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Pelagius was a British biblical scholar and theologian who lived in Rome in the late 4th and early 5th centuries. He stressed the human ability to fulfill the commands of God. This teaching was opposed by St. Augustine, the leading figure in the North African Church at that time. While Pelagius, in his claims that humans can (alone) do what God requires, had emphasized the freedom of human will and the ability to control one's motives and actions under the guidance of God's law, Augustine insisted that no one can control his or her own motivation and that person requires the assistance of God's grace if he or she is to will and to do good. Only with the help of divine grace can an individual overcome the force of sin and live rightly before God.

Pelagius was excommunicated in 417 by Pope Innocent I, and his views were condemned by a series of Church councils. The issues of human freedom (human works; fight of faith) and divine grace, however, have remained central topics of debate throughout the history of Christian theology.

Further reading