History of Dogma - Volume V
« Prev 1. The Conflict between Semi-Pelagianism and… Next »

1. The Conflict between Semi-Pelagianism and Augustinianism.

Augustine and the North-African Church had succeeded in getting Pelagianism condemned; but this did not by any means involve the acceptance of Augustinianism in the Church. Augustine’s authority, indeed, was very great everywhere, and in many circles he was enthusiastically venerated;521521See the Ep. Prosperi ad Aug. [225]. Here Augustine is called “ineffabiliter mirabilis, incomparabiliter honorandus, præstantissimus patronus, columna veritatis ubique gentium conspicua, specialis fidei patronus.” but his doctrine of gratia irresistibilis (absolute predestination) met with opposition, both because it was new and unheard of,522522See Vincentius’ Commonitorium. and because it ran counter, not only to prevalent conceptions, but also to clear passages of Holy Scripture. The fight against it was not only a fight waged by the old conception of the Church against a new one—for Semi-Pelagianism was the ancient doctrine of Tertullian, Ambrose, and Jerome—but the old gospel was also defended against novel teaching; for Semi-Pelagianism was also an evangelical protest, which grew up on Augustinian piety, against a conception of the same Augustine that was intolerable as doctrine.523523Semi-Pelagianism also rests undoubtedly on Augustinian conceptions. Loof’s designation of it as “popular Anti-Pelagian Catholicism” is perfectly just (see Theol. Lit. Ztg. 1895, Col. 568, against Krüger, l.c. Col. 368). “Semi-Pelagianism” is a malicious heretical term. The literary leaders of this doctrine were in no respect influenced, so far as I see, by Pelagius, nor did they learn anything from him; on the contrary, they take their stand—the later the more plainly (but not more Augustinian)—on doctrines of Augustine, and it is impossible to understand them apart from his teaching. “Semi-Pelagianism” is popular Catholicism made more definite and profound by Augustine’s doctrines. The Semi-Pelagians are accordingly the Eusebians of the doctrine of grace. See also Sublet, Le Semi-Pélagianisme des Origines. Namur, 1897. Accordingly, it is not strange that “Semi-Pelagianism” raised its head in spite of the overthrow of Pelagianism; rather it is strange that it was ultimately compelled to submit to Augustinianism. This submission was never indeed perfectly honest. On the other hand, there lurked an element of “Semi-Pelagianism” in Augustinianism itself; viz., in the doctrines of the primitive state, of righteousness—as the product of grace and the will—and of merits. When Augustinianism triumphed, these points necessarily came to the front. But a situation was thus created that was wholly insecure, capable of various interpretations, and untrue in itself.

Augustine himself found by experience that his doctrine of grace produced internal disturbances among the monks at Hadrumetum. Free-will was done with; men could fold their hands; good works were superfluous; even at the Last Judgment they were not taken into account. Augustine sought to appease them by his treatise, De gratia et lib. arbitrio, and he followed this with his work, De correptione et gratia, when he heard that doubts had risen whether the erring and sinful should still be reprimanded, or if their case was sufficiently met by intercession. Augustine strove in these writings to remove the misunderstandings of the monks, but he formulated his doctrine of grace more sharply than ever, trying, however, to retain free choice and the popular Catholic view. A year or two afterwards (428-9) he was informed by his devoted friends, Prosper, Tyro,524524On him see Wörter’s Progr., Freiburg, 1867, and Hauck in the R. E. and Hilary525525Not to be confounded with Hilary of Arles, the Semi-Pelagian. (Epp. 225, 226,), that at Marseilles and other places in France there was an unwillingness to admit the strict doctrine of predestination, and the view that the will was completely impotent,526526The opposition was at first cautious. because they paralysed Christian preaching. Augustine replied, confirming his friends, but giving new offence to his opponents by his two writings, De prædestinatione sanctorum and De dono perseverantiæ. He died soon afterwards, bequeathing his mantle to disciples whose fidelity and steadfastness had to atone for their want of independence. The Gallican monks (“servi dei”) now advanced to open opposition.527527An accurate description of the controversy has been given by Wiggers in the 2nd vol. of his “Pragmatische Darstellung des Augustinismus and Pelagianismus (1833); see also Luthardt, Die L. v. fr. Willen (1863). The later development from Gregory I. to Gottschalk is described by Wiggers in the Ztsch. f. d. hist. Theol., 1854-55-57-59. It is quite intelligible that monks, and Greek-trained monks, should have first entered the lists. Among them the most prominent were Johannes Cassianus, father of South Gallican monachism528528 See De cœnobiorum institutis 1. XII. Cf. Hoch, L.d. Johannes Cass. v. Natur u. Gnade, 1895 (besides Krüger, Theol. Lit.-Ztg. 1895, Col. 368 ff.). and disciple of Chrysostom and Vincentius of Lerinum.529529The Commonitorium is directed exclusively against Augustine. The fact that it has reached us only in a mutilated form is explained, indeed, by its opposition to him. Apart from it, Prosper has preserved for us Vincentius’ objections to Augustine. The former has especially formulated his standpoint in the 13th Conference of his “collationes patrum,” which bears the title “De protectione dei.”530530He speaks still more frankly and therefore “more like a Pelagian” in the Institutions. He takes objection above all to absolute predestination, the particularism of grace, and the complete bondage of the will. His teaching as to grace and liberty is as follows.

