Reformed Churchmen

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

3 July 529 A.D. Synod of Orange, France.

3 July 529 A.D.  Synod of Orange, France.

Two articles:  Mr. Graves and a Wiki-offering.
Mr. Graves gives his angle.

Graves, Dan. “Synod of Orange Struggled with Choice .”  Jul 2007.  Accessed 5 May 2014.

Do babies go to Hell if they die before they are baptized? Did God choose some people to be damned long before they were born? Can a person take the first step toward his or her own salvation? Does God choose some people to do evil? How can a person have any responsibility if God completely decides his fate? When a Briton named Pelagius taught that a person has a good deal of say in his or her own salvation, St. Augustine of Hippo replied with powerful arguments that showed that only by God's grace from first to last could anyone be saved.

Augustine won the day and the church condemned the teachings of Pelagius. Augustine went on to write many pages about grace and how men are saved. His final teaching was that all of mankind shares Adam's sin. Every single person is damned. No one can get himself out of this mess: only God by his grace can do that. And God doesn't do it on the basis of anyone's merit: He chooses some people to be saved and grants them various graces to make sure they are saved. This is called election or predestination. The number of elect was set beforehand and cannot be changed.

Whoa! said some thinkers, shortly after Augustine's death. Augustine has gone too far. If what Augustine said was true, it seemed to say that God had chosen some people from all eternity to be damned. What is more, it made no sense for anyone to try to obey God, because no matter what a person did, God would save or damn that person as he chose. In fact, it even seemed that God had chosen some people to do evil. To others it looked as if Augustine was saying that babies who died, before they even knew right from wrong, could go to Hell.

In Southern Gaul (France) a hot debate raged over these topics into the sixth century. Some theologians felt that both Augustine and Pelagius were too extreme; they tried to find a middle ground between them. In later centuries, these theologians were called Semi-Pelagians, although they could just as well have been called Semi-Augustinians.

On this day, July 3, 529 a new church was dedicated at Orange (Arausio) in Gaul. Thirteen bishops were present. The dedication became more than usually significant when Caesarius of Arles asked the bishops to sign a statement. Caesarius, who had been in touch with Pope Felix IV, held Augustine's position. His statement, however, did not teach that divine grace was irresistable and specifically denied that God predestined anyone to do evil. The thirteen bishops and some other people who were in attendance signed the document, and sent it to Rome. Eighteen months later, Pope Boniface II approved it, making it official church doctrine. That ended the Semi-Pelagian controversy for the time being.

However, the relationship between what God does and what we do remained so unclear that the question has come up in one form or another ever since. During the Reformation, the Roman Church declared that Luther's theology violated the doctrine settled at Orange. Another reformer, John Calvin, took the position that divine grace is irresistable. The Calvinist theologian Jacob Arminius insisted that man has a certain amount of free will to resist divine grace. Because of this, he is sometimes accused of being a Semi-Pelagian, but he taught that a man cannot save himself or do any real good apart from grace. John Wesley followed the views of Jacob Arminius.

As to whether innocent children are damned if they die without baptism, the Bible suggests not. David clearly expected to go where his dead baby went (2 Samuel 12:23); God took the life of King Jeroboam's child because only in him was any good found (1 Kings 14:12, 13), and Jesus declared that we must become as little children to enter the kingdom of heaven (Mark 10:15).


1.      Kyle, R. "Semi-Pelagianism." Elwell Evangelical Dictionary.

2.      "Orange, Councils of" and "Semi-Pelagianism." The New Catholic Encyclopedia.

3.      "Orange, Councils of." The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton, 1911.

4.      "Semipelagianism." The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.

5.      Various internet articles and discussions.

Last updated July, 2007

3 July 529 A.D.  2nd Council of Orange

The Second Council of Orange (or Second Synod of Orange) was held at Orange, then part of the Ostrogothic Kingdom, in 529. It affirmed much of the theology of Augustine of Hippo, and made numerous proclamations against semi-Pelagian doctrine.


Questions regarding Pelagianism


Pelagian theology was condemned in 418 at the Council of Carthage,[1] and these condemnations were ratified at the Council of Ephesus in 431. After that time, a more moderate form of Pelagianism persisted which claimed that man's faith was an act of free will unassisted by previous internal grace. On 3 July 529 a synod took place at Orange. The occasion was the dedication of a church built at Orange by Liberius (praetorian prefect) of Narbonensian Gaul. It was attended by fourteen bishops under the presidency of Caesarius of Arles. The question at hand was whether this moderate form of Pelagianism could be affirmed, or if the doctrines of Augustine were to be affirmed.

Conclusions of the Council

The determination of the Council could be considered "semi-Augustinian".[2][3] It defined that faith, though a free act, resulted even in its beginnings from the grace of God, enlightening the human mind and enabling belief.[4][5][6] However, it also denied strict predestination, stating, "We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema." The document links grace with baptism, which was not a controversial subject at the time. It received papal sanction.

The council anathematized the doctrines of double predestination and supralapsiarianism, which would later become commonly associated with Calvinism. "We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrennce that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema". [7]


The canons of the Second Council played a role in interpreting Augustine by the later church in the West. The Protestant Reformers interacted with the canons of the Second Council of Orange to show that what later came to be known as the Calvinist and Banezian doctrines of original sin and total depravity had already been taught much earlier in the church. Arminian theologians [8][9] also refer to the Council of Orange as a historical document that strongly affirms grace but yet does not present grace as irresistible or adhere to a strictly Augustinian view of predestination.


1.       Jump up ^ Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion by William L Reese, Humanities Press 1980 p.421

2.       Jump up ^ "The Medieval Experience: Foundations of Western Cultural Singularity", By Francis Oakley (University of Toronto Press, Jan 1, 1988), page 64

3.       Jump up ^ "An Exploration of Christian Theology", Don Thorsen (Baker Books, 2007), 20.3.4

4.       Jump up ^ Cf. Second Council of Orange ch.5-7; H.J. Denzinger Enchiridion Symbolorum et Definitionum, 375-377

5.       Jump up ^ Pickar, C. H. (1967 (reprint 1981)). "Faith". The New Catholic Encyclopedia 5. Washington D.C. p. 797.  Check date values in: |date= (help)

6.       Jump up ^ Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005

8.       Jump up ^ "Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities", By Roger E. Olson (InterVarsity Press, Aug 20, 2009), Page 81

9.       Jump up ^ "Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace", By Keith D. Stanglin, Thomas H. McCall (Oxford University Press, Nov 15, 2012), page 153


  • Canons of the Second Council of Orange. A.D. 818, London, 1882
  • Hefele, Consiliengeschichte, ii. 291-295, 724 sqq., Eng. transl., iii. 159-184, iv. 152 sqq.
  • J. Sirmond, Concilia antiqua Gallia, i. 70 sqq., 215 sqq., Paris, 1829.

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