Friday, June 17, 2011

Confused Arminian?

According to Arminian Today:
... the key difference for Arminius was not in the issue of God's sovereignty or election or total depravity or the atonement but Arminius' contention was that God has chosen to reveal Himself as loving and good and that His desire is not to force people to believe the gospel but for them, through His Spirit (John 6:44), to come to salvation in the Lamb of God (John 1:29).
But, of course, Calvinism agrees that the God of the Bible is loving and good. Moreover, Calvinism agrees that God does not force people to believe the gospel against their will, but through the Spirit changes their will so that they go from loving darkness rather than light to loving the light.

Perhaps the title of the post at Arminian Today is more suitable than the author intended: "Confusion Over Arminianism Continues...."


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Augustine's Letter 36 and Transubstantiation

Another passage where Augustine describes the Lord's Supper can be found in one of his many letters. Augustine writes:
But, he who says that the old things have passed away, so that in Christ altar yields to altar, fire to prayers, animal victims to bread, blood to the chalice, does not know that the word “altare” is used quite often in the Law and the Prophets, and that an altar [altare] was first raised to God by Moses in the Tabernacle, while the word “ara” is also found in the writings of the Apostles, while the martyrs cry out under the altar [ara]. He says that the sword has yielded to fasting, forgetting that two-edged sword of both Testaments, with which the soldiers of the Gospel are armed. He says the fire has given place to prayers, as if prayers were not then offered in the temple, and fire is not now cast by Christ upon the world. He says that animal victims have been replaced by bread, as if he did not know that even then the loaves of proposition were placed upon the table of the Lord, and that now he partakes of the Body of the immaculate Lamb. He says that blood has given place to the chalice, not thinking that he now receives the Blood in the chalice. How much more truly and more appropriately could he say that the old things are passed away and are made new in Christ, so that altar yields to altar, sword to sword, fire to fire, bread to bread, victim to victim, blood to blood. Surely, we see by this that the carnal old things give place to spiritual newness. This, then, is what we have to understand – whether we dine on that changeable seventh day or whether some fast on that day – that the carnal sabbath has been transformed into the spiritual one, and that a true and eternal rest is looked for in the latter, while a merely physical rest is now despised in the former as a superstitious observance.
Letter 36 (to Casulan), Chapter 10, Section 24 (translation from Fathers of the Church Series, Writings of St. Augustine, Volume 9, Letters, Volume 1(1-82), trans. Wilfrid Parsons, pp. 158-60)

The context of this quotation is a much longer letter from Augustine to Casulan regarding a pamphlet by an anonymous Roman author. The Roman author is trying to insist that Christians ought to fast on Saturday. Part of his rationale is premised on a consideration of the Old and New Testament administrations. As can be seen from the beginning of the discussion, he makes a variety of comparisons, which Augustine then proceeds to attempt to dismantle.

Frankly, Augustine's argument here is not exceptionally good. Nevertheless, the argument he employs shines some light on Augustine's view of the sacrament.

Notice how Augustine affirms that we receive "the Immaculate Lamb" in the Lord's Supper and "Blood" in the chalice. But this is in parallel to the "fire" that is cast by Christ upon the world (referring, doubtless, to the Holy Spirit) and the "two-edged sword" of the Bible. Finally, Augustine sums up his counter-point by taking the position that the physical/carnal has been replaced by the spiritual. Thus, a physical sword is replaced by the metaphorical sword of the Bible. The fire is replaced by the Holy Spirit, who is symbolized by fire. With prayers he notes that prayers continue and with altars, he points out that his opponent's linguistic point is incorrect.

When Augustine comes to bread replacing the animal sacrifices, Augustine provides an interesting double response. First, he points out that there was already bread (the shewbread) in the Old Testament. Next, he points out that we have an "animal sacrifice" in the form of the "Immaculate Lamb." Likewise, rather than animal blood, we have Christ's blood.

The way that this makes best sense within Augustine's argument is if Augustine understands "Lamb" and "blood" non-literally, but figuratively. A carnal sword with a spiritual sword, carnal fire with literal fire, carnal bread with spiritual bread, carnal victim with spiritual victim, carnal blood with spiritual blood, and (drumroll please!) therefore a carnal sabbath with a spiritual sabbath. In that spiritual sabbath we look forward to a true and eternal rest, not placing our hope in mere physical rest.

Although Augustine does not say that the Bible is a metaphorical sword or that the Holy Spirit is metaphorical fire, we can still figure that out from the context. Likewise, we can understand Augustine's metaphorical description of the bread and chalice. Augustine's punchline about the sabbath makes little sense if he means literal blood is replaced by literal blood, for example. Notice how in the conclusion of this argument he omits the prayers. Why? Because prayers are (for the purposes of his argument) the same, not spiritualized.

