Monday, December 28, 2015
Atheists in Heaven?
In 2013, an Italian newspaper created a controversy when it reported, “Pope Francis assures atheists that they don't have to believe in God to go to heaven. Non-believers will be forgiven by God if they follow their consciences.”
I’m puzzled as to why atheists are interested in heaven. If they don’t believe in God, how could they believe in His heavenly kingdom? Are atheists wavering in their beliefs? Are they asking themselves, “If I’m wrong and come before the judgement seat as an unbeliever, is there any hope for me in eternity?”
I presume that Pope Francis was reaching out to atheists who are unconvinced about their beliefs. He was quoted in the Italian newspaper as saying, “God’s mercy has no limits if you go to Him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience. Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”
Notably, no mortal man has unwaveringly obeyed their conscience. All men are sinners. Moreover, to approach God with a contrite heart is to approach God with remorse for having sinned.
Christians are saved by grace and justified by faith in Jesus Christ whom the prophet Isaiah identified as “Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” However, atheists don’t believe in God. Hence, they can’t acknowledge Jesus as the only begotten Son of God. As unbelievers, they will be judged according to their deeds. Since all men are sinners and apart from Jesus Christ there is no salvation from the consequences of sin, how will they escape eternal damnation if they neglect so great a salvation?