Monday, November 10, 2008


Here are three levels of anti-Pelagianism:

  1. No fallen human being can attain personal union (i.e., union of the relevant sort—such as the beatific vision) with God by his own powers.
  2. No mere human being can attain personal union with God by his own powers.
  3. No mere creature can attain personal union with God by his own powers.
Here, a "mere F" is a being that is an F and that has no nature other than the F-nature. The main point of this qualifier is to exclude cases where God is incarnate as an F. For in those cases we are dealing with an F, but not a mere F. Claim (3) entails claim (2), and claim (2) together with the plausible assumption that in fact every fallen human being is a mere human being entails claim (1).

An interesting difference at least of emphasis between Catholics and Protestants is that Protestants see Pelagianism primarily as a denial of (1), and focus on (1) in anti-Pelagian polemic, while Catholicism, I think, has an emphasis not just on (1), but also on (2)—grace is not only needed now for fallen man, but Adam and Eve needed grace, too, to attain the beatific vision. And even (3) is probably pretty common in Catholicism. E.g., Aquinas would surely endorse (3). His view of the fall of Satan, if my shaky memory serves me, was that Satan wanted to get by his own powers the good that God was going to give to him by grace—i.e., that Satan was a practical Pelagian.

1 comment:

Mr Veale said...

I think that Covenant Theologians (Scholastic Protestants) would see Adam and Eve as recipients of God's Grace. God set up a "covenant of works" with Adam and Eve. But this does not imply that they somehow earned God's favour. The covenant was itself an act of God's grace.

However, this does leave Calvinists sounding like the synergists that they so despise when they talk about our Prelapsarian position before God.