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Pope: Atheists and Other Faiths Can Do Good Together

In his message to Catholics on Wednesday, Pope Francis told believers that people of other faiths and atheists are redeemed through Christ and that all people should come together to do good.

"The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. “But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.” Yes, he can... 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! .. 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.

In response to the Pope’s message, Father James Martin, S.J., a Jesuit priest and noted author of several popular books on Catholicism, told The Huffington Post, "Pope Francis is saying, more clearly than ever before, that Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for everyone. That's always been a Christian belief. You can find St. Paul saying in the First Letter to Timothy that Jesus gave himself as a ‘ransom for all’” …

10 Comments

Smoothee

46

Smoothee commented…

Boy, that sounds great! It doesn't matter what people believe, it just matters that they do good things. And it's not like the Holy Spirit is even needed to have a relationship with God, people just need good works and they're set for life!

What a wonderful message. It's so good to know that the Pope is spreading such comforting words!

Caleb Hickerson

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Caleb Hickerson commented…

My apologies for the novel of a comment, but these statements from the Pope are just Biblically and theologically absurd, so I felt they deserved a proper thought-out response...

1.) Boy, isn't that great! It's not about what I believe, it's about what I do! Too bad God tells us our righteousness is like filthy rags. What's more the good news of Christ isn't that we can now live better lives to be judged by...it's that the credit of Christ's life is gifted to us upon our repentance and belief that we can again have relationship with God.

2.) He has some backing with the doctrine of prevenient grace (and even the reformers would back him up via common grace), that is, if he were merely discussing God's goodness which is given so that good actions can be done and good things can be received by believing and non-believing persons. But where on earth is he getting the notion that all, believing or not, are redeemed? It certainly isn't from scripture. A "ransom for all" doesn't mean anything when some captives refuse to accept it (assuming free will theology, as the pope would as a Catholic). I think any Bible illiterate person would still be familiar enough with John 3:16, in it's over-quotedness, to understand that redemption comes through repentance faith.

3.) Such universalism removes the necessity of, and therefore trivializes, the cross. So the cross wouldn't be needed for forgiveness and reconciliation. Christ's actions merely become an "example." But what use is that example when God can just forgive my sins anyway? God, then, is some monster who murders his own son just for people to watch. And who would really want to spend eternity with that?

4.) So what's left? It's just a nice thought he gives. It has no practicality...at all. Really, it's just feel-good theology. No basis in scripture or reason. It's simply a comfy to say to people to let them know you're not judgmental. Atheists are going to continue disbelieving and saying of you "Well, so-and-so is totally insane but they're at least nice."

Of course, I may sound harsh, but I don't intend to beat anyone over the head with a Bible. I just think this mindset, while attempting to please both God and man instead offers a tragedy of theology and spits on the crucifixion. The beauty of the cross is that God doesn't owe redemption to anyone, but instead, offers the blood of Christ as a sacrifice, that those who would come to faith and repentance would be reconciled.

Aubrey Allison

3

Aubrey Allison replied to Caleb Hickerson's comment

Hi, Caleb! Friendly Catholic here. I understand where you're coming from, but I believe there are some misunderstandings. A lot of non-Catholic media (*coughHuffingtonPostcough*) has wildly distorted what Pope Francis meant here.

The most important distinction I'd like to make is that when the Pope says "redeemed," he doesn't mean "saved." He simply means that the good non-believers do is still good, even though they're non-believers — and that's a valuable place where all people can come together in love.

It makes all the difference to put the Pope's message here in context: he was giving a homily on
Mark 9:38-40, where Jesus rebukes his disciples for stopping someone who was driving out demons but was not one of them. The Pope was simply putting that message in a present-day context: it was a sermon, not an official statement on the doctrine of salvation. Here's a little more explanation on the Catholic distinction between "redemption" and "salvation."
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/getreligion/2013/05/yes-the-pope-said-all-a...

