What is Pelagianism?

Question
What is Pelagianism?
Answer
Pelagius (c. 360-418 AD) was a teacher in Rome who taught that man is essentially good and not morally affected by the Fall of Adam; not totally depraved. It denies the imputation of Adam's sin, substitutionary atonement, and justification by faith. In regards to salvation, Pelagianism teaches that man, without the aid of God, has the ability in and of himself to obey God and earn eternal salvation. Therefore, Pelagianism devalues the need of Christ's Person for salvation; denying the power of Christ's sacrifice.

Pelagianism was opposed by Augustine (354-430 AD) and condemned as heresy at the Council of Carthage (412, 416, 418), the Council of Ephesus (431), The Council of Orange (529), Council of Trent (1526), Second Helvetic (1561-1566, Ch. 8-9), Augsburg Confession (1530, Art. 9, 18), Gallican Confession (1559, Art. 10), Belgic Confession (1561, Art. 15), The Anglican Articles (1571, Art. 9), and Canons of Dort (1618-9, Pts. 3/4.2).

Scripture reveals to us to that all mankind is totally depraved and has sinned (Psa 51:5; Rom 3:10-12; Eph 2:3). Therefore, man was affected by Adam's Fall fully and completely and is unable to do God's will (Rom 6:16; 7:14) as Pelagianism assumes. Therefore, if any at all are to be saved, substitutionary atonement is a necessity (Rom 5:6, 8; 1 Pet 3:18; cf. Heb 9:14, 28; 10:10).

Despite all the heresies in the early church (among them, Adoptionism, Albigenses, Apollinarianism, Arianism, Docetism, Ebionism, Gnosticism, Kenosis, Marcionism, Modalism, Monarchianism, Monophysitism, Nestorianism, Patripassionism, Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Socinianism, Subordinationism, and Tritheism, etc.) the Word of God still abides (1 Pet 1:23). Amidst all these assaults against God and his church by numerous false religions, the church has grown stronger, not weaker. In many ways, the church should be thankful for the gift of opposition!

Related Topics:

Christological Heresies?
What is Adoptionism?
What is Albigenses?
What is Apollinarianism?
What is Arianism?
What is Docetism?
What is Ebionism?
What is Gnosticism?
What is Kenosis?
What is Marcionism?
What is Modalism?
What is Monarchianism?
What is Monophysitism?
What is Nestorianism?
What is Patripassionism?
What is Semi-Pelagianism?
What is Socinianism?
What is Subordinationism?
What is Tritheism?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).