In Defense of Freewill


Traditional Christian doctrine holds that Humankind is frail and weak to sin, and therefore needs the Church to usher it to salvation through believing and practicing “the True Faith.” The dominant notion is that this has always been the case. However, at least one fifth century theologian opposed it vehemently.[1]

Pelagius was a theological and intellectual rival of Augustine and Jerome. It would seem that he objected to Augustine’s interpretation of The Fall as the fault of the Evil One and the notion that Humankind was powerless against sin. To Pelagius, this presented people with a convenient scapegoat for their choices.

He appears to have argued that sin[2] is a personal decision, and that the Old Testament exemplar prophets such as Moses, Elijah, and Job were proof positive that it was possible to live blameless lives through good judgment.[3] If the Gospel According to Matthew[4] has anything to say about it, I think Jesus would have approved.

We do not know more about this champion of Freewill because, though he was not declared a heretic, he is not heard of after his condemnation at the Council of Carthage in 418 A.D.[5] Thus Augustine won the war over Freewill, and the Church would forevermore condemn it as a tool of the Devil.

Remember Pelagius the next time someone uses the age old excuse, “The Devil made me do it!” Share his wisdom with them. It may just save their soul.

[1] Deacon Geoffrey Ó Riada, Pelagius: To Demetrias, an analysis of the letter and a brief biography.

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[2] Sin is traditionally known to be a violation of God’s Commandments, though in the New Testament Jesus appears to have redefined it as anything that is not loving toward others.

[3] Defense Of The Freedom Of The Will, Reconstructed by Rev. Daniel R. Jennings. The Patristics in English Project. Retrieved 29 May 2015.

[4] Matthew 5:21-48

[5] Council of Carthage To Investigate Pelagianism, May 1, 418. Translated By The Right Rev. Charles Joseph Hefele, D.D. & Henry Nutcombe Oxenham, M.A. Edited By Rev. Daniel R. Jennings, M.A. The Patristics in English Project. Retrieved 29 May 2015.

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