Monthly Archives June 2014

Cowboy Hypocrisy

Over the years of my wanderings I have had the misfortune of being present during what is misnamed a ‘Cowboy Service.’ These services tend to based on some Christian service, but never seem to elevate to actual worship. Most such services are held in and around the western parts of these united States. However, I suspect they may show up any where.

I recently was made aware that there is a published ‘Cowboy Bible.’ I have seen a copy of this piece of work, but have yet to open it. So, I will save any comments on it for another time. It simply should be noted that all of the dissenting sects have their own version of a bible. Each is written [translated] to rationalize and substantiate the sects own dogma. Most are terribly infantile and so poorly written as to bring tears to the eyes of more sensitive beings.

As for the ‘Cowboy Services,’ each has its own peculiarities, but the ‘minister’ is usually a well dressed movie, urban, or drug-store type. He, less often she, extols the virtues of the cowboy. Apparently, this creature is God’s favorite. It appears that God has given up on shepherds since cowboys came along. Yes, sheep are range maggots and do not mix with cattle. Most actual ranging examples show this to be false as well.

Cowboys are close to God, call on him daily, and thank him for saving themselves and the cattle they work. These guys are patriotic also. They are the ‘my country, right or wrong’ crowd. These are hard working Christian men (or boys) that are the salt of the earth and the knitting that holds the world together. At least that is the picture one gets from these ‘Cowboy Services’ with their ministers in boots.

All of the above gives me a good laugh.  Once again, the deception of these ministers and the gullibility of the masses make for highly humorous behaviors.

One need delve very briefly into the literature to discover something slightly different. A prime example comes from Andy Adams who wrote ‘The Log of a Cowboy; A narrative of the old trail days.’ As a sixteen year old, Adams left the San Antonio area to work with some cowmen and boys. They took charge of a herd in south Texas and moved up the western trail to Montana. Adams’ book is a travel log of his journey and one of the best documents of actual cowboy life and ways in the early trail driving days.

Adams’ writes that during one river crossing a young fellow is drowned. The crew finds his body and one of the boys knows the family. It would seem that the mother, described as a ‘Christian woman,’ has lost two other sons to drowning in the Red River. The boys decide to give this poor unfortunate a decent burial, so that it can be reported back to the mother that the boys had done the best they could by her son. So, one of the boys heads off toward the nearest town for a coffin while a couple of others begin to dig the grave.

Then Adams’ writes the most profound line. He writes, ‘There was not a man among us who was hypocrite enough to attempt to conduct a Christian burial service…’ Instead they send a rider to a wagon train of immigrants, one of which is described as a ‘superannuated minister who gladly volunteered his services.’ Well, the funereal goes off well as the minister’s daughters sang hymns and the word struck the hearts of all the boys.

What stands out here is the attitude that the boys had concerning their own standing before God. They were not hypocritical enough to believe they could pull off a Christian service. In other words, these simple boys who followed cows for living were humble enough to stand down and let God provide. This He did by having a ‘superannuated minister’ in the area.

Did they have a special service just for themselves? No. Did they have a specially written bible just for themselves? No. Did they dress like move or urban or drugstore imitations? No, they were the real thing. They simply waited on God and humbled themselves before the great mystery which no man can grasp.


What time is it? A Nockian observation in memory of Kerry Jon Blankenship

I have been reminded over the past couple of months that the most interesting infection that a person can get is an infected mind.  That is to say, a mind that is no longer going with the grain, but against the grain of the universe.  The most common symptom of this infection is the thoughts that spending long hours on THE JOB is what keeps the world spinning.

Now, mind you, I have had this infection and could very easily catch it again.  However, thems that have it can be very hard on thems that don’t have it.

