What was he thinking?

Update: From the “this is awkward” category, the Vatican clarified that not only do they believe that atheists go to Hell, but so does anyone outside the Catholic church.

So the Pope is taking a Second look at letting atheists into heaven?

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

The Pope made one of two mistakes. The first is really bad, the second is off-the-charts bad.

1. He was very sloppy in his use of “redeemed.” If he didn’t mean it in terms of eternal salvation, then he mislead a lot of people.  He was basically channeling Major Burns from the M*A*S*H TV show and saying, “It’s nice to be nice to the nice.”  It could logically lead to a conversation like this:

Pope: You, my atheist friend, have been redeemed by God with the blood of Christ!  Let’s do good works together.

Atheist: Huh?  You mean that even though I don’t trust in Jesus and don’t even think God exists that I’ll spend eternity in Heaven with him with no punishment for my alleged sins?

Pope: Oh, no, my bad — you are still going to spend eternity in Hell as punishment for your sins.  But in the mean time we’ll do a few good deeds together and your torment in Hell will be slightly less unpleasant!  When I said “redeemed by the blood of Christ” I meant _________. [Sorry, this blogger can’t even think of a pretend way to finish that sentence.]

2. He ignores that the New Testament has over 100 passages noting that Jesus is the only way to salvation (it isn’t just John 14:6). That isn’t what makes it true, of course. His resurrection does that. But it does mean to claim to be a Christian means that you should hold that view. Anything else would be silly.

I don’t expect good theology from him (OK, more specifically, I expect bad theology from him), but I do like his pro-life and pro-family views.  But once again he fails on the salvation issue.

The Reformation happened for a reason. Actually, 95 of them. And they haven’t changed.

—-

Update: More from the Pope’s speech.

“They complain,” the Pope said in his homily, because they say, “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” And Jesus corrects them: “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.” The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of ​​possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” “This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.” Pope Francis said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”

He appears to be twisting the passage about people casting out demons in Jesus’ name (Luke 9). But that wasn’t some random good deed that atheists might do (even though it wouldn’t be truly good if done out of self-interest). They were <em>casting out demons in Jesus’ name</em>. He implies that atheists are regularly doing that!  I shouldn’t be surprised when people like him can’t get the simplest passages right.

And then there is this:

Today is [the feast of] Santa Rita, Patron Saint of impossible things – but this seems impossible: let us ask of her this grace, this grace that all, all, all people would do good and that we would encounter one another in this work, which is a work of creation, like the creation of the Father. A work of the family, because we are all children of God, all of us, all of us! And God loves us, all of us! May Santa Rita grant us this grace, which seems almost impossible.

We are not all “children of God.” John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

And the article wraps up with him praying to a dead person.  In an odd way, I appreciate that the guy who is allegedly God’s #1 man here on earth is so clearly and profoundly anti-biblical.  It removes any doubt about core Catholic doctrines being false — at least for those who actually read the Bible.

41 thoughts on “What was he thinking?”

  1. The Catholic Church does not hold to Limited Atonement. That’s all I read into the above statement. But Unlimited Atonement is not the same thing as universalism. But you know all that. 🙂

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    1. I didn’t think it was possible, but that is even worse!

      “They complain,” the Pope said in his homily, because they say, “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” And Jesus corrects them: “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.” The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of ​​possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” “This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.” Pope Francis said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”:

      He appears to be twisting the passage about people casting out demons in Jesus’ name (Luke 9). But that wasn’t some random good deed that atheists might do (even though it wouldn’t be truly good if done out of self-interest). They were casting out demons in Jesus’ name. I shouldn’t be surprised when people like him can’t get the simplest passages right.

      And then there is this:

      “Today is [the feast of] Santa Rita, Patron Saint of impossible things – but this seems impossible: let us ask of her this grace, this grace that all, all, all people would do good and that we would encounter one another in this work, which is a work of creation, like the creation of the Father. A work of the family, because we are all children of God, all of us, all of us! And God loves us, all of us! May Santa Rita grant us this grace, which seems almost impossible.

      We are not all “children of God.” John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

      And the article wraps up with him praying to a dead person!

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      1. He’s not twisting Luke 9. He’s using it as an example of intolerance. Even someone who was not part of Jesus’s inner circle could do good works. The application for Francis’s audience is that even non-Catholics can do good. And the application for Protestants is that even non-Protestants can do good.

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      2. I missed the part in the article where the atheists were casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Good for them! 😉

        Luke 9:49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”

        So would the Pope conclude that atheists and people of other religions are for us just because they do something nice?

        I find it completely un-newsworthy for someone to claim that anyone can do good, when “good” is defined as things like helping little old ladies across the street. Yes, I’d rather them do that than something evil, just like I thank God for disobedient or uninformed Muslims who don’t follow the dictates of the Koran. But that isn’t what Luke 9 was about, and it wasn’t the message of the Pope (or if it was, as I noted in the post, then he used spectacularly misleading language to state the obvious).

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      3. “So would the Pope conclude that atheists and people of other religions are for us just because they do something nice?”

        No, I don’t think he would. But he might argue that even atheists might have common ground with us in certain “good works” and when they do we can work with them. Don’t you think that was the point of his message? It certainly wasn’t a soteriological message Francis was trying to make. It may be an “unnewsworthy” story but it wasn’t the Vatican that tried to make this into a big news story.

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      4. No, I don’t think that was the point of his message. Why would he use terms like “redeemed” if it wasn’t soteriological? And if it was the point of his message, then again I’ll note how horribly sloppy his language was. As I added to the post, he was basically channeling Major Burns from the M*A*S*H TV show and saying, “It’s nice to be nice to the nice.” He would have been stating the obvious. Who wouldn’t want others to meet their definition of “good?” And if he was making an attempt to be unequally yoked then that would be bad, too.

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    1. Yes, you are right. But I’ve seen theological Liberal pastors and lay people mangle it and insist that Jesus was just talking to the disciples — i.e., He was the only way for the disciples but not everyone else. Ridiculous, I know, which is why I love pointing out to them that they have another 100+ verses left to rationalize away. They know so little of the Bible that they think John 14:6 is the only verse they have to ignore.

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  2. I think this is what happens when the Catholic Church focuses so much on doing good rather than having true beliefs. It’s understandable to me that their leader would make mistakes when talking about the Bible. I don’t think that’s the focus of his organization. They are more focused on helping people than true beliefs about God.

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    1. “Doing good” does not supersede “true beliefs” in Catholic doctrine. And neither does true beliefs make doing good irrelevant as some Protestants act. I take Francis’s point to be that even someone with false beliefs–like an atheist–can do good, and we can and should work together with them to accomplish good.

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  3. Being good, good acts, good works is a result of one’s Faith. It’s what happens after you put your faith and trust in Christ. Christ did all the work on the cross once for all. Christ’s shed blood was and IS enough. We were reconciled through Him. John 14:6 says that Jesus answered, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are god’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Being good and doing good are only part of the equation. We can’t do any of it without Jesus. Acts 16:31 says believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. Most of us already know what John 3:16 says. I’m not Catholic and that’s okay. I do follow the happenings in the Catholic Church because of my Greek Orthodox background. I’m not a Greek Orthodox either. I am disappointed in the Pope’s words but not shocked. After all, he is just a man. He is not God. I wish more people would read what God has to say. Start in the Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. Continue on in the New Testament. Stop getting your marching orders from men and see what God’s Word has to say. John 1:1 will encourage you to read your bible. If the language is too complex go for the NIV or ESV.

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  4. Your blog is excellent. I learn a lot from you. Thanks for your good work. Regarding Pope Francis’ remarks, Jimmy Akin and Scott Hahn weighed in with clarifications that made me feel better about the whole affair, which I posted at Quiner’s Diner. Keep up the good work.

