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”


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