A very close friend, now on to his reward, did not have it and I do not remember a time when he did have it.  On a wet day, this fellow traveler possibly topped the scales at 100 pounds.  When he showed up the kitchen would open and would not close for his entire stay.  He always had a healthy appetite.  He would show up and we would bring him in.  His people lived 40 or 50 miles southwest of our place.  After four or five days, my mom would ask him if maybe he should contact his people to let them know where he was (I think she was figuring on reducing her feed bill as soon as possible as well).  “No”, he would respond, “they will be glad to see me when I get there.”  He was great company and always pitched in where needed, but he simple never got worked up about what day it was or when the next ‘event’ was going to happen.  After some time would pass, he would get up one morning and say ‘Adios’ and that was that.  He would be off to the next stop.  It might be home or anywhere else.  It just did not matter.

Since I have departed from my lane in the rat race, I have given less thought to clock time, either railroad time or government time.  It has made me very aware of how much time most people do not have.  I am not surprised nor disappointed by this.  Mr. Nock, in what he describes as economism hit the nail on the head, stated that western society had only one philosophy which was to interpret the whole of human life in terms of the production, acquisition, and distribution of wealth.  He continued by noting that most people are like certain Philippians in the time of St. Paul, their gods are their bellies, and they have no mind for anything beyond έπίγεια (earthly things).  Of course as one drinks deeply of the literature, one finds that in America, at least, this has been true since A.D. 1492.  And so it goes….


The most despicable of men

Given what passes for Christian churches in these united States, it is not surprising that Christians In Name Only (CINO) get their religious entertainment fix each week are shocked to see the condition of the church in Palestine, Russia, north Africa, and etc.  Most but not all of these areas are where one find the church of Jesus Christ.  As Martin Luther wrote:

“The church is offensive to the wise and counted with criminals.  This is the lot of the church because this was the lot of Christ, the Head of the Church.”

The results of this distance between the church of Jesus Christ and what passes for it here in these united States is of great magnitude.  But this also has a great impact upon the those within each.  In these united States the message is one of “power, wealth, peace, honor, wisdom, and righteousness.”  CINO preachers cover the remnant with “slander, bitter hatred, persecution, and blasphemy.”  This is license for the CINO to treat the remnant with “contempt and ingratitude.”

Robert A. Kelly has pointed out that the fact that the CINO,

“…who carry out the persecution of and inflict suffering on Christ’s people are the agents of the devil does not mean that they are obviously and outwardly wicked people.  Some are, but most are often the most outwardly pious, upright, and religious people.  They are full of holy zeal to protect God and morality from assault.”

And so it is and so it will be.  But what about those who deliver Christ’s words of “affliction, shame, persecution, death, etc.”  Well, for the most part they are out of step with the new and the enlightened.  They are “the most despicable of men” and thus the source of the church’s glory.


A Whole Village…Really? A Nockian observation in memory of Pr. Jim Stone

As advice to middle aged reactionaries, Dr. Bruce Charlton has written, ‘Don’t read: re-read. (You have already read what you need to know.)’

A recent experience put into mind Mr. Nock’s memoirs.

I recently got news about a small village of which I had fond recollections. In years past, this village was the home of an elderly mendicant who had been trained in the highest arts of his rebellious Christian sect. He had taken his position and its responsibilities seriously. However, as time pasted and the dragon’s breath of Gresham’s Law took its toll on his rulers, he was pastured without pasturage. Thus, when we met his teeth were long in the mendicancy that was his burden.

While he lived in this village and took part in the villager’s lives, he continued to ply his vocation, abet in a more degraded state. In his wisdom he knew the results of his kind of work were difficult to measure. But the villagers were kind, the conversation congenial and the weather mild. This is as it was when I found him.

As I sat at his feet, we would sharpen each other. He found great pleasure in tempering my steel. Our conversations would range over much territory and occasionally on the situation in the village. From him I learned that the villagers had some religious leanings. However, as he noted, it was indeterminate at best and down right bestial at worst.

He has sense gone on to better things and although I have much to say about this grand old man, it is the village that concerns me today. It seems that the entire village has been converted to Christianity. The news about the village was enthusiastically exclaimed by a villager with whom I am acquainted. As with Mr. Nock, a chill coursed through me at the proclamation.

