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Pelagianism

It is named after the British monk, Pelagius, who was contemporary with St. Augustine and St. Jerome. In the early 5th century, he denied Original Sin as well as the need for God's saving grace. According to his heresy, the guilt of Adam's sin was not passed on to us. Adam's sin only harmed Adam and not us. It was merely an evil example. Likewise, the Redemption of Christ was merely instruction and example for us to follow in order to counter the evil example of Adam. Pelagius taught that by natural means, such as an austere lifestyle, we could over come our personal sins. We could merit heaven by a natural faith without God's supernatural help - that is grace. According to him, the Law of Moses was as effective as the Gospel for salvation. Both St. Augustine and St. Jerome opposed him. As a result of his work against Pelagius, St. Augustine became known as the "Doctor of Grace." Pelagius was finally condemned in 418 by the Council of Carthage approved by Pope Zosimus. This Council taught: 1) That Adam's death was the result of sin. 2) As a result of Original Sin, new-born babies need Baptism. 3) By God's grace, we not only know His Commandments but also have the strength to obey them. 4) Without grace, good works are impossible for us. 5) And finally, we and all the saints confess ourselves as sinners in honesty and not merely out of humility. We are justified (saved) by God's grace (Acts 15:11; 18:27; Rom. 3:24; Gal. 2:21; Eph. 1:7; 2:5; 2:8; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:7; Heb. 4:16). Faith and its associated good works are our positive responses or cooperation with that grace. "Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, and so accepts forgiveness and righteousness from on high." [CCC 2018]

Printed with permission from A Catholic Response, Inc.

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