:27; Jhn4:31; 14:16; 16:26; 17:9,15,20; in Act23:18, RV, "asked" (AV "prayed"); in 1Jo5:16, RV, "should make request" (AV "shall pray").

To ask and to pray are the same word in the Bible. Catholics still use the word "pray" just as the dictionary describes it, and just as the KJV often translates it. We humbly ask the angels and all the heavenly hosts to pray for us.

Now, is there an example of a NT Christian conversing with a saint? Yes. The Apostle St. John, being "in the Spirit on the Lord's day" (Rev 1:10) conversed with those assembled in heaven. St. John, one Sunday on Patmos, spoke to angels (Rev 1:2), and Jesus (Rev 1:17-18), and to the elders (Rev 5:5) and to the souls of the martyrs (Rev 6:9). If it is unScriptural to converse with angels and saints in heaven, then St. John has some 'splainin' to do.

What if you can't hear the saints and angels, can they hear you? If so, how? Even if you cannot hear the angels and saints conversing with you, they can hear you conversing with them. Christ is the vine between the branches. They do not have to be omnipotent to be able to hear you. St. John was a mere creature of God. Nevertheless, by the power of God, St. John somehow heard every created thing in heaven and on earth without having to be omnipresent like God (Rev 5:13 - "And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea"). It seems one doesn't need to be omnipresent when God is the vine between the branches and can, by his almighty power, allow any of his creatures, even a mere human like St. John, to hear what all of God's creation is saying.

But are the angels and saints aware of our petitions? According to Revelation ch. 5, and ch. 8, we can be certain that the angels and heavenly hosts alive in heaven offer to God the prayers of the holy ones (Rev 5:8; 8:3).
so my question is why ask if they already are praying for you?

Why pray at all if God already knows your thoughts? I think the answer to both questions is the same. Prayer for and with others who are living in Christ is a testimony in itself, a witness to one's belief. We believe the saints in heaven and on earth are alive in Christ, praying for the faithful. This is a creed that is affirmed everytime we ask the saints to pray for us. This is a profound affirmation of belief in the afterlife, in eternal life in the heavenly presence of God for the holy ones. Yes, the angels and saints in heaven will pray for the holy ones on earth just the same, without our asking them, but in our asking, we testify to the truth that these saints are alive in Christ, among the "cloud of witnesses" that the Epistle of Hebrews describes as our holy witnesses (the Latin word for "witness" is "martyr"). According to the Epistle of Hebrews, ch. 12, we as Christians come to the CITY of God, and that city is poplulated with God AND angels AND saints. We come to them all. Scripture speaks of them as though they are united by the same Divine Love, so we don't accept the protestant polemic that if we ask Mary to pray for us, we do so in opposition to Christ. The CITY of God includes all the angels and heavenly host that the Psalmist invokes in prayer. We certainly agree with the Psalmist in the biblical practice of invoking all the angels and heavenly hosts in prayer.

Jesus Christ: "The one who welcomes you welcomes Me, and the one who welcomes Me welcomes Him who sent Me" (Matt 10:40)

It's not Jesus or the angels and saints. You can welcome the entire Vine of Christ and all the branches too. In fact, by receiving those in Christ, you receive Christ.

God bless,