Mr. Nock continues,

“If it meant one thing, it was such an enormous pretension that I could hardly imagine a person of any delicacy who knew its implications would dare to advance it. If it meant another, on would hardly know how seriously to take it… a better informed person might find that the statement pointed at something mostly meaningless or even largely stultifying.”

Like Mr. Nock’s character, my villager was serious enough. Again, following Mr. Nock, I thought the question whether a village is or is not religious is hard enough to answer; and given that things have degraded since Mr. Nock’s time, the question of whether and entire village is or is not Christian is impossible to answer categorically; “the answer might mean anything or nothing.”

Defining terms has never been high on the list of important qualities found among enthusiast. So, I not dwell on the embarrassing truth. Suffice it to say that the villagers feel good about themselves, they remain kind and congenial and everything continues as it was. Because they are a very prosperous and secure village, they have never considered what Jesus has said and St. Mark recorded at the end of his eighth chapter.

And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

It may be said that I am being too hard on these modern villagers. Perhaps that is true, but that complaint was lodged against my Master as well. Never the less, there it is. As Professor Daniel Deutschlander says about Jesus; “He asks and he insists on it: Deny yourself, and take up the cross and follow me. He asks and he insists on it: Be a Christian!”

That is all well and good. And yet, as Mr. Nock notes, if a person “took these matters as stated, and he faithfully followed out their prescriptions …in the first century and probably in the second, he would have passed muster as a Christian.” He continues by writing, it “has been done and is being done; mainly, as is natural, in an inconspicuous way by inconspicuous persons…”

They are there as a substratum of right thinking and well doing, but as the Old Testament prophets found, they are difficult to find and impossible to know. Except that they are despised and persecuted since they have no substance in this world. They can not be found in villages where prosperity and security is the main. Suffer they must and suffer they will, until Judgment Day.

Yes, there are Christians in the world and they form the hidden church, the saving remnant. I am glad for it. The villagers in question have not yet arrived. I do wish them well.


Pelagianism – A falsis principiis proficisci (Part 6) – fini

Where We Stand

Recent studies of Pelagius’ extant writings have questioned his ostracism.[1]    Modern scholars are coming to the opinion that perhaps Augustine attacked Pelagius for teachings that were a corruption of what Pelagius actually taught.  In some instances there is an attempt to integrate the two teachings.[2]   The question seems to be open ended and often the judge and the advocate are the same person, so changing minds is near impossible.

Cross at Mission San Jose, San Antonio, Texas

What is more critical is the presents of all forms of Pelagianism in most churches today.    Most modern Christians consider their faith something they themselves have chosen.  This leads to extravagant efforts at church growth, increases in ‘church business’ as the function of the congregations, and the never ending chase for more funding of this or that improvement.  None of which may be the will of God and almost always leaves Jesus out of consideration.[3]

In their introduction, Packer and Johnston ask the following question and make the undeniable argument that:

Do we not stand in urgent need of such teaching as Luther here gives us – teaching which humbles man, strengthens faith, and glorifies God – and is not the contemporary Church weak for the lack of it?  The issue is clear.  We are compelled to ask ourselves: If the Almighty God of the Bible is to be our God, if the New Testament gospel is to be our message, if Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day and for ever – is any other position than Luther’s possible?  Are we not in all honesty bound to stand with him in ascribing all might, and majesty, and dominion, and power, and all the glory of our salvation to God alone?  surely no more important or far-reaching question confronts the Church to-day.[4]

To which can only be added that regardless of it origin what has come down to us as Pelagianism – hard, soft, semi or any form – can not be tolerated.  The fallen person…

…who has not yet practically and experimentally learned the bondage of his will in sin has not yet comprehended any part of the gospel; for this is the hinge on which all turns, the ground on which the gospel rests…[5]

Pastors, above all else, must practically and experimentally learn the bondage of their own wills and that of their congregations in order to be able to preach, teach and believe the gospel proclamation.  The world is in urgent need of that which denies the enlightened anthropocentric narcissism of personal, congregational and community destruction and returns to the Cross of Christ.  To paraphrase St. Paul, the time has,

…come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.[6]

But pastors must,

keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.[7]

Which is to,

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.[8]


[1] Breckenridge, “Pelagius: The Making of a Heretic,” 34.

