Written on January 03rd, 2007 by Shawn Anthony
Pelagianism is a heretical understanding of Soteriology that exists in direct opposition to that of Augustine, as far as human agency is concerned. The Augustinian believed the individual was plagued by Original Sin and looked toward the grace-laden intervention of God as the only hope for rescue from eternal damnation. This hope was fulfilled through Jesus Christ’s salvific act on the cross. God now can extend his offer of salvation to whomever he so chooses. Those to whom the offer is extended need not work for their salvation, but freely accept it through grace. The transaction is already complete. The Pelagian believed not in Original Sin, however, or the total uselessness of human nature. Salvation, for the Pelagian, could be attained through an equal combination of grace and human agency, or “works.” This salvation was also available to any who desired it (free will), whereas the Augustinian schematic seems to rely on predestination (Double Predestination). Pelagians claimed a much more relaxed Soteriological system. Individuals were basically good, and played a very important role in their salvific journeys. Pelagians would have also disagreed with Luther and his familiar sounding (Augustinian) Soteriology. Luther embraced the theological idea of original sin, corrupt human nature, and the individual’s need to accept the grace of God made possible by Christ and his cross. Humanity could not, according to Luther, participate in the salvific event, save accepting it freely as gift.