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§ 146. Character of the Pelagian Controversy.


IV. The Anthropological Controversies.


WORKS ON THE PELAGIAN CONTROVERSY IN GENERAL.


Sources:


I. Pelagius: Expositiones in epistolas Paulinas (composed before 410); Epistola ad Demetriadem, in 30 chapters (written a.d. 413); Libellus fidei ad Innocentium I. (417, also falsely called Explanatio Symboli ad Damasum). These three works have been preserved complete, as supposed works of Jerome, and have been incorporated in the Opera of this father (tom. xi. ed. of Vallarsius). Of the other writings of Pelagius (De natura; De libero arbitrio; Capitula; Epist. ad Innocent. I., which accompanied the Libellus fidei), we have only fragments in the works of his opponents, especially Augustine. In like manner we have only fragments of the writings of Coelestius: Definitiones; Symbolum ad Zosimum; and of Julianus of Eclanum: Libri iv. ad Turbantium episcopum contra Augustini primum de nuptiis; Libri viii. ad Florum contra Augustini secundum de nuptiis. Large and literal extracts in the extended replies of Augustine to Julian

II. Augustinus: De peccatorum meritis et remissione (412); De spiritu et litera (418); De natura et gratia (415); De gestis Pelagii (417); De gratia Christi et de peccato originali (418); De nuptiis et concupiscentia (419); Contra duas Epistolas Pelagianorum (420); Contra Julianum, libri vi. (421); Opus imperfectum contra Julianum (429); De gratia et libero arbitrio (426 or 427); De correptione et gratia (427) De praedestinatione sanctorum (428 or 429); De dono perseverantivae (429); and other anti-Pelagian writings, which are collected in the 10th volume of his Opera, in two divisions, ed. Bened. Par. 1690, and again Venet. 1733. (it is the Venice Bened. edition from which I have quoted throughout in this section. In Migne’s edition of Aug., Par. 1841, the anti-Pelagian writings form likewise the tenth tomus of 1912 pages.) Hieronymus: Ep. 133 (in Vallarsi’s, and in Migne’s ed.; or, Ep. 43 in the Bened. ed.) ad Ctesiphontem (315); Dialogi contra Pelagianos, libri iii. (Opera, ed. Vallars. vol. ii. f. 693–806, and ed. Migne, ii. 495–590). P. Orosius: Apologeticus c. Pelag. libri iii. (Opera, ed. Haverkamp). Marius Mercator, a learned Latin monk in Constantinople (428–451): Commonitoria, 429, 431 (ed. Baluz. Paris, 1684, and Migne, Par. 1846). Collection of the Acta in Mansi, tom. iv.


Literature:


Gerh. Joh. Vossius: Hist. de controversiis, quas Pelagius ejusque reliquiae moverunt, libri vii. Lugd. Batav. 1618 (auct. ed. Amstel. 1655). Cardinal Henr. Norisius: Historia Pelagiana et dissert. de Synodo Quinta Oecumen. Batavii, 1673, fol. (and in Opera, Veron. 1729, i.). Garnier (Jesuit): Dissert. vii. quibus integra continentur Pelagianorum hist. (in his ed. of the Opera of Marius Mercator, i. 113). The Praefatio to the 10th vol. of the Benedictine edition of Augustine’s Opera. Corn. Jansenius († 1638): Augustinus, sive doctrina S. Augustini de humanae naturae sanitate, aegritudine, medicina, adv. Pelagianos et Massilienses. Lovan. 1640, fol. (He read Augustine twenty times, and revived his system in the Catholic church.) Tillemont: Mémoires, etc. Tom. xiii. pp. 1–1075, which is entirely devoted to the life of Augustine. Ch. Wilh. Fr. Walch: Ketzerhistorie. Leipz. 1770. Bd. iv. and v. Schröckh: Kirchengeschichte. Parts xiv. and xv. (1790). G. F. Wiggers (sen.): Versuch einer pragmatischen Darstellung des Augustinismus und Pelagianismus, in zwei Theilen. Hamburg, 1833. (The first part appeared 1821 in Berlin; the second, which treats of Semi-Pelagianism, in 1833 at Hamburg. The common title-page bears date 1833. The first part has also been translated into English by Prof. Emerson, Andover, 1840). J. L. Jacobi: Die Lehre des Pelagius. Leipzig, 1842. F. Böhringer: Die Kirche Christi in Biographien. Bd. i. Th. 3, pp. 444–626, Zürich, 1845. Gieseler: Kirchengeschichte. Bd. i. Abth. 2 pp. 106–131 (4th ed. 1845, entirely favorable to Pelagianism). Neander: Kirchengeschichte. Bd. iv. (2d ed. 1847, more Augustinian). Schaff: The Pelagian Controversy, in the Bibliotheca Sacra, Andover, May, 1848 (No. xviii.). Theod. Gangauf: Metaphysische Psychologie des heiligen Augustinus. Augsb. 1852. Thorough, but not completed. H. Hart Milman: History of Latin Christianity. New York, 1860, vol. i. ch. ii. pp. 164–194. Jul. Müller: Die christliche Lehre von der Sünde. Bresl. 1838, 5th ed. 1866, 2 vols. (An English translation by Pulsford, Edinburgh.) The same: Der Pelagianismus. Berlin, 1854. (A brief, but admirable essay.) Hefele: Conciliengeschichte. Bd. ii. 1856, p. 91 ff. W. Cunningham: Historical Theology. Edinburgh, 1863, vol. i, pp. 321–358. Fr. Wörter (R.C.): Der Pelagianismus nach seinem Ursprung und seiner Lehre. Freiburg, 1866. Nourrisson: La philosophie de S. Augustin. Par. 1866, 2 vols. (vol. i. 452 ff.; ii. 352 ff.). Comp. also the literature in § 178, and the relevant chapters in the Doctrine-Histories of Münscher, Baumgarten-Crusius, Hagenbach, Neander, Baur, Beck, Shedd.