[2] Haight, “Notes on the Pelagian Controversy,” 39.
[3]  Robert K. Hudnut. “Pelagianism—Wrong as Ever” in America Magazine, the National Catholic Weekly.  accessed April 16, 2014.
[4]  Luther. The Bondage of the Will
[5] Luther. The Bondage of the Will.
[6]  2 Timothy 4: 3-4
[7]  2 Timothy 4: 5
[8]  2 Timothy 4: 2



Pelagianism – A falsis principiis proficisci (Part 5)

Another rustic defends the Church

Despite being continuously rejected by the Church, Semi-Pelagianism (as it was now known) continued to be a source of controversy.  The debate erupted again in a contest between Luther and Erasmus.  Both men hoped to reform the Church of their time.  However, Erasmus, the learned and elegant translator of the Greek New Testament, sought a peaceful, undoctrinal humanistic reform.  Luther, who described himself as “barbarus in barbarie semper versatus,” was the leader of the highly doctrinal revolutionary Augustinian evangelicalism reform.[1]


Again, the two antagonist were cordial at the beginning.  Erasmus approved of much of what Luther had to say.  However, Erasmus was put off by Luther’s rough way of dealing with other in the need to reform the Church.  Pushed by supporters and a dig at his abilities by Luther, Erasmus penned On the Freedom of the Will which pitted him against Luther.  Luther responded with what has become known as the “Manifesto of the Reformation,” the translated title being The Bondage of the Will.[2]

Luther considered Erasmus’ Semi-Pelagianism worse than outright paganism, because it lead weaker Christians to the uncertainty of their own choices.  These wretches would always be trying harder or worrying over their salvation rather than simply accepting God grace through Jesus Christ.  Luther also attacked “Erasmus’s tone of ‘bored detachment’ towards the subject at hand was ‘fundamentally irreligious and in a theologian irresponsible.”[3]   And Luther made it clear that no form of Pelagianism could be true because fallen man can do nothing but sin and any independent meritorious act could not be carried out by fallen man without that act being the will of God.  Even the hint of such power in fallen man would be a denial of Christ.[4]

Stung by the ruthlessness of Luther’s word, Erasmus retreated into the more receptive arms of the Roman church.  Although influential at the time, Erasmus has been lost in the long line of humanist ‘reformers’ of the church in Rome.  Luther on the other hand set a course for the true Church of Jesus Christ.


[1] Martin Luther. The Bondage of the Will, trans. J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell 1988).  “I am an uncivilized fellow who has lived his life in the backwoods.”
[2] Lee Gatiss.  “The Manifesto of the Reformation — Luther vs. Erasmus on Free Will.”  The Theologian.  accessed April 16, 2014.
[3]  Gatiss. “The Manifesto of the Reformation — Luther vs. Erasmus on Free Will.”
[4]  Luther. The Bondage of the Will.


Weekly Q&A – 20140621

Identify three sacred vestments, when they are worn, and what they represent.  Name at least two ways that the symbol of pastoral vestments may be better understood by the faithful?

Vestments worn by the pastor during the Divine Service have a long history and each has a distinct history and meaning.  Three of the most common vestments are the Alb, the Chasuble and the Stole.  What follows is a brief description and historical meaning of each.


The Alb is the basic undergarment worn by pastors and others during the entire service.  The Alb is named such from the Latin word, albus which means ‘white’.  Historically, newly baptized Christians were dressed in a new white tunic to symbolize there new life in Christ.  Over the years these tunics varied in length with shorter lengths for the young and longer for the mature.  The longer tunic is typically gathered at the waist by a rope-like chord called a cincture or girdle.  Thus, the historic and modern Alb worn by pastors during the liturgy are the baptismal attire.  Given the centrality of baptism to the faith, the pastor wears the Alb to remember his own baptism and to remind the congregation of their baptism.  The cincture/girdle, in addition to securing the Alb and Stole, also denotes chastity and purity and is the girding of the loins with truth from Ephesians 6:14.

