Tuesday, April 29

St. Augustine and the Donatist Controversy

Abstract
Throughout the life of St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430, also known as St. Austin), there were a number of schisms and heresies that he argued ardently against in favor of the Catholic faith. Even his contemporary, St. Jerome, noted that he essentially “established anew the ancient Faith” (Epistola 195). He contended against the Manicheans (of which he was once a member), the Pelagians, and the Donatists. Donatism was a Christian sect that was prominent in North Africa in the fourth and fifth centuries, and was named after a man named Donatus. In fact, around the year AD 391 in the time of St. Augustine, Catholics in North Africa were the minority; Donatists were the majority.[1] Prior to the Edict of Milan under Constantine in AD 313, the Emperor Diocletian heavily persecuted the Christians. As a result of these persecutions, some of the Christians handed over the holy books as a way of giving up their faith. After the persecutions had ended, these individuals were labeled traditores, which means “those who handed the holy things over.” Sacraments and consecration by these traditores was considered invalid by these Donatists, and this created problems that St. Augustine intended to solve and bring the Donatists back into the Catholic Church.

A Sketch of Donatist History
The history of Donatism spans the beginning of the fourth century and is recorded as existing at least until the coming of Islam.[2] But the ideas and forces that set Donatism into motion began long before the fourth century. According to the oldest piece of textual evidence in North Africa, Christianity had at least one community near Carthage by AD 180, and the community considered itself separate from the rest of the world – it also had made both men and women into leaders.[3] One of the other things that these Christians prized was martyrdom, a later hallmark of Donatism. To be sure, the issues of the Donatist-Catholic split were prefigured long before the traditional dating of AD 311. Indeed, the Council of Cirta in AD 303 (or 305, likely the latter) is an important factor. The Bishop Paulus of Cirta had recently died so the council was called to find a successor. Part of the criteria was whether or not a bishop had handed over the holy books. In fact, one man – Bishop Purpurius of Limata – was accused of murdering his two nephews. To this, he freely admitted his guilt. But even murder was not enough to question his validity as an elector; indeed, the more serious crime was handing over the Scriptures. More serious than both of these, however, was schism. At this meeting, schism was more of a danger to the Catholics than murder or handing over Scriptures.[4]

Around the same time in AD 304, another famous incident occurred in Donatist history: the martyrdom of the Abtinians, later recorded in the Acts of the Abitinian Martyrs. There was a riot outside of a prison in Carthage, where many individuals died. As opposed to violence done to the Christians by the Romans, however, what made this event significant was that it was Christians persecuting Christians, troops sent from the Christian bishop of Mensurius and by his deacon Caecilian.[5] Seven years after the incident at Carthage, Caecilian was elected bishop. The Abitinians and other North Africans refused to accept him and found Majorinus, whose successor was Donatus.[6] Donatus had been held guilty by Pope Miltiades of rebaptizing clergy who had lapsed, but the major issue seemed to deal with purity. Due to the persecution under Emperor Diocletian at the same time, however, many of the bishops who had given up the holy books were looked upon with disdain by some of the North African Christians. These Christians desired to have someone like them who was of virtue to be bishop, not a traditor.

When Caecilian became the new bishop of Carthage, he was consecrated by a traditor, and controversy arose. Donatus had a dispute with Caecilian, in which Caecilian seemed to admit that consecration by a traditor was not valid. Thus, the pars Donati, “the party of Donatus,” was formed. The Donatists had broken off because they believed that the Catholic Church was impure. The bishops had been corrupted, and as the bishops (including the Pope) were the head of the Church, the church was therefore corrupt in their eyes. Baptism by these traditores was therefore not considered valid by the Donatists. Donatus was succeeded by Parmenian in AD 361, and who died around the time Augustine was made Bishop of Hippo.[7] Donatist literature of this time focused heavily on persecution and martyrdom.

The Edict of Unity was put forth in AD 305 in an attempt to bring the Donatists back into the Catholic Church. The laws fell heavily on the African society, driving a wedge between the rich and poor - the town and countryside. The Donatists has therefore lost their bishops and support of the upper classes in society. There was one landowner, whose name was Celer, who had poems inscribed in his honor in the Forum. As a Donatist, however, he found that now he was unable to hold office, protect his property or pass on his property to his heirs.[8] During this time, the Circumcellions arose. These Circumcellions had brought about the “rise of physical violence and suicidal fanaticism… Augustine himself once narrowly escaped death by the fortunate accident of losing his way. With this increase in violence, in 408 Augustine found in necessary to send an urgent request for help to the Roman authorities.”[9]

