THE COUNCIL OF ORANGE


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

As a result of this view, they held that a state of sinless perfection wasachievable in this life. The Council of Orange dealt with theSemi-Pelagian doctrine that the human race, though fallen and possessed ofa sinful nature, is still "good" enough to able to lay hold of the graceof God through an act of unredeemed human will. As you read the Canons ofthe Council of Orange, you will be able to see where John Calvin derivedhis views of the total depravity of the human race.


THE CANONS OF THE COUNCIL OF ORANGE (529 AD)


CANON 1. If anyone denies that it is the whole man, that is,both body and soul, that was "changed for the worse" throughthe offense of Adam's sin, but believes that the freedom ofthe soul remains unimpaired and that only the body is subjectto corruption, he is deceived by the error of Pelagius andcontradicts the scripture which says, "The soul that sins shalldie" kjv@Ezekiel:18:20); and, "Do you not know that if you yieldyourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are the slavesof the one whom you obey?" kjv@Romans:6:126); and, "For whateverovercomes a man, to that he is enslaved" ( kjv@2Peter:2:19).

CANON 2. If anyone asserts that Adam's sin affected himalone and not his descendants also, or at least if hedeclares that it is only the death of the body which is thepunishment for sin, and not also that sin, which is the deathof the soul, passed through one man to the whole human race,he does injustice to God and contradicts the Apostle, whosays, "Therefore as sin came into the world through one manand death through sin, and so death spread to all men becauseall men sinned" kjv@Romans:5:12).

CANON 3. If anyone says that the grace of God can beconferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is notgrace itself which makes us pray to God, he contradicts theprophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same thing, "Ihave been found by those who did not seek me; I have shownmyself to those who did not ask for me" kjv@Romans:10:20, quotingIsa. 65:1).

CANON 4. If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to becleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will tobe cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working ofthe Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who saysthrough Solomon, "The will is prepared by the Lord" kjv@Proverbs:8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, "For God isat work in you, both to will and to work for his goodpleasure" kjv@Philippians:2:13).

CANON 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faithbut also its beginning and the very desire for faith, bywhich we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comesto the regeneration of holy baptism -- if anyone says thatthis belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, thatis, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our willand turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness togodliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching ofthe Apostles, for blessed Paul says, "And I am sure that hewho began a good work in you will bring it to completion atthe day of Jesus Christ" kjv@Philippians:1:6). And again, "For bygrace you have been saved through faith; and this is not yourown doing, it is the gift of God" kjv@Ephesians:2:8). For those whostate that the faith by which we believe in God is naturalmake all who are separated from the Church of Christ bydefinition 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 notconfess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of theHoly Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, orthe strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyonemakes the assistance of grace depend on the humility orobedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift ofgrace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradictsthe Apostle who says, "What have you that you did notreceive?" ( kjv@1Corinthians:4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I amwhat I am" ( kjv@1Corinthians:15:10).

CANON 7. If anyone affirms that we can form any rightopinion or make any right choice which relates to thesalvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that wecan be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospelthrough our natural powers without the illumination andinspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladlyassent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by aheretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of Godwho says in the Gospel, "For apart from me you can donothing" kjv@John:15:5), and the word of the Apostle, "Not thatwe are competent of ourselves to claim anything as comingfrom us; our competence is from God" ( kjv@2Corinthians:3:5).

CANON 8. If anyone maintains that some are able to come tothe grace of baptism by mercy but others through free will,which has manifestly been corrupted in all those who havebeen born after the transgression of the first man, it is proofthat he has no place in the true faith. For he denies thatthe free will of all men has been weakened through the sin ofthe first man, or at least holds that it has been affected insuch a way that they have still the ability to seek the mystery ofeternal salvation by themselves without the revelation ofGod. The Lord himself shows how contradictory this is bydeclaring that no one is able to come to him "unless theFather who sent me draws him" kjv@John:6:44), as he also says toPeter, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and bloodhas not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" kjv@Matthew:16:17), and as the Apostle says, "No one can say'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" ( kjv@1Corinthians:12:3).

CANON 9. Concerning the succor of God. It is a mark ofdivine favor when we are of a right purpose and keep our feetfrom hypocrisy and unrighteousness; for as often as we dogood, God is at work in us and with us, in order that we maydo so.

CANON 10. Concerning the succor of God. The succor of Godis to be ever sought by the regenerate and converted also, sothat they may be able to come to a successful end orpersevere in good works.

CANON 11. Concerning the duty to pray. None would make anytrue prayer to the Lord had he not received from him theobject of his prayer, as it is written, "Of thy own have wegiven thee" (1 Chron. 29:14).

CANON 12. Of what sort we are whom God loves. God loves usfor what we shall be by his gift, and not by our owndeserving.

CANON 13. Concerning the restoration of free will. Thefreedom of will that was destroyed in the first man can berestored only by the grace of baptism, for what is lost canbe returned only by the one who was able to give it. Hencethe Truth itself declares: "So if the Son makes you free, youwill be free indeed" kjv@John:8:36).

CANON 14. No mean wretch is freed from his sorrowful state,however great it may be, save the one who is anticipated bythe mercy of God, as the Psalmist says, "Let thy compassioncome speedily to meet us" kjv@Psalms:79:8), and again, "My God inhis steadfast love will meet me" kjv@Psalms:59:10).

CANON 15. Adam was changed, but for the worse, through hisown iniquity from what God made him. Through the grace ofGod the believer is changed, but for the better, from whathis iniquity has done for him. The one, therefore, was thechange brought about by the first sinner; the other,according to the Psalmist, is the change of the right hand ofthe Most High kjv@Psalms:77:10).

