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July 2, 2007 / vivator

Catholicism and Semi-Pelagianism

Some Protestants, notably Calvinists, may accuse Catholic Church of adopting Semi Pelagianism. Semi Pelagian teaching, which was developed by monks of Southern Gaul and Marseilles (in France) after 428 AD, attempts to have middle position between Pelagian and Augustinian. Pelagian denies original sin and believes that we can will and work for our salvation with God’s Grace only as facilitator. Semi-Pelagian, on the other hand, believes in original sin, but we, using our freedom, can still take the first initiative to seek salvation and only in later state we need God’s grace. In contrast Catholic Church teaches that God’s Grace always precedes our acts in relation to salvation, be it believing or obeying God’s commandments. Our freedom plays a role when we decide whether to cooperate or not with God’s given grace. In short in Catholicism God’s Grace precedes our freedom while in Semi-Pelagianism it is the other way around. Semi-Pelagian was condemned in Council of Orange in 529 AD and in the 16-th century ecumenical Council of Trent. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reaffirms Catholic position against semi-Pelagianism.

If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism — if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). And again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.
Canon V of Council of Orange

If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.
Council of Trent, Canon III of the Decree on Justification

Without God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight
Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1993

One Comment

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  1. Newchasm / Jul 23 2007 9:55 am

    I’m a calvinist. Semi-pelagrian is not quite right. It is the synergism with these things that gets Catholics mislabeled. All arminians in general get called it. Yet, theological arminianism is different. Prevenant Grace clearly is not semi-pelagrian. I do have to ask about that kind of grace for it seems inconsistent with Molina and other non-Aquinas views of the will.

    The largest beef is on the subject of penance. The second rail of justification (which everone must follow) for those who shipwreck their faith. Calvinists would rather call catholics outright pelagrians for it. Penance is a work. Some make it their own work without a necessary cause from christ or the holy spirit. Calvinists would also say that ability is not enough to credit a work to another.

    Protestants do not know what to think of Augustine for he credited it as the sole work of Christ. While he also makes the work of penance necessary for salvation. This is a problem of protestants trying to relate to him. Augustine still has in mind an actual righteousness but one given by grace upon grace.

    ihmo, Wasn’t the council of orange pretty protestant, outside of the means of grace as baptism.

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