Pope Francis: “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.”
Jesus: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Read the article here.
Another article here.
“What part of this is problematic? Do you believe there are people whom God doesn’t forgive, who go to Him with a sincere and contrite heart?”
Jesus can answer this question:
“He who believes in Him [Jesus] 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” (John 3:18).
This all comes down to the cross and sacrifice of the Lamb of God. God poured out His wrath for sin on Jesus as a substitute (1 John 2:2; 4:10) for each person that believes in Christ (John 3:16). God’s justice and wrath for sin was finished (John 19:30) at the cross.
For those who do not believe, they are condemned already. God says that every soul that sins will die (Ezekiel 18:20). God told Adam and Eve that if they ate of the tree and sinned, they would die (Genesis 2:17). That is the judgement for sin.
Paul writes in Romans 3:10-18 that every single human being is evil and has sinned. No one has done good, not even one. Therefore, every single person who does not trust in Christ will be held accountable for the sin they have committed (Revelation 20:11-12). Those who reject Christ will bear the full weight of God’s justice. They will be judged by Christ Himself (John 5:22-23).
For the Jew it will be Moses (John 5:45) and the Law (Romans 2:12) who accuses them. For the Gentile without the law it will be their own conscience that accuses them for their sin (Romans 2:14-15) in light of what Paul says in Romans 3.
We have forgiveness because Jesus paid the price for our sins (1 Corinthians 6:20).
Paul writes, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).
* Reading and responding to some of the comments, I’ve come to the conclusion that Pope Francis needs to provide clarification and clear language to resolve the confusion he has caused.
I remembered there was something else that caused confusion last May 2013.
Pope Francis said, “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the blood of Christ. All of us, not just Catholics. Everyone!” he declared. “‘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!”
Here is an article that describes what happened.
Here is a response from the Vatican clarifying the Pope’s comments.
If Francis understood redemption (in the Biblical sense), then he would have realized what he is saying is universal salvation for all. That every single person will go to heaven. To be fair, the response by Vatican spokesman Thomas Rosica says that salvation is only found in the Church.
Definition: Redemption is the act of buying something back, or paying a price to return something to your possession.
From a Biblical point-of-view, it is only those who believe in Jesus that are redeemed (1 Corinthians 6:20). Paul writes, “For you [the believers in Christ] were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
We were purchased by Christ at the cross, and now we belong to God. Revelation 5:9 supports that it is those who are saved by the blood of Christ that have been redeemed.
Those who do not believe in Christ are not redeemed. So for Francis to say that we are “all” redeemed including every faith and atheist too is heresy (universal salvation).
In reponse to Thomas Rosica, salvation is in Christ alone not the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church is still full of all kinds of false traditions, false doctrines, and false teachings (salvation by works/merit, assumption of Mary, Mary the Queen of Heaven, Mary as Co-Redeemer, idols, praying to anyone outside of God, indulgences, purgatory, penance, keeping the Word of God from the people etc). The Roman Catholic Church has never repented of the sin of teaching falsehoods, I wouldn’t want to be part of the Roman Catholic Church.
Paul clearly says that salvation is based on grace alone, not by works.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Jesus said, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions… Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” (Mark 7:8-13).
The word Church in the Greek means “Those called out.” The true Church is the Body of Christ that has been called out of this evil world by His grace. We are from all nations, all tongues, all tribes, and all peoples. The Church is all those who have called on the name of the Lord and have been saved and reborn by God’s Spirit. Denomination does not matter.
Ummm…… What part of this is problematic? Do you believe there are people whom God doesn’t forgive, who go to Him with a sincere and contrite heart?
I think that is a good question, and I’ve included it with my answer in the body of the article. Thanks for taking the time to respond.
I think you will find that the secular media have taken Pope Francis’s remarks out of context, and that you are overreacting to a misrepresentation of what he said and meant. He did not mean or imply that anyone can be saved apart from Jesus or His sacrifice. Did not. Nothing of the sort. Such is just as contrary to Catholic doctrine as it is to yours.
Here is a fuller and less biased account of the letter:
And here is the full, translated letter itself:
You shouldn’t believe everything the secular media says. Especially when it comes to reporting on the Catholic Church.
Hi Joseph. I’ll take a look at both of these. Thank you for providing the links.
“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.”
Hi Joseph, I’ve read the article and the full translated letter. Here is the paragraph in question. Can you explain to me what he means when he says unbelievers can find mercy if they turn to him with a sincere and contrite heart apart (unbelievers who don’t seek the faith) from Christ?
I understand the point about conscience as Paul discusses that in Romans 2.
He didn’t actually say that “unbelievers can find mercy if they turn to him with a sincere and contrite heart.” That seems to be the media’s take-away from it, but he says: given the premise that the mercy of God has no limits, if one turns to him with a sincere and contrite heart — and of course, if one turns to God with a sincere and contrite heart, he is not truly an unbeliever, and will certainly find mercy! — but given the premise that God is infinitely merciful, the question for someone who doesn’t believe is to follow one’s conscience. And, as St. Paul says, even Gentiles “show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” The question he’s answering is, in the first place, how the Church and how God would judge an unbeliever who remains an unbeliever — whether God would judge an unbeliever simply for being an unbeliever. I admit that it is awkward, but maybe it made more sense in Italian!
