Of the different controversies that preoccupied Augustine during his lifetime, Pelagianism was indisputably the most important for the subsequent history and theology of the western Church. It touched on any number of issues central to Christianity, most notably grace, predestination, original sin and baptism, all of which in turn could be reduced to the fundamental question of the exact nature of the relationship between God and his human creation.
The six major treatises presented in this volume amply illustrate Augustine’s struggle with the theological problems that Pelagianism raised. They begin with the Miscellany of Questions in Response to Simplician. Although written in 396, before Pelagianism even appeared on the scene, this work shows in a few pages the remarkable evolution of Augustine’s thought on the matter of grace and the position at which he arrived and to which he clung for the rest of his life. The two final treatises, The Predestination of the Saints and The Gift of Perseverance, written in 428/429 shortly before Augustine’s death, indicate where the position that he had elaborated more than thirty years before was fatefully destined to take him. The three middle treatises show Augustine in the process of refining — but not altering — his thinking in the face of what he rightly saw as Pelagianism’s terrible threat to orthodox Christianity’s central tenets.