By the year AD 411, by order of the Emperor Honorius at the Synod of Carthage, discussion between Catholic and Donatist bishops occurred. This collatio (comparison) was called to look into the origin of Donatism and Catholicism and determine who was right.[10] There were 370 Donatist bishops at this conference mentioned on record.[11] The discussion got out of hand, but it was shortly after that an edict was made declaring that the sect was forbidden to meet together and that all of their property must be handed over to the Catholic Church. The Donatists in turn appealed against the edict, which inspired another edict to be released which stated that all priests and laymen would pay heavy penalties if they did not rejoin with the Catholic Church.[12]

This religious coercion following the conference in AD 411 brought a halt to the momentum that the Donatist movement had for a century. The arguments from St. Augustine, the intervention of the State, and the contradictory nature of their beliefs made this movement into a fading schism. Some bishops had a problem reintegrating, such as Gaudentius, who had considered suicide rather than rejoining the Church. In AD 420, St. Augustine wrote Contra Gaudentium Thamugadensem episcopum Donatistarum, in which he defended the harshness of the imperial laws and noted the foolishness of suicide, particularly in the case of Gaudentius. Donatism did not necessarily die out after AD 420, we simply have little information on the situation in North Africa after that time.

In fact, the Donatists are mentioned in the correspondence of Pope Gregory the Great at the end of the sixth century. Certain modern movements baptize you into their congregation, so that if you go to a new church, rebaptism occurs. Therefore, issues faced by Augustine in the Donatist controversy are in some ways still alive today, but the Donatist movement as a whole has effectively faded away into the annals of history.

Traditores and Sacramental Validity
The word comes from the Latin traditor/traditores. It was used for those who have given themselves over to the side of the opposition. But the root of the word, tradere, referred to those who would hand over physical objects. In the North African controversy, this is precisely what church officials did when the Roman authorities were given holy books, vessels and other holy objects. This term was also not only applied by the Donatists to the church officials but also to those who had been consecrated by these officials. Therefore, those whom the traditores ordained themselves would also be considered traditores, as would the ones whom they would ordain, and so forth.

Certainly, sacramental validity was a primary concern. The word sacrament is derived from the Latin sacramentum, which was later used to replace the Greek mysterion (“mystery”). These mysteries of the Christian faith were often referred to in the New Testament documents as well as the writings of the early Christians. Tertullian, the famous Christian writer and apologist, was the one who eventually picked the term sacramentum for Christian initiation rituals such as baptism, anointing and the Eucharist. There was a bit of confusion at first, however, on what should and should not be considered a sacrament. For example, St. Augustine held there to be 304 sacraments, whereas others held that there were only a few.

Eventually, the Church distinguished between a sacrament – a religious ceremony done by and for believers – and sacramentals, which are objects that have been blessed by the Church which are known to help believers (such as the rosary). As time went on, however, the exact number of sacraments was still up for debate. The two that most believers (Catholic and non-Catholic alike) agreed upon as sacraments is Baptism and the Eucharist, two key sacraments found in Scripture and in early Christian practice. Others later came to be accepted by the Catholic Church: confirmation, marriage, confession, holy orders and anointing of the sick. It was in the early 1200s at the Fourth Lateran Council (where St. Francis may have derived the image of the tau from) that the sacraments were officially listed as only these seven, and later councils – Lyon II, Florence and Trent – confirmed this list.

In relation to the Donatists, they felt that all sacraments done by Catholics were invalid – which was expressed in ex opera operantis.[13] According to Augustine, however, the Catholic Church holds ex opera operato.[14] Therefore, the issue came down not to the holiness of the person, but God working through the person. This Donatist controversy, therefore, brought about a threefold problem: the purity of the Church, the unity of the Church and the sacramentality of the Church. This question of sacramental validity was also a major issue when the Donatists were readmitted into the Catholic Church – if they did not rebaptize the Donatists into the Church, they were admitting that Donatist baptism was valid. However, if they did rebaptize, they would be doing the very thing they once criticized the Donatists for. Rebaptism was not unheard of in the Church, to be sure – the Montanits were rebaptized and Arians were also rebaptized as they had denied the Trinity. But in the controversy with the Donatists, the issue of rebaptism was much more difficult.

