Fifthly, the function of Christ under these circumstances is a double one: to provide the forgiveness of sins in baptism to those who believe, and to give an example of a sinless life not only by avoiding sins but also by avoiding the occasions of sins, through asceticism – Jesus, the first monk; Pelagicus himself was a monk. He gives the example of an ascetic life, thus avoiding the occasions for sins, and not only the actual sins when the occasion is given.
Sixth, grace is identical with the general remission of sins in baptism. After this, grace has no meaning because after this, man is able to do everything himself. Only in the situation of baptism does man receive the grace of forgiveness. We can say it is a strong ethical emphasis with many ascetic elements, but the tragic aspect of life has been lost entirely. This is Pelagianism. And don’t take him too easily; take him seriously. I don’t say we all are Pelagians, by birth –as I say about nominalism – -but I would say Pelagianism is nearer to all of us, especially in countries which are dependent on sectarian movements, as this country so strongly is. It is nearer to us than we know ourselves, and it is always effective in us when we try to force God down upon ourselves. And this is what we usually called by the much abused term “moralism.” He says: Good and evil are (performed) by ourselves; they are nothing given. If this is true, then religion was in danger of being transformed into morality. And you know enough about this danger; I don’t need to say anything. So Pelagianism, like all the other great heresies, is not something of the past – otherwise it would not be worthwhile for you and me to dedicate this precious hour from 11-12 each morning to all these old stories. They are, all together, new stories at the same time. And only if I succeed in making it clear to you that they are stories can they have meaning, and then it is worthwhile to deal with Church history.
Now against this we have Augustine’s Doctrine of Sin.. Augustine agrees with Pelagicus and all philosophy that freedom is the quality of man essentially or originally, so that Adam, when he committed his fall, and man essentially – which is always represented by the figure of Adam – is free. Originally man’s freedom was directed towards the good and as we have seen last time, the good is the love with which God loves Himself; it is the being-directed towards good as the loving ground of being; in this sense everybody is free. But this freedom was dangerous, and it was so dangerous that man could change his direction towards God and could direct himself towards the special things in times and space.
Now Augustine saw the danger of freedom as so great that he produced the famous doctrine attutorium gratiae , the helping power of grace, which was given to Adam before he fell. He was not in pure nature (in puris naturalibus), namely the assisting power of grace. This assistance of grace made it possible for him to continue indefinitely in the direction of his will towards God. It made it possible for him. But you see this was a point where the Reformers fought against Augustine. This attutorium gratiae , this assisting power of grace, implied indirectly that nature in itself cannot be good, it must be fulfilled by supra-nature; that if man is in puris naturalibus, in pure nature, then he is so endangered that actually he must fall.
Therefore the supernature helps him. The Reformers had such an emphasis on human nature – very similar to the Renaissance, at the same time – that they declined this idea of a donum superadditum, a gift which was added to man’s nature. This is a very profound distinction, and behind this seemingly Scholastic terminology something is hidden, namely the question of the valuation of creation.