Pelagius, Augustine, Original Sin, Orthodoxy, and the Celts…

In Christ of the Celts, J. Philip Newell takes aim at the conflict between Augustine and Pelagius over the question of original sin — a chickenfight that eventually resulted in Pelagius and Pelagianism getting condemned as heretical. Newell sees clear political ramifications in this doctrinal skirmish:

The doctrine of original sin was a convenient “truth” for the builders of empire. They could continue to conquer the world and subdue peoples. And now they could do it with the authority of a divine calling. What the world needed and what the masses throughout the empire required was the truth that they, with their ecclesiastical princes, possessed. Truth was to be distributed from above. It was to be a religion of dependency. And part of the conflict with Pelagius and other teachers in the Celtic mission was that a people who believed they were made in the image of God and were therefore bearers of an ancient wisdom and an unspeakable dignity were not a people that could be easily cowed by power and external authority (p. 20).

Wow. And this has implications not only for politics (secular or ecclesiastical), but also for mysticism: for when we emphasize original sin (and its Calvinist cousin, total depravity), we undermine the promise of deification. For how can we be partakers of the Divine Nature if we are simply filth through and through?

Newell clearly thinks Pelagius needs to be reconsidered and that Augustine’s doctrine of original sin needs to be questioned, if not jettisoned outright. Normally I see the Augustine/Pelagius controversy, like the Calvinist/Arminian controversy among Protestants a millennium later, as an irresolvable paradox, concerning the equal but opposite truths that grace is an entirely unearned gift and we must choose it. But there’s something about Newell’s words that have given me pause. Partially it’s because I just finished reading McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity in which the Greco-Roman “project” of redefining Christianity in terms of Greek philosophy and Roman imperialism casts the Augustine/Pelagius argument in an entirely new light. And it’s partially because just this past Sunday I had a wonderful conversation with one of my Lay Cistercian brothers about the Orthodox understanding of intergenerational sin, which is social rather than metaphysical in nature. In other words, while the sins of the father can result in the children and grandchildren etc. suffering (think of the kind of messes that families with a long history of alcoholism have to contend with), such a reality does not necessitate belief in some sort of “original sin” that is transmitted sexually. Yes, the Psalmist said “in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5), but if we take the historical interpretation of that Psalm at face value, it is the voice of David, wracked with feelings of guilt and shame after accepting responsibility for the death of Uriah. No wonder he felt like he was conceived in sin! In other words, this verse should be read as the poetic lamentation of a guilt-ridden mind, not a statement of metaphysical truth.

Orthodox Christians do not have the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, for in their mind there was no need for Mary to be conceived without the stain of original sin, since original sin does not exist. The Orthodox and the Celts seem to be on the same side of this debate. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the Orthodox retained an understanding of deification, while the western church watered it down to the moralistic concept of sanctification.

I’m curious if anyone who reads this blog knows of a good book or source that can unpack the Pelagian controversy further. So many historical “heretics” have been “rehabilitated” in recent years: Origen, Evagrius Ponticus, and Meister Eckhart are all historical figures whose works I can display in my mainstream Catholic bookstore with no one raising an eyebrow. I’m not sure if that’s the case for Pelagius, however. He seems to remain on the outs, except for the likes of J. Philip Newell. Am I missing something? Have scholars been re-examining Pelagius and his argument? Newell insists that Augustine willfully misrepresented Pelagius in his attacks on the Celt. I’d like to read more about this, but I’m not sure where to begin.

To me, rethinking the role of Pelagius is at least as huge as McLaren’s invitation to strip away the Greco-Roman distortions of the Gospel. A church without original sin is a church where we can place our focus not on fire insurance for the afterlife but rather learning how to live in heaven here and now, and creating a “colony of heaven” the celebrates our earthy existence rather than seeking to escape it.

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  • http://gmail Mary

    So much knowledge to consume! One wonders if one has enough time in his or her life to absorb all of this. While in the midst of it all, aren’t we somehow missing out on life in the Present Moment?
    Isn’t all life designed to do the Will of God? I am no scholar. Just had a high school education. Wife, mother and now widow.
    Original sin, to me, is simple. It was the first sin commited by mankind. It was disobedience.

