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The Life of St. Morgan of Wales AKA Pelagius
GospelTruthNet ^ | GTNet

Posted on 08/04/2004 12:32:44 PM PDT by xzins

The Life of St. Morgan of Wales

AKA

Pelagius

 

Early Life and Education

St. Morgan of Wales is more commonly known by his Latin name Pelagius Britto -- indicating his association with the sea and Celtic British origins. He was born around 360 A.D. in South Wales in Bangor-is-y-coed or Caerlleon-ar-wsyg near the Severn estuary. He came from a Christian romanized Celtic background, the son of a decurion.

Morgan received a Latin education and was taught Holy Scriptures, inheriting the Celtic tradition which had links with the Church of Gaul and the Eastern Church. An emphasis was placed on faith and good works, on the holiness of all life, and on the oneness-of-all.

In 380 Morgan went to Rome to study law but soon abandoned his law career for the Church, becoming a monk. In doing so, he was to become the first-known major Celtic writer and theologian.

Morgan was a big, enthusiastic man -- strong, broad-shouldered and stout. His physical stature was compared to that of Milo the wrestler. He had a ram-like jutting forehead and a preference for going bareheaded. He walked with a slow, plodding gait, "at the pace of a turtle." While his opponents portrayed him in uncomplimentary language their descriptions reveal a man of deliberateness, confidence, and keen mind.

It was Morgan's habit of strolling from crossroads to street corners in public squares throughout Rome, talking to people and exhorting them to follow better ways. With an astute knowledge of Holy Scriptures he would discuss theology, ethics, and doctrine with everyone he encountered -- from the lowliest of work-women to the most educated men. He openly proclaimed that women should be taught Holy Scriptures.

Morgan became the spiritual advisor to many and moved about successfully in Roman Christian circles, emerging as a theologian of note and as a man of personal sanctity, moral fervour, and charisma. He became a major religious and intellectual force of his time, pointedly showing that his ideas had solid foundation in the Holy Scriptures and in the writings of the Church Fathers.

Conflict with the Roman Church

It would be naive to believe that great theological debates are not influenced by events at a more personal level. Such events erupted into a great controversy in the Roman Church beginning around 410. Morgan faced the opposition of major leaders of the Latin Church and the civil authority of the Roman Empire. The causes of this opposition are rooted in Morgan's role as a Christian ethicist and moral theologian.

Morgan was appalled by the laxity of Christian discipline among religious and secular leaders in Rome. He chastised the wealthy and powerful, including Emperor Honorius, for their abuses of property and privilege, exhorting them to the Christian virtues of mercy and charity.

He also came in conflict with the two major personalities of the Latin Church -- Augustine of Hippo and Jerome of Dalmatia.

Augustine was considered the pre-eminent of the Latin Church theologians. A former Manichaean, he had converted to Christianity in 387. As a Christian theologian he promulgated the doctrines of original sin as a congenital disease passed on at birth and of predestination and election. Morgan believed such doctrines were un-Scriptural and were not supported by the writings of the Early Church Fathers. He speculated that Augustine's theology was laced with his previous Manichaeism -- which taught a radical dualism between spirit and matter, and a hierarchical division between the elect and the unsaved. Morgan believed that these teachings had crept into Augustine's work and were responsible for the perpetuation of abuses in Rome. Morgan was of the opinion that Augustine's concepts of original sin and election contributed to a Christian fatalism which denied human responsibility for sin and granted divine sanction to a hierarchical society.

Jerome was considered the greatest of Latin Church grammarians and linguists. He was responsible for the translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible and he wrote several important commentaries on Scriptures. Although ordained a priest he never said Mass. Despite his many achievements, Jerome was known to be sarcastic, impatient, arrogant, and aggressive. He was abrasive and egotistical in dealing with other Christians. The virulence of his criticism was evidenced in his attack on a certain priest named Jovinian. Many, including Morgan, reacted negatively to Jerome's personal abuse and libel of Jovinian. Later Morgan and Jerome conflicted in advice given to a young woman with which both men had been acquainted. Jerome told her not to worry herself with theological problems while Morgan stressed the importance of study. Jerome's best method of defense was attack and he accused Morgan of heresy.

Morgan had placed himself at personal odds with Augustine of Hippo and Jerome of Dalmatia. Augustine had previously referred to Morgan in favorable terms with praise for Morgan, calling him "a man of high reknown, a great orator, and most excellent Christian." However, in 413 he openly attacked Morgan in two sermons. Jerome's conflict with Morgan also came to a head in 413 and both were aligned against him. The Roman Emperor Honorius would soon join the battle.

Councils and Synods

When Rome fell to Alaric in 410 Morgan and Celestius (one of his followers) departed with numerous other refugees for Carthage in North Africa. Morgan and Celestius soon parted company with Morgan moving on to Palestine while Celestius stayed in Carthage -- the center of Augustinian theology. In 411-412 the African Church condemned Celestius as a heretic but not charges were brought against Morgan.

In 415 Augustine sent Orosius to Jerome in Palestine with the mission of convicting Morgan of heresy. Augustine was of the opinion that the root cause of Celestius' heresy was in the teachings of Morgan.

In June 415, a Synod was convened in Jerusalem with Orosius accusing Morgan of heresy. Morgan was present to defend himself and was acquitted. A second council was called in December at Diospolis (Lydda) with two previously deposed Gallic Bishops bringing charges against Morgan. Again, he was present to defend himself and, again, he was acquitted.

In dissatisfied reaction the Augustinians convened two of their own councils in 416 -- at Carthage and Milevum where they condemned both Morgan and Celestius. Morgan was not present to defend himself.

The Augustinians also appealed to Pope Innocent I who claimed universal authority for the Bishop of Rome by declaring that nothing done in the provinces could be regarded as finished until it had come to his knowledge. Innocent I, often referred to as "the first Pope", declared that the Pope's decisions affected "all the churches of the world" and reflects his attempt to exert control over the East as well as the West. The Augustinians successfully persuaded him to issue a conditional condemnation of Morgan and Celestius on January 27, 417 which would be effective only if they did not return to orthodoxy. However, Innocent I died on March 12 and was replaced by Pope Zosimus I on March 18.

Zosimus was an Eastern Christian who decided to re-examine the case, calling for a Synod at the Basilica of St. Clement in Rome. Morgan was unable to attend but sent a Confession of Faith which was intended for Innocent I (Morgan being unawares of the previous Pope's death). Zosimus was favorably impressed with Morgan's defense and proclaimed that Morgan was totally orthodox and catholic and that he was a man of unconditional faith. Zosimus went on to say that Morgan had for many years been outstanding in good works and in service to God; he was theologically sound and never left the catholic faith. The conditional condemnation was effectively overturned. Zosimus proceeded to condemn and excommunicate Morgan's accusers (Heros and Lazarus) and sent several letters to Carthage including one summoning Paulinus (another accuser) to Rome to account for his charges. Paulinus rudely refused.

On September 21, 417 Zosimus advised the African Church: "Love peace, prize love, strive after harmony. For it is written: Love thy neighbor as thyself." He upbraided them for their discord in the Church and ordered them to cease their disruptions.

It would have appeared that the Augustinians had been thoroughly defeated. They had been unable to successfully condemn Morgan whenever he was present or when allowed to present his defense in writing. Three councils had declared him innocent of heresy. All they had to show for their efforts were Morgan's condemnation by their own courts and their own chastisement by the Bishop of Rome. Undaunted and disobedient, they appealed to the Roman Emperor Honorius.

Emperor Honorius, a target of Morgan's exhortations against the abuses of wealth and power, willingly came to the assistance of the Augustinians. On April 30, 418 he invoked the power of the state and issued an Imperial Rescript -- a civil document -- ordering action against Morgan on the charge that public meetings and credulous adolescents affect the peace of Rome. An ecclesiastical document written by Pope Zosimus followed. It condemned Morgan as a heretic and banned him from Rome. The exact reasons why Zosimus reversed his position after the Imperial Rescript are unknown but it was done only after pressure from the Emperor. The text of Zosimus' condemnation is lost and the formal grounds for the condemnation are purely a matter of speculation.

Immediately upon Zosimus' death in 418 two different Bishops were consecrated Pope - Eulalius and Boniface I. Eulalius, like Zosimus, was a Greek. At the Synod of Gangra (Armenia) in 381, Eulalius was among the Bishops who passed Synodical canons in support of the equality of marriage and celibacy and condemned those who denied the legitimacy of the married priesthood. Both positions were in opposition to the views of the Augustinians. In 419 Eulalius was replaced with the pro-Augustinian Boniface only through the intervention of the Emperor.

Within the context of personalities and politics (ecclesiastical and secular) it appears that the Augustinian campaign against Morgan was only part of a developing conflict between the West and the East over the primacy of Rome and the dominance of Latin theology over the whole Church. Not so curiously, St. Morgan was condemned by Western, pro-Augustinian Synods and the Roman Emperor while exonerated by Eastern, non-Augustinian Synods and a Pope of Eastern origin. It has been frequently commented that if Morgan had been born in the East there never would have been a controversy.

Even after death, Morgan would be ensconced in controversy. The Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 was called to combat the Nestorian heresy. Among those accused of Nestorianism was Celestius (one of Morgan's followers). In a closing letter written by the Bishops of the great Council there is a brief mention of Morgan by his Latin name, Pelagius, which lists him among those who have been deposed. The letter is unfortunate and the inclusion of his name is probably an Augustinian interpolation for the Council was not called to debate Morgan's teachings. Nowhere in the proceedings of the Council does his name or reference to his teachings appear. And no Canon of any Ecumenical Council of the undivided Church ever condemned Morgan of heresy.

The Teachings of Morgan

It is difficult to glean from history the teachings of Morgan for little remains of his writings. We must rely on the polemics of his Augustinian opponents who have displayed less than honorable intentions when dealing with Morgan and who have often confused his teachings with that of the condemned Celestianism. Nontheless, we have a fairly good idea of the thrust of his teaching.

Morgan was not a systematic theologian like Augustine or Aquinas. He was, primarily, a Christian ethicist and moralist who sought practical applications of the Christian virtues to daily life. His theological concepts are grounded in attempting to balance faith and works in that way which is reflected in the Epistle of St. James and epitomized and by the life of Christ. For Morgan, Christianity was not an abstract system of thought but a concrete way of life. Unlike Augustinianism with its grounding in neo-Platonic philosophy and Manichean religion, Morgan's theology is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and the Early Church Fathers.

