Michael Baius

Michel de Bay

Michael Baius (1513 – 16 September 1589) was a Belgian theologian.[1] He came up with the school of thought now known as Baianism.


He was the son of Jean de Bay, a farmer in Bauffe and later in Lombise. (Which is now the province of Hainaut). De Bay attended humanities education in Brugelette and in Enghien and in 1533 he began studying philosophy at the college De Varken of Leuven University. From 1535 he also studied theology at the Pope's College. He was an excellent student and was ordained a priest in 1541. The following year he became director of the Leuven Standonk College. In 1544 De Bay obtained his doctorate in philosophy and becameteacher at the college Het Varken. In 1549 De Bay was appointed professor of scholastic philosophy . The following year, De Bay also obtained a license in theology and became president of the Pope's College. Emperor Charles V appointed De Bay professor of writing in 1552, a task he would carry on until his death. From February to August 1553, he was the rector of the university.[2]

Together with Jan Hessels, professor of theology in Leuven from 1554, and Josse Ravesteyn, De Bay started working on new ideas to better combat the Protestants. The Bay based his theology on Holy Scripture and the Fathers of the Church, especially on the teaching of Augustine of Hippo, introducing deviant scholastic terminologies. His doctrine, later referred to as Bajanism, was based on the sin, free will, and grace of God along with the fight against papal infallibility by saying that the episcopal legal power comes directly from God.[2]

De Bay's belief was very successful with theology students who spread it further out. This was met with much opposition, and around 1558, later Cardinal Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle and Viglius tried unsuccessfully to persuade De Bay to make some adjustments to his positions. However, in 1560 De Sorbonne condemned 18 of his statements written by Franciscus Sablonius, a minor brother and student of De Bay.[2]


In 1563 he was nominated one of the Belgian representatives at the Council of Trent, but arrived too late to take an important part in its deliberations.[3] Indeed, there was resistance to his presence at the Council, and he was allowed to attend only under the auspices of the King of Spain. The Council Fathers looked upon him with not a little suspicion. At Leuven, however, he obtained a great name as a leader in the anti-scholastic reaction of the 16th century. The champions of this reaction fought under the banner of Augustine of Hippo though paradoxically undermined Augustine's doctrine of grace; as a result, Baius' heterodox-Augustinian predilections brought him into conflict with Rome on questions of grace, free-will and the like.[3] In various respects, Baius was rightly seen as Pelagian. In 1567 Pope Pius V condemned seventy-nine propositions from his writings in the papal bull Ex omnibus afflictionibus.[4] To this Baius submitted; though certain indiscreet utterances on the part of himself and his supporters led to a renewal of the condemnation in 1579 by Pope Gregory XIII. Baius, however, was allowed to retain his professorship, and even became chancellor of Leuven in 1575.[3]


He died, still holding these two offices, in 1589. His writings are described by Adolf Harnack as a curious mixture of Catholic orthodoxy and unconscious tendencies to Protestantism. His principal works were published in a collected form at Cologne, 1696; some large treatises were excluded. There is a study of both books and author by Linsenmann, Michael Baius und die Grundlegung des Jansenismus, published at Tübingen in 1867.[3] Baius is often seen in his relation to the latter movement of Jansenism and the Port-Royal theologians such as Blaise Pascal.[by whom?]

See also


Further reading

Henri de Lubac, Augustinianism and Modern Theology (Herder & Herder) ISBN 0-8245-1802-0 This has a treatment of Baius's theology, especially his interpretations of Augustine and his relationship to Jansenius and Jansenism.