Dear Catholic friend, I have a question about one of your church’s teachings that I’m very curious about. But I need to flesh this out a bit before I get to my question.
First of all, we recognize that Roman Catholicism teaches that baptism is absolutely essential for salvation.
“Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament” (CCC 1257).
The church then says after a person is baptized a Catholic they must regularly participate in the church’s sacraments in order to receive grace so that they can successfully obey the Ten Commandments and church rules so they are able to merit Heaven.
“Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life” (CCC 2010).
In previous centuries, Rome insisted that only baptized Catholics could merit Heaven but then widened its restrictions after Vatican II and recognized as valid the baptisms of approved Protestant “ecclesial communities” (Rome will not call them churches) as well.
At this point some people might say, “Wait! Doesn’t the Catholic church also now teach that everyone on Earth can merit Heaven?” Yes, it does. We know that since Vatican II, Rome teaches that people of all non-Catholic religions and even atheists can merit Heaven if they “follow the light they’ve been given,” although they have never been baptized. If someone has never heard or understood the Catholic gospel – salvation by sacramental grace and merit (aka “cooperation with grace”) – through no fault of their own, Rome says God will judge them according to how well they obeyed the estimable portions of their religion or conscience.
I think we can at least agree everyone is a sinner and follows their religion or conscience only imperfectly. So here’s my question about this philosophy: At what point will a non-Catholic or atheist be able to merit Heaven? Do they have to follow the precepts of their religion or the dictates of their conscience at least 50% of the time? No, that seems too low. Is it 75% of the time? 90%? What is the cutoff? At what point exactly will God say, “Good enough”?
Okay, it’s a rhetorical question. I don’t expect an answer because there is none. Yes, we are all sinners and because we are sinners none of us can possibly merit Heaven. I break God’s commandments in thought, word, deed, or by omission every single day. But God loves us so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the debt for our sins. Jesus conquered sin and death on the cross and offers eternal life and fellowship with God as a free gift to all who repent of their sins and accept Him as Savior by faith. Once you have accepted Christ as Savior, then you can follow Him, albeit imperfectly.
When are you going to accept Him? A church that teaches people can earn salvation by being “good” is a false church. God’s Word says no one is good. Accept Christ and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches and teaches God’s Word without compromise.
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 3:21-24
Am I good enough to go to heaven?