The theological doctrine propounded by Pelagius, a British monk, and
condemned as heresy by the Roman Catholic Church in A.D. 416. It denied original sin and
affirmed the ability of human beings to be righteous by the exercise of free will.
Pelagianism, in Christian theology, is a heretical doctrine concerning
grace and morals, which emphasizes human free will as the decisive element in human
perfectibility and minimizes or denies the need for divine grace and redemption. The
doctrine was formulated by Romano-British monk Pelagius. About 390 he went to Rome, where,
appalled by the lax morals of Roman Christians, he preached Christian asceticism and
recruited many followers.
Pelagius denied the existence of original sin and the need for infant baptism. He
argued that the corruption of the human race is not inborn, but that humans can merit
heaven by leading righteous lives. For Pelagius, faith and dogma hardly matter because the
essence of religion is moral action. Starting in 412, Christian theologian Saint Augustine
attacked the Pelagian doctrine of human moral autonomy. As a result of Augustine's
criticisms, Pelagius was eventually condemned for heresy.