In Augustine’s eyes, baptism is sort of like stolen property in the Catholic view of the Donatists. It must involve the right form (Trinitarian formula) and matter (water). But a valid baptism is not an efficacious baptism. A man may have the mark of baptism, but may be like a deserting soldier at war. Once you return to the Catholic Church, baptism has been returned to its true meaning because you were already marked. As noted by Brown, “these sacraments were like the tattoos which soldiers in the Imperial armies had branded on the back of their hands, so as to identity deserters: in the same way, Christ the Emperor of the Catholic Church was entitled to the ranks of His Church, those who had received His brand.”[15]

Cyprian, Martyrs and Donatism
As aforementioned, the Donatist Church held their martyrs in high regard, almost as heroes. But martyrdom, rebaptism and other factors existed long before the Donatists. The Donatists seemed to inherit much of Cyprianian Christianity, so that some see “the Donatists as representing the true strain of African theology, the authentic legacy of Tertullian and Cyprian… and… Catholicism [is described] as being ‘from an African point of view an import to Africa.”[16]

In fact, the prominent Donatist veneration for martyrs and confessors was around even during the time of Cyrpain in 250 A.D.[17] Also, the problem of rebaptism existed long before Cyprian; indeed, it existed since the first heretics were readmitted into the church.[18] This was because the heretic baptism was seen as invalid so they were validly baptized into the Catholic Church, such as the Monatist heretics. Cyprian had written to Pope Stephen about rebaptism and was not received well. However, rebaptism continued to be used in North Africa, and only in AD 314 at the Council of Arles did rebaptism become a factor that determined schismatics and orthodox.

Although both Catholicism and Donatism utilized Cyprian’s theology and were both inheriting the African heritage, there were a variety of events related to martyrdom, rebaptism and persecution during the time of both Cyprian and Tertullian that were closely related to Donatism, and indeed, one may say that Donatism does indeed represent the true strain of African theology, particularly as representing a local theology.

There are a variety of Donatist Martyr stories that reflect their views of the time. For example, the Acts of Saint Felix make clear the essence that being a faithful Christian is guarding the Scriptures. The Passion of Saints Maxima, Donatilla and Secundais are useful for Donatists because it is a story of youths bravely standing against imperial authority even when their religious elders and authorities failed to remain faithful to their ancestral religion According to the Acts of the Abitinian Martyrs, the author gives his purpose, a rather revealing Donatist outlook, “I write with a specific two-fold resolve: that we might prepare our very selves for martyrdom by imitating them and that, when we have committed to writing the battles and victories of their confessions, we may entrust to everlasting memory those whom we believe to live forever and reign with Christ.”[19]

Other Donatist literature shows their attitudes on Martyrdom. One very telling passage from the Sermon on the Passion of Saints Donatus and Advocatus Given on the 4th Day before the Ides of March says, “To be slain in the battle line as an adversary of the Gentiles, this is victory; to be killed by the enemy in our combat is triumph.”[21] Identifying the Catholics as Gentiles allowed the Donatists to identify themselves as the assembly of Israel. Evidently, some of these individuals were so opposed to the Catholic faith that they felt gloried in being slain by Catholics. But after Christianity was legalized and martyrdoms stopped after a while, the hallmark of Donatist literature became that of separation.

There were some Donatists who resisted this shift and tried to keep a focus on martyrdom. When Roman persecutions ceased in AD 321, rumors circulated of self-martyrdom. According to the Donatist Martyr Stories from Maureen Tilley, since “Donatists were frustrated in their attempts to achieve their martyr’s crowns… many of them simply committed suicide. Sometimes this was accomplished by attracting attention to themselves, claiming to be Donatists and goading others to murder them. Failing other attempts, they jumped from cliffs. Stories circulated of Donatist women vowed to celibacy who preferred self-precipitation to forced marriage.”[22]

Schisms within Donatism
There are certain groups within the Donatist movement that had different roles. For example, the Circumcellions, which is essentially the 4th century version of the 1st century Jewish Zealots. These individuals were a violent group who were honored as martyrs for the faith, and were sometimes known to be the bodyguards of Donatists bishops whereas other Donatist bishops completely dissociated themselves from the Circumcellions. The term used for these individuals – circum cellas - means “around the cells” or “around the shrines,” as these individuals had a devotion to the cult of the martyrs and would live as brigands around the shrine of martyrs.

This group had arisen in the AD 340s from migrant farm laborers, and would beat their victims with clubs (called “Israels”) and sometimes throw acid mixed with quicklime into the eyes of their victims to blind them, along with purifying Catholic basilicas with these coats of whitewash and destroying their altars.[23-24] There were some Donatist bishops who actually enlisted Circumcellions as bodyguards. However, other Bishops were a tad more wary and either kept them at arm’s length or completely renounced these individuals.[25]

The second group within the Donatist movement that is worth noting is the Maximianists. These were Donatists who separated themselves from mainstream Donatism. This sect was good news for the Catholics, because it showed how even within Donatism there were sects, and not a “pure” church as they claimed. By the time of Augustine in the 390s, there were a number of schisms within the Donatist movement, including the Rogatists.[26] But even within the Donatist Church, two Donatist authors – Parmenian and Tyconius – tried to bridge the gap between the sects and the larger church.[27] These schisms within Donatism were important for Augustine, however, because it showed that the so-called “pure” Church was not in fact as pure as it claimed.

