Many modern Catholic theologians, and clergy, assert the world’s population has a reasonable assumption of reaching heaven. This theological viewpoint by nature runs over quite quickly into how they interact with the world through preaching, parish life and politics. Although I am just a novice in understanding grand theological ideas; the assumption cannot be true due to conflicts with sacred scripture, Church Fathers teaching, and natural law.
We are created in the image of God and built to share in knowledge and the life of God (CCC356). Our capacity to do so however depends on each of us freely choosing to offer back to God all of the creation he provided to us (CCC358). The stain of original sin on our nature makes it impossible to do be completely intimate with God without constant reliance on our Lord’s sacraments and teaching (CCC 402-406). This results in the “hard battle…” of life in the real world where one who lives in ignorance of man’s wounded nature “gives rise to serious error in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals.”(CCC407)
Our Lord also clearly repeats this theme in scripture through his parables. In the parable of the sower we find all the seed is good. The seed just lands on different ground. The seed only thrives when it can find enriching soil and few external dangers. Some ground is easily fertile, some is fertile but full of thorns, and some falls on rocky infertile soil. The end result is two thirds of the seed yields very little healthy wheat. Meanwhile the fertile soil thrives with the fewest plant failures. The moral of the story becomes the minority of people grow into wheat the Father takes into heaven.
Now the great philosopher would reply, any man can have their own faith in God which generates hope. The same person could then use their intellect, and observations of nature to do good works of charity for others. So therefore the scripture, tradition and sacraments are not required for assumption into heaven for eternal life. So therefore reasonably people can assume God has a wide entrance to everyone to obtain heaven.
The philosopher would err however in his final assessment. By relying solely on our own intellect for decisions, we in fact prevent ourself from submitting our intellect to the will of God. This fact, in and of itself, means the person living alone is not ready to become one with God. No being ready to form complete union with almighty God prevents us from obtaining the gifts of heaven. Giving back everything to God includes submitting all of our intellect to the words and commands of Jesus for introspection.
The lone person also becomes one against the fallen world, with all of its physical and spiritual dangers. With no community in which to find refuge from hostile forces, the lone person must fight alone and will be unaided by the wisdom of others on their quest for heaven. So at the end of the lone journeyman’s life, it will not be a final chance to beg for God’s mercy (which those who submitted our lives before hand may possibly receive). It would be a complete act of mercy from God to grant mercy to someone who did not submit completely to his rule, and is still defiantly saying they are their own judge on matters of faith and morals.
We have scriptural evidence for this when Jesus himself tells Saul his work of persecuting christians hurt his body, and he needed to change. Saul becomes the Apostle Paul, and every day begged for mercy he did not deserve. Paul submitted his teachings, and service to the guidance of the other apostles in Jerusalem to insure their continuity with those of the remainder of Christ’s body. Paul celebrated the eucharist with the rest of the church as daily nourishment for his journey. Paul did this because the Body of Christ on earth was the church, and its sacraments is God’s life blood poured forth to the nourishment of the individuals in that body.
If men as great as St Paul and other church fathers realized how thin the path to heaven was, then the historical and theological evidence clearly comes down against a “reasonable assumption” for each person to reach heaven. It is time to recognize how this carefree attitude hurts moral decision making in our daily lives and the governance of our church. If we recognize the real rocky path towards heaven, maybe we’ll re-acquire the missionary zeal of those first christians once again.