Trent, Augustine, Scripture, and Justification

Trent makes a number of explicit claims about justification.

Of this Justification the causes are these:
the final cause indeed is the glory of God and of Jesus Christ, and life everlasting;
while the efficient cause is a merciful God who washes and sanctifies gratuitously, signing, and anointing with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance;
but the meritorious cause is His most beloved only-begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies, for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, merited Justification for us by His most holy Passion on the wood of the cross, and made satisfaction for us unto God the Father;
the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which (faith) no man was ever justified;
lastly, the alone formal cause is the justice of God, not that whereby He Himself is just, but that whereby He maketh us just, that, to wit, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and we are not only reputed, but are truly called, and are, just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to every one as He wills, and according to each one’s proper disposition and co-operation.

Trent immediately explains:

For, although no one can be just, but he to whom the merits of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet is this done in the said justification of the impious, when by the merit of that same most holy Passion, the charity of God is poured forth, by the Holy Spirit, in the hearts of those that are justified, and is inherent therein: whence, man, through Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted, receives, in the said justification, together with the remission of sins, all these (gifts) infused at once, faith, hope, and charity.

Whether or not other aspects of Trent can be reconciled to Augustine, these conceptions are not consistent with Augustine. Augustine took the position that the thief on the cross had the faith that justifies without having baptism. To use Trent’s categories, the instrumental means for the thief was (in Augustine’s view) faith, not baptism.

Augustine connects the dots with Cornelius as well. Clearly he had the Spirit before baptism, which demonstrated his right standing with God (compare the argument about circumcision in Acts 15).
Augustine points out that the fact that the benefit can be invisibly applied (applied without the sacrament, the visible sign) should not lead us to scorn the sacrament. After all, even Cornelius was subsequently baptized.

Acts 10:30-48

And Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said, ‘Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.’ Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.”
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) that word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.
Then answered Peter, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?”
And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

Augustine goes on to say: “But what is the precise value of the sanctification of the sacrament (which that thief did not receive, not from any want of will on his part, but because it was unavoidably omitted) and what is the effect on a man of its material application, it is not easy to say.”
That’s perhaps the most troubling piece of all for those hoping to make Augustine in the image of Trent. Trent treats baptism itself as the instrumental means of justification, but it seems pretty clear that’s not what Augustine thinks.

And in case you think I’m speculating about his view on Cornelius, look at the parallel Augustine himself draws just shortly after:

And if any one seek for divine authority in this matter, though what is held by the whole Church, and that not as instituted by Councils, but as a matter of invariable custom, is rightly held to have been handed down by authority, still we can form a true conjecture of the value of the sacrament of baptism in the case of infants, from the parallel of circumcision, which was received by God’s earlier people, and before receiving which Abraham was justified, as Cornelius also was enriched with the gift of the Holy Spirit before he was baptized.

Notice what Augustine concedes: he concedes that baptism and circumcision are parallel, that Abraham was justified before circumcision, and that Cornelius was analogously “enriched with the gift of the Holy Spirit” before baptism.

If Rome would concede the same, we would find faith alone as the instrumental means of justification, rather than baptism. Moreover, we would find reputed righteousness, rather than actual righteousness, the formal cause. Whether that latter point is something that Augustine himself held, perhaps we can consider another time.

– TurretinFan

51 Responses to “Trent, Augustine, Scripture, and Justification”

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  30. Ricardo Says:

    Was Augustine a Christian?
    http://catena-aurea.blogspot.com.br/2012/11/augustinus-totus-noster-est.html

  31. turretinfan Says:

    Ricardo: As far as we know, yes, Augustine was a Christian. That is not to say all his doctrines or practices were correct, but he was to outward appearances a Christian.

  32. Ricardo Says:

    Then why Catholics are not Christians (by outward appearances) and Augustine was? What heresy of today´s Catholicism has crossed the line between Christianity and non-Christianity?

  33. turretinfan Says:

    There are a lot of heresies – perhaps the most obvious one is mentioned here:

    http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2012/06/does-rome-teach-false-gospel-let-me.html

  34. Ricardo Says:

    Wait a minute. So the Gospel preached by Catholics is a false Gospel because of the infallibility and temporal power claimed by the Popes? Is it not because Rome teaches salvation by infused righteousness and merit?

    What about Eastern Orthodoxy? They have the true Gospel?

  35. Ricardo Says:

    I have to ask: do you agree with this text (http://www.justforcatholics.org/a21.htm)? This is an article explaining “why Catholics are not Christians”. If you agree with the reason used by this article, then you cannot say that Augustine was a Christian. But you just said he was Christian.