  • http://heartofflame.blogspot.com Yewtree

    I think I came across an Orthodox blog saying that Pelagius isn’t regarded as a heretic in Orthodoxy. Also many British adherents of Orthodoxy think that the Celtic church was largely Orthodox.

    You might also like to read the new book by Eve Wood-Langford: Eden: the Buried Treasure which points out that the church fathers back-projected original sin onto the Garden of Eden story.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    Mary, you remind me of my wife, who is an intelligent and perceptive person, but has no use for scholarly approaches to spirituality. Frankly, I admire her, and I respect anyone who seeks to live a compassionate and loving life without bothering to parse out all the theological subtleties of this or that controversy within church history.

    On the other hand, arguments that took place 1500 years ago really do shape what people think and say about God today, so I believe there is a place for reconsidering some of those issues as well.

    For those of us who do take an “egghead” approach to faith, your call to live in the present moment is truly needed. Even when we pore over the writings of Augustine and Pelagius (or whomever), we need to remember that it is always right here and right now where contact with Divine Love happens.

  • http://ephemeralthoughts.com Ephemeral Thoughts

    Unfortunately I do not have any other resources to tell you about (other than Newell’s other books), but I did want to comment on one thing you said.

    Normally I see the Augustine/Pelagius controversy, like the Calvinist/Arminian controversy among Protestants a millennium later, as an irresolvable paradox, concerning the equal but opposite truths that grace is an entirely unearned gift and we must choose it.

    I used to feel the same way about Pelagius until I read Christ of the Celts.

    Like you, Newell made me realize that to pigeonhole Pelegius as being only about “you have to choose” does disservice to his theology. His views on being made in the image of God and deification are profound.

    I hope that those that read Brian’s book – (and I hope that they would read Newell too) – are inspired to rethink their viewpoints. Alas, with what I’ve read in the blogosphere so far, I think more walls are going up than coming down.

  • http://wildfaith.blogspot.com Darrell Grizzle

    I was introduced to Pelagius (Morgan of Wales) by one of Newell’s other books, Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality (which I highly recommend). I don’t know of a book that makes a theological or scholarly argument in favor of Pelagius over Augustine; I’d be interested in such a book too. My own Pelagianism comes from reading the few writings of Pelagius himself that still exist.

  • http://odysseusjak.blogspot.com Jack

    The only thing I can think of, Carl, is Celtic Spirituality (Classics of Western Spirituality). It contains a letter from Pelagius. But, you probably already have this book.

    I, too, am VERY interested in this as well. And, I have been looking into the idea of the Orthodox understanding of salvation.

    But, alas, I know of nothing more than Newell’s books, Celtic Spirituality, and a host of others on Amazon.

  • Shadwynn

    An interesting and detailed article about the theology of Pelagius can be found below (and I think it was written by someone of Orthodox persuasion). A lot of theological information in a short presentation. Worth the read.

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/1345082/posts

  • judith quinton

    I believe in the doctrine of original sin.
    I adhere to St. Augustine’s interpretation.
    It is a central, core truth of my faith expression.
    One of the immovables for me.
    I appreciate your efforts to explore avenues and open up new vistas. I am, of all people, one who remains open to ideas and others, in all the modalities that implies.
    But, there are certain things inviolable for me.
    That is the way I function best…a strong, core set of beliefs that ground me and are not up for grabs…so I can explore and wander and wonder and climb and embrace so many other rich possibilities in this life of faith and spirit.
    This is who Judith is and shall remain.
    With great love,
    Ciao!

  • http://www.umilta.net Julia Bolton Holloway

    My problem is with Augustine. He explains evil as the tending to non-being. If evil is the absence of goodness, if sin, as Julian says, is nought, then how can there be original sin, when our origins are God-created and all good and sin, nothingness. It is an uncreating, sin, the turning away from God, the Word which is in the Beginning.
    There’s a lovely manuscript in Norwich Castle written by an anchoress for an anchoress which begins with the Epistle that it says Jerome wrote to a maid Demetriade who wished to be an anchoress. It is actually an Epistle Pelagius wrote. The manuscript is contemporary with Julian, cognisant of Hebrew and I believe it may be written by her. It has never left Norwich. It begins with an illuminated initial in gold on purple.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    Wow, Julia. I’ve known about the letter to Demetrius, but I didn’t know about the Norwich connection. That’s exciting!

