But I wanted only to express the Augustinian point of view in terms of modern psychology. If we accept this, then the necessary consequence is that if we believe that God wants the unambiguously good – because He is unambiguously good – our free decisions are not able to reach Him. This then produces the Augustinian idea of grace, which I translate for us into the concept of a New Being, which has as its central element the character of in spite of. And here seems to me to be the profoundest criticism of Pelagianism, that it doesn’t know the nature of the “in spite of.” The nature of the “in spite of” is the “in spite of our ambiguity.” Now let us for a moment imagine consistent Pelagianism: what would we experience in ourselves? We would experience that all these ambiguities are always present when we make a decision for reunion towards God or towards the ultimate good, however you want to define it, and we never would be able to accept ourselves. You know that most of the neurotic states of man are rooted in the fact that he is not able to accept himself. Now nobody who is serious or profound is able to accept himself on the basis of what he does. If he tries to do this, then he either becomes superficially self-complacent – a way out which many people are able to muddle through from day to day – but there is a hidden knowledge that this is not the reality. If we face the reality of our being unable to act completely good, to act towards God so that we bring God down to us by our actions, then we cannot accept ourselves: the self- acceptance is possible only on the basis of being accepted. Now this being accepted is again a translation of the Augustinian concept of grace, and therefore I am an Augustinian because I know myself. And I think that’s what Augustine also did.
Pelagius was also, as a monk, able to know himself. But in comparison to the distorted world, he rightly pointed to the fact that in the monastic community much more good is actualized than in the completely disrupted pagan world of the decaying ancient culture But this is a criterion which is always relatively acceptable and necessary, but which does not fit the absolute categories, the relationship to God. And there Pelagius did not realize what many monks and saints after them have realized, namely that the saints are, at the same time, the greatest sinners, that they are open to the greatest temptations, and that they have to fight, perhaps more than the average man, within themselves to overcome. That is what Augustine knew, from his experience, and what the Reformers knew who took the Divine demand absolutely seriously.
Now that is my judgment about Augustinianism and Pelagianism. I repeat: if we have a kind of Manichaean distortion of Augustinianism as we have it in some Neo- Orthodox theologians, or in Flaccius and many others in the Reformation period, then we have to maintain the Pelagian point of view. If, however, the human situation is described, then we do better – with all that we know about man today – to become Augustinians.