Viewing Mankind With "Dung-Colored Glasses"
The USA Today newspaper today tells us that Pope Francis "defends atheists." Another headline declares that the pope says "atheists are redeemed." Others are saying that that the pope says that "one doesn't require belief to be redeemed." From what I can tell, the pope didn't say or imply any of the above no one, yet has been privy to all of his homily comments in their context.
That being said, from my perspective Pope Francis was simply ennuciating the Catholic view of man. We are made in God's image. Yes, even non-believers. We are not piles of dung merely covered with a layer of pure white snow (reformer's view of man*) One of the ways that we "image God" is by doing good works in our life. Even those who don't acknowledge God know that it is good to do good and the pope was saying this could be a place where we could "meet in the middle."
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.
But, will all be saved at the final judgment? No. Did Christ die for all men ? Yes! Once again we see the beauty of Catholic theology in practical terms here. The pope makes it clear that Christ's redeeming death was for all men, yet we know that not all men are not going to avail themselves of that grace-by their choice, not His. "God is not willing that any should perish but all come to repentance" - even atheists!
From the Catechism: The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer(605).
So in Pope Francis statements, we see the heart of God towards all men, even those who reject him. They are not piles of dung, but people made in His image, still capable of doing good and making the right choices, in spite of their lack of belief, regardless of their ultimate eternal destination. As a Protestant, I developed a somewhat distorted view of humankind, which unfortunately at times colored the way in which I viewed individuals. If I saw folks who were "not saved" in my estimation, I somehow was justified in thinking them less than me in some way. I did not (in my mind and attitude) accord them the dignity they were deserving of. But the Church teaches us that they too were made in the image of a God who suffered and died for them. It was only by His grace that I came to belief in Him. Being Catholic has totally changed my paradigm of how I view people especially "unbelievers." I now want to see people with the eyes of Jesus, having removed my "dung-colored glasses." The founder of the reformation didn't view man as kindly.
*I said before that our righteousness is dung in the sight of God. Now if God chooses to adorn dung, he can do so (Luther's Works, Vol. 34, page 184).
All the justified could glory in their works, if they would attribute glory to God with respect to themselves. In this manner they would not be dung, but ornaments (Luther's Works, Vol. 34, page 178).
"I am the ripe sh_t; so also is the world a wide a__hole; then shall we soon part." Luther
(H/t Dave Armstrong)