An Unexpected Defense of Christian Faith

Christian apologists today typically gather evidences from history or science to make their case. One fourth-century apologist found his evidence in a very different place.

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An Apologetic of Liturgies and Lives

The argument in the opening chapters of On True Religion is simply this: there is a unity between what Christians teach, how Christians live, and how Christians worship that cannot be explained unless the Christian religion is true. According to Augustine, the congruity of theology, habits, and liturgy provides evidence for the validity of the Christian faith.

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Self-Denial for Everyone, Not Just Philosophers

The liturgy and the lifestyle of the Christian community gave ordinary people the opportunity to practice extraordinary self-denial. The self-denial of Christians rose to a level that — according to Augustine — only philosophers had previously pursued. But no more. These patterns of life were now happening among ordinary people

What Did Augustine Mean When He Wrote “True Religion” ?

This was Augustine’s evidence that Christianity and Christianity alone was a “true religion.”

What Is “True”?

Today, “true” typically has to do with testimony that accurately describes an actual event or state of affairs. But that’s not at all what the Latin adjective vera (“true”) meant in the late fourth century. The meaning of vera in Christian and non-Christian writers of this era tended more toward “something that actually does what it says it will do.”

What Is “Religion”?

“Religion” in Augustine’s context differed from the function of the term today even more than the meaning of “true”! Religio (“religion”) never referred to a set of doctrines or beliefs, which is often how we use the word; religio referred instead to the pattern of liturgies by which a deity was propitiated and revered.

Does The Argument Still Work?

According to Augustine, the liturgies of the Christian community produce people who — among other practices — proclaim salvation to every nation, give generously, deny their own desires, practice nonviolence, and refuse to give themselves over to rage and anger (De vera religione 3, 4 — 3, 6).

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Timothy Paul Jones

Professor. Pastor. Bestselling author of WHY SHOULD I TRUST THE BIBLE?, THE DA VINCI CODEBREAKER, and more. http://www.timothypauljones.com/books/