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Pelagius--Heretic and Slippery Politician


During our latest White Horse Inn taping, Mike Horton brought in the text (fragments) from the Synod of Lydda (415 AD).  It is truly amazing. I've reproduced part of it for you, along with the synopsis.  The entire document can be found here:  Click here: Pie_Pelagius_Synod_Lydda_415AD

Yes, Pelagius was a notorious heretic.  And he was as slippery as an eel. 

Synopsis: In 415 a second ecclesiastical trial was held against Pelagius, this time being instigated by two deposed Western bishops, Heros of Arles and Lazarus of Aix.  The records are lost with only fragments of it remaining and what follows was taken from Augustine of Hippo's "On The Proceedings Of Pelagius".  The Synod was presided over by Eulogius, bishop of Caesarea and metropolitan and was attended by thirteen other bishops: John of Jerusalem, Ammonianus, Eutonius, two Porphyrys, Fidus, Zomnus, Zoboennus, Nymphidius, Chromatius, Jovinus, Eleutherius, and Clematius. The two accusers were absent from the hearing owing to the illness of one of them, but a document was handed in containing the principal charges.  In the end Pelagius was acknowledged as being Orthodox in doctrine and in full communion with the church.

Bishop John: On the occasion in question (a conference held at Jerusalem at the end of July in the year 415, as described by Orosius in his Apology), when they (others at the Synod) were importunate and exclaimed, 'He is a heretic, because he says, It is true that a man is able, if he only will, to live without sin;' I censured the statement [about being able to live without sin in our own strength], and reminded them besides, that even the Apostle Paul, after so many labours--not indeed in his own strength, but by the grace of God—said, ‘I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me;' and again: 'It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy;' and again: 'Except the Lord build the house, they labour but in vain who  build it.' And we quoted several other like passages out of the Holy Scriptures. When, however, they did not receive the quotations which we made out of the Holy Scriptures, but continued their murmuring noise, Pelagius said, 'This is what I also believe; let him be anathema, who declares that a man is able, without God's help, to arrive at the  perfection of all virtues.' [John possibly made at this point some negative remarks in reference to Heros and Lazarus  (the two deposed bishops who had brought charges up against Pelagius) and Orosius, a Spanish disciple of Augustine who was Augustine’s representative at the previous Synod held under Bishop John.  Orosius left this Synod prematurely due to conflicts with John.  Whatever these statements were-Augustine does not record them-he does note that the other bishops who were present did not feel led to rebuke John over the content of them.]

Synod: [In the sixth chapter of Coelestius' work there is laid down this position:] "Men cannot be called sons of God, unless they have become entirely free from all sin." [In the seventh chapter he makes this statement:] "Forgetfulness and ignorance have no connection with sin, as they do not happen through the will, but through necessity;" [In his tenth Chapter he says:] "Our will is free, if it needs the help of God; inasmuch as every one in the possession of his proper will has either something to do or to abstain from doing." [In the twelfth he says:] "Our victory comes not from God's help, but from our own free will." [Coelestius drew this conclusion in the following terms:] "The victory is ours, seeing that we took up arms of our Own will; just as, on the other hand, being conquered is our own, since it was of our own will that we neglected to arm ourselves."…[Coelestius has noted that in the epistle of the blessed Apostle Peter we read that we might be] "partakers of the divine nature" [and he has made the following argument from this passage:] "Now if our spirit or soul is Unable to be without sin, then even God is subject to sin, since this part of Him, that is to say, the soul, is exposed to sin." [In his thirteenth chapter he says:] "That pardon is not given to penitents according to the grace and mercy of God, but according to their own merits and effort, since through repentance they have been worthy of mercy."

Synod: What says the monk Pelagius to all these heads of opinion which have been read in his presence? For this holy synod condemns the whole, as does also God's Holy Catholic Church."

Pelagius: I say again, that these opinions, even according to their own testimony, are not mine; nor for them, as I have already said, ought I to be held responsible. The opinions which I have confessed to be my own, I maintain are sound; those, however, which I have said are not my own, I reject according to the judgment of this holy synod, pronouncing anathema on every man who opposes and gainsays the doctrines of the Holy Catholic Church. For I believe in the Trinity of the one substance, and I hold all things in accordance with the teaching of the Holy Catholic Church. If indeed any man entertains opinions different from her, let him be anathema.

Synod: Now since we have received satisfaction on the points which have come before us touching the monk Pelagius, who has been present; since, too, he gives his consent to the pious doctrines, and even anathematizes everything that is contrary to the Church's faith, we confess him to belong to the communion of the Catholic Church.

The entire document can be found here: Click here: Pie_Pelagius_Synod_Lydda_415AD

The failure of the church to anathematize Pelagius, led to the Council of Carthage in 418 in which Pelagianism was condemned.  Click here: Pie_Council_Of_Carthage_May_1_418

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