Two Talents

Faith-based expressions of a Christian.

Council of Orange

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Here’s an introduction to Orange from the Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics, or CRTA:

The Council of Orange was an outgrowth of the controversy between Augustine and Pelagius. This controversy had to do with degree to which a human being is responsible for his or her own salvation, and the role of the grace of God in bringing about salvation. The Pelagians held that human beings are born in a state of innocence, i.e., that there is no such thing as a sinful nature or original sin.

As a result of this view, they held that a state of sinless perfection was achievable in this life. The Council of Orange dealt with the Semi-Pelagian doctrine that the human race, though fallen and possessed of a sinful nature, is still “good” enough to able to lay hold of the grace of God through an act of unredeemed human will. The Council held to Augustine’s view and repudiated Pelagius. The following canons greatly influenced the Reformed doctrine of Total Depravity.

Of note before I go further is the interesting fact that the Roman Catholic Church considers Orange to be one of her councils (general, not ecumenical). I have long asserted that the canons of Orange, which I will be quoting below, are polar opposites to the justification canons of the Council of Trent. While Orange is said by Rome to be a general council, Trent was ecumenical, which means its pronouncements are considered inerrant and incumbent upon all Catholics to accept and follow. At any rate, I enjoy the canons from Orange and find them accurate and well done. On another side note, these canons were issued in the year 529 AD. Here are some of those canons, complete with linkable goodness to the cited scriptures:

CANON 1. If anyone denies that it is the whole man, that is, both body and soul, that was “changed for the worse” through the offense of Adam’s sin, but believes that the freedom of the soul remains unimpaired and that only the body is subject to corruption, he is deceived by the error of Pelagius and contradicts the scripture which says, “The soul that sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:20); and, “Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey?” (Rom. 6:16); and, “For whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved” (2 Pet. 2:19).

CANON 2. If anyone asserts that Adam’s sin affected him alone and not his descendants also, or at least if he declares that it is only the death of the body which is the punishment for sin, and not also that sin, which is the death of the soul, passed through one man to the whole human race, he does injustice to God and contradicts the Apostle, who says, “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned” (Rom. 5:12).

It will never cease to amaze me how some folks, like Pelagius and his adherents, can fail to acknowledge obvious truths in scripture. The cited scripture of Romans 5:12 makes it obvious that Pelagius was wrong. How could he have ignored that?

CANON 4. If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, “The will is prepared by the Lord” (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

CANON 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism — if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.

CANON 6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

If I stated that I agree with these canons many people would label me a Calvinist. Yes, I fit the label but I dislike it. Firstly, these are godly truths, not the inventions of John Calvin. Secondly, while Calvin gets most or all of the credit for advancing these truths he was not the first or only person to do so (Augustine predates him). Finally, I believe it is wrong to ascribe part of the gospel message to a mere man, and I bet Calvin himself would be aghast at his name being tagged to this theology.

CANON 18. That grace is not preceded by merit. Recompense is due to good works if they are performed; but grace, to which we have no claim, precedes them, to enable them to be done.

CANON 19. That a man can be saved only when God shows mercy. Human nature, even though it remained in that sound state in which it was created, could be no means save itself, without the assistance of the Creator; hence since man cannot safe- guard his salvation without the grace of God, which is a gift, how will he be able to restore what he has lost without the grace of God?

Since I mentioned Trent’s justification canons I’d like to point out that they claim that man’s will “cooperates” with God’s will to bring about faith and salvation. Orange says quite the opposite, which is why I was stunned when I once presented the two councils’ canons in comparison and a Catholic responded by claiming they both say the same thing! It’s not my intention to be critical of Catholicism here, but it is very interesting to compare the canons of Orange with the justification canons of Trent. They are stark in their differences, and yet the Catholic Church claims both councils and either fails to see the obvious contradictions between them, or glosses over that fact. Also interesting in the comparison of the two councils’ canons is that Orange cites scripture while Trent does not, and Trent issues anathemas (curses) while Orange did not.
The Council of Orange had 25 canons in all. You can read them in their entirety at the site from which I culled them.

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Written by Shawn

February 21, 2006 at 9:25 pm

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