2007 Archive Edition - See the Archive Notice on the Project Homepage for more information.
Assumed to have been a Briton, Pelagius (c. 354-c. 418) came to Rome in the 380's, where he established a reputation as an ascetic and as a spiritual director. He attacked the moral laxness of the Roman people and of the Roman church. Around the time of the fall of Rome (410, Pelagius and his follower, Coelestius, travelled to Africa, where their theology came under attack. Augustine disagreed with their contention that human nature is inherently good and man's will is totally free. Pelagius disagreed with Augustine's contention that grace alone inspired men to turn to God and change because Pelagius feared that it diminished man's moral responsibility and he saw that belief as a contributing factor in the moral laxity he saw around him. Coelestius is said to have preached that Adam was created mortal and would have died even if he had not fallen. Both are said to have promulgated the notion that Adam's sin was personal and affected only him. The 415 Synod of Jerusalem heard charges that Pelagius was a heretic. He cleared himself of the charges, as he later cleared himself when he appealed the decision of the 418 Council of Carthage's decision against him to Zosimus. The Council of Ephesus (431) condemned Pelagius.
Very little by Pelagius survives, except in fragments quoted by his accusers, especially Augustine and Jerome. Pelagius gave his name to a movement that was highly ascetical and theologically suspect. Pelagians believed that man takes the first and fundamental steps toward his salvation without the grace of God because man's will is totally free. Moral responsibility belongs solely to the individual, and grace and the sacraments are ancillary to man's moral efforts. Christ is a good example for mankind. Pelagianism was an influence on such groups as the Cathars (fl. XII and XIII Centuries).
Karen Rae Keck
including the header and this copyright remain intact.