Every so often, my sunny side flies completely out the window. This is just such a week.
Pope Francis, one day recently, picked up his pen and scripted an open letter to atheists and agnostics. In that letter he said that God will forgive them as long as they behave morally and live according to their consciences.
With apologies to my Roman Catholic friends who know and love Jesus: Your pope is dead wrong. Astute Christians should be overflowing the Vatican’s inboxes, whether electronic or post, with questions and protests, starting with, “For what purpose did Jesus come, then? And by whose morals should people behave? According to a conscience shaped by what? For studies of culture have proven that each culture dictates its own morality, and each child’s conscience is shaped by its surrounding influences.
A few weeks ago I mentioned in one of my columns that the church is dying for want of courage to stand firm in our faith. For ramping up curb appeal at the expense of truth. Here is a prime example. Telling people they can get into heaven merely by following their conscience and living a good life is a lie, and anyone who reads the Bible can’t escape that.
At first, when I heard this news, I decided to give Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt. He has surprised me — and all Christians with his charity, his willingness to rethink old positions for, seemingly, the sake of grace. Reports of his letter indicated that he emphasized relationship with God as more important than mere belief in God.
He’s right in this: simply believing the right things about God will not get you into heaven — relationship is essential. But a relationship with God means embracing him in his fullness — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” No atheist, no agnostic, no church-goer — and no pope. According to the Bible, without repenting of sin and accepting Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as payment for that sin, there is no path to God. Period. Anyone who says otherwise is selling counterfeit product. And it will take the taken-in just as far as the fake million dollar bills you can buy at almost any toy store.
All the good things all humankind has ever done, piled up, are nothing short of carrion compared to God’s righteousness. Heaven is gained through one entry fee only. Jesus has already paid it, and believers get in on his ticket alone.
To my Catholic friends who are equally dismayed (and I know there are scores of you), and those who are thoroughly confused, I say: read your Bibles. Discover the truth for yourself, and stand in it. Then stand up for it. Your pope has done incalculable damage, and people who fall for the lie in his letter will discover it too late.
As I said, this has not been my usual Sunny Side Up. I’m not sorry.