I have to admit that I like Pelagius. Hey, he was a Briton. I differ with the man on a number of fronts as well. Like the rest of his generation he held to baptism as a passage of grace. He was ascetic in his personal spiritual exercises but probably accepted those that weren't. He believed that pieties could be lived that were not required. But I agree with Pelagius where most disagree with him.
His popular reputation as a heretic is primarily on two fronts, (1) his denial of original sin (which I, with him, deny) producing a lack of necessity for infant baptism and (2) his belief in the possibility of holiness (which I also aver). He did support infant baptism but for very different reasons.
Why would I suggest that the arch heretic of Augustine's wrath should be considered on those very points that give the orthodox fits? I grew up in a home that centered itself on the Word of God and on the practical handling of that Word. My parents did not hold anything because the historic church told them it was decided thus. My father has taught for many years that Romans 7 was St. Paul recounting his life as an unbeliever. This challenged a proof text of those who wished to have it describe the necessary sinfulness of the believer. Interestingly, if you read Jacob Arminius on Romans 7, he says the same. More to our topic, if you read Pelagius' commentary of Romans (Oxford University Press) he also makes the same suggestion. For you followers of tradition, it is the faith of my fathers and I come by my Pelagianism tribally. Actually, I too find this an irresistible force in the Scriptures. Reading Pelagius one finds a mind traveling along rational paths with the Word of God as his guide while with Augustine you feel like you are in a vortex of allegory and still tainted by his rejected Manichee gnosis. Pelagius is more modern.
The notion that Pelagius believed that man could be sinless without conversion (which I don't hold) stemmed from his view of the distinction of ability, volition, and actuality. Summed up it is more like man could but wouldn't and didn't. Pelegius' disciples like Coelestius ramped up that claim to the extent that Pelagius denied that teaching explicitly at the Synod of Lydda (415)
" I say again, that these opinions, even according to their own testimony, are not mine; nor for them, as I have already said, ought I to be held responsible. The opinions which I have confessed to be my own, I maintain are sound; those, however, which I have said are not my own, I reject according to the judgment of this holy synod, pronouncing anathema on every man who opposes and gainsays the doctrines of the Holy Catholic Church."
Pelagius states his position to the same Synod with these words.
"But we never said that any man could be found who at no time whatever, from infancy to old age, had committed sin: but that if any person were converted from his sins, he could by his own labour and God's grace be without sin; and yet not even thus would he be incapable of change ever afterwards. As for the other statements which they have made against us, they are not to be found in our books, nor have we at any time said such things."
Those Christians who desire holiness and see such promise in the Holy Scriptures find a common thread in Pelagius.