A reader from New York writes:
If I could take what the pope said about salvation seriously, then your shroud would become irrelevant. You don’t need to believe in anything, said Francis according to CNN. As an atheist it is nice to know I’m going to a heaven I don’t believe in where I’ll find out if your shroud is real or fake.
Or not! Here is what CNN is saying online:
But you must read beyond the first two paragraphs.
Francis’ comments received a great deal of attention on social media, with a number of people asking whether the Catholic leader believes that atheists and agnostics go to heaven, too.
On Thursday, the Vatican issued an “explanatory note on the meaning to ‘salvation.’"
The Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, said that people who aware of the Catholic church “cannot be saved” if they “refuse to enter her or remain in her.”
Of course, as an Anglican I don’t agree. Nor will many Orthodox, Coptic, Protestant and Evangelical Christians. But then again this controversial stance isn’t new. Nor is the controversy, also raised in the CNN story, over works and grace new.
“You don’t need to believe in anything,” the letter writer from New York says.
I remember sitting in a discussion forum in an Episcopal church about three years ago. The priest leading the discussion wrote three options on a chart under the heading, “What You Must Believe for Salvation” Under that, in parentheses, he wrote, “Salvation = Heaven.”
- Because of Christ’s Sacrifice you can be saved without believing in Christ.
- To be saved you must believe in the resurrection of Christ.
- To be saved you must believe in the words of the Nicene Creed.
We voted by raising our hands. As I recall each option received eight votes. I was very surprised by the vote for number 3. While I believe in the resurrection I also don’t believe that you must believe in it for salvation.
The Pew Research Forum survey from 2008, “Many Americans Say Other Faiths Can Lead to Eternal Life,” is very revealing, at least for Americans. Based on polling data, 83% of American Catholics believe that Protestants can have eternal life and 49% believe Atheists can.
One twittering pundit asked: Should we believe the pope or the vatican spin?
Does the story in the Huffington Post with the headline that reads, "Pope Francis Says Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed, Not Just Catholics” clarify anything?
An article in the Christian Post, “Pope Francis: Non-Catholics and Atheists Can Do Good, Too,” explores this story effectively, at least this early in the news cycle.
Anyway, why does this make the shroud irrelevant?