Let us listen to some of his ideas: For him, death is a natural event and not a result of the fall. Death would have happened, it belongs to finitude, even if Adam had not fallen into sin. Now you remember what I said about Ignatius and Irenaeus, where the same idea is expressed, namely that man is naturally finite and therefore due to die – as everything natural – but that in the paradise story the participation in the food of the Gods made it possible for man to overcome his essential finitude. What Pelagicus does here s to leave out the second possibility and to state only the first is true and is even in the Christian tradition.
Secondly, the sin of Adam belongs to him alone and does not belong to the human race as such. In this sense original sin does not exist. Original sin would make sin into a natural category, but man has moral existence and therefore the contradiction to the moral demand cannot be a natural event but must be an event of freedom. Everybody must sin, in order to be a sinner. The simple dependence on Adam doesn’t make (one) a sinner. Here again Pelagicus says something which is universally Christian, that without the personal participation in sin, there is no sin.
On the other hand, he does not see that Christianity sees the tragic universality of sin and makes it therefore a destiny of the human race. The relationship to Adam as the presupposed first man is of course mythological, but in this myth the Christian Church – whether or not the Church took it literally – has preserved the tragic element which we also find in the Greek world view. So again Pelagicus has some point, but on the other hand he doesn’t see the profundity of the Christian description of the human situation.
Thirdly, children after their birth are in the state of Adam before their fall; they are innocent. But of course Pelagicus could not close his eyes to the fact that the evil surroundings and customs distort their innocence. He follows a modern tendency, namely the psychoanalytic theory of the relationship to the parents, or their representatives, which decide about all the complexes and other negativities which are in the depths of the soul and come to it through the surroundings. There is even today another theory, the biological theory, that the distortion is inherited and cannot be avoided even in terms of the best surroundings you can provide for a child; there is something in its very nature, (from birth.) Here you have a modern restatement of this old struggle, Pelagicus using the psychoanalytic theory in order to avoid the idea of hereditary sin.
Fourthly, before Christ some people were without sin, and :after Christ some people sin. Sin is not a universally tragic necessity, but it is a matter of freedom.
Here again you can say that the state of things in this country is very much in favor of this basic Pelagian idea that every individual can always make a new beginning, that he is able in terms of individual freedom to make decisions for or against the Divine. The tragic element of the human situation is very much known in Europe, but is not so near to the heart of the people in this country. On the other hand, in Europe the merely negative Augustinianism – we can call it Existentialism – -has made this human situation inescapable and has reduced the ethical zeal and impact Pelagianism can have.