by B. B. Warfield
At the opening of the fifth century, in the person of the British monk, Pelagius. The novelty of the doctrine which he taught is repeatedly asserted by Augustine, and is evident to the historian; but it consisted not in the emphasis that he laid on free will, but rather in the fact that, in emphasizing free will, he denied the ruin of the race and the necessity of grace. This was not only new in Christianity; it was even anti-Christian. Jerome, as well as Augustine, saw this at the time, and speaks of Pelagianism as the ‘heresy of Pythagoras and Zeno’;and modern writers of the various schools have more or less fully recognized it. Thus Dean Milman thinks that ‘the greater part’ of Pelagius’ letter to Demetrias ‘might have been written by an ancient academic’; and Bishop Hefele openly declares that their fundamental doctrine, ‘that man is virtuous entirely of his own merit, not of the gift of grace,’ seems to him ‘to be a rehabilitation of the general heathen view of the world,’ and compares with it Cicero’s words:’For gold, lands, and all the blessings of life, we have to return thanks to the Gods; but no one ever returned thanks to God for virtue.’ The struggle with Pelagianism was thus in reality a struggle for the very foundations of Christianity; and even more dangerously than in the previous theological and Christological controversies, here the practical substance of Christianity was in jeopardy. The real question at issue was whether there was any need for Christianity at all; whether by his own power man might not attain eternal felicity; whether the function of Christianity was to save, or only to render an eternity of happiness more easily attainable by man.