Pelagianism, also called Pelagian heresy, is the Christian theological position that the original sin did not taint human nature and mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without special divine aid or assistance. This theological theory is named after the British monk Pelagius (c. AD 360 – 418), although he denied, at least at some point in his life, many of the doctrines associated with his name. Pelagius was identified as an Irishman by Saint Jerome.[1] Pelagius taught human will, as created with its abilities by God, was sufficient to live a sinless life, although he believed God's grace assisted every good work. Pelagianism has come to be identified with the view (whether taught by Pelagius or not) human beings can earn salvation by their own efforts.


Nuremberg chronicles f 135r 2
Pelagius Hereticus and John Chrysostom depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493

According to Augustinian theologians, Pelagius rejected the Biblical concept of grace.[2] According to his opponents, Pelagius taught moral perfection was attainable in this life without the assistance of divine grace through human free will. Augustine contradicted this by saying perfection was impossible without grace because we are born sinners with a sinful heart and will. The Pelagians charged Augustine with departing from the accepted teaching (e.g.: John 8:11) of the Apostles and the Bible, demonstrating the doctrine of original sin amounted to Manichaeism, which taught that the flesh was in itself sinful (and thus denied Jesus came in the flesh). This charge would have carried added weight since contemporaries knew Augustine had himself been a Manichaean layman before converting to Christianity. Augustine also taught a person's salvation comes solely through a free gift, the efficacious grace of God, but this was a gift one had no free choice to accept or refuse.[3]

Pelagianism was attacked in 415 at the Council of Diospolis (also known as Lydda or Lod),[4] which found Pelagius to be orthodox.[5] But it was later condemned at the Council of Carthage (418)[6] and this condemnation was ratified at the Council of Ephesus in 431. The strict moral teachings of the Pelagians were influential in southern Italy and Sicily, where they were openly preached until the death of Julian of Eclanum in 455, and in Britain until the coming of Saint Germanus of Auxerre c 429.[7] Despite repeated attempts to suppress Pelagianism and similar teachings by orthodox clergy, some followers of Pelagianism were still active in the Ostrogothic Kingdom (493–553), most notably in Picenum and Dalmatia during the rule of Theoderic the Great.[8]

In De causa Dei contra Pelagium et de virtute causarum, Thomas Bradwardine denounced Pelagianism in the 14th century, as did Gabriel Biel in the 15th century.[6]


Little is known about the life of Pelagius, and although he is frequently referred to as a British monk, his origins are by no means certain. ("Pelagius" is derived from the Greek "pelagikos", meaning of the sea.)[9] Augustine says that he lived in Rome "for a very long time" and referred to him as "Brito" to distinguish him from a different man called Pelagius of Tarentum. Bede refers to him as "Pelagius Bretto".[10] St. Jerome suggests he was of Scottish descent which at the time would most certainly have meant he was from Ireland, since in the time of Pelagius, "Scots" referred to the Irish because Scota (source of "Scottish" or "Irish" in the early Middle Ages) was one of their matronyms; the word Irish comes from the matronym Ériu.[11] Other sources place his origins in Brittany.[12] He was certainly well known in the Roman province, both for the harsh asceticism of his public life, as well as the power and persuasiveness of his speech. Augustine, a pillar of the Church, referred to him as "saintly" before their falling out and John Wesley said "he was both a wise and a holy man".[13]


The teachings of Pelagius are generally associated with the rejection of both original sin and infant baptism.[14] Although the writings of Pelagius are no longer extant, the eight canons of the Council of Carthage (418) provided corrections to the perceived errors of the early Pelagians. These corrections include:

  1. Death did not come to Adam from a physical necessity, but through sin.
  2. New-born children must be baptized on account of original sin.
  3. Justifying grace not only avails for the forgiveness of past sins, but also gives assistance for the avoidance of future sins.
  4. The grace of Christ not only discloses the knowledge of God's commandments, but also imparts strength to will and execute them.
  5. Without God's grace it is not merely more difficult, but absolutely impossible to perform good works.
  6. Not out of humility, but in truth must we confess ourselves to be sinners.
  7. The saints refer the petition of the Our Father, "Forgive us our trespasses", not only to others, but also to themselves.
  8. The saints pronounce the same supplication not from mere humility, but from truthfulness.[15]

