Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Correcting misinterpretation of St. Augustine

St. Augustine wrote:
There are some also who as yet live wickedly, or even lie in heresies or the superstitions of the Gentiles, and yet even then "the Lord knoweth them that are His." For, in that unspeakable foreknowledge of God, many who seem to be without are in reality within, and many who seem to be within yet really are without. Of all those, therefore, who, if I may so say, are inwardly and secretly within, is that "enclosed garden" composed, "the fountain sealed, a well of living water, the orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits." The divinely imparted gifts of these are partly peculiar to themselves, as in this world the charity that never faileth, and in the world to come eternal life; partly they are common with evil and perverse men, as all the other things in which consist the holy mysteries.

In this context St. Augustine is not talking about being within the Church or outside the Church; he is talking about being within the predestinate or being out of it.

He says that there are some who "seem to be without," viz., outside the predestinate; headed for hell). The first category is bad Catholics
- those "who as yet live wickedly." The second category is non-Catholics - those who "lie in heresies or the superstitions of the Gentiles. St. Augustine continues on to say that God, by his "foreknowledge" knows that some of the bad Catholics and the non-Catholics will convert to being good Catholics and hence be saved, and therefore are actually "within" the predestinate.

Catholics "who as yet live wickedly" are obviously in state of perdition; St. Augustine couldn't have meant that they were in the state of grace at the same time. If the phrase "as in this world the charity that never faileth" is interpreted as saying that non-Catholics were in state of grace by having charity, then it would also have to be interpreted as saying that Catholics "who as yet live wickedly" (that is, in the state of mortal sin) are in the state of grace as well, which is impossible, since Catholics in mortal sin cannot be in the state of grace. In the same context St. Augustin continues:

"Wherefore, if those appear to men to be baptized in Catholic unity who renounce the world in words only and not in deeds, how do they belong to the mystery of this ark in whom there is not the answer of a good conscience? Or how are they saved by water, who, making a bad use of holy baptism, though they seem to be within, yet persevere to the end of their days in a wicked and abandoned course of life?

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe