The Pope Affirms Works Righteousness For Those Who Don’t Even Want To Go to Heaven

We have another news story concerning something that pope Francis has written. This time, he affirms works righteousness by stating that atheist can get into heaven if they follow their conscience.

FromAleteia:

First of all, you ask me if the God of Christians forgives one who doesn’t believe and doesn’t seek the faith. Premise that – and it’s the fundamental thing – the mercy of God has no limits if one turns to him with a sincere and contrite heart; the question for one who doesn’t believe in God lies in obeying one’s conscience. Sin, also for those who don’t have faith, exists when one goes against one’s conscience. To listen to and to obey it means, in fact, to decide in face of what is perceived as good or evil. And on this decision pivots the goodness or malice of our action.

This statement has several glaring problems. First of all, the Bible condemns the atheist. The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good. So for the pope to declare there is hope for the atheist outside of the gospel of Jesus Christ is contrary to Scripture. I’m not sure how obeying his conscience will clear up this problem for the atheist. The atheist has said that God doesn’t exist. How is this not sin? How is declaring to the almighty that has given life to these fools, “You are not there! You don’t exist!” not a sin. It doesn’t matter what the fool does concerning his conscience, just his declaration that there is no God, shows us his corrupt nature.

Secondly, the pope has declared that if you seek God with a sincere and contrite heart, then God will show you mercy. This smacks of works righteousness. What the pope seems to be saying is that he has discerned that by seeking, we will earn God’s mercy. Problem is, the moment you believe you have earned God’s mercy is the moment it’s no longer mercy. And you certainly cannot demand of God that He show you mercy. As it is written: “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy (Romans 9:15-16). Meaning that those who are saved, are saved because of God’s actions, not our own actions. God has shown those who believe mercy before they asked for it, before they even knew they needed it. It is only after the Spirit has moved in us, regenerating our dead spirit into an alive spirit, that we desire God’s mercy at all. The atheist has no desire for God’s mercy, our mercy, the pope’s condescending remarks, the gospel or the heaven found in Christ.

Thirdly, scripture seems to indicate that no one seeks after God. The Triune God has to seek them, find them, save them, etc. There is none who seeks after God (Romans 3:11). The lost are dead in their sins and want nothing to do with God. Which, is exactly what the atheist of our day is saying. He wants nothing to do with God or the people who believe in Him. In fact, I wonder if the pope’s statement isn’t offensive to atheists. Not that I think that is important, but just a thought.

Fourth, the pope seeks to define sin as someone disobeying their conscience. Really? That puts an awful lot of power into the hands of sinful, fallen humanity. For instance, are we to condemn the dictator who slaughters his own people to hell, when he was following his own conscience? What about the rapist who follows his own conscience? This is a horrible definition for sin. I think that Westminster Catechism has a much better definition of sin because it is not man centered, as the pope’s definition is, and actually takes into account what the word of God actually says.

Q. 14. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.

Notice where the focus is when it comes to sin. It has nothing to do with a person’s heart, conscience, will, etc., but everything to do with the law of God. God’s Law is His definition of sin and it would do us well to actually read it instead of trying to redefine sin to meet our own needs. You would think the pope would at least appeal to his church’s own catechism. But he seems content on redefining it on the fly. I think defenders of the RCC would be hard pressed to defend the pope’s new definition.

This idea that we can determine what sin is apart from God’s Law is really our biggest problem in culture today. I read of a sodomite pastor who has now declared that if you are opposed to gay marriage, that this is sin. This is why we must return to God’s word for the definition of sin, not the pope’s or the sodomite pastor.

Finally, the Bible even condemns those who don’t have the law and live by their conscience. So there is some precedent for the pope to say this. He is still wrong in saying such, because what the Bible does say about those who have their own consciences as their guide is that they are guilty of not following even their own conscience. Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same thing (Romans 2:1).

All of this is the reason there was a Protestant Reformation, and still a need today. When men begin to appeal to logic and reason, instead of Scripture for their understanding of things, then they drift off into apostasy as the RCC has done. We don’t need a pope, we don’t need his declarations of hope for the atheist, we need men who will declare the truth gospel, that only those who come to faith in Christ alone, will be saved. No amount of appeals to contrite hearts, etc., will save a person. It is faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone that a man or woman is justified before God. And that is not of ourselves, so that cannot boast, but is a gift from God to us by His rich mercy (Ephesians 2).