Some codices containing a ninth canon:[16] Children dying without baptism do not go to a "middle place" (medius locus), since the non-reception of baptism excludes both from the "kingdom of heaven" and from "eternal life". Pelagianism stands in contrast to the official hamartiological system of the Catholic Church that is based on the theology of Saint Augustine of Hippo. Semipelagianism is a modified form of Pelagianism that was also condemned by the Catholic Church at the Council of Orange (529).

Of far-reaching influence upon the further progress of Pelagianism was the friendship which Pelagius developed in Rome with Caelestius, a lawyer of noble (probably Italian) descent. In the capacity of a lay-monk Caelestius endeavoured to convert the practical maxims learnt from Pelagius, into theoretical principles, which he then propagated in Rome.[17] The denial of the transmission of Original Sin seems to have been introduced into Pelagianism by Rufinus the Syrian, who influenced Pelagius' supporter Celestius.[18] Pelagius' views were sometimes misrepresented by his followers and distorted by his opponents. Pelagianism has come to mean – unfairly to its founder – the view that human beings can earn salvation by their own efforts.[9]

Comparison of teaching

Pelagius's views on free will

Pelagius was disturbed by the immorality he encountered in Rome and saw Christians using human frailty as an excuse for their failure to live a Christian life.[9] He taught that the human will, as created with its abilities by God, was sufficient to live a sinless life, although he believed that God's grace assisted every good work. Pelagius did not believe that all humanity was guilty in Adam's sin, but said that Adam had condemned mankind through bad example. The value of Christ's redemption was, in his opinion, limited mainly to instruction and example.[17]

Pelagius wrote:

"Whenever I have to speak on the subject of moral instruction and conduct of a holy life, it is my practice first to demonstrate the power and quality of human nature and to show what it is capable of achieving, and then to go on to encourage the mind of my listener to consider the idea of different kinds of virtues, in case it may be of little or no profit to him to be summoned to pursue ends which he has perhaps assumed hitherto to be beyond his reach; for we can never end upon the path of virtue unless we have hope as our guide and compassion."[19]

"It was because God wished to bestow on the rational creature the gift of doing good of his own free will and the capacity to exercise free choice, by implanting in man the possibility of choosing either alternative.  ... He could not claim to possess the good of his own volition, unless he was the kind of creature that could also have possessed evil. Our most excellent creator wished us to be able to do either but actually to do only one, that is, good, which he also commanded, giving us the capacity to do evil only so that we might do His will by exercising our own. That being so, this very capacity to do evil is also good – good, I say, because it makes the good part better by making it voluntary and independent, not bound by necessity but free to decide for itself."[20]

"Yet we do not defend the good of nature to such an extent that we claim that it cannot do evil, since we undoubtedly declare also that it is capable of good and evil; we merely try to protect it from an unjust charge, so that we may not seem to be forced to do evil through a fault of our nature, when, in fact, we do neither good nor evil without the exercise of our will and always have the freedom to do one of the two, being always able to do either."[21]

"Nothing impossible has been commanded by the God of justice and majesty ... Why do we indulge in pointless evasions, advancing the frailty of our own nature as an objection to the one who commands us? No one knows better the true measure of our strength than he who has given it to us nor does anyone understand better how much we are able to do than he who has given us this very capacity of ours to be able; nor has he who is just wished to command anything impossible or he who is good intended to condemn a man for doing what he could not avoid doing."[22]

A follower of Pelagius taught:

When will a man guilty of any crime or sin accept with a tranquil mind that his wickedness is a product of his own will, not of necessity, and allow what he now strives to attribute to nature to be ascribed to his own free choice? It affords endless comfort to transgressors of the divine law if they are able to believe that their failure to do something is due to inability rather than disinclination, since they understand from their natural wisdom that no one can be judged for failing to do the impossible and that what is justifiable on grounds of impossibility is either a small sin or none at all.[23]

