“Look, I’m a good person. Therefore, I’m going to heaven. I don’t rob banks or murder people.” I have heard this from Catholics and other believers. Once saved, always saved- perhaps. Please give me an apologetic to evangelize this person(s) into understanding that their poisoning demon waiting at the door want to lull them into a spiritual stupor, a continual unawareness that hell could be seconds away. Their guardian angel wants to wake them up and guide them into the path towards eternal life-- which is also seconds away.
There are already good tracts for this, so I’ll just add that it is correct to trust the Lord’s mercy but the height of human arrogance to presume upon His grace.
Just ask them why St. Paul, a man chosen specifically by Christ -after- the resurrection, still felt it necessary to “Work on his salvation with fear and trembling.”
Do they really think themselves better than St. Paul?
Thanks for the quick reply. I do not know how to ask the question so that I get to the appropriate tract. I am not looking for a scriptural or doctrinal refutation. Rather, I am looking for a personal, less academic way to discuss this issue and evangelize the person to awareness. This would mean more of a gentle, coaxing, natural law approach than a didactic, logical approach. could you post the links to those tracts please?
What is seen and accepted as “good” is different among cultures. What we see as “good” and “nice” may not be so good and nice in other places in the world. There are absolute truths, guidelines which everyone in the world must follow if we are to live in harmony. Those guidelines are set for us by the Church that Christ gave us.
What if the person is a weak or fallen-away Catholic? Quoting from scripture will not be helpful. I am looking for more of a friendly, salesman approach. First the gentle then the medium then the hard.
Perhaps this example will help. One of my teachers said with assurance, conviction and authority as he held up the Bible, “This book has errors in it.” He said this to a class of adult students. I emailed him some prevatican 2 documents. Then I spoke to him. He explained that there are typos in the Bible. I explained to him that typos mean word omissions, extra word inclusions as well as spelling errors. A look of sudden surprise and sudden understanding of what he had done came over him. I ordered him to apologize to the students the next class and admit that he had made a mistake and that they could trust the text of The New American Bible. Gentle, persuasive evangelization.
You got it! I’m going on a phone conference in a.moment but will get right back to you. Save me some cake!
“I’m a good person?”
“Compared to whom? Compared to me, maybe you are. But how do you stack up compared to God’s standard, which is perfection?”
You are not a good person.
You have lusted after women, gotten drunk, neglected the poor and needy, have been a glutton, have broken the law every time you got behind the wheel of a car, think awful things about people in the depths of your heart, have taken God’s name in vain, have been selfish when you ought to have been selfless, have been materialistic, wasteful, lazy, prideful, argumentative, have cursed and lied, and that’s just the start.
You have committed great sin in your life. You are not good, and therefor you cannot go to heaven without some kind of help.
Tell them going to Heaven is not about being a good person!
The reason is because Heaven is not a natural end of man, but a super-natural (above-natural) end of man. Heaven is a super-natural realm which is impossible to ‘live in’ without the proper ‘gear’. Catholic Answers gives the analogy of living deep under the ocean: this ‘living arrangement’ is not natural to man; he wasn’t made to live in those conditions. It doesn’t matter how ‘good’ the man is, he cannot live under the ocean.
But if he is equipped with scuba gear, he can be enabled to (somewhat) live under the ocean. A similar idea goes for Heaven: to live there you must be ‘equipped’ by Divine Grace, which is not natural to man, it’s a special gift from God. To receive this grace you must be in a special relationship with God. That’s what Christianity is about. Turning to other religions (or no religion) wont get you the right ‘equipment’ to live in Heaven in the first place, regardless of how ‘good’ you are.
So the next time a friend asks you that, ask them if all it takes for an astronaut to survive in outer space is being a good person, because that’s essentially what they’re saying.
Here’s one you can use:
Sure, but “good” by who’s definition? Your’s or God’s?
Then I’d expand on how God left a Church to help us, but we have to be obedient to the Church’s teachings, because they’re really God’s teachings, but through the Church. We have to make frequent use of Confession and Communion, etc.
Hope that helps!
Do you believe that an all-loving God would take a good-hearted person who loves and helps her fellow people on this earth…and put her into torturous hell or purgatory forever?
