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More on Augustine & Pelagius

posted Jul 25, 2017, 9:58 AM by First Baptist

As noted last Sunday, Augustine (354-430 AD) is one of Christianity’s most influential theologians and is widely considered the “Father of the Reformation.”


However, it wasn’t easy for Augustine. For 25 years, he waged a theological war with Pelagius, an influential British monk.


Pelagius taught that when Adam fell, he fell alone; his sin was his alone, and the consequences were his alone. This means that Adam’s children (including us) are born innocent with the God-given ability to live lives fully pleasing to Him. We can either choose obedience, or we can follow the errant example of Adam. Either way, it’s up to us.


Many people followed Pelagius. His views were like a plague upon the Church and they spread quickly from Britain to Rome and then to North Africa.


As mentioned, Augustine fought with Pelagius for a quarter century. He argued that Adam’s fall in the Garden resulted in original sin and the total depravity of humankind.


Pelagius conceded that sin appears to be universal, but only because people give in to the example of others. He claimed that it was possible to live a sinless life (as Christ did) and thus earn one’s way into heaven. In short, humans have complete freedom of choice and hold their own fate in their hands.


Augustine countered that God alone called people to salvation, and that none can believe or obey apart from God’s wooing grace and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. He argued that God’s sovereignty and election are the “first cause” of each person’s eternal destiny.


The rancorous debate continued until a group of 64 bishops asked the pope to excommunicate Pelagius. This was done in 417. Pelagius was also censured by two separate councils, one in 418 and the other in 431.


Unfortunately, Pelagianism eventually gave way to Semi-Pelagianism in the Roman Catholic Church. This was what the Reformers fought against, basically using the same arguments as Augustine.


Pastor Dan