15 October, 2012

Defense of the Claim that Calvin taught the same as St. Augustine

(Christian Skeptic) “We have already addressed the Catholic misunderstanding of James 2 AD NAUSEUM. I'm not going to keep explaining it if you won't engage with it.”

(Cristoiglesia) The fact is that there is no “Catholic misunderstanding” of James 2. The fact is that the Catholic understanding is the authoritative understanding according to Scriptures. Christ gave all authority for teaching to the Church and the Bible promises that that authority will forever be within the Church and free from any error. I understand that out of prejudice alone you desire that the plain meaning of James 2 be different and support your man-made doctrine but the truth is that it stands as a contradiction to your obvious exegetical error in regards to whether faith alone is evidence of justification which it clearly is not throughout the Scriptures. God’s grace does not only bring one to faith alone but continues that faith through one’s lifelong journey to sanctification culminated at judgment at the completion of our earthly existence.

(Christian Skeptic) “I do follow the teachings of the Church.”

(Cristoiglesia) No, you clearly do not but instead protest not only the authority of the Church but its infallible teachings. If you followed the teaching of the Church you would not be outside of its unity and consequently God’s will who prayed that we be on within His Church. He prayed for unity and not the division caused by heretics like Calvin who preferred humanism over the teaching of the Church and labored to change the understanding that man is created to serve God to one that says that God is obligated to serve man. You follow private personal interpretations in defiance of biblical teaching and instead reject the authority of the Church given by Jesus to shepherd His flock and lead all people to the fullness of truth.

(Christian Skeptic) “Romanism is the one that strayed from the Church.”

(Cristoiglesia) Again you embrace the private interpretations of men and reject the authority of the Church. Jesus said that the Church would never fall into apostasy stating that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church. You seem to defy this teaching by saying that Jesus lied and that the gates of hell did indeed prevail against the Church. I do not know if you come to this conclusion because you think that Jesus lied or that He was misquoted by the biblical writer but I believe that the Bible is God’s inspired truth and does not contain the errors that you obviously believe. Jesus was competent in establishing the enduring Church that the Bible says will for all times be the “bulwark and foundation of the truth”. Your disagreement and Calvin’s does not change the truth taught by Jesus about His Church and its enduring authority.

(Christian Skeptic) “Calvin taught Augustinianism.”

(Cristoiglesia) Such a claim as this is absolutely absurd. Certainly it can be supported that Calvin plagiarized from the teaching of St. Augustine but only to create some credibility for his heretical works. The central theme for all of St. Augustine’s teaching on soteriology is that man’s liberty to accept and respond to salvific grace or reject it is central and fundamental in God’s plan for salvation. Calvin taught that man is incapable of any liberty and is either predestined to receive and respond to salvific grace or is not predestined to receive the grace necessary for salvation. On these fundamental approaches to the understanding of God’s plan for salvation Calvin and St. Augustine are diametrically opposed to one another. According to St. Augustine God allows man to either rise from depravity or fall into damnation freely by his own will. God’s will remains that all men may be saved according to their own will.

(Christian Skeptic) “If Calvin is a devil, then so was Augustine. Rome considers Augustine a Doctor of the Church. So you condemn your own religion.”

(Cristoiglesia) Calvin is the tool of the devil by his efforts to twist the teaching of God and of one of the great doctors of the Church into a caricature of the actual teaching to support his humanist desires in which Calvin labors to depict God as being less that just and far from loving. The Church does not teach Calvinism and St. Augustine did not inspire such nonsense as you claim.

(Christian Skeptic) “Augustine taught double predestination just as Calvin (Enchiridion chap. 100) and his doctrine of election was identical (see "On the Predestination of the Saints.")”

