Pelagius (considered heretical):
- Everyone is born neither a sinner nor a saint. We become sinners through our own choices, but we could have chosen otherwise. Adam was just a single man and his sin did not affect anyone but himself. Just as Adam decided to be a sinner, so can we. When we are born we are just like Adam was before the sin of the fall.
- Everyone has the ability to either do good or to do bad. The reason why most people choose to be bad is because of the abundance of bad examples. This free will is God’s gift of grace to us.
- Therefore, we can be perfect and without sin if we simply choose to. Further, man is able to find his own salvation.
- B.B. Warfield summarizing the view: “Man was thus a machine, which, just because it was well made, needed no Divine interference for its right working.”1
- In short: denied original sin.
- We are not only unwilling to do good, but also unable. Only Adam was born perfect, but as the result of his sin the fullness of his free will was lost. He still had the ability to choose, but due to the corruption that had entered his moral nature he will most always choose to do evil. This moral nature has been passed down to us. We are born with a corrupt moral nature and, although we retain the ability to make our own choices, we are overwhelmingly inclined to choose evil.
- The grace of God is a gift that allows us to break free from this moral corruption and choose to do good. Without this grace we do not even have the ability to select God. He does not give this gift to everybody.
- In short: confirmed original sin.
|Adam’s Sin||Born free, chose to sin, no effect on us||Born free, chose to sin, affected us|
|Our Sin||Born free, can choose to sin or not to sin||Born with original sin. Have free will, but will mostly choose to do bad because of original sin.|
|What is Grace?||The ability to have free will and choose either to sin or not to sin.||A gift from God that allows us to be free from sin.|
|Salvation||Through choosing not to sin and doing good works||A gift of grace through God alone.|
I share the view of Andrew Fuller. This view is very similar to Augustine’s. Man is born with original sin, but the original sin affects only man’s moral nature. It makes the bad things in the world look more desirable than the spiritual things do. Because of this preference, man will always choose to do bad. This in no way limit’s man’s free will or his ability to choose. Take this worldly example: there are some people who, after exposure to certain things, do not have any desire to do them again. Some people touch something hot and get burned. Others have too much of a specific alcoholic beverage and never want it again (remember I said worldy example). Even though these specific experiences have influenced people’s subsequent future reactions, it is still the people that are making the decisions.
Our inherited moral corruption is also like this, but the original experience was that of someone else: Adam. God, though His grace, chooses to free some men and women from this predicament, but the granting of freedom is only fixing the broken moral will. Man still makes his own choices, as always, but that event that caused man to prefer bad has been wiped away and a new one that prefers good is in its place. We always make choices according to our preference and only our preference is affected in this process. Our ability to choose never is. Therefore, man is always free and God is always sovereign.
Calhoun, David. “Augustine & Pelagian Controversy.”
Samples, Kenneth Richard. “Historical Profile: Augustine of Hippo Part 2 of 2: Rightly Dividing the Truth.”
Sproul, R.C. Augustine and Pelagius.
- Warfield, B.B. “Augustine & The Pelagian Controversy.” A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905, pp. 13-71). On-line. Available from Internet,
accessed July 17, 2007. [↩]