Is It Sinful to Take a Minimalist View of Faith?

I have asked similar questions (i.e. is a Catholic required to discern God’s ‘particular’ will for their life?), but I guess the question can be simplified to this is: is it sinful for a Catholic to take a minimalist view of Faith (by this I mean a view geared towards obeying the rules and avoiding Hell…the minimum)? For me personally, because as I have discussed, I feel like my whole foray into faith (originally as a Protestant) was due to fear of Hell, why should I do anything beyond just trying to…well…avoid what I fear?

Basically, is it okay to take the stance of: I’ll live life on my own terms, but I will follow the rules. Isn’t that how we are in terms of secular/civil law: we do what we want, but there are certain boundaries we cannot cross without severe penalties.

For me, I wonder these things because the centerpiece of my faith has always been: how do I avoid Hell? That was what brought me to faith (back as an Evangelical Fundamentalist) and that is what has sustained my faith during the various nervous breakdowns that have accrued because of it (i.e related to Scrupulosity/OCD). Even though people tell me this is a gross misinterpretation of faith, it has always felt to me like God holds a gun to my head (caliber “eternal damnation”…sure beats a .45, doesn’t it?). Obviously, wisdom says you do what it takes to keep the person holding the gun from shooting, but why go to any great lengths to please them above and beyond the minimum required to avoid having your brains litter the carpet?

In truth, I think that if I ever came to the conclusion that the universalism heresy was true (fat chance of that happening, but I am speaking hypothetically to make a point), I would still believe, but no longer care that much anymore and probably most of my psychological issues I deal with (Scrupulosity) would disappear.

Dear Nsper7,

I too came from an Evangelical backround, and even there I really struggled with this conception of God sitting waiting to condemn people to hell. I am so thankful to have come to the Catholic understanding, which sits so much for healthily with what the Bible teaches about the nature of God. God is love.

Something which really helped me was hearing the traditional story of Lucifer’s fall:

Lucifer (aka. Satan or the Devil) is an Angel. Angels have intellects vastly superior to our own. This means that when an angel decides something, he has decided it forever and for eternity. Not because he lacks free will, but because when he made that decision, with his superior intellect understood fully what he was doing, and he could forsee everything that would happen as a consequence. Therefore he WOULD never change his decision. Humans only change their minds, in response to a new understanding, or new information etc.

Therefore Satan knows he has lost the battle with God; and he knew it when he took the decision to rebel against God. Yet that is the nature of pride. Even though he knew it would mean an eternity in hell (as a certain consequence of his actions), he did it anyway. God didn’t cast Lucifer from his presence, so much as lucifer cast himself out.

The only difference for human beings is that we have a lifetime to make the decision that lucifer made in an instant. Those who choose to love and serve God in this life will be given an eternity to do so in the next. But those who rebel against God, either by willful (ie. mortal) sin, or by repudiating Him (cf. Isaiah 45.9), then they will be given an eternity to continue to rebel. Jesus told his disciples that “he who hears you, hears me”. Why would anyone who chooses not to love and serve God in this life, be any more likely to in the next. God doesn’t cast people into hell, they cast themselves. This is the mystery of pride, and we cannot understand it fully.

Now, from what you have written, you don’t sound like someone who loves God, but like someone who fears God, in the most negative sense of the word. If you fear God, then it will be impossible for you to enter heaven; except, God willing, through a period of purgation, which purifies you of your fear and of your sinfulness. Fear, in the sense of being afraid, is always a bad thing. It is Satan who promotes fear. My brother, if you are ever to really get-to-know God, then you must get rid of this fear. And the way to do this is to meet with God in Prayer and in the Sacraments. St. Teresa of Avila wrote that “prayer is an intimate sharing between friends”, and this is the kind of relationship you need to have with God.

I would urge you, if at all possible, to become a Daily Mass goer - or, at least more frequently than just on Sundays. The reality of Jesus became so much more present to me, when I did this. Also, try and get to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Nothing will alleviate your fear of God more, than spending protracted time in his presence. And finally, time meditating on Jesus in the Gospel is an amazing way to meet the real Jesus.

If all this sounds too much, or too hard, ask Our Lady, and she will open a way for you.

The alternative is that you live the rest of your life in fear. But we run from the things we fear - and by “living your life on your own terms”, that is essentially what you are doing. You are trying to get as far as you feel that you can from the heart of God and the plan he has for your life. You may obtain salvation, but my friend, you are asking whether it is safe to live on the margin, and the answer is no: it is a very vulnerable place to be.

God Bless you,

I will keep you in my prayers.

Ps. if you are feeling that you would like to take up the challenge of getting - to - know the God of Love, then do seek out the help of an active, orthodox priest :slight_smile:

Hi, there.