The Chasuble began as an loose over garment worn by the plain folk of the ancient Greece.  There is some reference to it being worn by St. Paul and at the time was called paenula.  Paenula were a simple cloak, similar to the poncho of Spain and Latin America, worn over the clothing during the work day and was adopted as a cover for the aristocracy while riding or traveling.  Originally a humble garment, the aristocracy begin to decorate their paenula and began to tailor the fit.  St. Augustine referred to the paenula as a Chasuble in his writings as it was a casula or ‘little house’ for priest and monks when they traveled.  Early versions were full and round typically made of skins or heavy material to keep the wearer warm.  Over time they became smaller being made of lighter materials particularly silk when it became available.  They also became more decorative including woven trim made of fine material or gold.  Much of the elaborate decorations were rejected during the English Reformation yet as time has past the clergy of these Christian churches have returned to more embellishment.  Pastors don the Chasuble for the sacrament of the Lords Supper as a yoke that recalls the love and charity of Christ from Colossians 3:14

The Stole has an even more humble beginning.  Originally, it was a handkerchief called a sudarium.  Over time it became a scarf like garment that was worn around the neck and called a oraria.  The oraria was used to clean cups and eating wear.  They began to be used to clean the cup and plate that held the Lord’s Supper elements.  The modern Stole recalls the prayer shawls that rabbis wear.  There length and narrow design also call back to carrying a weapon strap over one shoulder and a provisions strap over the other, thus the crisscrossing by the pastor as the authority of his office.  It also reminds the pastor to preach God’s Word with the courage and conviction of a soldier of God.


Pelagianism – A falsis principiis proficisci (Part 4)

Soft Pelagianism

As is true of most institutions trends tend to come and go.  In the case of Pelagianism it made a gradual return in a softer form of Pelagianism.  This softer form of Pelagianism seems to have been developed after 428 A.D. in Southern Gaul by monks in an attempt to find a compromise between the doctrines of the Pelagianist and Augustine.  However, rather than denying original sin, this teaching made man and God cooperators in salvation.  In its raw form this concept allowed that man without grace could make the first move toward God and thus aid in his own salvation.[1]

Measuring cracks at Mission San Juan, San Antonio, Texas

Once again, Augustine lead the effort to quash this new threat to the sovereignty of God.  Augustine referred to this softer form as “the relics of the Pelagianist.”  Beginning on friendly terms with Augustine, the monks of Southern Gaul and there supporters eventually became bitterly hostile to the “Doctor of Grace.”  The dispute continued for over 100 years, then in well after the death of Augustine, the “relics of the Pelagianist” were condemned as heresy in 529 A.D.[2]

The term Semi-Pelagianism in reference to the “relics of the Pelaginaist” was not developed until the 1500’s when it began being used as the moniker for the teachings of this softer form of Pelagianism by scholars and theologians.  The term Semi-Pelagianism is used explicitly in the Epitome of the Lutheran Formula of Concord in the confessional documents rejection of such teachings.   However, before the Epitome of the Formula there was a brilliant contest of these ideas between Martin Luther and Desiderias Erasmus.



[1] Joseph Pohle.  “Semipelagianism” in The Catholic Encyclopedia  ed. Charles G. Herbermann, Ph.D., LL.D., Edward A. Pace, Ph.D., D.D., Conde B. Fallen, Ph.D., LL.D., Thomas J. Shahan, D.D. and John J. Wynne, S.J. (The Encyclopedia Press, Inc.1913).  accessed April 16, 2014.

