Originality of a Theological Tradition
All doctrines of the faith are the result of efforts made by Christians over the centuries to counter various and varied attacks, both internal and external. Doctrine has been defined this way since the beginning. Consider the Greek Fathers Athanasius (295–373), Basil (330–379), Gregory of Nazianzus (329–390), and Gregory of Nyssa (d.394) who asserted against Arianism the Trinity of Persons and their eternal equality that is revealed through the Incarnation of the Son and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
While they were engaged in this controversy, the Latin fathers had to face directly the anthropological aspect of faith in the controversial issue of human grace and freedom, championed by the monk Pelagius (circa 354–420), and resumed by Bishop Julian of Eclanum (c. 380–455). In this controversy, the shining figure is Augustine (354–430), who spent the last of his strength without completely defeating his opponents. In particular, against Julian’s stance, he emphasized the Scriptural themes of predestination, original sin, and concupiscence.
None of these controversies are ever completely resolved. In the East, after the Trinitarian controversy, we have the Christological controversy, first with the council of Ephesus (431) and then with that of Chalcedon (451). Painful consequences of this controversy included monophysitism and then monothelitism (Saint Maximus the Confessor, d.662). These were followed by the painful iconoclasm controversy, with the important contribution of John of Damascene (d.749). In the West, Augustine’s influence and the relative failure of his position, precisely in the field of divine grace and human freedom allowed the constant return of the question, century after century. It is therefore important to know of another tradition in the same Latin West. We will come back to this.