Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)
Article 277: African Response
The African bishops saw Zosimus endorsing one confession of faith containing manifest heresy, and another equivocal and susceptible of heretical interpretation.2 Doubtless the African bishops were in difficult straits. Much correspondence passed on this subject between Rome and Africa and back.3 Whether Zosimus had written anything on this subject other than the two letters, one in 417 in behalf of Caelestius and the other in condemnation of Pelagius on March 21, 418, is unknown. There may have been another lost letter written after condemnation of the Pelagians. Nothing at all remains of what the African bishops sent to Rome. All testimonies to the vigor with which Christ’s grace and Innocent’s condemnation were defended during this time are lost.4 In this matter Augustine shows his intelligence and prudence.
Augustine notes that neither in the many papal writings nor in the questioning of Caelestius do we find Zosimus saying a single word commanding us to believe children were born without original sin. Absolution of heresiarchs could have prejudiced the faith greatly and caused monumental trouble in the Church. If Africa had resolved to acquiesce in this absolution, Augustine might have declared as in other cases that if this misfortune occurred he would renounce his episcopacy.5 At least there is no better sense to give what Jerome writes in a letter apparently in 418 to congratulate Augustine on his victory over the Pelagians. “You have resisted by the zeal of your faith the...