  • Kristi

    This may not seem like an answer to your question, but in an oblique way, it is, at least for me.

    After the death of my dear husband of thirty five years, I went further in my questioning of the Catholic Church. Paul and I had both had reservations about many things, but stayed in the church for personal historical reasons. But now, though I continue to consider myself a Christian, I don’t, I cannot, belong to the Roman Catholic Church. It does not lead me to Christ. A book I read which helped me more than any other after Paul’s death was Grieving Mindfully by Sameet Kumar. It presents a Buddhist perspective, and it lead me into reading many books by Thich Nhat Hanh, including Living Buddha, Living Christ and Going Home, Christ and Buddha as brothers.

    This practice is essentially centering prayer.

    It is perfectly in harmony with your quote for the day, yesterday.

    It seems clear to me that for many reasons that have nothing to do with the life of the spirit, or connection to the mystery of God, the Roman Catholic church long ago left the teachings of Christ long and keeps on wandering in unChristlike ways of powerlust and confusion. That does not mean there are not good people who belong or good deeds that are done, but it is not very tied to what Christ had to say and do.

    I remember my parish priest once telling me the story of how a little boy asked him about baptism (his baby brother had just been baptised) and Father Bob said it made the baby a child of God. And the little boy asked, “oh, whose child was he before?”

  • Al Jordan

    In my overly simplistic and humble way of understanding sin, it is anything that works contrary to the life and consciousness of God within us. I especially like the illumination provided in Ephesians (and I translate liberally) where it says we are denied the life of God because of the ignorance in us. So I suppose from this interpretive license, one could say that ignorance is sin or that original sin is simply being born into a state of ignorance or lack of awareness of God consciousness. But this is a very different thing than saying that sin thus defined is damning. For aware or unaware, awake or unawakened, conscious or unconscious, we exist in a sea of mercy and we are sustained by Grace.

  • http://odysseus.wordpress.com/ Odysseus

    The Christian Celts understood Jesus as ‘The Great Remembrance’. That is, Jesus does not bring to us a foreign nature but ‘reminds’ us of what our TRUE nature is.

    Concerning ‘original sin’ and Augustine: Pelagius’ concern (and I think out-right charge) was that Augustine was bringing his old religious views from Manicheanism with him to Christianity. Manicheanism was a Gnostic religion and therefore, look at matter as evil and from something to escape. Therefore, any thing ‘natural’ was viewed as ‘evil’ — this included intercourse between husband and wife and led to unmarried clergy. So one could see how ‘original sin’ got it’s hold.

    As an aside – but an important one – not only do Orthodox Christians not have a doctrine of ‘original sin’ but neither do Jews nor the early Christians. Not until Augustine.

  • http://mysticbluerosegarden.blogspot.com/ Debra Masters

    Oh what our history might have been like if we had believed that we were created “good” instead of created fatally flawed. Think of the millions of self help books we might have been able to have avoided. It boggles the mind.

    Debra

  • http://raxweblog.blogspot.com Paul Rack

    Here’s another positive Orthodox take on Pelagius.

    http://silouanthompson.net/2010/02/pelagius-to-demetrias/

  • http://desertfishing.wordpress.com dFish

    Thanks Shadwynn. Got to read about Pelagius through the link you provided. Very consoling as a roadmap for the interior life…

  • raven

    There has been some rehabilitation of Pelagius but I’m afraid I haven’t the reference to hand. Try the OUP CUP websites.

  • outer

    Oh come on, Julia; my Oxford sources say “nonsense”! in response to your post

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    To “Outer” — if you’re going to dismiss somebody else’s assertion as “nonsense” I think you need to come up with something more substantive than “my sources say.” Perhaps our “Oxford sources” could speak for themselves?

  • http://www.umilta.net Julia Bolton Holloway

    I write on the Norwich Castle manuscript and transcribe some of it at http://www.umilta.net/norcastl.html. It really is worth more study than it has received. Certainly an edition of it is in order. If only a scholar not in exile from her/his England could take on this task. The microfilm I was able to acquire is too poor and incomplete for editing purposes in Florence. Were an edition to be made it should include a CD with the digitized copy of it in colour. I so wish the Oxford scholars would take this on! I learned of it first in the Bodleian Library from a handbook there on theological treatises in Middle English so went to look at it in Norwich to find it is a jewel. It is no longer kept in Norwich Castle but in the nearby records office. I have looked at it in both places. No one seems to realize its importance.

