by Brian Stone
Have you ever had problems explaining how the notion “only good people go to heaven” is logically and biblically incorrect? In his new book, How Good Is Good Enough?, Andy Stanley points out, “Smart, educated, accomplished men and women from just about every nation on earth are banking their eternities on a theory that doesn’t hold up under even the slightest scrutiny.”1
In this short and easy to read book, Stanley shows the logical problem with the assumption that “good people go to heaven.” He focuses on lack of assurance, pointing out that those who hold this view will never be able to know for sure that they have eternal life. He accomplishes this by asking questions like: What is good?, Who defines it?, What does it look like?, How do I know?, and When will I know? By interacting with common answers, he shows how they are logically fallible.
Stanley then demonstrates specifically how this view is not consistent with the teachings of Christ Himself. He states, “Perhaps the most emotionally perplexing problem with the good people go to heaven view is that it contradicts the teachings of Jesus Christ.”2 Andy explains how to properly understand one’s need for a Savior. He explains that God does not give us what we deserve. If He did, we would all be separated from Him forever. He also shows what the NT and Jesus really teach, “If you are looking for a God who lets good people into heaven, stay away from the New Testament. And by all means avoid the teachings of Jesus.”3
In part two of his book Stanley explains the alternative view, “…forgiven people go to heaven. And forgiveness is made possible by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.”4 He first gives some basic apologetic arguments to defend the Christian faith—using the Lord, liar, lunatic argument made popular by C.S. Lewis. He then shows how Scripture is the most reliable ancient manuscript in the world; the OT Law leads people to Jesus; the Bible teaches that God demands a perfect sacrificial payment for human sin; and how Jesus paid the price in full to provide a way for all people to be saved. He does this in a way that is easy to understand and recall, equipping you with the necessary tools for sharing the grace of God with others.
To refute the most popular argument for the good people go to heaven view—that it is the only fair way for God to determine who gets into heaven and God has to be fair—he shows that “fairness does not determine truth”5 and Christianity focuses on forgiveness based on grace and mercy, not fairness. He goes on to state, “The God of Christianity never claims to be fair. He goes beyond fair. The Bible teaches that he decided not to give us what we deserve—that’s mercy. In addition, God decided to give us exactly what we don’t deserve—we call that grace.”6
Ultimately Stanley concludes, “The reason good people don’t go to heaven is that there aren’t any good people. There are only sinners.”7 In regard to fairness he asks the question, “What could be fairer than this? Everybody is welcome. Everybody gets in the same way. Everybody can meet the requirement. All three of these statements are supported by one of the most often quoted verses in the New Testament: John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ ‘Whoever’ means anyone who is willing. Believing in him is the only requirement.”8 This is clarity all grace people would appreciate!
Andy Stanley has given us a great tool for evangelism. It’s written with the unbelieving skeptic in mind. It is brief and simple as well as easy to remember and understand, yet the arguments are compelling, convincing, persuasive, and most importantly true. It has the truth of man’s need, the clarity of grace, the necessity of faith, the person of Christ, and the clear position of Scripture. The book ends with the message that matters most, “that you believe Jesus is who he claimed to be and that you are no longer trusting in what you have done, or will do, to get you into heaven…The good news is that good people don’t go to heaven—forgiven people do. And if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ as your savior, you are one of those forgiven people!”9