Pelagianism – The Beginner’s Theological Vocabularium


“Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.”—Romans 5:14,15

Pelagius, a fifth century, Irish monk and ascetic (one who practices unusual self-denial, self-discipline and devotion), was a contemporary of Augustine, but differed from Augustine in his theology. Pelagius taught that we are not under Adam’s curse, but have the total freedom to choose, or not choose salvation. The late R.C. Sproul explains it further

That means that you and I are not born in sin or born with a sinful nature. Instead, we are born neutral. In fact, Pelagius went a step further and said that we have the moral ability to do what is right and to live a holy life. We have a free will. We can choose to serve God, following the example of Jesus rather than Adam. We can love God. We can choose to turn to God. Ultimately, Pelagius denied the teaching of predestination and denied the teaching of original sin.

Pelagianism describes a belief system similar to what Pelagius taught.


  1. Denies we are under Adam’s curse (Romans 5:12)
  2. Claims that people are born neutral to sin and that there is no such thing as an inherited sin nature. (Romans 3:10-18)
  3. Teaches that people can avoid sinning and choose to live righteously, even without the help of God’s grace.  (Ephesians 2:8,9)