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  5. Righteousness Through Faith

    21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

    27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

    Read Romans Chapter 3 – What I copied is only part of it.

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  6. The Pope’s comments could logically lead to a conversation like this:

    Pope: You, my atheist friend, have been redeemed by God with the blood of Christ! Let’s do good works together.
    Atheist: Huh? You mean that even though I don’t trust in Jesus and don’t even think God exists that I’ll spend eternity in Heaven with him with no punishment for my alleged sins?
    Pope: Oh, no, my bad — you are still going to spend eternity in Hell as punishment for your sins. But in the mean time we’ll do a few good deeds together and your torment in Hell will be slightly less unpleasant! When I said “redeemed” I meant _____. [Sorry, this blogger can’t even think of a pretend way to finish that sentence.]

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    1. I’ll help finish it for you. 🙂

      “When I said redeemed I meant that Christ died for the sins of everyone, even you atheists. But when I say redeemed I do not mean justified, because to be justified you must have faith. Not all who have been redeemed have been or will be justified. Christ’s sacrifice redeemed the sins of everyone, but you must still have faith and persevere in that faith to be declared righteous.”

      As I said in my first reply, Catholics like Arminians do not believe in Limited Atonement, they believe in Unlimited Atonement. (I’m deliberately using Protestant terminology here; I wouldn’t use such terminology with a Catholic, but maybe with an Arminian.) In Catholic doctrine Redemption = Atonement, but Atonement does not equal Justification or Salvation.

      Here’s another article that addresses your issues head on. You may not agree with Catholic theology (I don’t either) but we need to represent it fairly. Francis was not being sloppy with his terminology, for a Catholic. The Catholic understanding of redeemed is different from the Protestant understanding, that’s all.

      http://www.catholic.org/hf/faith/story.php?id=51106

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    1. I thought it was as error-filled as the Pope’s comments.

      It seems as if we want to be rewarded, not just with our own salvation, but most especially with other people’s damnation—just like the workers hired in the first hour. That is very human, but the Lord’s parable is particularly meant to make us quite aware of how profoundly un-Christian it is at the same time.

      That is full of bad theology. Our salvation isn’t a reward, and we obviously don’t want to keep it from others — that’s why we love to share the Good News! That parable wasn’t about people saved without believing in Jesus. It was about people meeting the owner’s terms and conditions at different times. Whether it is trusting in Jesus at a young age or on a deathbed — or being Jew or Gentile before trusting in Jesus — it is all good.

      That author thinks that atheists are saved without knowing it, and that is un-biblical.

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  7. It is not unbiblical but anti-biblical. And Erich, re your:
    ” Francis was not being sloppy with his terminology, for a Catholic. The Catholic understanding of redeemed is different from the Protestant understanding, that’s all.’

    Do you think God grades apostasy on a curve?

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    1. Phoebe, my point is that the Catholic Church does not use the term “redeemed” the same way Protestants use it. The Catholic Church uses the term “redeemed” the same way Protestants use the term “atonement”. Protestants tend to use the term “redeemed” to mean “justified”. So when Francis says atheists have been redeemed he is NOT saying they have been justified, that would be nonsense. He is saying Christ atoned for their sins, which is not what Calvinists/Reformed theology says, but it is what Arminians (who are Protestant) believe … although I do not think Arminians do not use the term “redeemed” in this way, though I’m not entirely sure.

      Calvinists/Reformed theologians do not agree with Catholics or Arminians that Christ’s atonement was universal; they argue that atonement is limited (thus the “L” in TULIP). But limited vs. unlimited atonement is not an orthodox vs. unorthodox argument, which is why this has nothing to do with grading apostasy on a curve.

      Please read this article. I posted it above, but I’m not sure anyone has read it yet. It was written by a Catholic in an attempt to correct the misunderstandings of what Francis said.

      http://www.catholic.org/hf/faith/story.php?id=51106

      Greenwell, the author, says, for example, “There is a huge difference between redemption and justification, a justification which, if finally preserved in (itself a grace), leads to salvation. Pope Francis nowhere suggested that the atheist was justified, or saved for that matter, by being an atheist or by ‘doing good.'” And he goes on to explain this even further.

