Monday, September 20, 2010

St. Augustine: Scripture Is Not the Only Source By Which God speaks to Man

ACTS/CathApol recently hosted a debate on "Sola Scriptura" (scroll down the messages to click on the debate here), so I thought this passage from St. Augustine might be appropriate.  With so many protestants trying to rewrite the Church Fathers, I thought I'd share some thoughts on one of the leading Catholic Doctors hijacked by protestants today.

One way God has spoken to His people over the course of time is through prophets.  Many of the prophecies were written down, many were incorporated in the signs and symbols of our worship (latreia) of Our Lord and Savior.  God's word continues to be read and expressed in His Church today.


32.  The mystery of Christ's redemption was not absent in any previous era, but it was made known under different symbols


This mystery of eternal life has been made known by the ministry of angels from the beginning of the human race.  It was revealed to those who were fit to receive the knowledge by means of signs and symbols appropriate to the times.  Later, the Hebrew people was gathered and united in a kind of community designed to perform this sacred function of revelation.  In that people the future course of events, from the coming of Christ to the present day, and even beyond, was prophesied through the agency of some who realized, and some who did not realize, what they were doing.  In the course of time, this people was scattered among the nations to bear witness to the Scriptures, which foretold the coming salvation of Christ.  For not only all the prophesies contained in words, not only all the precepts for the conduct of life which shape men's character and their piety and are contained in the Scriptures, but also the ceremonies, the sacred rites, the festal days, and everything which concerned with the homage due to God (the Greeks call it latreia) - all these were symbols and predictions that find their fulfilment in Christ, so as to give eternal life to those who believeWe believe that they have been fulfilled; we observe that they are being fulfilled; we are convinced that they will go on being fulfilled. 
(St. Augustine, "City of God," Book VII)

10 comments:

  1. Well, this article has attracted the attention of Mr. Swan (who has still not responded to my acceptance of his challenge to debate "Tradition", but let us not be distracted here). He complains here that one who presents this article as "speaking out against sola scriptura, they are simply clueless."

    I would have to remind Mr. Swan that his opinion has to be tempered against his particular view of sola scriptura, as not all adherents to sola scriptura view it the same way. Cathmom5's view too could be clarified that it speaks to those who view Scripture as the ONLY (sola) source of revelation for the Church, when clearly God has used other means. Many prophecies were written down ("inscripturated") while others were incorporated into forms of worship. Allow me to repeat:
    For not only all the prophesies contained in words, not only all the precepts for the conduct of life which shape men's character and their piety and are contained in the Scriptures, but also the ceremonies, the sacred rites, the festal days, and everything which concerned with the homage due to God (the Greeks call it latreia) - all these were symbols and predictions that find their fulfilment in Christ, so as to give eternal life to those who believe. We believe that they have been fulfilled; we observe that they are being fulfilled; we are convinced that they will go on being fulfilled.

    I am fully aware that those who are part of AOMin (Swan is a participant there too) do not believe that Scripture is the ONLY place of knowledge or instruction for the Church. Mr. Swan needs to be aware that not all who cling to SS believe in AOMin's definition of SS.

    Cathmom5 also mentioned the SS Debate which was hosted here and at BattleACTS wherein another adherent to AOMin's definition was debated by Verga, a Catholic. The definition used in that debate was so broad that it essentially nullified the meaning of "sola" or "alone" and reduced it to one of "sufficiency" or "supremacy" - but not as a rule which stands "alone" as the word "sola" means.

    Back to Mr. Swan's myopic criticism, I, for one, will concede that what Cathmom5 said does not necessarily apply to HIS version of sola scriptura (assuming it is the same or similar to Mr. Antony's version used in the debate earlier mentioned).

    Scott<<<

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  2. I might add, with regard to the "hijacking" of St. Augustine, it never ceases to amaze me how or WHY any Protestant would claim St. Augustine as one of their own! It seems to me that many must base such sheepish behavior upon out of context quotes from this great Saint and Doctor of the Catholic Church. I mean, if St. Augustine were HALF as "Protestant" (anachronistically thinking) as many Protestants make him out to be, then how in the WORLD did the Catholic Church name him as a Saint and Doctor of the Catholic Faith?! Consider as well, St. Augustine was a priest and bishop of the Catholic Church! He offered the Sacrifice of the Mass and presided over priests in Hippo for their celebrations of the Mass and other matters related to the Church.

    http://cathapol.blogspot.com/2010/03/augustine-catholic-saint-and-doctor.html

    Has St. Augustine been "hijacked?" Certainly that can be argued, but he has only been hijacked by those ignorant of what the great Saint and Doctor REALLY BELIEVED!

