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Monday, August 28, 2006

Pelagius

When maintaining a spiritual discipline of daily prayer, it is important that the prayers remain fresh and from the heart, rather than stale and rote.

While I love the Book of Common Prayer, the Daily Offices can get dry and dull after a few years. So, I use a variety of sources, including the Roman Breviary, the Taize Office, and Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours."

My beloved, who is even more deeply committed to daily prayer than I, has been using "Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers and Readings from the Northumbria Community."

She came to me this morning, and said: You have to read this. She is almost always right (but please, please, please don't tell her I said that).

And so I did. And so she was.

Here, read this:

Celtic Daily Prayer
Pelagius (c. 350 – 418): August 28, 2006

(NOTE: This can also be appropriately entitled: “How history repeats itself because people forget their own history and because history is written by the victors.”)

We have chosen to mark Pelagius’ memory on the feast day normally assigned to Augustine of Hippo, who did so much to malign Pelagius and who is the source of many erroneous teachings and emphases that still dog Christian thinking today.

Pelagius was a British theologian, teacher, writer and soul-friend who settled in Rome. He was highly spoken of at first – even by Augustine. He taught about the value of soul-friendship. He celebrated the fact that the goodness of God cries out through all of creation, for ‘narrow shafts of divine light pierce the veil that separates heaven from earth.’

But soon he was criticized for teaching women to read Scripture, and for believing that the image of God is present in every new-born child, and that sex is a God-given aspect of our essential creation. He did not deny the reality of evil or its assault on the human soul, or the habitual nature of sin. Augustine’s own peculiar ideas were in stark contrast, seeing humanity as essentially evil, and polluted by the sexual activity which causes conception to occur.

Augustine tried twice in 415 to have him convicted of heresy – on both occasions Pelagius was exonerated in Palestine. In 416 Augustine and the African bishops convened two diocesan councils to condemn him and Celestius, another Celt. In 417 the Bishop of Rome called a synod to consider the conflict, and declared Pelagius’ teaching entirely true, and urged the African bishops to love peace, prize love, and seek after harmony.

They ignored this, and in 418 they persuaded the State to intervene and banish Pelagius from Rome for disturbing the peace. The Church then was obliged to uphold the Emperor’s judgment, and excommunicated and banished him, though no reasons were made clear. He returned to Wales, probably to the monastery of Bangor.

Two centuries later all the same ideas were still to be found in Celtic Christianity. History is written by the victors, so most reports of what Pelagius said are given from Augustine’s viewpoint, not in his own balanced and sensible words. He was also criticized for being a big, enthusiastic man, stupid from eating porridge and over-confident in his own strength, and for wearing his hair in an inappropriate style!

Psalm 148:9-14 Daniel 3:19-25 Luke 6:20-23

O ye larks that carol in the heavens,
O ye blackbirds that pipe at the dawning,
O ye pipits and wheatears,
O ye warblers and wrens that make
The glens joyful with song,
O ye bees that love the heather,
Bless ye the Lord.
O ye primroses and bluebells,
O ye flowerets that gem the marsh with colour
O ye golden flags that deck Columba’s
Bay with glory, bless ye the Lord.
O ye piled rocks fashioned by Nature’s
Might thro’ myriad ages,
O ye majestic Bens of Mull,
O ye white sands and emerald shallows
O ye blue and purple deeps of ocean,
O ye winds and clouds, bless ye the Lord.
O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the
Lord, praise (Her) and magnify (Her)
for ever.
E.D. Sedding

6 comments:

marnanel said...

This was an interesting post. Thank you. I'd never heard the story from Pelagius's side before. Also, this post set me looking up what soul-friendship is.

B Hip said...

I wrote a paper my first year in seminary using the thesis that Augustine's Doctrine of Original Sin was nothing more than a response, an argument against, Pelagius' ideas regarding sex, the body and human accountability. The conclusion I came to as a result of my research was that Augustine "won" the argument because Augustine gave the empire a way out, it let them off the hook. If humanity is inherently evil, then the empire cannot be held accountable for hunger, poverty, etc.
In the end, doesn't it always come down to what theological ideas and arguments further the empire, the dominant culture, the people in charge, the status quo?
Thanks for getting Pelagius "out of the closet!"

Esther392 said...

Excuse me - but wasn't the issue with him that he denied Original Sin and that salvation was through grace alone?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Ester,

Depends on whose version of "his -story" you believe.

That was, in fact, one of the points I was trying to make.

Jim Thompson said...

I know this is off topic, but I felt that I had to post this somewhere. File this under "just got under my last gay nerve"

This is a link to an article on 365gay.com about Rowan Williams having finally decided to throw us all under the bus.

For me this is the final straw. I will not be able to attend an TEC parish unless they make a stand and leave the Anglican Communion

http://www.365gay.com/Newscon06/08/082806anglican.htm

Esther392 said...

Just to clarify that sentence - Pelagius did not believe that salvation was through grace alone.