Was it presumption for Sts. John and Paul to write they were heaven-bound?

Full Question

I have read that it is the sin of presumption to say that you know you are going to heaven, yet at the end of Paul’s life he wrote, “From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me” (2 Tim. 4:8) and John said, “I write these things to you so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). Were John and Paul committing sin when saying that they know they have eternal life?


While we do not have an absolute assurance of salvation, we do have a moral assurance. That is, we are assured of salvation provided we die in a state of grace—free of unforgiven mortal sin. With this in mind we can understand the confidence with which Paul and John write.

Presumption is different. It presumes salvation may be attained either (1) through one’s own abilities, or (2) through God without one’s own cooperation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains,

There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit). (CCC 2092)


1 comment

  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    “…we are assured of salvation provided we die in a state of grace—free of unforgiven mortal sin.” Note that the concept of mortal sin hadn’t even been developed at the time of these writers. The texts had not even been organized into a New Testament. There was no such thing as the trinity, mortal sins, sacraments, transubstantiation, or any other Catholic dogma – certainly not when Paul was writing.
    Note as well that most scholars consider the Timothy epistles to be forgeries. They were almost certainly written long after Paul’s death. There is little serious debate on this among scholars. It’s pretty well accepted that the Tim’s were not written by Paul.
    Paul thought the end of the world was imminent – he was wrong. Paul also thought Adam was a real person. He knew nothing of evolution. Paul was wrong. (Actually it can be strongly argued that for Paul, Adam was a mythical first man, just as Jesus was a celestial (mythical) demigod; and that all this sacrifice stuff took place in the celestial world, not on earth. It can be compellingly argued that there was no physical Jesus until the gospel of Mark came about. See Richard Carrier on the “Historicity of Jesus”).
    But the real issue is – why do we need to be saved in the first place? The RCC tells us that it’s because of original sin, and even those innocents who are aborted, miscarried, or stillborn are sent to Hell or a suburb in Limbo because the Church knows of no way to salvation outside of baptism, and these innocents committed the grievous crime of dying before being baptized. That’s a pretty vicious god who would do that, so this original sin thing is pretty important – the problem is that it can’t be defended now that we know about evolution. There was no Adam and Eve, no two-person DNA bottleneck according to the evidence. There were no talking snakes, no trees of temptation, no fall from grace, or original sin – there’s no reason we need to believe, say and do the right things in order to be saved as a result of ancient campfire tales.

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