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Interesting Events in Early British History



The Pelagian Heresy - AD 418

Occupied with the constant barbarian threat and the continental escapades of the usurper, Constantine III, the legitimate emperor, Honorius, "sent letters to the communities of Britain, bidding them defend themselves."

The preaching of the heresy of Pelagianism was outlawed by the Roman Emperor, Honorius. Pelagius was a Briton who had developed a theological response to what he considered to be the overly harsh teachings of Augustine of Hippo, which enjoyed wide acceptance in the Roman church. Simply put, Augustine taught that man was a sinner, by nature, and that, without the grace of God, his sin could only earn him eternal damnation. Man's salvation came solely through the grace of God, as presented in the person and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and that this grace came only by God's pleasure, to whomsoever he chose to extend it, without requiring any effort on man's part to complete the transaction.

In Pelagius' view, this doctrine seemed to teach that God only saves specific, chosen individuals, and those that aren't chosen, are, therefore, without hope, no matter how badly they want salvation. To him, this doctrine was cruel and exclusionary, since it appeared to him to be based solely on the whim of a capricious God.

Pelagius had a more relaxed, less demanding theology. It said that man was basically good and did, indeed, have control of his own eternal destiny. It denied the doctrine of original sin, and by extension, the necessity for and the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. These opposing and mutually exclusive views would divide Britain into factions and produce great tensions in society.


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