Morgan believed that man's salvation was a cooperative effort between God and man. Man's power to save himself was predicated on man freely choosing to accept the saving grace of Christ through baptism. Through the exercise of his free will man can choose to receive that grace from God by which man can live a perfect life.

Morgan's central message was that the Church was to be a perfect religious institution consisting of Christians wholly dedicated to the observance of a code of behavior enjoined by Jesus Christ and followed by His Apostles. Morgan insisted that God wanted His people to be holy and that He had given His people the means to accomplish perfection. A person's baptism has presented him with the unique opportunity to become a Christian, abandoning old pagan ways and leading a new life. We squander this opportunity when we lapse into old, comfortable habits of self-indulgence and careless pursuit of worldly things. To Morgan the established leaders in the Church are to blame for general lapses in behavior when they mislead their flock by encouraging them to accept standards of Christian behavior which are below that enjoined by Christ.

Morgan's view of God's grace was broader than that of his opponents. He wrote, "This grace we do not allow to consist only in the law but also in the help of God. God helps us through His teaching and revelation by opening the eyes of our heart, by pointing out to us the future so that we may not be preoccupied with the present, by uncovering the snares of the devil, by enlightening us with the manifold and ineffable gift of heavenly grace."

Morgan asserted that with God's grace Christians could more easily do that which He had commanded them to do by their free will. He wrote, "God works in us to will what is good, to will what is holy, when He rouses us from devotion to earthly desires and our love of the present only after the manner of dumb animals, by the magnitude of our future glory and the promise of its rewards, when, by revealing wisdom to us, He awakens our sluggish will to longing for Him, when He urges upon us all that is good."

Morgan believed that man began to sin from that moment when he became consciously able as a child to imitate the sins of others, not because of some flawed nature forcing him to do so but because he was ignorant of his true essence and potential. His will had been corrupted by Adam's example of sin and the fallen world's habit of sin. To enable man to correct this flaw God first provided the Law. Although the Law failed it allowed man to recognise the error of his ways and to become conscious of his sins. Man was still in possession of the capacity to live without sin but was prevented by the inability to draw "upon the treasure of his soul" -- the free will with which God had endowed him at creation.

To help man make the right choices God has endowed him with three faculties or capacities -- posse (natural ability or potential), velle (will), and esse (action).

Posse is the capacity to be righteous and not to sin. It is a part of man's nature which God gave him at creation. It can never be taken away from him and he never loses the ability to do good. But if he is to exercise it properly he must employ velle and esse, will and action.

Velle is man's capacity to make his own free choice of right action. Esse is man's ability to translate that choice into right action and to live according to the nature given to him by God, that is, without sin.

The capacity to make choices and to translate them into right action are both under man's control and produce righteousness. But since Adam's sin and the Fall, man's capacity to be righteous, despite being reinforced by the Law, has atrophied because of man's failure to make the right use of his capacity to make choices. In order to restore the divinely-endowed faculties of man, God has offered the opportunity of redemption by the saving death of Jesus Christ, who forgives our sins, restores our will, and sustains it by His own teaching and example.

Morgan's doctrine provides for a grace of creation, a grace of revelation, and a grace of redemption. It is God who, in the first place, has given man the possibility of doing good as his original endowment of grace and has confirmed and strengthened it by revelation and redemption through Jesus Christ.

St. Morgan and St. John Chrysostom

It is an irony of history that at almost the same time St. Morgan of Wales was facing charges of heresy in Rome for having upbraided the wealthy and powerful of that city St. John Chrysostom was facing the same dilemma in the East.

John interpreted the Scriptures literally and sought to show how they applied practically to contemporary life. As Patriarch of Constantinople he sought to reform the Eastern Church of his day. His primary concern was the misuse of wealth by the rich. In his reforms he made huge personal donations to the poor, cutting back on clerical pomp and extravagance. He was also outspoken in his condemnation of secular extravagance, and although beloved by many he made many influential enemies. Among those was the Eastern Empress Eudoxia (condemned by John for her vanity and lack of charity) and many prominent churchmen, including Theophilus of Alexandria (John's previously thwarted rival for the title of Patriarch of Constantinople).

The Synod of Oak in 403, under the leadership of Theophilus, condemned John on 29 charges, including an unsupported accusation of heresy and the charge of having personally attacked the Empress in a sermon. John was banished twice but continued his outspoken preaching. He died of exhaustion in Pontus. His body was returned to Constantinople 31 years later and was buried in the Church of the Apostles. Today he is venerated as one of the Greek Doctors of the Church in the West and one of the Three Holy Hierarchs and Universal Teachers in the East.

Those who unequivocally stand for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and proclaim it without respect for whom it convicts inevitably face the wrath of the wealthy and powerful. Both St. John Chrysostom and St. Morgan of Wales did so with eloquence and suffered charges of heresy and banishment by rigged courts. St. John Chrysostom eventually restored to his rightful place as a teacher of the faith. Those of Celtic spiritual heritage equally venerate St. Morgan of Wales -- preacher of the Gospel and martyr of the intellect, the patron saint of the misunderstood.

A Selected Bibliography

 

Evans, R. F.; Four Letters of Pelagius, London, 1968

Evans, R. F.; Pelagius: Inquiries and Reappraisals, London, 1968

Ferguson, J.; Pelagius: A Historical and Theological Study, Cambridge, 1956

Nicholson, M. Forthomme; "Celtic Theology: Pelagius", An Introduction to Celtic

Christianity, edited by James P. Mackey, Edinburgh, 1995

Rees, B. R.; Pelagius: A Reluctant Heretic, Suffolk, 1988

 

 

The Theological Influence of St. Morgan

 

St. John Cassian (4th-5th Centuries)

St. Vincent of Lerins (5th Century)

St. John Scotus Eriugena (9th Century)

Peter Abelard (12th Century)

St. Thomas Aquinas (13th Century)

John Duns Scotus (13th-14th Centuries)

William of Ockham (14th Century)

Philip Melancthon (16th Century)

Jacobus Arminius (16th-17th Centuries)

Jeremy Taylor (17th Century)

John Wesley (18th Century)

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (20th Century)

 


TOPICS: Catholic; Charismatic Christian; Eastern Religions; Evangelical Christian; General Discusssion; Mainline Protestant; Orthodox Christian; Theology
KEYWORDS: augustine; grace; jerome; pelagius; wales; works
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1 posted on 08/04/2004 12:32:57 PM PDT by xzins
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To: Revelation 911; The Grammarian; SpookBrat; Alamo-Girl; P-Marlowe; betty boop; Dust in the Wind; ...

Ping

A look at Pelagius from an article positive toward him. Despite your position, it is an interesting history lesson.


2 posted on 08/04/2004 12:36:53 PM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: xzins
A brief summary of Pelagianism:

Pelagius, a Welsh monk, began this teaching that bears his name. He denied that we inherit original sin from Adam’s sin in the Garden and claimed that we become sinful only through the bad example of the sinful community into which we are born. Conversely, he denied that we inherit righteousness as a result of Christ’s death on the cross and said that we become personally righteous by instruction and imitation in the Christian community, following the example of Christ. Pelagius stated that man is born morally neutral and can achieve heaven under his own powers. According to him, God’s grace is not truly necessary, but merely makes easier an otherwise difficult task.

3 posted on 08/04/2004 12:41:21 PM PDT by Pyro7480 (Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix.... sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper...)
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To: Pyro7480

My understanding is that you have posted the Augustinian viewpoint of Pelagius....Augustine took Coelestius' positions and applied them to Pelagius.

Pelagius' views that are in this article are not the same as you posted.


4 posted on 08/04/2004 12:57:55 PM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: betty boop

Ping to above article/review of controversial, historic Christian figure, Pelagius.


5 posted on 08/04/2004 1:00:51 PM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: xzins
Just from the author's own words I question the objectiveness of this article. Please consider the author's statement.

"It is difficult to glean from history the teachings of Morgan for little remains of his writings. We must rely on the polemics of his Augustinian opponents who have displayed less than honorable intentions when dealing with Morgan and who have often confused his teachings with that of the condemned Celestianism.

If all we can glean from history was from the writings of Augustine, then how can we conclude such a favorable report? And this report shows nothing of what Morgan (Pelagius) taught according to other sources. It doesn't discuss how Morgan's beliefs were held in such ill repute that the theology evolved into Semi-Peligian which later Arminian (and eventually Wesley) used to develop his theology. In my mind it is a dangerous practice to have an "evolving" theology rather than a "systematic" theology.

Some of Pelagius' thoughts included:

1. Adam was created liable to death, and would have died, whether he had sinned or not.

2. The sin of Adam hurt himself only and not the human race.

3. Infants at their birth are in the same state as Adam before the fall.

4. Neither by the death nor fall of Adam does the whole race of man die, nor by the resurrection of Christ rise again.

5. The Law introduces men into the kingdom of heaven, just in the same way as the Gospel does.

6. Even before the coming of Christ there were some men sinless.

This from an anti-Calvinist website: Pelagius

Too bad the author neglected to mention the core beliefs and history of this man.

6 posted on 08/04/2004 5:51:54 PM PDT by HarleyD (For strong is he who carries out God's word. (Joel 2:11))
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To: HarleyD; xzins; Pyro7480

The Pelagian Drinking Song

Pelagius lived at Kardanoel
And taught a doctrine there
How, whether you went to heaven or to hell
It was your own affair.
It had nothing to do with the Church, my boy,
But was your own affair.

No, he didn't believe
In Adam and Eve
He put no faith therein!
His doubts began
With the Fall of Man
And he laughed at Original Sin.
With my row-ti-tow
Ti-oodly-ow
He laughed at original sin.

Then came the bishop of old Auxerre
Germanus was his name
He tore great handfuls out of his hair
And he called Pelagius shame.
And with his stout Episcopal staff
So thoroughly whacked and banged
The heretics all, both short and tall --
They rather had been hanged.

Oh he whacked them hard, and he banged them long
Upon each and all occasions
Till they bellowed in chorus, loud and strong
Their orthodox persuasions.
With my row-ti-tow
Ti-oodly-ow
Their orthodox persuasions.

Now the faith is old and the Devil bold
Exceedingly bold indeed.
And the masses of doubt that are floating about
Would smother a mortal creed.
But we that sit in a sturdy youth
And still can drink strong ale
Let us put it away to infallible truth
That always shall prevail.