  36. turretinfan Says:

    Ricardo: You seem to have trouble thinking through these issues. I admit I may have written less than perfectly transparently, but I'm sure I didn't say it is simply because the pope claims infallibility or simply because the pope claims temporal power, or both of those. I set forth my reasons in the article. Perhaps you should read it more carefully.

    And that is just one reason. There are other reasons why we think Rome has a false gospel.

    Eastern Orthodoxy has a very different structure. It doesn't teach what Unam Sanctam taught, but that does not mean that all EO churches proclaim the true gospel. Simply avoiding one heresy is not enough.

    -TurretinFan

  37. turretinfan Says:

    Have you asked the author of the article about whether he thinks Augustine was a Christian? The author states “if he follows the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, regretfully I must say that he does not really believe in Christ nor does he know the grace of God.” At a minimum, that cannot be said of Augustine, who came centuries before the Roman Catholic Church.

  38. Ricardo Says:

    Augustine believed and professed salvation by infused righteousness. He believed that the grace of God enables man to merit eternal life. He believed that true Christians could lose salvation. He believed in intercession of saints in heaven, that they “share merits” with us. He believed in honoring their relics. He believed that some practices not found in Scripture have been handed down by the Apostles themselves. He believed that almsgiving must be used to propitiate God for past sins.

    And not only he believed those things (as if he were some exception), but he represented a great part of the Church. If you look to others great Teachers of Church History, you will find a very similar list: in Cyprian, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Bernard, etc. Those are the man that John Calvin quotes in his Institutes as Christians and Teachers…

    So, I have to ask: does anyone, today, believing those things that Augustine believed, could be considered a Christian in your eyes?

    I´m asking sincerely. I even think that you could be right in some controversial issues. I don´t think that because Ambrose and Augustine and others Church Fathers believed “x”, we must believe “x”. I believe the Church has the right to progress, to become more scriptural and faithful to the Truth.

    What I don´t understand is how can you think that anyone holding to some things are apostate and false Christians, and than say that the Church Fathers were true Christians.

    Protestant apologists typically says: Catholics are false Christians BECAUSE they believe in infused righteousness, merit, intercession of saints, relics, oral tradition, etc. But, at the same time, they say: Augustine was a Christian, DESPITE the fact that he believed in in infused righteousness, merit, intercession of saints, relics, oral tradition, etc. Isn´t it an incoherence?

    I don´t believe Christ would abandon His Church for centuries in heresy, blasphemy and apostasy. Therefore, a doctrine that IMPLIES it should be rejected. Don´t you think that, if your interpretation of Scripture looks SO opposite to what Christians interpretate for centuries, you could be wrong?

  39. Ricardo Says:

    Augustine believed and professed salvation by infused righteousness. He believed that the grace of God enables man to merit eternal life. He believed that true Christians could lose salvation. He believed in intercession of saints in heaven, that they “share merits” with us. He believed in honoring their relics. He believed that some practices not found in Scripture have been handed down by the Apostles themselves. He believed that almsgiving must be used to propitiate God for past sins.

    You said that these statements can be misleading. And that there are “qualifications”. I don´t understand. What are these qualifications? For example, every time a Catholic try to explain their doctrine of merit (that it flows from grace, that it is God crowning his own gifts, that it is based on the promise and covenant, that works in themselves have no merit, etc) Protestants respond by saying: “doesn´t matter, you teach merit, you are an apostate”. But now you´re saying that Augustine´s doctrine of merit have qualifications?

    Look these quotes from Augustine: http://catena-aurea.blogspot.com.br/2012/11/augustinus-totus-noster-est.html

  40. Ricardo Says:

    I´m not a Roman Catholic.

  41. Ricardo Says:

    I just want to know which group to follow. For every statement I made about Augustine, you said “misleading” and “necessary to qualify”. But I think you´re wrong, and I´ve been studying Church Fathers and Church History a long time. But, of course, I´m open to listen. But, remember: Catholics also qualify a lot their statements. It´s a oversimplification when Protestants describe their position as “they believe in merit and salvation by works”. The Catholic Catechism states clearly that “in strict justice, there is not merit”, and that merit procedes from grace, etc. I think there is too much uncharitable interpreation on the part of Protestants (in fact, on the part of both Catholics and Protestants).

    If you have time, please read my link with quotes from Augustine, and I also recommend Robert C. Koons: “A Lutheran´s Case for Catholicism” (the part about justification). This text made a real impact in my mind.