- TurretinFan

P.S. For those who want the original Latin, here it is:

Iste autem qui vetera transisse sic dicit, ut "in Christo cederet ara altari, gladius ieiunio, precibus ignis, pani pecus, poculo sanguis", nescit altaris nomen magis Legis et Prophetarum Litteris frequentatum, et altare Deo prius in tabernaculo, quod per Moysen factum est, collocatum; aram quoque in apostolicis Litteris inveniri, ubi Martyres clamant sub ara Dei. Dicit cessisse ieiunio gladium, non recordans illum quo milites evangelici armantur ex utroque Testamento, gladium bis acutum. Dicit cessisse precibus ignem, quasi non et tunc preces deferebantur in templum, et nunc a Christo ignis est missus in mundum. Dicit cessisse pani pecus, tanquamnesciens et tunc in Domini mensa panes propositionis poni solere, et nunc se de agni immaculati corpore partem sumere. Dicit cessisse poculo sanguinem, non cogitans etiam nunc se accipere in poculo sanguinem. Quanto ergo melius et congruentius vetera transisse, et nova in Christo facta esse sic diceret, ut cederet altare altari, gladius gladio, ignis igni, panis pani, pecus pecori, sanguis sanguini. Videmus quippe in his omnibus carnalem vetustatem spiritali cedere novitati. Sic ergo intellegendum est, sive in isto die volubili septimo prandeatur, sive a quibusdam etiam ieiunetur, tamen sabbato spiritali sabbatum carnale cessisse; quando in isto sempiterna et vera requies cuncupiscitur, in illo vacatio temporalis iam superstitiosa contemnitur.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Augustine's Sermon 227 and Transubstantiation

As with Sermon 272 (which we have already discussed), some folks who allege that Augustine shared modern Rome's view of the Eucharist like to point to Sermon 227. It is easy to confuse the two sermons, since the numbers are so similar. Additionally, both sermons are short. Given the brevity of this sermon, it will be possible for me to go through the sermon from beginning to end, with my comments interspersed as with Sermon 272.

As noted previously, Easter was a time when new converts were baptized. This sermon was directed specifically to them.

Of course, there is no date on the sermon itself. Some scholars date this as early as 412-413, while other pick as late as 416-417. Part of me wonders whether this isn't simply a second scribe's copying down of the same sermon as sermons 272.

You are yourselves what you receive
This is the theme of the sermon. If you have read Sermon 272, than you can probably already see where this is going.

I haven't forgotten my promise. I had promised those of you who have just been baptized a sermon to explain the sacrament of the Lord's table, which you can see right now, and which you shared in last night.
You may recall a similar line in Sermon 272. These newly baptized people had taken communion the previous night and now see the elements on the Lord's table.

You ought to know what you have received, what you are about to receive, what you ought to receive every day.
It seems that Augustine may be advocating daily communion. Perhaps he means "every day" either as hyperbole, or in some spiritual sense, but he may literally mean daily communion. Regardless, this shows that they had received communion the previous day and were about to receive it again.

That bread which you can see on the altar, sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ.
It may be that Augustine has already consecrated the elements and has now, in essence, interrupted the distribution of the elements to provide this homily. Alternatively, Augustine may not be referring to the consecration at all. He may just be referring to the fact that the word of God is what puts the elements to their sacramental use.

That cup, or rather what the cup contains, sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ.
This is just the same explanation applied to the cup. Some people seem to be willing to quote this sentence and the prior one in an effort to allege that Augustine held to transubstantiation. But, of course, such a statement is a statement that could be used by those who are bare symbolists in their view, as well as everyone in between.

It was by means of these things that the Lord Christ wished to present us with his body and blood, which he shed for our sake for the forgiveness of sins.
Here's an interesting problem for those who think that Augustine is speaking after the consecration: Augustine is saying that "by means of these things" Christ wanted to present us with his body and blood. "These things" refers to something other than the body and blood. As you can see, Augustine is affirming that the elements are really bread and wine, and yet they present us with Christ's body and his blood that he shed for our sake. If this is after the consecration, then Augustine definitely does not believe in transubstantiation. But perhaps it is before the consecration, so let us continue.

If you receive them well, you are yourselves what you receive.
Here we come back to Augustine's theme, the same theme we saw in the previous sermon.

You see, the apostle says, We, being many, are one loaf, one body (1 Cor 10:17).
You will recognize this familiar theme from the previous sermon. Augustine is providing his exegesis of 1 Corinthians 10:

1 Corinthains 10:16-17
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

That's how he explained the sacrament of the Lord's table; one loaf, one body, is what we all are, many though we be.
Notice that Augustine is pointing his listeners to the apostolic explanation of the sacrament. Augustine doesn't simply use his creativity: he seems to try to stick to what the text says for his main point.

