Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pope: Half Right

If I were a Roman Catholic, Pope Benedict would be my kind of pope. He's a straight shooter who has no time for theological liberalism or cafeteria Christianity. Lately he's been talking about the reality of hell. It's not some bogeyman to keep the faithful in line, he says. It's "the ultimate consequence of sin itself. Rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitely separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy." So far so good. However, the Pope runs aground when he states as the determining factor of ending up in heaven or hell man's free will. As a Calvinist, I know that man's will is in bondage, and we are incapable of choosing God or heaven. The fall of man affected us to such a degree that we are, apart from God's sovereign grace, enemies of godliness, and at war with spiritual things, at war with God himself. How do I know this? Sing along with me: "The Bible tells me so."

"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1).

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)" (Ephesians 2:5).

Dead men can't choose to come alive again, and sinners can't choose Christ apart from the sovereign mercy of the Father. The issue of free will is knotty because it offends against man's pride and makes God seem capricious in choosing who is saved. Charles Spurgeon probably put it best. He once said that on the front of heaven's gate is written, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). But when you enter heaven and turn around you will see written on the back of heaven's gate, "No man can come to me, except the Father which sent me draw him" (John 6:44).

So the Pope has it half right. Heaven and hell are eternal realities, but it is God who decides who goes there. As God said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy" (Exodus 33:19). If you desire to escape the alienation of hell, run to Christ, but remember it was God who put that desire in your heart in the first place. Such is the mystery of our faith, but true faith always exalts God and humbles man.

2 Comments:

Blogger homo unius libri said...

Interesting, considering that the Pope "holds the keys" - shouldn't it be the Catholic church (in their opinion) that determines who get hosted or toasted?

9:58 AM  
Blogger Samantha said...

Amen. Amen.

Salvation belongs to the LORD

11:48 AM  

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