  • http://www.energeticprocession.wordpress.com Perry Robinson

    Perhaps I can offer some helpful correctives and information.

    To be fair to Augustine, the vision he offers is not just one of dependency, but of liberation in the following way. Since everyone was affected by original sin or libido, everyone was equal. King and peasant alike were on the same playing field.

    Further, modern scholarship has pretty much demonstrated that Augustine’s views on sin weren’t brought over from Manicheanism. If anything, they were influenced by Late Platonism at key points. If there is any latent Manicheanism in Augustine, it is in his concept of the instability of matter itself, but of course, this was a widespread belief extending to the Platonists as well.

    As for sexuality, Augustine doesn’t think sex is evil. What he thinks is that sex per se is good, but that libido or the will to dominate manifests itself most potently in those members where we have the least control, which happens to be our sexual organs. Consequently, libido is transmitted through them to our offspring.

    What led to unmarried clergy was not Augustine’s views per se since there were plenty of unmarried clergy long before Augustine, via monasticism. Apart from monastic clergy, the male children of priests often “inherited” their father’s position, which led to all kinds of corruption. So in the West it was made a rule, not a dogma that priest should be celibate. This was done earlier in the East for the same reasons, but only with respect to bishops.

    As to deification in the west morphing into a moralism in sanctification, this may be true for Protestantism, but to be fair, Catholicism maintains that deification takes place when a proper accident is actualized by the divine presence in the soul of an individual. That isn’t moralism. The difference between Rome and the Orthodox on this point is that the latter denies that it is an accident of any kind.

    As for the Orthodox view of original sin, it is untrue that the Orthodox do not have a doctrine of original sin. We most certainly do, though we generally label it ancestral sin. It has social implications, but it is rooted in the metaphysics of human existence. For the Orthodox, we inherit an actual disordered and corrupt state, but we do not inherit guilt. The social aspect is that out of fear of death, humans construct amusements to distract them from their eventual death and so sin more, continuing the cycle.

    The corruption that is inherited is a lack of divine power and a misdirection of our passions or desires. The desires are good in and of themselves, but they are all out of wack. It also entails death or mortality.

    It is true that the Orthodox do not adhere to the Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Mary was infected by ancestral sin, which is why the Orthodox maintain the tradition that Mary in fact died. For the Orthodox, the question whether Mary personally committed any sins or not is irrelevant, since even if she had not, she still had been infected by death and would have died.

    Pelagianism, along with Origenism, are still considered heterodox by the Orthodox so there is really no wiggle room there in terms of rehabilitation. From the Orthodox perspective, the key error of Pelagius was conflating natural goodness with moral goodness. Adam on his view was created personally good or rather his personal goodness was natural to him. Combining this with an otherwise correct belief that the imago dei could not be altered by human choices, it was impossible for Adam to require any internal aid or power other than what he had, since he could never lose it, to attain virtue and salvation. Hence all graces were necessarily external or extrinsic to human nature. They were guides or examples. Ironically enough, Calvinists agree with Pelagius on the original constitution of humans where righteousness was natural to human nature, they just think that human choices can, ironically, over ride the divine will with respect to what constitutes human nature.

    For the Orthodox, personal righteousness is not something God can just give you because it would remove your freedom. It is acquired through the personal use of divine power. The divine power or divine life, common called “grace” is appropriate to human nature since it is the “fuel” on which the divine image “runs on.” Grace is not alien to nature.

    I hope that helps.

    Here is some bibliography,

    John Romanides, Ancestral Sin
    Clark Carlton, The Life: The Orthodox Doctrine of Salvation
    Norman Russell, Fellow Workers with God: Orthodox Thinking on Theosis
    Rebecca Weaver, Divine Grace and Human Agency: A Study of the Semi-Pelagian Controversy.
    John Meyendorff, Christ in Eastern Christian Thought

  • outer

    “It’s not an unusual text and there’s nothing to tie this ms particularly to Norwich or to Julian.”