In this loaf of bread you are given clearly to understand how much you should love unity.
This lesson of unity is the same lesson we saw in the previous sermon.

I mean, was that loaf made from one grain? Weren't there many grains of wheat? But before they came into the loaf they were all separate; they were joined together by means of water after a certain amount of pounding and crushing. Unless wheat is ground, after all, and moistened with water, it can't possibly get into this shape which is called bread.
Here Augustine is providing the wind-up for his extension of the Pauline metaphor. His listeners, who understand how bread is made, are doubtless nodding along.

In the same way you too were being ground and pounded, as it were, by the humiliation of fasting and the sacrament of exorcism.
The exorcism mentioned here is the denunciation of the devil and all his works. One wonders whether the fasting required of those who were about to be baptized was austere or whether the denunciations requested prior to baptism were particularly onerous. In any event, Augustine finds the rigor of the fasting and the recantations associated with exorcism to be a suitable analogy for grinding and pounding.

Then came baptism, and you were, in a manner of speaking, moistened with water in order to be shaped into bread.
This is pretty self-evident. Baptism involves moistening of the person with water. The similarity to the adding of water to flour is pretty straightforward.

But it's not yet bread without fire to bake it. So what does fire represent? That's the chrism, the anointing. Oil, the fire-feeder, you see, is the sacrament of the Holy Spirit.
This is parallel to the third part of Augustine's analogy in sermon 272. Notice here two interesting things. First, he confirms that he's referring to the rite of chrismation when he speaks about the fire of the Holy Spirit. He's talking about oil, which is fuel for fire. But notice that he calls the oil "the sacrament of the Holy Spirit." Why? If you think that "sacrament of the body and blood" means transubstantiation, then consistently you might believe that Augustine thought that the oil was transubstantiated into the Holy Spirit.

Everyone else, I think, realizes that Augustine means that the oil (called chrism) symbolizes and pictures to us the Holy Spirit. It pictures the Holy Spirit, because it is the fuel for fire, and the Holy Spirit is symbolized by fire in Scripture.

Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

Luke 3:16 John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:

Acts 2:3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.

Notice it, when the Acts of the Apostles are read; the reading of that book begins now, you see. Today begins the book which is called the Acts of the Apostles.
Evidently, the Acts of the Apostles were going to be read later in the service. Whether Augustine also preached a sermon on Acts this same day or whether the reading was not for a homily, we're not told. If there was another sermon coming, that would explain the brevity of this sermon.

Anybody who wishes to make progress has the means of doing so.
Progress in what? It's not entirely clear what Augustine is referring to. The means for making progress, though, is clear: it is Scripture.

When you assemble in church, put aside silly stories and concentrate on the scriptures.
That's the Augustine we Reformed folks know and love. He wants people to concentrate on the Scriptures. For him, the service is a place where people concentrate on the Scriptures. How far removed had the church of Rome and its Latin mass come by the time of the Reformation, when the Scriptures were (in the services) mostly tucked away in a language that people did not know.

We here are your books.
Do I need to point out that Augustine doesn't mean that we are transubstantiated into books? Probably Augustine means that those who are reading the Scriptures serve a similar role to books for those who either can't afford their own Bible or who do not know how to read.

So pay attention, and see how the Holy Spirit is going to come at Pentecost. And this is how he will come; he will show himself in tongues of fire.
He's referring to Acts 2:3, which I already quoted above. Evidently, their reading from Acts was at least up to that point.

You see, he breathes into us the charity which should set us on fire for God, and have us think lightly of the world, and burn up our straw, and purge and refine our hearts like gold.
Who would think that one would find in Augustine talk about being "on fire for God"! But here it is. More interestingly, Augustine ascribes this fiery capacity to love that God breathes into us. Moreover, this fire is a purging fire that burns up the straw and refines our heart like gold. One wonders whether Augustine is alluding to 1 Corinthians 3:

1 Corinthians 3:11-16
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

Viewed as a commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:11-16, Augustine's comments are interesting, because they suggest a purification of a man's heart in this life through the action of charity breathed into the man via the Holy Spirit of God. In other words, an internal purification or sanctification that is the work of the Spirit.

But all of this explanation about how the Holy Spirit is represented by fire (and by oil, the fuel for fire) is an aside, and Augustine is about to come back to his point.

So the Holy Spirit comes, fire after water, and you are baked into the bread which is the body of Christ.
This reference to fire after water may be an allusion to the gospel passages I provided above, or possibly some kind of contemporary scientific reference with respect to the order of elements (fire and water being two of the four elements). Either way, Augustine fills out his metaphor by saying that the believers are baked into the bread, which bread is the body of Christ.

