Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A little about Pelagius

One of my least favorite heretics. Unlike, say, Rambam? I donno.

Of far-reaching influence upon the further progress of Pelagianism was the friendship which Pelagius contracted in Rome with Caelestius, a lawyer of noble (probably Italian) descent. A eunuch by birth, but endowed with no mean talents, Caelestius had been won over to asceticism by his enthusiasm for the monastic life, and in the capacity of a lay-monk he endeavoured to convert the practical maxims learnt from Pelagius, into theoretical principles, which successfully propagated in Rome. St. Augustine, while charging Pelagius with mysteriousness, mendacity, and shrewdness, calls Caelestius (De peccat. orig., xv) not only "incredibly loquacious", but also open-hearted, obstinate, and free in social intercourse. Even if their secret or open intrigues did not escape notice, still the two friends were not molested by the official Roman circles. But matters changed when in 411 they left the hospitable soil of the metropolis, which had been sacked by Alaric (410), and set sail for North Africa. When they landed on the coast near Hippo, Augustine, the bishop of that city, was absent, being fully occupied in settling the Donatist disputes in Africa. Later, he met Pelagius in Carthage several times, without, however, coming into closer contact with him. After a brief sojourn in North Africa, Pelagius travelled on to Palestine, while Caelestius tried to have himself made a presbyter in Carthage. But this plan was frustrated by the deacon Paulinus of Milan, who submitted to the bishop, Aurelius, a memorial in which six theses of Caelestius -- perhaps literal extracts from his lost work "Contra traducem peccati" -- were branded as heretical. These theses ran as follows:

Even if Adam had not sinned, he would have died.
Adam's sin harmed only himself, not the human race.
Children just born are in the same state as Adam before his fall.
The whole human race neither dies through Adam's sin or death, nor rises again through the resurrection of Christ.
The (Mosaic Law) is as good a guide to heaven as the Gospel.
Even before the advent of Christ there were men who were without sin.

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