  • mark

    Here’s a little tidbit about Pelagius AKA St Morgan in the Celtic Tradition by Rev. Thomas Faulkenbury of the Anamchara Celtic Church / Reformed Celtic Church.

    http://gospeltruth.net/stmorgan.htm

  • http://www.umilta.net Julia Bolton Holloway

    Here are some highlights of the Norwich Castle manuscript text:

    Fol. 1

    Apistle ofsent Jerom sent to a mayde demetri ade. that hadde uowed chastite to our lorde ihesu criste ~
    {T0he first besyness and the firste studie of a mayden oweth to be knowen the wille of oure 0000lorde and for to enquere belike what pleseth hym and what displeceth hym. So that after the biddynge of the apostle she myghte yelde hir seruice to ihesu criste quemeful and resonabili: and that alle the wurce of hir leuynge myghte be ordeyned after the rewle of his wordes. It is impossible any man to plese hym that knoweth not what shulde plese hym. ffor it falleth often that he offendeth and greueth in maner of seruynge: that hath not lerned how he oweth to serue. And thow3 it be more or better for to do goddes wille than only for to knowe it: neuertheles it is behovely first to knowe it and liuen for to fulfille it in dede. Knowynge god before dede as in ordre. ffor with oute knowynge dede it is not profitable. And therfore the prophete seith thus. He that knoweth not schal not be knowen. And therfore be not vnconnynge. but be wise and understandeth what is goddes wille. The beginnynge of wisdome is for to knowe what is the biddynge of god for to do. In holy writte

    Fol. 1v

    In the furste two that arne forbiddyinge and biddynge: arne conteined alle goddes commaundementes.(1)

    Fol. 2

    [discusses wedlock versus chastity, maidenhood, wedlock and food being lawful.]

    Fol. 3.

    And therfore dow3ter. if thow wilt be the trewe spouse of oure lorde thenke her on .

    [perfection]

    Behold now good dou3hter what dif ference is atwixen conseil & biddyng

    Fol. 4,

    [on foolish virgins]

    Fol. 4v

    ffor whi thou hast refu sed likyng of wedlock. besynesse & berynge of childre pride of richesse. pompe of wor deli array. Coveytise of delices. Soo that thou may seye sumwhat with the apostle thus the werdis crucifyed and claym to me & I to it.

    Fol. 5v

    It is schame to us to be holde how seculer men ouer pasen us. for thei arn [more] coueytouse of erthen richesse than we arn of heuenly richesse.

    Fol. 5v-6

    And we that shulden been goddis seruauntes arn slow3 & idel & rekles for to purchase us cristes wisdam.

    Fol. 6

    And the more we drynke of god this grace & taste any thing of that precious lycour of cristes loue. the more 3enerous [pencilled correction] & thristy. We schulde be for to seke moore aftir it.

    Blissed be alle tho that hungryn & drustyn rightwisnes. for thei schul be fulfilled. Nout here. but in the blisse of heuene. Now thanne sithen it is behoueley to alle men for hun gre & driste rithtwisnes as brennendly(2)

    Fol. 22

    Many of them that haue takyn the name & the purpos of goddis servants ware soner white heryd & and soner come to the perfeccoun of eelde than thei may come to this perfeccoun of ver tues.

    Fol. 23v

    [As Peter says, the Devil is like a roaring lion:] He spieth alle the entrees of the soule & loketh alle the wardis of oure body he ransaketh all the Partyes of us now this & now that if he my3hte out crepe in and sle us with his venyme. Now he fondith for to sitte in oure ey3e. Now in oure eerys now . . . [tongue, head, hands] now in oure priuy membris now he wolde crepe into the herte.(3)

    Fol. 24

    It is leefful to wymmen for to be armed.

    A thousand schall fall fro thi lifte syde & ten thousend fro thi ry3hte side.

    we be euere buxom to god fulfilled his wil

    Fol. 26v-27

    Thenk on seint Cecile & doo as sche dede. for sche haar euere in herte in in here brest woordis of the gospel. and of holy writ and neither nyght ne day sche stynted fro prayeris & fro god dis woordis.(4)

    [Sing with David]

    Fol. 28

    Alle the tribu lacion of this werd that is light as a leef & schort as a moment in comparison of endeles tribulacioun.

    Fol. 29

    It passid forth like a schadowe or lik a nyght sweuene. & nou3t leuith but for sorwe & pyne.

