Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How to Go to Heaven

I recently answered the following two questions in my Q&A thread at the Holy Culture forum:
  • If somebody walked up to you on the street and asked you for everything they need to do to go to heaven, what do you tell them?
I'd tell him that he needed a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

[After my response, he posted a follow-up question]

  • How would you explain a saving relationship?
A saving relationship is one in which the sanctifying grace of God within us has not been destroyed. A person receives salvation both in this life, by living a life of grace, and faith, and obedience to God's Will, and in the future, by persevering to the end (cf. Rom 11:22; Gal 5:1; Phil 2:12; Col 1:22-23; Heb 3:14) and standing before God on Judgment Day with grace and faith intact.

[After that exchange, a different poster objected to my response. Here is his objection and my response to him]

  • Wait...no sacraments involved in order to get to heaven? Cmon bro lets not be so ambiguous.
I wasn't being ambiguous. With this answer, I was trying to get down to the heart of the matter. We can debate about how one receives a saving relationship and what constitutes a saving relationship -- and the sacraments would enter into that debate -- but at the end of the day it's still all about having a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. That relationship is very much a part of my faith, and I feel like I was true to my faith in answering that question the way I did.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

[Some remarks after looking back at this exchange]

I felt pretty good about my response to that question until I found a response by Jimmy Akin to the same question:
  • Q: What would you tell someone who asks, 'How can I be saved'?

    A: "Repent, believe, and be baptized."

    That's all you need for the basic question. You can go into more detail on what each of the terms means (just as you can with the different Protestant models of what one needs to do to be saved), but the concept itself is simplicity itself. Even the most rustic can learn it.

    And unlike the different Protestant models, it takes into account all the elements Jesus, Peter, and Paul lay out on the three occasions when someone asks this question (Matthew 19:16-19, Acts 2:37-39, 16:30-31). Repentance covers Jesus' stress on not breaking the commandments and is explicitly named in Peter's response, which also names baptism, which together with repentance is assumed in Paul's stress on faith, for he assumes anyone who genuinely puts his faith in God will repent (Romans 2:4-10) and be baptized (Acts 16:33-34).
I think Akin's response is a lot better than mine, which I guess is to be expected considering that he is an apologetics master and I'm just a Jimmy-Akin-wanna-be. It's not that my answer is wrong, it's just that his seems to have more clarity and simplicity. His also seems more Scriptural, since he actually synthesizes the answers to these questions when they are asked in Scripture.

If someone asked you how to go to heaven, what would you say? Leave a comment and let me know.

Pax Christi,


  1. "Repent, believe, and be baptized. Subsequently, maintain your relationship with Christ."

    I find a fundamental flaw in Jimmy Akin's response - to most minds it reads as if OSAS is in effect. I've found that the chain of thought that leads from "have faith" to "maintain your relationship with Christ" is too long for many questioners (especially those not at all formed in theology) and thereby makes it look like Catholics are doing something strange with Scripture. The second sentence vetoes OSAS and also ties very strongly and very immediately to the sacraments. While it's not so incredibly explicit in Scripture as "Repent, believe, and be baptised", there are few Protestants who don't tie "a personal relationship with Christ" to salvation, and it's not so hard to explain why it must be maintained for one to go to Heaven. Of course, you still run into those who deny the validity of infant baptism, but these two sentences provide a more than viable platform for slaughtering that faulty doctrine.

  2. Yes, your response is more complete, and really, I think that's what I was trying to do with my response: keep in mind both the present and future significance of salvation, to present salvation as a process and not simply a one-time event.

    Thank you for your comment. I think it is very helpful :D


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