Heaven for Atheists. Pope sparks debate, CNN headline on May 23rd.
These remarks sparked the controversy.
“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone,” the pope told worshipers at morning Mass on Wednesday. “‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!”
Francis continued, “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 atheists and humanists were thrilled, a Vatican spokes person not so much. He said:
The Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, said that people who aware of the Catholic church “cannot be saved” if they “refuse to enter her or remain in her.”
At the same time, Rosica writes, “every man or woman, whatever their situation, can be saved. Even non-Christians can respond to this saving action of the Spirit. No person is excluded from salvation simply because of so-called original sin.”
Rosica also said that Francis had “no intention of provoking a theological debate on the nature of salvation,” during his homily on Wednesday.
There is much wrong with the Pope’s statements as well as the Vatican spokesperson’s attempt to “clarify” what seemed to be clear statements made by Francis.
Let’s consider something Jesus said:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
(Matthew 7:15-23 ESV)
There are at least two warnings here, 1) against false prophets and 2) against false disciples.
Note that within the warning against false disciples is Jesus’ complete and utter disregard for their “good works.”The false disciples are using the Lord’s name as prophets, cast out demons and do might works (good).
Jesus simply tells them I never knew you (in the first place) depart from him and then the clincher, they are actually workers of lawlessness! They will not enter the kingdom of heaven. That’s unambiguous if one takes Jesus at his word.
Further note that in the first warning against false prophets there is the appearance of a harmless sheep that is actually a wolf. The false prophet often looks good on the outside and says “good things” but on the inside is something else entirely. Judging by the fruits produced by a false prophet means to discern whether the message spoke is consistent with the Gospel. Paul’s summary verses make the point:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)
Apparently, being good, is not criteria for entering heaven nor is being part of the mother church.
These are the words of Scripture. When fallible men attempt to interpret fallible men you often get confusion. Note that no where in the CNN article does the Pope or the Vatican spokesperson interact with Scripture. This is telling or at least it ought to be. It raises the question of who or what is authoritative in the Catholic Church? Is it the Pope? Is it the Vatican spokesperson? Is it Scripture?
As an ex-Catholic when I read stuff like the above words from the Pope (and the silly clarification from the Vatican that corrects a man who is supposed to be infallible) I am grieved more than angry. It saddens me that many Catholics will take the above story lightly if they consider it at all.
If any of my Catholic friends and neighbors should read this please consider the possibility that your Pope, is wrong about he Gospel, never mind the atheists. It’s no small matter. This is serious. Consider the words of Scripture. Please, for your own sake.
- Vatican corrects Pope: Atheists are still going to hell (examiner.com)
- Catholic Church confirms atheists still go to hell, after Pope Francis suggests they might go to heaven (independent.co.uk)
- Heaven for atheists? Pope sparks debate (religion.blogs.cnn.com)
- Vatican reverses Francis, says atheists still going to hell (upi.com)