I’m relatively new in the faith community, but I’ve learned quite a bit so far. Let me take a viewpoint from someone that didn’t grow up in any faith throughout most of his life, yet knew that God existed.

Throughout my life I couldn’t parse how or if Jesus was more of a folk story, but I could wrap my head easily around God’s existence from the moment I took interest in astronomy and space travel. The virtual infinity of it all–countless stars in our own galaxy and, looking farther, countless galaxies with their own infinities.

“Stability is I,” said the Lord–in my mind at the time. But, back then, I did tend to see God as a watchmaker, who built us, wound us up and left the machine tick-tocking, almost unattended.

Now, in the Catholic faith, I know God more, but most importantly see Jesus as a historical person, which made his mission and power as the Son all that more important, not only in my mind but in my heart. And while I’ve learned that being Catholic is a hard road, I have faith that God knows in my heart that I have tried my hardest and my best at what I do, failing but persevering. I follow the rules of the Church, yes, but it is the *spirit *of the moments where you help others or appreciate or contemplate things that show that your mind is truly in the Big Game, always aware that you are a pawn of the Lord. But, if you let the Lord’s will work through you (still a difficult thing to express or describe for me, but I *can *feel it), then you know that even a pawn can do mighty things.

Being Catholic helps in my conscience. It’s easier to know where I’ve stumbled and how to pick myself up, ask forgiveness and strive to be better. There is no absolute “win” in pleasing the Lord. I don’t think that’s possible, objectively. But I strive to show the Lord *how *I strive to do what is needed, especially matters involving His will, even if I fail miserably in a genuine attempt to do what’s needed.

The act of worrying about hell does not keep me from going there. But acting on the Lord’s will by way of the Church’s teachings **greatly **lessens any chance of my soul falling into eternal darkness. I pray I’m not being minimal in anything I do in the Lord’s service, and it seems you needn’t worry as much, either.

You have probably heard the Biblical verse “To whom much is given, much is required.” God expects people to give to Him what they can, based on their ability – but this ability can vary from person to person.

For someone like yourself, who is afflicted with OCD and scrupulosity, merely “avoiding hell” is a heroic effort, while for someone who is more emotionally stable and has more personal and financial resources, God may expect them to give more.

Maybe it would help if you thought of it this way. God is the epitome of everything that is good and wonderful. Everything on earth that you enjoy or love – your loved ones, beautiful places, books or movies or music you like, people you admire, activities you enjoy – is just a tiny glimpse of what the presence of God will be like.

Hell, on the other hand, is the state where you completely miss out on all that is good and everything that makes life worth living. The reason the Christian faith is so emphatic about avoiding hell and not commiting mortal sin is because we don’t want people to miss out on something very beautiful. It’s NOT as if God is some kind of psychopathic killer holding a gun to your head and threatening to “blow your brains out” if you don’t do what He says. Rather he is simply saying “Don’t miss out on what I have to give you!”

It seems the Church, even Christ Himself, allow such a minimalist view. Read the Catholic Encyclopedia article on the evangelical counsels and look at the Church’s interpretation of Christ’s dialogue with the rich young man:

  1. The rich young man asks Christ what must be done to inherit eternal life (avoid Hell/enter Heaven) and He answers: keep the commandments
  2. Jesus then adds that if he wants to be ‘perfect’, then the rich young man should sell all he has, give to the poor and follow Christ (the evangelical counsels), but the Church does not interpret this as being required for avoidance of Hell

If you were to take a minimalist view I would say the safest bet is to concentrate on a relationship with Jesus through prayer, reading the scripture, and doing your best to obey and follow him. Let all the other chips fall where they may because if you are truly following Jesus then that is all that counts.

The truth is that God loves you. He doesn’t want you to go to hell. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” (Eph 2:8).

The gospel is good news. It is good news because we are not only justified because of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice on the cross but because we become partakers in the divine nature. We embark on a course in life led by the Spirit of God. We can only truly be fulfilled in this life if we take that journey with God and do what he wants us to do. For we have been created in Christ Jesus for a purpose, to do the works he has prepared in advance. Anything short of that is just not going to fulfill you (life).

Fear of going to hell can sometimes motivate us to repent if we have sin in our lives. But God doesn’t want us to stay there in fear. He wants us to grow and mature in love. For God is a Father and we are his children through the Spirit of Adoption. We are part of the sonship of Christ. We inherited Christ’s own sonship. That means we who are in Christ are part of a heavenly family. Through prayer and obedience we can experience that relationship with our heavenly family. And, It is through serving others that we can be part of the family here on earth.

Try to understand that God really does love you, and isn’t holding a gun to your head…

In my opinion taking the “minimalist view” is completely missing the point. If the only reason you do good is to avoid hell, and you only do enough good to avoid hell, you really should evaluate your priorities and how you live your life.