Pope Francis has actually spoken a lot about the necessity of grace, and has called out Catholics who do not emphasize grace as Pelagians (referencing fifth-century heretics who believed what you describe above, that Jesus is merely a good example).

If you're interested in learning what Catholics believe and what the Pope meant in this homily, I hope you will seek to learn more about it! I used to be Methodist, then Bible Christian/Evangelical, and now Catholic. I've found that, though we use different language to talk about our faith, and there are some clear differences, we all actually have way more in common than we think we do.

All the best,
Aubrey

Stephen

6

Stephen replied to Aubrey Allison's comment

Thanks Aubrey,

Excellent reply. We really do have much more in common than we think.

Stephen

Caleb Hickerson

4

Caleb Hickerson replied to Stephen's comment

Yes, Aubrey, that makes much more sense and does ease my concerns. Thanks very much for that clarification. I would definitely agree with his message: that all can do good, believing or not (assuming we're just talking about goodness in a sort of humanistic sense).

Though I'm still not a fan of using "redeemed" in such a way. Redeemed means literally to have been bought back, I don't think that's accurate language. But, that would be just my semantics beef. As long as the connotation makes sense to his intended audience, I can't complain. So again, thanks very much for the clarification!

Quauhtli

6

Quauhtli replied to Caleb Hickerson's comment

This is a good conversation. I believe that the Pope meant what Aubrey stated above. Maybe the language is one that, in the hears of non-Catholics and non-Christians, may seem to apply salvation to all. Anyway, when it comes to Christian statements published by non-Christian media, I always try to give people somewhat of the benefit of the doubt.

Steven Davis

8

Steven Davis replied to Quauhtli's comment

I also believe he meant what Aubrey says. I doubt the leader of the Catholic Church would embrace universalism. Atheists can still do "good" things/works. They may not be saved, but they can still do good things, like helping people. To think otherwise is just arrogance. Now, does it save you? Not at all, but it's better than doing evil, or doing nothing.

Dondi Virrey

1

Dondi Virrey commented…

Hi there,

In Mark 9:38-40: 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.

This person who was driving out demons was a believer of Jesus, a follower. He drove evil out in Jesus' name, His powerful name. Here we see that Christ commends His followers, supports the ministry of those who believes in Him (even if they weren’t part of the 12 disciples). Thus, whoever is not against us is for us. OR who is for Christ, a believer who greatly loves Him, whose faith produces great fruit or good works is obviously not against Jesus.

Christ in this passage shows how inclusive He is. We don’t need to be part of a club may it be Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, or any other Christian sect. But the obvious prerequisite of being “not against us” is believing in Christ.

I applaud the Pope for trying to connect/reconnect, but wouldn’t it be better if he left the judgment to God?

“Doing Good” without the context of Christ can be anything. Perceived goodness can be very different if not the opposite from what Christ has shown through us in His ministry.

Such claim “But do good: we will meet one another there.” is tragically incomplete. The Pope should have explained that our knowledge of what is good came from a moral giver, and that moral giver is Christ, who is God. Thus, in doing good, we are acknowledging the existence of God.

So even if you are an atheist, you actually subscribe to the virtues, which came from a moral giver, God. So you can see… God’s grace is inescapable. There is no way we can avoid the Spirit, which He has blessed us with.

The reason that we all can do good is because God is in all of us. Doing good will not lead us into heaven, Christ has done the ultimate good for us. Doing good is the proof that we are made by God.

Quauhtli

6

Quauhtli commented…

Taking a the concept of "good" a step further, I am not saying that the following statement isn't debatable; however, is there good outside the glory of God? Can a human person do "good" if the source isn't a redeemed heart and the background the worship and glory of the Savior King?

I am not saying that non-Christians can't do good; I am simply trying to explore whether in the eyes of God, anything done outside the focus of worship is "good."

Blix Snix

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Blix Snix commented…

We should do a little study of the moral, natural, and political image of God. We, as in you, Relevant. Love you all!

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