I was listening to Dr. RC Sproul a few days ago, who is a Protestant theologian and he was saying that the Catholic Church condemned Palegianism and then condemned Augustianism which taught that Grace is irresistable and then also condemned semipalegianism which teaches that one is given grace to convert but than has to cooperate with that grace during his/her life here. And he says the Church also really teaches semipalegianism and so it contradicts itself and thus cannot be infallible since they change what they teach all the time. I don’t know the history on all these councils and palegianism, etc… if someone else does could they help here, regarding this and what was it that Augustine actually taught regarding, sin, salvation and grace.
It is an article of faith that the just man can persevere to the end. Where does this power come from? Against the Semi-Pelagians who thought the just man had this power of himself, the Council of Orange said: “The divine assistance ought always to be implored even by the reborn and and the justified that they may come to a good end or perseverve in good works.” The Council of Trent teaches that perseverance requires a special gift of grace. The need of it arises from the weakness of the human will which, on account of the revolt of the flesh against the spirit, has not in itself the power always to stand fast in virtue.
How does the just man obtain this grace? Can he merit it by this good conduct? He can merit a sufficient grace, which of itself is potent enough for victory over temptation, but which, through his lack of co-operation, may be void of results. What he needs is an efficacious grace, one that assures victory. This kind of grace he cannot merit; otherwise, once justified, he could never fall. The key to perseverance is the prediliction of God giving grace which He forsees will have its salutary effect. Such grace is the gift of God who alone “is able to make him who stands, stand perseveringly.” (Council of Trent, Denzinger #806) While one’s good actions cannot merit this grace, he will infallibly get it who prays for it properly.
This prayer ought to be the most confident because God exercises a special providence over the just man. On account of it the just man can avoid mortal and all deliberate sins. Without, however, a very special privilege, such as was given to the Blessed Virgin Mary, no one can avoid semideliberate falls: “In this mortal life, however holy and just men may be, they sometimes fall at least into slight daily sins.” (Council of Trent, Denzinger #804)
Since only he is saved who perseveres to the end, the Council of Trent calls final perseverance The Great Grace. It is not one but but a series of efficacious graces. As the unregenerate cannot by natural merit win the first grace which leads to justification, so neither can the just merit the happy conjunction of the state of grace and the moment of death. It is always God who begins and brings to blessed completion the work of salvation. We ought then to have most secure hope in the help of God; “for unless men are uncooperative with His grace, God will bring the good work to perfection, just as He began it, working both the will and the performance.” (Council of Trent, Denzinger #806)
I do believe that the semipalegian position posits that man cannot save of himself without God’s Grace, but that man can move towards God and that God will then grant grace to him so that he might be saved.
While I am not sure of the Church’s teaching, I believe, that grace is something God grants us all, and that we, already having received that grace can then choose to cooperate with that grace or not. In other words, without that grace, we would be incapable of even agreeing to cooperate with that grace.
With respect to Dr. Sproul, many Calvinists tend to view anything but their position (which is roughly speaking Augustinian) as being semipelagian.