While the Oriental Church was exhausting her energies in the Christological controversies, and, with the help of the West, was developing the ecumenical doctrine of the person of Christ, the Latin church was occupied with the great anthropological and soteriological questions of sin and grace, and was bringing to light great treasures of truth, without either help from the Eastern church or influence upon her. The third ecumenical council, it is true, condemned Pelagianism, but without careful investigation, and merely on account of its casual connection with Nestorianism. The Greek historians, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, and Evagrius, although they treat of that period, take not the slightest notice of the Pelagian controversies. In this fact we see the predominantly practical character of the West, in contradistinction to the contemplative and speculative East. Yet the Christological and anthropologico-soteriological controversies are vitally connected, since Christ became man for the redemption of man. The person and the work of the Redeemer presuppose on the one hand man’s capability of redemption, and on the other his need of redemption. Manichaeism denies the former, Pelagianism the latter. In opposition to these two fundamental anthropological heresies, the church was called to develope the whole truth.

Before Augustine the anthropology of the church was exceedingly crude and indefinite. There was a general agreement as to the apostasy and the moral accountability of man, the terrible curse of sin, and the necessity of redeeming grace; but not as to the extent of native corruption, and the relation of human freedom to divine grace in the work of regeneration and conversion. The Greek, and particularly the Alexandrian fathers, in opposition to the dualism and fatalism of the Gnostic systems, which made evil a necessity of nature, laid great stress upon human freedom, and upon the indispensable cooperation of this freedom with divine grace; while the Latin fathers, especially Tertullian and Cyprian, Hilary and Ambrose, guided rather by their practical experience than by speculative principles, emphasized the hereditary sin and hereditary guilt of man, and the sovereignty of God’s grace, without, however, denying freedom and individual accountability.17031703    On the anthropology of the ante-Nicene and Nicene fathers, comp. the relevant sections in the larger works on Doctrine History, and Wiggers, l.c. vol. l. p. 407 ff. The Greek church adhered to her undeveloped synergism,17041704    From σὺν, and ἔργον. There are, it may be remarked, different forms of synergism. The synergism of Melanchthon subordinates the human activity to the divine, and assigns to grace the initiative in the work of conversion. which coordinates the human will and divine grace as factors in the work of conversion; the Latin church, under the influence of Augustine, advanced to the system of a divine, monergism,17051705    From μόνον and ἔργον. which gives God all the glory, and makes freedom itself a result of grace; while Pelagianism, on the contrary, represented the principle of a human monergism, which ascribes the chief merit of conversion to man, and reduces grace to a mere external auxiliary. After Augustine’s death, however the intermediate system of Semi-Pelagianism, akin to the Greek synergism, became prevalent in the West.

Pelagius and Augustine, in whom these opposite forms of monergism were embodied, are representative men, even more strictly than Arius and Athanasius before them, or Nestorius and Cyril after them. The one, a Briton, more than once convulsed the world by his errors; the other, an African, more than once by his truths. They represented principles and tendencies, which, in various modifications, extend through the whole history of the church, and reappear in its successive epochs. The Gottschalk controversy in the ninth century, the Reformation, the synergistic controversy in the Lutheran church, the Arminian in the Reformed, and the Jansenistic in the Roman Catholic, only reproduce the same great contest in new and specific aspects. Each system reflects the personal character and experience of its author. Pelagius was an upright monk, who without inward conflicts won for himself, in the way of tranquil development, a legal piety which knew neither the depths of sin nor the heights of grace. Augustine, on the other hand, passed through sharp convulsions and bitter conflicts, till he was overtaken by the unmerited grace of God, and created anew to a life of faith and love. Pelagius had a singularly clear, though contracted mind, and an earnest moral purpose, but no enthusiasm for lofty ideals; and hence he found it not hard to realize his lower standard of holiness. Augustine had a bold and soaring intellect, and glowing heart, and only found peace after he had long been tossed by the waves of passion; he had tasted all the misery of sin, and then all the glory of redemption, and this experience qualified him to understand and set forth these antagonistic powers far better than his opponent, and with a strength and fulness surpassed only by the inspired apostle Paul. Indeed, Augustine, of all the fathers, most resembles, in experience and doctrine, this very apostle, and stands next to him in his influence upon the Reformers.

