What is Jansenist theology?


I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around the Jansenism schism of the Catholic Church in 1643 and am having a hard time understanding exactly what the basis was.

In: Other

I don’t feel educated enough to really answer myself, but you may have better luck in a slightly more specific sub, for instance one of the history subs or one of the Catholic subs

Jansenists asserted that God’s grace could not be rejected, and that God chose which people were saved without their consent.

It was created as a response to the Counter Reformation as Jansen was concerned the Catholic church, namely Jesuits, were drifting too close to Pelagianism. Pelagianism is the belief that humans were capable of redeeming themselves without God’s grace.

Because of their beliefs, Jansenists generally had a much harsher stance on sin and forgiveness. For example, one was not supposed to take communion in a state of venial sin.

Here’s the quickest version I can come up with:

Jansenism is basically like a Roman Catholic version of Calvinism: it emphasizes God’s absolute sovereignty; the complete depravity of every part of the human soul; the inability of the human will to do anything to deserve God’s grace; and God’s free choice to dispense that grace anyway despite our undeserving evilness.

Unlike Protestant Calvinists, though, Jansenists didn’t reject the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Instead, they asserted that their doctrines were true and legitimate outgrowths of the Roman Catholic theological tradition. They traced their doctrines back to St. Augustine, who was recognized as an authoritative writer within the Church (as did Calvin, for what it’s worth).

In practice, the Jansenists tended to be very stern and serious, emphasizing a pessimistic view of human nature and encouraging strict moral discipline.

The Jesuits, however, argued strongly against Jansenist doctrine. They basically said that Calvinism was a heresy, and that Jansenism was just a less obvious version of that same heresy. Jansenists argued back that the Jesuits were trying to label perfectly orthodox Catholic doctrines as heresies, and that the Jesuits were freewheeling immoral jerks who were willing to make up whatever doctrines they liked to explain away their own corrupt behaviors.

In simplistic terms, Calvinists and Jansenists both held very similar doctrines. When Roman Catholic authorities said, “Those doctrines aren’t Catholic,” Calvinists said, “You’re right, we’re not Catholic, Catholicism is bad.” But Jansenists said, “You’re wrong, we are Catholic, this is what good Catholicism looks like.”

Over time, the Jesuits mostly won and the Jansenists mostly lost. But Jansenist ideas and writers continued to be influential, both within later Roman Catholic teaching and in Protestant circles.

The Church thought Jansen’s ideas were too much like John Calvin. Jansen arguably adhered to the first four of the Five Points of Calvinism (TULIP):

Total depravity – it is impossible for a person to be righteous enough to deserve salvation. (“When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'” – Matthew 19:25-26)

Unconditional election – God’s decision to save a person has nothing to do with any choice that person makes. (“For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.'” – Romans 9:15)

Limited atonement – Christ died only for the sins of those the God had predestined to be saved. (“I am the good shepherd, and I know my own, and my own know me, even as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” – John 10:14-15)

Irresistible grace – Those whom God has predestined to be saved are unable to reject that salvation, but rather are *compelled* to have faith. (“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws [forcibly drags] them, and I will raise them up at the last day. – John 6:44)

HOWEVER, Jansen rejected the “P” in TULIP, for “Perseverance of the saints.” This is the idea that once you have been called by irresistible grace, you will never fall from it. Jansen thought that no one could be assured of their own salvation, since God could revoke it as He wished. (“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” – Job 1:21)