Sunday, June 02, 2013

Francis of Rome on Atheists and Redemption

Francis of Rome was recently reported speaking about good works and atheism:
Wednesday’s Gospel speaks to us about the disciples who prevented a person from outside their group from doing good. “They complain,” the Pope said in his homily, because they say, “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” And Jesus corrects them: “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.” The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of ​​possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” “This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.” Pope Francis said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”:

"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. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. Instead, this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”

“Instead,” the Pope continued, “the Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil”:

"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! 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! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. 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.”

“Doing good” the Pope explained, is not a matter of faith: “It is a duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because He has made us in His image and likeness. And He does good, always.”
Where is Francis of Rome correct?

Atheists can do civil good. They can outwardly conform to the law of God in a variety of ways. They can (and many do) give to the poor. They can (and nearly all do) abstain from killing their neighbors. These things do not fully comply with the law of God, because they do not arise from right motives. Nevertheless, we sometimes refer to these deeds as good in view of their outward conformity to the law of God.

That we do good to our neighbors is written in the law. The second great commandment commands us to do good to our neighbor. Moreover, the parable of the good Samaritan commends to us the activities of an unbeliever, as an example of what our behavior should be. Thus, there is Biblical warrant for using the actions of unbelievers as examples of (partial, outward) compliance with God's law.

Atheists have the law of God written on their heart. They have a conscience. That which may be known of God is manifest to them, for God has shown it to them. That conscience may be seared. The image of God may be damaged, distorted, and perverted, but it is there.

Where has Francis of Rome erred?

Francis was wrong to say that all are redeemed. The Israelites were redeemed - the Egyptians were not. By analogy, the elect are redeemed, the reprobate are not.

Francis was wrong to say that we are all "children of God of the first class." There may be some sense in which all humans are God's children, but not in the highest sense. Recall that Jesus himself compared the Jews to God's children and the non-Jews to dogs. There is a distinction between the people of God and those outside the people of God.

Response to Some Objections

Some of Rome's apologists will respond, like Bryan Cross:
It is important, as you mentioned, to distinguish between redemption accomplished objectively, and redemption applied subjectively. Pope Francis was speaking of the former when saying that Christ has redeemed all men, and therefore not implying universalism.
Bryan may be right to insist on that distinction, but Francis is not making that distinction - he's arguing that the "this Blood makes us children of God." The consistent reference to "us" in Francis' lecture is everyone, and specifically not just Roman Catholics. The blood acting on subjects to make them something is not simply objective redemption accomplished, contrary to Bryan's wish.

Jason Stellman, recent apostate/revert to Rome (it is unclear if he was baptized RC or not) put it this way:
Again, it’s not that “our sins are paid for” in the sense Protestants think of it (i.e., God imputing our guilt to Christ, pouring out his wrath upon him, and then imputing his righteousness to us). So the reason redemption accomplished doesn’t imply redemption applied is that the former doesn’t mean for Catholics what it does for Protestants. Jesus did not suffer divine anger and retribution for a certain group of people who then cannot but be saved. Rather, he recapitulated Adamic humanity in himself by offering a sacrifice that pleased the Father more than our sins displeased him. When seen in this way, redemption applied ceases to be a foregone conclusion and actually becomes something we must actively pursue through faith and the sacraments.
Expressing the recapitulation theory this way, however, doesn't rescue Francis. Francis is talking about something that has been applied to people, not something that is merely available to people.

Jimmy Akin similarly says:
So far so good: Christ redeemed all of us, making it possible for every human to be saved.
That is not what Francis said, though. Francis did not say simply that it was possible for them to be saved, but that this redemption had made them children of God "of the first class."

Jimmy Akin continued:
We can be called children of God in several senses. One of them is merely be being created as rational beings made in God’s image. Another is by becoming Christian. Another sense (used in the Old Testament) is connected with righteous behavior. And there can be other senses as well.

