The Pelagian Controversy: An Introduction to the Enemies of Grace and the Conspiracy of Lost Souls

The Pelagian Controversy (411–431) was one of the most important theological controversies in the history of Christianity. It was a bitter and messy affair in the evening of the Roman Empire that addressed some of the most important questions that we ask about ourselves: Who are we? What does it mean to be a human being? Are we good, or are we evil? Are we burdened by an uncontrollable impulse to sin? Do we have free will? It was comprised by a group of men who were some of the greatest thinkers of Late Antiquity, such as Augustine, Jerome, John Cassian, Pelagius, Caelestius, and Julian of Eclanum. These men were deeply immersed in the rich Roman literary and intellectual traditions of that time, and they, along with many other great minds of this period, tried to create equally rich Christian literary and intellectual traditions. This controversy—which is usually of interest only to historians and theologians of Christianity—should be appreciated by a wide audience because it was the primary event that shaped the way Christians came to understand the human person for the next 1,600 years. It is still relevant today because anthropological questions continue to haunt our public discourse.

Endorsements & Reviews:
“Too often we pick winners and losers from the history of Christianity and want the past to resemble our blinders in the present. Stuart Squires has transcended the label of patrologist, while still marshalling the historical evidence evenhandedly and with mastery. His scholarly efforts will aid us in grasping one of Christianity’s greatest battles with insight and fresh new eyes. The Pelagian Controversy allows its protagonists to come to life in a concise and crisp narrative. The last chapter is an ecumenical tour de force, for the story winds its way from the revival of the Augustinian position in the Protestant Reformation up to the recent condemnations of ‘neopelagianism’ by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Pope Francis. Every class in the history of Christian doctrine should assign this remarkable text.”

—Peter Casarella, Duke University

“The fifth-century controversy about sin, grace, free will, and salvation was a complicated affair. The Pelagian Controversy helpfully introduces students to the important people involved and explains the key ideas. Squires has provided an important and readable piece that links new ideas and old!”

—Thomas Humphries, Saint Leo University

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