God’s grace is the foundation of our salvation; every beginning is to be traced to it, in so far as it brings the chance of salvation and the possibility of being saved. But that is external grace; inner grace is that which lays hold of a man, enlightens, chastens, and sanctifies him, and penetrates his will as well as his intelligence. Human virtue can neither grow nor be perfected without this grace—therefore the virtues of the heathens are very small.531531Here Cassian has learned thoroughly Augustine’s teaching, and we see that he not only accommodated himself to it, but had been convinced by it. But the beginnings of the good resolve, good thoughts, and faith—understood as the preparation for grace—can be due to ourselves. Hence grace is absolutely necessary in order to reach final salvation (perfection), but not so much so in order to make a start. It accompanies us at all stages of our inner growth, and our exertions are of no avail without it (libero arbitrio semper co-operatur); but it only supports and accompanies him who really strives, “who reaches forward to the mark.” Yet at times God anticipates the decision of men, and first renders them willing—e.g., at the call of Matthew and Paul; but even this—rare—action of grace is not irresistible. Free-will is never destroyed by God—that we must hold, even if we admit the incomprehensibleness of divine grace. Similarly, we must hold firmly to the conviction that God wills earnestly the salvation of all, and that therefore Christ’s redemption applies not only to the small number of elect, but to all men. The contrary doctrine involved “a huge blasphemy” (ingens sacrilegium). Predestination can therefore be only grounded on prescience—and the proposition that it was foreknown what anything would have been, if it had been at all, had at that time arisen in connection with the question of those dying in infancy.532532Some maintained, namely, that the fate of these children was decided by how they would have acted if they had lived; for that was known to God. But Cassian has hardly given an opinion on the relation of prescience and predestination. Regarding the primitive state, he taught that it was one of immortality, wisdom, and perfect freedom. Adam and Eve’s Fall had entailed corruption and inevitable sinfulness on the whole race. But with a free, though a weakened, will, there also remained a certain ability to turn to the good.533533Statements by Cassian. (Coll. XIII. 3): “non solum actuum, verum etiam cogitationum bonarum ex deo esse principium, qui nobis et initia sanctæ voluntatis inspirat et virtutem atque opportunitatem eorum quæ recte cupimus tribuit peragendi . . . deus incipit quæ bona sunt et exsequitur et consummat in nobis, nostrum vero est, tit cotidie adtrahentem nos gratiam dei humiliter subsequamur.” 5: “gentiles veræ castitatis (and that is the virtue κατ᾽ ἐξοχήν) virtutem non agnoverunt.” 6: “semper auxilio dei homines indigere nec aliquid humanam fragilitatem quod ad salutem pertinet per se solam i.e., sine adiutorio dei posse perficere.” 7: “propositum dei, quo non ob hoc hominem fecerat, tit periret, sed ut in perpetuum viveret, manet immobile, cuius benignitas cum bonæ voluntatis in nobis quantulamcunque scintillam emicuisse perspexerit vel quam ipse tamquam de dura silice nostri cordis excuderit, confovet eam et exsuscitat et confortat . . . qui enim ut pereat unus ex pusillis non habet voluntatem, quomodo sine ingenti sacrilegio putandus est non universaliter omnes, sed quosdam salvos fieri velle pro omnibus? ergo quicumque pereunt, contra illius pereunt voluntatem . . . deus mortem non fecit.” 8: “tanta est erga creaturam suam pietas creatoris, ut non solum comitetur eam, sed etiam præcedit iugiter providentia, qui cum in nobis ortum quendam bonæ voluntatis inspexerit, inluminat eam confestim atque confortat et incitat ad salutem, incrementum tribuens ei quam vel ipse plantavit vel nostro conatu viderit emersisse.” 9: “non facile humana ratione discernitur quemadmodum dominus petentibus tribuat, a quærentibus inveniatur et rursus inveniatur a non quærentibus se et palam adpareat inter illos, qui eum non interrogabant.” 10: “libertatem scriptura divina nostri confirmat arbitrii sed et infirntitatem.” 11: “ita sunt hæc quodammodo indiscrete permixta atque confusa, ut quid ex quo pendeat inter multos magna quæstione volvatur, i.e., utrum quia initium bonæ voluntatis præbuerimus misereatur nostri deus, an quia deus misereatur consequamur bonæ voluntatis initium (in the former case Zacchæus, in the latter Paul and Matthew are named as examples).” 12: “non enim talum deus hominem fecisse credendus est qui nec velit umquam nec possit bonum . . . cavendum nobis est, ne ita ad dominium omnia sanctorum merita referamus, ut nihil nisi id quod malum atque perversum est humanæ adscribamus naturæ . . . dubitari non potest, inesse quidem omni animæ naturaliter virtutum semina beneficio creatoris inserta, sed nisi hæc opitulatione dei fuerint excitata, ad incrementum perfectionis non potuerunt pervenire.”