Donatist Self-Understanding: Religion of the People
During the controversy insofar as it concerns St. Augustine, Scripture was certainly a major factor. But contrary to some claims, the Donatists were extremely Scripture-based.[28] For example, one of the often-quoted verses is Psalm 140:5, “Let not the oil of the sinner anoint my head.” This worked for both baptism and consecration in the Donatist polemic. 2nd Corinthians 6:14-16 was also a key verse, which they interpreted in such a way that they should not associate with traitors – so they did not associate with Catholics. The Donatists would also interpret their verses to apply to the present, so that verses that Catholics interpreted in light of eschatology were immediate for Donatists.

Also, in most Donatist literature, aside from “Jesus’ parables and statements on the world in [John’s gospel], one reads very little about Jesus, the Apostles, or early Christianity, even about the martyrs themselves. Instead one finds that the Donatists took as their typological models the people of Israel and their elders, especially under the aspect of their fidelity to the Law.”[29] In fact, they viewed their religion as “the Law,” and viewed their persecution as being similar to the Maccabees. These men had died for holy laws, and in their view, they did also.[30] Donatists used Cain and Abel and the struggle between Rehoboam son of Solomon and Jeroboam son of Nebat to relate the schism with the Catholics.[31] Donatists also used stories of persecution such as Eleazar and the Maccabee brothers (2nd Maccabees 6-7) and the three companions of Daniel (Daniel 3).

Regarding Donatist understanding in relation to society and culture, these individuals represented a local African theology which was expressed by “the religion of the economically underprivileged, the African ‘masses’ of the countryside.”[32] This can be seen in a variety of places, but one example is the Donatist spokesmen in Numidia. These men had been local, small-town lawyers and schoolmasters.”[33] We may note that St. Augustine represented more of the upper class whereas the Donatists were the every-day men, the laborers, workers, farmers, and others. This seemed to be a religion of the people, which certainly contributed to their self-understanding and self-identity.

A final consideration in regard to their self-understanding is the purity of the Church. The Donatists had viewed that their Church was like Noah’s ark – a place of refuge.[34] They believed that they were the sole source of holiness and salvation, and no sinner could be a part of their ranks.[35] St. Augustine came up against this notion, claiming that they were all sinners. Regardless of opposition, aforementioned concepts of persecution, separation, martyrdom, relation to Israel and their identity as the lower class of North Africa all contributed to their self-understanding.

Other Augustinian Considerations
Some have insinuated that Monica was actually a Donatist, hence why St. Augustine came down hard on them. They find evidence in her faith as a Donatist in her drinking at the tomb on Sunday. But there is not even the slightest hint of this in his writings – Augustine was very confessional when it came to his life, so we may presume that had Monica ever been Donatist, we would know.[36] This seems to have little to no historical evidence, but is pertinent to its relation to Augustine. Regardless, Donatism had been an influence prior to his birth. To be sure, by the time St. Augustine dealt with the Donatists, the sect had been around in North Africa for about eighty years already.

How Augustine and how the Donatists viewed the Church is another consideration. The Donatists held that the Catholic Church was clearly not pure, but that they were instead. For them, Catholics were the “church of Judas,” which was essentially a parody of the true Christianity. Indeed, they held that “Catholic baptism, far from cleansing one of sin, only polluted one’s soul with new layers of filth.”[37] Catholics were therefore considered the Church of Judas because they betrayed Church as traditores.  They agreed with Cyprian, who noted that there is only one true Church, and no salvation outside of the church – no one was saved outside of Noah’s ark, in other words. Cyprian also used rebaptism. For these and other reasons, the Donatists chose to use him, although the Catholics did as well. Augustine held that the Catholic Church was initiated by Jesus Christ, carried out by the apostles, who then appointed bishops who continue to the present day. This chain of authority therefore came from Jesus himself, and Augustine felt that it was non-negotiable.