Under the plea that it is impossible not to sin, they are given a false sense of security in sinning ... Anyone who hears that it is not possible for him to be without sin will not even try to be what he judges to be impossible, and the man who does not try to be without sin must perforce sin all the time, and all the more boldly because he enjoys the false security of believing that it is impossible for him not to sin ... But if he were to hear that he is able not to sin, then he would have exerted himself to fulfil what he now knows to be possible when he is striving to fulfil it, to achieve his purpose for the most part, even if not entirely.[24]

Church Fathers on free will

Many of the Church Fathers before Augustine taught that humans have the power of free will and the choice over good and evil.

  • Justin Martyr said that "every created being is so constituted as to be capable of vice and virtue. For he can do nothing praiseworthy, if he had not the power of turning either way".[25]
  • Theophilus (c.180) said, "If, on the other hand, he would turn to the things of death, disobeying God, he would himself be the cause of death to himself. For God made man free, and with power of himself."
  • Irenaeus said, "But man, being endowed with reason, and in this respect similar to God, having been made free in his will, and with power over himself, is himself his own cause that sometimes he becomes wheat, and sometimes chaff."
  • Clement of Alexandria (c.195) said, "We ... have believed and are saved by voluntary choice."

Jerome (d. 420) emerged as one of the chief critics of Pelagianism, because, according to him, sin was an unavoidable part of human nature.

Later responses

Thomas Bradwardine (c. 1290–1349) wrote De causa Dei contra Pelagium et de virtute causarum ad suos Mertonenses.[26] Johann Pupper, also known as Johannes von Goch (c. 1400–1475), an Augustinian, recommended a return to the text of the Bible as a remedy for Pelagianism.[27]


Pelagianism became a common accusation during the Protestant Reformation; Reformers often used the epithet to critique what they saw as late-medieval Catholicism's undue emphasis on doing good works. Martin Luther (1483–1546), John Calvin (1509–1564), and Cornelius Jansen (1585–1638) reacted in different ways against Pelagianism, and evaluations of Lutheran, Reformed, and Jansenist theologies have often turned on the question of what is or is not Pelagian.[28]

Contemporary responses

In the book Guardare Cristo: Esercizi di fede, speranza e carità (Looking at Christ: Exercises of faith, hope and charity),[29] Pope Benedict XVI wrote:

"the other face of the same vice is the Pelagianism of the pious. They do not want forgiveness and in general they do not want any real gift from God either. They just want to be in order. They don’t want hope they just want security. Their aim is to gain the right to salvation through a strict practice of religious exercises, through prayers and action. What they lack is humility which is essential in order to love; the humility to receive gifts not just because we deserve it or because of how we act ..."[30]

In a June 2013 talk with the leadership of the Religious Confederation of Latin America and the Caribbean (CLAR), Pope Francis alluded to Pelagian tendencies when he referred to "restorationists", one group of whom sent him after his election 3,525 rosaries. The pope said he was "bothered" by this need to count prayers and labeled it "pelagianism." He went on to comment: "these groups return to practices and disciplines I lived – not you, none of you are old – to things that were lived in that moment, but not now, they aren't today ..."[31] The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith subsequently emphasised "neo-Pelagianism" in a letter of February 2018 titled Placuit Deo, stating, "A new form of Pelagianism is spreading in our days, one in which the individual, understood to be radically autonomous, presumes to save oneself, without recognizing that, at the deepest level of being, he or she derives from God and from others."[32]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The second Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints states that "We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression." The Book of Mormon states that the "original sin" allowed humanity to progress in the Plan of Salvation.[33]

Mormon philosopher Sterling M. McMurrin, argued that "[t]he theology of Mormonism is completely Pelagian."[34] Mormon theology teaches that the Atonement of Jesus Christ has overcome the effects of "original sin" for all mankind. For example, the Book of Mormon, a sacred text for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, teaches: "[T]he Messiah cometh in the fullness of time, that he might redeem the children of men from the fall. And because they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good and evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at that great and last day, according to the commandments which God has given."[35] It also teaches: "there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah".[36] Pelagianism is not the official stance of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[37][38]

