Okay, we want to clarify a few things before we start poking at the Pope’s comments from his morning Mass yesterday.
First, this entire post is being written by the combined efforts of a lifelong protestant and a lifelong catholic. Together, we are very familiar with the teachings and traditions of both the Protestant church and the Roman Catholic church.
Second, we understand that the Roman Catholic church does not believe that pope’s words are infallible, though it does believe that his formal teachings on doctrine are. These recent comments by Pope Francis do not fall into the realm of teachings guaranteed to be protected by the Holy Spirit.
Third, we like Pope Francis. The things he has done and taught so far have been a breath of fresh air compared to past leadership. However, this doesn’t excuse him from critique.
Okay, so if you haven’t heard, earlier this week the pope made comments concerning the salvation of everyone who does good works. It has taken us several days to work out our response to his statements. We’re not going to automatically put this on blast- frankly, we really like that idea. There have been some amazing people our lives who didn’t proclaim Jesus as God, and it would be enthralling to see them in heaven. And frankly, it’d be pretty cool to have a chance to have lunch with Gandhi at some point in eternity (though he’d definitely have a few thousand years of lunches booked with other fans)!
The church does need to stay rooted in scripture, though. So we’re going to look at some passages from the bible (which both Protestants and Catholics agree is infallible).
For the rest of this article, a series of questions will be presented by Eddie (resident Protestant), and answered by Collin (resident Catholic).
Eddie: What is your interpretation of Mark 10:18?
Collin: I remember hearing someone, in some capacity, try to use this verse as an proof Jesus isn’t God. That is not the case. Jesus does not say, “I am not good,” but he corrects a common misinterpretation about what good is. The person who he was talking to in this verse did not necessarily view Jesus as God, but rather as a teacher. Jesus said this, then, to clarify that man cannot be good apart from Himself. God is good, we are not. We can’t do good unless God is acting through us.
E: What is your interpretation of Romans 3:20-25?
C: It’s pretty clear that this verse is saying that redemption comes through faith alone. It also points out that before redemption, we are all on the same playing field in terms of our future. I do not think that everyone will be redeemed, but at any point in one’s life a person can turn to Jesus for redemption.
E: What does James 2:14-26 have to do with all of this?
C: We know that if we do not have faith, none of our works have any spiritual significance. As John 15:5 says, we can do nothing apart from Christ. Therefore, if we do not have faith in Him to allow Him to work through us, our works have no meaning. However, James is also clarifying in this passage that if we have Jesus living within us, we will do good works. We won’t do them to earn our salvation or to be good, but solely for the reason that faith in Christ drives us to action.
E: So how does the Bible say a person gets to heaven?
There are many scriptural examples, such as Matthew 5, that Jesus make the point that for us to enter eternity on our own merit we have to be better than the most righteous people. Simply put, we cannot be righteous enough to earn our way into heaven. Jesus is the gateway to eternal life, and the only way to enter it is through faith in Him. (John 14:6)
Collin’s concluding remarks:
To be honest, it is really a confusing quote. First, he talked about the morality of a person, then it seemed to shift into redemption. An atheist can turn to Jesus and be redeemed. I personally believe that Jesus died for all and extends His redemption to all, but not everyone will take it. Is that what he meant? That’s definitely not how many people are interpreting it, for sure. Also, an atheist can have a positive effect on the world. Atheists have the same physical capacity to fight to end oppression, for example. However, can we take what the Bible says and reconcile it to calling any person good or stating that anyone would get redemption on the solely on the basis that they are a human? I believe we answered that with the verses above.
- Pope Francis: God redeemed everyone, ‘not just Catholics’ (religionnews.com)
- Pope Francis says atheists can be good (guardian.co.uk)
- Pope Francis Stands Up for Atheists. (greatriversofhope.wordpress.com)
- Good Deeds, Not Belief In Christ, Required For Salvation Says New Pope (addictinginfo.org)
- Pope Francis Says Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed, Not Just Catholics (thevoiceofwarning.wordpress.com)
- Pope Francis calls on Christians to accept the good works atheists perform (rawstory.com)
- Atheists are good if they do good, Pope says (worldbulletin.net)
- Should We Care That Pope Francis Said That Atheists, Too, Can Be Redeemed? (patheos.com)