First off: in this context, YES, there is. There is eternal harm in this kind of “making nice.”
By this time, we’ve all see the headlines splashed across all kinds of media outlets: “Pope says atheists can go to heaven.” If you happen to have somehow missed it, here are a few links:
Pope Francis assures atheists:You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven (The Independent)
Pope Francis tells atheists to abide by their own consciences (The Guardian)
Don’t feel like clicking and reading? Here are two quotes:
Responding to a list of questions published in the paper by Mr Scalfari, who is not a Roman Catholic, Francis wrote: “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.
“Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”
Expressing the belief that it was important for Christians to engage in “a sincere and rigorous dialogue” with atheists, Francis recalled Scalfari had asked him whether God forgave those “who do not believe and do not seek to believe”.
“Given – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits, if He is approached with a sincere and repentant heart,” the pope wrote, “the question for those who do not believe in God is to abide by their own conscience. There is sin, also for those who have no faith, in going against one’s conscience. Listening to it and abiding by it means making up one’s mind about what is good and evil.”
Now, this isn’t the first time that Pope Francis has spoken out about the redemption of atheists, either. Earlier this year, in May, there was some backlash over a homily that he gave. NPR covered the story:
“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.”
If this is not your first time skimming through my blog, I am sure you already know where this is going.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
He who is not with Me is against me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.
If you try to be a “good person” apart from the salvation offered by Christ, it’s not good enough. Sorry, no passing go and collecting $200.
There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
Proverbs 14:12, 16:25
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
But we are all like an unclean thing,
All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked,
Who can know it?
So pretty clearly, we can do what seems to be right, and give it our best effort, but even that is nothing more than a filthy rag. It’s a pretty desperate situation, this human condition. Thankfully:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Now one thing that Francis said, I do agree with, based on Scripture.
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge this: that if One died for all, then all died;and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15
But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.
So yes, I do agree that Jesus did die for everyone; those that were alive, those that are alive, and all that are to come in the future. BUT- if we accept that, then we accept that fact that we were bought with a price and that we no longer live for ourselves, but for Him.
For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit, which are God’s.
1 Corinthians 6:20
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.
“But why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do the things which I say?
But be doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
So clearly, apart from Christ, there is no salvation; no justification. Yes, it is a free gift to all, but as with any gift, it must be accepted and then you are to respond accordingly. With gifts from friends and family do you not respond with an attitude of gratitude? Why would you give any less to God who offers you a gift that you could never hope to earn on your own, freely?
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul,
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
So why do I cite these two verses? Because of something that I recently became aware of; the belief by Catholics that the Pope is infallible, that he speaks for God. That truly scared me. Let me say this plainly: he is human. Those verses about hearts being desperately wicked and the very best a person can muster being nothing more than filthy rags? Guess what- they apply to the Pope as well!
O my soul, you have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, my goodness is nothing apart form You.”
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you aide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
The only good in me is the presence of the Holy Spirit. Even with His presence, however, I am still a fallible human. It doesn’t matter how much time I spend in prayer, at church, or singing worship songs. I will still screw up. Are we then to take the word of a man that is supposed to be infallible, speaking in what appears to be opposition to a list of Scriptures within the Bible?
Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar.
When all these comments hit the news outlets and it seemed as though the media was taking Francis out of context, a Vatican spokesman, Thomas Rosica, quickly made a statement to try and clarify things.
“People who know the Catholic Church cannot be saved if they refuse to enter or remain in her.”
Now at this point, I will raise my hand to say that I know the Catholic Church. I will never “enter or remain in her” because I know that my salvation is granted by the blood of Jesus Christ not a church of man.
But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
2 Peter 2:1-3
So what I feel needs to be taken to heart here is that either God or man can be infallible. Not both. Compare anything you hear to the Bible to find the truth.