And thank the Lord
For the temporal sword
And howling heretics too.
And all good things
Our Christendom brings
But especially barley brew!
With my row-ti-tow
Ti-oodly-ow
Especially barley brew!

-- Hillaire Belloc


7 posted on 08/04/2004 6:17:37 PM PDT by bonaventura
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To: xzins
Augustine is one of my personal heroes. The Confessions are arguably one of the most influential books I've read. So I have my bias, as a Calvinist who loves the writings of Augustine.

The take-home message here is that Pelagius was a good, sharp guy -- though one who was completely wrong, in my opinion. Those of us on the Reformed side of the equation cannot turn Pelagius (or Arminius) into the epitome of evil. Pelagius was probably a good guy.

This state of things is not without other parallels. Any orthodox Christian would consider Albert Schweitzer's "Historical Jesus" downright heretical. But his medical work in Africa earned him a well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize.

8 posted on 08/04/2004 6:41:03 PM PDT by jude24 (sola gratia)
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To: xzins

Thanks for the ping!


9 posted on 08/04/2004 8:08:47 PM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: xzins
Morgan's view of God's grace was broader than that of his opponents. He wrote, "This grace we do not allow to consist only in the law but also in the help of God. God helps us through His teaching and revelation by opening the eyes of our heart, by pointing out to us the future so that we may not be preoccupied with the present, by uncovering the snares of the devil, by enlightening us with the manifold and ineffable gift of heavenly grace.

As St. Augustine pointed out, this form of "grace", while true, is defective. Certainly, God does enlighten us- the Scriptures and Fathers are in certain testimony of that. However, if all He did was enlighten us to the truth, we would hardly be in a better spot. What Plato said is wrong: to know the good is not necessarily to do it. I think we can all attest to that from personal experience. It is one of the inanities of human behaviour: we will sometimes deliberately do wrong knowing it is bad and will probably end in no good to ourselves even. Mere ignorance is not our only problem.

And if this were our only problem- that of not being sufficiently enlighened- then we would not need a Saviour the way we have been given one. Jesus is useful as the perfect exemplar of piety, but that is all, if grace only consists in seeing the good.

But God's grace, as proclaimed by the catholic faith, is far more than just a divine enlightenment. God not only shows us the good, He enables us to do it! We have a much deeper problem than ignorance: we have corruption within ourselves, wound about our nature as St. Maximus put it. Humanity fell into sin and death, not just ignorance, and we were in desperate need of Someone to deliver us out of it. That someone is Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect Man in one Person, Who not only showed us the perfect life, but through His Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension, freed us from corruption, pardoned our sin, delivered us from bondage, transfered us to His own divine glory, and enabled us to live in communion with God. That is grace. That is what the Church Catholic has always taught and believed: that Jesus is not simply a good man, or even a perfect man, but that He is God made man, and that His redemption of us is not simply the setting of a good example, but a radical remaking and transforming of man through grace that He pours out on undeserving, unmeriting creatures, freely forgiving them and inviting them into His Life.

As a slight digression, I must also note that the Council of Orange, in which Pelagianism was rebuked soundly, while not an Ecumenical Council, has always been accepted by the Eastern Church.

10 posted on 08/04/2004 8:52:04 PM PDT by Cleburne
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To: HarleyD

One does have to wonder, however, why such theology wasn't roundly condemned at the councils at which he defended himself. Why does there appear to be one portrayal of it when Morgan was present....at was declared innocent? Why, when he was not present, was it condemned?

It is a historic curiosity to me, and it has been for some time.

So far as actual writings of Morgan...we either have them or we don't.

Couple this with the interesting fact that when Augustine, on his mission to England, appealed for the Celtic Church to recognize Rome, that Columba rejected that appeal. Augustine's mission was a failure in that regard, and Morgan came out of that Celtic Church.

There was an inter-church rivalry ongoing at that moment. The Celtics were more orthodox and aligned with the east. That rift wasn't overcome until William the Conquerer imposed the Roman primacy after his subjugation of the Island.

Should we read any charges from Augustine's pen with a critical eye regarding the events of the day?


11 posted on 08/05/2004 3:07:04 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: jude24
See #11.

I'm particularly concerned with Augustine's failed mission on behalf of Rome to incorporate the Celtic Church.

The period of peace that followed the British defeat of the Saxons at Mons Badonicus (c.500) once again allowed for growth of the Celtic Church (especially through the work of St. Columba), although isolation from the Continent continued until the mission of St. Augustine. Having converted King Æthelbert of Kent to Christianity, St. Augustine attempted to convince the leaders of the Celtic Church to change those practices (such as the dating of Easter and the forms of baptism and tonsure) that were at variance with the Roman Church and to accept the imposition of a diocesan organization on the essentially monastic structure of their church. He failed, and it was not until the Synod of Whitby (664, see Whitby, Synod of) that such agreement was largely reached, although independent Celtic churches continued on in Wales and Ireland. See J. T. McNeil, The Celtic Churches (1974); F. E. Warren, The Liturgy and Ritual of the Celtic Church (1987).

I fear that Augustine (who was human, I think....and sinful) might over over-stated his case for personal reasons.

12 posted on 08/05/2004 3:35:21 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: xzins
I fear that Augustine (who was human, I think....and sinful)

That's the whole point of The Confessions. The conversion of a man caught up in the cults of the day who prayed, "Give me purity and continence, but not yet" so that he would become a Saint and Doctor of the Church.

Could Augustine have overstated his case? Perhaps. He did it before with the Donatist controversy when he took "compel them to come to the feast" and used that to justify closing the Donatist churches by military intervention.

13 posted on 08/05/2004 4:34:00 AM PDT by jude24 (sola gratia)
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To: jude24

It's significant that Morgan is associated with both the Celtic Church and the Eastern Church, both out of the orthodox eastern rather than the Roman tradition.

It's significant that Morgan's case, when presented by Morgan, was affirmed. When presented by his opponents in his absence, he was castigated.

It is significant that Rome's overtures, with Augustine heading the delegation, were rebuffed by the Celtic Church.

You have added more: Augustine had a history of being heavy-handed militarily with the Donatists.


14 posted on 08/05/2004 4:56:24 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: xzins; Dr. Eckleburg; RnMomof7
"Should we read any charges from Augustine's pen with a critical eye regarding the events of the day?"

I always read Augustine with a critical eye because his writing is subject to errors (which Augustine admits). But Augustine succinctly laid out the church's theological position from the time of Christ to 400AD at the Council of Orange and well as some of his other writings. Morgan introduced a NEW position based upon his interpretation of James. There was no traditional bases for his theological position and this fact should not be ignored. (sheeze-I'm starting to sound like a Catholic.) It was only Morgan's interpretation based on nothing more than his opinions.

When Morgan's viewpoints became less and less popular they changed them (called semi-Pelagian), not based upon the scripture but based upon how Morgan interpreted the scriptures. The reason for this change was to make this viewpoint more appealing. Arminian took these ideas and further refined them. (Go to any Pelagian or Arminian website and they proudly proclaim this.) Augustine's position never changed from the established beliefs of the church which is what Calvin based his theology on.

You're right, there was a effort to appease both sides in the early church after Morgan was branded a heretic. IMHO, I believe this appeasement was the start of the errors of the RCC which eventually culminated in the rejection of Augustine's view, the Reformation (those who were loyal to Augustine) and the acceptance of Morgan's view at the Council of Trent. (Yeah, I know that many RCCers will say I'm wrong but IMO, the RCC has rejected the Augustine's position of salvation through total grace as documented at the Council of Orange.) Had the church had a Paul there at the time of Morgan he would have set the Pope straight just as he did with Peter.

Whatever faults or biases Augustine may have had against Morgan, the indisputable fact is the doctrine of the church as laid out at the Council of Orange. Salvation is through a gift of God period-not through what we may "freely" do. This is the traditional belief of the church.

15 posted on 08/05/2004 5:16:40 AM PDT by HarleyD (For strong is he who carries out God's word. (Joel 2:11))
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To: HarleyD

My point is an argument from circumstantial evidence.

That argument is "caution about Morgan's views, because they are presented by his adversaries and not by his own writings which we no longer have."

See my post to Jude at #14 summarizing.

In short, when Morgan was present to explain himself no one had a problem with his views. When they were explained by Augustine, then they had problems with them.


16 posted on 08/05/2004 6:37:11 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: xzins

Ha! The Author, after giving us a biased historical prologue, gives us his unsubstantiated thesis,

"Unlike Augustinianism with its grounding in neo-Platonic philosophy and Manichean religion, Morgan's theology is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and the Early Church Fathers.",

then goes on to give the same old tired "arguements". Why do you bother to post articles by these Finney hacks?


17 posted on 08/05/2004 6:48:26 AM PDT by lockeliberty
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To: lockeliberty; xzins
"Why do you bother to post articles by these Finney hacks?"

Perhaps he's coming out of the closet, so to speak. ;)

Jean

18 posted on 08/05/2004 7:13:41 AM PDT by Jean Chauvin ("There is a seeker born every minute!" -P. T. Finney)
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To: lockeliberty; Jean Chauvin; P-Marlowe

Why did I bother posting this article?

For the same reason I posted the article by Landmark Temple from a Calvinist perspective regarding evangelism and the elect.

Discussion.

I don't accept the doctrine commonly called "pelagianism." (I do wonder at the historical accuracy of ascribing that doctrine to Morgan of Wales.)

Nor do I accept all of calvinism.


19 posted on 08/05/2004 7:20:19 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: xzins
I understand what your saying but even giving Morgan the benefit of the doubt, Augustine was held in high esteem for his doctrinal insights. I seriously doubt the early church fathers would just rubber stamp Augustine's views at the Council of Orange and brand Morgan a heretic based upon Augustine.
20 posted on 08/05/2004 7:23:34 AM PDT by HarleyD (For strong is he who carries out God's word. (Joel 2:11))
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To: HarleyD

The Council of Orange was held in 529.

Morgan died from 420-440...no exact date so far as I know.

They were dealing with "pelagianism" as opposed to Pelagius....who again was not present to defend himself, and who again was condemned by Augustine's writings against him.

There is reason to doubt that what Augustine concocted was not what Morgan believed.


21 posted on 08/05/2004 7:36:15 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: xzins; lockeliberty
"There is reason to doubt that what Augustine concocted was not what Morgan believed."