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      1. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? One the principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith. For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Romans 3:27-28 (Justification)

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      2. Try to clean up the Pope’s mess if you want to, Erich. All I can say is that anyone who thinks the Calvinist precept of Limited Atonement (i.e., that Christ came to earth to take out of the world “a people for His name”, those “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world”, those–per the angel’s announcement of His birth in Luke 2–“…on whom [God’s] favor rests”) is somehow “mean” & “exclusivist”, should ponder the Catholic/Arminian alternative: that God paid the ghastly price to redeem to Himself all men, and was then either unable or unwilling to save more than (Matt.7:13,14) a “few”. 🙂

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      3. Phoebe, I am not attacking the doctrine of Limited Atonement. I personally believe this issue is one where both doctrines (Limited and Unlimited Atonement) are within the realm of orthodoxy. If you take that to be an attack on Limited Atonement, I can’t help you.

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      4. No, I don’t consider this “an attack on Limited Atonemen”t; I consider it an attack on the Bible. Nor or do I give a hill of beans about what’s “in the realm of orthodoxy”. Who decides what’s “orthodox”, anyway? Seems to be the RCC.

        “The earliest recorded use of the term “orthodox” is in the Codex Iustinianus of 529-534 AD.”
        (Wikipedia, “Orthodoxy”)

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    1. Depends who you ask and how you ask it. They used to say everyone that wasn’t Catholic did, and that is what the latest announcement seems to say. But they hedge sometimes like the Pope did.

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    2. Yes. Though Vatican II sort of buried it in squid ink, the RCC has “the only means of saving grace”. (I somewhere have the documentation for that but don’t have time to dig it up.)

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  8. Does their Catechism support that ideology and if so which section of the Catechism do I find this teaching in? I found an online version of it and plan to read through it.

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  9. To give the man the benefit of the doubt, one has to conclude that he or the Vatican’s news service is simply not very careful in accurately relaying what the Pope believes, but it’s hard to believe that, in the era of mass media, the cardinals would elect such a sloppy communicator as Pope.

    I would have loved to have seen a transcript of his comments and not just a summary from the Vatican, but even what was quoted does point far beyond the claim that Christ died for the sins of the world: the Lord has redeemed “all of us, all of us” with Christ’s blood, which makes us “children of God of the first class” — we are all God’s children, “all of us, all of us.”

    (As an aside, I don’t believe Christ ever taught the universal brotherhood of man: those who obey Him are His family, and so we should be careful invoking Matthew 25:40 to teach a moral duty toward the least of humanity, when the passage could be about how we treat the least of our Chrstian brothers.)

    And the Pope claims that, “To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy,” which should come as a shock to anyone who accepts as divine writ Genesis 9:6.

    The Bible does teach that all of us are capable of some amount of good — those “who are evil know how to give good gifts to [their] children” (Mt 7:11), which is one reason I believe that universal depravity infects all aspects of our lives, but not to the very utmost — but it’s sheer utopianism to believe that the universal command to do good implies a capacity to obey, which would lead to world peace. Romans 1-3 contradicts the former, and Matthew 24:6 contradicts the latter.

    In reaching out to atheists, one can — and I believe the Pope did — overemphasize the common ground to the detriment of what Christianity uniquely offers.

    Yes, we ought to affirm that we are all made in God’s image, but we should still make clear that sin has marred that image in all of us.

    Yes, we all are cognizant of the moral law, however dimly, but atheism is at a loss in explaining the moral law (rather than merely explaining it away), and we are incapable of obeying the moral law without being born again.

    It’s hard to see where a radical pseudo-Christian like Katherine Jefferts Schori would object to the muddled comments that the Vatican republished, and that’s not a good thing at all.

    The only positive about all this is that it does show us that the current pontiff might not be a rigorous defender of orthodoxy.

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