It is usual to condemn “Semi-Pelagianism.” But absolute condemnation is unjust. If a universal theory is to be set up, in the form of a doctrine, of the relation of God to mankind (as object of his will to save), then it can only be stated in terms ofSemi-Pelagianismor Cassianism. Cassian did not pledge himself to explain everything; he knew very well that “God’s judgments are incomprehensible and his ways inscrutable.” Therefore he rightly declined to enter into the question of predestination. In refusing, however, to probe the mystery to the bottom, he demanded that so far as we affirmed anything on the subject, we should not prejudice the universality of grace and the accountability of man, i.e., his free-will. That was an evangelical and correct conception. But as Augustine erred in elevating the necessary self-criticism of the advanced Christian into a doctrine, which should form the sole standard by which to judge the whole sphere of God’s dealings with men, so Cassian erred in not separating his legitimate theory from the rule by which the individual Christian ought to regard his own religious state. He thus opened the door to self-righteousness, because from fear of fatalism he would not bluntly say to himself and those whose spiritual guide he was, that the faith which does not know that it is produced by God is still entangled in the life of self.534534Semi-Pelagianism is no “half truth.” It is wholly correct as a theory, if any theory is to be set up, but it is wholly false if taken to express our self-judgment in the presence of God.

Prosper, himself an ascetic and a frequenter of the famous cloisters of Provence, had already attacked his friends as Troubadour of Augustinianism during the lifetime of Augustine (Carmen de ingratis, see also the Ep. ad Rufinum). Now, after 430, he wrote several works in which he defended Augustine, and also himself, against charges that had been brought against Augustinianism.535535Pro Augustino responsiones ad capitula objectionum Gallorum calumniantium (against the Gallican monks); Responsiones pro Augustino ad excerpta quæ de Genuensi civitate sunt missa (against Semi-Pelagian priests who desired aufklärung); Responsiones pro Augustino ad capitula objectionum Vincentiarium (here we have the most acute attacks by opponents). The “Galli” adhered to Cassian, though he hardly mentions original sin, while they taught it, and he does not speak so definitely as they about predestination. He did not succeed in convincing the monks; for his admission that Augustine spoke too harshly (“durius”) when he said that God did not will that all men should be saved,536536Sentent. sup. VIII. on the respons. ad capp. Gallorum. did not satisfy, and their scruples were not even removed by his contention that there was only one predestination (to salvation), that we must distinguish between this and prescience (as regards the reprobati), and in doing so be certain that God’s action was not determined by caprice, but by justice and holiness.537537Even Augustine, in addition to expressing himself in a way that suggests the two-fold doctrine of predestination, said (De dono persev. 14): “Hæc est prædestinatio sanctorum nihil aliud: præscientia scil. præparatio beneficiorum dei quibus certissime liberantur, quicunque liberantur.” Prosper takes his stand on this language (see resp. ad excerpt. Genuens. VIII.): “We confess with pious faith that God has foreknown absolutely to whom he should grant faith, or what men he should give to his Son, that he might lose none of them; we confess that, foreknowing this, he also foresaw the favours by which he vouchsafes to free us, and that predestination consists in the foreknowledge and preparation of the divine grace by which men are most certainly redeemed.” The reprobate accordingly are not embraced by predestination, but they are damned, because God has foreseen their sins. In this, accordingly, prescience is alone at work, as also in the case of the regenerate, who fall away again. But prescience compels no one to sin. He did, however, succeed in getting Pope Celestine to send a letter to the Gallican monks, supporting Augustine and blaming the opposition for presumption. The Pope was, however, very reserved in dealing with the matter in question, although he stated strongly the activity of grace as prevenient.538538Cælest. ep. 21. The appendix was added later, but it perhaps was by Prosper. Prosper now wrote (432) his chief work against the 13th Collatio of Cassian, in which he showed more controversial skill, convicted his opponent of inconsistencies, and stated his own standpoint in a more cautious form, but without any concession in substance. He left Gaul, and took no further part in the dispute, but showed in his “Sentences” and “Epigrams” that as a theologian he continued to depend on Augustine alone.539539Gennadius relates (De script. eccl. 85) that Prosper dictated the famous letters of Leo I. against Eutyches. But he gives this as a mere rumour.

