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February 27, 2008 / vivator

Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Catholicism and Calvinism

Pelagianism, the name came from Pelagius (c. 350 to 425 AD), believes that we have freedom to will and to work for our salvation.  It rejects original sin and considers God’s grace to be facilitator, i.e. it is not something necessary for our salvation.  Because in Pelagianism we can will our salvation there is no predestination.

Semi-pelagianism believes in original sin that affects all mankind. However in semi-pelagianism we can still use our freedom to take the first step in our salvation and then God helps us through His Grace – in other words human freedom comes before God’s Grace.  Although God’s Grace is necessity, since we can take the first initiative in our salvation semi-pelagianism also rejects predestination.

Catholicism believes in original sin, which makes us unable to take the first step in our salvation.  God takes the initiative to save us by giving us His Grace and we have freedom to cooperate with this Grace or not.  Since the initiative for our salvation belongs to God there is predestination. God chooses whom He wants to save but condemns no one to hell. Those who end up in hell do so because they use their freedom to reject His Grace.

Calvinism believes in original sin and, like Catholicism, also believes we cannot take the first step in our salvation – they call this condition total depravity.  God takes the initiative to save us by giving us His Grace but it disagrees with Catholicism on how we response to His Grace. In Calvinism we don’t have freedom and this means God predestined some to heaven by giving them His Grace, which is irresistible to them and foreordained the rest to hell by withholding His Grace from them.



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  1. Tom Li / Jun 11 2009 11:11 am

    Calvinism makes sense because apart from His Grace we are all lost because of original sin. It is God’s Grace that even one is saved.

    • vivator / Jun 11 2009 10:59 pm

      In Calvinism since humans remain passive it leads to double predestination – God predestines who will enter heaven and who will go to hell. We cannot reconcile this view with 1 Cor 15:22 – even John Calvin skipped this verse in his commentary on 1 Corinthians.

      • FourFingersBackAtYou / Jan 9 2012 10:54 am

        1 Cor 15:22-23 states:
        “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.
        But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming.”

        Even Catholicism teaches that some people go to hell, therefore the “all” that are made alive in 1 Cor 15:22 is predicated upon those who are “in Christ.”
        “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1, NIV)

        So there is no one-to-one parallelism between the two clauses of 1 Cor 15:22. This is how the apostle Paul explains it to the Romans:
        “15 But the free gift is NOT LIKE THE TRESPASS. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
        16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.
        17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15-17, ESV)

        “13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
        14 so that IN CHRIST JESUS the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:13-14, ESV)

        Whether or not Calvin pronounced on this verse is immaterial – Neither did the Catholic church in any official capacity. As such, I must assume you are simply making a private interpretation of the verse.

      • FourFingersBackAtYou / Jun 18 2014 12:46 pm

        You are a bit too eager to dismiss Calvin as weak-kneed over 1 Cor. 15:22.
        Your comment June 11, 2009: “…even John Calvin skipped this verse” (1 Cor 15:22)…”
        For the reader’s benefit, 1 Cor. 15:22 reads: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

        Calvin does not in fact shy away from this passage.
        His commentary on the verse immediately preceding, I.e.verse 21, makes reference to verse 22:
        “The cause of death is Adam, and we die in him: hence Christ, whose office it is to restore to us what we lost in Adam, is the cause of life to us; and his resurrection is the ground-work and pledge of ours. And as the former was the beginning of death, so the latter is of life.
        IN THE FIFTH CHAPTER OF Romans he follows out the same comparison; but there is this difference, that in that passage he reasons respecting a spiritual life and death, while he treats here of the resurrection of the body, which is the fruit of spiritual life.”

        Is there a reason you would neglect to mention Calvin’s own mention (see immediately above) of his commentary on Romans 5? Especially since Calvin’s commentary on the related passage in Romans 5 is about spiritual life and death – the very issue you are talking about! There you will see that Calvin does a very thorough exegesis of Romans 5:18-19, which reads:
        18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
        19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

      • vivator / Jun 21 2014 3:27 pm

        1 Cor 15:21-22 (RSV) reads: For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall be made alive.
        What you quoted from his commentary on 1 Cor 15 (Calvin Commentaries of most books of the Bible are available for free at was his explanation or exegesis on verse 21, not on verse 22.
        Romans 5:18-19 (RSV) reads: Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
        Unless something wrong with my eyes, I don’t see the word SPIRITUAL life and death in the above verses, unless he (and you) added it.

  2. FourFingersBackAtYou / Jun 18 2014 6:41 am

    Video: Sproul on Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Roman Catholicism, and the will of man

    “R. C. Sproul demonstrates the contradiction in Roman Catholic Theology, when it claims it agrees with Augustine against Pelagius and the Semi-Pelagians (Provincial Synod of Orange in 529 AD), but later re-affirms Semi-Pelagianism by the decrees of Trent (1545-1563) and then, later, arguably, it approves of even Pelagianism by the condemnation of the Jansenists (roughly, 1638-1713) and the modern Roman Catholic Catechism of 1994. Sproul calls it an “ambiguity”. Indeed, it is more than that; it is a real contradiction. It also shows the Roman Catholic Church to be fallible; thus bringing down the whole system of its claim to be infallible.”

    • vivator / Jun 21 2014 3:12 pm

      The video only confirm what I wrote that most Calvinists confuse semi-pelagianism with synergism (refer to my post: Despite being world famous Sproul either did not do his home-work or he deliberately covers the fact. In semi pelagian grace of God depends on our free-will – we have to take initiative in our salvation and only then God will assist us with His Grace, hence there is no such thing as predestination because we are the one who decide whether we want to be saved or not. In synergism, on the other hand, God takes initiative to give us His Grace – the so-called prevenient Grace. His prevenient Grace is efficacious to the Elect which makes them voluntarily cooperate while remain free. You also believe in efficacious grace but in your belief it is applied to the Elect who are spiritually dead person before being regenerated – no cooperation is required and no kicking and screaming either, just like a mechanic who repairs a damaged car. The closest analogy for synergism is wedding. The Minister will ask both bride and groom whether she/he is willing to take the other as husband/wife. Assuming it is not forced marriage, both bride and groom are free, i.e. both can say Yes or No. Both voluntarily say Yes (no kicking and screaming) because they are convinced the other is their soul mate.
      Does Council of Trent revive semi-pelagianism as you falsely charge? Read the following from Council of Trent:
      Chapter 5 on the decree of Justification
      The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight.
      CANON II.-If any one saith, that the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, is given only for this, that man may be able more easily to live justly, and to merit eternal life, as if, by free will without grace, he were able to do both, though hardly indeed and with difficulty; let him be anathema.
      CANON III.-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.
      Canon II reaffirmed Catholic Church condemnation of pelagianism while Canon II did the same to semi-pelagianism.

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