Biblical Nuggets: Pelagius, Pelagianism, and Augustine

Pelagius was an Irish monk. On his visit in Rome, he was so much scandalized when he saw people who identified themselves with Christ were still engaging in sin and living immoral lives. Their barbarian lifestyle provoked him. Upon his rebuke, those engaging in such immoral lifestyle responded, saying they could not resist or control their indulging desires. But he believed other way. So, he told them they had to resist themselves from lust and indulgence. God of the Scripture says, “Just do it.”

He believes that human beings have free will and thy are free to make choice of their own. Also, he believes that we are not fully dead (in the spirit) by the effect of sin, and we have to work for our salvation. Basically, he held the view that apart from faith in Christ, salvation is attained through work.

Augustine had a very high respect for Pelagius, as he was the man of his own words. Pelagius lived what he preached, but Augustine countered his wrongheaded doctrine of sin and salvation. He believed that we are fully dead in the spirit. Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, we cannot help ourselves for salvation. Human beings have sinful nature by virtue of the totally deprived condition. We love to sin, so we sin. It’s not the case that we have to or want to sin. Our free will is tainted with sin in the fall. In this sense, we are free or have free will only to sin than seeking true God.


2 thoughts on “Biblical Nuggets: Pelagius, Pelagianism, and Augustine”

  1. Essentially Augustine was arguing some pointless pagan philosophy whereas Pelagius was arguing practical Christianity. Christ said “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” not “keep on sinning and just blame the fall of Adam” — which was essentially Augustine’s doctrine). Augustine’s teaching is counterproductive. It just gives the sinner an excuse: “I was born that way. I can’t help it.” Pelagius points out that you can help it. Because God gave you the grace of free will when he created you, you can repent. Pelagius didn’t deny the need for grace. He simply believed that the original grace of creation was undestroyed, so that everyone still had the ability to repent without needing to wait around for God to get off his butt and give them more grace, which is essentially Augustine’s doctrine: “If only that lazy God would give me the grace I need, I could obey…” Now Augustine doesn’t word it like that. Rather, his actual words are “Give me the grace to obey, and then command whatever you want.” Rather, Pelagius says, God already gave you the grace to obey BEFORE he commanded, and the very fact that he commands this or that proves he gave you the grace to do it already.


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