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History of the Christian Church, Volume III: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity. A.D. 311-600.
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§ 160. Victory of Semi-Augustinianism. Council of Orange, A.D. 529.


But these synods were only provincial, and were the cause of a schism. In North Africa and in Rome the Augustinian system of doctrine, though in a somewhat softened form, attained the ascendency. In the decree issued by pope Gelasius in 496 de libris recipiendis et non recipiendis (the beginning of an Index librorum prohibitorum), the writings of Augustine and Prosper Aquitanus are placed among books ecclesiastically sanctioned, those of Cassian and Faustus of Rhegium among the apocryphal or forbidden. Even in Gaul it found in the beginning of the sixth century very capable and distinguished advocates, especially in Avitus, archbishop of Vienne (490523), and Caesarius, archbishop of Arles (502–542). Associated with these was Fulgentius of Ruspe († 533), in the name of the sixty African bishops banished by the Vandals and then living in Sardinia.18771877    He wrote De veritate praedestinationis et gratiae Dei, three libb. against Faustus. He uses in these the expression praedestinatio duplex, but understands by the second praedestinatio the praedestination to damnation, not to sin, and censures those who affirmed a predestination to sin. Yet he expressly consigned to damnation all unbaptized children, even such as die in their mother’s womb. Comp. Wiggers, ii. p. 378.

The controversy was stirred up anew by the Scythian monks, who in their zeal for the Monophysite theopaschitism, abhorred everything connected with Nestorianism, and urged first pope Hormisdas, and then with better success the exiled African bishops, to procure the condemnation of Semi-Pelagianism.

These transactions terminated at length in the triumph of a moderate Augustinianism, or of what might be called Semi-Augustinianism, in distinction from Semi-Pelagianism. At the synod of Orange (Arausio) in the year 529, at which Caesarius of Arles was leader, the Semi-Pelagian system, yet without mention of its adherents, was condemned in twenty-five chapters or canons, and the Augustinian doctrine of sin and grace was approved, without the doctrine of absolute or particularistic predestination.18781878    Comp. the transactions of the Concilium Arausicanum, the twenty-five Capitula, and the Symbolum in the Opera Aug. ed. Bened. Appendix to tom. x. 157 sqq.; in Mansi, tom. viii. p. 712 sqq.; and in Hefele, ii. p. 704 ff. The Benedictine editors trace back the several Capitula to their sources in the works of Augustine, Prosper, and others. A similar result was reached at a synod of Valence (Valencia), held the same year, but otherwise unknown.18791879    The Acts of the synod of Valence, in the metropolitan province of Vienne, held in the same year or in 530, have been lost. Pagi, and the common view, place this synod after the synod of Orange, Hefele, on the contrary (ii. 718), before it. But we have no decisive data.

The synod of Orange, for its Augustinian decisions in anthropology and soteriology, is of great importance. But as the chapters contain many repetitions (mostly from the Bible and the works of Augustine and his followers), it will suffice to give extracts containing in a positive form the most important propositions.

Chap. 1. The sin of Adam has not injured the body only, but also the soul of man.

2. The sin of Adam has brought sin and death upon all mankind.

3. Grace is not merely bestowed when we pray for it, but grace itself causes us to pray for it.

5. Even the beginning of faith, the disposition to believe, is effected by grace.

9. All good thoughts and works are God’s gift.

10. Even the regenerate and the saints need continually the divine help.

12. What God loves in us, is not our merit, but his own gift.

13. The free will weakened18801880    “Arbitrium voluntatis in primo homine in infirmatum“ (not “amissum”). in Adam, can only be restored through the grace of baptism.

16. All good that we possess is God’s gift, and therefore no one should boast.

18. Unmerited grace precedes meritorious works.18811881    There are then meritorious works. “Debetur merces bonis operibus, si fiant, sed gratia quae non debetur praecedit, ut fiant” Chap. 18 taken from Augustine’s Opus imperf. c. Jul. i. c. 133 and from the Sentences of Prosper Aquitanus, n. 297. But, on the other hand, Augustinealso says: “Merita nostra sunt Dei munera.”

19. Even had man not fallen, he would have needed divine grace for salvation.

23. When man sins, he does his own will; when he does good, he executes the will of God, yet voluntarily.

25. The love of God is itself a gift of God.


To these chapters the synod added a Creed of anthropology and soteriology, which, in opposition to Semi-Pelagianism, contains the following five propositions:18821882    In the Latin original, the Epilogus reads as follows (Aug. Opera, tom. x. Appendix, f. 159 sq.):
   “Ac sic secundum suprascriptas sanctarum scripturarum Bententias vel antiquerum patrum definitiones hoc, Deo propitiante, et praedicare debemus et credere, quod per peccatum primi hominis its inclinatum et attenuatum fuerit liberum arbitrium, ut nullus postea aut diligere Deum sicut oportuit, aut credere in Deum, aut operari propter Deum quod bonum eat, possit, nisi gratia cum et misericordia divina praevenerit. Unde Abel justo et Noe, et Abrahae, et Isaac, et Jacob, et omni antiquorum sanctorum multitudini illam praeclaram fidem, quam in ipsorum laude praedicat apostolus Paulus, non per bonum naturae, quod prius in Adam datum fuerat, sed per gratiam Dei credimus fuisse collatam. Quam gratiam etiam post adventum Domini omnibus qui baptizari desiderant, non in libero arbitrio haberi, sed Christi novimus simul et credimus largitate conferri, secundum illud quod jam supra dictum est, et quod praedicat Paulus apostolus: Vobis donatum est pro Christo non solum ut in eum credatis, sed etiam ut pro illopatiamini (Phil. i. 29); et illud: Deus qui caepit in vobis bonum opus, perficiet usque in diem Domini nostri Jesu Christi (Phil. i. 6); et illud: Gratia salvi facti estis per fidem, et hoc non ex vobis, Dei enim donum est (Ephes. ii. 8); et quod de se ipso ait apostolus: Misericordiam consecutus sum ut fidelis essem (1 Cor. vii. 29); non dixit quia eram, sed ut essem; et illud: Quid habes quod non accepisti? (1 Cor. iv. 7); et illud: Omne datum bonum et omne donum perfectum de sursum est, descendens a Patre luminum (Jac. i. 17); et illud: Nemo habet quidquam boni, nisi illi datum fuerit de super (Joann. iii. 23). Innumerabilia sunt sanctarum scripturarum testimonia quae possunt ad probandam gratiam proferri, sed brevitatis studio praetermissa sunt, quia et revera cui pauca non sufficiunt plura non proderunt.