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13 thoughts on “The Pope Affirms Works Righteousness For Those Who Don’t Even Want To Go to Heaven

    1. What a tempest in a teapot. Relax, guys. Pope Francis would assure you that you are BOTH right. That’s the rationale behind virtually every public statement he makes. One sentence hedges or contradicts the next, one clause in a sentence confuses or contradicts the next. Unintelligible masterpieces of obscurantism – the whole beauty & strength of the Catholic Church from its synchronistic, empire-consolidating 4th century beginnings: flexibility, plasticity, elasticity.

      This ability to change shapes to accommodate all comers served a second essential purpose after the Pope was chased behind Vatican walls in 1870. When the Church finally accepted that – for the time, at least – it had no divisions to enforce its diktats, “plausible deniability” became a new concern.

      The best example of this is the Anathemas against non-Catholics. Talk about head-bangers. But dissecting them would take far more time than they’re worth so here’s a quick one.

      The Catechism of the Catholic Church states (three times: 552,586,881) that the apostle Peter – the man – is the “rock” upon which Christ would build His church. This is the official Roman Catholic position. But should someone point out that this makes no Biblical or historical sense, they’ll be soothed with this:

      “Moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit and drawn by the Father, we believe in Jesus and confess: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ On the rock of this faith confessed by St. Peter, Christ built His Church.” (424)

      See? No problemo, you Baptists.

      Then there are the off-the-books tactics, e.g.:

      RCC dogma insists that Mary was not only an Immaculately Conceived virgin at the time of Jesus’ birth (263, 264,265), but that she remained a virgin after His birth and the births of her four sons and at least two daughters. (266.267.268,721). (Poor Joseph.)

      But that’s only for the little old “America Needs Fatima” ladies, bless ’em. What would the Church do without them? The more worldly skeptics will be pulled aside and reassured that Mother Church did not fall off the last turnip truck:

      “On Ash Wednesday (March 9th, 2011), a new translation of the English-language New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE) was published by St. Benedict Press in the USA…The latest Bible involved a team of 50 theologians and translators, linguistics experts, and five bishops, and took 17 years to complete. Commissioned in 1994 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the new translation is said to be more accessible and more poetic. ‘We needed a new translation because English is a living language’ (USA Today), says retired auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee Richard Sklba, who was part of the review and editing team. Conor Gallagher, vice president of publishing for St. Benedict Press, added that, ‘We wanted this Bible to be Catholic all the way through. We really wanted it to be different from a Protestant Bible’.

      The Vatican freely admits that the Old Testament ‘virgin birth’ narrative in the Gospel of Matthew is literary theft and not a prediction of a future special birth. In relation to the Isaiah passage, the exact quotation certified by hundreds of Christian experts at Catholic Universities and sanctioned by Archbishop Farley to be published in the 15th Volume of its Encyclopedia (page 451) reads:

      ‘Modern theology does not grant that Isaiah 7:14 contains a real prophecy fulfilled in the virgin birth of Christ; It must maintain therefore that St. Matthew misunderstood the passage.’

      Confirming that all virgin birth narratives in the Gospels are not based on the conclusion of fact, the Church added: ‘There seems to be no doubt that the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke were later additions to the original body of the apostolic catechesis’ (New Catholic Encyclopedia, xiv, 693). Those ‘later additions’ reveal a doctrinal forgery perpetrated in the development of the New Testament, and provide additional and ongoing evidence that the Gospels are wholly fallacious. Despite its inclusion in the Gospel of Matthew, Isaiah’s Emmanuel was simply a reference to a son born to Isaiah some centuries before New Testament times, and not a prediction of a future ‘divine’ birth for Jesus that the Church made it become. Thus, the word ‘virgin’ in the Gospel of Matthew should also be changed to ‘young woman’ now that the source passage in the Old Testament has been amended. That nullifies the Christian preaching of a ‘virgin’ birth of Jesus Christ…..

      Sklba, however, said that he expects no change in Catholic teaching, and Mary Elizabeth Sperry of the Bishops Conference added, ‘Some people will be gravely distressed and others will be absolutely ecstatic, and some will just say, ‘I liked it the old way’. (USA Today)”

      http://www.vatileaks.com/_blog/Vati_Leaks/post/New_translation_of_Catholic_Bible_nullifies_%E2%80%98virgin_birth%E2%80%99_dogma/

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  1. Hi, Timothy. It seems like you’re taking this quotation out of context almost as badly as the media did in the first place. This commentary is supposed to clear up the confusion, but instead you are making the very same incorrect inference: that the pope is somehow saying that “atheists can be saved by their works apart from Christ.” He is saying nothing of the sort. I’ll try not to spill a lot of ink here (but you know how bad I am at being succinct).

