Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)
Edited By Frederick Van Fleteren
Article 262: Various Letters
Apparently the news from the Council of Diospolis became widespread in the West. In a sermon extant in a fragment, Augustine says no one should imagine Pelagius had been absolved by the bishops—indeed they had not approved his thinking. Rather they had approved the orthodox doctrine he caused to make evident. “Perhaps Pelagius had embraced the truth sincerely, corrected his error, and returned to the grace of the true faith.”1 Augustine had evidently not seen Pro libero arbitrio; Zosimus had not yet written in favor of Pelagius; Innocent had not yet written on this matter at all. Augustine mentions the Pelagians as already forming a party.
Augustine indicates Urban, apparently a priest in Hippo, had been consecrated bishop of Sicca. Urban went to Rome and conferred with a certain Pelagian there. He pressed him concerning the meaning of the Lord’s prayer: Can man reasonably ask God not to expose us to temptation if we have the power not to sin; can man surmount temptation solely by the force of his will? The Pelagian responded it is not from these sorts of temptations we pray to God for deliverance. Rather we pray to be spared the evils not in our power, such as falling from a horse, breaking a foot, being killed by thieves, and so forth. Augustine confessed his fear of this response. The people who had heard Pelagius attested to it.
In 415 Augustine had...