Augustine and Pelagianism

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Justified

Puritan Board Sophomore
How exactly would you define Pelagianism? The reason I ask is that the way people often use it would seem to subsume Augustine as either a pelagian or semi-pelagian. People often mean by Pelagianism a rejection of justification by faith alone. Augustine didn't believe in justification sola fide.

I tend to think/believe that Augustinianism and Pelagianism has to do more with sola gratia. Augustine's belief that God's grace is the operative force that initiates, brings about, and preserves ultimate salvation sets him off from later medievals, who believed that those who do what is within in them God does not withhold grace. Am I right in my assessment of Augustine's relation to the late medievals? Were many of the late medievals semi-pelagians?
 

Jimmy the Greek

Puritan Board Senior
Augustine historically opposed Pelagius: Pelagianism views humanity as basically good and morally unaffected by the Fall. It denies the imputation of Adam's sin, original sin, total depravity, and substitutionary atonement. It simultaneously views man as fundamentally good and in possession of libertarian free will. With regards to salvation, it teaches that man has the ability in and of himself (apart from divine aid) to obey God and earn eternal salvation. Pelagianism is overwhelmingly incompatible with the Bible and was historically opposed by Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo, leading to its condemnation as a heresy at Council of Carthage in 418 A.D. These condemnations were summarily ratified at the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431).
 

Gforce9

Puritan Board Junior
In a slightly reductionistic sense, I would "define" Pelagianism primarily as the denial of Original Sin. Like most everything, it is a more complex issue. R.C. Sproul does a good job in his book "Willing To Believe"....... You can Google "the 18 premesis of pelagius" for further light.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I tend to think/believe that Augustinianism and Pelagianism has to do more with sola gratia.

That is the traditional way the Augustinian/Pelagian debate has been interpreted.

As for justification sola fide, Augsburg claims him for Protestantism, and I think we could possibly use Protestant confessional categories to understand him; but contextual and historical reading will likely require us to split the poor father down the middle because he did not speak to the issue in a way that genuinely satisfies Protestants or Romanists.
 

Shimei

Puritan Board Freshman
Augustine historically opposed Pelagius: Pelagianism views humanity as basically good and morally unaffected by the Fall. It denies the imputation of Adam's sin, original sin, total depravity, and substitutionary atonement. It simultaneously views man as fundamentally good and in possession of libertarian free will. With regards to salvation, it teaches that man has the ability in and of himself (apart from divine aid) to obey God and earn eternal salvation. Pelagianism is overwhelmingly incompatible with the Bible and was historically opposed by Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo, leading to its condemnation as a heresy at Council of Carthage in 418 A.D. These condemnations were summarily ratified at the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431).

I went to a video called Amazing Grace: The history and theology of Calvinism. Anyone else see it? I typed this out from the historical narrative.

Six years after the council of Carthage a general council of African Churches reaffirmed the anathemas of 412 AD. Zosimus sided with Pelagius in 412, he wrote a letter condemning the anathema of Carthage. Of course having the support of Scripture, the leaders of the Carthagian Council disregarded the Bishop and his letter. Philip Schaff noted church historian observes, "This temporary favor of the bishop of Rome towards the Pelagian heresy is a significant presage of the indulgence of later popes for pelagianizing tendencies". It was these later "pelagianizing tendencies" that lead to the works-righteousness advocated by the bishop of Rome that later led to the Roman Catholic belief system. This was a pivotal moment in church history. Cornelius Otto Jansen like Martin Luther believed the early Church of Rome departed from its position that all of life was by the grace of God. And like Augustine Jansen taught that man's spirit was dead in sin, and therefore needed to be regenerated. Jansen understood that this was something that happened to man by God's grace and not something man made happen by his faith. In 1713 Pope Clement the XI issued a Papal Bull denouncing over 100 statements, many of which were actual quotes of Augustine. A Church that once sided with Augustine now sided with Pelagius.

God bless,
William
 
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KeithW

Puritan Board Freshman
Augustine & The Pelagian Controversy by B.B.Warfield is pretty good. As Jim points out, any council which dealt with Pelagianism (Council of Carthage 418AD), Semi-Pelagianism (Council of Orange 529AD), or Arminianism (Council of Dordt 1618AD) always started their responses by stating the condition man is born into first (original sin, total depravity, etc.) before moving on to address other points. Modern Semi-Pelagians and Arminians use the terms sola fide and sola gratia, but since they deny original sin they mean something different by those terms than we do.

Edit: added link to ebook.
 
