Augustine: A Secret Weapon for Catholic Apologists

Here’s a golden rule to ecumenical dialogue with evangelical Protestants: If you want to prove a certain point of Catholic teaching, go directly to Scripture.

That isn’t to say that we should give up on discussions about the value of tradition or the authority of the Church. But if your aim is to defend the Catholic teachings on say Mary or the Eucharist, you’re going to send evangelical jaws crashing to the floor faster than you can say sola scriptura by diving into the Greek text of Luke 2 or launching into the Old Testament typology of the Eucharist.

However, there is an exception to this rule: Augustine.

For Reformed Protestants, Augustine enjoys a unique status as an authority figure. Showing that a particular Church teaching has its roots in Augustine is bound to get a non-Catholic Christian to think twice. And, it turns out that many of the most controversial and least understood Catholic beliefs and practices are already present in the writings of Augustine. Just a few examples include: Eucharistic adoration, cooperating with God’s grace, the sinlessness of Mary, veneration of the saints and their relics, a formal and sacramental priesthood, and the primacy of the Pope.

There are no doubt many areas where Protestants legitimately feel they have found a kindred spirit in Augustine. His description of the sinner’s inner struggle with sin in the Confessions certainly resonates strongly with evangelical culture. And some portions of his writings on grace and predestination certainly seem to echo some of the more strident statements of folks like John Calvin. So, for the Catholic apologist, the task is to show how these beliefs of Augustine were situated within a broader and richer worldview that was unmistakably Catholic.

Stephen Beale

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Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/StephenBeale1

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  • Kellie

    Excellent point! Would like to add Purgatory to that list of doctrines too.

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