    In JMJ,
    Scott<<<

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  3. First of all, I am not "clueless." I was raised in a faith community that did believe in the strict meaning of Sola Scriptura, that is that the Scriptures are the sole and final rule of the "Christian" faith. That was in fact the version of sola scriptura to which I was addressing.

    Second, I barely know a thing about Swan and beliefs. Sorry to disappoint him. I do know enough to know that something which is not alone is not "sola". If his version of "sola scriptura", incorporates the authority of anything other than Scriptura than it is NOT "sola" now is it?

    Third, thank you for repeating the important part of the St. Augustine quote. What part of "...but also in the ceremonies, the sacred rites, the festal days, and everything concerned with homage due to God..." supports Sola Scriptura? "...we observe that they ARE BEING FULFILLED..." (present tense).

    St. Augustine did not believe in the concept of Sola Scriptura, either the strict or the more contemporary vague version. He believed in, supported, and participated in the magesterium and the ceremonies of the Church as being as authoritative as the Scriptures. A belief to which this quote attests.

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  4. Cathmom5, you did well. You did not overstate your case, you simply exemplified where St. Augustine, (Saint and Doctor of the Catholic Church), did not hold to the view of sola scriptura which at least SOME adherents to sola scriptura hold, your previous experience as one of those is duly noted - and who can argue against what you were taught and believed when you were a Protestant?! Certainly they COULD argue that the TYPE of sola scriptura YOU believed in is not the same TYPE which THEY believe in - but the more they do that, the more they whittle away their own position!

    As for responding to Mr. Swan on his site, he found your article here, he can find your response here too. Afterall, he's one who makes a big deal about chasing "rabbit trails" so if he has any integrity or consistency at all, he'll respond to you here. You don't need to follow his "rabbit trail" if he refuses to follow others. I have defended your article a bit on BeggarsAll, but my fuller responses remain over here - and he obviously knows how to find us if he wants to.

    In JMJ,
    Scott<<<

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  5. Mr. Windsor,

    Would you mind sending me your email address, please?
    My email is rhology gmail.

    Thank you.

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  6. Alan,
    I sent you an email too, and my address is bigscott (at) a2z.org

    In JMJ,
    Scott<<<

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  7. Hey Scott,

    I managed to come upon this article through the "rabbit hole" from James Swan's blog.

    I think you should post your clarification that St. Augustine's quote does not contradict the definition SS over there for the sake of answering the people who have asked.

    The main thing, though, is you seem to misunderstand how Protestants use patristic sources. We do not use them the way that Roman Catholics pretend to use them. We do not use them the way that Roman Catholics actually use them, either. We do not open a book of patristic writings so as to believe whatever they believed, nor do we open up a book so that we can find some quote which seems to support our position so that we can post it online as 'proof' that we belong to "The One True Church®". We read their writings largely for historical background about how God worked within the Church through the ages (i.e. Athanasius contra mundo), and when we post quotes from them it is not because those quotes are the foundations of our beliefs but because those quotes contradict RC claims to perpetual and unanimous acceptance of their beliefs.

    So when we appeal to the fact that Augustine did not hold the modern RC understanding of the papacy, we are doing so because the Roman Catholic must have Augustine affirm the papacy. Augustine must have believed in the infallibility of the Bishop of Rome, the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary, transubstantiation, purgatory, the mass as sacrifice, etc., otherwise the RC position that any of this stuff came from the Apostles completely falls apart.

    As it happens, we can go to patristic sources and see that historically, before a certain point no one believed in the papacy, before a certain point no one believed in transubstantiation, before a certain point no one believed in the assumption of Mary, etc. All these doctrines developed over time and have no more support than someone writing 600 years after-the-fact building off of something someone 500 years after-the-fact said about something someone 300 years after-the-fact might have implied in something he wrote. We can show this historically through patristic sources, just as we can show the constant appeals of early Church writers that all doctrines must be derived from Scripture, because Scripture alone is God-breathed and Scripture alone still records the life of Christ and the teachings of the Apostles. There is no other source for information on either.