See also


  1. ^ H. Zimmer (1901). "Pelagius in Ireland". Berlin. p. 20.
  2. ^ González, Justo (2005), "Pelagianism", Essential Theological Terms, Westminster John Knox Press, p. 128, ISBN 978-0-664-22810-1, retrieved 4 April 2013
  3. ^ The Cambridge Companion to Augustine, 2001, eds. Eleonore Stump, Norman Kretzmann. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 130–135.
  4. ^ *Jennings, Daniel R., Transcript From The Council of Diospolis (Lydda) Against Pelagius, 415AD
  5. ^ Williston Walker (1918). A History of the Christian Church. p. 187.
  6. ^ a b Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion by William L Reese, Humanities Press 1980 p.421
  7. ^ Knowles, George, Unitarian Universalism
  8. ^ Cohen (2016), p. 523.
  9. ^ a b c "Pelagianism", Augnet
  10. ^ Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People: A Historical Commentary
  11. ^ H. Zimmer, "Pelagius in Ireland", p.20, Berlin, 1901
  12. ^ The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies
  13. ^ [Letter CCVI. To Mr. Alexander Coates. July 7, 1761]
  14. ^ Pohle, Joseph "Pelagius and Pelagianism." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 26 Oct. 2014
  15. ^ Denzinger 1908, pp. 101–83.
  16. ^ Denzinger 1908, note 3.
  17. ^ a b Pohle, Joseph. "Pelagius and Pelagianism." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 27 Oct. 2014
  18. ^ "Pelagianism". Oxford Index
  19. ^ Rees, pp. 36-37.
  20. ^ Rees, p. 38.
  21. ^ Rees, p. 43.
  22. ^ Rees, pp. 53-54.
  23. ^ Rees, pp. 167–168.
  24. ^ Rees, p. 168.
  25. ^ Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by (Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds.)(Trans. Marcus Dods and George Reith), Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.
  26. ^ Heiko Oberman (1957), Archbishop Thomas Bradwardine, a Fourteenth Century Augustinian: A Study of His Theology in Its Historical Context, Utrecht: Gemink & Zoon.
  27. ^ "Johannes von Goch", in Webster's Biographical Dictionary (1960), Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster.
  28. ^ Bernard Cottret, Monique Cottret, and Marie-José Michel, edd. (2002), Jansénisme et puritanisme: Actes du colloque du 15 septembre 2001, tenu au Musée National des Granges des Port-Royal-des-Champs, Paris: Nolin.
  29. ^ Ratzinger, J., Guardare Cristo. Esercizi di fede, speranza e carità, 1 September 1989
  30. ^ Tornielli, Andrea. "Francis, Ratzinger and the Pelagianism risk", Vatican Insider/La Stampa, June 12, 2013
  31. ^ Winters, Michael Sean. "Pope Francis on Pelagians, Gnostics and the CDF", National Catholic Reporter, June 12, 2013
  32. ^ Letter Placuit Deo To the Bishops of the Catholic Church On Certain Aspects of Christian Salvation, February 22, 2018
  33. ^ (2 Nephi 2:22-26)
  34. ^ McMurrin, Sterling M. (1965), The Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, LCCN 65026131, OCLC 1636293
  35. ^ 2 Nephi 2:26, Book of Mormon
  36. ^ 2 Nephi 2:8, Book of Mormon
  37. ^ "What do Mormons believe concerning the doctrine of grace?",, LDS Church
  38. ^ "James" (n.d.), "A Review of Pelagianism", Lehi's Library (blog)


  • Bercot, David. A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, Hendrickson Publishers
  • Denzinger (1908), "Enchir" (10th ed.)
  • Rees, B. R., The Letters of Pelagius and his Followers, The Boydell Press
  • Cohen, Samuel (2016). "Religious Diversity". In Jonathan J. Arnold; M. Shane Bjornlie; Kristina Sessa (eds.). A Companion to Ostrogothic Italy. Leiden, Boston: Brill Publishers. pp. 503–532. ISBN 978-9004-31376-7.