And that's how unity is signified.
Notice how he says that unity is signified. He does not, of course, say that unity is transubstantiated, nor does he mean any such thing. What means here is that unity is pictured through the bread.

Now you have the sacraments in the order they occur.
Whether this is a reference back to the sacraments of baptism and chrismation (the most obvious sense to me in view of his "fire after water") or whether he is referring to the pictures within the rite of Communion (the other obvious sense and perhaps preferable on the fact that this sentence is followed by "First") is probably not crucial.

First, after the prayer, you are urged to lift up your hearts; that's only right for the members of Christ. After all, if you have become members of Christ, where is your head? Members have a head. If the head hadn't gone ahead before, the members would never follow. Where has our head gone? What did you give back in the creed? On the third day he rose again from the dead, he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father. So our head is in heaven. That's why, after the words Lift up your hearts, you reply, We have lifted them up to the Lord.
I've kept this section a little longer since the wording may be a little hard to follow in pieces. Augustine is saying that it is proper to lift up our hearts, because we are members of Christ and Christ is our head (no mention of the bishop of Rome as our head, but that's no surprise, since Augustine didn't believe such a thing). Our head is in heaven, and so we properly lift up our hearts to the Lord, as members of Him. Remember, Augustine has in the background the metaphor of the one bread. That one bread is the body of Christ, and we - like grains - are members of that one bread, in Augustine's explanation. Notice Augustine's reference to the creed, as in the other sermon. He clearly assumes that these new converts are at least familiar with the creed and that they can recite it (give it back).

And you mustn't attribute it to your own powers, your own merits, your own efforts, this lifting up of your hearts to the Lord, because it's God's gift that you should have your heart up above.
Augustine manages to squeeze a little of the doctrines of grace into this sermon as an aside.

That's why the bishop, or the presbyter who's offering, goes on to say, when the people have answered We have lifted them up to the Lord, why he goes on to say, Let us give thanks to the Lord our God, because we have lifted up our hearts.
Augustine is continuing to explain the liturgy of his particular church. It is clear, you see, that they had a particular liturgical form in which after the person who is offering says "lift up your hearts" the congregation replies "we have lifted them up to the Lord," and then the person offering says "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God, because we have lifted up our hearts." It's a set form, and interactive, capturing the attention and participation of the congregation.

Augustine is pointing out that this thanks that our hearts are uplifted is done in recognition that it is entirely attributed to God's gift, not our merit. This is just a continuation of his doctrines of grace tangent.

Let us give thanks, because unless he had enabled us to lift them up, we would still have our hearts down here on earth.
And here is an explanation of what Augustine is saying, namely that God enabled us to lift up our hearts, else we would not have been able to lift them up.

And you signify your agreement by saying, It is right and just to give thanks to the one who caused us to lift up our hearts to our head.
And here is the concluding line of the congregation's response. The congregation actually acknowledges that God caused them to lift up their hearts to their head (meaning to Christ).

Then, after the consecration of the sacrifice of God, because he wanted us to be ourselves his sacrifice, which is indicated by where that sacrifice was first put, that is the sign of the thing that we are;
Evidently, the text of this sermon is "corrupt" here, and the translator has done his best to convey the sense. So, we should probably be careful about how much weight we place on the exact wording. Nevertheless, the point is that this sacrifice is a sacrifice of us! The bread is the sign of the thing that we are. As in the previous sermon, Augustine's point is not one that is very helpful for transubstantiation. If Augustine's terminology about the bread being the "sign" is to be taken in transubstantial terms, we ourselves would be transubstantiated. But if, instead, Augustine means for us to understand simply an ordinary sign, then the sermon makes more sense.

Incidentally, it should be noted that Augustine elsewhere speaks about us being the sacrifice, for example in City of God, Book X, Chapter 6 ("This is the sacrifice of Christians: we, being many, are one body in Christ. And this also is the sacrifice which the Church continually celebrates in the sacrament of the altar, known to the faithful, in which she teaches that she herself is offered in the offering she makes to God.").

why, then after the consecration is accomplished, we say the Lord's prayer, which you have received and given back.
In addition to the creed, it is apparent that they were expected to know the Lord's prayer.

After that comes the greeting, Peace be with you, and Christians kiss one another with a holy kiss.
This practice of ritualistic kissing with the greeting ties in well with Augustine's theme of unity in the body.

It's a sign of peace; what is indicated by the lips should happen in the conscience; that is, just as your lips approach of peace; what is indicated by the lips should happen in the conscience; that is, just as your lips approach the lips of your brothers or sisters, so your heart should not be withdrawn from theirs.
I'm sure our modern (at least Western) sensibilities are a little troubled by this spectacle of the congregants kissing one another on the lips, but obviously it was not intended to have the erotic connotations that such kissing would have today. Moreover, notice how the kiss is called here the "sign of peace."