Just as he did with the Pelagians and the Manicheans, St. Augustine came down hard on the Donatists. His writings therefore ought to be considered as well. One-fifth of his entire writings are devoted to the Donatist controversy.[38] The first of these anti-Donatist works was the Psalmus contra partem Donati, more than likely written when he was still a priest around AD 393-396. The poem had about 300 lines and was in the form of an alphabetical psalm which would be easy for people to remember. He had begun his campaign against the Donatists by writing this popular song “which included tidbits of gossip and was set to the melody of a popular profane song. The purpose of the song was to instruct the laity so they could disprove the Donatist historical arguments and refute their theological principles.”[39]

For the two decades following this, the Saint attempted to come to a peaceful settlement with the Donatists and wished for them to rejoin the Catholic Church. He wrote multiple other works, such as the Contra epistolam Parmeniani III (AD 400), De Baptismo contra Donatistas VII (AD 400), and part of his Contra litteras Petiliani Donatistae (AD 400-402). Another major anti-Donatist work is the Ad Catholicos epistola de unitate ecclesiae, but the question of authenticity has been called, and whether or not the work is actually Augustinian is still debated among some. It is also worth noting that the bulk of his material concerning the early history of Donatism – by his own admission – comes from the works of Optatus, another Catholic who wrote against the Donatists.[40]

St. Augustine’s view of religious coercion is yet another consideration. Throughout his life, Augustine has a change of heart. His famous saying “love, and do what you will,” bears this out, and we see the idea of religious coercion borne out in his letter to Boniface – “compel them to come in.” The saint once objected to the idea of coercing and forcing people to come into the Church, but following the Edict of Unity in AD 405, he revised his position. He held that this government-imposed way of becoming religious can actually be the foundation to true conversion. Perhaps part of what he meant by this is that if we as individuals come face to face in an encounter with the Gospel, we are then presented with the opportunity for radical transformation. Augustine notes that there are a variety of reasons why some of the Donatists have trouble turning back to Catholicism – fear of offending their families, pure laziness, the unwillingness to rejoin a structure they disagreed with and felt was impure, and so forth. But for our saint, it seems that these ideas being forced on others meant that they could encounter the true Gospel.

For this reason, he declared that we ought to “compel them to come in,” a line derived from one of Christ’s parables. However, although we ought to compel them to come in, we also ought to do this with love (harkening back to the triadic Pauline formula of faith, hope and love also seen in Augustine’s Enchridion). “Why,” he argues, “should the Church not compel her lost sons to return if the lost sons have compelled others to be lost?” In other words, if the Donatists have led others astray – should they not be brought back into the Church, even those who have led others astray? But we are to do this in love – “Love, and do what you will.” But Augustine felt that the disciplina was what the Donatists needed to be brought back into the Church. He felt that this religious coercion by the Edict of Unity was a controlled catastrophe imposed by God as a form of corrective punishment to bring the Donatists back into union with the Catholic Church.

But Augustine’s interactions with and views on Donatists was not all negative, to be sure. Brown records one account worth highlighting: "On one occasion, however, in 397, Augustine and Alypius were able to visit Fortunius, the elderly Donatist bishop of Thubursicum Bure. They were welcomed by an excellent crowd, and the two rivals parted on good terms; and Augustine admitted that, 'in my own opinion, you will have difficulty in finding among your bishops another whose judgment and feelings are so sound as we have seen that old man's to be."[41]

This particular passage illuminates the softer side of Augustine’s approach to the Donatists, and vice versa. Interestingly, by the end of his life, St. Augustine described Donatism as being primarily a schism that had resulted from the double election at Carthage. For him, the only real theological controversy was that they rebaptized Catholics who had already been baptized.[42]

Conclusion
On the surface, the Donatist controversy may seem like little-to-no differences. According to Balk, “The Donatist bishops quoted the same Bible as [Augustine], they professed the same creed, [and] they celebrated an identical liturgy.”[43] There were, however, differences and issues in this controversy. As previously discussed, matters of purity, unity, sacramental validity, martyrdom, violence, and other considerations all played into this controversy, and both sides argued ardently for their faith. Certainly, both Catholicism and Donatism had a positive influence – they were both responsible for bringing about the end of paganism in Africa.[44]

Although the movement had the most momentum within the first century, it did indeed last a tad longer. Some may say that we can see elements of this schismatic movement in the Protestants, in Anabaptists, and a variety of other modern Christian denominations. We may also see the local theology aspect of Donatism as being present throughout the world even today. Various areas across the world have their own world. These local theologies are formulated to meet the needs of the people, just as the Donatist movement sprang out of not only Cyprian’s theology but as a response to the events and needs of the North African community at the time.

Martyrdom of Christians continues down to the present day. The legalization of Christianity in AD 313 and the edict in AD 381 making Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire may have nearly eliminated persecution in the Roman Empire (at least, for Catholics) but persecution has continued, and people respond accordingly. Jesus himself can be seen as a martyr, and this was the ideal that any Donatist strived for. St. Augustine played a large role in the history of the Donatist movement, though it is important to note that their history is a tad more expansive than simply their interaction with Augustine. To be fair, Augustine’s view of the Catholic Church was held and has been held for centuries: it is the church given by Christ, handed on to the apostles and then the bishops, so that the Christianity of the 1st century was Catholicism. This is echoed in the controversy of the Donatist movement, and some of the issues regarding sacraments, unity, purity and martyrdom are still highly relevant today.

