Donatist Beliefs

Although much of what he know of the Donatists comes from the writings of their opponents - a frequent problem associated with third stream Christian movements before the Reformation - we can piece together enough information to establish that the movement was overwhelmingly orthodox in its Trinitarian beliefs.

It was the Donatist vision of the church that set it apart from 4th century Catholicism. Their vision of the church included the following features:

  • a community of believers "inspired by the Holy Spirit and instructed by the Bible"
  • a rejection of monasticism
  • an emphasis on disciple-making among church members, with a particular emphasis on practical holiness and suffering
  • the practice of individual Biblical meditation
  • the agape meal - fellowship and breaking bread around a meal
  • holiness and character as essential qualities in church leaders
  • moral separation from the world
  • the rejection of force or coercion in religious matters
  • a commitment to mission and active evangelism
  • an expectation of the coming of Christ
  • social justice as a practical outworking of the life of God's Kingdom
  • re-baptizing of those previously baptized or in fellowship with churches or bishops who had betrayed Christians during times of persecution
Predictably, the Donatists were opposed and persecuted by the official state-aligned Roman Catholic Church. Augustine's justification for this ("Correction of the Donatists") can be viewed or downloaded here for those with a spare few hours to read it.


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