Friday, August 24, 2007

Did She Go to Heaven?

"Such deep longing for God … repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal."

"Where is my faith? Even deep down … there is nothing but emptiness and darkness."

"What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true."
These are excerpts from the letters of Mother Teresa. The woman the world upheld as an example of faith lived in a secret world of doubt. For many people, especially Catholics, there is no doubt that Mother Teresa is in heaven. But she herself had her doubts ... strong, lifelong doubts. What should we think of all this?

I want to begin by expressing my admiration for this woman. While most people spend their lives seeking to help only themselves, she sincerely wanted to help others. Not only did she desire to help other people, she chose to help and serve the poorest of the poor. Her life was an example of service.

The sad reality, however, is that her acts of service did not get her to heaven and could not grant her assurance of faith on earth. This is the greatest error in Catholicism and all other man made religions. Living a good life, helping other people, giving to the poor, etc. will not save you. They will not grant you access to heaven. They will not boost your confidence in God.
Only one way leads to God. Only one truth grants assurance of faith. Only one life can be good enough to get you to heaven. He is Jesus Christ. I have assurance of my salvation and my faith, not because I'm a super-Christian or a great person (I'm neither!), but because I'm trusting in Christ's actions and not my own.
"But Mother Teresa was a Christian, too!" you might think. "In fact, she's the cream of the crop when it comes to Christianity." No. She was trusting in her works as the basis of her salvation. She could not understand why her good works never gave her access to God.
This is the difference between Catholicism (as well as other man made religions) and biblical Christianity. Mother Teresa labored to be in good standing with God. Christians know that Christ labored to put us in good standing with God. Mother Teresa trusted that her acts of kindness would take her to heaven. Christians know that Jesus' act of kindness on the Cross will take us to heaven.
Can you see the difference? If so, stop trusting in your goodness or your abilities and trust in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, the only one good enough to get you to heaven.
"This is the work God requires of you, that you believe in Jesus."
John 6:29


Monica said...

Good blog. How do you have time to write a blog? You should be holding Thomas or something important like that. Just kidding!

Anonymous said...


Great blog, but what I'm wondering about is are you equating doubt with unbelief? I believe that times of doubt are allowed, but it is in these times we are to "make our calling and election sure.

Josh Culbertson said...

Monica, we're learning that holding Thomas 24/7 is a sure way for us to be up all night! So to fight the temptation to pick up that bundle of joy, I blog.

Anonymous, thanks so much for the question. I realize my blog sounds like I'm equating doubt with unbelief. I guess it comes across that way because Mother Teresa did doubt; She lived (and died) in doubt. That, I think, is different from seasons of doubting.

Let's take Thomas (the biblical one) for an example. He doubted. But he overcame his doubt with faith. In John 20:28 he says, "My Lord and my God!" True faith in the Risen Christ overcomes those seasons of doubt, which - as you rightly noted - makes our calling and election SURE.

Chris said...

Long time no talk to. Hope Thomas hasn't kept you two too weary-eyed.

Anonymous said...

You beat Al Mohler to the punch.


Jugador de Futbol said...

greetings from Charleston!

The Lindholms said...

Your post left me with some questions:

On what information do you base the claim that Roman Catholics believe that good deeds equals salvation?

You also claim that Mother Teresa believed she would be saved because of her deeds?

How do you interpret a passage like Matthew 25:31-46 in this context?

Finally, it appears from your writing that you counterpoise Mother Teresa's life and the quote from John. But what does it mean to believe in Jesus?

Mother Teresa experienced a long period of what St. John of the Cross called the dark night of the soul, something I've heard many especially elderly priests talk about. rlp shares his dark night story on his blog, and I think you can draw parallels between even his "confessions" and Mother Teresa's.

As a young Christian, your period of doubt may be ahead of you. Perhaps you'll look back on this entry with different eyes then.


Josh Culbertson said...

Del! Good to hear from you. Hope all is well.

Thanks for the questions. I'll answer them in order.
#1- All of Roman Catholic doctrine equates good works with salvation. Mass saves you. Penance saves you. You cannot be saved apart from the sacraments. They teach that good works (aka sacraments) are effective for salvation, especially baptism.

#2- I recognize that criticizing Mother Teresa is like telling a group of children there is no Santa on Christmas Eve (not a way to make friends!). And, in all reality, my complaint lies with her religion more than it does with her. I made my comments based on the fact that she was a Catholic, meaning she trusted in the sacraments for salvation.

#3- In Matt. 25, Jesus is not teaching that you can get to heaven simply by caring for the poor. He's saying that those who love God will love and serve others. But take note that it is possible to serve others with impure motives (Matt. 6:22-23).

#4- Believing in Christ is fully placing your trust and hope in Him. It means not relying on my good works to save me. Being a good person, helping the poor, going to church, etc. will never bring us salvation. The life Jesus lived, He lived it for me. The death Jesus died, He died it for me. The resurrection Jesus accomplished, He accomplished it for me.
As the hymn says, "Nothing in my hands I bring. Simply to Thy Cross I cling."

I have to admit that when it comes to my disdain for Catholicism I fall in with a long line of Protestant Reformers... the Puritans, John Knox, and Martin Luther (the founder of your denomination.) I encourage you to read up on Luther and his writings concerning faith and Catholicism. The Lutheran denomination could use a little more Luther in it!
Thanks again for the comments. I sincerely appreciate the discussion.

Anna Gibson said...

I have no comments about Mother Teresa, but I would like to see more pictures of Thomas. More pictures!! Thank you!