Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism


By Dr. Ken Matto


Pelagianism comes from a man named Pelagius (circa 354-420 A.D.) who was a British Monk that taught in Rome for a short period of time.  He had gone to North Africa in 410 A.D. where he engaged Augustine, then Bishop of Hippo in a theological dispute.  After that he went to Palestine and then disappeared from history.  He was another cog in the wheel of heretical teachings.


Pelagianism – Denies original sin therefore denies that sin is passed down through having children.  If there is no original sin, then what is the source of the sin that is handed down to each generation?  He taught that people still had the capability of choosing good or evil without any divine intervention or assistance.


Pelagianism is condemned as a heresy

Pelagius has been condemned by many councils throughout church history including the following:


Councils of Carthage (412, 416 and 418)

Council of Ephesus (431)

The Council of Orange (529)

Council of Trent (1546) Roman Catholic

2nd Helvetic (1561/66) 8-9. (Swiss-German Reformed)

Augsburg Confession (1530) Art. 9, 18 (Lutheran)

Gallican Confession (1559) Art. 10 (French Reformed)

Belgic Confession (1561) Art. 15 (Lowlands, French/Dutch/German Reformed)

The Anglican Articles (1571), 9. (English)

Canons of Dort (1618-9), 3/4.2 (Dutch/German/French Reformed).


The list of councils was taken from

California State University San Marcos


It is very rare that you will come in contact with anyone who endorses full Pelagianism.  There is one radio preacher who is a full Pelagianist and that is Tony Evans which means he is a blatant heretic.  Here is his response to Glenn Plumber who interviewed him at the 2003 or 2004 National Religious Broadcasters Convention.


DR. EVANS:  “Well, here is the thesis. This is where there will probably be a theological skirmish over this one. But I believe that Jesus Christ in his death covered original sin. But the thing that the death of Christ did was cover and overrule original sin so that no man is condemned because they are born in Adam, but men are condemned because they consciously reject salvation. Therefore, since an infant cannot consciously reject salvation and since original sin was covered, infants go to heaven. People who have mental deficiencies so that they cannot understand, they would go to heaven. And then I have the big controversial one and that is people who are in foreign lands.


The entire interview:


The people you will come in contact with are those called semi-Pelagianists.



Semi-Pelagianism teaches that God and man can cooperate to attain man’s salvation.  Have you ever heard the saying that you need 2 signatures on a spiritual paycheck, God’s and yours?  They also believe that the sinner has the ability to initiate belief in God.  They also teach that God’s grace is in response to man’s initial effort of reaching out for salvation.  They believe the seeker for salvation cooperates with God.  It sounds like the theology found in free will churches today.  Oh wait a minute, it is!


Here is my take on cooperation.  We have all been to funerals.  Right before we go to the cemetery for interment there is the final opportunity to file past the casket to see the loved one or friend for the last time.  Then after all the family members have departed from the funeral home, the undertaker then prepares to close and seal the casket.  Before that takes place, the person in the casket reaches up and helps him close the lid and secure it.  Wait you say, the person in the casket is dead and can’t do anything like that.  Wait I say, that you believe a spiritually dead person can accept the Lord!  He who has ears to hear!  Dead is dead, physically or spiritually!


Semi-Pelagianism was condemned at the Council of Orange in 529 A.D. in Orange, France.   The Council affirmed much of the theology of Augustine of Hippo, and made numerous proclamations against what later would come to be known as semi-Pelagian doctrine.  The majority of Christians today are semi-Pelagian in doctrine, we know it as the belief in free will.  In 412 A.D. Augustine came to the understanding of predestination in that there is absolutely no acceptance by man as a prerequisite for salvation but the choice was totally God’s choice.  Semi-Pelagianism was condemned by the Synod of Dort in 1619 under the first point of Arminius who espoused the belief that a person has free will to either accept or reject salvation.