Did Augustine teach the modern Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation?

A Roman Catholic writer wrote in criticism of Protestants wrote:

Calvinists reject every single one of these beliefs of Augustine.  If anyone was to preach all these beliefs in a Protestant church, he would immediately be branded an arch heretic–yet, Protestants quote Augustine and consider him a hero.  A heretic is a hero?  At one of his ministry conferences, Dr. Sproul made the statement that (paraphrased), “Anyone who believes in Purgatory knows nothing of the Gospel.”  The implications of Dr. Sproul’s extreme statement is that St. Augustine was not even a Christian.  It seems somewhat hypocritical and logically contradictory to me for people like Dr. Sproul to count Augustine as “one of their own”, yet in other places to make statements that would exclude him from even being a Christian.  It is time for Calvinists to be honest and admit that they are really not Augustinian, but that they follow Calvin alone.

We already covered elsewhere that Augustine voiced possible doubts about purgatory (contrary what is claimed above). So, are we to trust his claim that Augustine taught that the mass was literally a sacrifice? He quotes the following:

In the sacrament he is immolated for the people not only on every Easter Solemnity but on every day; and a man would not be lying if, when asked, he were to reply that Christ is being immolated. For if sacraments had not a likeness to those things of which they are sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all; and they generally take the names of those same things by reason of this likeness (Letters 98:9 [A.D. 412]).

However, when we read the section in its full context, this is what Augustine really says:

In like manner, on Easter Sunday, we say, This day the Lord rose from the dead, although so many years have passed since His resurrection. But no one is so foolish as to accuse us of falsehood when we use these phrases, for this reason, that we give such names to these days on the ground of a likeness between them and the days on which the events referred to actually transpired, the day being called the day of that event, although it is not the very day on which the event took place, but one corresponding to it by the revolution of the same time of the year, and the event itself being said to take place on that day, because, although it really took place long before, it is on that day sacramentally celebrated. Was not Christ once for all offered up in His own person as a sacrifice? And yet, is He not likewise offered up in the sacrament as a sacrifice, not only in the special solemnities of Easter, but also daily among our congregations; so that the man who, being questioned, answers that He is offered as a sacrifice in that ordinance, declares what is strictly true? (Letters 98:9).

The chapter continues to discuss the matter of baptismal regeneration, which is beyond our purposes, here. However, the clear thrust of what Augustine was getting at is that the sacrament on some level is the flesh and blood of Christ that was sacrificed on the cross, but in his words, “although it really” is not the same exact body and blood on the cross sacrificed hundreds of years before that is now ascended into heaven.

As summed up by R.C. Sproul:

John Calvin insisted, as did the Anglicans, on the true presence of Christ, but he also insisted that the presence of Christ is through His divine nature. His human nature is no longer present with us. It is in heaven at the right hand of God. We still are able to commune with the human nature of Christ by means of our communion with the divine nature, which does indeed remain united to the human nature. But that human nature remains localized in heaven.

Contrary to what the Catholic writer would have you believe, Calvin’s view is in line with Augustine’s (and thereby avoids Christological heresy in which “His human nature” would “be present at more than one place at the same time” which “would require the deification of His body, which the Reformers saw as a thinly veiled Monophysite heresy.”) Augustine makes a clear differentiation between the “once for all” sacrifice and that literally found in the Lord’s Supper, without reference to Aristotelian categories such as accidens and essence.

So, while a Christian may faithfully hold to the Real Presence of Christ in the elements, he is not compelled to believe the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on the subject is historical, or even correct.

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