The eternal debate, well worth further reading -jero
In his opening lecture, Todorov argued that the fifth-century debate between Christian thinkers Pelagius and Augustine has had crucial influence on modern religious and political thought. Pelagius believed that man cannot be completely evil because he is created in the image of God; human sin is thus not innate but rather a matter of will. Because divine grace is simply God’s gift of free will, man is capable of perfecting himself— and thus, in a sense, of saving himself. Augustine forcefully rejected the Pelagian view, arguing that man is saved by God’s grace alone, that our will is easily perverted and thus an untrustworthy guide to perfection, and that perfection itself is always beyond our capacity.
Todorov then described how the fundamental questions Pelagius and Augustine debated—How much can humans improve themselves? How deeply-seated is our sinfulness? How reliable are our moral and intellectual capacities? To what extent is our salvation dependent upon our own actions?—influenced subsequent Western religious and political thought, using examples from Montesquieu, Rousseau, Condorcet, and many others. Todorov argued that the Pelagian belief in individual (and thus social) perfectibility ultimately informed the development of “political messianism” and the rise of totalitarianism in Europe.