    I´m trying to make sense of the Protestant view of Church History. You said that don´t think God would mind letting churches apostatize”. But Christ promised: I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Mat 28:20). The idea that, at the very first centuries after the Apostles, Christians from England to Syria – including the great evangelizers that brought the name of Christ to distant islands, and the great teachers, martyrs, giants like Augustine and Bernard – were all blasphemers, apostates, idolaters, heretics, etc. is absurd to me. Seems incompatible with the promise of Christ.

  42. Ricardo Says:

    I just want to know which group to follow. For every statement I made about Augustine, you said “misleading” and “necessary to qualify”. But I think you´re wrong, and I´ve been studying Church Fathers and Church History a long time. But, of course, I´m open to listen. But, remember: Catholics also qualify a lot their statements. It´s a oversimplification when Protestants describe their position as “they believe in merit and salvation by works”. The Catholic Catechism states clearly that “in strict justice, there is not merit”, and that merit procedes from grace, etc. I think there is too much uncharitable interpreation on the part of Protestants (in fact, on the part of both Catholics and Protestants).

    If you have time, please read my link with quotes from Augustine, and I also recommend Robert C. Koons: “A Lutheran´s Case for Catholicism” (the part about justification). This text made a real impact in my mind.

    I´m trying to make sense of the Protestant view of Church History. You said that don´t think God would mind letting churches apostatize”. But Christ promised: I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Mat 28:20). The idea that, at the very first centuries after the Apostles, Christians from England to Syria – including the great evangelizers that brought the name of Christ to distant islands, and the great teachers, martyrs, giants like Augustine and Bernard – were all blasphemers, apostates, idolaters, heretics, etc. is absurd to me. Seems incompatible with the promise of Christ. But I think it is reasonable to suppose that the Church is fallible, the Church Fathers committed some erros, and the Church could correct it, if it is clear in Scripture.

  43. Ricardo Says:

    “Augustine does not call those who are not given the gift of perseverance “True Christians” nor does he say that they “lose salvation.” Those are glosses on essentially one passage where Augustine seems to be pointing out that baptized people may not have the gift of perseverance”

    See for yourself: “to some of His own children— whom He has regenerated in Christ— to whom He has given faith, hope, and love, God does not give perseverance also” (On Rebuke and Grace, Chap. 18). He even make it clearer, asking: “For who of the multitude of believers can presume, so long as he is living in this mortal state, that he is in the number of the predestinated?” (Chap. 40). And: “it is uncertain whether any one has received this gift so long as he is still alive” (On the Predestination of the Saints, Book II, Chap. 1). These are three passages, and Augustine made pretty clear that he was not talking about baptized people.

    “So, do you think that the Church of England apostatized when it separated itself from communion with Rome? What about when the Eastern Churches separated themselves from communion with Rome and when Rome separated herself from communion with them? If you don't think that, then you can't possibly agree with Rome. Rome seems to think churches can and sometimes do apostatize – just not Rome.”

    That is not my point. Rome believes that SOME churches can apostatize, but not the WHOLE Church. Of course, they believe that the Church of Rome cannot apostatize. But that´s not what I´m defending here.

    “You should read Jesus' letters to the seven churches to see whether Jesus is willing to let them go into apostasy. Christ's promise to be with us has certainly been maintained, but that says nothing about any one particular church.”

    Of course Jesus is willing to let a particular church apostatize. I´m not questioning that.

    “Obviously, you know that wasn't the position of John Calvin nor is it my opinion.”

    I know. But the position of John Calvin and others Reformers seems to be incoherent. At the same time, recognizing the Ancient Church as a True Church but saying that the Church of Rome is a false Church because it hold positions that the Ancient Church already held!

    “And keep in mind that Bernard is a medieval author. I am fond of a lot that he wrote (as was Calvin) but he is from a complete different era than Augustine.”

    Yet, both Calvin and Luther seems to saw in Bernard a true Christian. How can anyone think that Bernard is a true Christian and than say that, for example, “you cannot be a true Christian believing in intercession of Mary and the divine origin of Papacy”?

    “The idea that whole body of all believers can act as “the Church” was not realistic even in the time of the apostles and is even less realistic now.
    So, look to churches (plural) to take on that task, not to a monolith.”

    It doesn´t matter. I feel you don´t get my reasoning. I can say that Calvin´s view implies that the Ancient Churches (plural) was full of blasphemers, apostates and heretics. And, at the same time, he views these people as true christians and true churches (plural).

