HOW Pope Francis can say that atheists can go to heaven

page: 1
7
<<   2 >>

log in

join

posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 12:43 PM
link   
Pope Francis has made some provocative statements in the short time that he has been leading the Roman Catholic church, but none is probably drawing as much consternation as his recent remarks regarding whether atheists can go to heaven. Some people view this as "throwing Christianity under the bus", others recognize it as a conciliatory message, and most people probably are wondering what the heck is up with this guy.

I'll try and explain, both to my fellow Christians, and to those who are not believers, what he meant and why it is true -- people who don't believe in God can go to heaven, which is supported in scripture.

Three critical points to start with.

First, Pope Francis did not say that people cannot be saved without Christ, or without the church. They are both necessary, though we can bicker about what "the church" means -- for me, it doesn't mean the Roman Catholic church.

Second, Pope Francis is not advocating "Universal Salvation", a growing belief among many Protestants and some Catholics, that in the end, God saves everyone. That's not what he's talking about here.

Third, nothing that Pope Francis has said is contrary to the Catechism of the Roman Catholic church (the official teaching of the church) and it's nothing that Pope Benedict or Pope John Paul II couldn't have said, if they had chosen to.

 


To begin, we have to look at what the Pope actually said. The full document, a letter to the editor of an Italian newspaper, may be read here, but the salient bit is this:


You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.

In essence, Pope Francis is saying that, ultimately, it is up to God whom he saves and who he does not. We trust that God's mercy reflects some justice, that this decision is not made capriciously (as some interpretations of Calvinism teach,) and so we have to think about on what that decision might hinge.

This morning, my United Methodist devotional (for those who don't know me, I'm a Protestant-leaning Roman Catholic, recently converted from a Catholic-leaning Protestant, so I kind of have a foot in both camps,) included this passage, from the book of Matthew, the parable of the Goats and Sheep:


When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matthew 25:31-46 NIV)

Right there, we can see, scripturally, a basis for what Pope Francis is saying -- it doesn't say "All of these people who professed belief get in, and all these people who didn't are excluded", it says that, irrespective of anything else, loving your fellow man, doing good, is what will separate the goats from the sheep.

One key point that Catholics differ from Protestants on is this -- we believe that there are Christians in hell. In the passage above, the condemned also call Jesus "Lord", but they are to be condemned because they were not charitable, which in the religious sense means loving, not simply donating money.

This is also supported in another critical passage of Matthew:


“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV)

 


So, if we recognize that these passages in Matthew indicate that simply professing belief in God, and doing some acts in his name are not sufficient for salvation, where does that leave us? If Christians who do some amount of good are not saved, how can non-believers who do good be saved?

Again, we turn to scripture:


Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40 NIV)

This is Jesus' "Executive Summary" of everything related to our relationship with God and our salvation. You don't have to worry the details if you follow these two commandments -- how can you envy your neighbour's possessions, lie to him or sleep with his wife if you are loving him as yourself? And in a separate parable, Christ teaches that everyone is your neighbour, not just the guy up the street or your friends, it is everyone. This makes it very difficult to follow, because it means that you have to love people that are despicable as you love yourself -- don't like President Obama or the leader of Syria or Adolf Hitler? Doesn't matter, to follow Christ, you have to love them as yourself, and that's what sets you aside from the goats.

The good news is that if you follow the first commandment there, the second becomes easier, because God helps you to love other people, even when you disagree with them or when they treat you shabbily.

(continued)




posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 12:43 PM
link   
And here's where the atheist bit comes in, because the obvious problem of reconciling Pope Francis' message with Matthew 22:34-40 is that an atheist doesn't even believe in God, how can they love him? For that answer, we have to look to theology and philosophy.

One foundational basis for Christianity is that God is fundamentally different than we are, and one of those differences is that God doesn't have characteristics, he IS characteristics. Thus, God doesn't simply act righteously, he IS righteousness. God doesn't simply act merciful, he IS mercy. And God doesn't simply do good, he IS the characteristic we know as goodness. Thus, we have this passage from the First Epistle of John:


Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8 NIV)

So, by extension, we can see that if a person loves goodness, they love God, even if they don't know or believe that he exists, and this is where Pope Francis is coming from. An atheist who truly loves goodness, who lives by their conscience, is drawing closer to God, whether they know it or not.

 


But what about anti-theists who do good? Take Richard Dawkins, for example -- he unabashedly hates God, but he also runs a charitable foundation -- will God save Richard Dawkins? That's a tough question, and it points us to the fundamental teaching of the Roman Catholic church on who gets saved and who doesn't.

Ultimately, it's up to God, it's not for us to know, and not for us to judge. Our job is to make the world a better place by loving God (or loving good, if you don't believe in God,) and loving our neighbour as ourselves.


edit on 14-9-2013 by adjensen because: (no reason given)



posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 12:56 PM
link   
I understand your thinking, but you are missing a very key element. We are not saved by 'doing good' or by works. We are saved by grace through faith, it is not of ourselves (Eph. 2:8-9).

Our good works are viewed as filthy rags

6But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. -Is. 64:6


Also consider this...

