The Anathematization of Augustine in Unigenitus

Did you know Pope Clement XI once anathematized the teachings of Augustine? I couldn’t believe it either when I first studied Unigenitus. This apostolic constitution was released to counter the teachings of Jansenism which was a reform movement within Catholicism that drew from the writings of Augustine to emphasize predestination, original sin, reading the Bible, and God’s sovereignty. The third proposition that is condemned is:

“3. In vain, O Lord, do You command, if You do not give what you command.”

In other words, unless God gives what he commands, all is in vain. We cannot accomplish God’s will unless God gives us the ability to do so. Clement XI, being the expert in church history that he was, was apparently unaware that this summary of Jansenist theology comes from Augustine himself:

“Give what You command, and command what You will” (Confessions 10.29).

This plea is repeated by Augustine four different times in chapter ten of his Confessions. The expression “give what you command” is identical in both documents. God must give or ordain what he commands and he is free to ordain whatever laws he will. Augustine is saying that we cannot obey God’s commands unless God gives us the ability to do so. God must give us the gift of being able to keep his commands. If God does not give us the ability to keep his commands, then we cannot do so. Augustine illustrates this with the command to continence:

“You order us to practice continence. A certain writer tells us, I knew that no one can be continent except by God’s gift. . . . You command continence: give what you command, and then command whatever you will” (Confessions 10.29).

Without being given the gift of continence, all is in vain.

The condemnation of Augustine’s theology in Unigenitus is problematic because he is a Doctor of the Church. Since he is the church’s Doctor of Grace, his teachings on grace and salvation are important for Catholics today. In condemning the phrase “In vain, O Lord, do You command, if You do not give what you command,” Clement XI is condemning the theology of a Doctor of the Church and teaching infallibly that it is not in vain for God to command something unless he gives the gift of being able to obey it. This is in keeping with Pelagius’ rejection of Augustine’s theology because he too disliked this request.

But this is not the first time Augustine was condemned by a pope. Pope Zosimus rebuked Augustine and the North African bishops for their condemnation of Pelagius in three different encyclicals: Magnum pondus, Postquam a nobis, and Quamvis patrum. Only after facing pressure from emperor Honorius did Zosimus reverse his decision and condemn Pelagius as well. With popes like these, Catholics should be thankful that they are protected from the dangerous theology of Augustine that led to the Reformation.


Sunday Meditation – Give Me Christ

“If we fill ourselves with the world, the less we will delight in Christ. This is our sin and our folly. But when God spreads sackcloth on the earthly, we discover the beauty of Christ and can taste His sweetness. He infinitely transcends all the beauty and glory of the world. He is our King to govern; our Prophet to teach; our Priest to save. How precious! Give me Christ, or else I die!”

Thomas Case

Anti-Semitism in Roman Catholic History

The Roman Catholic Church has a long history of endorsing anti-Semitism. But this hatred of the Jews did not just exist at the popular level, it came from the popes themselves. While the popes were not the inventors of anti-Semitism, they are guilty of supporting and encouraging it. They inherited a hatred for the Jews from early church fathers like John Chrysostom who urged Christians to hate Jews who rejected Jesus as the Messiah:

“The Jews sacrifice their children to Satan . . . they are worse than wild beasts. The synagogue is a brothel, a den of scoundrels, the temple of demons devoted to idolatrous cults, a criminal assembly of Jews, a place of meeting for the assassins of Christ. . . . I hate the Jews because they violate the Law. I hate the synagogue because it has the Law and the prophets. It is the duty of all Christians to hate the Jews” (Homilies Against the Jews).

David I. Kertzer in his book The Popes Against the Jews extensively documents the oppression Jews faced from the Vatican:

“The legislation enacted in the 1930s by the Nazis in their Nuremberg Laws and by the Italian Fascists with their racial laws which stripped the Jews of their rights as citizens was modeled on measures that the Church itself had enforced for as long as it was in a position to do so. Jews in the Papal States were still being prosecuted in the nineteenth century when caught without the required yellow badge on their clothes, mandated by Church councils for over six hundred years. As late as the 1850s, the Pope was busy trying to evict Jews from most of the towns in the lands he controlled, and forcing them to live in the few cities that had ghettoes to close them in. Jews were barred from holding public office or teaching Christian children or even having friendly relations with Christians. . . . The popes and the Vatican worked hard to keep Jews in their subservient place barring them from owning property, from practicing professions, from attending university, from traveling freely and they did all this according to canon law and the centuries old belief that in doing so they were upholding the most basic tenets of Christianity. . . . For the popes, modernity meant all the things that Church doctrine rejected: freedom of religion, of speech, of the press; the notion of separation between Church and state” (9, 11).