Endnotes
[1] “…in 391 Catholics were a local minority, not only in Hippo, but also across the provinces of Numidia and the Mauretanians. For much of the fourth century, the majority of North Africa was Donatist” (Harmless “Against the Donatists” 232).
[2] Tilley, Maureen A. The Bible in Christian North Africa: The Donatist World. 1st ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997. 11. Print.
[3] Ibid., 19.
[4] Ibid., 51.
[5] Tilley, Maureen A. Donatist Martyr Stories: The Church in Conflict in Roman North Africa. 1st ed. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1996. XI. Print.
[6] Tilley, The Bible in Christian North Africa. 10.
[7] Bright, Pamela. "Donatist Bishops." Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia . Grand Rapids: 1999.
[8] Brown, Peter. Augustine of Hippo: A Biography. Revised.University of California Press. 2000. 237. Print.
[9] Balk, Catherine Batten. "Augustine And The Donatists." Chicago Theological Seminary Register 86.3 (1996): 19. ATLA Religion Database with ATLA Serials. Web. 10 Mar. 2014.
[10] Brown 331.
[11] Bright, Pamela. "Donatist Bishops." Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia . Grand Rapids: 1999. 282.
[12] Balk. Augustine and Donatists. 20.
[13] This is Latin for “from the work of the one doing the working.” In other words, the validity of the sacrament depends upon the worthiness and holiness of the priest or bishop.
[14] This is Latin for the work having been worked. In other words, the validity of the sacrament depends upon the holiness of God.
[15] Brown 219.
[16] Bonner 236.
[17] Tilley, Notion of Schism. 14.
[18] Ibid., 15.
[19] Tilley, Donatist Martyr Stories. 8-11.
[20] Ibid., 28.
[21] Ibid., 60.
[22] Ibid., 77.
[23] Balk 19.
[24] Brown 214.
[25] Harmless, William.Augustine in His Own Words. 1st ed. The Catholic University of America Press, 2010. 234. Print.
[26] Tilley. Christians in North Africa. 95-96.
[27] Ibid., 133-135.
[28] Ibid., 12.
[29] Ibid., 91
[30] Balk 17
[31] North Africa 152.
[32] Bonner, Gerald (1971).Quid Imperatori Cum Ecclesia? St. Augustine on History and Society. Augustinian Studies 2: 237.
[33] Brown 137.
[34] Harmless 220.
[35] Brown 208.
[36] Haden, Fr. Kyle. Personal Interview. 03 Apr 2014.
[37] Brown 232.
[38] Harmless 235.
[39] Balk 18-19.
[40] Tilley. Christians in North Africa. 100.
[41] Brown 226.
[42] Markus, Robert A. "Donatus, Donatism." Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia. 286. Grand Rapids: 1999.
[43] Balk 16.
[44] Ibid., 14.

Bibliography
Balk, Catherine Batten. "Augustine And The Donatists." Chicago Theological Seminary Register 86.3 (1996): 12-24. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials.Web. 10 Mar. 2014.

Bonner, Gerald (1971).Quid Imperatori Cum Ecclesia? St. Augustine on History and Society. Augustinian Studies 2:231-251.

Bright, Pamela. "Donatist Bishops." Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia . Grand Rapids: 1999.

Brown, Peter. Augustine of Hippo: A Biography. Revised.University of California Press. 2000. Print.

Cary, Philip. Augustine: Philosopher and Saint. 1st ed. Chantilly: The Teaching Company, 1997. 27-28, 42-43. Print.

Chapman, John. "Donatists." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 25 Mar. 2014.

Haden, Fr. Kyle. Personal Interview. 03 Apr 2014.

Harmless, William.Augustine in His Own Words. 1st ed. The Catholic University of America Press, 2010.232-273. Print.

Keleher, James P. Saint Augustine's Notion of Schism in the Donatist Controversy. 1st ed. Mundelein, IL: Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary, 1961. Print.

Markus, Robert A. "Donatus, Donatism." Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids: 1999.

Tilley, Maureen A. Donatist Martyr Stories: The Church in Conflict in Roman North Africa. 1st ed. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1996. Print.

Tilley, Maureen A. The Bible in Christian North Africa: The Donatist World. 1st ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997. Print.

Tilley, Maureen A. "Donatists post conlationem, Contra." Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia . Grand Rapids: 1999.