10as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.” - Romans 3


Catholics teach "work-based salvation", which is why this pope is making these kinds of statements. Jesus even said that only God was good. We are not good nor can we ever be good in this life.



posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 12:59 PM
link   

So, by extension, we can see that if a person loves goodness, they love God, even if they don't know or believe that he exists, and this is where Pope Francis is coming from. An atheist who truly loves goodness, who lives by their conscience, is drawing closer to God, whether they know it or not.
Heya, adj! Very nicely put, well thought-out thread.

While I don't believe in "hell" and am in the "Universal Salvation camp" (firmly planted - for now, at least - as I find it the most fertile soil), I don't believe Christ is necessary, nor 'church', either - but even with those points stated by you, I very much agree with your description and assessment of the concept of 'salvation.'

Christ's MESSAGE was the important part - he was not the only one to speak of charity, tolerance, patience, and altruism - and therefore, as you say, "Doing Good" is drawing closer to God.

S/F! (hug to you and Oscar)





posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 01:01 PM
link   
reply to post by adjensen
 


Excellent breakdown. I had no idea that Catholics believed that. Catholicism already had my heart simply by virtue of their awesome gothic style but now I'm pretty sold. If I were to ever believe that Jesus fella, I'm pretty sure I'd be Catholic.

Also, that verse you quoted about charity and Jesus saying that he is every person you treat like crap is my favorite part of the bible and I throw that at Christians a lot. It's at the very root of the most fundamental of Christian values and how they are supposed to act.



posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 01:03 PM
link   
reply to post by UnaChispa
 


That's Reformed Theology talking, and, while I've spent a lot of time studying it, in the end I rejected it because of those sentiments. The Roman Catholic teaching is not that works save you, but they play a role in your salvation, because doing good brings you closer to God. As I said, I'm a Protestant-leaning Catholic, so I see the Protestant perspective, that one must do good works as being an indication of loving God and being saved as being just a different way of looking at it.

Ultimately, though, every Christian faith that I've studied has preached good works, if for no other reason than that they lessen the suffering of others.



posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 01:10 PM
link   

adjensen

Right there, we can see, scripturally, a basis for what Pope Francis is saying -- it doesn't say "All of these people who professed belief get in, and all these people who didn't are excluded", it says that, irrespective of anything else, loving your fellow man, doing good, is what will separate the goats from the sheep.



The good news is that if you follow the first commandment there, the second becomes easier, because God helps you to love other people, even when you disagree with them or when they treat you shabbily.

(continued)


I fear people will misunderstand what the Pope is saying. People tend to twist things to fit their own agenda.

I was raised southern baptist. There is no grey area as far as going to heaven or hell .

What I fear people will "read into" the Pope's message is that they can be the most vial human beings on the planet, have tremendous fear at the time of death and accept GOd into their hearts and think that is enough. I feel you must be a good person your entire life and a death bed repentance is not enough.

My father corrected me on my thoughts just recently when I spent some time with my father in law alone in hospice right before he died. He confessed he was scared. He had every right to be, he was by all accounts a vial human being. He had no regard for anyone in his life but himself. He was cruel to animals, cruel to children, and just a mean hateful man. I asked him if he wanted me to get a chaplain in and he replied yes. I contacted the on call chaplain at the hospital and they spent a couple hours together. When I visited him the next day he was happier. He was no longer afraid. He told me he was going to heaven. He died about 6 weeks later.

When I told my dad I said "too bad it was too late". My dad said, "OH it is not too late, if he accepted Christ into his heart that is all it takes".

I challenged that with, "so you mean to tell me, you can murder, rape, pillage, be vile and someday repent and accept Christ and your sins are absolved?" He said Yes. It just doesnt seem fair that those who strive to be good people and live a Christian life will reap the same rewards as those who spend their lives being horrible.

My dad said "Our GOd is a forgiving God". I get that. It just seems there should be more rewards for living your entire life striving to do right (notice I didnt say doing right- we all sin) but to me some sins are much worse than others. MURDER. RAPE. Those are the worst. Lying. ?? We all tell white lies. Some sins are worse. Some sins should carry harsher punishment in the after life and should not be erased with a death bed acceptance of Christ.



posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 01:15 PM
link   
reply to post by adjensen
 



". . Baptism is the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification, so that 'we too might walk in newness of life,'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church par. 977).
"Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ. It is granted us through Baptism. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who justifies us. It has for its goal the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life. It is the most excellent work of God's mercy," (CCC, par. 2020).


I don't know about you, but that sounds like 'work-based salvation' to me.

So does this....


“Reading Sacred Scripture, praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Our Father - every sincere act of worship or devotion revives the spirit of conversion and repentance within us and contributes to the forgiveness of our sins,” (CCC 1437).


We can't trust in ourselves. We must trust in Jesus.



posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 01:15 PM
link   
reply to post by adjensen
 


IF you recall there is a passage that states boldly that not everyone is your neighbour...

Im sure you know which im speaking of...