CANON 16. No man shall be honored by his seeming attainment,as though it were not a gift, or suppose that he has receivedit because a missive from without stated it in writing or inspeech. For the Apostle speaks thus, "For if justificationwere through the law, then Christ died to no purpose" kjv@Galatians:2:21); and "When he ascended on high he led a host ofcaptives, and he gave gifts to men" kjv@Ephesians:4:8, quoting kjv@Psalms:68:18). It is from this source that any man has what hedoes; but whoever denies that he has it from this sourceeither does not truly have it, or else "even what he has willbe taken away" kjv@Matthew:25:29).

CANON 17. Concerning Christian courage. The courage of theGentiles is produced by simple greed, but the courage ofChristians by the love of God which "has been poured into ourhearts" not by freedom of will from our own side but "throughthe Holy Spirit which has been given to us" kjv@Romans:5:5).

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

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

CANON 20. That a man can do no good without God. God doesmuch that is good in a man that the man does not do; but aman does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so asto let him do it.

CANON 21. Concerning nature and grace. As the Apostle mosttruly says to those who would be justified by the law andhave fallen from grace, "If justification were through thelaw, then Christ died to no purpose" kjv@Galatians:2:21), so it ismost truly declared to those who imagine that grace, whichfaith in Christ advocates and lays hold of, is nature: "Ifjustification were through nature, then Christ died to nopurpose." Now there was indeed the law, but it did notjustify, and there was indeed nature, but it did not justify.Not in vain did Christ therefore die, so that the law mightbe fulfilled by him who said, "I have come not to abolishthem but to fulfil them" kjv@Matthew:5:17),and that the nature which had been destroyed by Adam might berestored by him who said that he had come "to seek and tosave the lost" kjv@Luke:19:10).

CANON 22. Concerning those things that belong to man. Noman has anything of his own but untruth and sin. But if aman has any truth or righteousness, it from that fountain forwhich we must thirst in this desert, so that we may berefreshed from it as by drops of water and not faint on theway.

CANON 23. Concerning the will of God and of man. Men dotheir own will and not the will of God when they do whatdispleases him; but when they follow their own will andcomply with the will of God, however willingly they do so,yet it is his will by which what they will is both preparedand instructed.

CANON 24. Concerning the branches of the vine. The brancheson the vine do not give life to the vine, but receive lifefrom it; thus the vine is related to its branches in such away that it supplies them with what they need to live, anddoes not take this from them. Thus it is to the advantage ofthe disciples, not Christ, both to have Christ abiding inthem and to abide in Christ. For if the vine is cut downanother can shoot up from the live root; but one who is cutoff from the vine cannot live without the root kjv@John:15:5ff).

CANON 25. Concerning the love with which we love God. It iswholly a gift of God to love God. He who loves, even thoughhe is not loved, allowed himself to be loved. We are loved,even when we displease him, so that we might have means toplease him. For the Spirit, whom we love with the Father andthe Son, has poured into our hearts the love of the Fatherand the Son kjv@Romans:5:5).

CONCLUSION. And thus according to the passages of holyscripture quoted above or the interpretations of the ancientFathers we must, under the blessing of God, preach andbelieve as follows. The sin of the first man has so impairedand weakened free will that no one thereafter can either loveGod as he ought or believe in God or do good for God's sake,unless the grace of divine mercy has preceded him. Wetherefore believe that the glorious faith which was given toAbel the righteous, and Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac, andJacob, and to all the saints of old, and which the ApostlePaul commends in extolling them kjv@Hebrews:11), was notgiven through natural goodness as it was before to Adam, butwas bestowed by the grace of God. And we know and alsobelieve that even after the coming of our Lord this grace isnot to be found in the free will of all who desire to bebaptized, but is bestowed by the kindness of Christ, as hasalready been frequently stated and as the Apostle Pauldeclares, "For it has been granted to you that for the sakeof Christ you should not only believe in him but also sufferfor his sake" kjv@Philippians:1:29). And again, "He who began a goodwork in you will bring it to completion at the day of JesusChrist" kjv@Philippians:1:6). And again, "For by grace you have beensaved through faith; and it is not your own doing, it is thegift of God" kjv@Ephesians:2:8). And as the Apostle says of himself,"I have obtained mercy to be faithful" ( kjv@1Corinthians:7:25, cf. 1Tim. 1:13). He did not say, "because I was faithful," but"to be faithful." And again, "What have you that you did notreceive?" ( kjv@1Corinthians:4:7). And again, "Every good endowment andevery perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Fatherof lights" kjv@James:1:17). And again, "No one can receiveanything except what is given him from heaven" kjv@John:3:27).There are innumerable passages of holy scripture which can bequoted to prove the case for grace, but they have beenomitted for the sake of brevity, because further exampleswill not really be of use where few are deemed sufficient.

According to the catholic faith we also believe that aftergrace has been received through baptism, all baptized personshave the ability and responsibility, if they desire to laborfaithfully, to perform with the aid and cooperation of Christwhat is of essential importance in regard to the salvation oftheir soul. We not only do not believe that any areforeordained to evil by the power of God, but even state withutter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believeso evil a thing, they are anathema. We also believe andconfess to our benefit that in every good work it is not wewho take the initiative and are then assisted through themercy of God, but God himself first inspires in us both faithin him and love for him without any previous good works ofour own that deserve reward, so that we may both faithfullyseek the sacrament of baptism, and after baptism be able byhis help to do what is pleasing to him. We must thereforemost evidently believe that the praiseworthy faith of thethief whom the Lord called to his home in paradise, and ofCornelius the centurion, to whom the angel of the Lord wassent, and of Zacchaeus, who was worthy to receive the Lordhimself, was not a natural endowment but a gift of God'skindness.


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