What Orange decided
The synod of Orange (Arausio), convened in the year 529 A.D., though little known today, is of great importance in the development and exposition of Bible doctrine. It had much to say concerning the constitution and (fallen) nature of man, together with God’s remedy of redemption through his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. The synod drew its inspiration from the great Augustine who had died almost a century before.
Augustine’s theological contribution was re-iterated by the synod. Its propositions were strengthened by apt quotations from the said Church Father but especially from the Holy Scriptures. Its basic tenets were as follows:
1. The sin of Adam has not merely injured the body (in because the cause of physical death) but also the soul of man.
2. The sin of Adam (otherwise known as Original Sin) has brought sin and death upon all mankind (Romans 5:12ff.).
3. In its Creed concerning man, the synod taught as follows: Through the Fall, the free will of man has been so devastated that without prevenient grace no one can love God, believe on Christ or do good for God’s sake, as he ought.
4. Grace is not merely bestowed when we pray for it, but grace itself causes us to pray for it! (“And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” - Ezekiel 36:27).
5. Even the beginning of faith, the disposition to believe, is effected by grace (“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake...” - Philippians 1:29).
6. Everything good that Christians enjoy, whether it be good thoughts or good works, are God’s gift to them as his children (“It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” - Philippians 2:13).
7. Even the regenerate (known also as saints, or Christians) are continually and unceasingly in need of divine help.
8. What God loves in us, it is not our merit, but his own gift. (“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” - Ephesians 2:10).
9. All good that we possess is God’s gift, and therefore we have no reason to boast in ourselves (“But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” - 1 Corinthians 1:30,31).
10. When man sins, he does his own will; when he does good, he executes the will of God, yet voluntarily.
11. The love of God is itself a gift of God. (“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins...We love him, because he first loved us” - 1 John 4:10,19).
In assessing the synod of Orange, Philip Schaff writes: “The decisions of the council were sent by Caesarius to Rome, and were confirmed by pope Boniface II. In 530. Boniface, in giving his approval, emphasized the declaration, that even the beginning of a good will and of faith is a gift of prevenient grace, while Semi-Pelagianism left open a way to Christ without grace from God. And beyond question, the church was fully warranted in affirming the pre-eminence of grace over freedom, and the necessity and importance of the gratia praeveniens....
Augustinianism always had its adherents, in such men as Bede, Alcuin, and Isidore of Seville, who taught a gemina praedestinatio, sive electorum ad salutem, sive reproborum ad mortem; it became prominent again in the Gottschalk controversy in the ninth century, was repressed by scholasticism and the prevailing legalism; was advocated by the precursors of the Reformation, especially by Wiclif and Huss; and in the Reformation of the sixteenth century, it gained a massive acknowledgement and an independent development in Calvinism, which, in fact, partially recast it, and gave it its most consistent form” (History of the Christian Church, Volume 3, pages 869,870).