What you fail to realize is that Pelagius' writings are not available only to ~us~.

I would think that his writings were in ample supply at the time of the controversy with Augustine.

I would also think that he was somewhat influential -so much so that Augustine felt the need to defend the orthodox faith.

If he was just this lone unheard of voice without much influence, it is inconceivable that Augustine would have spent the time battling him as he did.

Thus, instead of dealing with the substance of Augustine's doctrines, you seem to now have the need to attack his character.

Your seeming attempts to paint Pelagius as a nice, mild-mannered gentleman living a secluded life and, perhaps, tending to a garden somewhere "up north" only to be unjustly libeled by a mean, nasty, vengeful Augustine is a little ridiculous.

This is the same attempt the liberals use in order to soften public sentiment against all sorts of immoral practices.

Just look how successful the homosexual community has been at painting those of us who are against homosexuality as being "hateful" and "mean".

When you can't substantively defend your doctrine in the face of opposing doctrine, resort to character attacks.

Speculate about Augustines motivations -something you have no way to verify or prove- and then call it "reason to doubt".

You've done well, xzins.

Jean

22 posted on 08/05/2004 8:06:57 AM PDT by Jean Chauvin ("There is a seeker born every minute!" -P. T. Finney)
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To: Jean Chauvin

There is reason to doubt the accuracy of the record.

There is no reason to doubt that "pelagianism" is an unbiblical doctrine.

There is reason to doubt that that teaching is what was taught by Morgan of Wales.

Morgan was identified with the group that rejected Augustine in his failed mission to incorporate the Celtic Church into Roman Catholicism.


23 posted on 08/05/2004 8:16:56 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: xzins
Perhaps, but the Council of Orange unanimously approved the creeds that are the basis of Calvinism as the traditional teachings of the church. The creeds of the Council of Orange are not the sole belief of Augustine but the product of all the early church fathers. Augustine had his detractors as well as Morgan and I seriously doubt he could have crammed his point of view down the throats of the hundreds of early church fathers which is what you're implying.
24 posted on 08/05/2004 8:16:57 AM PDT by HarleyD (For strong is he who carries out God's word. (Joel 2:11))
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To: xzins; lockeliberty
Your speculations don't make your case -despite your insistence.

Your resort to character attacks on Augustine is quite telling.

Jean

25 posted on 08/05/2004 8:19:47 AM PDT by Jean Chauvin ("There is a seeker born every minute!" -P. T. Finney)
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To: HarleyD
Compare post #3 with the major section in the article on "The Teachings of Morgan."

They are different by degree.

Always they are the result of piecing together Morgan's beliefs from what little remains from him and also from what his opponents charged him with.

It is difficult to glean from history the teachings of Morgan for little remains of his writings. We must rely on the polemics of his Augustinian opponents who have displayed less than honorable intentions when dealing with Morgan and who have often confused his teachings with that of the condemned Celestianism.

26 posted on 08/05/2004 8:24:32 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: Jean Chauvin

It is true that Augustine had a failed mission to the Celtic Church.

It is true that Morgan was identified with that church.

It is true that Augustine represented the Roman Church in his failed mission.

It is true that the Roman Church was rejected by the Celtic Church.

It is true that when Morgan defended himself and was present that he was acquited.

It is true that when Morgan was absent and Augustine presented his opposition against Morgan that Morgan was convicted.

It is true that Augustine sought military force against the Donatists (see Jude's post) in light of their heresy.


27 posted on 08/05/2004 8:31:14 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: xzins
We must rely on the polemics of his Augustinian opponents who have displayed less than honorable intentions...

You paint this as a Morgan/Augustine conflict. But no matter HOW you slice the cookie Morgan's teachings were NOT the teachings of the early church fathers-all of them. Not just Augustine and his cohorts. Augustine's teachings just happened to agree with all the other early church fathers. Morgan and you do not.

28 posted on 08/05/2004 9:02:43 AM PDT by HarleyD (For strong is he who carries out God's word. (Joel 2:11))
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To: HarleyD

I have said about my beliefs that I reject what is commonly referred to as pelagianism.

I have also said that there is decent reason to believe that Morgan of Wales ALSO did not teach what he was accused of teaching.


29 posted on 08/05/2004 9:53:28 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: xzins; Jean Chauvin
Funny.

The Finneyites are trying to raise up Morgan to justify their theology.

You're trying to raise up Morgan to assassinate Augustines character.

If you have a problem with Augustianian teachings then deal with the teachings and not some putative motivation against a person or people.
30 posted on 08/05/2004 10:01:24 AM PDT by lockeliberty
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To: lockeliberty

Actually, I posted the article for discussion sake.

My point is that there is decent reason to believe that Morgan's views have been misrepresented.

Augustine's doctrines are not the issue of the article, if one desires to stay on topic. The legitimacy of the past portrayal of Morgan is the issue.

I don't personally know anyone who subscribes to what is commonly called "pelagianism."

Do you understand the difference now?

It's similar to the debate: "Lincoln opposed slavery." There are reasons to believe he did not, but that he acted out of political expediency.

"Morgan taught what is commonly called 'pelagianism.'" There are reasons to believe that he did not, but that his views have been misrepresented.....either through misunderstanding, misapplication, mistake, or misdirection.


31 posted on 08/05/2004 10:10:16 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: xzins; lockeliberty
And the "vast right wing conspiracy" can all be traced back to Richard Mellon Scaife.

Does that mean that Bill Clinton really didn't sleep with Monica?

Tying your points to the speculations that Augustine had alterior motives is a non-sequitor.

The tactic you are attempting to use to discredit Augustine is called "poisoning the well". It is a very effective ploy -but it is also a logical fallacy.

Jean

32 posted on 08/05/2004 10:17:00 AM PDT by Jean Chauvin ("There is a seeker born every minute!" -P. T. Finney)
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To: Jean Chauvin

I'm convinced that you are not discussing what the issue of article is.


33 posted on 08/05/2004 10:18:52 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: xzins; lockeliberty
"I'm convinced that you are not discussing what the issue of article is."

I am responding to points that ~you~ have made on this thread (before I even posted) by pointing out your ultimate objective.

Jean

34 posted on 08/05/2004 10:23:05 AM PDT by Jean Chauvin ("There is a seeker born every minute!" -P. T. Finney)
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To: Jean Chauvin

As you point out, you are not discussing the issues of the article.

That issues involve the historical evidence that Morgan's views might not have been fairly represented.


35 posted on 08/05/2004 10:31:15 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: Jean Chauvin

As you point out, you are not discussing the issues of the article.

THOSE(correction) issues involve the historical evidence that Morgan's views might not have been fairly represented.


36 posted on 08/05/2004 10:31:56 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: xzins; lockeliberty; Dr. Eckleburg
"As you point out, you are not discussing the issues of the article. "

Since I was responding to facts you made in your posts, then perhaps you should point that finger back at yourself.

But ultimately, what's your point? Are you trying to make a case that I'm posting against FR rules in hopes that I, too, get banned?

Jean

37 posted on 08/05/2004 10:44:51 AM PDT by Jean Chauvin ("There is a seeker born every minute!" -P. T. Finney)
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To: Jean Chauvin

As I've pointed out, the issue of the article involves the adequacy to date of how Morgan of Wales has been presented.

I don't think the article mentions either one of us.


38 posted on 08/05/2004 10:49:15 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: xzins; lockeliberty
Does that somehow give you the a legitimate excuse to attempt to poison the well by attacking Augusinte's Charachter with unfounded speculations?

Jean

39 posted on 08/05/2004 10:52:20 AM PDT by Jean Chauvin ("There is a seeker born every minute!" -P. T. Finney)
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To: Jean Chauvin

Refer to post #27.

Not unfounded and simply a historical discussion.


40 posted on 08/05/2004 11:02:39 AM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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To: xzins; Jean Chauvin
Refer to post #27

Is there a homily...in there...somewhere?

41 posted on 08/05/2004 11:08:46 AM PDT by lockeliberty (I am a lowly Sea Beggar)
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To: HarleyD; Jean Chauvin; RnMomof7
The discerning mind will step back and see a pattern.

