Pelagianism is the belief that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without special Divine aid.

Pelagianism Vs. Augustinianism in Church History

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  • Pelagianism Vs. Augustinianism in Church History

    by John Hendryx


    B. B. Warfield once declared that there are "fundamentally only two doctrines of salvation: that salvation is from God, and that salvation is from ourselves. The former is the doctrine of common Christianity; the latter is the doctrine of universal heathenism." This statement frames the never-ending battle between Augustinians and Pelagians through church history over the extent that the grace of Christ saves us. Augustine taught that because human beings are born in original sin and are utterly impotent to redeem themselves, that salvation must, not in part, but wholly be from God. In other words, since man's will is in bondage to sin, only God's grace in Christ, which he most freely bestows on whom He will, means that God alone deserves the glory for salvation. Pelagius, on the other hand, rejected original sin by asserting that Adam was merely a bad example and we could help ourselves through a moral improvement scheme. According to Pelagius salvation comes about through following Christ's moral example, rather than Adams'. On the other hand, Augustine taught the biblical doctrine that salvation is a free gift of mercy to those whom God joins to Christ, clothing them in his righteousness and making them alive by His grace.

    Again, B. B. Warfield said, "Augustine [was one of the early founders] of Roman Catholicism and the author of that doctrine of grace which it has been the constantly pursued effort of Roman Catholicism to neutralize, and which in very fact either must be neutralized by, or will neutralize, Roman Catholicism. Two children were struggling in the womb of his mind. There can be no doubt which was the child of his heart. His doctrine of the Church he had received whole from his predecessors, and he gave it merely the precision and vitality which insured its persistence. His doctrine of grace was all his own: it represented the very core of his being . . . it was inevitable, had time been allowed, that his inherited doctrine of the Church, too, with all its implications, would have gone down before it, and Augustine would have bequeathed to the Church, not "problems," but a thoroughly worked out system of evangelical religion. . . . The problem which Augustine bequeathed to the Church for solution, the Church required a thousand years to solve. But even so, it is Augustine who gave us the Reformation. For the Reformation, inwardly considered, was just the ultimate triumph of Augustine's doctrine of grace over Augustine's doctrine of the Church. (Warfield, Calvin and Augustine, 321-22)

    The Bible is our authority in all matters of our faith. But investigating how the church interpreted the Bible through its history gives us a great deal of understanding of who we are now. Pointing out the various strains of Christianity, that is, which ones have remains faithful to Scripture and which have deviated, may help us to see more clearly where we may have gone astray.

    "For by grace you have been saved through faith, which is a gift from God, so that no man can boast." - Eph 2:8-9

    "...no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." - John 6:65

    "Grace does not destroy the will but rather restores it." - Augustine

    "Let God give what He commands, and command what He will." - Augustine
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