We said in the first book that that heresy which copies and follows the lead of Pelagianism, strives and contends in every way to make it believed that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, when born of the Virgin was only a mere man; and that having afterwards taken the path of virtue He merited by His holy and pious life to be counted worthy for this p. 581 holiness of His life that the Divine Majesty should unite Itself to Him: and thus by cutting off altogether from Him the honour of His sacred origin, it only left to Him the selection on account of His merits. 2492 And their aim and endeavour was this; viz., that, by bringing Him down to the level of common men, and making Him one of the common herd, they might assert that all men could by their good life and deeds secure whatever He had secured by His good life. 2493 A most dangerous and deadly assertion indeed, which takes away what truly belongs to God, and holds out false promises to men; and which should be condemned for abominable lies on both sides, since it attacks God with wicked blasphemy, and gives to men the hope of a false assurance. A most perverse and wicked assertion as it gives to men what does not belong to them, and takes away from God what is His. And so of this dangerous and deadly evil this new heresy which has recently sprung up, 2494 is in a way stirring and reviving the embers, and raising a fresh flame from its ancient ashes by asserting that our Lord Jesus Christ was born a mere man. And so why is there any need for us to ask whether its consequences are dangerous, as in its fountain head it is utterly wrong. It is unnecessary to examine what it is like in its issues, as in its commencement it leaves us no reason for examination. For what object is there in inquiring whether like the earlier heresy, it holds out the same promises to man, if (which is the most awful sin) it takes away the same things from God? So that it would be almost wrong, when we see what it begins like, to ask what there is to follow; as if some possible way might appear in the sequel, in which a man who denies God, could prove that he was not irreligious. The new heresy then, as we have already many times declared, says that the Lord Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, only a mere man: and so that Mary should be called Christotocos not Theotocos, because she was the mother of Christ, not of God. And further to this blasphemous statement it adds arguments that are as wicked as they are foolish, saying, “No one ever gave birth to one who was before her.” As if the birth of the only begotten of God, predicted by prophets, announced since the beginning of the world, could be dealt with or measured by human reasons. Or did the Virgin Mary, O you heretic, whoever you are, who slander her for her childbearing—bring about and consummate that which came to pass, by her own strength, so that in a matter and event of so great importance, human weakness can be brought as an objection? And so if there was anything in this great event which was the work of man, look for human arguments. But if everything, which was done, was due to the power of God, why should you consider what is impossible with men, when you see that it is the work of Divine power? But of this more anon. Now let us follow up the subject we began to treat of some little way back; that everybody may know that you are trying to fan the flame in the ashes of Pelagianism, and to revive the embers by breathing out fresh blasphemy.
See below Book VI. c. xiv. For the twofold error of Pelagianism cf. a striking article on “Theodore of Mopsuestia and Modern Thought” in the Church Quarterly Review, vol. i. See esp. p 135; where, speaking of Pelagianism, the writer says: “As the hypostatic union was denied lest it should derogate from the ethical completeness of Christ, so the efficacious working of grace must be explained away lest it should derogate from the moral dignity of Christians. The divine and human elements must be kept as jealously apart in the moral life of the members as in the person of the Head of the Church. In the ultimate analysis it must be proved that the initial movement in every good action came from the human will itself, though when this was allowed, the grace of God might receive, by an exact process of assessment, its due share of credit for the result.”581:2494
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