The Goodness of God.
The mercy of God, hidden in the Blessed Sacrament, the voice of the Lord who speaks to us from the throne of mercy: Come to Me, all of you.

Conversation of the Merciful God with a Sinful Soul.
Jesus: Be not afraid of your Savior, O sinful soul. I make the first move to come to you, for I know that by yourself you are unable to lift yourself to me. Child, do not run away from your Father; be willing to talk openly with Your God of mercy who wants to speak words of pardon and lavish his graces on you. How dear your soul is to Me! I have inscribed your name upon My hand; you are engraved as a deep wound in My Heart.

Soul: Lord I hear Your voice calling me to turn back from the path of sin, but I have neither the strength nor the courage to do so.

Jesus: I am your strength, I will help you in the struggle.

Soul: Lord I recognize Your holiness and I fear You.

Jesus: My child, do you fear the God of mercy? My holiness does not prevent Me from being merciful. Behold. for you I have established a throne of mercy on earth - the tabernacle - and from this throne I desire to enter into your heart. I am not surrounded by a retinue of guards. You can come to Me at any moment, at any time; I want to speak to you and desire to grant you grace.

Soul: Lord, I doubt that You will pardon my numerous sins; my misery fills me with fright.

Jesus: My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire World. Who can measure the extent of my goodness? For you I descended from heaven to earth; for you I allowed Myself to be nailed to the Cross; for you I let My Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come then, with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart. Your misery has disappeared in the depths of My mercy. Do not argue with Me about your wretchedness. You will give me pleasure if you hand over to Me all your troubles and griefs. I shall heap upon you the treasures of My grace.

Soul: You have conquered, O Lord, my stony heart with Your goodness. In trust and humility I approach the tribunal of Your mercy, where You yourself absolve me by the hand of your representative. O Lord, I feel Your grace and Your peace filling my poor soul. I feel overwhelmed by Your mercy, O Lord. You forgive me, which is more than I dared to hope for or could imagine. Your goodness surpasses all my desires. And now, filled with gratitude for so many graces, I invite You to my heart. I wandered, like a prodigal child gone astray; but You did not cease to be my Father. Increase Your mercy toward me, for You see how weak I am.

Jesus: Child, speak no more of your misery; it is already forgotten. Listen, My child, to what I desire to tell you. Come close to My wounds and draw from the Fountain of Life whatever your heart desires. Drink copiously from the Fountain of Life and you will not weary on your journey. Look at the splendors of My mercy and do not fear the enemies of your salvation. Glorify My mercy.

Conversation of the Merciful God with a Despairing Soul.

Jesus: O soul steeped in darkness, do not despair. All is not yet lost. Come and confide in your God, who is love and mercy.

But the soul, deaf even to this appeal, wraps itself in darkness.

Jesus calls out again: My child, listen to the voice of your merciful Father.
In the soul arises this reply, “For me there is no mercy,” and it falls into greater darkness, a despair which is a foretaste of hell and makes it unable to draw near to God.

Jesus calls to the souls a third time, but the soul remains deaf and blind, hardened and despairing. Then the mercy of God begins to exert itself, and, without any co-operation from the soul, God grants it final grace. If this too is spurned, God will leave the soul in this self chosen disposition for eternity. This grace emerges from the merciful Heart of Jesus and gives the soul a special light by means of which the soul begins to understand God’s effort; but conversion depends on its own will. The soul knows that this, for her, is final grace and, should it show even a flicker of good will, the mercy of God will accomplish the rest.

My omnipotent mercy is active here. Happy the soul that takes advantage of this grace.

Jesus: What joy fills My Heart when you return to Me. Because you are weak, I take you in My arms and carry you to the home of My Father.

Soul: (as if awakening, asks fearfully): Is it possible that there is yet mercy for me?

Jesus: There is, My child. You have a special claim on My mercy. Let it act in your poor soul; let the rays of grace enter your soul; they bring with them light, warmth, and life.

Soul: But fear fills me at the thought of my sins, and this terrible fear moves me to doubt Your goodness.

Jesus: My child, all your sins have not wounded My Heart as painfully as your present lack of trust does - that after so many efforts of My love and mercy, you should still doubt My goodness.

Soul: O Lord, save me yourself, for I perish. Be my Savior. O Lord, I am unable to say anything more; my pitiful heart is torn asunder; but You, O Lord…

Jesus does not let the soul finish but, raising it from the ground, from the depths of its misery, he leads it into the recesses of His Heart where all its sins disappear instantly, consumed by the flames of love.

Jesus: Here, soul, are all the treasures of My Heart. Take everything you need from it.
Soul: O Lord, I am inundated with Your grace. I sense that a new life has entered into me and, above all, I feel Your love in my heart. That is enough for me. O Lord, I will glorify the omnipotence of Your mercy for all eternity. Encouraged by Your goodness, I will confide to You all the sorrows of my heart.