    Augustine might have had an ecclesiology with bishops, which is Scriptural. He might have had an ecclesiology with priests, which is unscriptural. Either way, Augustine rejected many of the views that the Magisterium insists that not only you but also he must have believed in for saving faith, and that is the main interest in citing them.

    But then again, what do I know :P

    Love in Christ,
    John Lollard

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  8. I managed to come upon this article through the "rabbit hole" from James Swan's blog.
    Yes, the little "rabbit trail/hole" of Mr. Swan's own making pretty much dominated his blog for nearly a week, and was perhaps the busiest - or among the busiest at least - posts in weeks there. Interesting to note, that after 5 days of no new posts there, suddenly a flood of posts, as if to diminish the attention given to this "rabbit trail."

    (I'll continue in next comment...)

    Scott<<<

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  9. I think you should post your clarification that St. Augustine's quote does not contradict the definition SS over there for the sake of answering the people who have asked.

    I believe I did. The St. Augustine quote does not contradict at least ONE of the definitions of sola scriptura - and one which appears to be held by many/most "over there."

    The main thing, though, is you seem to misunderstand how Protestants use patristic sources.

    You seem to not realize that I was once a Protestant apologist.

    We do not use them the way that Roman Catholics pretend to use them.

    That sort of polemic is not necessary nor do you score any points with such an insulting comment. Please refrain from such.

    We do not use them the way that Roman Catholics actually use them, either.

    That's better...

    We do not open a book of patristic writings so as to believe whatever they believed,

    I agree, it certainly seems many/most of you do not.

    nor do we open up a book so that we can find some quote which seems to support our position so that we can post it online as 'proof' that we belong to "The One True Church®".

    Here I do not agree. I believe one of the key reasons a Protestant goes to the patristic writings is to shore up their arguments to claim THEY are part of the "The One True Church®".

    We read their writings largely for historical background about how God worked within the Church through the ages (i.e. Athanasius contra mundo), and when we post quotes from them it is not because those quotes are the foundations of our beliefs but because those quotes contradict RC claims to perpetual and unanimous acceptance of their beliefs.

    But when it is demonstrated that these persons, whom you seek out as sources, truly were "Catholic" is the sense Catholics use that term, Protestants either go into unsupported denial, diversions or silence (or cease to remain Protestant!).

    (continued to next comment...)

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  10. So when we appeal to the fact that Augustine did not hold the modern RC understanding of the papacy, we are doing so because the Roman Catholic must have Augustine affirm the papacy.

    Which he DOES! (see here)

    Augustine must have believed in the infallibility of the Bishop of Rome, the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary, transubstantiation, purgatory, the mass as sacrifice, etc., otherwise the RC position that any of this stuff came from the Apostles completely falls apart.

    Well first off, he DOES affirm many of these things! (see here). However, NO Catholic is held accountable to a dogma which was not defined at the time he was alive.

    As it happens, we can go to patristic sources and see that historically, before a certain point no one believed in the papacy, before a certain point no one believed in transubstantiation, before a certain point no one believed in the assumption of Mary, etc. All these doctrines developed over time and have no more support than someone writing 600 years after-the-fact building off of something someone 500 years after-the-fact said about something someone 300 years after-the-fact might have implied in something he wrote.

    So, are you saying the Catholic Church did not exist for some 500 to 600 years? If you look at some of the sources I've already provided, there are already huge holes in your argument. Can you nail it down for me/us? When did the Catholic Church begin, in your view?

    We can show this historically through patristic sources, just as we can show the constant appeals of early Church writers that all doctrines must be derived from Scripture, because Scripture alone is God-breathed and Scripture alone still records the life of Christ and the teachings of the Apostles. There is no other source for information on either.

    No other source? Hmmm, seems a rather extremist position here.

    Augustine might have had an ecclesiology with bishops, which is Scriptural. He might have had an ecclesiology with priests, which is unscriptural. Either way, Augustine rejected many of the views that the Magisterium insists that not only you but also he must have believed in for saving faith, and that is the main interest in citing them.

    Well, I need to ask you to focus your thoughts - pick a subject and let's debate it more formally. Are you willing to substantiate your arguments in a formal online debate?

    AMDG,
    Scott<<<

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