(Cristoiglesia) St. Augustine was a very prolific writer and over the life of writings he did over time come to even greater understandings as his writings matured along with his maturity and faith. He built upon previous writings and many times expounded on teachings that he later thought would be misunderstood. A reasonable person should not take excerpts from his writings in an eisegetical attempt to support their own beliefs for this is not the purpose of his writing but instead he created works so that one could learn from what he wrote instead of twisting it into a meaning that he never endorsed or taught. This is exactly what you are attempting to do here. The truth is that the theme of St. Augustine’s writing is that God does not interfere with the ability of man’s will to rise above his depravity or fall from God’s grace. The teaching of St. Augustine is clearly that God desires that all be saved but not at the exclusion of his just nature that gives man the ability to elect by the freedom of their will to be among those saved by God’s grace. God is all loving and does not create men to be condemned into an eternity in the damnation of hell.  

(Christian Skeptic) “You assume that the Church in the Bible is your church.”

(Cristoiglesia) Of course I do as it is supported by all sources whether the Bible, history or the writings of the Church fathers. Only by the greatest ignorance can one conclude and assume that the Church is not what these sources confirm. There simply is no reliable evidence to the contrary which makes such a conclusion implausible and unreasonable.

(Christian Skeptic) “This seems to be an idea fixed in many Catholics' minds and they can't think outside of that.”

(Cristoiglesia) There is no reason for us to “think outside of that” as there is no real evidence to the contrary.

(Christian Skeptic) “ Your church is not the church spoken of in Scripture.”

(Cristoiglesia) Be at least somewhat reasonable here….The biblical writers of the New Testament were all Catholic Christians as there were no others called Christian in the first century. The Catholic Church exercised its authority from Christ to canonize the Christian Bible in the late 4th and early 5th centuries. The entire New Testament is about the Church and its relationship with Christ. How can anyone even imagine that the teaching can be referring to any other than the true enduring Church today called the Catholic Church? Where is their evidence and surely where is their logic to such an impotent, unsupportable conclusion?

(Christian Skeptic) “ Your church disagrees with Scripture and the doctrines of the Early Fathers. Clement of Rome, for instance, taught sola fide in Corinthians chap 32. Similarly, Chrysostom taught sola fide in his commentaries on Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians.”

(Cristoiglesia) I am not sure of the quote you refer to of St. Clement but here are the commentaries of St. Chrysostom and St. Augustine:

"All indeed depends on God, but not so that our free-will is hindered. 'If then it depend on God,' (one says), 'why does He blame us?' On this account I said, 'so that our free-will is no hindered.' It depends then on us, and on Him For we must first choose the good; and then He leads us to His own. He does not anticipate our choice, lest our free-will should be outraged. But when we have chosen, then great is the assistance he brings to us...For it is ours to choose and to wish; but God's to complete and to bring to an end. Since therefore the greater part is of Him, he says all is of Him, speaking according to the custom of men. For so we ourselves also do. I mean for instance: we see a house well built, and we say the whole is the Architect's [doing], and yet certainly it is not all his, but the workmen's also, and the owner's, who supplies the materials, and many others', but nevertheless since he contributed the greatest share, we call the whole his. So then [it is] in this case also.” John Chrysostom, Homily on Hebrews, 12:3 (A.D. 403).

"Now for the commission of sin we get no help from God; but we are not able to do justly, and to fulfill the law of righteousness in every part thereof, except we are helped by God. For as the bodily eye is not helped by the light to turn away there from shut or averted, but is helped by it to see, and cannot see at all unless it help it; so God, who is the light of the inner man, helps our mental sight, in order that we may do some good, not according to our own, but according to His righteousness." Augustine, On Forgiveness of Sins and Baptism, II:5 (A.D. 411).

"'No man can come to me, except the Father who hath sent me draw him'! For He does not say, 'except He lead him,' so that we can thus in any way understand that his will precedes. For who is 'drawn,' if he was already willing? And yet no man comes unless he is willing. Therefore he is drawn in wondrous ways to will, by Him who knows how to work within the very hearts of men. Not that men who are unwilling should believe, which cannot be, but that they should be made willing from being unwilling." Augustine, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, I:19 (A.D. 420).