Another Augustinian, unknown to us, author of the work, De vocatione omnium gentium,540540Included among the works of Prosper and Leo I. sought to do justice to the opposition by undertaking to combine the doctrine of the exclusive efficacy of divine grace with the other that God willed that all men should be saved. His intention proves that even among Augustine’s admirers offence was taken at his principle of the particularism of God’s purpose to save. But the laudable endeavour to combine the truth of Augustinianism with a universalist doctrine could not but fail. For all the author’s distinctions between universal grace (creation and history) and special (Christ), and between the sensual, animal, and spiritual will (voluntas sensualis, animalis, spiritalis), as well as his assertions that grace, while preparing the will, does not supersede it, and that God desires the salvation of all, could not remove the real causes of offence (the damnation of children who died unbaptised, and reprobation in general) since Augustinianism was to be strictly upheld.541541A minute analysis of the work is given by Wiggers, II. p. 218 ff. and Thomasius. I. pp. 563-570. It is to be admitted that the work marks an advance by its desire to admit the universality of God’s purpose of salvation. But the doctrine of the universitas specialis is only a play on words, if universitas does not here mean more than with Augustine and Prosper, namely, that men of all nations and periods will be saved. The work was at all events written with the honourable intention of removing doubts and establishing peace. On the other hand, attempts had been made on the Semi-Pelagian side from the first to make Augustinianism impossible, by an unsparing exposure of its real and supposed consequences, and these efforts culminated (about 450?) in the notorious “Prædestinatus” first discovered in A.D. 1643. The mystery that overhangs this work has not yet been fully solved; but it is probable that the writing of a predestinationist, introduced into Book II., and refuted, from the standpoint of Semi-Pelagianism, in Book III., is a forgery. For Augustine’s teaching is unfolded in it entirely in paradoxical, pernicious, and almost blasphemous propositions, such as no Augustinian ever produced.542542See Wiggers, II., pp. 329-350. (We have both kinds of predestination strictly carried out: “those whom God has once predestined will, even if they neglect, sin, or refuse, be brought unwillingly to life, while those whom he has predestined to death labour in vain, even if they run or hasten).”543543“Quos deus semel prædestinavit ad vitam, etiamsi negligant, etiamsi peccent, etiamsi nolint, ad vitam perducentur inviti, quos autem prædestinavit ad mortem, etiamsi currant, etiamsi festinent, sine causa laborant.” And the contention that the “sect of the predestinationists”544544Of any such sect absolutely nothing is known. There is no original authority to show that there actually existed “libertines of grace,” i.e., Augustinians who, under cover of the doctrine of predestination, gave themselves up to unbridled sin. The Semi-Pelagians would not have suffered such “Augustinians” to escape them in their polemics. There may have arisen isolated ultra-Augustinians like Lucidus, but they were not libertines. covers itself with Augustine’s name, like the wolf in sheep’s clothing, is a bold, controversial trick of fence.