    Fol. 30

    Doughter make this thi besinesse alle thi studye & alle thi witte sette aboute this matiere, turne it ofte in thi meende. wit this meen ge thi trauail of the day: and in this take thi sleep on the nyght. And at the firste wakyng that it falle soone in thi meende Trauail is schort but the reste is endeles. to that reste brynge us he that for us deide on the roode tre.

    (1) This is echoed directly in Julian’s Showing.

  • http://babushkajoanna.wordpress.com babushkajoanna

    What Perry said. :) I was going to clarify about ancestral sin, but he did it better. :)

    Babushka Joanna

  • http://celticonnect.wordpress.com celticonnect

    I too am a fan of Pelagius and do feel that he received a bad rap from history, needing some redemption – pre-resurrection would be nice.

    Unfortunately his written works are few, and hard to know how accurate they are. He also was not particularly a scholar it seems, but more of a reformer. This places him in the difficult position of arguing down through history against those with tomes of information, and stronger academic positions. Thirdly, history writes itself in the voices of the victors. He may have defended himself well half a dozen times, but in the end it seems he was condemned as a heretic without being present in the tribunal.

    Something stinks in the story, and Augustine and his crew appear to be at the heart of it. Pelagius’ call for reform, and perception that Augustinian doctrine gives place to self justification for sin is at the heart of the battle. It seems that Augustine returned to an Old Covenant practice of dealing with those he perceived as heretics (those who disagreed with him?), and may have set the stage for a history of Christianity filled with burning witches and condemning people in the name of God. And this history continues to this day.

  • http://none Delameilleure Fred

    Maybe this is not to the point here but I don’t know what to think of this re-emerging church (with writers like B. McLaren).
    I live in Belgium and we don’t know things like that over here. Belgium is one of the most conservative Catholic countries in the whole world in case you didn’t know. But I wouldn’t know what to prefer: this or the fuss that is made by the hundreds of different denominations and movements in the USA…
    I have read a lot of theology in the past, mostly by Protestant scholars and honestly speaking, I didn’t have much with liberal-minded writers. Then I learned to appreciate the great scholarship of Catholics like HU von Balthasar, K. Rahner, H. de Lubac, J. Ratzinger, J. Daniélou… I wonder what people like Mc Laren have to put over against all this.
    I give this to consider: http://apprising.org/2009/10/05/this-couldve-been-written-today-re-emerging-church/

    -”I found a quote today during my theological research that stopped me in my tracks. The quote was written during the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy in the Presbyterian Church during the 1920’s. But this quote literally could have been written today regarding the current battle among Confessional Christians of the Reformation and Post-Modern Liberals aka Emergents”.

    Here’s the quote:

    “The Radicals [Modernist Liberals] are set on substituting ‘evolution’ for creation, ‘the principle animating the cosmos’ for the living God, consciousness of the individual for the authority of the Bible, reason for revelation, sight for faith, ‘social service,’ for salvation, reform for regeneration, the priest for the prophet, ecclesiasticism for evangelism, the human Jesus for the divine Christ, a man-made ‘ideal society’ for the divinely promised kingdom of God, and humanitarian efforts in this poor world for an eternity of joy in God’s bright home.” – The Fundamentalist, Vol. II, No. 1This battle is still raging today.-

    Indeed:
    Beware of the contemplative who says that theology is all straw before he has ever bothered to read any (Merton)

    Fred
    Ostend (BELGIUM)

  • http://none Delameilleure Fred
  • http://none Delameilleure Fred

    There is a new Cardinal for Belgium and as usual he is attacked by the media as being overly conservative. I have heard the man and he seems to me on the contrary very humorous, open and intelligent. Again and again I am struck by these contradictory opinions. There are reasons to believe that Ratzinger and von Balthasar a.o. at Vatican II were much more progressive than we suspect now. The theologian Oscar Cullman a.o. affirmed this.

    Certain issues, due to my long term suffering, have been keeping me busy: free will versus predestination and grace versus nature and the relation between creation, fall, incarnation, cross, resurrection, glorification.

    I realize that these are very complex matters that have been discussed throughout Church history. I am not a theologian but I feel it is very difficult to keep the whole of salvation economy in balance. All is connected in people’s lives and therefore it is important to see things clearly.