Christ, the Apostles, early church fathers, Augustine, all taught faith alone; that salvation was not dependent on man or men but was solely at the pleasure and plan of God. As men sought power for themselves over other men they instituted the erroneous belief that man was not fallen, per Pelagius, merely bruised, and that the most important thing in life, one's salvation, was dependent on his own ability, not God's decree. This false belief was intended to encourage men to give up their individual power to other men and to foresake their singular allegiance to God, all under the cover of "godliness." Thus were born "cabals." It was the same thing the serpent said to Eve. "For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then our eyes shall be opened, ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." - Genesis 3:5 Not only will you become divine, but God is okay with that. So men continue to think their salvation is dependent on actions, words, intentions, beliefs, works, -- when in reality the heart is cold, the body fallen, the man damned, unless and until God regenerates him. The following article is reproduced from Modern Reformation, Vol 10, Number 3 (May/June 2001), pp. 22-29. The Pelagian Captivity of the Church -- by R.C. Sproul Shortly after the Reformation began, in the first few years after Martin Luther posted the Ninety-Five Theses on the church door at Wittenberg, he issued some short booklets on a variety of subjects. One of the most provocative was titled The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. In this book Luther was looking back to that period of Old Testament history when Jerusalem was destroyed by the invading armies of Babylon and the elite of the people were carried off into captivity. Luther in the sixteenth century took the image of the historic Babylonian captivity and reapplied it to his era and talked about the new Babylonian captivity of the Church. He was speaking of Rome as the modern Babylon that held the Gospel hostage with its rejection of the biblical understanding of justification. You can understand how fierce the controversy was, how polemical this title would be in that period by saying that the Church had not simply erred or strayed, but had fallen - that it's actually now Babylonian; it is now in pagan captivity. I've often wondered if Luther were alive today and came to our culture and looked, not at the liberal church community, but at evangelical churches, what would he have to say? Of course I can't answer that question with any kind of definitive authority, but my guess is this: If Martin Luther lived today and picked up his pen to write, the book he would write in our time would be entitled The Pelagian Captivity of the Evangelical Church. Luther saw the doctrine of justification as fueled by a deeper theological problem. He writes about this extensively in The Bondage of the Will. When we look at the Reformation and we see the solas of the Reformation -- sola Scriptura, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria, sola gratia -- Luther was convinced that the real issue of the Reformation was the issue of grace; and that underlying the doctrine of solo fide, justification by faith alone, was the prior commitment to sola gratia, the concept of justification by grace alone. In the Fleming Revell edition of The Bondage of the Will, the translators, J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston, included a somewhat provocative historical and theological introduction to the book itself. This is from the end of that introduction: "These things need to be pondered by Protestants today. With what right may we call ourselves children of the Reformation? Much modern Protestantism would be neither owned nor even recognised by the pioneer Reformers. The Bondage of the Will fairly sets before us what they believed about the salvation of lost mankind. In the light of it, we are forced to ask whether Protestant Christendom has not tragically sold its birthright between Luther's day and our own. Has not Protestantism today become more Erasmian than Lutheran? Do we not too often try to minimise and gloss over doctrinal differences for the sake of inter-party peace? Are we innocent of the doctrinal indifferentism with which Luther charged Erasmus? Do we still believe that doctrine matters?" Historically, it's a simple matter of fact that Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and all the leading Protestant theologians of the first epoch of the Reformation stood on precisely the same ground here. On other points they had their differences. In asserting the helplessness of man in sin and the sovereignty of God in grace, they were entirely at one. To all of them these doctrines were the very lifeblood of the Christian faith. A modern editor of Luther's works says this: "Whoever puts this book down without having realized that Evangelical theology stands or falls with the doctrine of the bondage of the will has read it in vain. The doctrine of free justification by faith alone, which became the storm center of so much controversy during the Reformation period, is often regarded as the heart of the Reformers' theology, but this is not accurate. The truth is that their thinking was really centered upon the contention of Paul, echoed by Augustine and others, that the sinner's entire salvation is by free and sovereign grace only, and that the doctrine of justification by faith was important to them because it safeguarded the principle of sovereign grace. The sovereignty of grace found expression in their thinking at a more profound level still in the doctrine of monergistic regeneration." That is to say, that the faith that receives Christ for justification is itself the free gift of a sovereign God. The principle of sola fide is not rightly understood until it is seen as anchored in the broader principle of sola gratia. What is the source of faith? Is it the God-given means whereby the God-given justification is received, or is it a condition of justification which is left to man to fulfill? Do you hear the difference? Let me put it in simple terms. I heard an evangelist recently say, "If God takes a thousand steps to reach out to you for your redemption, still in the final analysis, you must take the decisive step to be saved." Consider the statement that has been made by America's most beloved and leading evangelical of the twentieth century, Billy Graham, who says with great passion, "God does ninety-nine percent of it but you still must do that last one percent." What Is Pelagianism? Now, let's return briefly to my title, "The Pelagian Captivity of the Church." What are we talking about? Pelagius was a monk who lived in Britain in the fifth century. He was a contemporary of the greatest theologian of the first millennium of Church history if not of all time, Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in North Africa. We have heard of St. Augustine, of his great works in theology, of his City of God, of his Confessions, and so on, which remain Christian classics. Augustine, in addition to being a titanic theologian and a prodigious intellect, was also a man of deep spirituality and prayer. In one of his famous prayers, Augustine made a seemingly harmless and innocuous statement in the prayer to God in which he says: "O God, command what you wouldst, and grant what thou dost command." Now, would that give you apoplexy - to hear a prayer like that? Well it certainly set Pelagius, this British monk, into orbit. When he heard that, he protested vociferously, even appealing to Rome to have this ghastly prayer censured from the pen of Augustine. Here's why. He said, "Are you saying, Augustine, that God has the inherent right to command anything that he so desires from his creatures? Nobody is going to dispute that. God inherently, as the creator of heaven and earth, has the right to impose obligations on his creatures and say, 'Thou shalt do this, and thou shalt not do that.' Command whatever thou would. It's a perfectly legitimate prayer." It's the second part of the prayer that Pelagius abhorred when Augustine said, "...and grant what thou dost command." He said, "What are you talking about? If God is just, if God is righteous and God is holy, and God commands of the creature to do something, certainly that creature must have the power within himself, the moral ability within himself, to perform it or God would never require it in the first place." Now that makes sense, doesn't it? What Pelagius was saying is that moral responsibility always and everywhere implies moral capability or, simply, moral ability. So why would we have to pray, "God grant me, give me the gift of being able to do what you command me to do?" Pelagius saw in this statement a shadow being cast over the integrity of God himself, who would hold people responsible for doing something they cannot do. So in the ensuing debate, Augustine made it clear that in creation, God commanded nothing from Adam or Eve that they were incapable of performing. But once transgression entered and mankind became fallen, God's law was not repealed nor did God adjust his holy requirements downward to accommodate the weakened, fallen condition of his creation. God did punish his creation by visiting upon them the judgment of original sin, so that everyone after Adam and Eve who was born into this world was born already dead in sin. Original sin is not the first sin. It's the result of the first sin; it refers to our inherent corruption, by which we are born in sin, and in sin did our mothers conceive us. We are not born in a neutral state of innocence, but we are born in a sinful, fallen condition. Virtually every church in the historic World Council of Churches at some point in their history and in their creedal development articulates some doctrine of original sin. So clear is that to the biblical revelation that it would take a repudiation of the biblical view of mankind to deny original sin altogether. This is precisely what was at issue in the battle between Augustine and Pelagius in the fifth century. Pelagius said there is no such thing as original sin. Adam's sin affected Adam and only Adam. There is no transmission or transfer of guilt or fallenness or corruption to the progeny of Adam and Eve. Everyone is born in the same state of innocence in which Adam was created. And, he said, for a person to live a life of obedience to God, a life of moral perfection, is possible without any help from Jesus or without any help from the grace of God. Pelagius said that grace -- and here's the key distinction -- facilitates righteousness. What does "facilitate" mean? It helps, it makes it more facile, it makes it easier, but you don't have to have it. You can be perfect without it. Pelagius further stated that it is not only theoretically possible for some folks to live a perfect life without any assistance from divine grace, but there are in fact people who do it. Augustine said, "No, no, no, no . . . we are infected by sin by nature, to the very depths and core of our being" so much so that no human being has the moral power to incline himself to cooperate with the grace of God. The human will, as a result of original sin, still has the power to choose, but it is in bondage to its evil desires and inclinations. The condition of fallen humanity is one that Augustine would describe as the inability to not sin. In simple English, what Augustine was saying is that in the Fall, man loses his moral ability to do the things of God and he is held captive by his own evil inclinations. In the fifth century the Church condemned Pelagius as a heretic. Pelagianism was condemned at the Council of Orange, and it was condemned again at the Council of Florence, the Council of Carthage, and also, ironically, at the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century in the first three anathemas of the Canons of the Sixth Session. So, consistently throughout Church history, the Church has roundly and soundly condemned Pelagianism  --  because Pelagianism denies the fallenness of our nature; it denies the doctrine of original sin. Now what is called semi-Pelagianism, as the prefix "semi" suggests, was a somewhat middle ground between full-orbed Augustinianism and full-orbed Pelagianism. Semi-Pelagianism said this: yes, there was a fall; yes, there is such a thing as original sin; yes, the constituent nature of humanity has been changed by this state of corruption and all parts of our humanity have been significantly weakened by the fall, so much so that without the assistance of divine grace nobody can possibly be redeemed, so that grace is not only helpful but it's absolutely necessary for salvation. While we are so fallen that we can't be saved without grace, we are not so fallen that we don't have the ability to accept or reject the grace when it?s offered to us. The will is weakened but is not enslaved. There remains in the core of our being an island of righteousness that remains untouched by the fall. It's out of that little island of righteousness, that little parcel of goodness that is still intact in the soul or in the will that is the determinative difference between heaven and hell. It's that little island that must be exercised when God does his thousand steps of reaching out to us, but in the final analysis it's that one step that we take that determines whether we go to heaven or hell -- whether we exercise that little righteousness that is in the core of our being or whether we don't. That little island Augustine wouldn't even recognize as an atoll in the South Pacific. He said it's a mythical island, that the will is enslaved, and that man is dead in his sin and trespasses. Ironically, the Church condemned semi-Pelagianism as vehemently as it had condemned original Pelagianism. Yet by the time you get to the sixteenth century and you read the Catholic understanding of what happens in salvation the Church basically repudiated what Augustine taught and Aquinas taught as well. The Church concluded that there still remains this freedom that is intact in the human will and that man must cooperate with -- and assent to -- the prevenient grace that is offered to them by God. If we exercise that will, if we exercise a cooperation with whatever powers we have left, we will be saved. And so in the sixteenth century the Church reembraced semi-Pelagianism. At the time of the Reformation, all the reformers agreed on one point: the moral inability of fallen human beings to incline themselves to the things of God; that all people, in order to be saved, are totally dependent, not ninety-nine percent, but one hundred percent dependent upon the monergistic work of regeneration in order to come to faith, and that faith itself is a gift of God. It's not that we are offered salvation and that we will be born again if we choose to believe. But we can't even believe until God in his grace and in his mercy first changes the disposition of our souls through his sovereign work of regeneration. In other words, what the reformers all agreed with was, unless a man is born again, he can't even see the kingdom of God, let alone enter it. Like Jesus says in the sixth chapter of John, "No man can come to me unless it is given to him of the Father" -- that the necessary condition for anybody's faith and anybody's salvation is regeneration. Evangelicals and Faith Modern Evangelicalism almost uniformly and universally teaches that in order for a person to be born again, he must first exercise faith. You have to choose to be born again. Isn't that what you hear? In a George Barna poll, more than seventy percent of "professing evangelical Christians" in America expressed the belief that man is basically good. And more than eighty percent articulated the view that God helps those who help themselves. These positions -- or let me say it negatively -- neither of these positions is semi-Pelagian. They're both Pelagian. To say that we're basically good is the Pelagian view. I would be willing to assume that in at least thirty percent of the people who are reading this issue, and probably more, if we really examine their thinking in depth, we would find hearts that are beating Pelagianism. We're overwhelmed with it. We're surrounded by it. We're immersed in it. We hear it every day. We hear it every day in the secular culture. And not only do we hear it every day in the secular culture, we hear it every day on Christian television and on Christian radio. In the nineteenth century, there was a preacher who became very popular in America, who wrote a book on theology, coming out of his own training in law, in which he made no bones about his Pelagianism. He rejected not only Augustinianism, but he also rejected semi-Pelagianism and stood clearly on the subject of unvarnished Pelagianism, saying in no uncertain terms, without any ambiguity, that there was no Fall and that there is no such thing as original sin. This man went on to attack viciously the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement of Christ, and in addition to that, to repudiate as clearly and as loudly as he could the doctrine of justification by faith alone by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. This man's basic thesis was, we don't need the imputation of the righteousness of Christ because we have the capacity in and of ourselves to become righteous. His name: Charles Finney, one of America's most revered evangelists. Now, if Luther was correct in saying that sola fide is the article upon which the Church stands or falls, if what the reformers were saying is that justification by faith alone is an essential truth of Christianity, who also argued that the substitutionary atonement is an essential truth of Christianity; if they're correct in their assessment that those doctrines are essential truths of Christianity, the only conclusion we can come to is that Charles Finney was not a Christian. I read his writings and I say, "I don't see how any Christian person could write this." And yet, he is in the Hall of Fame of Evangelical Christianity in America. He is the patron saint of twentieth-century Evangelicalism. And he is not semi-Pelagian; he is unvarnished in his Pelagianism. The Island of Righteousness One thing is clear: that you can be purely Pelagian and be completely welcome in the evangelical movement today. It's not simply that the camel sticks his nose into the tent; he doesn't just come in the tent -- he kicks the owner of the tent out. Modern Evangelicalism today looks with suspicion at Reformed theology, which has become sort of the third-class citizen of Evangelicalism. Now you say, "Wait a minute, R. C. Let's not tar everybody with the extreme brush of Pelagianism, because, after all, Billy Graham and the rest of these people are saying there was a Fall; you've got to have grace; there is such a thing as original sin; and semi-Pelagians do not agree with Pelagius' facile and sanguine view of unfallen human nature." And that's true. No question about it. But it's that little island of righteousness where man still has the ability, in and of himself, to turn, to change, to incline, to dispose, to embrace the offer of grace that reveals why historically semi-Pelagianism is not called semi-Augustinianism, but semi-Pelagianism. I heard an evangelist use two analogies to describe what happens in our redemption. He said sin has such a strong hold on us, a stranglehold, that it's like a person who can't swim, who falls overboard in a raging sea, and he's going under for the third time and only the tops of his fingers are still above the water; and unless someone intervenes to rescue him, he has no hope of survival, his death is certain. And unless God throws him a life preserver, he can't possibly be rescued. And not only must God throw him a life preserver in the general vicinity of where he is, but that life preserver has to hit him right where his fingers are still extended out of the water, and hit him so that he can grasp hold of it. It has to be perfectly pitched. But still that man will drown unless he takes his fingers and curls them around the life preserver and God will rescue him. But unless that tiny little human action is done, he will surely perish. The other analogy is this: A man is desperately ill, sick unto death, lying in his hospital bed with a disease that is fatal. There is no way he can be cured unless somebody from outside comes up with a cure, a medicine that will take care of this fatal disease. And God has the cure and walks into the room with the medicine. But the man is so weak he can't even help himself to the medicine; God has to pour it on the spoon. The man is so sick he's almost comatose. He can't even open his mouth, and God has to lean over and open up his mouth for him. God has to bring the spoon to the man?s lips, but the man still has to swallow it. Now, if we're going to use analogies, let?s be accurate. The man isn't going under for the third time; he is stone cold dead at the bottom of the ocean. That's where you once were when you were dead in sin and trespasses and walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air. And while you were dead hath God quickened you together with Christ. God dove to the bottom of the sea and took that drowned corpse and breathed into it the breath of his life and raised you from the dead. And it's not that you were dying in a hospital bed of a certain illness, but rather, when you were born you were born D.O.A. That's what the Bible says: that we are morally stillborn. Do we have a will? Yes, of course we have a will. Calvin said, if you mean by a free will a faculty of choosing by which you have the power within yourself to choose what you desire, then we all have free will. If you mean by free will the ability for fallen human beings to incline themselves and exercise that will to choose the things of God without the prior monergistic work of regeneration then, said Calvin, free will is far too grandiose a term to apply to a human being. The semi-Pelagian doctrine of free will prevalent in the evangelical world today is a pagan view that denies the captivity of the human heart to sin. It underestimates the stranglehold that sin has upon us. None of us wants to see things as bad as they really are. The biblical doctrine of human corruption is grim. We don?t hear the Apostle Paul say, "You know, it's sad that we have such a thing as sin in the world; nobody's perfect. But be of good cheer. We're basically good." Do you see that even a cursory reading of Scripture denies this? Now back to Luther. What is the source and status of faith? Is it the God-given means whereby the God-given justification is received? Or is it a condition of justification which is left to us to fulfill? Is your faith a work? Is it the one work that God leaves for you to do? I had a discussion with some folks in Grand Rapids, Michigan, recently. I was speaking on sola gratia, and one fellow was upset. He said, "Are you trying to tell me that in the final analysis it's God who either does or doesn't sovereignly regenerate a heart?" And I said, "Yes;" and he was very upset about that. I said, "Let me ask you this: are you a Christian?" He said, "Yes." I said, "Do you have friends who aren't Christians?" He said, "Well, of course." I said, "Why are you a Christian and your friends aren't? Is it because you're more righteous than they are?" He wasn't stupid. He wasn't going to say, "Of course it's because I'm more righteous. I did the right thing and my friend didn't." He knew where I was going with that question. And he said, "Oh, no, no, no." I said, "Tell me why. Is it because you are smarter than your friend?" And he said, "No." But he would not agree that the final, decisive issue was the grace of God. He wouldn't come to that. And after we discussed this for fifteen minutes, he said, "OK! I'll say it. I'm a Christian because I did the right thing, I made the right response, and my friend didn't." What was this person trusting in for his salvation? Not in his works in general, but in the one work that he performed. And he was a Protestant, an evangelical. But his view of salvation was no different from the Roman view. God's Sovereignty in Salvation This is the issue: Is it a part of God's gift of salvation, or is it in our own contribution to salvation? Is our salvation wholly of God or does it ultimately depend on something that we do for ourselves? Those who say the latter, that it ultimately depends on something we do for ourselves, thereby deny humanity's utter helplessness in sin and affirm that a form of semi-Pelagianism is true after all. It is no wonder then that later Reformed theology condemned Arminianism as being, in principle, both a return to Rome because, in effect, it turned faith into a meritorious work, and a betrayal of the Reformation because it denied the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, which was the deepest religious and theological principle of the reformers' thought. Arminianism was indeed, in Reformed eyes, a renunciation of New Testament Christianity in favor of New Testament Judaism. For to rely on oneself for faith is no different in principle than to rely on oneself for works, and the one is as un-Christian and anti-Christian as the other. In the light of what Luther says to Erasmus there is no doubt that he would have endorsed this judgment. And yet this view is the overwhelming majority report today in professing evangelical circles. And as long as semi-Pelagianism, which is simply a thinly-veiled version of real Pelagianism at its core -- as long as it prevails in the Church, I don't know what?s going to happen. But I know, however, what will not happen: there will not be a new Reformation. Until we humble ourselves and understand that no man is an island and that no man has an island of righteousness, that we are utterly dependent upon the unmixed grace of God for our salvation, we will not begin to rest upon grace and rejoice in the greatness of God's sovereignty, and we will not be rid of the pagan influence of humanism that exalts and puts man at the center of religion. Until that happens there will not be a new Reformation, because at the heart of Reformation teaching is the central place of the worship and gratitude given to God and God alone. Soli Deo gloria, to God alone be the glory.