You make an assumption here that God is directly punishing a person over an arbitrary set of rules He decided would please or displease Him. Consider, though, a God who has laid down the path to true and eternal spiritual health. Couldn’t it be that by following His law in love and faith we are healing our soul? And that “the wages of sin is death” is actually meaning that through sin our soul is undergoing spiritual harm and distancing us from God?
So then when we say, “God doesn’t put a person in Hell,” what we mean is that God was always there and by ignoring Him and living in sin we have actually done irreparable harm to ourselves of our own free will. And here is the kicker. What if, and I am just spit-balling here, in such a state we find we don’t want to be healed. That in spite of the agony of our condition, we, like the fallen angels, no longer wish to be with God. Well, then, God can do nothing without breaking our free will.
So no, a just God wouldn’t throw a person into Hell, but He wouldn’t stop them from diving in themselves.
Even if a person is fallen away from the faith, don’t presume scripture will not be helpful.
Considering the phrase
“I’m a good person. Therefore I’m going to heaven”
That person has judged themself for all eternity in the affirmative…true?
Salvation and heaven is on God’s terms not ours. Afterall, didn’t Jesus respond “Why do you call me good”? Seems odd for Jesus to ask that, but he’s questioning the person who is calling Jesus good, to find out that person’s understanding of what makes someone “good”. iow, By what measure is that guy thinking someone is good?
It’s no secret that today many assume heaven is automatic, and only the one who has REALLY screwed up BIG time, (like Hitler, or Stalin etc etc) is disqualified. But where do these people get that notion? Didn’t Jesus use a different example of narrow and broad?
Mt 7:13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy,a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
for some extra reading on the subject
Good people don’t speak of their goodness, they are too busy doing good.
Thus, if you hear such, thank them for their gift of self to the world, and ask them to join you at the soup kitchen!
Just to define terms, purgatory is temporary not permanent. It is for final purification before heaven for those who God deems to need it. The person by definition, who goes through purgatory, is guranteed heaven.
Hell is for those who die in a state of mortal sin. Mortal sin can be defined as any sin that would keep one from inheriting heaven if they die in that sin…
If that translation is not of your liking, here is another. The footnotes are operational
19 Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, 21 envy,a] drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Cor 6:9-10
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral,a] nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,b]c] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Hmmm. I don’t think I made an assumption, but just to make sure…let me rephrase the question and give it more detail:
Take a true and good-hearted person who is well-loved and loves/helps her fellow people on this earth her entire life and doesn’t consciously harm others.
If this person doesn’t follow specific religious rituals/sacraments like confession or going to church or assigning herself as a specific religion-follower…do you believe that would displease an all-loving God and that He would consider that person as someone who doesn’t want to be with God and is of their own free will diving into hell?
Bunch of random thoughts:
This is a very rosy, rather unreal picture of existence here. I never met anyone like that except what one might see on the surface (or written in an obituary).
You can’t tell what people are called to do, whether they followed God’s or their own will.
I met someone who was clearly a Hindu saint about half a century ago.
Jesus was not well-loved in His time; He was hated by people who would have said they were good-hearted. He forgave them.
Of the two thieves, He told only one that He would be with Him in paradise.
If one is concerned about the status of one’s soul and whether one is pleasing to God, one should endeavour to get closer to Him.
To do this, it is an excellent idea to follow the teachings of the Church.
Without faith it is impossible to please God–therefore simply not harming others or doing good works is not enough to be saved–that’s Pelagianism. With the help of grace, one must turn to God and love God in order to have communion with God. That’s what salvation is. Otherwise, we are left with our sins (and all have sins, even “nice” people). That’s damnation.
That being said, God desires the salvation of all and gives all the graces necessary to come to Him (sometimes little by little, sometimes all at once, sometimes early in life, somtimes later, etc.). If one has an upright conscience and is unconditionally open to the truth and grace and love (true love), doing good works can be a first step in the response to that grace and this can ultimately lead to faith. As the Church taught at Vatican II, “God in ways known to Himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel to find that faith without which it is impossible to please Him .”
But one can harden their heart to grace, for example by feeling self-righteous in doing some good or not harming others (again, all also have sins) and pridefully reject the truth God has given as unnecessary.