We can’t work our way into Heaven, for finity is incapable of infinity. Indeed, we cannot achieve anything greater than ourselves, whatever; but only, rather, what is lesser than we. So, Heaven is given to us gratuitously. Our work consists only in accepting its invitation; in wu wei.
So then, there is a difference between interior holiness spirals and exterior holiness spirals. The former are done in secret, and in service of true spiritual ends, so as to accept the invitation of the Logos; whereas the latter are done publicly, and for purposes of social advantage. As essentially worldly, exterior holiness spirals partake the Arms Race to the Degenerate Bottom. They are motivated by the urge to be accepted and approved by the mob. So do they accept the conditions of the mob, and instantiate it.
The Pharisee is an agent of the mob.
Exterior holiness spirals are the sort that Jim rightly frets about. But their sort are not really holiness spirals. They are speciously holiness spirals. In fact, they are pharisaical. They are pretenses, shams – sound and fury signifying nothing. So are they instances of the Fall. They are spirals, not into holiness, but into falsehood, error, damnation.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Exterior holiness spirals are “holiness” spirals. This is to say no more than that they are profanity spirals.
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
So: Christian soteriology forestalls holiness spirals ab initio. This, however, only insofar as the Church in her preaching and in her teaching repudiates public pharisaical attestations of holiness as hypocritical manifestations in act of deep seated social anxiety.
The True Church is hidden. It is hidden in plain sight. It consists in the private – the exquisitely private – devotions of her members in their humble communions with the Most High, that no one ever hears about.
Do you hear something about the Church? That is not the Church you are hearing about. It is rather almost always a fossil of the Church that you hear about; a Potemkin Village of the Church; indeed, it is a profanation of the Church, and of her Gospel.
The True Church is in this world, but not of it. There is, then, no sort of possible news about her; for, she partakes eternity, and of eternity there can be nothing that is news. This is not to say that there is nothing new in eternity. On the contrary: eternity is newness as such, and the source of all that is new.