"There is only one definition of a Pelagian by Pelagius: he was a Christianus; his followers strove to be integri Christiani - 'authentic Christians'. The behavior of these integri Christiani was always thought of as being a reaction, an act of self-definition, the establishment of a discontinuity between the 'authentic' Christian and the rank-and-file of Christians in name only" (p. 192).
This struck me because it is characteristic of so many self-defined 'reform movements' within the Church: the return to an 'authentic' Christianity, as defined over and against the shallow piety and half-converted hearts of the masses. Witness the Donatists and Pelagians, the Fraticelli
and the SSPX. All see the mainstream of the Church Catholic, whether the hierarchy or the faithful, as having somehow abandoned the genuine faith of the Church. This tendency is much more marked among our Protestant brethren, who have more of a penchant for schism than ourselves, but it is not absent from our Church, this quest for a 'True Christianity'
which has been parodied
all too often (and sadly, all too accurately).
Against this tendency St. Augustine would throw up the intimate details of his own rather muddled autobiography in the Confessions, book ten of which inspired a sharp retort from Pelagius himself. Says Brown, "Augustine, in a scrupulous examination of his abiding weaknesses, in his evocation of the life-long convalescence of the converted Christian, had tacitly denied that it was ever possible for a man to slough off his past: neither baptism nor the experience of conversion could break the monotonous continuity of life that was 'one long temptation'" (p. 200). His own life, he felt, belied any idealistic pretensions of the Christian's having attained perfect sanctification on earth. Here, the Church cannot be the lot of the saints; it can only be a school for sinners.