Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Augustine, Theological Novums, and CTC

I found this comment over on Called to Communion (dated January 16, 2012).  I was pleased that the comment grasped one of the basic points of a few of my older blog articles, and that the CTC person didn't even make a serious attempt to answer it.

The comment summarized my argument as follows:
Bottom Line: You can’t just say Augustine wasn’t Reformed and call it a day (especially citing McGrath). While that might be true, what if Augustine had it wrong in the first place?; while the Reformation might appear as a “theological novum,” what if sola fide actually points to the right direction in Biblical exegesis regardless of the testimony of the Church Fathers? How do you argue against those who don’t care about showing their ancestry in Augustine or proving some sort of historical basis for imputed righteousness?
Tim Troutman of CTC responds:
In reply to your bottom line — if someone agrees that St. Augustine was not Reformed (and that no early Christian was), and still wants to be Reformed, I wouldn’t really argue with them; at least not as far as the point in this post goes. It could be the case that everyone misread the gospel up until Calvin and that Calvin misread most of those who misread the Scriptures, thinking they agreed with him, but at the same time, he correctly read the Scriptures. That’s possible on face value. But it’s also pretty silly. I’m not real excited about trying to argue with anyone who thinks that.
Yeah, silly. Sure. I would point out for clarification, I do care about ancestry and history.


Ken said...

As I have said several times before, your older post here on McGrath and Justification:


and the one you link to here at aomin.org may be two of the most important and crucial articles that you have written, along with the others that deal with Luther and his view of James and "Did Luther add alone to Romans 3:28?" - I am very grateful for your careful work on these issues! God bless you, James, and May He give you continued strength and grace!

Ken said...

Although Augustine got the imputation aspect of justification wrong because of his Latin emphasis and his lack of Greek and Hebrew knowledge, he got some aspects of "faith alone" right - that it is faith and not works that justify and that faith is a gift of grace given to us by God. And Augustine was clear on Grace before faith and the bondage of the will and Predestination and election.

In Augustine's, On the Spirit and the Letter, chapter 15 - seems to be one of the influences behind Luther's awakening as to what Romans and Galatians means.

"His words are, “The righteousness of God
is manifested:” he does not say, the righteousness of man, or the righteousness of his own will, but the “righteousness of God,”—not that whereby He is Himself righteous, but that with which He endows man when He justifies the ungodly. " On the Spirit and the Letter, from chapter 15

Nick Needham also has an excellent book of compilations from Augustine's writings on Salvation - The Triumph of Grace: Augustine's Writings on Salvation Grace Publications, Evangelical Press, London, 2000.

Ken said...

Nick Needham's excellent book, where he takes from all of Augustine's writings on the issues of Grace, the law, the bondage of the will, the freedom of the will, Predestination, Election, Faith, etc. It is very helpful for someone who doesn't have time to try and read and master all of Augustine.


David Waltz said...

Hi James,

FYI: the plural for novum is nova, not novums.

Grace and peace,


James Swan said...


Thanks, but I'm going to leave the title as is.