Semi-Pelagianism is theological position midway between Pelagianism and the teachings of Augustine of Hippo regarding the origins of the experience of salvation. Pelagianism placed salvation in the power of human free-will; Augustine ascribed salvation (regeneration, new birth) wholly to God's grace; the Semi-pelagians held that salvation was initially prompted by God's grace, but depended for its effect on human cooperation.
The Council of Orange is one of the most important councils of the early Church and was often pointed to by the Reformers as evidence that Rome had abandoned the theology of its own Council Fathers and Church Doctors. All persons of faith should take the time to get to know it. The content of the Council itself naturally grew out of the public dispute between Augustine and Pelagius. This critical dispute had to do with the extent to which the natural man is responsible for his or her own regeneration (the new birth), i.e. whether the work of God in regeneration monergistic (God alone) or synergistic (a cooperation of man and God) ? The Council of Orange condemned the Semi-Pelagian doctrine that fallen creatures, although sinful, have an island of righteousness which made them morally competent enough to contribute toward their salvation by taking hold of the offer of the grace of God through an act of their unregenerate natural will. Orange upheld Augustine's view that the will is evil by corruption of nature and becomes good only by a correction of grace. For what makes men to differ, the grace God or the will of man? Below we focus on five (5) of the 25 Canons that have been influential to to the Reformed understanding of the work of Christ in salvation. These truths were hugely consequential in 16th century Reformation Theology and its apprehension of the doctrine's of grace. Grounded in Scripture, this Counsel is devotional theology at its best and will transform the outlook of all who take time to meditate on it. (Especially take note of Canon's 6-7)
Council of Orange (529 AD)
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).
For those who wish to read the entire Council click here
Semi-Pelagianism and the Council (Synod) of Orange (.pdf) by Charles Biggs
Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, and Arminianism… Oh My! by Tony Arsenal
Differences between Semi-Pelagianism and Arminian Beliefs by John Hendryx
Augustine and Pelagius by R. C. Sproul
The Pelagian Captivity of the Church by R. C. Sproul
Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism & Augustinianism by A A. Hodge
Introductory Essay on Augustin and the Pelagian Controversy by B. B. Warfield
Pelagianism by R. Scott Clark