Pelagianism: Why It’s Good! (Do it now)

There’s been a lot of high-and-mighty talk lately about the “evils” of Pelagianism, and I feel that I’m going to have to set the record straight.

Not only is Pelagianism not evil, it is in fact fantastic. In the orthodox position, human beings are somehow magically tainted by Original Sin, which is taken to be the act of Adam and Eve’s eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Now, if you read Genesis 2-3, you can see that the deck is clearly stacked against the Original Couple. God obviously intended for them to eat of the Tree – otherwise why point it out and say “don’t eat from this”? God knew what was going to happen – or God isn’t omniscient. I mean, God, could have built a fence, not allowed the Serpent into the Garden, etc.

So, dwelling on Original Sin is clearly pointless. But the orthodox position goes beyond even this – they claim that it is Original Sin which somehow prevents us from doing any good at all. Ok, so the clearly contrived action of an allegorical couple somehow cursed us? Makes no sense, right? Are we relegated to being mewling moral infants, chirping for God’s regurgitated grace?

Furthermore, it is the case that human beings can do good. For example, if you volunteer to help a friend move out of their apartment, you are doing good. Original Sin doesn’t rear its ugly head. In fact, you’ll find that it never does. If you fail to do good, it is because you failed to do good, not because a magical power from the mythical past prevented you from doing what’s right.

Now, the Pelagians realized this truth about existence – that Original Sin is meaningless, and that human beings can in fact do what is right. If they couldn’t, why would God give them the Law for hundreds of years just so they could inexorably fail to uphold it? That would be stupid, and God isn’t stupid, right?

Instead, God created human beings with free will and moral agency. Human beings can choose what is right or choose what is wrong. I’m not saying that they always choose the right, but they are capable of doing so. The grace of God is expressed in the fact that God created us as moral agents and gave us freedom. This makes our actions meaningful – it makes our love of God meaningful. If we’re just doomed to fail in the one thing that is important in life, what’s the point? Why would God create us at all, except to aggrandize God’s self?

We aren’t doomed by the supposed actions of mythological original humans. We aren’t doomed at all. We live in a creation guided by a God of grace and forgiveness, not of condemnation and absurd catch-22 curses. God offers us freedom, and it is up to us to choose how we use that freedom – to serve God or ourselves.

(If you want to read filthy lies, check out Aric Clark’s post on Pelagianism)

4 thoughts on “Pelagianism: Why It’s Good! (Do it now)

  1. I admire your honesty, though I deplore your theology. I only need to point out that what your post lacks entirely is any kind of christology. To be more precise, you have no theology of the cross — no <>theologia crucis<>. The problem rests on the person and work of Christ. Anselm’s question stands against you: <>Cur Deus homo<>? Why did God become a human? Why the incarnation, why the crucifixion, why the resurrection if God only needed us to become better moral agents who obeyed the law more strictly and more faithfully? What is the cross in your account except a display of God’s love? Who is Jesus except a perfect moral agent who offers an example to us for how we ought to live? And why would we need that if the Law given to Moses was already perfect and divinely given? Once again, cur Deus homo?Unless you simply adopt Abelard’s view of Jesus as a moral example, you have no solid answer to this question. The atonement does not actually atone, and Jesus is superfluous. In the end, what you are suggesting, is that we must save ourselves. Original sin may have its problems, but you have created a massively false dichotomy between classical original sin on one side and Pelagianism on the other. This fails to account scripturally for Paul’s epistles, theologically for the cross and christology, and rationally for the numerous other ways to speak of sin and salvation.


  2. No, my post lacks any kind of *your* kind of Christology. You are functioning under the assumption that Christ’s death was required atonement for sin, which I reject outright (not to mention the assumption that your Christology is the only Christology…). To say that God requires blood sacrifice for sin, when God knew that sin would enter the world when we were given free will, and to say furthermore that God would require the sacrifice of a perfect being, of God’s own child, strikes me as presenting a God who is morally bankrupt. God creates a situation where sin will occur, then requires absolute punishment for those who sin. That’s a picture of an evil God.Why the incarnation? To show us a more perfect way. To serve as a bridge of understanding between the divine and the human. As an absolute inbreaking of the divine promise of forgiveness and healing and restoration into a fallen world. As an embodiment of divine revelation.Simple ethics stands against the idea that God would come up with something so contrived and absurd as Christ as a sacrificial atonement for human sin. If God requires this sacrifice, then God’s forgiveness is a fraud. If God requires the blood of God’s own son, then God’s love is shallow. If God requires this sacrifice, then God is neither omniscient nor omnipotent nor benevolent – God would see the problem of sin coming, God would do something about it, and what God did about it would be *good*, which sacrificing the Incarnated deity most certainly isn’t.And why would Jesus say that his followers would do even greater things than he did? Why would he instruct them to become perfect even as God is perfect? If a moral example is so worthless, why did Jesus waste so much time working to provide one? Why not just get sacrificed immediately, if that was all that he had to do to accomplish his work?


  3. You know, I should really clarify something. See, the post you responded to was part of a sort of back-and-forth a friend of mine and I concocted on the topic of various heresies. So, a lot of what I’m saying is tongue-in-cheek. Which obviously doesn’t come across in blogging at all. If you check the two links in the post, you’ll find my friend’s blog, and there is a previous post explaining the idea…Anyway, I’m not sure how you found the blog, but I’m not actually a Pelagian. I am a heterodoxical sort of guy, but that’s another matter.I do deplore Christ’s death as sacrifical atonement, though. As always, even in irony, some of me comes out.


  4. A very interesting post Douglas- it’s always good to balance the scales! Your examination is a theological one, but on the historical side I think < HREF="" REL="nofollow">this article<> is an interesting read on Pelagianism and the Anabaptist movement. It would also be interesting at some point to look up some of he Rabbi’s and Kierkegaard on this topic. The latter said somthing very interesting along the lines of “Each man is his own Adam.”peace.


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