The Pelagian controversy turns upon the mighty antithesis of sin and grace. It embraces the whole cycle of doctrine respecting the ethical and religious relation of man to God, and includes, therefore, the doctrines of human freedom, of the primitive state, of the fall, of regeneration and conversion, of the eternal purpose of redemption, and of the nature and operation of the grace of God. It comes at last to the question, whether redemption is chiefly a work of God or of man; whether man needs to be born anew, or merely improved. The soul of the Pelagian system is human freedom; the soul of the Augustinian is divine grace. Pelagius starts from the natural man, and works up, by his own exertions, to righteousness and holiness. Augustine despairs of the moral sufficiency of man, and derives the now life and all power for good from the creative grace of God. The one system proceeds from the liberty of choice to legalistic piety; the other from the bondage of sin to the evangelical liberty of the children of God. To the former Christ is merely a teacher and example, and grace an external auxiliary to the development of the native powers of man; to the latter he is also Priest and King, and grace a creative principle, which begets, nourishes, and consummates a new life. The former makes regeneration and conversion a gradual process of the strengthening and perfecting of human virtue; the latter makes it a complete transformation, in which the old disappears and all becomes new. The one loves to admire the dignity and strength of man; the other loses itself in adoration of the glory and omnipotence of God. The one flatters natural pride, the other is a gospel for penitent publicans and sinners. Pelagianism begins with self-exaltation and ends with the sense of self-deception and impotency. Augustinianism casts man first into the dust of humiliation and despair, in order to lift him on the wings of grace to supernatural strength, and leads him through the hell of self-knowledge up to the heaven of the knowledge of God. The Pelagian system is clear, sober, and intelligible, but superficial; the Augustinian sounds the depths of knowledge and experience, and renders reverential homage to mystery. The former is grounded upon the philosophy of common sense, which is indispensable for ordinary life, but has no perception of divine things; the latter is grounded upon the philosophy of the regenerate reason, which breaks through the limits of nature, and penetrates the depths of divine revelation. The former starts with the proposition: Intellectus praecedit fidem; the latter with the opposite maxim: Fides praecedit intellectum. Both make use of the Scriptures; the one, however, conforming them to reason, the other subjecting reason to them. Pelagianism has an unmistakable affinity with rationalism, and supplies its practical side. To the natural will of the former system corresponds the natural reason of the latter; and as the natural will, according to Pelagianism, is competent to good, so is the natural reason, according to rationalism, competent to the knowledge of the truth. All rationalists are Pelagian in their anthropology; but Pelagius and Coelestius were not consistent, and declared their agreement with the traditional orthodoxy in all other doctrines, though without entering into their deeper meaning and connection. Even divine mysteries may be believed in a purely external, mechanical way, by inheritance from the past, as the history of theology, especially in the East, abundantly proves.

The true solution of the difficult question respecting the relation of divine grace to human freedom in the work of conversion, is not found in the denial of either factor; for this would either elevate man to the dignity of a self-redeemer, or degrade him to an irrational machine, and would ultimately issue either in fatalistic pantheism or in atheism; but it must be sought in such a reconciliation of the two factors as gives full weight both to the sovereignty of God and to the responsibility of man, yet assigns a preëminence to the divine agency corresponding to the infinite exaltation of the Creator and Redeemer above the sinful creature. And although Angustine’s solution of the problem is not altogether satisfactory, and although in his zeal against the Pelagian error he has inclined to the opposite extreme; yet in all essential points, he has the Scriptures, especially the Epistles of Paul, as well as Christian experience, and the profoundest speculation, on his side. Whoever reads the tenth volume of his works, which contains his Anti-Pelagian writings in more than fourteen hundred folio columns (in the Benedictine edition), will be moved to wonder at the extraordinary wealth of thought and experience treasured in them for all time; especially if he considers that Augustine, at the breaking out of the Pelagian controversy, was already fifty-seven years old, and had passed through the Manichaen and Donatist controversies. Such giants in theology could only arise in an age when this queen of the sciences drew into her service the whole mental activity of the time.

The Pelagian controversy was conducted with as great an expenditure of mental energy, and as much of moral and religious earnestness, but with less passion and fewer intrigues, than the Trinitarian and Christological conflicts in the East. In the foreground stood the mighty genius and pure zeal of Augustine, who never violated theological dignity, and, though of thoroughly energetic convictions, had a heart full of love. Yet even he yielded so far to the intolerant spirit of his time as to justify the repression of the Donatist and Pelagian errors by civil penalties.



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