Further reading

Writings by Pelagius

External links


Arminianism is a branch of Protestantism based on the theological ideas of the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609) and his historic supporters known as Remonstrants. His teachings held to the five solae of the Reformation, but they were distinct from particular teachings of Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, and other Protestant Reformers. Jacobus Arminius (Jakob Harmenszoon) was a student of Theodore Beza (Calvin's successor) at the Theological University of Geneva. Arminianism is known to some as a soteriological diversification of Calvinism; to others, Arminianism is a reclamation of early Church theological consensus.Dutch Arminianism was originally articulated in the Remonstrance (1610), a theological statement signed by 45 ministers and submitted to the States General of the Netherlands. The Synod of Dort (1618–19) was called by the States General to consider the Five Articles of Remonstrance. These articles asserted that

Salvation (and condemnation on the day of judgment) was conditioned by the graciously-enabled faith (or unbelief) of man;

The Atonement is qualitatively adequate for all men, "yet that no one actually enjoys [experiences] this forgiveness of sins, except the believer ..." and thus is limited to only those who trust in Christ;

"That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will," and unaided by the Holy Spirit, no person is able to respond to God's will;

The (Christian) Grace "of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of any good," yet man may resist the Holy Spirit; and

Believers are able to resist sin through Grace, and Christ will keep them from falling; but whether they are beyond the possibility of ultimately forsaking God or "becoming devoid of grace ... must be more particularly determined from the Scriptures.""These points", note Keith D. Stanglin and Thomas H. McCall, "are consistent with the views of Arminius; indeed, some come verbatim from his Declaration of Sentiments. Those who signed this remonstrance and others who supported its theology have since been known as Remonstrants."Many Christian denominations have been influenced by Arminian views on the will of man being freed by Grace prior to regeneration, notably the Baptists in the 16th century, the Methodists in the 18th century and the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the 19th century. Some falsely assert that Universalists and Unitarians in the 18th and 19th centuries were theologically linked with Arminianism. Denominations such as the Anabaptists (beginning in 1525), Waldensians (pre-Reformation), and other groups prior to the Reformation have also affirmed that each person may choose the contingent response of either resisting God's grace or yielding to it.

The original beliefs of Jacobus Arminius himself are commonly defined as Arminianism, but more broadly, the term may embrace the teachings of Hugo Grotius, John Wesley, and others as well. Classical Arminianism, to which Arminius is the main contributor, and Wesleyan Arminianism, to which John Wesley is the main contributor, are the two main schools of thought. Wesleyan Arminianism is often identical with Methodism. Some schools of thought, notably semi-Pelagianism—which teaches that the first step of Salvation is by human will—are confused as being Arminian in nature. But classical Arminianism holds that the first step of Salvation is solely the grace of God. Historically, the Council of Orange (529) condemned semi-Pelagian thought (as well as Supralapsarian Calvinism), and is accepted by some as a document which can be understood as teaching a doctrine between Augustinian thought and semi-Pelagian thought, relegating Arminianism to the orthodoxy of the early Church fathers.The two systems of Calvinism and Arminianism share both history and many doctrines, and the history of Christian theology. Arminianism is related to Calvinism historically. However, because of their differences over the doctrines of divine predestination and election, many people view these schools of thought as opposed to each other. The distinction is whether God allows His desire to save all to be resisted by an individual's will (in the Arminian doctrine) or if God's grace is irresistible and limited to only some (in Calvinism). Put another way, is God's sovereignty shown, in part, through His allowance of free decisions? Some Calvinists assert that the Arminian perspective presents a synergistic system of Salvation and therefore is not only by Grace, while Arminians firmly reject this conclusion. Many consider the theological differences to be crucial differences in doctrine, while others find them to be relatively minor.

