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The Life of Augustine of Hippo

Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)

Edited By Frederick Van Fleteren

The seventeenth century was the century of Saint Augustine. In 1695, Louis Sébastien, Le Nain de Tillemont, finished volume 13 of his Mémoires ecclésiastique, entitled La vie de saint Augustin. The volume consisted of approximately 1200 pages wherein Louis Sébastien gathered from the works of Augustine and elsewhere all extant passages relevant to the biography of Augustine of Hippo. Completed in 1695, the biography was published posthumously in 1700. The work lies in the tradition of Jansenism from Port-Royal and the Leuven. Though an ascetic recluse on the family estate for the last twenty years of his life, he was in touch with important French scholars and the ecclesiastical movements of his time. Louis’ work is the first modern biography of Augustine and the most comprehensive of all Augustinian biographies, even today. Modern authors consult him and frequently adopt his theories without citation. His method exercises influence on contemporary Parisian scholarship on Augustine. This English translation has been divided into three volumes covering three time periods: part 1: birth to episcopal consecration (354–396); part 2: the Donatist controversy (396–411); part 3: the Pelagian controversy (411–430).
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Article 240: Reaction to Pelagius’ Letter to Demetriada



Reaction to Pelagius’ Letter to Demetriada

Pelagius cited his Letter to Demetriada to show he had no opposition to Christ’s grace.1 Indeed, when Augustine first read the letter, he was nearly convinced of Pelagius’ genuine recognition of the Savior’s salvific grace. In some passages, however, Pelagius apparently contradicted himself. In the meantime, Augustine had seen other writings of Pelagius where he explained himself in greater detail. There Augustine recognized Pelagius’ use of the term grace to make himself appear less odious.2 In fact Pelagius meant no more by grace than Christ’s own instruction, remission of sin, or exemplary life.

Whether Augustine had already seen Pelagius’ letter when he and Alypius wrote Juliana to admonish her not to listen to those corrupting the faith by their instruction is unclear. Juliana was grateful for the advice. She assures Augustine that she and her entire household were inimical to these heretics. Her entire family had been attached to the Catholic faith, never to leave it. None of them had fallen into any heresy whatsoever even in less serious tenets.

Alypius was in Hippo when Augustine received Juliana’s letter. Augustine and he replied to it jointly—the reply is found in Augustine’s Letter 188. Since both had contributed to the profession of her daughter they thought it appropriate to take the liberty of speaking of her salvation and the opponents of grace. They asked her to tell them the truth about a book addressed...

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