Of the effects produced by this venomous writing nothing is known; on the other hand, we do know that Semi-Pelagianism continued to exist undisturbed in Southern Gaul,545545North Africa was removed from theological disputes by the dreadful invasion of the Vandals. The majority there were certainly Augustinians, yet doubts and opposition were not wanting; see Aug. Ep. 217 ad Vitalem. and, indeed, found its most distinguished defender in Faustus of Rhegium (died shortly before 500), formerly Abbot at Lerinum.546546See Tillemont, Vol. XVI., and Wiggers, II. 224-329; Koch, Der h. Faustus von Riez, 1895 (further, Loofs, Theol. Lit.-Ztg. 1895, Col. 567 ff.). This amiable and charitable Bishop, highly respected in spite of many peculiar theories, took an active part in all the controversies and literary labours of his time. He was the forerunner of Gregory I. in establishing, from the Episcopal Chair, monastic Christianity in the Gallican communities. He had entered the lists against Pelagius (“pestifer”), and he now fought as decidedly against the tenet of the extinction of free-will and the doctrine of predestination, which he declared to be erroneous, blasphemous, heathen, fatalistic, and conducive to immorality. The occasion was furnished by Lucidus, a Presbyter of Augustinian views, who made an uncompromising statement of the doctrine of predestination. He recanted formally after the “error prædestinationis” had been condemned at a Synod at Arles (475), with the assistance, if not on the instigation, of Faustus.547547See Mansi VII., where we have also (p. 1010) Lucidus’ recantation in a Libellus ad episcopos. Even before the Synod Faustus had an interview with his friend, and he wrote a doctrinal letter to him (VII. 1007 sq.) which, however, was equally unsuccessful. After this Synod, and a second at Lyons, Faustus composed his work, De gratia dei et humane mentis libero arbitrio, lib. II., meant to explain the dogmatic attitude of the Synods—against Pelagius and predestination.548548Further, the Professio fidei (to Leontius) contra eos, qui dum per solam dei voluntatem alios dicunt ad vitam attrahi, alios in mortem deprimi, hinc fatum cum gentilibus asserunt, inde liberum arbitrium cum Manichæis negant. Grace and freedom are parallel; it is certain that man, since Adam’s Fall, is externally and internally corrupt, that original sin and death as the result of sin reign over him, and that he is thus incapable of attaining salvation by his own strength; but it is as certain that man can still obey or resist grace. God wills the salvation of all; all need grace; but grace reckons on the will which remains, though weakened; it always co-operates with the latter; otherwise the effort of human obedience (labor humanæ obedientiæ)549549“Obedientia” plays the chief part with Faustus next to castitas. In this the mediæval monk announces himself. would be in vain. Original sin and free-will, in its infirm, weakened state (infirmatum, attenuatum), are not mutually exclusive. But those who ascribe everything to grace fall into heathen and blasphemous follies.550550Faustus took good care not to contend against Augustine; he only opposed Augustinianism. This is true of the Catholic Church at the present day. Our being saved is God’s gift; it does not rest, however, on an absolute predestination, but God’s predetermination depends on the use man makes of the liberty still left him, and in virtue of which he can amend himself (prescience). Faustus no longer shows himself to be so strongly influenced by Augustine’s thoughts as Cassian,551551Yet he expressed himself very strongly as to original sin, and even taught Traducianism. As with Augustine, pro-creation is the means of transmitting original sin, which rises “per incentivum maledictæ generationis ardorem et per inlecebrorum utriusque parentis amplexum.” Since Christ was alone free from this heritable infection, because he was not born of sexual intercourse, we must acknowledge the pleasure of intercourse and vice of sensuality to be the origin of the malum originale. We readily see that everything in Augustinianism met with applause that depreciated marriage. And these monks crossed themselves at the thought of Manichæism! although, as a theologian, he owes more to him than the latter does. He is “more of a monk.” Faith also is a work and a human achievement;552552Faustus even supposes that fides remained as the knowledge of God after the Fall. ascetic performances are in general brought still more to the front by him, and the possibility of grace preceding the movement of the will towards good is understood to mean that salvation is first offered to a man from without by means of preaching, law, and reproof. (In this sense Faustus is even of opinion that the beginning is always the work of grace.) The most questionable (Pelagian) feature, however, consists in Faustus giving a very subordinate place to internal grace—the adjutorium essentially means for him external aid in the form of law and doctrine—and that he clearly returns to the Pelagian conception of nature as the original (universal) grace [gratia prima (universalis)]. It is manifest, on the other hand, that he sought to lead precisely ascetics to humility; even where they increase their own merits they are to remember that “whatever we are is of God,” (dei est omne quod sumus), i.e., that perfect virtue is impossible without grace.553553See lib. II. 4. On the other hand, Abel, Enoch, etc., were saved by the first grace, the law of nature, II. 6, 7. Since Enoch preceded the rest, in that so early age, by the merit of faith (fidei merito), he showed that faith had been transmitted to him with the law of nature; see also II. 8 (“et ex gentibus fuisse salvatos,” 7). We see when we look closely that Faustus already distinctly preached implicitly the later doctrine of meritum de congruo et de condigno.554554Wiggers calls attention (p. 328) to Faustus’ principle, important for the sake of later considerations in the Church: “Christus plus dedit quam totus mundus valebat” (De grat. et lib. arb. 16). In faith as knowledge, and in the exertions of the will to amend ourselves, we have a merit supported by the first grace (gratia prima); to it is imparted redeeming grace, and the latter now co-operates with the will in producing perfect merits.