In Sermon 61, on Almsgiving, Augustine had made a similar point: "After this the Pax Vobiscum [Peace be with you] is said. The kiss of peace is a significant sacrament. Give it and receive it in such a way that you will have charity. Be not a Judas. The traitor Judas kissed Christ with his lips, but in his heart he was plotting against Him. Perhaps someone is hostile in his feelings toward you, and you can neither dissuade nor convince him. You must bear with him. Do not return evil for evil in your heart. Love him, even though he hates you. Cheerfully give him the kiss of peace."

Notice how there Augustine refers to this kiss as a sacrament and here a sign of peace. The words mean roughly the same thing to Augustine, with sacrament carrying a somewhat more specialized meaning. You see, for Augustine if the term "sacrament" is broadly understood there were not just two sacraments (Baptism and the Lord's Supper) but a myriad of sacraments, such as this kiss of peace. In any event, the point Augustine is making there and here is that the kiss symbolizes and signifies a spiritual reality that ought to be present.

So they are great sacraments and signs, really serious and important sacraments.
This is yet another reason to favor the slightly less obvious meaning, namely that it seems that Augustine is referring to each of the elements of the liturgy as themselves "great" and "serious" and "important" sacraments. Alternatively, he may be referring specifically to the sacraments of the body and blood.

Do you want to know how their seriousness is impressed on us?
Of course we do!

The apostle says, Whoever eats the body of Christ or drinks the blood of the Lord unworthily is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord (1 Cor 11:27).
Notice that again, for authoritative doctrine, Augustine appeals to Scripture.

What is receiving unworthily? Receiving with contempt, receiving with derision.
Augustine does not mean contempt for the elements or derision for them, but for our fellow Christians. After all, Augustine has just explained that they are a sacrament of unity. Contempt and derision are the enemy of unity.

Don't let yourselves think that what you can see is of no account. What you can see passes away, but the invisible reality signified does not pass away, but remains. Look, it's received, it's eaten, it's consumed.
Here again we can see Augustine's sacramentology. The sacrament is a visible depiction of a spiritual reality. What is seen is material and transient. What is unseen is spiritual and enduring (whether that peace, or unity, or charity).

Is the body of Christ consumed, is the Church of Christ consumed, are the members of Christ consumed? Perish the thought! Here they are being purified, there they will be crowned with the victor's laurels.
Notice that Augustine does not explain the sacrament in terms of transubstantiation unless you want to say that the bread becomes the church. Surely no one would say that. Notice as well that Augustine again points to purification and clearly identifies that place of purification as here.

So what is signified will remain eternally, although the thing that signifies it seems to pass away.
He means we (who are signified) will remain eternally, even though through digestion the bread and wine seem to pass away.

So receive the sacrament in such a way that you think about yourselves, that you retain unity in your hearts, that you always fix your hearts up above.
Here Augustine returns to his theme and application. Be unified! He also works in, quite resourcefully, his earlier theme about lifting up our hearts toward our head, namely Christ who is bodily in heaven (recall the hypothetical objection in the previous sermon).

Don't let your hope be placed on earth, but in heaven.
Our hope is not in the bread and cup before us, but in Christ who is in heaven, which they symbolize. Augustine's heavenly minded theme is thoroughly Biblical:

Matthew 6:19-21
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Let your faith be firm in God, let it be acceptable to God. Because what you don't see now, but believe, you are going to see there, where you will have joy without end.
Augustine does not tell them that they see Christ now under a lying appearance of bread and wine. Instead, Augustine tells them that they will see what they don't see now. They will see Christ in heaven, where also they will see the perfect unity, joy, and peace that the bread and wine symbolize.


Augustine's Sermon 272 and Transubstantiation

Some folks who allege that Augustine shared modern Rome's view of the Eucharist like to point to Sermon 272. Since this sermon is quite short, it will be possible for me to go through the sermon from beginning to end, with my comments interspersed.


The infantes here are those who are newly baptized. Baptism of new converts typically took place at Easter, and Pentecost is only a few weeks later. These are relatively young believers, spiritual infants, though not physical infants. Some scholars seem to suggest that the sermon may actually have been on Easter rather than on Pentecost. Either way, this is a sermon aimed at those with a relatively small understanding of what is involved in Christianity.

Date: 408
Of course, the date is not in the original. Nevertheless, this is the approximate date (within a range of about 405 - 411) assigned to this sermon using the best available scholarship.

One thing is seen, another is to be understood
This line serves as key theme of the sermon. It is easy to see how this line, standing alone, might seem to fit well with transubstantiation. Of course, it also fits well with a bare symbolism view, and also with everything in between those two. So, let's read on and see what Augustine says.

