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In research the question of the psychological effects of the Fall (essentially, the Fall fundamentally transformed human psychology: our cognition, affections, behavior and will have all been changed as a result of the Fall; therefore, only a remedy which addresses the injury of the Fall will be sufficient to remedy the psychological damage), I came upon this discussion by Augustine of the psychology of Pelagius.  Pelagius held to the position that one’s will and conduct are independent of God’s control (God creates us as independent beings); in essence the psychological functioning of a human remains unaltered as a result of the Fall.

Any psychology which does not take Christian claims seriously will necessarily hold that human psychology operates independently of one’s relationship to God (except perhaps as the subjective concept of “God” operates upon one’s psychology; the “truth” of God would be the subjective effect of the belief, not the objective working of any “God”). This makes any Christian’s use of such psychology fundamentally problematic.  Any Christian who holds to an easy integration of such psychology with a Christian add-on is thus operating on a Pelagian understanding of human psychology.

[For those who do not know, Pelagius is an arch-heretic in the history of Christianity:

A two-pronged attack by Augustine and Jerome (a powerful combination) led to Pelagius’s condemnation by two African councils in 416, a decision upheld by Pope Innocent I, who in 417 excommunicated Pelagius and Celestius.

J.D. Douglas, “Pelagius,” ed. J.D. Douglas and Philip W. Comfort, Who’s Who in Christian History (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1992), 547.]

Here is the language from Augustine:


In his system, he posits and distinguishes three faculties, by which he says God’s commandments are fulfilled,—capacity, volition, and action:4 meaning by “capacity,” that by which a man is able to be righteous; by “volition,” that by which he wills to be righteous; by “action,” that by which he actually is righteous. The first of these, the capacity, he allows to have been bestowed on us by the Creator of our nature; it is not in our power, and we possess it even against our will. The other two, however, the volition and the action, he asserts to be our own; and he assigns them to us so strictly as to contend that they proceed simply from ourselves. In short, according to his view, God’s grace has nothing to do with assisting those two faculties which he will have to be altogether our own, the volition and the action, but that only which is not in our own power and comes to us from God, namely the capacity; as if the faculties which are our own, that is, the volition and the action, have such avail for declining evil and doing good, that they require no divine help, whereas that faculty which we have of God, that is to say, the capacity, is so weak, that it is always assisted by the aid of grace.



Lest, however, it should chance to be said that we either do not correctly understand what he advances, or malevolently pervert to another meaning what he never meant to bear such a sense, I beg of you to consider his own actual words: “We distinguish,” says he, “three things, arranging them in a certain graduated order. We put in the first place ‘ability;’ in the second, ‘volition;’ and in the third, ‘actuality.’1 The ‘ability’ we place in our nature, the ‘volition’ in our will, and the ‘actuality’ in the effect. The first, that is, the ‘ability,’ properly belongs to God, who has bestowed it on His creature; the other two, that is, the ‘volition’ and the ‘actuality,’ must be referred to man, because they flow forth from the fountain of the will. For his willing, therefore, and doing a good work, the praise belongs to man; or rather both to man, and to God who has bestowed on him the ‘capacity’ for his will and work, and who evermore by the help of His grace assists even this capacity. That a man is able to will and effect any good work, comes from God alone. So that this one faculty can exist, even when the other two have no being; but these latter cannot exist without that former one. I am therefore free not to have either a good volition or action; but I am by no means able not to have the capacity of good. This capacity is inherent in me, whether I will or no; nor does nature at any time receive in this point freedom for itself. Now the meaning of all this will be rendered clearer by an example or two. That we are able to see with our eyes is not of us; but it is our own that we make a good or a bad use of our eyes. So again (that I may, by applying a general case in illustration, embrace all), that we are able to do, say, think, any good thing, comes from Him who has endowed us with this ‘ability,’ and who also assists this ‘ability;’ but that we really do a good thing, or speak a good word, or think a good thought, proceeds from our own selves, because we are also able to turn all these into evil. Accordingly,—and this is a point which needs frequent repetition, because of your calumniation of us,—whenever we say that a man can live without sin, we also give praise to God by our acknowledgment of the capacity which we have received from Him, who has bestowed such ‘ability’ upon us; and there is here no occasion for praising the human agent, since it is God’s matter alone that is for the moment treated of; for the question is not about ‘willing,’ or ‘effecting,’ but simply and solely about that which may possibly be.”


Augustine of Hippo, “A Treatise on the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin,” in Saint Augustin: Anti-Pelagian Writings, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Peter Holmes, vol. 5, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1887), 218–219.