Everyone is just *shocked* that Pope Francis has said that non-Christians and Christians may end up in the same place in the grand scheme of things.
I heard the news and yawned and said “Oh, Karl Rahner is in the news…”
Karl Rahner was one of the greatest minds in the Roman Catholic Church. His theological tenets and work heavily influenced Vatican II, the last major reform of the RCC.
And it seems like the new Pope Francis has a bit of Rahner in him.
Reported on the Huffington Post, the Pope preached a sermon with this:
Using scripture from the Gospel of Mark, Francis explained how upset Jesus’ disciples were that someone outside their group was doing good, according to a report from Vatican Radio.
“They complain,” the Pope said in his homily, because they say, “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” And Jesus corrects them: “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.” The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” “This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.” Pope Francis said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”
Pope Francis went further in his sermon to say:
“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can… “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!”.. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
Karl Rahner was well known as a Christian Inclusivist in the above blue chart. He believed in a concept of “Anonymous Christians” meaning that people who have never heard the Christian Gospel might be saved through Christ.
- Non-Christians could have “in [their] basic orientation and fundamental decision,” Rahner wrote, “accepted the salvific grace of God, through Christ, although [they] may never have heard of the Christian revelation.”
- Then Vatican II affirmed Lumen Gentium, where it states: “Those also can attain to everlasting salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ or his Church, yet sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, strive by their deeds to do his will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.”
For fans of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, you might recognize the theology from this section:
‘Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?’ The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, ‘It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites — I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore, if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.
I appreciate that Pope Francis has continued this traditional interpretation, even though it is a more narrow viewpoint of Inclusivism (called “Christian Inclusivism”) than I think is appropriate. From my article on the study of salvation theories:
- Inclusivism: Most (or all) faiths worship in different ways through different avenues but all lead to God for faithful members of those faiths
- The subform is “Christian Inclusivism” where all other religions are actually worshipping shadow versions of Christ and lead to the Christian God if they are faithful to the shadow Christ in their religion.
So I can see that people who are faithful followers of other religions would be offended by Francis basically saying they worship shadow versions of Christ, it could be that we all worship incomplete pictures of God and will only have the whole painting laid out for us someday in the future.
Just some musing on this theological statement is well established in the Roman Catholic Church and in some other church traditions as well. If you want more explanation on the span of salvation theologies, read my article “Exclusivism to Universalism.”