In his own time Faustus hardly met with an opponent, not to speak of one his equal.555555The most distinguished writers of the age held similar views, e.g., Arnobius the younger, Gennadius of Marseilles, Ennodius of Ticinum. Augustine’s own authority was already wavering; for Gennadius permitted himself to write of him (De script. eccl. 39): “unde ex multa eloquentia accidit, quod dixit per Salomonem spiritus sanctus: ex multiloquio non effugies peccatum” and “error tamen illius sermone multo, ut dixi, contractus, lucta hostium exaggeratus necdum hæresis quæstionem absolvit.” Many MSS. have suppressed these passages! We find it said of Prosper (c. 85) that in his work against Cassian he “quæ ecclesia dei salutaria probat, infamat nociva.” Cassian and Faustus are highly praised.—As sources for Semi-Pelagianism there fall further to be considered the homilies, only in part by Faustus, which are printed in the Max. Bibl. Lugd. T. VI., pp. 619-686; see on them Caspari, Briefe, Abhandlungen u. Predigten (1890) p. 418 ff. But in Rome Augustine was held in high honour, without anyone, certainly, saying how far he was prepared to go with him, and doctrines which directly contradicted him were not tolerated. If we may ascribe the decree, De libris recipiendis et non recipiendis, to Gelasius, then that Pope, who is also proved by other facts to have been a strong opponent of Pelagianism, declared Augustine and Prosper’s writings to be in harmony with the Church, but those of Cassian and Faustus “apocryphal.” But the course of affairs in Rome at the beginning of the sixth century makes the ascription of this decree to Gelasius—in its present form—improbable. That is, as Pelagianism had formerly amalgamated with Nestorianism, to which it gravitated, and had thus sealed its doom, so Semi-Pelagianism did not escape the fate of being dragged into the Christological controversy, and of being assailed by the dislike which orthodoxy influenced by Monophysitism cherished against all “that was human.” Those Scythian monks in Constantinople, who wished to force Theopaschitism on the Church,556556See Vol. IV., p. 231. handed to the Legate of Pope Hormisdas a Confession of faith, in which they opposed the remains of Nestorianism as well as the doctrine that grace did not effect the act of will and its accomplishment (519).557557These “Scythians” were well versed in Western thought, their leader, Maxentius, who wrote in Latin, belonged himself to the West. In the Confession of faith they treat of grace, “non qua creamur, sed qua recreamur et renovamur.” Pelagius, Cælestius, and Theodore of Mopsuestia are grouped together. Dismissed by the Legate, they brought their view in person before the Pope, and sent a report to the banished North African Bishops, who were residing in Sardinia, and among whom the most important was Fulgentius of Ruspe, a practised disputant against Arianism, and a faithful adherent of Augustine. The report of the Scythians, which discussed Christology as well as the doctrine of grace, and quoted in support of the latter—in its Augustinian form—Eastern and Western authorities, closes with the words: “We hold it necessary to add this; not as if you did not know it, but we have considered it useful to insert it in our short paper, in order to refute the folly of those who reject it as containing tenets novel and entirely unheard of in the churches. Instructed in the teaching of all these holy Fathers, we condemn Pelagius, Cælestius, Julian, and those of a similar type of thought, especially the books of Faustus of the cloister of Lerinum, which there is no doubt were written against the doctrine of predestination. In these he attacks the tradition not only of these holy Fathers, but also of the Apostle himself, annexing the support of grace to human effort, and, while doing away with the whole grace of Christ, avowing impiously that the ancient saints were not saved, as the most holy Apostle Peter teaches, by the same grace as we are, but by natural capacity.”

The North Africans assented to this, and Fulgentius in reply wrote his work, De incarnatione et gratia, in which, as in earlier writings, he defended the Augustinian standpoint, and especially derived original sin from the lust of sexual intercourse. Free-will in the state of sin was wickedly free (male liberum), and Christ’s grace was to be sharply distinguished from grace in creation (gratia creans) [c. 12]; the act of willing is not ours, and assistance God’s, business, but “it is the part of God’s grace to aid, that it may be mine to will, believe” (c. 16: gratis dei est adjuvare, ut sit meum velle credere). Rom. II. 14, is to be applied to the Gentiles justified by faith (c. 25); and the particularism of grace is also maintained.558558See Wiggers II., pp. 369-4 9. According to Fulgentius, even Mary’s conception was stained, and therefore not free from original sin, see c. 6. The Scythians left Rome, leaving behind them an anathema on Nestorians, Pelagian,, and all akin to them. The celebrated name of Faustus appeared in a bad light, and Possessor, an exiled African Bishop who lived in Constantinople, hastened to recommend himself to the Pope by the submissive query, What view was now to be taken of Faustus? assuring him at the same time that distinguished State officials equally desired enlightenment.559559All these transactions in Mansi VIII. Hormisdas gave a reserved answer (Aug. 520). The Scythian monks were branded as vile disturbers of orthodoxy; Faustus was described as a man whose private views need disquiet nobody, as the Church had not raised him to the post of a teacher; the doctrine of the Roman Church as regards sin and grace could be seen from Augustine’s writings, especially those to Prosper and Hilary. The Scythians sent a vigorous reply, sparing the Pope in so far as they questioned the authenticity of his letter. If Augustine’s teaching was that of the Catholic Church, then Faustus was a heretic; that is what the Pope would have necessarily said. The heresy was perfectly clear; for Faustus only understood by prevenient grace, external grace—the preaching of the gospel. At the same time, the monks instigated Fulgentius now to write directly against Faustus, which he did in the Seven Books c. Faustum (lost) and—on his return to Africa A.D. 523—in his work, De veritate prædestinationis et gratin dei (l. III.) In this work Fulgentius expounds out and out Augustinianism (particularism of the will to save), but rejects the idea of a predestination to sin (nevertheless to punishment).560560On the derivation of original sin, see I. 4: “proinde de immunditia nuptiarum mundus homo non nascitur, quia interveniente libidine seminatur.” The Bishops remaining in Sardinia concurred fully with their colleague in the Ep. Synodica addressed to the Scythian monks: grace is the light, the will the eye; the eye needs light in order to be able to see the light. Faustus’ theses are “inventions, contrary to the truth, entirely hostile to the Catholic faith” (commenta, veritati contraria, catholicæ fidei penitus inimica).

