|"...for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" |
- Ignore the historical facts (i.e. the main issue that sparked the semi-Pelagian controversy)
- Create your own definition of terms (e.g. semi-Pelagianism)
- And say, "See? We're not what you guys think we are!"
Semi-Pelagianism is a milder form of the heresy admitting that the sin of Adam passed on to his posterity resulting in our propensity to evil. However, it still maintains that (1) salvation begins with man, (2) this inclination on the part of man toward God is a meritorious work, and (3) this results in man cooperating with God in the salvation of his own soul.Rick keeps on saying over and over that since they don't adhere to those three marks of a semi-Pelagian as mentioned in his definition, they should not be therefore reckoned as such. However, if one would go deep in history and examine the historical background of the dispute between St. Augustine and the SP folks, one would discover that Rick's description of semi-Pelagianism is not really what the ancient semi-Pelagians have explicitly taught! It was St. Augustine and his defenders who attached those logical implications to the SP position, but the semi-Pelagians never openly taught those ideas themselves.
For instance, Vitalis of Carthage—one of the earliest proponents, if not the originator, of semi-Pelagianism—agreed with St. Augustine's statement that a prevenient grace is necessary for man to be able to come to Christ (which means he denies that salvation ultimately begins in man), but he maintained that this "prevenient grace" refers only to the external preaching of the Gospel/law—not to any form of internal divine enablement. Vitalis argued that since fallen sinners still possess the natural capacity of will to believe in Christ (though they won't have the chance to exercise that capacity apart from hearing the Gospel), no internal enablement of grace is necessary; an idea that is virtually the same with the Traditionalist position.
In response to Vitalis, St. Augustine contended that this idea is tantamount to saying that grace is given according to merits (or that salvation begins with man, in other words). Why? Because if faith is a product of human nature, and that the whole process of salvation hinges on this faith, then faith becomes the ultimate determining factor of worth in receiving salvation. The plan of redemption may have been initiated by God, but the actual internal reality of this redemption is initiated within man by his own unaided decision to believe the Gospel. This, according to St. Augustine (not Vitalis), is equal to saying that faith is a meritorious work.
My point here is that the Traditionalist's attempt to escape the obvious semi-Pelagian tendencies of the TraDoc by confining the definition of semi-Pelagianism within the box of how the early Church saw its logical implications is nothing but lame. The heart of semi-Pelagianism (and full Pelagianism) is the denial of man's inherent inability of will to perform any godly virtue (i.e. saving faith, repentance, good works, etc) as an effect of his Fall, and it is more than obvious that this is the same position promoted in the Traditionalist statement. To make things worse, Rick further confirmed our suspicion when he wrote (emphasis mine):
Yes, in the view of Traditionalism, man is responsible–able to respond. Thus, unlike the Arminian, he needs no prevenient grace to respond to God because he is already able to do it, and unlike the Calvinist, he needs no unconditional election, since God’s election (or salvation) of his soul is conditioned upon his free and faithful acceptance of God’s grace. (source)If this is not semi-Pelagianism, what is it?
 To get some background on the debate, click here.
 Rev. Joseph Milner, The History of the Church of Christ, Ch. III, p. 328
 Article 2 of the Traditionalist statement reads: "We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel."
 St. Augustine, Letter 217
 Council of Orange (529), canons 3-8