42 posted on 08/05/2004 11:44:40 AM PDT by Dr. Eckleburg (There are very few shades of gray.)
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To: xzins
"I have also said that there is decent reason to believe that Morgan of Wales ALSO did not teach what he was accused of teaching."

Even assuming Morgan of Wales did not teach pelagianism he was not in alignment with whatever the church taught. Simple logic would say that:

1) Morgan of Wales' theology <> Augustine's theology.

2) Early church fathers' theology = Augustine's theology.

3) Therefore, Morgan of Wales' theology <> Early church fathers' theology.

Am I'm missing something?

43 posted on 08/05/2004 11:46:57 AM PDT by HarleyD (For strong is he who carries out God's word. (Joel 2:11))
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To: Dr. Eckleburg

I know, I know, paragraphs are our friends. Grrr...


44 posted on 08/05/2004 11:47:05 AM PDT by Dr. Eckleburg (There are very few shades of gray.)
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To: HarleyD; Jean Chauvin; RnMomof7; lockeliberty

The discerning mind will step back and see a pattern. Christ, the Apostles, early Church fathers, Augustine, all taught faith alone; that salvation was not dependent on man or men but was solely at the pleasure and plan of God.

As men sought power for themselves over other men they instituted the erroneous belief that man was not fallen, per Pelagius, merely bruised, and that the most important thing in life, one's salvation, was dependent on his own ability, not God's decree.

This false belief was intended to encourage men to give up their individual power to other men and to foresake their singular allegiance to God, all under the cover of "godliness." Thus were born "cabals."

It was the same thing the serpent said to Eve. "For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then our eyes shall be opened, ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." - Genesis 3:5

Not only will you become divine, but God is okay with that.

So men continue to think their salvation is dependent on actions, words, intentions, beliefs, works, -- when in reality the heart is cold, the body fallen, the man damned, unless and until God regenerates him.

The following article is reproduced from Modern Reformation, Vol 10, Number 3 (May/June 2001), pp. 22-29.

The Pelagian Captivity of the Church -- by R.C. Sproul

Shortly after the Reformation began, in the first few years after Martin Luther posted the Ninety-Five Theses on the church door at Wittenberg, he issued some short booklets on a variety of subjects. One of the most provocative was titled The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. In this book Luther was looking back to that period of Old Testament history when Jerusalem was destroyed by the invading armies of Babylon and the elite of the people were carried off into captivity. Luther in the sixteenth century took the image of the historic Babylonian captivity and reapplied it to his era and talked about the new Babylonian captivity of the Church. He was speaking of Rome as the modern Babylon that held the Gospel hostage with its rejection of the biblical understanding of justification. You can understand how fierce the controversy was, how polemical this title would be in that period by saying that the Church had not simply erred or strayed, but had fallen - that it's actually now Babylonian; it is now in pagan captivity.

