Augustine in his arguments against the Donatists signed onto a letter that makes a claim that should set fear in all of those who are considered outside the pale of Catholicism: “Whoever, then, separates himself from this Catholic Church, no matter how praiseworthy he believes his life to be, will not have life because of this sin alone of being separated from the unity of Christ. Rather, the anger of God will remain over him” (Letter 141, Chapter 4, page 292 on Google Books).
If Augustine is the authority, then what he says settles the matter. Yet, Augustine wrote to Jerome pertaining to the authority of written works:
I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error…As to all other writings, in reading them, however great the superiority of the authors to myself in sanctity and learning, I do not accept their teaching as true on the mere ground of the opinion being held by them; but only because they have succeeded in convincing my judgment of its truth either by means of these canonical writings themselves, or by arguments addressed to my reason. I believe, my brother, that this is your own opinion as well as mine. I do not need to say that I do not suppose you to wish your books to be read like those of prophets or of apostles, concerning which it would be wrong to doubt that they are free from error (Letter 82, Chapter 1, Paragraph 3).
So, here Augustine would concede he could be wrong and be in error, because anyone can be other than the Apostles in the Scripture. “I do not accept their teaching as true” unless “they have succeeded in convincing my judgment of its truth either by means of these canonical writings themselves, or by arguments addressed to my reason.”
Therefore my brother Augustine, I am going to quibble with you based upon your own standards. I will test your Scriptures and your logic:
I therefore bring forward from the Gospel clear proofs, by which I propose, with God’s help, to prove how…every schismatic and heretic, the wound which caused his separation should be cured by the medicine of the Church (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Book 1, Chapter 7).
Let’s see what you bring from the Gospel to prove your points from chapters one through six!
It is indeed true that the Lord says in the gospel, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathers not with me scatters abroad.” Matthew 12:30 Yet when the disciples had brought word to Him that they had seen one casting out devils in His name, and had forbidden him, because he followed not them, He said, “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us. For there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.” Mark 9:39. If, indeed, there were nothing in this man requiring correction, then any one would be safe who, setting himself outside the communion of the Church, severing himself from all Christian brotherhood, should gather in Christ’s name; and so there would be no truth in this, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathers not with me scatters abroad.”…[H]e was to be blamed for separating himself from the Church, whereby his gathering became a scattering.
Let me sum up Augustine’s conclusion based upon Matt 12:30 and Mark 9:38-39. The man who is casting out devils in Christ’s name does indeed require correction, because otherwise this would invalidate Matt 12:30. The logical ramifications that in the case this man does not warrant correction is by Augustine’s admission that “any one would be safe who, setting himself outside the communion of the Church…should gather in Christ’s name.”
Obviously, Protestants would be nominally outside the communion of the Church Augustine would recognize. My brother Augustine, please consider the following points in defense of my Protestant brothers:
First, by invoking Matt 12:30 you cut your own argument at the knees on two points:
1. Jesus says that “He who is not with me is against me” as a response to Pharisees who accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan (Matt 12:24). Jesus is not talking about people who cast out demons in his name as being against him and scattering abroad, He is specifically talking about those who directly oppose Him in the casting out of demons.
2. The context in which Matt 12:30 belongs to, as we just pointed out, is in the midst of the discussion of Jesus Christ casting out demons. Christ’s defense, that He does not cast out demons by the power of Satan, is that “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand” (Matt 12:25-26)”?
Christ’s point is that those with demons cannot cast out demons, because Satan would be opposing himself in that case. Therefore, the man in Mark 9:38 casting out demons is obviously not in needing of correction, because “the tree is known by its fruit” (Matt 12:33). We can see by his fruit, that by casting out demons he is not worthy of correction.
Second, lets keep in mind the context of Mark 9:39.
When Jesus was in Capernaum Jesus picked up a child and taught, “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me” (Mark 9:37). Immediately John responds, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us” (Mark 9:38). Does John anticipate his own condemnation because he did not receive this little child, but rather scolded him?
Jesus responds, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me” (Mark 9:39). Just in case this was not clear to John that he was being corrected, Christ immediately says afterward, “For he who is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40).
My brother Augustine, to whom was Christ speaking to when he said, “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward” (Mark 9:41)? It was obviously to his disciples. But can’t you see that instead of impeding the man casting out devils, they should have assisted him, even by doing something as simple as giving him water?
Bear with me my brother, but don’t you see how Christ is being gentile in his correction to his disciple before issuing a stern warning: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea” (Mark 9:42). So, let’s not cause Christian brothers to stumble because in our view they are “not following us,” for the punishment is more than any of us can bear!
Third, consider the possibility that those apart from Christ can only do counterfeit miracles.
The Scripture is less clear on this, but if the man who you deem worthy of rebuke was really casting out demons, then this means that he was demons by the power of Satan. Well, not only can a house divided against itself not stand, demons cannot perform miracles. Paul writes that the antichrist will come “with all power and signs and false wonders” (2 Thes 2:9). If Satan does not commend true wonders to his antichrist, then on what grounds do we believe that any miracle can be performed at all except by the power of God?
Didn’t Elisha on Mount Carmel prove the reality of our God by showing that He can perform the miraculous, while the prophets of Baal could not? Didn’t Moses show up the Egyptian magicians with true miracles, impossible to replicate by deceptive magic arts? Didn’t the Jews who approved of Jesus commend His miracle by saying, “A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind” (John 10:21)?
What would you say, my brother, that brother Thomas Aquinas understood the same, commenting that “the demons cannot work miracles” (Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 114, Article 4)?
Therefore, if you insist on considering this man a schismatic working against Christ, I ask you as the Jews who supported Christ against the Pharisees asked, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs” (John 9:16)?
With these points, my brother Augustine, I ask you to reconsider your first argument against the Donatists. The Scriptures you invoke disprove your contention and by your own admission then those of us that honor Christ’s name may “be safe” though “setting himself outside the communion of the Church” that we “should gather in Christ’s name.”
As a side note, do not take this article as a promotion of Donatism. The issue I am quibbling with is Augustine’s assertion that those outside the pale of visible Catholicism are outside of salvation. As shown above, Augustine’s use of Scripture is improper and so his conclusions are invalid.