More Foolishness from Certain Protestant Apologists

February 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog



Something that has been repeatedly impressed upon me over the past 22 years that I’ve been engaged in the work of Catholic apologetics is the fact that many of today’s Protestant pop-apologists are generally ignorant of patristics. Typically, they demonstrate at best a superficial familiarity with the writings of the early Church Fathers. Some don’t seem to have ever done any real reading of the Fathers, apart from some cherry-picked quotes assembled in a Protestant apologetics book. I was just directed to yet another example of this problem.


On a certain Protestant blog a certain Protestant writer has been doing damage-control over a minor (actually, insignificant) instance of another Protestant’s misquotion of a statement by St. Augustine. Apparently, this error, which was probably inadvertent, was pointed out by a Catholic blogger. But in his effort to defend the misquote mistake and push back at the Catholic critic, this Protestant committed a mistake of his own when he declared that St. Augustine didn’t really believe in the continued bodily presence of Jesus Christ (referring to Christ’s words in Matthew 26:11) after his death and Resurrection, his implication being that St. Augustine did not believe in the Real Presence of Christ — Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity — in the way that the Catholic Church teaches that doctrine (c.f., CCC 1374 and 1413).

I note with some amusement that this Protestant carefully avoided mentioning the name of the Catholic being responded to, referring to him only as “a lay apologist for Catholism” (this, was not a reference to me, by the way). It’s amusing because this is the same group of Protestants who complained (and still do complain) that one of them was not identified by name in an article written by a bona-fide Catholic patristics scholar, critiquing one of that Protestant’s more lame attempts at interpreting the Early Church. (The article appeared some years ago in Envoy  Magazine, the Catholic journal I publish).

I can only chuckle at the double standards so visible among those particular Protestants. But I’ve come to expect this kind of thing from that crowd. And since that blogger deemed it better not to mention any names, I shall follow suit here.

To provide a quick corrective for erroneous claims and implications about St. Augustine’s theology of the Eucharist, especially those which allege that he denied what the Catholic Church teaches about the Real Presence (and let’s not forget that Augustine was a Catholic bishop, after all), here’s a link to a brief but representative collection of quotes from St. Augustine on this subject. There are others, of course, but hopefully these are sufficient to (yet again) refute the clumsy attempts these Protestant pop-apologists make to portray the early Church Fathers as teaching things they really didn’t teach.

To get you started, here are three samples from that brief collection of quotes linked to above:

St. Augustine on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist

Sermons, [227] A.D. 391-430:

… I promised you, who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the Sacrament of the Lord’s Table, which you now look upon and of which you last night were made participants. You ought to know what you have received, what you are going to receive, and what you ought to receive daily. That Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ. Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend His Body and Blood, which He poured out for us unto the forgiveness of sins. If you receive worthily, you are what you have received.

Sermons, [272] A.D. 391-430:
What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the Body of Christ and the chalice the Blood of Christ. … How is the bread His Body? And the chalice, or what is in the chalice, how is it His Blood? Those elements, brethren, are called Sacraments, because in them one thing is seen, but another is understood. What is seen is the corporeal species, but what is understood is the spiritual fruit. … `You, however, are the Body of Christ and His members.’ If, therefore, you are the Body of Christ and His members, your mystery is presented at the table of the Lord, you receive your mystery. To that which you are, you answer: `Amen'; and by answering, you subscribe to it. For you hear: `The Body of Christ!’ and you answer: `Amen!’ Be a member of Christ’s Body, so that your `Amen’ may be the truth.

Explanations on the Psalms, [33, 1, 10] A.D. 392-418:
`And he was carried in his own hands [3 Kgs 20:13 LXX? corrupted].’ But, brethren, how is it possible for a man to do this? Who can understand it? Who is it that is carried in his own hands? A man can be carried in the hands of another; but no one can be carried in his own hands. How this should be understood literally of David, we cannot discover; but we can discover how it was meant of Christ. For Christ was carried in His own hands, when, referring to His own Body, He said: `This is My Body.’ For He carried that Body in His hands.

For additional popular-level rescources on the patristic testimony about the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, see also herehere, here, here, and here.

It would be a good thing, too, to read Pope Benedict XVI’s book The Church Fathers: From Clement of Rome to Augustine.  And if you desire further scholarly discussion of the patristic teaching on this doctrine, be sure to read Fr. James T. O’Connor’s The Hidden Manna, which includes a helpful chapter explaining the deficiencies of the major Reformation theories on the Eucharist, including Luther’s, Calvin’s, and Zwingli’s. See also Fr. Louis Bouyer’s Eucharist. For the Latin texts of much of Augustine’s work go here, and a large collection of his works in English is found here.
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