Augustinus (Jansenist book)

Augustinus seu doctrina Sancti Augustini de humanae naturae sanitate, aegritudine, medicina adversus Pelagianos et Massilianses, known by its short title Augustinus, is a theological work in Latin by Cornelius Jansen. Published posthumously in Louvain by Jacobus Zegers in 1640, it was in three parts:

On Pelagianism

On original sin

On divine graceIt began with the proposition that Augustine of Hippo was a man chosen by God to reveal the doctrine of grace. Thus, by this logic, any later

Catholic teaching contrary to Augustine's work should be revised to match it. The text stoked the theological controversies that raged in France and much of Europe after the spread of Jansenism. Five of the books' propositions were condemned as heretical in the apostolic constitution Cum occasione promulgated in 1653 by Pope Innocent X. In reaction to this condemnation, Blaise Pascal wrote his 17th and 18th Lettres provinciales in 1657. The five propositions were the focus of the Formulary Controversy, a 17th and 18th century recusancy by Jansenists of the Formula of Submission for the Jansenists.


Caelestius (or Celestius) was the major follower of the Christian teacher Pelagius and the Christian doctrine of Pelagianism, which was opposed to Augustine of Hippo and his doctrine in original sin, and was later declared to be heresy.

Council of Ephesus

The Council of Ephesus was a council of Christian bishops convened in Ephesus (near present-day Selçuk in Turkey) in AD 431 by the Roman Emperor Theodosius II. This third ecumenical council, an effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom, confirmed the original Nicene Creed, and condemned the teachings of Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who held that the Virgin Mary may be called the Christotokos, "Birth Giver of Christ" but not the Theotokos, "Birth Giver of God". It met in June and July 431 at the Church of Mary in Ephesus in Anatolia.

Council of Orange (529)

The Second Council of Orange (or Second Synod of Orange) was held in 529 at Orange, which was then part of the Ostrogothic Kingdom. It affirmed much of the theology of Augustine of Hippo, and made numerous proclamations against what later would come to be known as semi-Pelagian doctrine.

Gaudete et exsultate

Gaudete et exsultate ('Rejoice and Be Glad'; from Matthew 5:12) is the third apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis, dated 19 March 2018 (the Solemnity of Saint Joseph) and published on 9 April 2018, subtitled "on the call to holiness in today's world". It addresses the universal call to holiness, with a focus "to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time".The document is arranged in five chapters: on the call to holiness; on the heresies of Gnosticism and Pelagianism, described as "false forms of holiness"; on the Beatitudes and holiness in the Gospel; on five signs of holiness in the modern world and on spiritual combat against the Devil and discernment.

Gaudete et exsultate follows Francis's previous apostolic exhortations, Evangelii gaudium and Amoris laetitia. It is shorter, being 44 pages in length, compared to the 256 of Amoris laetitia and not post-synodal (being related to a meeting of the Synod of Bishops).

The document was released by the Holy See Press Office at a press conference on 9 April 2018, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, presented by then-Archbishop Angelo De Donatis, the vicar general for Rome, Gianni Valente, a journalist and Paola Bignardi, of Azione Cattolica (Catholic Action). It was also published in Arabic, in French, in German, in Italian, in Polish, in Portuguese and in Spanish, alongside English.

A few weeks earlier, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a letter to Catholic bishops, titled Placuit Deo ('It Pleased God'), "on certain aspects of Christian salvation", which anticipated the central theme of Gaudete et exsultate, describing the modern forms of Pelagianism and of Gnosticism. It was approved by Francis on 16 February, signed by the Congregation's prefect, Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, on 22 February (the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter) and released at a Vatican press conference on 1 March.

Germanus of Auxerre

Germanus of Auxerre (Welsh: Garmon Sant; French: Saint Germain l'Auxerrois; c. 378 – c. 448 AD) was a bishop of Auxerre in Late Antique Gaul. He abandoned a career as a high-ranking government official to devote his formidable energy towards the promotion of the church and the protection of his 'flock' in dangerous times: personally confronting, for instance, the barbarian king, "Goar". In Britain he is best remembered for his journey to combat Pelagianism in or around 429 AD, and the records of this visit provide valuable information on the state of post-Roman British society. He also played an important part in the establishment and promotion of the Cult of Saint Alban. The saint was said to have revealed the story of his martyrdom to Germanus in a dream or holy vision, and Germanus ordered this to be written down for public display. Germanus is venerated as a saint in both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, which commemorate him on 31 July.

