THE COUNCIL OF ORANGE
[Contains the 25 canons and subsequent conclusion of the Council of Orange (529 A.D.), against the Pelagians and semi-Pelagians.]
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" through the offense of Adam's sin,
but believes that the freedom of the soul remains unimpaired and that only
the body is subject to corruption, he is deceived by the error of Pelagius
and contradicts the scripture which says, "The soul that sins shall die"
(Ezek. 18:20); and, "Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone
as obedient slaves, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey?" (Rom.
6:126); and, "For whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved" (2 Pet.
CANON 2. If anyone asserts that Adam's sin affected him alone and not his
descendants also, or at least if he declares that it is only the death of
the body which is the punishment for sin, and not also that sin, which is
the death of the soul, passed through one man to the whole human race, he
does injustice to God and contradicts the Apostle, who says, "Therefore as
sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death
spread to all men because all men sinned" (Rom. 5:12).
CANON 3. If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result
of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to
God, he contradicts the prophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same
thing, "I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself
to those who did not ask for me" (Rom 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1).
CANON 4. If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from
sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us
through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy
Spirit himself who says through Solomon, "The will is prepared by the Lord"
(Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, "For God is at
work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).
CANON 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its
beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who
justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism -- if
anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace,
that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and
turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is
proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul
says, "And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to
completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by
grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it
is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by
which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the
Church of Christ by definition 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 not confess that it is by the infusion and
inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will,
or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the
assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not
agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he
contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?"
(1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).
CANON 7. If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any
right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is
expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching
of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and
inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and
believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not
understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, "For apart from me you
can do nothing" (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, "Not that we are
competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence
is from God" (2 Cor. 3:5).
CANON 8. If anyone maintains that some are able to come to the grace of
baptism by mercy but others through free will, which has manifestly been
corrupted in all those who have been born after the transgression of the
first man, it is proof that he has no place in the true faith. For he
denies that the free will of all men has been weakened through the sin of
the first man, or at least holds that it has been affected in such a way
that they have still the ability to seek the mystery of eternal salvation
by themselves without the revelation of God. The Lord himself shows how
contradictory this is by declaring that no one is able to come to him
"unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44), as he also says to
Peter, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not
revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 16:17), and as
the Apostle says, "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy
Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3).
CANON 9. Concerning the succor of God. It is a mark of divine favor when
we are of a right purpose and keep our feet from hypocrisy and
unrighteousness; for as often as we do good, God is at work in us and with
us, in order that we may do so.
CANON 10. Concerning the succor of God. The succor of God is to be ever
sought by the regenerate and converted also, so that they may be able to
come to a successful end or persevere in good works.
CANON 11. Concerning the duty to pray. None would make any true prayer to
the Lord had he not received from him the object of his prayer, as it is
written, "Of thy own have we given thee" (1 Chron. 29:14).
CANON 12. Of what sort we are whom God loves. God loves us for what we
shall be by his gift, and not by our own deserving.
CANON 13. Concerning the restoration of free will. The freedom of will
that was destroyed in the first man can be restored only by the grace of
baptism, for what is lost can be returned only by the one who was able to
give it. Hence the Truth itself declares: "So if the Son makes you free,
you will be free indeed" (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 by the mercy of God, as the
Psalmist says, "Let thy compassion come speedily to meet us" (Ps. 79:8),
and again, "My God in his steadfast love will meet me" (Ps. 59:10).
CANON 15. Adam was changed, but for the worse, through his own iniquity
from what God made him. Through the grace of God the believer is changed,
but for the better, from what his iniquity has done for him. The one,
therefore, was the change brought about by the first sinner; the other,
according to the Psalmist, is the change of the right hand of the Most High
CANON 16. No man shall be honored by his seeming attainment, as though it
were not a gift, or suppose that he has received it because a missive from
without stated it in writing or in speech. For the Apostle speaks thus,
"For if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose"
(Gal. 2:21); and "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and
he gave gifts to men" (Eph. 4:8, quoting Ps. 68:18). It is from this
source that any man has what he does; but whoever denies that he has it
from this source either does not truly have it, or else "even what he has
will be taken away" (Matt. 25:29).
CANON 17. Concerning Christian courage. The courage of the Gentiles is
produced by simple greed, but the courage of Christians by the love of God
which "has been poured into our hearts" not by freedom of will from our own
side but "through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5).
CANON 18. That grace is not preceded by merit. Recompense is due to good
works if they are performed; but grace, to which we have no claim, precedes
them, to enable them to be done.
