Pelagius, 354? - 420?

Pelagius was a highly educated Celtic Christian monk who denied original sin as well as Christian grace.  He became famous for the so-called "Pelagian heresy," condemned by St. Augustine, in which he insisted on the naturalness of sexual desire and the death of the body, and ascribed the actual existence and universality of sin to what he considered the bad example set by the first man, Adam.  Drawing from pagan and Stoic philosophy, Pelagius felt a profound respect for the moral strength of man's will, which, when steeled by asceticism, was sufficient in itself to desire and to attain the loftiest ideal of virtue.  The authentic value of Jesus Christ did not lie in redemption but mainly in example and instruction.  Pelagius and his followers firmly believed in the free will of humanity and the innate goodness of nature.  Such views were highly congenial to the New England Transcendentalists.  The Roman Catholic church fancied that Pelagianism died out in the sixth century; the Transcendentalists would have contested such a notion.