Can people, by their own actions and will, effect their salvation? Jews and Christians would say no, but the tendency to earn one’s way into eternity remains with us.
47. Gnosticism gave way to another heresy, likewise present in our day. As time passed, many came to realize that it is not knowledge that betters us or makes us saints, but the kind of life we lead. But this subtly led back to the old error of the gnostics, which was simply transformed rather than eliminated.
48. The same power that the gnostics attributed to the intellect, others now began to attribute to the human will, to personal effort. This was the case with the pelagians and semi-pelagians. Now it was not intelligence that took the place of mystery and grace, but our human will. It was forgotten that everything “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy” (Rom 9:16) and that “he first loved us” (cf. 1 Jn 4:19).
Part of the expression of human will is what we say and profess. The parable of Matthew 21:28-32 comes to mind. Not only do our actions betray us and God, but our words fail to live up to the promise of God’s grace.
Getting back to actions, many people involved with justice and charity can lose focus. Perhaps this has been rightly cited by the people who seem to take greater offense at Pope Francis. We indulge a possible blind spot by not checking ourselves against the tendency to pelagianism.