What you can see on the altar, you also saw last night; but what it was, what it meant, of what great reality it contained the sacrament, you had not yet heard.
What you can see on the altar is, of course, a reference to the communion elements. Apparently new converts were not given an explanation of the meaning of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper prior to baptism. However, now they are baptized and they are going to be instructed.

Notice Augustine's word: the things on the altar contain the sacrament of a great reality. For Augustine, a sacrament is a picture. It is something that visibly illustrates something spiritual. The sacrament known as the Lord's supper illustrates a great reality that Augustine is about to explain.

For Augustine if something pictures faith, it is the sacrament of faith. If something pictures love, it is the sacrament of love. Likewise, this is the sacrament of something, and that something is what is pictured by the sacrament.

So what you can see, then, is bread and a cup; that's what even your eyes tell you; but as for what your faith asks to be instructed about, the bread is the body of Christ, the cup the blood of Christ.
You can probably easily see how this lends itself to the view of transubstantiation. After all, if Augustine were to hold to transubstantiation, he could say this. At the same time, though Augustine could say this and hold to a bare symbolic view or to anything in between. So, we must read on.

After all, Augustine is merely telling us that there is more to the situation than simply bread and a cup. It's not just a snack.

It took no time to say that indeed, and that, perhaps, may be enough for faith; but faith desires instruction.
Notice that Augustine does not view the instruction and explanation of "this is my body" to be itself an essential. It's enough that we by faith refer to the bread as the body of Christ and to the cup as his blood. Nevertheless, as Augustine observes, faith desires instruction. That instruction may not be strictly necessary, but it is wanted by those who have faith.

The prophet says, you see, Unless you believe, you shall not understand (Is 7:9).
You can see here that Augustine is, to some extent, prooftexting this principle from an Old Testament passage that may not really have been intended to convey such a general truth.

Isaiah 7:3-9
Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field; and say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying, "Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal:" thus saith the Lord GOD, "It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established."

You may also note that it appears that Augustine is working with a Latin translation of the Septuagint, rather than a direct translation of the Hebrew original. Nevertheless, Augustine's point (whether or not it is the point of the Hebrew text) is that first you believe, and then afterward you understand.

I mean, you can now say to me, “You've bidden us believe; now explain, so that we may understand.”
So you see, his point is that people can accept Jesus' words that the bread and cup are his body and blood, but they still may desire (on the foundation of that faith) to have some explanation of those words. Augustine is planning to provide some explanation.

Some such thought as this, after all, may cross somebody's mind: “We know where our Lord Jesus Christ took flesh from; from the Virgin Mary. ...
I interrupt Augustine's multi-sentence hypothetical comment (the "..." thus is my own as it is below, and not in the text). Notice that these new believers are familiar with the virgin birth.

“... He was suckled as a baby, was reared, grew up, came to man's estate, suffered persecution from the Jews, was hung on the tree, was slain on the tree, was taken down from the tree, was buried; rose again on the third day, on the day he wished ascended into heaven. ...
Again, I interrupt the hypothetical comment. Notice how Augustine summarizes the life of Christ. This summary is similar to what we might find in an ancient version of the so-called Apostles' creed. There is no mention of descent into hell (as distinct from burial), but then again there is no reason to think that Augustine is trying to exactly copy the creed in his hypothetical objection.

“ ... That's where he lifted his body up to; that's where he's going to come from to judge the living and the dead; that's where he is now, seated on the Father's right. ...
We're almost finished with the objection. This objection fills out the rest of a basic life of Christ. He lived, he died, he was raised, he sits on the Father's right, and he's coming to judge the world.

“ ... How can bread be his body? And the cup, or what the cup contains, how can it be his blood?”
Here is the question that allows Augustine to affirm transubstantiation, if that is his belief. Alternatively, it allows Augustine to explain that the bread and cup is a symbol or picture, or whatever else Augustine may think. In some sense, it is the perfect question to get at the matter of what the expression "this is my body" means to Augustine.

The reason these things, brothers and sisters, are called sacraments is that in them one thing is seen, another is to be understood.
This gets us back to the theme of Augustine's sermon. Augustine is explaining that in every sacrament (in his understanding of sacraments, one thing is seen (the picture) and another thing is understood (the message conveyed by the picture). This, incidentally, rules out confession and penance from being a "sacrament" for Augustine. There is nothing in confession and penance that pictures something else, for him. So, even if Augustine had observed a modern Roman rite of confession and penance, he would not have termed it a "sacrament."

Augustine provides more explanation:
What can be seen has a bodily appearance, what is to be understood provides spiritual fruit.
This provides a slightly more nuanced explanation. There's a spiritual lesson to be drawn from what is understood by the things that are seen. This spiritual lesson provides spiritual fruit to the person.

