The pope has made the headlines again with an open letter written to an Italian newspaper in which he states, “God forgives those who obey their conscience,” among other things. Although the pope seems to be trying to reach out to the lost with these words, he instead is driving unbelievers further from salvation.
God’s own Word, the Bible, is quite clear about salvation. Jesus Himself says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:16-18) We also read in John, Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. (John 3:36)
How is anyone saved eternally? By God’s grace (his undeserved love), through faith: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
The pope writes, “God forgives those who obey their conscience” and “the Christian God forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith.” These statements contradict the clear Word of God: In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Ephesians 1:7) Only through Christ do we have forgiveness, not through obeying our consciences.
Although many in the media are praising the words of the pope as a show of “openness” to the world, Christians can only denounce them as contrary to the Christian faith.