The infallible Fourth Lateran Council taught that Jews must wear special clothing to distinguish them from Christians, are forbidden to hold public office, and must abandon all of their Jewish customs once they become Christians:

“A difference of dress distinguishes Jews or Saracens [Muslims] from Christians in some provinces, but in others a certain confusion has developed so that they are indistinguishable. Whence it sometimes happens that by mistake Christians join with Jewish or Saracen women, and Jews or Saracens with Christian women. In order that the offence of such a damnable mixing may not spread further, under the excuse of a mistake of this kind, we decree that such persons of either sex, in every Christian province and at all times, are to be distinguished in public from other people by the character of their dress” (Canon 68).

“It would be too absurd for a blasphemer of Christ to exercise power over Christians. We therefore renew in this canon, on account of the boldness of the offenders, what the council of Toledo providently decreed in this matter : we forbid Jews to be appointed to public offices, since under cover of them they are very hostile to Christians. . . . We extend the same thing to pagans” (Canon 69).

“Certain people who have come voluntarily to the waters of sacred baptism, as we learnt, do not wholly cast off the old person in order to put on the new more perfectly. For, in keeping remnants of their former rite, they upset the decorum of the Christian religion by such a mixing” (Canon 70).

Needless to say, Paul would have strongly disagreed with canon 70 based on his teaching in Romans 14.

The Third Lateran Council taught that Jews and Muslims are not allowed to have Christian servants in their homes and that the testimony of a Christian always outweighs the testimony of a Jew in court:

“Jews and Saracens are not to be allowed to have Christian servants in their houses, either under pretence of nourishing their children or for service or any other reason. Let those be excommunicated who presume to live with them. We declare that the evidence of Christians is to be accepted against Jews in every case, since Jews employ their own witnesses against Christians, and that those who prefer Jews to Christians in this matter are to lie under anathema, since Jews ought to be subject to Christians and to be supported by them on grounds of humanity alone” (Canon 26).

The Council of Basel which is part of the Seventeenth Ecumenical Council enacted coercive laws designed to convert Jews to Christianity. All Jews were required to attend Christian sermons or face financial loss:

“They should compel infidels of both sexes who have reached the age of discretion, to attend these sermons under pain both of being excluded from business dealings with the faithful and of other apposite penalties” (Session 19).

The Council reaffirmed and strengthened the anti-Semitic laws of Catholicism. Jews were forbidden from owning land, being given academic degrees, buying church books, to live with the rest of society, and to work on Sunday:

“Furthermore, renewing the sacred canons, we command both diocesan bishops and secular powers to prohibit in every way Jews and other infidels from having Christians, male or female, in their households and service, or as nurses of their children; and Christians from joining with them in festivities, marriages, banquets or baths, or in much conversation, and from taking them as doctors or agents of marriages or officially appointed mediators of other contracts. They should not be given other public offices, or admitted to any academic degrees, or allowed to have on lease lands or other ecclesiastical rents. They are to be forbidden to buy ecclesiastical books, chalices, crosses and other ornaments of churches under pain of the loss of the object, or to accept them in pledge under pain of the loss of the money that they lent. They are to be compelled, under severe penalties, to wear some garment whereby they can be clearly distinguished from Christians. In order to prevent too much intercourse, they should be made to dwell in areas, in the cities and towns, which are apart from the dwellings of Christians and as far distant as possible from churches. On Sundays and other solemn festivals they should not dare to have their shops open or to work in public” (Session 19).

Pope Paul IV in Cum nimis absurdum forced Jews to live in ghettos segregated from the rest of society:

“Forasmuch as it is highly absurd and improper that the Jews . . . should, on the pretext that they are cherished by Christian love, and permitted to dwell in our midst, show such ingratitude to Christians as to insult them for their mercy and presume to mastery instead of subjection that beseems them; and forasmuch as we have been informed that in Rome and elsewhere their shamelessness is such that they presume to dwell among Christians in the neighborhood of churches without distinction of dress, and even to rent houses in the more elegant streets and squares of the cities, villages and places in which they live . . . to hire Christian maidservants and wetnurses and other salaried attendants, and to perpetrate divers other misdeeds to the shame and contumely of the true Christian faith . . . we do therefore order the following measures, which are perpetually valid.”