So if you want to understand the body of Christ, listen to the apostle telling the faithful, You, though, are the body of Christ and its members (1 Cor 12:27).
This is really not good news for the transubstantiationists. Augustine's explanation is to provide a spiritual lesson about our (believers') relationship to Christ from this visible illustration of the bread and the cup.

So if it's you that are the body of Christ and its members, it's the mystery meaning you that has been placed on the Lord's table; what you receive is the mystery that means you.
So, now Augustine clearly says that "you" have been placed on the Lord's table. And that we receive is "you." He means the believers themselves are on the table and that the believers receive themselves when they commune.

If Augustine means this in a transubstantiary way, his view is most curious. Are we transubstantiated into bread and wine? What an odd result!

But the result is much less odd if one realizes that Augustine just means to say that we are pictured and symbolized by the bread and cup. They illustrate us.

It is to what you are that you reply Amen, and by so replying you express your assent.
Again, Augustine is making his point emphatically, continuing the metaphor. He does not say, "It is to what you resemble ..." but "to what you are." Nevertheless, unless someone is going to take Augustine transubstantially speaking of us being physically present under the appearance of bread and wine, it seems obvious that Augustine is speaking metaphorically.

What you hear, you see, is The body of Christ, and you answer, Amen.
Here Augustine is explaining what he means by "what you are" - he means that they are the body of Christ. His reference to the "Amen" is a reference, we assume, either to a liturgical custom of the congregation saying "amen" after the words of consecration or perhaps simply to enthusiastic new converts saying it.

So be a member of the body of Christ, in order to make that Amen true.
Augustine makes a quick point of application. It is interesting to note that Augustine's mentality here seems to be one of saying that we are united to Christ and part of his body by faith, not by baptism itself. If it were baptism itself, then these infantes would necessarily be members of the body of Christ.

So why in bread? Let's not bring anything of our own to bear here, let's go on listening to the apostle himself, who said, when speaking of this sacrament, One bread, one body, we being many are (1 Cor 10:17).
We can see that Augustine is relying solely on the authority of Scripture for his explanation regarding this sacrament. But Augustine's explanation is one that is not friendly to transubstantiation. He draws his explanation from 1 Corinthians 10:

1 Corinthians 10:16-17
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

Augustine notes that the passage is explaining that we are one bread, and he is referring that to the communion bread.

Understand and rejoice. Unity, truth, piety, love.
These are the four characteristics of the one bread, for Augustine.

One bread; what is this one bread? The one body which we, being many, are. Remember that bread is not made from one grain, but from many.
Here is how Augustine explains the metaphor. In a loaf of bread, it is not one grain of wheat, but numerous grains of wheat. Even so, one loaf comes from many grains.

When you were being exorcised, it's as though you were being ground.
The exorcism he's referring to here is when the new convert, prior to baptism (and associated with it), renounces the devil and all his works. Augustine likens this to them being ground like wheat is ground. Notice that now Augustine has shifted to explicitly using similes ("as though").

When you were baptized it's as though you were mixed into dough.
This is rather clever. You add water to flour to make dough. Augustine is spinning out this metaphor.

When you received the fire of the Holy Spirit, it's as though you were baked.
This would seem to be a reference to chrismation. Again, this is something of a clever hook by Augustine, since literal fire bakes, and since the Holy Spirit is sometimes described in terms of fire, although - of course - the oil with which the newly baptized were anointed was not lit on fire literally.

It is interesting to note as an aside that there is no mention of candles here. If Augustine's church had made religious use of candles, one might expect to see them mentioned here to provide the literal fire. Then again, perhaps Augustine was simply attempting to connect Baptism (broadly construed to include the exorcism and chrismation) with the Lord's Supper.

Be what you can see, and receive what you are.
This is just a re-emphasis of Augustine's application above combined with his affirmation that the people of God are the bread and cup.

That's what the apostle said about the bread. He has already shown clearly enough what we should understand about the cup, even if it wasn't said.
Here Augustine allows for us to draw inferences from the text. Although it is not explicitly stated that "we are one cup," Augustine concludes that we can see the same metaphor there.

After all, just as many grains are mixed into one loaf in order to produce the visible appearance of bread, as though what holy scripture says about the faithful were happening: They had one soul and one heart in God (Acts 4:32); so too with the wine.
Augustine hasn't explicitly stated that the grains are united into a loaf, but the lesson is clear. He's further explaining that there is a unity of soul and heart among believers (or at least should be). He's about to explain this via the metaphor of wine.

Brothers and sisters, just remind yourselves what wine is made from; many grapes hang in the bunch, but the juice of the grapes is poured together in one vessel.
This is an easy metaphor to follow.