Thursday, April 10

Considerations on Inculturation and Local Theology

Inculturation is one of the issues facing the modern church – Occidental (Western) thinking has been imported and imposed onto other cultures, leading to inculturation (and in many cases, homogenization). There is a shift toward a world church and away from a mainly Western way of thinking theologically. In other words, we are attempting to be diverse, yet also unified. In a Protestant church, this kind of diversity could probably lead to the formation of another denomination. In the Catholic Church, this diversity is accepted, appreciated and upheld. This is why we have local theology - the dynamic interaction between gospel, church and culture. This itself has problems, however.

It is very difficult to find a community that does not have prior theological development. As these communities already have prior theological developments, they therefore already have a sort of local theology in place. Certainly, there seems to be those who prize their differences, accept part of their former local theology yet also help to devise a new local theology. But there are also many communities across the planet that have had established traditions for hundreds of years. 

For example, there is a community allegedly planted by St. Thomas the disciple in the 1st century in India. Early Thomean literature, such as the Acts of Thomas, develops apocryphal tales of the saint’s time there and the effects of the gospel within that culture. In the Acts of Thomas (likely written between AD 150-200), the disciple is called by God to go and preach to India in a dream, and much like the ancient prophet Jonah, he declined. Yet God had him taken to India by a merchant having been sold as a slave by a disguised Jesus, where he then proceeds to bring the gospel into the Indian culture.

Regardless of the historicity or implications of this account, the tale demonstrates that we have been inculturating others from the start. Local theology and tradition had a clash at the Council of Jerusalem in AD 49-51, where Jewish traditions were debated. Other councils have addressed such traditions and local theologies (sometimes heretical theologies, such as the Arian theology). On a related note, there is one point which has been continually occupied one’s thinking: how local is local theology? Should we have a local theology for every town? For every county? For every state? For every country? 

Certainly, Western theology has dominated thinking for centuries, and in many cases it will likely continue to stay a mainstream theology. But what about those who live in small villages in Africa? And as we continue to not only expand across the world but now across the solar system, do we then decide to have cosmic theologies? Should the astronauts on the International Space Station have a particular theology? If and/or when the NASA moon base is developed, should the individuals who live there have their own theology? There are certainly a lot of questions associated with local theology. But perhaps the main thing binding all Christians is the central element: Christ. Our views of Christ may change, but Christ himself does not. 

Augustine's Enchridion: Faith, Hope and Charity

St. Augustine wrote his Enchiridion in response to a request by a friend of his. This friend, Lawrence, requested that the Bishop would write a handbook on Christianity. He therefore set out to write on the three Christian cardinal virtues of faith, hope and love. One would note, however, that the majority of the work deals with faith, whereas hope and love are given a few pages at best. The saint goes through what he believes to be the major Christian doctrines and teachings, and deals with subjects such as baptism (including touching upon infant baptism), the role of angels in their interaction with mankind, the salvific nature of Christ's act, the nature of original sin and a variety of other important teachings. Naturally, then, the question would arise of what sort of theology he is trying to advance in this little Christian handbook, and just how convincing his theological vision may be.

Prior to a further exploration into these things, it is pertinent to develop a Biblical approach to the three cardinal virtues of faith, hope and love. The first epistle to the Thessalonians helps greatly in this investigation. 1st 
Thessalonians 1:3 and 5:8 has the triadic Pauline formula, "faith, love and hope." This formulation is used in other Pauline texts (1st Corinthians 13:13; cf. Colossians 1:4-5; 2nd Timothy 2:22), and is a clear focus in the New Testament canon. According to 1st Thessalonians, when Timothy reports back to St. Paul about the church, he speaks of their "faith and love" (3:6), implying that hope is lacking. Paul seeks to "supply what is lacking" (3:10) and restore and provide hope in the Thessalonian community, so 1st Thessalonians was written in order to console the brothers and sisters in that community and provide them with hope. With this hope, they are urged to bear in mind that they are different than the pagans and so too ought to act different – all the while expecting the sudden and imminent "day of the Lord" to come "like a thief in the night." This is important because the Christian theological vision deals with a number of different factors in light of faith, hope and love.

Indeed, in hope we are to await the
 parousia of our Lord. In love, we are to care for other human beings and for the world around us. In faith, we are to trust in God and believe. What St. Augustine does in this handbook is expand on these themes. He starts off seeing evil as a perversion of good, which therefore informs the remainder of this work. If evil is a perversion of good, this means that even those things which are evil also have good in them. This logically flows into discussion of angelic nature, as Lucifer began his existence as a very good angel yet in his pride, ended up perverting what was good in him and became what was evil. This in turn led to his possession of (or disguise of) a serpent in Eden (Satan is identified as the serpent in Revelation 12:9, 21:2). As he had been the guardian of Eden (interpretation of Ezekiel 28:12-17), he knew the garden well. He used this to tempt Adam and Eve to fall to sin, thereby corrupting all of the Creator's perfect creation. This, Augustine argues, is the beginning of original sin. When Cain and Abel were born, they already had original sin.