"Most bitter enemies of grace, you offer us examples of ungodly men who, you say, 'through without faith, abound in virtues where there is, without the aid of grace, only the good of nature even though shackled by superstitions.' Such men, by the mere powers of their inborn liberty, often merciful, and modest, and chaste, and sober. When you say this you have already removed what you thought to attribute to the grace of God: namely, effectiveness of will ... If it pleases you so much to praise the ungodly that you say they abound in true virtues - as though you did not hear the Scripture saying: 'They that say to the wicked man: You are just, shall be accursed by the people by the people, and the tribes shall abhor them' - it were much better for you, who say they abound in virtues, to confess that these are gifts of God in them." Augustine, Against Julian, 4:3:16 (A.D.421).

"As strong as we could, we urged on them, as on your and our brothers, to preserve in the Catholic faith, which neither denies free will whether for a bad life or a good one, nor allows it so much effect that it can do anything without the grace of God, whether to convert the soul from evil to good, or to preserve and advance in good, or to attain eternal good, where there is no more fear of falling away." Augustine, Epistle 215:4 (A.D. 423).

"[L]est the will itself should be deemed capable of doing any good thing without the grace of God, after saying, 'His grace within me was not in vain, but I have laboured more abundantly than they all,' he immediately added the qualifying clause, 'Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.' In other words, Not I alone, but the grace of God with me. And thus, neither was it the grace of God alone, nor was it he himself alone, but it was the grace Of God with him. For his call, however, from heaven and his conversion by that great and most effectual call, God's grace was alone, because his merits, though great, were yet evil." Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, 5:12 (A.D. 427).

"'There is henceforth laid up for me,' he says, 'a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day.' Now, to whom should the righteous Judge award the crown, except to him on whom the merciful Father had bestowed grace? And how could the crown be one 'of righteousness,' unless the grace had preceded which 'justifieth the ungodly'?" Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, 6:14 (A.D. 427).

"'I have fought,' says he, "the good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith.' Now, in the first place, these good works were nothing, unless they had been preceded by good thoughts. Observe, therefore, what he says concerning these very thoughts. His words, when writing to the Corinthians, are: 'Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.'" Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, 7:16(A.D. 427).

"The first man had not that grace by which he should never will to be evil; but assuredly he had that in which if he willed to abide he would never be evil, and without which, moreover, he could not by free will be good, but which, nevertheless, by free will he could forsake. God, therefore, did not will even him to be without His grace, which He left in his free will; because free will is sufficient for evil, but is too little s for good, unless it is aided by Omnipotent Good. And if that man had not forsaken that assistance of his free will, he would always have been good; but he forsook it, and he was forsaken. Because such was the nature of the aid, that he could forsake it when he would, and that he could continue in it if he would; but not such that it could be brought about that he would." Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, 11:31 (A.D. 427).

"And besides, this is the apostolic declaration, "No one saith, Lord Jesus, but in the Holy Spirit: and who is it that calleth Him Lord Jesus but he that loveth Him, if he so call Him in the way the apostle intended to be understood? For many call Him so with their lips, but deny Him in their hearts and works; just as He saith of such, 'For they profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him.' If it is by works He is denied, it is doubtless also by works that His name is truly invoked. 'No one,' therefore, 'saith, Lord Jesus,' in mind, in word, in deed, with the heart, the lips, the labor of the bands,--no one saith, Lord Jesus, but in the Holy Spirit." Augustine, On the Gospel of John, 74:1 (A.D. 430).

"For just to keep any from supposing that the branch can bear at least some little fruit of itself, after saying, 'the same bringeth forth much fruit,' His next words are not, Without me ye can do but little, but 'ye can do nothing.' Whether then it be little or much, without Him it is impracticable; for without Him nothing can be done." Augustine, On the Gospel of John, 81:3 (A.D. 430).

(Cristoiglesia) Surely you are misunderstanding the teaching of the fathers and of the Church.

God bless!

In Christ

Fr. Joseph

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