I've often wondered if Luther were alive today and came to our culture and looked, not at the liberal church community, but at evangelical churches, what would he have to say? Of course I can't answer that question with any kind of definitive authority, but my guess is this: If Martin Luther lived today and picked up his pen to write, the book he would write in our time would be entitled The Pelagian Captivity of the Evangelical Church. Luther saw the doctrine of justification as fueled by a deeper theological problem. He writes about this extensively in The Bondage of the Will. When we look at the Reformation and we see the solas of the Reformation -- sola Scriptura, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria, sola gratia -- Luther was convinced that the real issue of the Reformation was the issue of grace; and that underlying the doctrine of solo fide, justification by faith alone, was the prior commitment to sola gratia, the concept of justification by grace alone.


In the Fleming Revell edition of The Bondage of the Will, the translators, J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston, included a somewhat provocative historical and theological introduction to the book itself. This is from the end of that introduction:

"These things need to be pondered by Protestants today. With what right may we call ourselves children of the Reformation? Much modern Protestantism would be neither owned nor even recognised by the pioneer Reformers. The Bondage of the Will fairly sets before us what they believed about the salvation of lost mankind. In the light of it, we are forced to ask whether Protestant Christendom has not tragically sold its birthright between Luther's day and our own. Has not Protestantism today become more Erasmian than Lutheran? Do we not too often try to minimise and gloss over doctrinal differences for the sake of inter-party peace? Are we innocent of the doctrinal indifferentism with which Luther charged Erasmus? Do we still believe that doctrine matters?"

Historically, it's a simple matter of fact that Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and all the leading Protestant theologians of the first epoch of the Reformation stood on precisely the same ground here. On other points they had their differences. In asserting the helplessness of man in sin and the sovereignty of God in grace, they were entirely at one. To all of them these doctrines were the very lifeblood of the Christian faith. A modern editor of Luther's works says this:

"Whoever puts this book down without having realized that Evangelical theology stands or falls with the doctrine of the bondage of the will has read it in vain. The doctrine of free justification by faith alone, which became the storm center of so much controversy during the Reformation period, is often regarded as the heart of the Reformers' theology, but this is not accurate. The truth is that their thinking was really centered upon the contention of Paul, echoed by Augustine and others, that the sinner's entire salvation is by free and sovereign grace only, and that the doctrine of justification by faith was important to them because it safeguarded the principle of sovereign grace. The sovereignty of grace found expression in their thinking at a more profound level still in the doctrine of monergistic regeneration."

That is to say, that the faith that receives Christ for justification is itself the free gift of a sovereign God. The principle of sola fide is not rightly understood until it is seen as anchored in the broader principle of sola gratia. What is the source of faith? Is it the God-given means whereby the God-given justification is received, or is it a condition of justification which is left to man to fulfill? Do you hear the difference? Let me put it in simple terms. I heard an evangelist recently say, "If God takes a thousand steps to reach out to you for your redemption, still in the final analysis, you must take the decisive step to be saved." Consider the statement that has been made by America's most beloved and leading evangelical of the twentieth century, Billy Graham, who says with great passion, "God does ninety-nine percent of it but you still must do that last one percent."

What Is Pelagianism?

Now, let's return briefly to my title, "The Pelagian Captivity of the Church." What are we talking about? Pelagius was a monk who lived in Britain in the fifth century. He was a contemporary of the greatest theologian of the first millennium of Church history if not of all time, Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in North Africa. We have heard of St. Augustine, of his great works in theology, of his City of God, of his Confessions, and so on, which remain Christian classics.

Augustine, in addition to being a titanic theologian and a prodigious intellect, was also a man of deep spirituality and prayer. In one of his famous prayers, Augustine made a seemingly harmless and innocuous statement in the prayer to God in which he says: "O God, command what you wouldst, and grant what thou dost command." Now, would that give you apoplexy - to hear a prayer like that? Well it certainly set Pelagius, this British monk, into orbit. When he heard that, he protested vociferously, even appealing to Rome to have this ghastly prayer censured from the pen of Augustine. Here's why. He said, "Are you saying, Augustine, that God has the inherent right to command anything that he so desires from his creatures? Nobody is going to dispute that. God inherently, as the creator of heaven and earth, has the right to impose obligations on his creatures and say, 'Thou shalt do this, and thou shalt not do that.' Command whatever thou would. It's a perfectly legitimate prayer."

It's the second part of the prayer that Pelagius abhorred when Augustine said, "...and grant what thou dost command." He said, "What are you talking about? If God is just, if God is righteous and God is holy, and God commands of the creature to do something, certainly that creature must have the power within himself, the moral ability within himself, to perform it or God would never require it in the first place."

Now that makes sense, doesn't it? What Pelagius was saying is that moral responsibility always and everywhere implies moral capability or, simply, moral ability. So why would we have to pray, "God grant me, give me the gift of being able to do what you command me to do?" Pelagius saw in this statement a shadow being cast over the integrity of God himself, who would hold people responsible for doing something they cannot do.

So in the ensuing debate, Augustine made it clear that in creation, God commanded nothing from Adam or Eve that they were incapable of performing. But once transgression entered and mankind became fallen, God's law was not repealed nor did God adjust his holy requirements downward to accommodate the weakened, fallen condition of his creation. God did punish his creation by visiting upon them the judgment of original sin, so that everyone after Adam and Eve who was born into this world was born already dead in sin. Original sin is not the first sin. It's the result of the first sin; it refers to our inherent corruption, by which we are born in sin, and in sin did our mothers conceive us. We are not born in a neutral state of innocence, but we are born in a sinful, fallen condition. Virtually every church in the historic World Council of Churches at some point in their history and in their creedal development articulates some doctrine of original sin. So clear is that to the biblical revelation that it would take a repudiation of the biblical view of mankind to deny original sin altogether.

This is precisely what was at issue in the battle between Augustine and Pelagius in the fifth century. Pelagius said there is no such thing as original sin. Adam's sin affected Adam and only Adam. There is no transmission or transfer of guilt or fallenness or corruption to the progeny of Adam and Eve. Everyone is born in the same state of innocence in which Adam was created. And, he said, for a person to live a life of obedience to God, a life of moral perfection, is possible without any help from Jesus or without any help from the grace of God.

Pelagius said that grace -- and here's the key distinction -- facilitates righteousness. What does "facilitate" mean?

It helps, it makes it more facile, it makes it easier, but you don't have to have it. You can be perfect without it. Pelagius further stated that it is not only theoretically possible for some folks to live a perfect life without any assistance from divine grace, but there are in fact people who do it. Augustine said, "No, no, no, no . . . we are infected by sin by nature, to the very depths and core of our being" so much so that no human being has the moral power to incline himself to cooperate with the grace of God. The human will, as a result of original sin, still has the power to choose, but it is in bondage to its evil desires and inclinations. The condition of fallen humanity is one that Augustine would describe as the inability to not sin. In simple English, what Augustine was saying is that in the Fall, man loses his moral ability to do the things of God and he is held captive by his own evil inclinations.

In the fifth century the Church condemned Pelagius as a heretic. Pelagianism was condemned at the Council of Orange, and it was condemned again at the Council of Florence, the Council of Carthage, and also, ironically, at the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century in the first three anathemas of the Canons of the Sixth Session. So, consistently throughout Church history, the Church has roundly and soundly condemned Pelagianism  --  because Pelagianism denies the fallenness of our nature; it denies the doctrine of original sin.

Now what is called semi-Pelagianism, as the prefix "semi" suggests, was a somewhat middle ground between full-orbed Augustinianism and full-orbed Pelagianism. Semi-Pelagianism said this: yes, there was a fall; yes, there is such a thing as original sin; yes, the constituent nature of humanity has been changed by this state of corruption and all parts of our humanity have been significantly weakened by the fall, so much so that without the assistance of divine grace nobody can possibly be redeemed, so that grace is not only helpful but it's absolutely necessary for salvation. While we are so fallen that we can't be saved without grace, we are not so fallen that we don't have the ability to accept or reject the grace when it?s offered to us. The will is weakened but is not enslaved. There remains in the core of our being an island of righteousness that remains untouched by the fall. It's out of that little island of righteousness, that little parcel of goodness that is still intact in the soul or in the will that is the determinative difference between heaven and hell. It's that little island that must be exercised when God does his thousand steps of reaching out to us, but in the final analysis it's that one step that we take that determines whether we go to heaven or hell -- whether we exercise that little righteousness that is in the core of our being or whether we don't. That little island Augustine wouldn't even recognize as an atoll in the South Pacific. He said it's a mythical island, that the will is enslaved, and that man is dead in his sin and trespasses.

Ironically, the Church condemned semi-Pelagianism as vehemently as it had condemned original Pelagianism. Yet by the time you get to the sixteenth century and you read the Catholic understanding of what happens in salvation the Church basically repudiated what Augustine taught and Aquinas taught as well. The Church concluded that there still remains this freedom that is intact in the human will and that man must cooperate with -- and assent to -- the prevenient grace that is offered to them by God. If we exercise that will, if we exercise a cooperation with whatever powers we have left, we will be saved. And so in the sixteenth century the Church reembraced semi-Pelagianism.

At the time of the Reformation, all the reformers agreed on one point: the moral inability of fallen human beings to incline themselves to the things of God; that all people, in order to be saved, are totally dependent, not ninety-nine percent, but one hundred percent dependent upon the monergistic work of regeneration in order to come to faith, and that faith itself is a gift of God. It's not that we are offered salvation and that we will be born again if we choose to believe. But we can't even believe until God in his grace and in his mercy first changes the disposition of our souls through his sovereign work of regeneration. In other words, what the reformers all agreed with was, unless a man is born again, he can't even see the kingdom of God, let alone enter it. Like Jesus says in the sixth chapter of John, "No man can come to me unless it is given to him of the Father" -- that the necessary condition for anybody's faith and anybody's salvation is regeneration.

Evangelicals and Faith

Modern Evangelicalism almost uniformly and universally teaches that in order for a person to be born again, he must first exercise faith. You have to choose to be born again. Isn't that what you hear? In a George Barna poll, more than seventy percent of "professing evangelical Christians" in America expressed the belief that man is basically good. And more than eighty percent articulated the view that God helps those who help themselves. These positions -- or let me say it negatively -- neither of these positions is semi-Pelagian. They're both Pelagian. To say that we're basically good is the Pelagian view. I would be willing to assume that in at least thirty percent of the people who are reading this issue, and probably more, if we really examine their thinking in depth, we would find hearts that are beating Pelagianism. We're overwhelmed with it. We're surrounded by it. We're immersed in it. We hear it every day. We hear it every day in the secular culture. And not only do we hear it every day in the secular culture, we hear it every day on Christian television and on Christian radio.