CANON 19. That a man can be saved only
when God shows mercy. Human nature, even though it remained in that sound
state in which it was created, could be no means save itself, without the
assistance of the Creator; hence since man cannot safe- guard his salvation
without the grace of God, which is a gift, how will he be able to restore
what he has lost without the grace of God?
CANON 20. That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is
good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for
which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.
CANON 21. Concerning nature and grace. As the Apostle most truly says to
those who would be justified by the law and have fallen from grace, "If
justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose" (Gal.
2:21), so it is most truly declared to those who imagine that grace, which
faith in Christ advocates and lays hold of, is nature: "If justification
were through nature, then Christ died to no purpose." Now there was indeed
the law, but it did not justify, and there was indeed nature, but it did
not justify. Not in vain did Christ therefore die, so that the law might be
fulfilled by him who said, "I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them" (Matt. 5:17), and that the nature which had
been destroyed by Adam might be restored by him who said that he had come
"to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10).
CANON 22. Concerning those things that belong to man. No man has anything
of his own but untruth and sin. But if a man has any truth or
righteousness, it is from that fountain for which we must thirst in this
desert, so that we may be refreshed from it as by drops of water and not
faint on the way.
CANON 23. Concerning the will of God and of man. Men do their own will
and not the will of God when they do what displeases him; but when they
follow their own will and comply with the will of God, however willingly
they do so, yet it is his will by which what they will is both prepared and
CANON 24. Concerning the branches of the vine. The branches on the vine
do not give life to the vine, but receive life from it; thus the vine is
related to its branches in such a way that it supplies them with what they
need to live, and does not take this from them. Thus it is to the
advantage of the disciples, not Christ, both to have Christ abiding in them
and to abide in Christ. For if the vine is cut down another can shoot up
from the live root; but one who is cut off from the vine cannot live
without the root (John 15:5ff).
CANON 25. Concerning the love with which we love God. It is wholly a gift
of God to love God. He who loves, even though he is not loved, allowed
himself to be loved. We are loved, even when we displease him, so that we
might have means to please him. For the Spirit, whom we love with the
Father and the Son, has poured into our hearts the love of the Father and
the Son (Rom. 5:5).
CONCLUSION. And thus according to the passages of holy scripture quoted
above or the interpretations of the ancient Fathers we must, under the
blessing of God, preach and believe as follows. The sin of the first man
has so impaired and weakened free will that no one thereafter can either
love God as he ought or believe in God or do good for God's sake, unless
the grace of divine mercy has preceded him. We therefore believe that the
glorious faith which was given to Abel the righteous, and Noah, and
Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and to all the saints of old, and which the
Apostle Paul commends in extolling them (Heb. 11), was not given
through natural goodness as it was before to Adam, but was bestowed by the
grace of God. And we know and also believe that even after the coming of
our Lord this grace is not to be found in the free will of all who desire
to be baptized, but is bestowed by the kindness of Christ, as has already
been frequently stated and as the Apostle Paul declares, "For it has been
granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in
him but also suffer for his sake" (Phil. 1:29). And again, "He who began a
good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ"
(Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith;
and it is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). And as
the Apostle says of himself, "I have obtained mercy to be faithful" (1 Cor.
7:25, cf. 1 Tim. 1:13). He did not say, "because I was faithful," but "to
be faithful." And again, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor.
4:7). And again, "Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from
above, coming down from the Father of lights" (Jas. 1:17). And again, "No
one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven" (John 3:27).
There are innumerable passages of holy scripture which can be quoted to
prove the case for grace, but they have been omitted for the sake of
brevity, because further examples will not really be of use where few are
According to the Catholic Faith we also believe that after grace has been
received through baptism, all baptized persons have the ability and
responsibility, if they desire to labor faithfully, to perform with the aid
and cooperation of Christ what is of essential importance in regard to the
salvation of their soul. We not only do not believe that any are
foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter
abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing,
they are anathema. We also believe and confess to our benefit that in
every good work it is not we who take the initiative and are then assisted
through the mercy of God, but God himself first inspires in us both faith
in him and love for him without any previous good works of our own that
deserve reward, so that we may both faithfully seek the sacrament of
baptism, and after baptism be able by his help to do what is pleasing to
him. We must therefore most evidently believe that the praiseworthy faith
of the thief whom the Lord called to his home in paradise, and of Cornelius
the centurion, to whom the angel of the Lord was sent, and of Zacchaeus,
who was worthy to receive the Lord himself, was not a natural endowment but
a gift of God's kindness.