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Augustine was a NeoPlatonist philosopher at the time he accepted Jesus as his Lord. He was taught by the great and famous Church Father, Jerome. It is largely Augustine, and through him, Jerome, who set Roman Catholic doctrine in cement for over a thousand years. It was during his life that the controversy with Pelagius over the doctrine of Original Sin occurred. Though many large and influential bishoprics (including Jerusalem, Alexandria and Antioch) favored Pelagius, Augustine and Rome eventually won out due in large part to their greater influence and likely the force of the (holy) Roman army in the background. It was Jerome who prepared a new Latin translation of the scriptures (the Vulgate) which contained a translational error at Rom 5:12, which error misled Augustine into a false concept of how we are saved and also served to support the doctrine of Original Sin. For centuries afterward, teachers in the western Church would quote primarily Jerome and Augustine. This continued until the beginning of the 12th Century and the appearance of Abelard.
Book 1, Chapter 27
"...we have a much simpler and effective method of deliverance from [additional] sin, by persuading those who are fresh from baptism to put an end to their lives, and so pass to their Lord PURE..."
It is clear from this and the quotes that follow that Augustine considers that sins are remitted and washed away in baptism. It is significant that he NEVER describes baptism as being a witness of sins being ALREADY forgiven and ALREADY removed.
If today's Evangelicals are correct that sins are forgiven by faith (and repentance), why does Augustine describe baptism as the moment when all past sin is blotted out? Did he not know that God's grace and the believer's faith had ALREADY accomplished this? (Apparently not!)
"if after the LAVER OF REGENERATION, saints could not suffer bodily
In the three quotes above, Augustine follows the examples of the Fathers before him in describing baptism in terms of REGENERATION (i.e. being born again).
This sounds like the doctrine of today's Evangelicals. Actually, this is a typical example of Augustine's faulty logic. Jesus' words in John EXCLUDED the disobedient person, while His words in Matthew INCLUDED the obedient person. If Jesus had said, "If a man is born of water and the Spirit, he shall enter the kingdom of God," then Augustine might have been correct. However, according to Jesus' words, a person must BOTH be born again (of water and the Spirit) AND confess Him before men. It is NOT an either/or situation!
Since Paul speaks of this baptismal result as being ALREADY accomplished, why does Augustine deny Paul's words and say it will not happen until the ressurection? But his quotation of Paul is correct as to how and when we "enter Christ" and "put on Christ". Note too, Paul's stipulation that this blessed result is limited only to "as many as have been baptized..."
Here again is Augustine's clear statement of how and when we enter Christ, since both he and the more ancient Fathers all identified regeneration with baptism. See the next two quotes, also.
Book 20, Chapter 8
"some Christian children born, but not yet BAPTIZED...and if there be such, we cannot believe that their parents shall not find some way of bringing them to the LAVER OF REGENERATION."
Book 20, Chapter 26
"[Adam and Eve's] transgression and human nature was condemned in them, with the exception of the one Mediator, and THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN BAPTIZED..."
Book 21, Chapter 14
"even the little children, who by the LAVER OF REGENERATION have been FREED from the bond of original sin in which alone they were held"
Book 21, Chapter 16
[Against those who taught that once one had been baptized and eaten the communion, eternal life was guaranteed, despite how they should live afterward (cf Rom 6):] "Whoever desires to escape eternal punishment, let him not only BE BAPTIZED, but also be justified in Christ [by faith which produces holy living], and so let him in truth pass from the devil to Christ."
Book 21, Chapter 25
"but ONLY to those who have been WASHED by the BAPTISM OF CHRIST, and have become partakers of His body and blood"
Book 21, Chapter 27
"For what does it profit a man that he is BAPTIZED, if he is not justified? Did not He who said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he shall NOT enter into the kingdom of God" [Jn 3:5], say also, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven?" [Mt 5:20] Why do many through fear of the first saying RUN TO BAPTISM, while only a few through fear of the second seek to be justified [by the righteousness of faith and holy living]?
Note that even Augustine follows the interpretation of the Fathers before him in identifying Jesus' "water" with baptism, making it mandatory for those who wished to enter God's kingdom.
"An old comedian of Curubis was HEALED AT BAPTISM not only of
paralysis, but also of hernia, and being delivered from both afflictions,
came up out of the FONT OF REGENERATION as if he had had nothing wrong
with his body."
How is it, if our sins are forgiven and removed when we believe, that these sort of healings did not take place when the two people believed, but only at the time of their baptism? That healing was a Biblical and historical sign of the forgiveness of sins is testified in Mark 2:1-12 and 1 Pet 2:24.
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This page last updated 3-Mar-1998.