FIFTH CENTURY

PELAGIANS: Followers of the doctrines of Pelagius, about whom little is known. He is spoken of by several of his contemporaries as a Briton. In 409, to avoid Alaric's siege of Rome, he escaped with his convert and pupil, Caelestius, to Northern Africa, and had gone from there to Palestine before the meeting of the Council of Carthage in 411, which condemned Caelestius. Pelagius is not heard of after 418, but there is a tradition that he was 70 years of age when he died in some obscure town in Palestine. He appears to have been a very good man (St. Augustin called him "saintly"), of more than common moral strictness and purity. if not a man of any great spiritual depth or intellectual grasp. He fell into heresy through contact with a Syrian priest named Rufinus; not, however, Rufinus of Aquilea who disputed with St. Jerome.
       The heretical doctrines of Pelagius, condemned at the Council of Ephesus, 431, were: Adam would have died if he had not sinned; Adam's sin injured himself only, not the race; children are born as pure as Adam was before he fell; men neither die because Adam fell, nor rise again in consequence of Christ's resurrection; unbaptized as well as baptized infants are saved; the Mosaic Law is as good a guide to heaven as the Gospel; even before Christ's advent there were sinless men.

SEMIPELAGIANS: A sect traced to John Cassianus, Abbot of the Monastery of St. Victor, a celebrated and holy man, who, although never formally canonized, was venerated as a saint, and whose name appears as such on the Greek Calendar. He was the first to introduce the rules of Eastern monasticism into the West. Being the son of wealthy parents, he received a good education. He first entered a monastery in Bethlehem but later withdrew into the Egyptian desert, being attracted by the holiness of the hermits there. During a visit to Rome he was elevated to the priesthood, and subsequently founded two monasteries at Marseilles, one of which he ruled as Abbot.
       The errors of the Semipelagians were condemned in the year 432 by Pope Celestine I; in 529 by Pope Felix IV, in the Synod of Orange and the Synod of Valence, both of which Councils were confirmed by Pope Boniface II. These errors were: the beginning faith depends on man's free-will, while faith itself and its increase depend absolutely upon God; nature has a certain claim to grace; final perseverance is not a special gift of grace but depends upon mans own strength; some children die before baptism, and others after, on account of the foreknowledge God possesses of the good or evil they would have done if they had lived; some are predestined to heaven, others to hell.

NESTORIANS: Nestorius, the founder of this sect, was born at Germanicia, in Syria Euphoratensis. He was living as a priest and monk in the monastery of Euprepius near the walls, when he was chosen by the Emperor Theodosius II to be Patriarch of Constantinople. He enjoyed a great reputation for eloquence, and after his consecration in 428, displayed great zeal and energy in opposing heretics of his time. Towards the close of the same year his own doctrine was protested against, and later condemned by a Council. He refused to abide by this decision and was thrust out of his See by the Emperor. Nestorius retired to his monastery at Antioch, but a few years later was banished to the Oasis. He was at one time carried off by the Nubians in a raid, and was restored to the Thebaid with his hand and one rib broken. He died there about 451.
    The heretical doctrines of the Nestorians were condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431. They taught that there were two separate persons in Christ, one divine and the other human; and claimed that Mary was the mother of the human person only, not of the divine.

PREDESTINARIANS: A heresy which was defended by Lucidas, a priest of Gaul, towards the middle of the fifth century. About his life in other respects, history is silent. The heresy was condemned in 475 in the Council of Lyons.
     Lucidas taught that God absolutely and positively predestined some to eternal death and others to eternal life, in such a manner that the latter have not to do anything in order to secure salvation, divine grace of itself carrying them on to their destiny; that Christ did not die for the non-elect, since they are destined for hell.

MONOPHYSITES: Sometimes called Eutychians, after Eutyches, their founder, who flourished during the fifth century and gave his name to an opinion to which his teaching and influence contributed little or nothing. He was not a learned man but very much respected and had influence. In 448 Eutyches was 70 years of age, and had been for 30 years archimandrite of a monastery outside the walls of Constantinople, where he ruled over 300 monks. He was a bitter opponent of Nestorinsism and the other heresies. At a synod convened by St. Flavian, Bishop of Constantinople about 448, he accused Eusebius, Bishop of Dorylaeum, of teaching false doctrine, and the accused answered by launching a counter-charge of heresy against Eutyches. Not being able to answer satisfactorily he was condemned and exiled in 450.
      The doctrine of the Monophysites, that Christ had only one nature, was condemned by the Council of Chalcedon in the year 451.

 

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Last edited March 17, 1998