   “ Hoc etiam secundum fidem catholicam credimus, quod accepta per baptismum gratia, omnes baptizati, Christo auxilante et coöperante, quae ad salutem animae pertinent, possint et debeant, si fideliter laborare voluerint, adimplere.

   “Aliquos vero ad malum divina potestate praedestinatos esse non serum non credimus, sed etiam si sunt, qui tantum malum credere velint cum omni detestatione illis anathema dicimus.

   Hoc etiam salubriter profitemur et credimus, quod in omni opere bono non nos incipimus et postea per Dei misericordiam adjuvamur, sed ipse nobis, nullis praecedentibus bonis meritis, et fidem et amorem sui prius inspirat, ut et baptismi sacramenta fideliter requiramus, et post baptismum cum ipsius adjutorio ea quae sibi sunt placita implere possimus. Unde manifestissime credendum est, quod et illius latronis, quem Dominus ad paradisi patriam revocavit, et Cornelii centurionis, ad quem angelus Domini missus est, et Zachaei, qui ipsum Dominum suscipere meruit, illa tam admirabilis fides non fuit de natum, sed divinae largitatis donum.

   “ Et quia definitionem antiquoram patrum nostamque, quae suprascripta est, non solum religiosis, sed etiam laicis medicamentum esse, et desideramus et cupimus: placuit ut eam etiam illustres ac magnifici viri, qui nobiscum ad praefatam festivitatem convenerunt, propria manu subscriberent.”

   Then follow the names of fourteen bishops (headed by Caesarius) and eight laymen (headed by Petrus Marcellinus Felix Liberius, vir clarissimus et illustris Praefectus Praetorii Galliarum atque Patricius).

1. Through the fall free will has been so weakened, that without prevenient grace no one can love God, believe on Him, or do good for God’s sake, as he ought (sicut oportuit, implying that he may in a certain measure).

2. Through the grace of God all may, by the co-operation of God, perform what is necessary for their soul’s salvation.

3. It is by no means our faith, that any have been predestinated by God to sin (ad malum), but rather: if there are people who believe so vile a thing, we condemn them with utter abhorrence (cum omni detestatione).18831883    This undoubtedly takes for granted, that Augustinedid not teach this; and in fact he taught only a predestination of the wicked to perdition, not a predestination to sin.

4. In every good work the beginning proceeds not, from us, but God inspires in us faith and love to Him without merit precedent on our part, so that we desire baptism, and after baptism can, with His help, fulfil His will.

5. Because this doctrine of the fathers and the synod is also salutary for the laity, the distinguished men of the laity also, who have been present at this solemn assembly, shall subscribe these acts.

In pursuance of this requisition, besides the bishops, the Praefectus praetorio Liberius, and seven other viri illustres, signed the Acts. This recognition of the lay element, in view of the hierarchical bent of the age, is significant, and indicates an inward connection of evangelical doctrine with the idea of the universal priesthood. And they were two laymen, we must remember, Prosper and Hilarius, who first came forward in Gaul in energetic opposition to Semi-Pelagianism and in advocacy of the sovereignty of divine grace.

The decisions of the council were sent by Caesarius to Rome, and were confirmed by pope Boniface II. in 530. Boniface, in giving his approval, emphasized the declaration, that even the beginning of a good will and of faith is a gift of prevenient grace, while Semi-Pelagianism left open a way to Christ without grace from God. And beyond question, the church was fully warranted in affirming the pre-eminence of grace over freedom, and the necessity and importance of the gratia praeveniens.

Notwithstanding this rejection of the Semi-Pelagian teachings (not teachers), they made their way into the church again, and while Augustine was universally honored as a canonized saint and standard teacher, Cassian and Faustus of Rhegium remained in grateful remembrance as saints in France.18841884    Comp. respecting the further history of anthropology Wiggers: Schicksale der augustinischen Anthropologie von der Verdammung des Semipelagianismus auf den Synoden zu Orange und Valence, 529, bis zur Reaction des Mönchs Gottschalk für den Augustinimus, in Niedner’s “Zeitschrift für Hist. Theologie,” 1854, p. 1 ff.

At the close of this period Gregory the Great represents the moderated Augustinian system, with the gratia praeveniens, but without the gratia irresistibilis and without a particularistic decretum absolutum. Through him this milder Augustinianism exerted great influence upon the mediaeeval theology. Yet the strict Augustinianism always had its adherents, in such men as Bede, Alcuin, and Isidore of Seville, who taught a gemina praedestinatio, sive electorum ad salutem, sive reproborum ad mortem; it became prominent again in the Gottschalk controversy in the ninth century, was repressed by scholasticism and the prevailing legalism; was advocated by the precursors of the Reformation, especially by Wiclif and Huss; and in the Reformation of the sixteenth century, it gained a massive acknowledgment and an independent development in Calvinism, which, in fact, partially recast it, and gave it its most consistent form.



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