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Ask a Catholic: How Many Good Works Do You Need to Get into Heaven?


Ask a Catholic: How Many Good Works Do You Need to Get into Heaven?

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Commentary by Mitch Finley

How many good works do you need to get into heaven?

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Historically, one of the points of disagreement between Martin Luther and Roman Catholic leaders had to do with the connection between faith and good works. Luther insisted that salvation depended on faith alone, while Catholic teachers responded that one’s eternal destiny required good works. 

Luther actually said that if it was up to him the New Testament’s Letter of James — which clearly insists on the need to do good works — would be removed from the Scriptures.

All this went on during the 16th century, of course. 

Today, both the Catholic and Lutheran churches maintain that faith and good works are necessary — that faith leads to good works and good works nourish faith, i.e. individual and communal intimacy with Christ. And neither declares that “getting into heaven” depends on accomplishing a certain number of good works.

Indeed, there is no such thing as “enough” good works, just as faith requires a lifelong dedication to nourishing relationships human and divine.

For both Catholics and Lutherans, as well as for most other mainline Protestant traditions, Christianity is about loving intimacy with the Creator and with other people.

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Scott McIntyre

Since you state that “faith and good works are necessary”, but don’t mention what level of the two behaviors must exist, does that mean that the Catholic church doesn’t provide a ‘standard’ to it’s members of what ‘faith and good works’ must look like for them to be in heaven when they die?

Mitch Finley

The “standard” Catholics strive for does not take the form of a certain number of “good works”accomplished. Rather, it takes the form of a fundamental orientation away from self and toward caring service to others. May I suggest one or more of my books including The Seeker’s Guide to Being Catholic and/ or The Joy of Being Catholic. (Both are available on Amazon.)

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