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A call to use the Bible correctly.
Dear Sir Bergoglio,
Not only many evangelicals but also a vast number of your own Roman Catholic flock have been greatly taken aback by your recent statements regarding a future hope for atheists.
You must be somewhat aware of the effect your words have had upon Christendom.
Here are your words as recorded by our beloved Protestant theologian, Leonardo de Chirico:
“God has the heart of a father. Your father was a good man. He is in heaven with Him, be sure. God has a father’s heart. Would God ever abandon a non-believing father who baptizes his children?
God was certainly proud of your father because it is easier to be a believer and have your children baptized than to be a non-believer and have your children baptized. Pray to your father, talk to your father. That is the answer”.
Although we can all sympathize with the pastoral sensitivity involved in sharing about the eternal lot of non-believers, surely we are supposed to speak according to the clear teaching of Holy Writ.
Love tells the truth. How often did Christ, the love of God incarnate, warn others about the danger of coming punishment?
The universal call unto repentance and faith that issues forth from the Gospel message makes it clear that the only salvation available for Adam’s helpless race is found in Jesus Christ alone. Whosoever is not wed unto the Son of God by faith is under the wrath of God. No faith, no hope.
There are several severe theological shortcomings involved in your public answer to the atheist’s son:
1.- “God has the heart of a father”
That much is true. God does indeed have the heart of a father. But God’s heart is mediated to us exclusively by means of the redemption wrought in Jesus Christ. Outside of Christ, we are not God’s children but His adversaries. God’s heart, therefore, is Christ-shaped.
God is a father to all of us in an indirect sense i.e. He is the father of all of those who belong to His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. It is in Christ –and in Him alone- that the fatherhood of God is experienced and enjoyed.
2.- “Your father was a good man”
There is no such thing as a good man. That is the theological problem the Gospel sets out to solve. The only good man died upon Mount Calvary two thousand years ago; and only by the virtue of that good man –the man Christ Jesus- can anyone be justified before the Almighty.
God has never saved one single good person. The only people who go to heaven are bad people, nay, wicked people (like me), united to Christ by the bound of faith.
To lead people to believe that good people go to heaven is a terrible act of dishonesty and irresponsibility. It is, in fact, to spit in the face of the crucified Christ.
3.- “He is in heaven with Him, be sure”
To what authority do you appeal when you assure the atheist’s son that his father is now with the Lord? What book of Scripture? What chapter? What verse? What prophet? What apostle? Where do you find such assurance and security?
4.- “Would God ever abandon a non-believing father who baptizes his children?”
What do you mean by “abandon”? Are you implying that God’s special presence accompanies those who are not in Jesus Christ?
In Scripture, the saving presence of God is only promised to those who are one with the resurrected Lord.
The presence of the Father is not with us because we baptize (or do not baptize) our children, but because of the saving work of Immanuel applied to us by the Spirit.
Let’s be frank: it was not that God abandoned the atheist but that the atheist abandoned God.
5.- “God was certainly proud of your father”
Yet again, we ask: to what authority do you appeal to make such an extravagant claim?
God took delight in the work of one man: the Lord Jesus Christ. It is Him in whom the Most High is well-pleased.
We fallen descendants of Adam can by no means enjoy the smile of God the Father except we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ by faith. In Christ, God is well-pleased with us.
Not, however, because of something within us; but because of the perfect righteousness of Christ which is imputed to us by faith alone.
6.- “It is easier to be a believer and to have your children baptized than to be a non-believer and to have your children baptized”.
If salvation depends upon one baptizing one’s children, then just what was the glorious Lord Jesus doing hanging upon the cross? Such a doctrine of works makes void the cross of Christ. This is merely a revamping of the heresy of the Judaizers in Galatia.
The apostle Paul makes it crystal clear, dear Francis, that salvation is by grace alone. If salvation is by grace (God’s work) then is no longer by human works. But if salvation is by human works then it is longer by grace (God’s work).
7.- “Pray to your father, talk to your father”
Scripture prohibits any class of prayer to anyone except God. Acts of worship are for the Lord alone. Furthermore, Scripture also forbids any type of communication with the spirits of the dead. How can your square your pastoral advice with the inspired Word of God?
I am not surprised that so many Catholics are up in arms regarding your recent statements.
I only hope that you yourself know the Gospel of Christ, namely, that the Son of God died and rose again for the forgiveness of sin.
Only by faith in the God-man can any person enter into the kingdom of God. Salvation is by Christ alone and in Christ alone!
Please take time to reflect upon what I have written.