Recently, I've been having a growing sense of foreboding coming from the Vatican. This feeling has been heightened for me by the recent bit of information I've received about the message coming from Pope Francis.
In this article, Francis tells a story about a Catholic asking a priest if an atheist is redeemed by Jesus and his answer being “every one of them.”
Now, I may be mis-understanding what Francis is trying to say, but I interpret this as saying that, as long as you do good, you will have eternal life with God. You don't necessarily need to believe in God or in Jesus Christ to be with him in heaven.
If this is what Francis is saying, then this should be very troubling words to hear for the Catholic community. It's not that I'm saying there's no use for being a “good” person. But there's more to life than being good. Being “good” and being “righteous” are two different things. The first you do of your own accord; the second you do for the glory of God; and that is what he wants people to be.
If you read and understand the Bible, God clearly says that you can only enter paradise through the belief and faith in Jesus Christ. Being “good” just isn't enough.
6 I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
9 Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
2 Timothy 2:
22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
Telling people that Jesus will redeem them just for being good and that it's not required to believe in or seek for him just doesn't sound right to me. And as for the scripture in the Gospel of Mark, to which Francis refers, it goes like this:
38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” 39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.
There is a piece of information here that is key, which is not mentioned in the article: Jesus clearly says, “For no one who does a miracle in my name…” Therefore, to mean something to God, it is clear that the person doing good must do so in the name of Jesus Christ - it's not enough to just do good. This is very different than the message in the article, which Francis supposedly delivered.
So, I agree, you don't have to be Catholic to be redeemed, but you do need to believe in God and in Jesus Christ and do your good works in his name. I also agree that atheists can be (or are) good people, but that's different than saying they will be redeemed by Jesus Christ.
I think Pope Francis is in danger of mis-leading a lot of people down a very dark path. I pray that his followers wake up and see the light to the right path before it is too late. But, whether they do or not is no business of mine. I try very hard not to let people's beliefs (or non beliefs) get in the way of how I treat my fellow human beings. All I can do is try to live my life the way God wants me to and let others find their own paths and hope they choose correctly.
Remember the warning given to us in 2 Thessalonians:
9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Pope Francis may be saying what he is for all good intentions, but as the saying goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Trying to win over people's hearts and minds by diluting God's message is not the way to do it.
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.