On May 22, 2013, Pope Francis shocked the world when he delivered an off-the-cuff homily in which he declared that Atheists could be saved by doing good works because Jesus died for everyone (see article).
The amazing assertion was, of course, thoroughly unbiblical. It violated two very fundamental biblical principles.
The first is the Bible's clear statement that salvation is by grace through faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-10). The second is that salvation is dependent on faith in Jesus as one's Lord and Savior. Jesus Himself said, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:3).
So, it is impossible to be saved by good works, and it is equally impossible to be saved apart from faith in Jesus. In fact, Jesus declared, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6).
It is true that Jesus died for all people (1 John 2:2), but it is also true that his atoning sacrifice must be appropriated individually by placing one's faith in Him as Lord and Savior (John 3:16).
Forty-eight hours after Pope Francis made his shocking observation, the Vatican attempted to clarify his remarks. They did so through an official spokesman, a priest by the name of Thomas Rosica. He said that people who are aware of the Catholic Church "cannot be save" if they "refuse to enter her or remain in her." So, the Pope's unbiblical assertion was "corrected" by another one that is equally unbiblical, for no one is saved by church membership. Salvation is not vested in an organization like the Roman Catholic Church. It is to be found, instead, in a person — the Messiah whom God sent to die for our sins, namely, Jesus of Nazareth.
An Irish Catholic commentator, Cahir O'Doherty, wrote, "It makes for an interesting spectacle to see the infallible pope being corrected by his handlers, doesn't it?" He then added, "If I was Pope Francis, I'd be employing a food taster right about now!"
If Atheists can be saved by doing good works, what is the purpose of the Church? And why did Jesus bother to come to this earth and experience the horror of the Cross?
It is rather painfully obvious that Pope Francis needs to start reading his Bible on a regular basis.
1) Cahir O'Doherty, "Vatican corrects infallible pope: Atheists will still burn in hell," www.IrishCentral.com.