Other crimes of the papacy against the Jews include ordering Jewish books like the Talmud to be burned, forcing them to run naked through the street for entertainment, supporting accusations of blood libel, forcing them from their lands, and forbidding Jews and Christians from interacting with one another.

If you can’t trust what the pope says when it comes to how we should treat Jews, why should you trust him when it comes to Christian doctrine?

Sunday Meditation – Christ Triumphant

“To the eye of reason the cross is the centre of sorrow and the lowest depth of shame. Jesus dies a malefactor’s death. He hangs upon the gibbet of a felon and pours out his blood upon the common mount of doom with thieves for his companions. In the midst of mockery, and jest, and scorn, and ribaldry, and blasphemy, he gives up the ghost. Earth rejects him and lifts him from her surface, and heaven affords him no light, but darkens the mid-day sun in the hour of his extremity. Deeper in woe the Saviour dived, imagination cannot descend. A blacker calumny than was cast on him satanic malice could not invent. He hid not his face from shame and spitting; and what shame and spitting it was! To the world the cross must ever be the emblem of shame: to the Jew a stumbling-block, and to the Greek foolishness. How different however is the view which presents itself to the eye of faith. Faith knows no shame in the cross, except the shame of those who nailed the Saviour there; it sees no ground for scorn, but it hurls indignant scorn at sin, the enemy which pierced the Lord. Faith sees woe, indeed, but from this woe it marks a fount of mercy springing. It is true it mourns a dying Saviour, but it beholds him bringing life and immortality to light at the very moment when his soul was eclipsed in the shadow of death. Faith regards the cross, not as the emblem of shame, but as the token of glory. The sons of Belial lay the cross in the dust, but the Christian makes a constellation of it, and sees it glittering in the seventh heaven. Man spits upon it, but believers, having angels for their companions, bow down and worship him who ever liveth though once he was crucified. My brethren, our text presents us with a portion of the view which faith is certain to discover when its eyes are anointed with the eye-salve of the Spirit. It tells us that the cross was Jesus Christ’s field of triumph. There he fought, and there he conquered, too. As a victor on the cross he divided the spoil. Nay, more than this; in our text the cross is spoken of as being Christ’s triumphal chariot in which he rode when he led captivity captive, and received gifts for men. . . . For as he had previously compared the cross to a signal trophy or show of triumph, in which Christ led about his enemies, so he now also compares it to a triumphal car in which he showed himself in great magnificence. For there is no tribunal so magnificent, no throne so stately, no show of triumph so distinguised, no chariot so elevated, as is the gibbet on which Christ has subdued death and the devil, the prince of death; nay, more, has utterly trodden them under his feet.”

Charles Spurgeon

Roman Catholicism on Freedom of the Press

As we saw in our last article, religious liberty is a foreign concept in Roman Catholicism. But this is also true when it comes to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the separation of church and state. Pope Gregory XVI declared in Mirari vos:

15. “Here We must include that harmful and never sufficiently denounced freedom to publish any writings whatever and disseminate them to the people, which some dare to demand and promote with so great a clamor. We are horrified to see what monstrous doctrines and prodigious errors are disseminated far and wide in countless books, pamphlets, and other writings which, though small in weight, are very great in malice.”

16. “The Church has always taken action to destroy the plague of bad books. This was true even in apostolic times for we read that the apostles themselves burned a large number of books. It may be enough to consult the laws of the fifth Council of the Lateran on this matter and the Constitution which Leo X published afterwards lest ‘that which has been discovered advantageous for the increase of the faith and the spread of useful arts be converted to the contrary use and work harm for the salvation of the faithful.’ This also was of great concern to the fathers of Trent, who applied a remedy against this great evil by publishing that wholesome decree concerning the Index of books which contain false doctrine. ‘We must fight valiantly,’ Clement XIII says in an encyclical letter about the banning of bad books, ‘as much as the matter itself demands and must exterminate the deadly poison of so many books; for never will the material for error be withdrawn, unless the criminal sources of depravity perish in flames.’”