    You say, “For the pope to declare there is hope for the atheist outside of the gospel of Jesus Christ is contrary to Scripture.”

    But did the pope declare this, or even imply it? That was the inference that many in the secular media made to begin with. The very next paragraph in the commentary refutes your entire piece here. Fr. Longenecker writes:

    “Nowhere does the Holy Father state that ‘God forgives those who follow their conscience.’ What he does state is that ‘the mercy of God has no limits if one turns to Him with a sincere and contrite heart.’ Strange how Mr. Squires omitted that important word, ‘if,’ and what came after it. God’s mercy is everlasting, and he does desire that no one should perish. But as the Pope teaches, we cannot receive God’s mercy if we do not ask for it, and we do this by turning to Him ‘with a sincere and contrite heart.'”

    You really ought to read the whole article, and don’t make claims that are denied by the very source you’re linking to.

    You ask, “How is [declaring that God does not exist] not sin?” No one said it wasn’t. But many self-proclaimed atheists, you should know, are actually lost and searching for the truth. Not even a self-proclaimed atheist is beyond “turning to Him with a sincere and contrite heart.”

    In the next paragraph, you say, “the moment you believe you have earned God’s mercy is the moment it’s no longer mercy.”

    Who said anything at all about earning God’s mercy? You are reading “works’ righteousness” here because that is what you want to see (you seem rather prone to finding “works righteousness” lurking behind every Catholic and even many Protestant trees). What is it about “seeking” that implies seeking to earn, seeking to be saved by one’s own actions? Nothing at all. Jesus Himself says, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Luke 11:9) “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things [the necessities of life] shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Paul preached to the Athenians, “[He] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find Him, though he be not far from every one of us…” (Acts 17:26–27). I think you might be reading too much into this, Tim. “They should seek the Lord … and find Him.”

    And Jesus Himself presents God as a Father who gives mercy to those who seek it: explicitly in the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35) and in His actions to the many sick people along His way who begged for His mercy, and He granted it. Yes, God grants mercy to whom He will. But what part of Scripture leads you to believe that our merciful God would refuse His mercy to one who earnestly sought it?

    Thirdly, scripture seems to indicate that no one seeks after God…

    Tim… did you not just contradict your whole thesis? How can seeking God be “works righteousness” if no one seeks after God anyway? Clearly people do seek after God. Certainly those who are already saved do, and the whole idea of grace is that God is seeking us, and by His grace calling to us, leading us to seek Him. Do you not believe this? If this is not true, how can anyone be saved at all? Are you denying even the appearance of free will?

    Fourth, the pope seeks to define sin as someone disobeying their conscience.

    No, this is not what the pope said. What he said:

    “The question for one who doesn’t believe in God lies in obeying one’s conscience. Sin, also for those who don’t have faith, exists when one goes against one’s conscience. To listen to and to obey it means, in fact, to decide in face of what is perceived as good or evil. And on this decision pivots the goodness or malice of our action.”

    He does not say the definition of sin is disobeying one’s conscience. If you had read the article, Fr. Longenecker gave a good elaboration of what the pope was actually implying:

    “Simply obeying one’s conscience is not enough, and the Pope never said it was. Instead, the Pope is teaching that without the light of faith and belief in God, the only thing left for the agnostic or atheist to follow is the light of their conscience. This limited light can help a person decide between good and evil, but the light of the human conscience alone, without divine grace and the acceptance of divine revelation, is very limited. Not only is one’s conscience on its own a limited light, but that light is shaded by the influences of the secular world and distorted by individual sin and ignorance. The light of individual conscience is like a match flame in the darkened cave. It is better than nothing, but it does not compare to the full strength searchlight of God’s enlightening grace.”

    Scripture says that even for sinners, “God has written the requirements of the law on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them” (Romans 2:15). The sinner knows in his heart — in his conscience — what is sin, what is right and wrong. And what the pope is saying here is that the atheist who disobeys his own conscience is consciously choosing evil over good, consciously choosing sin. He does not say that “the definition of sin is disobeying one’s conscience.”

    [Sin] has nothing to do with a person’s heart, conscience, will, etc., but everything to do with the law of God.

    Yes?

    I think defenders of the RCC would be hard pressed to defend the pope’s new definition.

    I think most people would be hard pressed to even understand this as a “redefinition.”

    Finally, the Bible even condemns those who don’t have the law and live by their conscience.

    The pope did not say that anyone could be saved by obeying their own conscience. Read the article.