[2] Pohle.  “Semipelagianism”


Pelagianism – A falsis principiis proficisci (Part 3)

The Pelagian Controversy

The stage was now set for two of the most influential men in the Christian Church to come to loggerheads over the issue of theological anthropology.  To be clear, Pelagius was in Rome and the heart of the degraded Church.  Augustine was in a far corner of the empire and in the midst of true believers.[1]   Much has been written concerning the views of each of the protagonist.

Weeping Cross at Mission San Jose, San Antonio, Texas

It is not at all clear that Pelagius held firmly to the doctrine of free will with regard to salvation.  But there is no doubt that he preached that a person had to make a choice of radical conversion in order to begin the new Christian life.[2]   As his message and followers spread it appealed to all who were looking for a different way of life than the degraded pagan existence most endured.[3]

However, once Pelagian teachings were brought to North Africa they were received by a intelligent and ultimately hostile Bishop of Hippo.  The North African church was well established and Augustine’s doctrines had eventually dominated in a long resistance of Donatists.  It was from here that an entirely different interpretation of man, of sin and of grace would wage a long distance struggle with Pelagianism.[4]

Pelagianism, with its Stoic motif that the freedom to do good was an essential anthropomorphic characteristic, collided with Augustine’s determination that the good was a gift from God and not intrinsically constitutional of fallen humanity.[5]   While both men preached God’s gift of divine grace, they were divided on the capacity of fallen man to contribute toward his own salvation.  Haight makes the distinction clear:
For Augustine, while free choice remained, the desire and affections of man were locked in a web of sin. The custom and habit of personal sin imprisoned free choice within the narrow confines of sensible self-seeking. For the Pelagians, religion and Christianity was mainly an affair of adults, and it meant conversion to and baptism into a radically new life. The Christian should steadily advance in perfection through his asceticism.[6]

The contrast is based upon the different views of Christian life before God.  For the Pelagians, man was free to chose to be Christian.  Whereas, for Augustine, God made men Christian through His grace, from His own will and for His own purposes.  This contrast continues to be at the heart of the distinction between the Church and the various in-name-only Christian sects.

In time, Augustine’s views held sway in the Church and as a result Pelagius was branded a heretic and his teachings were officially condemned by several councils of the Church.  However, since Pelagius had been so influential and he had followers throughout the Church, their teachings would continue to be a source of controversy.  Pelagius himself left Rome under duress and eventually died in Palestine.  Pelagius’ teachings , modified by the denial of original sin, remained real force for years after his death.  Of course, Augustine became a doctor of the Church and a saint whose influence formed and continues to guide the Church today.


[1] Haight, “Notes on the Pelagian Controversy,” 29.
[2] Haight, “Notes on the Pelagian Controversy,” 29.

[3] Haight, “Notes on the Pelagian Controversy,” 30.
[4] Haight, “Notes on the Pelagian Controversy,” 30.
[5] Breckenridge, “Pelagius: The Making of a Heretic,” 33.
[6] Haight, “Notes on the Pelagian Controversy,” 30.



Pelagianism – A falsis principiis proficisci (Part 2)

Free Will in the Early Church

There is ample evidence that many in the early church held that humans possessed the capacity to chose good and/or evil.  Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Irenaeus all wrote comments that indicating that human free agency existed and therefore could chose to be good or bad.[1]   It also appears that the precise timing of the inclusion of the Gospel of James in to the canonical Bible seems to be a point of controversy.[2]   Specifically, the question of James is due to the abundant use of verses from James by Pelagius and there limited use by Jerome and Augustine.[3]   This would have implications later when Martin Luther responds to Desiderius Erasmus.  However, Pelagius or his name sake followers seem to have the backing of some in the early church and did not make up the doctrine of free will from whole cloth.  Theological and philosophical speculation was what dominated the late Roman Empire and so the die was cast for the principal protagonist of the doctrine of free will to clash.