  44. Ricardo Says:

    I'm not affirming the infallibility of any particular writer in Ancient Church, nor even using the doctrine of “ecclesiastical consensus”. I'm pointing this problem: if Protestantism affirms that the RC and EO doctrines of justification, merit, intercession of saints, relics, penance, etc. are, not only wrong or imperfect, but blasphemies, abominations, idolatries and that they're not Christians for that… it means that the Ancient Churches and Teachers are all blasphemers, idolaters and false Christians. And I don't see how can this be compatible with the promise of Christ.

    As Norman Geisler said, “one can be saved without believing that imputed righteousness is an essential part of the true gospel. Otherwise, few people were saved between the time of the apostle Paul and the Reformation, since scarcely anyone taught imputed righteousness during that period!”. I´ve read a lot a apologetic texts saying that RC and EO simply “don't have the Gospel” because they believe in infused righteousness and merit instead of sole imputation. The inevitable conclusion of this is that Augustine didn't have the Gospel either, and scarcely anyone have the Gospel along Church History.

    Someone said: “Whatever be historical Christianity, it is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth, it is this. And Protestantism has ever felt it…This is shown in the determination already referred to, of dispensing with historical Christianity altogether, and of forming a Christianity from the Bible alone: men would never have put it aside, unless they had despaired of it…To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant”.

    The more I learn Church History, the more I agree with this quote. Please, read, as an example, my compilation of Augustine quotes ( http://catena-aurea.blogspot.com.br/2012/11/augustinus-totus-noster-est.html ). You said you would accept an Augustine's clone, but I don't think it is true.

  45. turretinfan Says:

    “I'm not affirming the infallibility of any particular writer in Ancient Church, nor even using the doctrine of “ecclesiastical consensus”.”

    Ok.

    “I'm pointing this problem: if Protestantism affirms that the RC and EO doctrines of justification, merit, intercession of saints, relics, penance, etc. are, not only wrong or imperfect, but blasphemies, abominations, idolatries and that they're not Christians for that… it means that the Ancient Churches and Teachers are all blasphemers, idolaters and false Christians.”

    No, it doesn't mean that, for a variety of reasons.

    “And I don't see how can this be compatible with the promise of Christ.”

    a) Christ didn't promise that there would be a constant stream of easy-to-find believers.
    b) Christ promised to be with the believers.
    c) But ***IF*** the famous early Christian writers were not believers, then the promise was not to them, just as it was not to Mohammed and his followers, or to Arius and his followers, or to Joseph Smith and his followers.

    “As Norman Geisler said, “one can be saved without believing that imputed righteousness is an essential part of the true gospel.”

    Read that carefully. I don't know any Reformed theologians who would disagree with Geisler on that.

    “I´ve read a lot a apologetic texts saying that RC and EO simply “don't have the Gospel” because they believe in infused righteousness and merit instead of sole imputation.”

    Maybe you have. You should take your complaint to them, instead of here where it hasn't been said.

    “Someone said: “Whatever be historical Christianity, it is not Protestantism.””

    a) Yes, the man who said that was an apostate from the faith and accursed of God.
    b) The man's point is true but misleading. Obviously, calling the fathers “Protestant” would be anachronistic. Their debates were not ours. They never faced a papacy – they never faced modern Rome. They had a variety of views about things with which they disagree with “Protestants,” such as ascetic errors that were widespread through much of the patristic and medieval period.
    c) And maybe to be deep in history is to cease to be “Protestant,” in the sense of desiring a connection with Christians of previous generations, but it is for the same reason to cease to be any other modern label (including “Eastern Orthodox” or “Roman Catholic”).

    -TurretinFan

  46. ChaferDTS Says:

    Then what are you ?

  47. ChaferDTS Says:

    Very good points TF ! I agree with you fully on that.