These conflicts could not be without consequence for Southern Gaul. Still greater effect was produced by the reading of Augustine’s writings, especially his sermons. In an age that thought solely in contrasts, the dilemma whether Augustine was a holy doctor or a heretic could only be decided ultimately in favour of the incomparable teacher. Cæsarius of Arles, the most meritorious and famous Bishop at the beginning of the sixth century, had, though trained in Lerinum and never wholly belying his training, so steeped himself in Augustine’s works, that he would not abandon him, and his theology and sermons became a mirror of the master’s important thoughts and forms of expression (though not of all or the most characteristic of them).561561See Arnold’s interesting monograph, Cæsarius von Arelate and die gallische Kirche s. Zeit, 1894. An edition of the Opp. Cæsarii is forthcoming. He fought against (+ 542) the writings and authority of Faustus.562562Avitus of Vienne is usually named along with him; but after Arnold’s authoritative account of the former (p. 202 ff.), he must be disregarded. On the other hand, Mamertus Claudianus is to be named as an opponent of Faustus (Arnold, p. 325); he is an Augustinian and Neoplatonist, and thus an enemy of Semi-Pelagianism as a metaphysician. In Southern Gaul he at first met with much opposition, but still more indifference—for how many Bishops were there at the beginning of the sixth century capable of understanding Augustinianism? In Rome, on the contrary, he found approval.563563Cæsarius’ work, however, De gratia et libero arbitrio, and its approval by Felix IV. belong to the realm of fiction (Arnold, p. 499). On the other hand, we have to notice some indirect manifestations on the part of Rome about A.D. 500 in favour of Augustinianism and against Faustus. Yet Rome never took the trouble really to comprehend Augustinianism. This approval was not without effect in Gaul.564564We only know of the Synod of Valencia, at which Cæsarius was not present, owing to illness, but where he was represented by a friendly Bishop, from the Vita Cæsarii by his disciple Cyprian (Mansi VIII., p. 723). Hefele has shown (Conciliengesch., II.2 p. 738 ff.), that it is to be dated before the Synod of Orange. It seems necessary to infer from the short account that the Bishops met to oppose Cæsarius, and published a decree condemning, or at least disapproving his teaching (see also Arnold, p. 346 ff.). At Orange Cæsarius justified himself, or triumphantly defended his doctrine from “Apostolic tradition,” and Pope Boniface agreed with him, and not with his Valencian opponents. A mixed Synod at Orange565565See Arnold p. 350 ff. in A.D. 529 under the presidency of Csarius approved of twenty-five Canons, i.e., headings extracted by Pope Felix IV. from Augustine and Prosper’s writings, and sent by him to the South Gallicans as the doctrine of the “ancient Fathers,” in order to support Cæsarius in his fight against Semi-Pelagianism.566566We cannot now decide whether the 25 Canons are absolutely identical with those transmitted heads, or whether the Synod (perhaps even the Pope?) proposed trifling modifications; see Chap. XIX. of the Treves Codex in Mansi VIII., p. 722. However, it is very improbable that the Bishops made important changes in these heads (yet see Arnold, p. 352) since according to them they expounded their own view in the Epilogue.

These Canons567567See Hahn, § 103; Hefele, p. 726 f. are strongly anti-Semi-Pelagian:—3: “The grace of God is not granted in response to prayer, but itself causes the prayer to be offered for it.” 4: “That we may be cleansed from sin, God does not wait upon, but prepares, our will.” 5: “The beginning of faith is not due to us, but to the grace of God—that state of believing by which we believe in him who justifies the impious, and attain the regeneration of holy Baptism, is brought about through the gift of grace, i.e., the inspiration of the Holy Spirit correcting our will from unbelief to faith, and is not ours naturally.” 6: “It is the work of grace that we believe, will, desire, attempt, knock, etc., and not vice-versâ.” 7: “We cannot without grace think or choose, by our natural powers, anything good that pertains to salvation.” 8: “It is untrue that some attain baptismal faith by mercy, others by free-will.” 9: “As often as we do good, God works in and with us, that we may work.” 10: “Even the regenerate and holy always need the divine aid.” 11: “We can only vow to God what we ourselves have received from him.” 12: “God loves us as we shall be by his gift, not as we are by our merit.” 13: “Choice of will, weakened in the first man, cannot be repaired except by the grace of Baptism.” 16: “Let no one boast of what he seems to have as if he did not receive it, or think that he has received, because the letter appeared or was sounded outwardly that it might be read or heard.” 17: “On the love of God diffused in hearts by the Holy Spirit.” 18: “Undeserved grace precedes meritorious works.” 19: “Even if it had remained in the sound state in which it was created, human nature would by no means preserve itself without the aid of its creator.” 21: “The law does not justify, and grace is not nature; therefore Christ died not gratuitously, but that the law might be fulfilled, and that nature, ruined by Adam, might be repaired by him.” 22: “No one has anything of his own but falsehood and sin,” and “The virtue of heathens is produced only by worldly desire, that of Christians springs not from free will, but from the gift of the Holy Ghost.”568568This Canon caused the greatest distress to the Catholic Church in the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries (see Hefele, p. 733 f.). 23: “In (doing) evil men carry out their own will, but when they do what they resolve in order to serve the divine will, although their actions are willed by them, yet it is his will by which their act of will is both prepared and commanded.” 24: “The twig does not benefit the stem, but the stem the twig; so also those who have Christ in them and abide in him do not benefit Christ, but themselves.” 25: “To love God is the gift of God.”