Here Pope Francis may be envisioning a sense in which we can be called children of God because Christ redeemed us, even apart from embracing that redemption by becoming Christian.
Had Francis not added "of the first class," then this avenue might be available. Yet Francis talked about them being made children of the first class.

Mark Shea took umbrage with the way the story was reported in HuffPo (and who can blame him). However, Shea (and Andrew Preslar) helpfully pointed out that CCC 605 specifically states, “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer,” quoting from the regional council of Council of Quiercy of 853, as reported in Denzinger's Sources at item 624 (Latin numbering, corresponding to item 319 in the English). That original source stated:
316 Chap. 1. Omnipotent God created man noble without sin with a free will, and he whom He wished to remain in the sanctity of justice, He placed in Paradise. Man using his free will badly sinned and fell, and became the "mass of perdition" of the entire human race. The just and good God, however, chose from this same mass of perdition according to His foreknowledge those whom through grace He predestined to life [ Rom. 8:29 ff.; Eph. 1:11], and He predestined for these eternal life; the others, whom by the judgment of justice he left in the mass of perdition,* however, He knew would perish, but He did not predestine that they would perish, because He is just; however, He predestined eternal punishment for them. And on account of this we speak of only one predestination of God, which pertains either to the gift of grace or to the retribution of justice.

317 Chap. 2. The freedom of will which we lost in the first man, we have received back through Christ our Lord; and we have free will for good, preceded and aided by grace, and we have free will for evil, abandoned by grace. Moreover, because freed by grace and by grace healed from corruption, we have free will.

318 Chap. 3. Omnipotent God wishes all men without exception to be saved [1 Tim. 2:4] although not all will be saved. However, that certain ones are saved, is the gift of the one who saves; that certain ones perish, however, is the deserved punishment of those who perish.

319 Chap. 4. Christ Jesus our Lord, as no man who is or has been or ever will be whose nature will not have been assumed in Him, so there is, has been, or will be no man, for whom He has not suffered- although not all will be saved by the mystery of His passion. But because all are not redeemed by the mystery of His passion, He does not regard the greatness and the fullness of the price, but He regards the part of the unfaithful ones and those not believing in faith those things which He has worked through love [Gal. 5:6], because the drink of human safety, which has been prepared by our infirmity and by divine strength, has indeed in itself that it may be beneficial to all; but if it is not drunk, it does not heal.
Setting aside the problems of this nearly Arminian/Amyraldian view of the atonement, notice that this text does state that Jesus suffered in some sense for all, but simultaneously states that "all are not redeemed."

Moreover, redemption is (in the Bible) explicitly expressed in terms of distinction:
Revelation 14:3-4
And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
Moreover, redemption is expressed as the basis for the effectual call:
Zechariah 10:8
I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them: and they shall increase as they have increased.
Stellman tries to defend the claim of universal redemption by citing:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross (Col. 1:15-20).
The problem with an appeal to that text is that if Stellman is saying that "all things" there refers to each and every human being that ever was or will be, and he is saying that this passage refers not just to a desire but something actually done, then he's stuck with saying that God reconciles all men to himself and is at peace with them. In what sense, then, could they said to be "children of wrath"? No, the attempted justification cannot stand.

Finally, note Francis' concluding prayer:
"Today is [the feast of] Santa Rita, Patron Saint of impossible things – but this seems impossible: let us ask of her this grace, this grace that all, all, all people would do good and that we would encounter one another in this work, which is a work of creation, like the creation of the Father. A work of the family, because we are all children of God, all of us, all of us! And God loves us, all of us! May Santa Rita grant us this grace, which seems almost impossible. Amen.”
In this prayer (to Rita) he asks (of her, not of God) grace to do something that allegedly by created nature and redemption they already can do, namely good works. Moreover, Francis insists on a universal love of God, and asserts that we are all children of God, as he had already done in his homily. I would just note finally how this teaching by Francis eviscerates the doctrine of adoption.
John 1:12
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

1 John 3:1-2
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
Francis is wrong on redemption and wrong on adoption.


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