  48. ChaferDTS Says:

    Alot of what did claimed did need qualification otherwise it would be misleading. I agree with TF on that. Robert Koon is an apostate. He converted from Luthernism to Roman Catholicism. So he is a former Lutheran. You did present a strawman againist TF. TF never claims the entire church became apostate. But that part of it did and can. With this I agree. The apostles themselves in their life time had to deal with false teachers and false doctrine as Acts 15 being a prime example. Many of the Epistles in the NT were written to correct false doctrine that was being taught in the professing church in the life times of the apostles. The church fathers were never infallible in doctrinal teaching nor did they think of themselves in that manner. Since none were infallible in doctrinal teaching they in general taught truth mixed with error. The issue would be the extent of each with respect to each individual church father. Augustine while he was catholic he did not embrace in full of what is today known as ” Roman Catholicism ” . Roman Catholics and Protestants can equally cite him for various issues. In truth , Protestantism does have an ” continuity ” with the church historically speaking. This doctrinal continuity exist within the Creeds of the church such as for example The Apostles Creed. The Creeds of the church provides no evidence againist Protestantism at all as it contains no distinctive Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox doctrinal teaching. TF did not claim all of the church fathers were false teachers either. Things like that can be judged on a case by case basis instead of one big broad brush. In this you misrepresented TF. It would not matter if each and every church father were all false teachers or not as none of the church fathers were infallible in teaching doctrine. On the issue of justification Roman Catholicism had no ” offical ” teaching on the matter until the Council of Trent in which its position was dogmatically and infallibly defined for them. In the writings of the church fathers different views of justifiication were taught and not one singular position. Likewise there were several different OT Canon listings in the church prior to the Council of Trent when it was finally dogmatically and infallibly defined for them. Some held the apocrypha was part of the OT Canon and some held it was not . The same thing can be said on Papal supremacy and papal infallibility as defined and affirmed by Vatican I. Over 44 church fathers held to a different view on Matthew 16:18 than the view presented by Vatican I. Yet if we apply the RCC's claimed standard of the unanimous consent of the church fathers on these examples than we find that the RCC fails on this. The simple fact is modern Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox or Protestantism can claim the church fathers in full. Protestants dont need the church fathers to be doctrinal clones of them in order for them to be right or true at all. The RCC and Eastern Orthodox claim more than what reality calls for when it comes to the church fathers. You seem to be unaware of the historical debate concerning statue and icon use in the church that existed in which various councils contradicted one another same thing with the church fathers on this. Reality is the church was never a clone of your own doctrinal beliefs. That is something that you must face and accept. If you want to study ” church history ” than you should read HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH 8 Volumes by Schaff.

  49. ChaferDTS Says:

    The context of some of your quotes can be questioned and selectively cited and leaves out parts of which you would disagree with Augustine on. I noticed that you did not cite Augustine as teaching that unbaptized babies of unbelievers are hell bound. Your own link incorrectly linked prayers for the dead with a belief in purgatory. Eastern Orthodox for example has prayers for the dead without a belief in purgatory which is a false assumption anyway. Christians can never atone for their own sins. Christ bore the sins of His elect and purged all their sins on the cross. That aspect of purgatory contradicts passages such as 1 Pet. 2:24-25; 1 Jn 1:8-9 and Heb. 1:3. Purgatory is a denial and rejection of the sufficent nature of the value of Christ blood. Purgatory was never the universal belief or doctrine of the church. Good luck in finding purgatory being in the Creeds of the church.

  50. Ricardo Says:

    Thank you, “Turretinfan”, for your atention and your answers. I will meditate on these issues. The post about Augustine on my blog was deleted.

    As I said, I´m not a Roman Catholic. I´m currently attending a Presbyterian Church and I´m very confortable with it´s doctrines and practices (that is, my conscience is fine with them). My only problem is that, sometimes, I see protestants manifesting some views in Church History and in regard to others Christians (Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and even Arminians) that I find very disturbing, absurd, contrary to the demands of Christ for unity and with promise of Christ for preserving His Church. I do not want to follow a sect.

    (If my english sounds strange to you and I write somethings the wrong way, that´s because I´m a brazilian).

    Peace,
    Ricardo

  51. ChaferDTS Says:

    Since you are Presbyterian you should take the time to read the writings of great Presbyterian theologians so that you would be familiar with of their own arguments againist Roman Catholicism. Check out Dr. Charles Hodge Systematic Theology 3 Volumes and the writings of Dr. B.B. Warfield. On the issue of justification we have to take a stand between a true doctrine of it and a false view of it. It was the reformers who affirmed a true view of it while the Council of Trent offically / formally and dogmatically denied the biblical doctrine of justification and denied the true Gospel. There is a great gulf fixed between Roman Catholicism and essential Protestantism on the matter of justification. As long as the RCC does not repent and correct itself from what was proclaimed at Trent for it than there can be not communion with them at all. You must also see that we can not broad brush the various arguments that Protestants use againist Roman Catholicism. Some are very good while some are very bad. An example of a bad one is by Jack Chick and an example of very good arguments are found in men like Dr. Charles Hodge and Dr. W.H. Griffith Thomas and in the present time by Dr. James White. It was Roman Catholicisim that has pushed everyone away. It pushed away Eastern Orthodox, Old Catholics and Protestantism. The RCC is the one who claims to be the only one true Catholic Church. Unity is never easy in professing christianity. What all born again believers have is the spiritual unity and oneness due to their union in Christ rather than their specific sect.

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