What Is the Cause of Our Salvation?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

This question first came to a dramatic head in the church in the fifth and sixth centuries.  There were four main protagonists.

Augustine of Hippo argued that salvation is totally and causatively of God’s grace.

A contemporary of Augustine, Pelagius, argued that salvation is totally and causatively of man’s free will.

Following these two was Cassian, who argued that salvation originates in man’s free will, but then proceeds as a cooperation between both man and God.

Finally, we have the Second Council of Orange (A.D. 529), a group of bishops who argued that salvation originates in God’s grace, but proceeds as a cooperation between both God and man.

The position of the Council of Orange (commonly called semi-Augustinianism) became the quasi-official position of the church until the Reformation in the 16th century.  The Reformers, especially John Calvin, felt that the church had drifted, since A.D. 529, to the position of Cassian (his position is commonly called semi-Pelagianism), and wanted to bring the church all the way back to the Augustinian position, rejecting the semi-Augustinianism of Orange.

This debate continues today in the Protestant world among Calvinists who are closer to Augustine, and Arminians who are closer to Cassian.  There are also those who reject these two views and land in the middle; these moderate Calvinists would be closer to the position that the Council of Orange took.

What do you think is the cause of our salvation?  Which of these four positions do you think is closest to being correct?

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    My Dear Fellowmen,

    If we don’t accept Jesus and listen to His words, then it is due to our own will. He is knocking at our door to let Him in. It depends upon us whether we will allow Him in or not.

    If we want to be evil, it comes from our own doings. If we want to be healed, it also comes from us. So our salvation depends upon ourselves. We better follow the commandments that comes from the true God.

    With love, your brother in Jesus,
    Aristeo Canlas Fernando, Peace Crusader and Echo of the Holy Spirit
    Motto: pro aris et focis (for the sake of, or defense of, religion and home)
    http://aristean.org/ and http://peacecrusader.wordpress.com/
    “The Internet is mightier than the sword.”

  • Great post! I never knew about the Second Council of Orange until you pointed it out.

    Did you know about the recent debates with James White and Michael Brown? They are debating Calvinism and Foreknowledge. These are amazingly high-quality debates featuring extremely courteous, intelligent Christian scholars.




  • Bill Pratt

    Thanks for the links. How did you vote on the poll?

  • Matt Salmon

    My position is closest to the SCO because man would have no reason to choose God without his grace. But I’m not Augustinian because God cannot force his will on anybody( it goes against his nature). “God comes to your house but you have to open the door,” or “God gives you a present but you must unwrap it” to use a few metaphors. I think it is important though to recognize that the “cooperation between God and man” is not a contract but a relationship. You can’t take the gift and run, you live in gratitude. (I needed to hear that too and I don’t claim to be better than anyone)

  • As I see it, here is the heart of the question: What separates a sinner from a saint, saved from lost? The only two answers are God’d grace alone, or what I do with God’s grace.

    One response glorifies God and gives Him all the credit for salvation – His grace is sufficient, hence the sola: Grace alone. Jesus saves all that are given to Him by the Father and none are lost Jn 6:38-39.

    The other response credits man with making the right choice, and glorifies man – God couldn’t save you without your permission or your rubberstamping on His payment on the cross. He tries to save everyone but generally fails to do so.

    I’m sticking to God’s grace alone and giving Him ALL the glory. Soli deo gloria!

  • MarkR

    Believing is not a choice- if I find out the facts of something and believe them- accept them as true then I am persuaded. Only in religion (Christianity in particular) is this turned into a contortion the likes of which a pretzel has never experienced. And no- believing that Christ did what He did for us is not easy (easy believism) to believe. We are not contributing a work to salvation by believing as it is not meriteorious to understand something. We are however opened up to the believing by the Spirit.