It was disseminated by his disciples Caelestius and Julian of Eclanum. Augustine played a decisive role in the pelagian controversy, whose historical course need not be pursed here in detail. Pelagius was scandalized at St. Augustine’s teaching on the need for grace to remain chaste, arguing that this imperiled man’s use of his own free will. Like the stoics, Pelagius thought that one could obtain every good by every except virtue. Once having received the gift of free will, it is man’s responsibiliy to make good moral use of it.
He is responsible for his actions and, if only he has courage to will it, there is no height of sanctity he may not attain. This affirmation of the freedom of man as a created but fully autonomous power of self-determination, who can observe the law of God by his own powers, was a denial of the necessity of grace for natural and salutary observance of the moral law and hence disregarded the doctrine of original sin of the consequences of sin. More so, Pelagianism is a cluster doctrinal error, some of which have plagued the Church ever.
Its principal tenets are: (1) Adam would have died even if he had not sinned; (2) Adam’s fall injured only himself and at worst affect his posterity by giving them a bad example; (3) new born children are in the same condition as Adam before he fell; (4) mankind will not die because of Adam’s sin or rise on the Last Day because of Christ redemption; (5) the law of ancient Israel no less than the Gospel offers equal opportunity to reach heaven. As Pelagianism later developed, it totally denied the supernatural order and necessity of grace for salvation. . 0ST. AUGUSTIONE REFUTATION OF PELAGIANISM According to Pelagius, God gave me existence and it is my resposibility to sanctify myself. Hence Augustine referred hm to the words of our Lord, “Without me you can do nothing. ” (Jn 15:5. ) And he comments, “Christ did not say: Without me it will be hard but: Without me you can do nothing. ” To support this thesis, Augustine appealed to several texts of Scripture: “The King’s heart… is in the hand of the Lord. ” (Prov 21; 1); “God is at work in you, both to will and to work for good pleasure. (Phil 2:13); “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to claim from; our sufficiency is from God” (2Cor 3; 5). He argued that perseverance in good is still more obviously a gift of grace. Furthermore, Augustine maintained that “the God, who made us without us, will not save us without us. ” But he went on to add that he saves us by communication of his power to us. St. thomas Aquinas in his Summa maintained that“Nothing can exist which is not at very instant dependent upon the first cause. For the creation is a relationship of dependence which keeps it in being after existence has being given to it. The Council of Orange said with St. Augustine, “No one has anything of his own save sin and the lie. ” Also, that “Man can do no good without God. God does great good in man withouut any action on man’s part, but man does not enable him to do. ” (D. 193,193). Hence, no one is good of one self unless he who alone is good makes him share in himself. “Can we henceforth expect anything good from people who think they can attribute to themselves the fact that they are good without considering him whose grace they receive every day, and who trust that without him they are able to achieve so much? (Epistola in Requirendis, n. 7) 4. 0EVALUATION AND CONCLUSION Pelagius held that one could, by the natural power of free will and without the necessary help of God’s grace, lead a morally good life; he thus reduced the influence of Adam’s fault to bad example. It is a pelagian error to say that free will is capable of avoidng any sin. However, Human free is not bad in tiself. Thus, since, it is a positive, vital reality; the good use of free will supposes a new relationship with God.
When I say “my action is my merit,”, I must always imply that, without my ceasing to be a responsible being, this free act is a gift given me by God, except in the case of sin of which I am the principal cause and which in moral terms is non-entity. The metaphysical reality must be expressed in terms of a vital relationship between man and God. The problem with Pelagius is that he failed to consider the doctrine of the mystical body of Christ body of Christ, the social nature or solidarity of man in sin and in salvation.
The inward grace which he refuses to admit is in reality the grace of Christ. Christ merited salvation for us through his sacrifice of reconciliaton, but he is also the head of a living body, vivified by the Holy Spirit. The pelagian controversey made it possible for the Church to formulate the necessity of inward grace. But the doctrine of absolute necessity could only be formulated in the context of its supernatural character and goal. UDEKE, CHARLES NDUBUISI Charlitex2004@yahoo. com