Two rustics visit Rome

Rome and its empire had been in an advanced state of decline since the death of Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus in 180 A.D.  Although it would be some time before Alaric and the Visigoths would sack the city, Rome was decaying from self inflicted political and social disregard.  Stoicism seemed to dominate the philosophical climate of the times.[4]   As a result, at least within the elite, there was a resignation to accepting as inevitability of events and actions.  Stoicism had also found its expression in the Christians of the times.[5]

Into this environment came Pelagius in 380 A.D. and then Augustine in 383 A.D.  Both came from areas on the edge of the Empire, Pelagius from Britain (or perhaps Brittany) and Augustine from Thagaste, North Africa.  While they both had come to Rome looking for civil careers and they both were appalled at the pagan morality of Roman life, their life journey before visiting Rome and after were decidedly different.[6]    Most importantly for our purposes is that for their time both men were Christians.  Also significant is that they came Rome during the evolution of the Church from a persecuted hole-in-the-wall affair to becoming the State religion.

Uncertainty exists about Pelagius’ early life due to the lack of records and the destruction of his works after he was branded a heretic.  However, it is clear that he was from the northwest of Europe, perhaps Britain, as he was referred to as Pelagius Brito or Britannicus.   Pelagius was well educated, may have been a monk and possibly studied law as well.[7]   Once in Rome, Pelagius became the leader of a reform movement.

Haight describes Pelagius’ as being:
Closely associated with the aristocratic class, he preached, against the pagan morality that had infiltrated into the Church with the conversions of convenience, a life of authentic Christianity, of Christian perfection, one that appealed to the first families who wanted to stand out above the crowd.[8]

These elite Roman Christians may have more to do with the formation of what is called Pelagianism, than Pelagius himself.

Augustine’s early life was decidedly different than Pelagius.  We are acutely aware of Augustine’s life because of his prolific writing, which most has been preserved, and specifically to his self-penned Confessiones.[9]   He was born in Thagaste into family which had been full Roman citizens for about 100 years before his birth.  His father was a pagan and his mother a Christian.  His mother, Monica, had great influence upon his life because she prayed for him constantly.  He was early educated was in Latin literature, pagan beliefs and customs.  In his teens he went to Carthage to continue his studies.  Although Monica had raised him as a Christian, during his Carthage years he began to follow the Gnostic cult of Manichaeism.   This lead to a debauched life style, which distressed Monica greatly.  A long affair with a woman resulted in the birth of a son, Adeodatus, who was greatly loved by both Augustine and Monica.

Augustine moved back to Thagaste to teach grammar then back to Carthage.  Back in  Carthage, Augustine became a well respected teacher of rhetoric.  However, he became appalled by the behavior of the students and began to drift away from Manichaeism.  Shortly after this, he won the highly visible and well placed position of professor of rhetoric to the imperial court of Milan.

While in Milan, Augustine was impressed with the local bishop, Ambrose.  Influenced by Monica and Ambrose, Augustine had a conversion experience and became a Christian.  This lead to his returning to his families property near Hippo in North Africa.  It was during a rare visit to Hippo that Augustine was convinced of the need for a bishop of the Church and thus was ordained as Bishop of Hippo.  In the position of bishop, Augustine preached and wrote a tremendous amount.  Letters, books, documents all directed at either clarifying the doctrines of or in defense of the Christian Church.


[1] Breckenridge, “Pelagius: The Making of a Heretic,” 31.
[2] Jonathan P. Yates, “The Canonical Significance of the Citation of James in Pelagius,” Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses 78 (2002): 482-89.
[3] Yates, “The Canonical Significance of the Citation of James in Pelagius,” 487.

[4] Breckenridge, “Pelagius: The Making of a Heretic,” 30.
[5] Breckenridge, “Pelagius: The Making of a Heretic,” 31.
[6] Haight, “Notes on the Pelagian Controversy,” 27.

[7] Catholic Online.  Catholic Encyclopedia. (New York: Robert Appleton Company).  accessed April 16, 2014.

[8] Haight, “Notes on the Pelagian Controversy,” 29.
[9] Augustine.  The Confessions of Saint Augustine. trans. Edward B. Pusey, D.D. (Christian Classics Ethereal Library) accessed April 16, 2014.