Martin Luther said during the Diet of Worms:

Unless I am convinced by scripture and plain reason — I cannot accept the authority of popes and councils because they have contradicted each other — my conscience is captive to the Word of God.

Is this the innovative ravings of a mad-man? No. He might have been mad, but he was hardly innovative. Augustine covered all the same points in Chapter Three of his second book On Baptism, Against the Donatists:

But who can fail to be aware that the sacred canon of Scripture, both of the Old and New Testament, is confined within its own limits, and that it stands so absolutely in a superior position to all later letters of the bishops, that about it we can hold no manner of doubt or disputation whether what is confessedly contained in it is right and true;

Hmmm, that does not sound like Augustine thought there was an authoritative oral tradition, Magesterium of the Church, or anything else. But, just in case you think we are taking Augustine out of context he continues:

but that all the letters of bishops which have been written, or are being written, since the closing of the canon, are liable to be refuted if there be anything contained in them which strays from the truth

Anything written since the closing of the Canon, according to Augustine, is liable to be refuted. How is this consistent with modern Roman Catholic Dogma that the Ecunemical Councils and the Pope can make statements that, like Scripture, are inerrant? Augustine continues:

either by the discourse of some one who happens to be wiser in the matter than themselves, or by the weightier authority and more learned experience of other bishops, by the authority of Councils; and further, that the Councils themselves, which are held in the several districts and provinces, must yield, beyond all possibility of doubt, to the authority of plenary Councils which are formed for the whole Christian world; and that even of the plenary Councils, the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them…

What?!?! Ecumenical Councils can err and be corrected by ones that follow them?

“Objection,” says Mr. Catholic. “He said ‘plenary,’ not ‘ecumenical.'”

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The ecumenical councils or synods of the Universal Church are called plenary council[s] by St. Augustine (C. illa, xi, Dist. 12), as they form a compete representation of the entire Church.

Wow, Augustine must really hold a much higher view of Scripture than do many modern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, who compare Scripture’s authority as equivalent to Councils, Bishops, and Apostolic Tradition reported second hand by them.

Libosus also of Vaga says: “The Lord says in the gospel, ‘I am the Truth.’ John 14:6 He does not say, ‘I am custom.’ Therefore, when the truth is made manifest, custom must give way to truth.” Clearly, no one could doubt that custom must give way to truth where it is made manifest (Augustine, On Baptism, Against the Donatists Book III, Chapter 6).

So, do I agree with Augustine on everything? No. But, being that his high view of Scripture and relatively low view of Church authority was not considered heretical in his day, I would say that the Reformed Protestant view of Scripture and tradition accords much better with early church thought than both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

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