The Shocking Beliefs of Augustine


  1. Augustine believed that the purpose of marriage is procreation, and that lust during sex—even among married Christians—was wrong.

In his Confessions, Augustine talked openly about his losing battle with sexual lust during his youth. At age thirty-two, he became celibate. For Augustine personally, being a Christian meant abandoning marriage. Significantly, asceticism was popular during the time in which Augustine lived.13


  1. For a helpful overview of why Augustine was attracted to celibacy, see Veronica Arntz, “Pursuing Asceticism: St. Augustine & St. Anthony of Egypt,” Catholic Exchange, 1/17/2018



  1. Augustine believed that the use of contraception to prevent children was perverting the purpose of marriage, “committing adultery within marriage” and “turning the bed-chamber into a brothel.”

Here’s what Augustine said about preventing the birth of children within marriage (that is, the use of contraceptives):

The doctrine that the production of children is an evil, directly opposes the next precept, “Thou shall not commit adultery;” for those who believe this doctrine, in order that their wives may not conceive, are led to commit adultery even in marriage. They take wives, as the law declares, for the procreation of children; but from this erroneous fear of polluting the substance of the deity, their intercourse with their wives is not of a lawful character; and the production of children, which is the proper end of marriage, they seek to avoid. As the apostle long ago predicted of thee, thou dost indeed forbid to marry, for thou seekest to destroy the purpose of marriage. Thy doctrine turns marriage into an adulterous connection, and the bed-chamber into a brothel.15


  1. Against Faustus, book 15, 7, in NPNF1 4:216.


  1. Augustine believed that if you are going to teach Scripture, you must have a knowledge of the natural world, mathematics, music, science, history, the liberal arts, and a mastery of dialectics (the science of disputation).

This standard would rule out most Bible preachers and teachers today. Interestingly, despite his strong emphasis on the need for mastering academic subjects, Augustine could read very little Greek (the original language of the New Testament) and zero Hebrew.

Augustine speaks of an imaginary conversation with Moses, saying, “And should he speak Hebrew, in vain will it strike on my senses, nor would aught of it touch my mind; but if Latin, I should know what he said.”17


  1. Augustine, Confessions, 11.3.[1]
  2. Augustine believed that sacramental baptism produces regeneration and is necessary for the forgiveness of sins.

On this point, Augustine’s view is echoed by Roman Catholic teaching today. Here are some examples:

But the sacrament of baptism is undoubtedly the sacrament of regeneration: Wherefore, as the man who has never lived cannot die, and he who has never died cannot rise again, so, he who has never been born cannot be born again.

Baptism, therefore washes away indeed all sins—absolutely all sins, whether of deed, or words, or thoughts, whether original or added, whether such as are committed in ignorance or allowed in knowledge.19


  1. NPNF1 5:404.


  1. Augustine believed it was permissible to use force against heretics.

The primary example of Augustine advocating force was against a sect known as the Donatists. The Donatists claimed that certain bishops were ordained by spiritual traitors (those who denied the faith during a period of persecution). Therefore, the Donatists believed traitors didn’t deserve to remain church leaders and their ordinations were invalid. The popular leader of this group was Donatus Magnus, after whom they were named.

Augustine bitterly criticized the Donatists and developed his doctrine of the church out of that debate. To Augustine’s mind, “the essence of the church is in the union of the whole church with Christ, not in the personal character of certain select Christians.”21


  1. Christian History 4, no. 3: 29.


Augustine advocated the use of force against the Donatists, asking,

Why, therefore, should not the Church use force in compelling her lost sons to return, if the lost sons compelled others to their destruction? . . . Is it not a part of the care of the shepherd, when any sheep have left the flock, even though not violently forced away, but led astray by tender words and coaxing blandishments, to bring them back to the fold of his master when he has found them, by the fear or even the pain of the whip, if they show symptoms of resistance; especially since, if they multiply with growing abundance among the fugitive slaves and robbers, he has the more right in that the mark of the master is recognized on them, which is not outraged in those whom we receive but do not rebaptize? For the wandering of the sheep is to be corrected in such wise that the mark of the Redeemer should not be destroyed on it.

Part of: the reason for this is because the Donatists engaged in violence against other Christians. As a result, Augustine urged the government to exercise its power against them vigorously, retracting his earlier view “that no one should be coerced into the unity of Christ, that we must act only by arguments and prevail by force of reason, lest we should have those whom we knew as avowed heretics feigning themselves to be Catholics.”23


  1. NPNF1 I, 388.


  1. Augustine believed that the Lord’s Supper (the Eucharist) was necessary for salvation.

On this score, he wrote:

The Christians of Carthage have an excellent name for the sacraments, when they say that baptism is nothing else than “salvation,” and the sacrament of the body of Christ nothing else than “life.” Whence, however, was this derived, but from that primitive, as I suppose, and apostolic tradition, by which the churches of Christ maintain it to be an inherent principle, that without baptism and partaking of the supper of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and everlasting life?25


  1. On Forgiveness of Sins and Baptism, 1:34. in NPNF1 5:28. NPNF1 1:388–99.


  1. Augustine held to a dualistic view of the world, which was heavily influenced by non-Christian philosophy.

Augustine was heavily into the classical philosophical tradition of Platonism and Neoplatonism.

In short, his writings synthesized the Bible and Christian theology with classical learning and culture. They shaped both the medieval mind and the teaching curriculum in European universities.

In this connection, some historians have alleged that Augustine blurred the lines between Christianity and paganism, marrying faith and philosophy and creating a world in which paganism seemed to disappear. (Some have argued that paganism really didn’t disappear; it was merely baptized in Christian garb.)

Even so, Augustine’s platonic views reemerged with Thomas Aquinas, who added Aristotle’s philosophy to the Christian mix.27


  1. See chapter 10 of George Barna, Pagan Christianity,




  1. Augustine believed that Mary (mother of Jesus) was a perpetual virgin.

On this subject he wrote,

A virgin conceives, yet remains a virgin; a virgin is heavy with child; a virgin brings forth her child, yet she is always a virgin.30

Did not holy Virgin Mary both give birth as a virgin and remain a virgin?

Thus Christ by being born of a virgin, who, before she knew Who was to be born of her, had determined to continue a virgin, chose rather to approve, than to command, holy virginity.32



  1. Augustine believed in praying for the dead.


Consider his words:

It is not to be doubted that the dead are aided by prayers of the holy church, and by the salutary sacrifice, and by the alms, which are offered for their spirits; that the Lord may deal with them more mercifully than their sins have deserved. For this, which has been handed down by the Fathers, the universal Church observes.

There is an ecclesiastical discipline, as the faithful know, when the names of the martyrs are read aloud in that place at the altar of God, where prayer is not offered for them. Prayer, however, is offered for other dead who are remembered. For it is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended.34


  1. William A. Jurgens, ed. and trans., The Faith of the Early Church writers (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1970 and 1979), 3:29.[2]