Free Will

One hundred years ago, in Britain, Europe and North America (at least) the Reformation had already happened, the dominant version of Christianity was now the Protestant one, and more relaxed about the issue of free will than its predecessors.

How so? (you might ask)

In Britain, many of us have only a hazy idea of how Christianity got established. For example:

Augustine of Canterbury (first third of the 6th century – probably 26 May 604) was a Benedictine monk who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 597. He is considered the "Apostle to the English" and a founder of the English Church.

But he wasn't the first Christian Bishop in Britain, he was the first Roman Catholic Christian Bishop. There were well-known Christians that pre-date him. For example, Pelagius, born c.354AD, was a British-born ascetic moralist, who became well known throughout ancient Rome.

Jerome apparently thought that Pelagius was Irish or Scottish, suggesting that he was “stuffed with Hibernian porridge”. Pelagius opposed the idea of predestination and asserted a strong version of the doctrine of free will. Pelagius became better known c.380 when he moved to Rome.

At the Synod of Brefi 560AD, held at Llanddewi Brefi in Ceredigion, we're told that

The synod was apparently called in order to condemn the heretical teachings of Pelagius

What was all the fuss about? Pelegius had upset the applecart with a doctrine of free will. Even worse, he apparently denied Augustine's theory of original sin. Which is:

"the Christian doctrine of humanity's state of sin resulting from the fall of man, stemming from Adam's rebellion in Eden. "

Pelagianism is the belief that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without special Divine aid.

Dealing with the threat to church business presented by Pelegius appears to have rumbled on, and been singularly important, as the Synod of Victory (569AD) appears to only have one thing on the agenda: condemn the heresy of Pelagianism. People being able to exercise free will, and make their own choices, would clearly be bad for business for any organisation that depended on its customers believing they have no free will.

We are told that Pelagius had eventually sought refuge in Alexandria. Was this just a nice sunny place by the sea, somewhere safe to retire to? Or does it have anything to do with the Coptic Christian church there? Who (the church says) has been sending missionaries to Britain and Ireland since the Third Century.

The Roman military (in the face of budget cuts) had withdrawn from Britain in
, but the Mithraic Roman Christian civil administration was still in place.

Catholic Roman control originally being via the Roman Army's Mithraic Christianity, not the Egyptian Coptic/Irish/Hibernian Christianity. Pelagius was clearly a threat to the business model of the Catholic Church. Just imagine - people might start waking up to the idea that they could choose to be good, and happy, all by themselves, and live fulfilling lives in their own lifetime. Why then would they need priests to tell them they are miserable sinners who could only be fulfilled after they had died? And only if they did what the priests told them to do?

This lasted for over a thousand years before the theological applecart got upset again by the English Reformation. What Pelagius had preached c.400 AD had many similarities with the later Protestant Church of Northern Europe.

The very idea that we can make a conscious choice over whether to be good or bad is still a radical concept for many people. In the psychology of Personal Development, it is allied with self-awareness and personal responsibility. That is, the ability to respond, as a healthy liberation, rather than a repressive burden imposed upon us.

Next : Christian Franchises

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