    I have been reading before on the controversy between Pelagius versus Augustine and on Rahner versus von Balthasar.
    Is it possible that Rahner is more Pelagian and von Balthasar Augustinian in their respective theology?

    I have found out that Celtic spirituality and f.e. Cassian (and Benedictus and the whole monastic tradition?) are greatly influenced by Pelagian thinking (see Philp Newell http://www.jphilipnewell.com/, whose book http://www.amazon.com/dp/08091…1D9E6BHHDMMKAQR3FFEB interestingly applies lectio divina to the different stages of life).

    Ather interesting papers are http://www.sounddoctrine.net/C…ustine_pelagius.html and
    http://www.traditioninaction.o…_Balth_NoChange.html

    I don’t know whether I am right but on the one hand human nature/soul is full of yet unknown possibilities as some self-realizers, esoteric mystics and others know, on the other hand as Jesus said we can’t do anything apart from him!

    There is a lot to do now (but these are only models of course) about inner (natural and wounded) child, persona, shadow, adult and witness consciousness, family constellations… and according to many therapists and spiritual teachers, the human being is at birth rather a tabula rasa or intrinsically good (as Pelagius believed), while the Psalmist says ‘I am born in sin’ (but I learned about the context above).

    I keep on saying that the Church of today speaks far too little about human anthropology. Alternative medicine (mind/body connection…), interreliguous, oecumenical and other dialogues (f.e. with Jungian and transpersonal psychology) and other spiritual traditions (Zen, Advaita, Sufism, Kabbalah, Yoga…) all point at the depth of human nature without speaking of grace. Creation, nature is already grace… but how does this relate to the person and work of Christ

    The famous Benedictine monk A. Grün as I said before speaks of a spirituality from below versus a spirituality from above and the theologian Tjeu van den Berk from the Netherlands (also influenced by Jung) speaks of Christianity as a mystagogy.
    But when does all this become some kind of gnosticism and when does it point at a true Christian gnosis (Clemens of Alexandria, Origines…)?

    So it is not clear to my mind how to hold together these two different approaches, that have always been there throughout Church history. There seems to be a very optimistic Catholic humanism, but also a more pessimistic Calvinist like fundamentalism.

    Greetings in Christ,
    Fred

  • jeffcstraka

    A couple of good books:
    Original Sin: Origins, Developments, Contemporary Meanings by Tatha Wiley

    Adam, Eve, and the Serpent: Sex and Politics in Early Christianity by Elaine Pagels

  • http://www.energeticprocession.wordpress.com Perry Robinson

    I wouldn’t say Pagels is a reliable scholar given that she has been shown to have falsified some of her data.

  • jeffcstraka

    I hadn’t heard that. She has spoken at Chautauqua which seems to be a pretty prestigious and respected forum.

  • http://www.energeticprocession.wordpress.com Perry Robinson

    If I recall the article exposing the cooking the data, she spliced together texts pages apart from Irenaeus to make him say something he did not in fact say.This came out a while ago.

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  • MkNektarios

    Fr. John S. Romanides has written a number of papers on (http://www.romanity.org/data/contd.htm) SOME OF AUGUSTINE’S TEACHINGS WHICH WERE CONDEMNED AS THOSE OF BARLAAM and has NOTES ON THE PALAMITE CONTROVERSY are good but very slamming of Fr. Meyendorff and find it hard to read in some places.

    What does this have to do with Pelagius? Well not much directly. But it dose show problems with some of the views of Blessed Augustine. I have tried to read some of his works apart from his confessions and commentaries, and find them to dry and to logical and to ironed out, I think if he would have known Greek and read the Fathers it would have greatly benefited him.

    I think there are some parallels between Pelagius/Augustine and Barlaam/Palamas. I will leave it to you to find them.

    Forgive me, I’m not a very good writer or speller.

    To the Glory of the Lord

  • http://youtube.com/user/yellowjacketninja Brandon Cross

    I’m a former calvinist, now I am a pelagian.

    Pelagius was correct, there is no coersive sin nature, but there are desires of the flesh, which can be resisted if that choice is made.

    I’ll just say, there was so much evidence against Augustine’s teachings, and I looked into it, and now I believe we are free-will-moral agents