20. “Nor can We predict happier times for religion and government from the plans of those who desire vehemently to separate the Church from the state, and to break the mutual concord between temporal authority and the priesthood. It is certain that that concord which always was favorable and beneficial for the sacred and the civil order is feared by the shameless lovers of liberty.”

There is also a reference to “that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone.” The Catholic Church has a long history of banning books from many diverse authors. The problem here for Catholicism is that this is not the current teaching of the church according to Vatican II. But Gregory XVI taught as the pope that these things are true. So, how is this not a violation of papal infallibility? Is not liberty of conscience a matter of faith or morals? The sedevacantist Catholics can see this while the Vatican II ones cannot.

In response to the clever argument that the apostles were in favor of banning books because Acts 19:19 says, “And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all,” it simply needs to be pointed out that these people burned their books of their own free will in response to hearing and believing the gospel. They wanted to burn their books because they were demonic incantation books used in sorcery. No one had to make them do this. In contrast, an index of prohibited books binds the consciences of others telling them what they can and cannot read which is contrary to religious liberty. The burning of magic books in Acts was of their own free will while an index of prohibited books imposes the will of the papacy on the church.

Sunday Meditation – The Great Evil of Sin

“Sin is always very sinful, but in our prosperity we are not so aware of it. The dust of the world fills our eyes that we cannot see it clearly. God frequently uses affliction to teach his children the great evil that is in sin. It shows sin as an evil in itself. It not only brings evil, but is evil. It not only works bitterness, it is bitterness. It has a bitter root as well as a bitter fruit. God leads the sinner by affliction to take notice not only of what sin does, but what it is. . . . Sooner or later the soul sees sin as a greater evil than affliction, and forgetting its affliction, it begins to mourn only for the sin.”

Thomas Case

Roman Catholicism on Religious Liberty

Historically speaking, religious liberty is a foreign concept to the papacy. This is reflected by Pope Pius IX in his encyclical Quanta cura:

“From which totally false idea of social government they do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, most fatal in its effects on the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls, called by Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI, an ‘insanity,’ that ‘liberty of conscience and worship is each man’s personal right, which ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society; and that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way.’”

In other words, there is no freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, freedom of the press, or separation of church and state. This is all diametrically opposed to the Bill of Rights rooted in the beliefs of Protestantism. In his Syllabus of Errors, Pius IX listed as errors the following beliefs:

15. “Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true.”

54. “Kings and princes are not only exempt from the jurisdiction of the Church, but are superior to the Church in deciding questions of jurisdiction.”

55. “The Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church.”

77. “In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship.”

78. “Hence it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship.”

And it was not just Pius IX who was opposed to the idea that all people are deserving of liberty of conscience. Pope Gregory XVI wrote in Mirari vos:

14. “This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone.”

This is why for the longest time it was extremely difficult for Catholics to be elected to political office in America. It was not until John F. Kennedy that a Catholic was elected President because people feared Catholic politicians would try to implement the Vatican’s historic opposition to the Protestant concept of religious liberty.

This is also why Catholics who know their history must oppose religious liberty to be consistent with the teachings of their church. But today, the Catholic Church has completely reversed its stance on religious liberty contradicting all of these papal pronouncements. Now that they are in the minority, it is more advantageous to argue for religious liberty than the extermination of heretics. When Catholics do stand for religious liberty and the first amendment, they are departing from the traditional teachings of the Catholic faith and embracing the viewpoint of the Anabaptists. Religious liberty and separation of church and state are uniquely Baptist points of view because Baptists deny that baptism brings about regeneration and therefore one does not become a Christian by being born into Christianity or being baptized, but by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in the gospel. Hence, only those who have been born again can be members of the church which makes a state church impossible.

Even the original Westminster Confession of Faith of Presbyterianism had no place for religious liberty. That’s why the Presbyterians had to make serious changes to their confession when they came to America. The original confession was actually quite theonomistic believing that the government had an obligation to punish heresy and blasphemy. It may be no coincidence that Tertullian, an early church father who opposed infant baptism, was also in favor of religious liberty:

“It is the law of mankind and the natural right of each individual to worship what he thinks proper, nor does the religion of one man either harm or help another. But, it is not proper for religion to compel men to religion, which should be accepted of one’s own accord, not by force, since sacrifices also are required of a willing mind. So, even if you compel us to sacrifice, you will render no service to your gods” (To Scapula 2).