The principal source for the events of his life is the Vita Germani, a hagiography written by Constantius of Lyon around 480, and a brief passage added onto the end of the Passio Albani, which may possibly have been written or commissioned by Germanus. Constantius was a friend of Bishop Lupus of Troyes, who accompanied Germanus to Britain, which provided him with a link to Germanus.

History of the Calvinist–Arminian debate

The history of the Calvinist–Arminian debate begins in early 17th century in the Netherlands with a Christian theological dispute between the followers of John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius, and continues today among some Protestants, particularly evangelicals. The debate centers around soteriology, or the study of salvation, and includes disputes about total depravity, predestination, and atonement. While the debate was given its Calvinist–Arminian form in the 17th century, issues central to the debate have been discussed in Christianity in some form since Augustine of Hippo's disputes with the Pelagians in the 5th century.

Julian of Eclanum

Julian of Eclanum (Latin: Iulianus Aeclanensis, Italian: Giuliano di Eclano) (c. 386 – c. 455) was bishop of Eclanum, near today's Benevento (Italy). He was a distinguished leader of the Pelagians of 5th century.

Limited depravity

Limited depravity is the doctrine that denies original sin has entirely tainted human free will. Instead, the doctrine asserts that all humans, while unable not to sin, have the inherent ability to accept Jesus Christ's offer of salvation. This belief is held by Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, and some who call themselves Arminians. It is rejected by Calvinists and most Arminians including Jacobus Arminius himself, his followers, the Remonstrants, John Wesley and most Methodists.

Lupus of Troyes

Saint Lupus (French: Loup, Leu) (c. 383 – c. 478 AD) was an early bishop of Troyes. Around 426, the bishops in Britain requested assistance from the bishops of Gaul in dealing with Pelagianism. Germanus of Auxerre and Lupus were sent.


Nostrianus was Bishop of Naples, known for his opposition to Arianism and Pelagianism. In 439, he gave shelter to Bishop Quodvultdeus of Carthage, after the city's sacking by the Vandals.


Pelagius (c. AD 360 – 418) was a theologian of British origin who advocated free will and asceticism. He was accused by Augustine of Hippo and others of denying the need for divine aid in performing good works. They understood him to have said that the only grace necessary was the declaration of the law; humans were not wounded by Adam's sin and were perfectly able to fulfill the law without divine aid. Pelagius denied Augustine's theory of original sin. His adherents cited Deuteronomy 24:16 in support of their position. Pelagius was declared a heretic by the Council of Carthage (418). His interpretation of a doctrine of free will became known as Pelagianism.

He was well educated, fluent in both Greek and Latin, and learned in theology. He spent time as an ascetic, focusing on practical asceticism. He was well known in Rome, both for the harsh asceticism of his public life and the power and persuasiveness of his speech. His reputation earned him praise early in his career even from such pillars of the Church as Augustine, who referred to him as a "saintly man". However, he was later accused of lying about his own teachings to avoid public condemnation. Most of his later life was spent defending his doctrine against Christian theologians who held that Pelagius was spreading novelties in the Faith unknown to the apostolic tradition.

Due to some calling him a heretic, little of his work has come down to the present day except in the quotes of his opponents. However, more recently, some non-Orthodox Christian authors have defended Pelagius as a misunderstood “orthodox”:

Recent analysis of his thinking suggests that it was, in fact, highly orthodox, following in the tradition established by the early fathers and in keeping with the teaching of the church in both the East and the West. ... From what we are able to piece together from the few sources available... it seems that the Celtic monk held to an orthodox view of the prevenience of God's grace, and did not assert that individuals could achieve salvation purely by their own efforts...

Pelagius (disambiguation)

Pelagius (c. 360 to 435), a British monk - his name became associated with the doctrine of Pelagianism.