In the nineteenth century, there was a preacher who became very popular in America, who wrote a book on theology, coming out of his own training in law, in which he made no bones about his Pelagianism. He rejected not only Augustinianism, but he also rejected semi-Pelagianism and stood clearly on the subject of unvarnished Pelagianism, saying in no uncertain terms, without any ambiguity, that there was no Fall and that there is no such thing as original sin. This man went on to attack viciously the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement of Christ, and in addition to that, to repudiate as clearly and as loudly as he could the doctrine of justification by faith alone by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. This man's basic thesis was, we don't need the imputation of the righteousness of Christ because we have the capacity in and of ourselves to become righteous. His name: Charles Finney, one of America's most revered evangelists. Now, if Luther was correct in saying that sola fide is the article upon which the Church stands or falls, if what the reformers were saying is that justification by faith alone is an essential truth of Christianity, who also argued that the substitutionary atonement is an essential truth of Christianity; if they're correct in their assessment that those doctrines are essential truths of Christianity, the only conclusion we can come to is that Charles Finney was not a Christian. I read his writings and I say, "I don't see how any Christian person could write this." And yet, he is in the Hall of Fame of Evangelical Christianity in America. He is the patron saint of twentieth-century Evangelicalism. And he is not semi-Pelagian; he is unvarnished in his Pelagianism.

The Island of Righteousness

One thing is clear: that you can be purely Pelagian and be completely welcome in the evangelical movement today. It's not simply that the camel sticks his nose into the tent; he doesn't just come in the tent -- he kicks the owner of the tent out. Modern Evangelicalism today looks with suspicion at Reformed theology, which has become sort of the third-class citizen of Evangelicalism. Now you say, "Wait a minute, R. C. Let's not tar everybody with the extreme brush of Pelagianism, because, after all, Billy Graham and the rest of these people are saying there was a Fall; you've got to have grace; there is such a thing as original sin; and semi-Pelagians do not agree with Pelagius' facile and sanguine view of unfallen human nature." And that's true. No question about it. But it's that little island of righteousness where man still has the ability, in and of himself, to turn, to change, to incline, to dispose, to embrace the offer of grace that reveals why historically semi-Pelagianism is not called semi-Augustinianism, but semi-Pelagianism.

I heard an evangelist use two analogies to describe what happens in our redemption. He said sin has such a strong hold on us, a stranglehold, that it's like a person who can't swim, who falls overboard in a raging sea, and he's going under for the third time and only the tops of his fingers are still above the water; and unless someone intervenes to rescue him, he has no hope of survival, his death is certain. And unless God throws him a life preserver, he can't possibly be rescued. And not only must God throw him a life preserver in the general vicinity of where he is, but that life preserver has to hit him right where his fingers are still extended out of the water, and hit him so that he can grasp hold of it. It has to be perfectly pitched. But still that man will drown unless he takes his fingers and curls them around the life preserver and God will rescue him. But unless that tiny little human action is done, he will surely perish.

The other analogy is this: A man is desperately ill, sick unto death, lying in his hospital bed with a disease that is fatal. There is no way he can be cured unless somebody from outside comes up with a cure, a medicine that will take care of this fatal disease. And God has the cure and walks into the room with the medicine. But the man is so weak he can't even help himself to the medicine; God has to pour it on the spoon. The man is so sick he's almost comatose. He can't even open his mouth, and God has to lean over and open up his mouth for him. God has to bring the spoon to the man's lips, but the man still has to swallow it.

Now, if we're going to use analogies, let's be accurate. The man isn't going under for the third time; he is stone cold dead at the bottom of the ocean. That's where you once were when you were dead in sin and trespasses and walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air. And while you were dead hath God quickened you together with Christ. God dove to the bottom of the sea and took that drowned corpse and breathed into it the breath of his life and raised you from the dead. And it's not that you were dying in a hospital bed of a certain illness, but rather, when you were born you were born D.O.A. That's what the Bible says: that we are morally stillborn.

Do we have a will? Yes, of course we have a will. Calvin said, if you mean by a free will a faculty of choosing by which you have the power within yourself to choose what you desire, then we all have free will. If you mean by free will the ability for fallen human beings to incline themselves and exercise that will to choose the things of God without the prior monergistic work of regeneration then, said Calvin, free will is far too grandiose a term to apply to a human being.

The semi-Pelagian doctrine of free will prevalent in the evangelical world today is a pagan view that denies the captivity of the human heart to sin. It underestimates the stranglehold that sin has upon us.

None of us wants to see things as bad as they really are. The biblical doctrine of human corruption is grim. We don?t hear the Apostle Paul say, "You know, it's sad that we have such a thing as sin in the world; nobody's perfect. But be of good cheer. We're basically good." Do you see that even a cursory reading of Scripture denies this?

Now back to Luther. What is the source and status of faith? Is it the God-given means whereby the God-given justification is received? Or is it a condition of justification which is left to us to fulfill? Is your faith a work? Is it the one work that God leaves for you to do? I had a discussion with some folks in Grand Rapids, Michigan, recently. I was speaking on sola gratia, and one fellow was upset.

He said, "Are you trying to tell me that in the final analysis it's God who either does or doesn't sovereignly regenerate a heart?"

And I said, "Yes;" and he was very upset about that. I said, "Let me ask you this: are you a Christian?"

He said, "Yes."

I said, "Do you have friends who aren't Christians?"

He said, "Well, of course."

I said, "Why are you a Christian and your friends aren't? Is it because you're more righteous than they are?" He wasn't stupid. He wasn't going to say, "Of course it's because I'm more righteous. I did the right thing and my friend didn't." He knew where I was going with that question.

And he said, "Oh, no, no, no."

I said, "Tell me why. Is it because you are smarter than your friend?"

And he said, "No."

But he would not agree that the final, decisive issue was the grace of God. He wouldn't come to that. And after we discussed this for fifteen minutes, he said, "OK! I'll say it. I'm a Christian because I did the right thing, I made the right response, and my friend didn't."

What was this person trusting in for his salvation? Not in his works in general, but in the one work that he performed. And he was a Protestant, an evangelical. But his view of salvation was no different from the Roman view.

God's Sovereignty in Salvation

This is the issue: Is it a part of God's gift of salvation, or is it in our own contribution to salvation? Is our salvation wholly of God or does it ultimately depend on something that we do for ourselves? Those who say the latter, that it ultimately depends on something we do for ourselves, thereby deny humanity's utter helplessness in sin and affirm that a form of semi-Pelagianism is true after all. It is no wonder then that later Reformed theology condemned Arminianism as being, in principle, both a return to Rome because, in effect, it turned faith into a meritorious work, and a betrayal of the Reformation because it denied the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, which was the deepest religious and theological principle of the reformers' thought. Arminianism was indeed, in Reformed eyes, a renunciation of New Testament Christianity in favor of New Testament Judaism. For to rely on oneself for faith is no different in principle than to rely on oneself for works, and the one is as un-Christian and anti-Christian as the other. In the light of what Luther says to Erasmus there is no doubt that he would have endorsed this judgment.

And yet this view is the overwhelming majority report today in professing evangelical circles.
And as long as semi-Pelagianism, which is simply a thinly-veiled version of real Pelagianism at its core -- as long as it prevails in the Church, I don't know what?s going to happen. But I know, however, what will not happen: there will not be a new Reformation. Until we humble ourselves and understand that no man is an island and that no man has an island of righteousness, that we are utterly dependent upon the unmixed grace of God for our salvation, we will not begin to rest upon grace and rejoice in the greatness of God's sovereignty, and we will not be rid of the pagan influence of humanism that exalts and puts man at the center of religion. Until that happens there will not be a new Reformation, because at the heart of Reformation teaching is the central place of the worship and gratitude given to God and God alone. Soli Deo gloria, to God alone be the glory.


45 posted on 08/05/2004 11:55:36 AM PDT by Dr. Eckleburg (There are very few shades of gray.)
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To: Dr. Eckleburg
Do we not too often try to minimise and gloss over doctrinal differences for the sake of inter-party peace? Are we innocent of the doctrinal indifferentism with which Luther charged Erasmus? Do we still believe that doctrine matters?"

It appears that Packer and Johnston must lurk the Free Republic Religon forum.

46 posted on 08/05/2004 12:19:11 PM PDT by lockeliberty (I am a lowly Sea Beggar)
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To: Dr. Eckleburg

Whew! That's better. My eyeballs nearly fell out.


47 posted on 08/05/2004 12:35:24 PM PDT by HarleyD (For strong is he who carries out God's word. (Joel 2:11))
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To: HarleyD; Jean Chauvin; lockeliberty; RnMomof7; ksen; Gamecock; snerkel; drstevej; George W. Bush; ..

My shame knows no bounds. 8~)

Am I forgiven?


I DREAMED I SAW ST. AUGUSTINE
-- Bob Dylan --

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine
Alive as you or me
Tearing through these quarters
In the utmost misery
With a blanket underneath his arm
And a coat of solid gold
Searching for the very souls
Whom already have been sold.


"Arise, arise", he cried so loud
With a voice without restraint
"Come out ye gifted kings and queens
And hear my sad complaint
No martyr is among ye now
Whom you can call your own
So go on your way accordingly
But know you're not alone".


I dreamed I saw St. Augustine
Alive with fiery breath
And I dreamed I was amongst the ones
That put him out to death
Oh, I awoke in anger
So alone and terrified
I put my fingers against the glass
And bowed my head and cried.


48 posted on 08/05/2004 1:42:40 PM PDT by Dr. Eckleburg (Hey, RNC! Get Bob Dylan to sing "Saving Grace" at the Convention!)
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To: HarleyD
I know that many RCCers will say I'm wrong but IMO, the RCC has rejected the Augustine's position of salvation through total grace as documented at the Council of Orange.

Well, that's kind of a silly thing to say, because II Orange is considered by Catholic theologians to be dogmatic and thus infallible.

The hilarious thing is that the Orthodox say our theology is enslaved to Augustine, and you say we've departed from him, so I guess we must be doing something right.

49 posted on 08/05/2004 1:59:24 PM PDT by Campion
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To: HarleyD
Am I'm missing something?

Yes. You are missing that the eastern church was acquiting him.

50 posted on 08/05/2004 3:43:20 PM PDT by xzins (Retired Army and Supporting Bush/Cheney 2004!)
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