21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
[See also: Benedict says stuff: FOXNews.com – U.S. & World News – Pope Encyclical Mandates Charity from the article on the Other Page.]
This topic keeps coming up, probably because the discipline required to counteract it causes so much pain on both sides. I grew up with Catholic schoolmates…there are quite a few Catholics in our extended family. I’m not saying these things out of hatred or anger at Catholics. There have been many examples of courageous and positive role models among Catholics in recent memory—John Paul II, Teresa, and others. A lot of peoples’ favorite author and one of mine, J.R.R. Tolkein, was Catholic. In the referenced news story, Benedict has said some things that sound remarkably like real Christian theology. Are we to conclude that these genuinely admirable individuals and their contributions to humanity somehow missed the point, fell short of the mark, and ultimately failed to meet God’s requirements for Salvation?
23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
We continue to believe and teach, as Paul did, that our Salvation is solely in our faith in Jesus, in our acceptance of His Sacrifice which reconciles us to God (Romans 10:9-11).
In 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, Paul proclaims the things that Love worthy of God is not. Contrary to all human expectation, it is possible to have superhuman wisdom, to give everything we have to the poor, and even give up our lives for others, and still utterly miss the point. What is this “Love” that Paul is talking about? John also speaks to the subject:
1 John 4
8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Last year, we visited churches in France and the Vatican. I stood in these architecturally awesome places, and felt that deathly emptiness imbued with an overpowering aura of unapproachable superiority that can only come from an appalling ignorance of God. This is that horrific and ancient cult that teaches the “ascension and coronation of the virgin”, and the “eternal ever-virgin”, and leads people to worship ground-water seepages on underpasses and wrinkles in screen doors, and to travel to obscure grottos in Eastern Europe to see apparitions of their “great lady”, and so lures them away from the freely offered Grace of God’s Love in the person of Jesus Christ, and the Power that rescues hopeless sinners like all of us and changes their lives forever.
If your faith is in foolishness the people have made up because God’s Way doesn’t meet their expectations, you are going to live and die separated from His Love. Even very good and noble people are not good and noble enough to meet God’s standards apart from the Grace that comes through Jesus Christ. There is still time for the rest of us.