Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pope says Athiests Who Do Good are Redeemed

Today is the fourth day of our twenty-first week, reading the Bible through together in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  2 Sam 21-23; Romans 3; Psalm 18.

Recently, Pope Francis declared that Jesus redeemed everybody who does good--even Athiests.  Click here to read an article on this, and watch the short video, which is a discussion between a Catholic and non-Catholic about whether it's good enough to be good enough.  

Here's a snippet of his homily:

"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."

This is a controversial position for the pope to take.  So controversial, in fact, that the Vatican had to clarify what the Pope had to say.  Click here to read about the Vatican's clarification.  

While people debate what the Catholic church teaches, howsabout we look at what the Bible says.  In Romans 3 (ESV), we read:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
This means that even if you're a "good person," whether you're Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Athiest, Hindu, or whatever, nobody's good works will save them.  It's not good enough to be "good enough."  Because "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (v. 23 ESV)," everybody needs redemption.
But needing redemption and being redeemed are two different things.  Did Jesus die to redeem everybody?  Yes.  But does that mean that everybody is redeemed?  Unfortunately, no. God grieves over a person's stubborn refusal to receive His grace.  2 Peter 3:9 (ESV) says that God "is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."  Repentance means turning away from evil and doing good.  But it means more than that.  It means turning away from unbelief, and embracing faith in Jesus.  
Romans 3:22 (ESV) promises "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe."  This means that the righteousness of God cannot be achieved apart from faith in Jesus.  Further, verse 25 (ESV) speaks of Jesus, "whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith."   Then, verse 26 (ESV) describes God as the "justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
The "Anonymous Christian" doctrine is a heresy which says that God will redeem non-Christians who are good people, because even though they haven't received Jesus, they embody the spirit of Christ.  This is completely contrary to the word of God.  Though the Pope never specifically referenced this doctrine, his comments come awfully close to it.
Does Jesus redeem all people who do good?  That's not what the Bible says.  Jesus died so that all may be redeemed, but that doesn't mean everybody is redeemed.  Redemption comes only through faith in Him, by receiving His grace and accepting Him as Lord.  Have you received Him?  Are you redeemed?  If you're not sure, why not pray a prayer like this one:
Dear Jesus, I believe that you are the Son of God, and that you died to set me free from sin's power over my life.  Acknowledging that there's nothing I can do to be good enough or to earn salvation, I receive your free gift of eternal life.  Thank you for cleansing me of my sin.  Take control of my life from now on, teaching me to live in a way that is pleasing to God.  I love you.  Amen.  

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