Just sayin...




posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 01:21 PM
link   
reply to post by k21968
 



When I told my dad I said "too bad it was too late". My dad said, "OH it is not too late, if he accepted Christ into his heart that is all it takes".

I challenged that with, "so you mean to tell me, you can murder, rape, pillage, be vile and someday repent and accept Christ and your sins are absolved?" He said Yes. It just doesnt seem fair that those who strive to be good people and live a Christian life will reap the same rewards as those who spend their lives being horrible.

Well, that is what the Bible teaches -- the thief on the cross with Christ was saved through his act of contrition, not by a life of good works. The question, in my mind, is whether your father-in-law truly regretted his actions, or if he just regretted dying. That's a matter of repentance -- we don't believe that you will be saved if your don't really repent, but if you do, if you recognize the pain that you've caused others and truly feel sorry for it, and give that over to God, yes, you can be saved at the last minute.

It's probably a very rare event, though.

Catholics have the additional "layer" of Purgatory that works in there -- if you're a Saint, you pretty much go straight to God, if you're not, but are still getting saved, you do some time preparing to be with God, and the worse that you were, the longer that cleansing takes.



posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 01:40 PM
link   
The cynic in me says that the Catholic faith is fighting for Relevance in the era of church scandals, Sorta forgive as much as your forgiven angle.

You know the " Hey look we forgive everyone, so can you forget the kiddie diddling already?"

The theologian in me sees this.


For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.



But as you said, the pope said the Atheist still has to come to god to be forgiven, something that someone being an Atheist is not likely to do.

Kind of a bait and switch statement to cover his own theological butt.



posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 01:45 PM
link   
I agree with your OP, so S&F for you. Those who love others unconditionally, whether they believe in God or not, will be "saved".

But... your OP made me think of another verse in Romans.


Romans 10
9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.


If even the condemned believe Jesus is lord and believe he rose from the dead but do not love him (Satan for example), doesn't that mean that they also will be saved?



posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 01:47 PM
link   

3NL1GHT3N3D1
I agree with your OP, so S&F for you. Those who love others unconditionally, whether they believe in God or not, will be "saved".

But... your OP made me think of another verse in Romans.


Romans 10
9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.


If even the condemned believe Jesus is lord and believe he rose from the dead but do not love him (Satan for example), doesn't that mean that they also will be saved?


Yes but Satan as your example, would not bow before Jesus as lord, in fact he told Jesus to bow before him. So no, they would not.



posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 01:55 PM
link   
Please tell the Pope (a whackjob in a laughably weird outfit by my standards) that while I appreciate the thought, as an atheist I really don't want to go to some imaginary place that I don't believe in.

I'd rather go to Disneyland and I hate that poor excuse for 'amusement' too.

I wonder if all the diddled altar boys would have taken the authority of the church seriously enough to allow themselves to be raped if the perpetrators were wearing rags instead of fancy robes and sashes?

When are all you religious people going to see through all this pomp and circumstance and just have your own spiritual feelings, whatever they may be, without supporting this religious criminal mafia that doesn't give a damn (heh) about you, just your money?



posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 01:59 PM
link   

signalfire
Please tell the Pope (a whackjob in a laughably weird outfit by my standards) that while I appreciate the thought, as an atheist I really don't want to go to some imaginary place that I don't believe in.


I live life with the sentiment of "even if I don't want to go to the party, it's nice to be invited". When Christians tell me I'm going to hell, it doesn't bother me but, when they say I'm going to heaven, it does make me feel a bit warm and fuzzy because it's a positive statement, no matter how misguided I may feel they are on the inside.

You'll get along much better with everybody with that attitude.



posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 02:15 PM
link   
reply to post by UnaChispa
 



Romans 4
5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.


Paul says that those who have faith are considered righteous by god, so I don't know what that's all about. Obviously he did see some people as righteous.



posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 02:19 PM
link   
reply to post by benrl
 



Romans 14
11 It is written: "'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.'"


According to the bible, even Satan will bow down before God.



posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 02:22 PM
link   
I'm going to bypass the literalist, fundamentalist, theological debate for another thread and time. There is one consistency in your OP, that neither Protestant nor Catholic can argue with. God is the final judge. Not man...

Romans 9:15-20

15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

edit on 9/14/2013 by Klassified because: edit



posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 02:36 PM
link   
reply to post by 3NL1GHT3N3D1
 


You must look at the context of the passage. Paul was quoting an Old Testament passage showing that there are none that are good. Leterism can be dangerous when dealing with doctrine. Please read James 2 and then read Romans 4 to see what Paul is trying to say in Romans 4.

We are only made righteous by Jesus' sacrifice (if we accept and follow him).



posted on Sep, 14 2013 @ 02:47 PM
link   
reply to post by UnaChispa
 


You're right, I should have read it in context before replying. Apologies.

This brings up a question though, did god purposely curse the Hebrews and Israelites by giving them the law to follow? Paul says that those under the law are under a curse, so why did god give them something to follow that he knew they couldn't? Did he condemn them on purpose?





top topics
 
7
<<   2 >>

log in

join