The name Pelagius can also refer to:

Pope Pelagius I, pope 556 to 561

Pope Pelagius II, pope 579 to 590

Saint Pelagius of Cordova, Galician Christian child-martyr

Saint Pelagius of Constance - child martyr

Pelagius of Asturias, first king of Asturias

Pelagius of Oviedo, medieval bishop

Alvarus Pelagius, a Franciscan canonist

Pope Celestine I

Pope Celestine I (Latin: Caelestinus I; died 1 August 432) was Pope from 10 September 422 to his death in 432. According to the Liber Pontificalis, the start of his papacy was 3 November. However, Tillemont places the date at 10 September.Celestine's tenure was largely spent combatting various ideologies deemed heretical. He supported the mission of the Gallic bishops that sent Germanus of Auxerre in 429, to Britain to address Pelagianism, and later commissioned Palladius as bishop to the Scots of Ireland and northern Britain. In 430, he held a synod in Rome which condemned the apparent views of Nestorius. He also opposed the Novationists who refused absolution to the lapsi, arguing that reconciliation should never be refused to any dying sinner who sincerely asked it.

Pope Zosimus

Pope Zosimus (died 26 December 418) reigned from 18 March 417 to his death in 418. He was born in Mesoraca, Calabria.He succeeded Innocent I and was followed by Boniface I. Zosimus took a decided part in the protracted dispute in Gaul as to the jurisdiction of the See of Arles over that of Vienne, giving energetic decisions in favour of the former, but without settling the controversy. His fractious temper coloured all the controversies in which he took part, in Gaul, Africa and Italy, including Rome, where at his death the clergy were very much divided.

Regeneration (theology)

Regeneration, while sometimes perceived to be a step in the Ordo salutis ('order of salvation'), is generally understood in Christian theology to be the objective work of God in a believer's life. Spiritually, it means that God brings Christians to new life or "born again" from a previous state of separation from God and subjection to the decay of death (Ephesians 2:4). Thus, in Lutheran and Roman Catholic theology, it generally means that which takes place during baptism. In Calvinism (Reformed theology) and Arminian theology, baptism is recognized as an outward sign of an inward reality which is to follow regeneration as a sign of obedience to the New Testament.

While the exact Greek noun "rebirth" or "regeneration" (Ancient Greek: παλιγγενεσία, romanized: palingenesia) appears just twice in the New Testament (Matthew 19:28 and Titus 3:5), regeneration represents a wider theme of re-creation and spiritual rebirth. Furthermore, there is the sense in which regeneration includes the concept "being born again" (John 3:3-8 and 1 Peter 1:3).


Semipelagianism (Latin: Semipelagianismus) is a Christian theological and soteriological school of thought on salvation; that is, the means by which humanity and God are restored to a right relationship. Semipelagian thought stands in contrast to the earlier Pelagian teaching about salvation (in which people are seen as affecting their own salvation), which had been dismissed as heresy. Semipelagianism in its original form was developed as a compromise between Pelagianism and the teaching of Church Fathers such as Saint Augustine, who taught that people cannot come to God without the grace of God. In semipelagian thought, therefore, a distinction is made between the beginning of faith and the increase of faith. Semipelagian thought teaches that the latter half – growing in faith – is the work of God, while the beginning of faith is an act of free will, with grace supervening only later. It too was labeled heresy by the Western Church at the Second Council of Orange in 529.

Catholicism teaches that the beginning of faith involves an act of free will, that the initiative comes from God, but requires free collaboration on the part of man: "The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man's free acting through his collaboration". "Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life."The term "semipelagianism", a 16th-century coinage, has been used as an accusation in theological disputes over salvation, divine grace and free will. Theologians have also used it retrospectively to refer to the original formulation, an anachronistic use that has been called inappropriate, ambiguous and unjust. In this context, a more historically accurate term is Massilianism, a reference to the city of Marseilles, with which some of its proponents were associated.

Synod of Victory

The Synod of Victory was a church council held in Caerleon, Wales, around AD 569 to condemn the heresy of Pelagianism. It was officiated by Saint David.

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