The definition given by the Bishops, after drawing up these heads, is likewise strongly anti-Semi-Pelagian.569569Yet Augustine would not have written the sentence: “hoc etiam credimus, quod accepta per baptismum gratia omnes baptizati Christo auxiliante et co-operante, quæ ad salutem animæ pertinent, possint et debeant, si fideliter laborare voluerint, adimplere.” Besides, the words “que ad salutem pertinent adimplere” and “fideliter laborare” are ambiguous. But no mention is made of predestination,570570The word only occurs in the epilogue, and there merely to reject prædestinatio ad malum: “aliquos vero ad malum divina potestate prædestinatos esse non solum non credimus, sed etiam, si sunt qui tantum malum credere velint, cum omni detestatione illis anathema dicimus.” The decree is also silent as to gratia irresistibilis, and the particularism of God’s will to bestow grace. nor is the inner process of grace, on which Augustine laid the chief stress, properly appreciated. The former fact would have been no blemish in itself; but at that time, when the question was whether the whole Augustine was authoritative or not, silence was dangerous. Those who were disposed to Semi-Pelagianism could appeal to the fact that Augustine’s doctrine of predestination was not approved, and might then introduce into this unsanctioned tenet a great deal that belonged to the doctrine of grace. This actually took place. Accordingly the controversy only came apparently to an end here. But the continued vitality of Semi-Pelagian ideas, under cover of Augustinian formulas, was further promoted by that external conception of grace as the sacrament of Baptism, which lay at the root of the decree. “Love,” it is true, was also discussed; but we see easily that the idea of the sacrament was all-predominant. “Even Augustine’s adherents,” it has been truly remarked, “lost sight of the distinction between Augustinianism and Semi-Pelagianism in relation to all who were baptised.” It was Augustine himself, who, because he had not comprehended the notion of faith, was to blame for the fact that, at the close of the dispute, a conception was evolved as his doctrine which, while explaining grace to be beginning and end, really held to the magical miracle of Baptism, and to “faithful working with the aid of Christ” (fideliter laborare auxiliante Christo).

The new Pope, Boniface II., approved of these decrees in a letter to Cæsarius;571571Mansi VIII., p. 735 sq. The resolutions were also subscribed by laymen, a thing almost unheard of in the dogmatic history of the ancient Church, but not so in Gaul in the sixth century; see Hatch, “The Growth of Church Institutions” chap. VIII. they have retained a great esteem in the Catholic Church, and were very thoroughly considered by the Council of Trent.572572The Roman Bishops evidently felt their attitude in the Semi-Pelagian controversy prejudiced by the decisions of their predecessors against Pelagius. We look in vain for an independent word coming from internal conviction (Gelasius is perhaps an exception), and yet it is quite essentially “thanks” to them that the Semi-Pelagian dispute ended with the recognition of the Augustinian doctrine of prevenient grace and with silence as to predestination. Henceforth, the doctrine of prevenient grace, on which the Pope also laid particular stress, is to be regarded as Western dogma; the Semi-Pelagians have to be acknowledged heretics. But the controversy could begin anew at any moment, as soon, namely, as any one appeared, who, for the sake of prevenient grace, also required the recognition of particular election to grace. If we consider which of Augustine’s doctrines met with acceptance, and which were passed over, if further we recollect why the former were approved, we are compelled to say that, next to anxiety to secure to the Sacrament of Baptism its irreplaceable importance, it was the monastic view of the impurity of marriage that especially operated here. All are sinful, and grace must come before our own efforts, because all are born from the sinful lust of sexual intercourse. The Catholic system of doctrine has risen from a compromise between two equally monastic conceptions: the meritoriousness of works and the impurity of marriage. Both thoughts were Augustinian in themselves and in their working out; but the moving soul of Augustinianism was starved. It is a fact that has not yet been sufficiently appreciated that Catholic doctrine did not adhere to Semi-Pelagianism, because the former declared sexual desire to be sinful.573573Seeberg (Dogmengesch. I., p. 326), has disputed this, because the representatives of Semi-Pelagianism made the strongest assertions on this point (see especially Faustus), and because the opposition between them and the Augustinians actually depended on quite different issues. Both objections are quite correct, but they do not meet the above statement; the Semi-Pelagian doctrine of grace could not but react upon and modify Augustine’s doctrine of original sin, and therefore also the view of the evil of sin as necessarily propagated by sexual intercourse, involving damnation, and destructive of all goodness. As regards this it is quite indifferent how individual Semi-Pelagian monks looked at sexual desire and marriage, as also whether this point came at once to light in the controversy.

« Prev 1. The Conflict between Semi-Pelagianism and… Next »


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |