The Reception of Pelagianism in Contemporary Scholarship


  • Stuart Squires


Summary: I. Rejection of Original Sin. II. Unrestricted Freedom. III. Sexuality. IV. Soteriology in the Theological Disputes of the Fourth Century. V. Soteriology in the Christological Disputes of the Fourth Century. VI. Soteriology in the Anthropological Disputes of the Fifth Century. VII. Conclusion.

Over the past 75 years, many modern scholars have argued for a “recovery” of Pelagian thought. This paper investigates why this trend has become so fashionable. By comparing three issues—the rejection of original sin, the belief in the unrestricted free will, and sexuality—this paper intends to show that Pelagian anthropology is closer to the contemporary modes of thinking about the human person than Augustinian thought. The paper continues to show that the conclusions of the two other most important theological controversies in the first 500 years of Christianity (Trinitarian and Christological) were ultimately settled because of their soteriological implications. In conclusion, I argue that any recovery of Pelagian thought is flawed because, although the Pelagian anthropological similarities with the current thinking are clear, Pelagianism fails to meet the Church’s soteriological test.