    God bless you anyway, Brother Tim, and His peace be with you!

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  2. Joseph,
    I knew this would rankle you. But I stand by my comments. I don’t care what he Friar said. My post is not about what the friar said. It is about what the pope said. Just as the friar’s comments are about what the pope said.

    Do you really need some friar to come along to interpret what the pope says before you know what he is trying to say? Really?
    Timothy

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    1. N.B. “Fr.” stands for “Father,” not “Friar.”

      What rankles me is not that you misunderstand the pope, but that you follow suit with the same misunderstanding as the secular media. Neither the secular media nor you are considering the pope’s comments in the context of the Catholic theological tradition. Catholics familiar with that tradition would not have even batted an eye at the comments that others have seized upon with such indignation or delight. The goal of Fr. Longenecker’s article, and my comments, was to put the comments back in their proper context.

      So, you have no response to my comments, other than “I still think I’m right”?

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      1. No, actually I think your rebuttal is a load of crap. You are telling me that no one, but Roman Catholics, can understand the pope’s words because we lack the broader understanding of the church’s teachings?

        What surprises me about all this is that you fail to see how twisted RCC teaching is. You have the pope saying something, then, no one can know what he really meant by it because the friars (sorry, that is the best I can do, he’s not my father), have yet to tell us what he means? Is the pope so convoluted that no one can fully understand him without friar interpretation?

        Sorry, want nothing to do with that.

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      2. I for one thought he was pretty clear in the first place. Only those with axes to grind, one way or another, appear to be misunderstanding him.

        This is not a matter of these words needing “interpretation,” either. You are not even interpreting what he actually said, but what you want to believe he said. I think you would protest, too, if someone did that to you.

        I do my best to be charitable to you, Tim. I don’t know why you are being so nasty to me.

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      3. It doesn’t feel like charity to me. Sorry, I know that I’m getting nasty. I think I just grow tired of this debate because no matter what I say about Catholicism, you say I have it wrong. When I try to point out the differences, you seem to say that there not any differences. Yet, I know from history that Protestants and RCC are different in theology and function. AND just the fact that you have a pope who wants to be called Holy Father, is a real problem. The vicar of Christ! Again, only Christ is the head of the church, not the pope. If he steps down and admits that only Christ is the head of the church, then I might begin to agree with what it seems like you are trying to say. But until then, I see the RCC as apostate.

        Sorry that I’m losing my patience. I’m not sure we have ever really agreed on anything, other than the fact that I’m not very nice at times. But alas…

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      4. Yes, there are differences. And where there are differences, I do and I will and I have acknowledged them. But there is only one Jesus, only one Bible, and only one faith. So yes, we also have many things in common. When you correctly label a difference, I generally am silent. It’s only when you call something a difference that isn’t really difference that I speak up. I’m sorry if that gives the impression that I disagree with everything you say. I actually agree with a lot you say.

        What you think you know from history isn’t all true. What divides us more than anything, I’m convinced, are deep-rooted misunderstandings. Because we do read the same Bible and we do follow the same Lord. Protestants presume that Catholics are stupid, or don’t read the Bible, or ignore it — but that simply isn’t true. Catholic doctrine is every bit as based in Scripture as yours is. We interpret things differently. And where we interpret things differently, I am willing to acknowledge that.

        What bugs me most about you is that you seem completely unwilling to consider the fact that we might actually have faith in the same Lord. You are so convinced that Catholics are not Christians that you refuse to believe me when I do show that we believe the same things. And then you turn around and are belligerent to me…

        Christ is the only head of the Church. A “vicar” is a stand-in, not a replacement. But arguing with you is like pissing in the wind, so I think I’m going to stop now.

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  4. phoebehb

    Sorry, I seem to have posted my reply to you guys as a reply to ematters’ early comment. So put it in perspective.

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  5. Hi Phoebe,
    Long time no see. Thanks for your views on this, however, I’m thinking of making this post go private. I’m not real pleased with this post all that much.
    Timothy

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    1. phoebehb

      You know something, upon rereading this morning I’m not that pleased with it either. I shouldn’t start letters at bedtime, but now and then my fury just comes up in my face.

      What I’m trying to say is important. Let’s see if I can edit out the snark.

      Best, HH

      On Thu, Jun 19, 2014 at 10:28 PM, Timothy J. Hammons wrote:

      > Timothy commented: “Hi Phoebe, Long time no see. Thanks for your views > on this, however, I’m thinking of making this post go private. I’m not real > pleased with this post all that much. Timothy” >

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