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



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