Jesus: Tell Me all, My child, hide nothing from Me because My loving Heart, the Heart of Your Best Friend is listening to you.

Soul: O Lord, now I see all my ingratitude and Your goodness. You were pursuing me with Your grace, while I was frustrating Your benevolence. I see that I deserve the depths of hell for spurning Your graces.

Jesus (interrupting): Do not be absorbed in your misery - you are still too weak to speak of it - but, rather, gaze on My Heart filled with goodness, and be imbued with My sentiments. Strive for meekness and humility; be merciful to others, as I am to you; and, when you feel your strength failing, if you come to the fountain of mercy to fortify your soul, you will not grow weary on your journey.

Soul: Now I understand Your mercy, which protects me and like a brilliant star, leads me into the home of my Father, protecting me from all the horrors of hell that I have deserved, not once, but a thousand times. O Lord, eternity will hardly suffice for me to give due praise to Your unfathomable mercy and Your compassion for me.

A fear of hell can be a good thing, but it is not the only thing and it should definitely not be the biggest thing in your heart.

I mean, when I am faced with a choice of doing something wrong, what pops into my head is, “I do want to go to hell, so I am not going to do this.”

I am hoping someday that I will say to myself, “God would not want me to do this”, or even better “This action would offend God, so I will not do it.” These two thoughts are thoughts of love, the first being God’s love for me, the second my love for God.

All three are okay, but the last one seems the best. I mean the choice is easy, either live each day in fear or live each day trying to love God.

Also note, that everyone is different. Their is no “right” way to follow Christ. You need to search your own heart and decide how you can best follow God’s commands.

Someone mentioned the rich man, but my bible tells it differently:

After the man said he followed the Commandments, "Then, looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” Mark 10:21

To me, this is the opposite of a minimalist view, this is like the maximum.

A better verse to justify a minimalist view would be when Jesus said to love God and love your neighbor. But if you read the entire bible, you would also know that loving your neighbor is harder than it first seems.

After the man said he followed the Commandments, "Then, looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” Mark 10:21

Well, the Gospel of St. Matthew records it as such:

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21, RSV).

And this is the Church’s interpretation (according to the the Catholic Encyclopedia article on the Evangelical Counsels) it seems:

  1. Keeping the Commandments=inheriting eternal life (Salvation)
  2. Keeping the Evangelical Counsels=Christian perfection

Conversation of the Merciful God with a Sinful Soul.

I think I have heard of that. Was that one of the revelations to St. Maria Faustina?

But what about other writings of Saints, such as St. Leonard of Port-Maurice’s The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved?

How does one mesh the words of St. Leonard and St. Maria Faustina?

So, how does one mesh the words of St. Maria Faustina with say St. Leonard of Port-Maurice or any of the other Saints who really make it clear that it is quite ‘easy’ to go to Hell.

You don’t have to. They’re both private revelations, meant specifically for the people who received them. You have no obligation to believe them. You may believe either one, neither or both.


Technically, St. Leonard’s Sermon is just that, a sermon (although he makes mention of private revelations other Saints received).

In general, how are we supposed to treat private revelations that have been approved by the Church? It would seem kind of foolish, to me at least, to reject what the Church has deemed acceptable for belief by the faithful.

Much of our knowledge and understanding of Mother Mary (outside of her discussion in Scripture and the Church’s dogmatic declarations regarding her) and the message of many of the Saints comes through private revelation.

I don’t know, that’s just my opinion and it kind of confuses me a little since we say private revelations have been approved by the Church, but are not required.

In other words, if someone starts rejecting approved private revelations, one misses out on much of the beauty and the graces/sacramentals offered through Our Mother and the Saints and the Church itself.

Yes, but that decision is completely up to you. You have freedom to accept or reject them. Only those who received them directly are obliged to believe them once they are recognized as legitimate.


Someone who follows the rules, tries to avoid getting arrested and does nothing more will never win any “Citizen of the Year” awards. The same applies to our spiritual life. Also if your goal is to do just enough to avoid Hell, won’t you constantly worry that you are not doing enough? What if God grades on a curve, and expects more from those who have more?

Rather than approaching it in the negative way of “getting a passing grade” and following just the minimum requirements, take the positive approach. Ask yourself: “What do I need to do to live my life according to the Gospel of Jesus? Is my life directed toward Him, or toward avoiding punishment?”

If you do that and truly do your best to follow His commandments, you won’t sweat the small stuff because you are on track with the “big stuff”. Rather than feel the ominous approach of retribution for any mis-steps you make, you will feel the peace that God instills in those who do their best to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

I pray that you will find the Way and His peace.

Re: St. Leonard’s sermon - it’s things like that which strengthen my resolve to leave the Catholic Church. Such a sad, degraded view of God’s creation. Such a sad, joyless faith.