The debates in Christian history on the theology of grace have intrigued me for many years. I was recently asked to contribute a chapter in a new book about the debates that happened after Augustine over his theology of grace. The book is entitled Grace for Grace: The Debates After Augustine and Pelagius and was published by Catholic University of America Press.
The Semi-Pelagian debates were a series of discussions on the dynamics of salvation between the years 426 and 529. They include many issues and many players. My chapter is on one episode in the early sixth century which involved bishops including Possessor, John Maxentius, and Fulgentius of Ruspe and of which even the emperor Justinian was well aware.
Around 518 John Maxentius and his Scythian monks found that some in Constantinople, led by Possessor, were teaching that personal faith and a good will have their origin in humans, and that when people exercise faith and a choice for Christ, God then rewards them with grace. They had a slogan, “It is of us to choose, but of God to help.” Maxentius believed that they had the cart before the horse. Faith, he taught, is a divine gift (Phil 1:29). Concerning the choice to come to Christ, that too is done only because God’s grace precedes, enabling the person to choose rightly; for as the Apostle said, “It is God who works in you to do and to will of His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13).
Possessor, to support his view of how individual salvation works, used 1 Timothy 2:4 which says that God “wills that all men be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Through letters, Maxentius appealed to Fulgentius, bishop of Ruspe in North Africa; and Fulgentius responded at length, supporting Maxentius’ view. This is the subject of my chapter entitled “Fulgentius of Ruspe on the Saving Will of God.”
Those interested in patristics, North African exegesis, the employment of classical rhetoric in early Christianity, church-state relations, Justinian, the Semi-Pelagian controversy, the extent of God’s saving will, and the doctrine of salvation, will find Grace for Grace a helpful tool containing the latest scholarship from a variety of experts in the field of early Christian studies.
See the Table of Contents.
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