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yeutter

Puritan Board Senior
Augustine & The Pelagian Controversy by B.B.Warfield.... Semi-Pelagianism (Council of Orange 529AD), or Arminianism (Council of Dordt 1618AD) always started their responses by stating the condition man is born into first (original sin, total depravity, etc.) before moving on to address other points. Modern Semi-Pelagians and Arminians use the terms sola fide and sola gratia, but since they deny original sin they mean something different by those terms than we do.
Technically it is the Second Council of Orange
 

Justified

Puritan Board Sophomore
Am I correct then that Augustine would have rejected the later medieval doctrine, that to those who do what is within him God does not withhold grace, because this assumes a level of human ability Augustine wouldn't be comfortable with?
 

KeithW

Puritan Board Freshman
Here are two extracts from Warfield's book.

Augustine & The Pelagian Controversy said:
At about this same time (417), the tireless bishop [Augustine] sent a short letter to a Hilary, who seems to be Hilary of Norbonne, which is interesting from its undertaking to convey a characterization of Pelagianism to one who was as yet ignorant of it. It thus brings out what Augustine conceived to be its essential features. "An effort has been made," we read, "to raise a certain new heresy, inimical to the grace of Christ, against the Church of Christ. It is not yet openly separated from the Church. It is the heresy of men who dare to attribute so much power to human weakness that they contend that this only belongs to God's grace—that we are created with free will and the possibility of not sinning, and that we receive God's commandments which are to be fulfilled by us; but, for keeping and fulfilling these commandments, we do not need any divine aid. No doubt, the remission of sins is necessary for us; for we have no power to right what we have done wrong in the past. But for avoiding and overcoming sins in the future, for conquering all temptations with virtue, the human will is sufficient by its natural capacity without any aid of God's grace. And neither do infants need the grace of the Saviour, so as to be liberated by it through His baptism from perdition, seeing that they have contracted no contagion of damnation from Adam."

Augustine & The Pelagian Controversy said:
The first man was created in a nature that was without fault or flaw. He was made righteous: he did not make himself righteous; what he did for himself was to fall and break his righteousness. This God did not do: He permitted it, as if He had said, "Let him desert Me; let him find himself; and let his misery prove that he has no ability without Me." In this way God wished to show man what free will was worth without God. O evil free will without God! Behold, man was made good; and by free will man was made evil! When will the evil man make himself good by free will? When good, he was not able to keep himself good; and now that he is evil, is he to make himself good? Nay, behold, He that made us has also made us "His people" (Ps. xciv. 7).
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Am I correct then that Augustine would have rejected the later medieval doctrine, that to those who do what is within him God does not withhold grace, because this assumes a level of human ability Augustine wouldn't be comfortable with?

Augustine's prevenient grace (or grace rewarding grace) is the reason why the medievals discussed and debated the ideas of "first grace" and "congruous merit." The reformation distinction of justification and sanctification cuts the knot in one stroke.

It might be worth looking up Calvin's Institutes on justification to see the precise point at which he disagreed with Augustine. He pinpoints the problem to consist in a confusion of justification and sanctification. The problem is not "first grace," but the failure to recognise the perfection of first grace in one's judicial relation to God. By connecting it with sanctification Augustine turned it into an incomplete process which continues throughout life.
 

Justified

Puritan Board Sophomore
Am I correct then that Augustine would have rejected the later medieval doctrine, that to those who do what is within him God does not withhold grace, because this assumes a level of human ability Augustine wouldn't be comfortable with?

Augustine's prevenient grace (or grace rewarding grace) is the reason why the medievals discussed and debated the ideas of "first grace" and "congruous merit." The reformation distinction of justification and sanctification cuts the knot in one stroke.

It might be worth looking up Calvin's Institutes on justification to see the precise point at which he disagreed with Augustine. He pinpoints the problem to consist in a confusion of justification and sanctification. The problem is not "first grace," but the failure to recognise the perfection of first grace in one's judicial relation to God. By connecting it with sanctification Augustine turned it into an incomplete process which continues throughout life.
Thanks again, Rev Winzer. Another question: would you consider some nomists "Augustinians?" I'm thinking about Richard Baxter, the FVers, NPP, et al. I mean if Augustine is "Augustinian," then cannot these people be the same? Is it possible to be a nomist and an Augustinian-- though perhaps you'd be an inconsistent one, viz. a nomist or Augustinian?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Another question: would you consider some nomists "Augustinians?" I'm thinking about Richard Baxter, the FVers, NPP, et al. I mean if Augustine is "Augustinian," then cannot these people be the same? Is it possible to be a nomist and an Augustinian-- though perhaps you'd be an inconsistent one, viz. a nomist or Augustinian?

A little more difficult to answer. Luther would express his view of law and grace in terms used by Augustine, and Luther's view would be regarded as antinomian from the neonomian perspective of Richard Baxter. Augustine says at places that the law only commands; it cannot give what it commands. Grace alone heals human nature and enables the fulfilment of the law. But again, it is difficult to see this as adequately Protestant because it is always "infused."
 
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