That too is how the Lord Christ signified us, how he wished us to belong to him, how he consecrated the sacrament of our peace and unity on his table.
Notice how Augustine calls the sacrament "the sacrament of our peace and unity." That is because, for Augustine, "the sacrament of x" means "the physical illustration of spiritual reality x." Here the "x" is "peace and unity." Other times it may be "faith" or something else. In each case, Augustine means that the sacrament pictures the spiritual reality.

Any who receive the sacrament of unity, and do not hold the bond of peace, do not receive the sacrament for their benefit, but a testimony against themselves.
This is a particularly insightful comment of application. I hope that any schismatics who take communion will think about this. This is one way in which Paul's warning can be understood clearly:

1 Corinthians 11:27-30
Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

Turning to the Lord, God the Father almighty, with pure hearts let us give him sincere and abundant thanks, as much as we can in our littleness; beseeching him in his singular kindness with our whole soul, graciously to hearken to our prayers in his good pleasure; also by his power to drive out the enemy from our actions and thoughts, to increase our faith, to guide our minds, to grant us spiritual thoughts, and to lead us finally to his bliss; through Jesus Christ his Son. Amen.
These are not so much concluding thoughts as they are a general exhortation to godliness and piety. I'm tempted to try to tie these comments back into the main discussion of the sermon, but I think it would be a mistake not to treat them as more or less a general doxology.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Perspicuity of the Magisterium

Code of Canon Law 749
§1. By virtue of his office, the Supreme Pontiff possesses infallibility in teaching when as the supreme pastor and teacher of all the Christian faithful, who strengthens his brothers and sisters in the faith, he proclaims by definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held.

§2. The college of bishops also possesses infallibility in teaching when the bishops gathered together in an ecumenical council exercise the magisterium as teachers and judges of faith and morals who declare for the universal Church that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held definitively; or when dispersed throughout the world but preserving the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter and teaching authentically together with the Roman Pontiff matters of faith or morals, they agree that a particular proposition is to be held definitively.

§3. No doctrine is understood as defined infallibly unless this is manifestly evident.
This is the "death by a thousand qualifications" clause in terms of Roman dogma. Is there really anything that is so manifestly evidently defined infallibly that someone cannot come along later and question it?

Case in point: "Fr." John Zuhlsdorf vs. "Fr." Richard McBrien, Crowley-O’Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.

Zuhlsdorf seemingly claims that the ordination of women was infallibly defined as being contrary to the faith by John Paul in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis and then subsequently was reaffirmed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (which, interestingly, indicated that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis did not define this as dogma: "In this case, an act of the ordinary Papal Magisterium, in itself not infallible, witnesses to the infallibility of the teaching of a doctrine already possessed by the Church"). In other words, per the CDF, O.S. did not define the dogma - the dogma is infallible via the mechanism of universal and ordinary magisterium.

Of course, Scripture makes it pretty clear that the eldership is for men only, but is it manifestly evident? I'm sure it is for the conservatives, and not for the liberals. Its lack of manifest evidence is not due to any deficiency in the text of Scripture, but simply in the sinful rebellion of mankind.


Distinguishing Baal-Worship from Jeroboamic Idolatry

There are at least two additional passages (beyond those we last discussed) that provide us with further evidence of the distinction between Baal-worship and the institution of the golden calves of Jeroboam, which were intended in service to the God who brought Israel up out of Egypt.

1 Kings 22:51-53
Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned two years over Israel. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother, and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin: for he served Baal, and worshipped him, and provoked to anger the LORD God of Israel, according to all that his father had done.
2 Kings 3:1-3
Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years. And he wrought evil in the sight of the LORD; but not like his father, and like his mother: for he put away the image of Baal that his father had made. Nevertheless he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom.
Notice that in the first one of these two, one might think that "For he served Baal," might refer back to "the way of Jeroboam." However, when you see the ending of the sentence in the first passage, you see it is connecting back to what Ahab did. That becomes even more clear in the second passage.

In the second passage, Jehoram is (to a degree) commended because he did not go to the extent of sin that Ahab and Jezebel went. Nevertheless, he still did what Jeroboam did, and worshiped God in violation of the second commandment.


Faith in the Church of Rome

VATICAN CITY, 14 JUN 2011 (VIS) - Yesterday at 7.30 p.m. in the Roman basilica of St. John Lateran Benedict XVI inaugurated an ecclesial congress marking the close of the pastoral year of the diocese of Rome. The congress, which will run from 13 to 15 June, has as its theme: "The joy of engendering the faith in the Church of Rome".
I suspect that the translation is just "unfortunate" and the modifier "in the church of Rome" really is meant to go with the "engendering" rather than "faith." Nevertheless, "faith in the church of Rome" is what Rome's apologists are promoting these days; especially those who push hard against the formal sufficiency of Scripture.