Is man free or God sovereign? Articulate and analyze the positions of Augustine and Pelagius on man’s nature and ability to be holy.
Man is indeed free, created with the ability to choose God or not so that love can truly exist while God is still sovereign knowing every choice we will make but not holding strings like a puppeteer. It is from this choice that Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden and spread the seed of sin down through every human being born of one flesh from that point on. The question that arises from this thought process and that sparks the Pelagian Controversy is this: What if sin is not passed down from Adam. What if sin for every human being is a choice, and then in theory one could live life without sinning.
The Pelagian Controversy was the first controversy in the West. It was a controversy based in practical thought between Pelagius and Augustine on the issue of infant baptism and man’s sin nature, or lack thereof, and his ability to be holy. This is still an open question in Catholic theology even today.
The main characters in this controversy are Pelagius (c.370-c.420), Celestius (?-?), Augustine (354-430), and Jerome (c.345-419).
Pelagius gives his name to the Pelagian Controversy, though he was no a prominent participant in it. His ideas and thoughts set the stage for the rest of the controversy to take place. He was a monk and had some problems with the teachings of Augustine and Jerome. He felt that their teachings left room for moral laxity among the Church. He took a pretty heavy stand on the fact that he did not believe in original sin or an inherited sin nature but rather believed that every person on the planet could choose whether or not to sin.
Augustine, in the minds of some, is possibly the greatest theologian ever to live. He was the Bishop of Hippo and is most famous for his writing of Confessions, a personal testimony of his salvation experience. August held to the view that we were all born with a sin nature; meaning that sin was passed down from Adam and Even to every human being on planet earth. It was due to this believe that he championed so heavily infant baptism. He felt that infant baptism “washed away the taint of sin” from the babies and gave them a clean and fresh start to a life walking with Christ. It was believed that infant baptism was more likely to help a child grow up in a manner following Christ.
Pelagius thought Augustine’s thoughts on infant baptism were ridiculous and opposed him greatly. While these thoughts against infant baptism all began in the mind of Pelagius it was not him but his student Celestius who began to spread Pelagius thoughts and teachings. Celestius, a lawyer, was a much bolder and more outgoing individual that Pelagius and spoke very opening about his teacher’s thoughts. He very openly attacked infant baptism as well as Augustine and Jerome for their support of it.
Jerome came along side Augustine, supporting his views on infant baptism, but is probably most well know for translating the Latin Vulgate. He wrote the Dialogue Against Pelagius in which he openly opposes Pelagius views on infant baptism and original sin.
Pelagius view was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431