This is a question for Brother Jed. I am currently attending a Biblically based Great Books college and next week we are going to be studying Augustine. Since I knew most of his doctrine is just plain silly, I had always hoped someone in the church at that time opposed him. To my delight I discovered a British monk by the name of Pelagius.
I started searching the web and found some information on Pelagius. As I began to learn more and more about him, Jed Smock almost seems like a modern day Pelagius. I discovered that Augustine and Jerome (two big timers in the church), tried to excommunicate Pelagius and failed in their first attempt.
My question is this: are you at all familiar with Pelagius and his doctrine? If so, do you agree with it? And if you agree with it, do agree on all points or just some?
I was also wondering if you could perhaps list a timeline of men from the apostles to present day who have preached the holiness doctrine as you understand it. My timeline is rather limited. I know the apostle John preached holiness and then his disciple Polycarp picked up the message. Then I have a gap until the 3rd century when Pelagius preached the same message. After the 3rd century I have another gap until George Whitefield in the 18th century and Charles Finney in the 19th. Anyway, any information would be greatly appreciated.
I consider it an honor to be consided a modern day Pelagius. It may be providential that you contacted me and our webmaster has decided to post a section on Pelagius. Over the last month I have been reading Pelagius' Life and Letters by B.R. Rees. I am in agreement with the basic theology of this holy man and his emphasis on free-will. He is more of an ascetic than myself and I have a higher view of the state of marriage than Pelagius, but for the last few years I have been calling myself a Pelagian.
It was Wesley, not Whitefield who preached holiness. Whitefield was more in the Augustinian tradition. Pelagius' friend Coelestius spoke more boldly than Pelagius evidently did on free-will and perfection. Like Finney, Coelestius was a lawyer.
The following are a few good quotes from Pelagius: "It is inquired whether a man ought to be sinless. Without doubt he ought. If he ought he can; if he cannot he ought not. And if a man ought not to be sinless then he ought to be sinful, and that will not be sin which it is admitted he ought to do."
"Above all, if anyone maintains the inevitable sinfulness of man, we must ask him what is a specific sin, something which can be avoided or something which cannot. If the latter, it is not sin; if the former, man can live without sin, seeing that is can be avoided."
"We contradict the Lord to his face when we say: 'It is hard, it is difficult; we cannot, we are men; we are encompassed with fragile flesh. O blind madness! O unholy audacity! We charge the God of all knowledge with a two-fold ignorance, that He does not seem to know what He has made nor what He has commanded, as though, forgetting the human weakness of which He is Himself the author, He imposed laws upon man which he cannot endure."
I hope we can have more dialogue concerning Pelagius and his controversy with Augustine. Daily we encounter Augustine's arguments to excuse sin from the evangelical community on campus. As a result I sense a kinship with Pelagius.