Semi Pelagianism

Although Pelagianism had been officially condemned by the authorities o£ the Catholic Church, not all Catholics fully agreed with Augustine. Some thought that his doctrine of predestination, irresistible grace, and perseverance due entirely to God would undercut all moral effort, for if God chooses those who are to be saved and no sinner can take even the first step towards repentance and God without the impulse of God's grace, and if God will find a way of making His grace effective for the elect, why should any one trouble himself to attempt to do what is right?

This stage of the controversy over election as against free will was begun by John Cassian, a monk from the East who about 415 founded monasteries in the vicinity of Marseilles, in Gaul. He declared that God wishes all men, not merely some, to be saved, that He has not so made man that the latter neither wills nor is able to do good, and that when He sees in us even the smallest spark of a will towards goodness He strengthens it. Cassian was followed by his pupil, Vincent, a monk of Lerins, who declared that Augustine's teachings were novelties and that in the Catholic Church "all possible care should be taken" to "hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all" (Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus).

Some in Gaul came to the support of the views of Augustine and in 529 the Bishop of Arles held a synod or council at Orange whose findings were approved by Bishop Boniface II, of Rome, and thus were accorded the support of that powerful see. The Synod of Orange affirmed original sin and declared that man has lost all power to turn to God and that turning to God is wholly through God's grace. It condemned those who affirmed that our will can anticipate God's action, that the beginning of faith and the desire to believe can come apart from the free gift of grace, and that apart from God's grace we can choose the good. Yet the findings of the synod said nothing of irresistible grace and condemned the teaching that some are predestined to evil. Moreover, the Synod of Orange did not speak of man as being totally depraved by Adam's sin. It said, rather, that by that sin free will is so inclined and weakened that "no one is able to love God as he ought, or believe in God, or do anything for God which is good, except the grace of divine mercy comes first to him." Moreover, the Synod of Orange ascribed more to baptism than did Augustine. To be sure, Augustine held that baptism is essential to the remission of sins, but the Synod of Orange declared that through the grace received at baptism "all who have been baptized can and ought, by the aid and support of Christ, to perform those things which belong to the salvation of the soul if they labour faithfully." The implication is that all, and not merely, as Augustine held, those of the limited number of the elect, can, if they are baptized, through the grace which comes through baptism, if they work at it faithfully, by the aid and support of Christ, be assured of salvation. They need not be distressed by the fear that they are not of those to whom, through grace, perseverance has not been given. Man's will has not been so impaired by Adam's fall but that, healed by grace and aided by Christ, it can achieve salvation. Here were semi-Augustinianism, a weakening of pure Augustinianism, and a view of baptism which were to characterize Latin or Roman Christianity in succeeding centuries.

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