The reasoning behind original sin – in the mind of St. Augustine – is that each of us were in the body of Adam when he committed this first sin, and therefore were fallen with him (a similar line of thinking is seen in 
Hebrews 7:9-10 in regard to Levi being in the body of his ancestor Abraham). As we are born with this original sin, according to the saint, this is also why we have infant baptism. If baptism is intended to cleanse us of sin (in this case, original sin), he believed this was good enough justification for such an act. He also mentions the soul of a person existing even as a fetus, thus seemingly declaring that even an unborn fetus has original sin (the value of an unborn child is also seen in other early Christian writings, such as the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didascalia and others). The baptism of infants, however, continues to be a theological controversy today. As such, we may then ask how convincing his theological vision is through the example of his support of infant baptism. There are a number of Biblical and historical considerations on this controversy.

For example, in ancient Israel, infants were initiated into the covenant through circumcision – in his letter to the 
Colossians, St. Paul compares this to baptism. St. Augustine's concept of original sin along with the infant mortality rate led to individuals in the Western church desiring to have their newborns baptized immediately – which is a practice that has been carried down to the present day. The practice of infant baptism is also mentioned by Hippolytus in the early 200s, so it was a practice of the church at least by that point. The major point that is often made by supporters of infant baptism is conveyed by quoting Mark 10:15, which declares that one must receive the Kingdom of God "as a little child" (or "like a little child," the rendering of which is not as strong as "as" for the argument). Some also point out that in the Acts of the Apostles, we read about entire households being baptized. Logically, we ask – would this not include infants? We may wonder, however, if these households had infants at the time, so this is mainly speculation. There are also a number of other considerations, and also arguments against infant baptism, but the approach taken by St. Augustine can be said in some ways to be rooted in Scripture and tradition, and in that sense is therefore not based solely on opinion.

One may consider Augustine's theological vision to be entirely convincing as a Christian handbook, given not only his argumentation but also his sources. He uses the Lord's Prayer and early creeds to back up his Christian theological thinking. He also goes through Christology point by point, arguing for both the humanity and the deity of Christ, the parenthood of Jesus – from Mary through the Holy Spirit, noting that the Holy Spirit is not the Father, discussion the virgin birth and other key points. In this short handbook of sorts, St. Augustine also deals with the future judgment of souls, the resurrection, the forgiveness of sins, the role of the Holy Spirit in the Church, and a variety of other key concepts.  As such, he therefore covers a wide range of Christian theological teachings, and by including creeds and the commonly used Lord's Prayer, he engages in the established Christian viewpoint. One would find his theological vision convincing.

One point of contention – or complaint, rather – is the lack of time devoted to love. In chapter thirteen of 
1st Corinthians, St. Paul writes that "now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" (verse 13). If the greatest of these is love, why is most of the time devoted to faith? We do not find a statement in the canonical New Testament declaring that "God is faith" or "God is hope," but we do read in1st John 1:8 that "...God is love." God can and does provide hope and can facilitate faith, but God is love. Throughout Scripture and tradition, we are commanded to love other human beings. If God took on flesh, this suggests a relatability and commonality shared between us and God. If God exists as a Trinity, He exists in community. As humans we are created to be social beings, so that we too are encouraged to exist in community. To truly engage in and participate in this community, we must do so through love and charity. Now, St. Augustine is not lax to point these things out, but one would note that he spends less time on love and more time on faith. Perhaps, though, the main reason for this is that we need to have a clear understanding of faith, who we have faith in, why we have and need faith, how faith works, how this faith provides us with hope, and then how we can use this faith to give and receive true love between ourselves and others, ending with charity toward the human person.

Overall, St. Augustine's theological vision can be considered convincing as it not only reflected the traditional and established Christian understanding of the time, but is also primarily the Christian theological views that are still in place today. We may have a different shift and a different focus in Christianity today in a post-Vatican II world, particularly when it comes to matters of liberation theology, global and local (or contextual) theology, the preferential option for the poor and a variety of other considerations, but when it concerns Occidental Christian thinking, St. Augustine is spot on. He therefore portrays a Western Christian point of view and relates his doctrine of salvation, grace, the role of the Trinity, the nature of good and evil, his view of baptism and his doctrine of original sin through this lens. Writing toward the end of his life, this is a nice summary of what the saint has not only been searching for throughout his life, but also shows how far he has come. This short handbook may not necessarily be the definitive handbook on Western Christian theology, but it is certainly one of the classics of Christian writing.