I think he was trying to meet the atheist halfway. I do believe that so often God speaks through people’s consciences, leading them to Him through reason and morality. It’s there, in finding that there is an absolute truth and an absolute right and wrong, that arguments for atheism fall apart. That’s how former atheist blogger Leah Libresco found her way to the faith!
I appreciate your responses. I think the bottom line at this point is the Pope needs to give us some clarification. There is no reason to bring confusion.
He wrote, “…one who doesn’t believe and doesn’t seek the faith…”
If he is saying that unbelievers and those who don’t seek the faith repent of their sin, turn to Christ for forgiveness and mercy in this life then I can see his point. But, that means they are not unbelievers and have sought the faith when they die.
Once a person dies they will be judged according to Hebrew 9:27, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment…”
Will non-believers be forgiven by God if they followed their consciences and never repent and believe in Christ? Absolutely not. Their consciences will accuse them before Christ because we have all sinned.
There is only one way to God and salvation from His wrath, and that is repenting and believing in Jesus. Everyone else who rejects Christ will be held accountable for their sins and locked up in eternal prison for their crimes. They are locked up for eternity because they are evil, sinned against an eternal God, and would continue to commit evil forever if God did not incarcerate them.
That means Jews, Muslims, atheists, agnostics, Hindu, Buddhist, and anyone else who does not repent and believe in Christ will be lost forever. There is only one way to God and His mercy, and that is in Christ Jesus.
Your argument seems to confuse forgiveness of sins of a person with a sincere and contrite heart versus eternal salvation. Who are we to decide whom God forgives, as it becomes an issue solely between God and the sinner. If the sinner is going to God with a humble, contrite heart, then they are actively seeking forgiveness, which is an act of faith. It is faith which is required for forgiveness. Jesus says so many times in the Gospels. Those who do not believed are condemned, yes, but…in this example posed to the Pope, the person was seeking God’s forgiveness. You quoted John 14:6, which is about salvation and eternal life, not about forgiveness of an individual instance of sin. Seeking God for this forgiveness, though, can, and often has, led one to the path of salvation. God’s mercy has no limits, and His graces are His to offer to whom He sees fit. The Pope seems to have said that following conscience, obeying conscience, leads one closer to Christ through the action of the Holy Spirit. Nothing heretical here.
Hi Kevin, thank you for the comment.
God’s mercy and forgiveness of sins can not be separated from eternal salvation. God forgives when a person repents and believes on Jesus, not before. A result of God’s forgiveness is the person inherits eternal salvation through the shed blood of Jesus at the cross because they trust in Him. It is only when a person’s sins are paid for (atonement) by Jesus at the cross that the person is washed clean, justified, and given His righteousness before God that they are saved.
The writer of Hebrews states, “…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22b).
You wrote, “Who are we to decide whom God forgives, as it becomes an issue solely between God and the sinner.”
We do not decide whom God forgives. God decision was to appear as a man with us, die on the cross for the sins of those who believe in Him, and send out His witnesses to preach the Good News to the entire world. Jesus Christ is God’s plan for salvation from His wrath against sin.
On the other side of the coin is that those who do not accept Christ will die in their sins. Then they will be judged, and then they will be put in eternal prison. That is not our decision, it is His decision. Without atonement there is no forgiveness. All we are is messengers that God has sent into the world.
You said “Can you explain to me what he means when he says unbelievers can find mercy if they turn to him with a sincere and contrite heart apart (unbelievers who don’t seek the faith) from Christ?”.
The question clearly asks if “unbelievers can find IF THEY TURN TO HIM with a sincere and contrite heart”. I’d say if they are turning to HIM for mercy, they no longer qualify as unbelievers. They have a semblance of faith, and they would need to be formed an nurtured in that faith, catechised to understand that mercy and the source of mercy. Ignorance of Christ (of the truth of Christ) doesn’t preclude his mercy being granted.
Yes I agree, “If they turn to Him…” meaning they repent and believe in Jesus. Repentance produces a sincere and contrite heart.
The Pope has caused confusion because instead of saying unbelievers and those who don’t seek the faith need to repent and believe in Christ for forgiveness, he says that they need to follow their own conscience as if that is going to bring them forgiveness for their sins outside of Christ.
The point you make about ignorance of Christ (they have never been told or heard the Gospel truth), yes, they will be judged according to their conscience. Ignorant Jews will be judged according to the Law accused by Moses, and ignorant Gentiles will be judged by their conscience being accused by it for their sin. Paul says in Romans 3 that everyone is a sinner and there is none who do good. Therefore the ignorant Jews and the Gentiles will both be condemned for their sin.