In the beginning of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans he lays out a case about the desire for people to know God. He says that by nature they can know things about God and God has shown them. The verse in question is from Romans 1:19 which states, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (NRSV). We see that there is something else higher than ourselves, and we long to know what it is. In contrast with this desire to know something higher than ourselves, there is a desire to sin.
The “something higher” that I am referencing is God. Many of us have heard of God from an early age, and in different Christian assemblies. Though many have heard of God they fall into the error of thinking that Heaven is within reach simply by doing good. This is part of the equation. There is a synergy between us and God. Our natures are wounded from the fall, not totally destroyed as the Protestant reformers taught (Lubac 122). We realize in ourselves that we do things that we do not want to do. This is also echoed by St. Paul in Romans 7:15 where he writes, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (NRSV). We know that we are unable to do it on our own and that eventually brings us to the knowledge that we need God. We need his grace, his mercy, and his forgiveness. Without his supernatural grace it is impossible to enter the beatific vision. This grace is a gift that we need from God to enter into eternal life (STII, Q114, A2).
In a way the position I hold follows along with Henri De Lubac. This position was arrived at through my journey through a few Christian denominations and reinforced through study of church teaching. Man is not capable of heaven strictly on his own merit. Man is wounded, not depraved, and able to see that he needs the help of God. He uses his will to accept the grace needed to get to Heaven and live the Christian life.
Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall. Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1981. Accessed September 28, 2018.
Lubac, Henri De. A Brief Catechesis on Nature & Grace. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1984.