Pope Francis, Francis Schaeffer, and the Consequences of Ideas

One of the major roles of a leader is to communicate effectively and to do so one needs to be clear with their communication. This is doubly true for leaders within Christianity being that we are entrusted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of truth. Unfortunately, many leaders seem to thrive off of making controversial statements that are not always clear. One such leader is the man who was heralded as, “A Pope for all Christians,” Pope Francis. Much has been made of his many provocative comments in recent weeks regarding atheism, abortion, and homosexuality. Shortly after I posted my first blog about the temptation to replace abortion and gay marriage teaching with more culturally accepted issues, Pope Francis did just what I warned about by calling for a shift away from teaching on abortion and homosexuality to instead focus on more socially accepted practices like feeding the poor. Either way, Francis missed the centrality of the Gospel and his teachings have been anything but clear and have left many Catholics scrambling. One thing Francis has made clear is that he desires to shift the public priorities of the Catholic Church in a way that will not bother the world as much as it has in the past. As alarming as the Pope’s former statements have been, this past week’s controversial statements are far more troubling because they show how Pope Francis actually thinks and formulates his ethic. 


             Pope Francis this week in essence denied absolute truth in morality and he also denied the need for evangelism. Make no mistake the two are closely linked. If there is no universal vision of good then there is no need for us to be converted to it. In an interview with an atheist reporter, Francis was asked if there is a single vision of good in regards to morality and his reply is deeply troubling, “Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place,” (emphasis mine). When the Pope was asked if he was going to try to convert the interviewer, who is an atheist, he said, “Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us.” These statements are beyond shocking, they are also dangerous. 

            One of my favorite Christian authors is another Francis, Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer authored many books dealing with the reality of absolute truth and he authored many books defending and explaining the Christian faith. One of his more famous statements is this, “Ideas have consequences.” In other words, how we think about things impact how we will live our lives. I wish Pope Francis grasped this reality. If we think that man determines what is good and what is evil for himself then of course we have no need to evangelize people. If truth is in the eye of the beholder then there is no need to follow the one who claims to be “The way, the truth, and the life.” How we think affects how we act. 

            The idea that there are many “visions” of good and that each man must fight evil as he or she "conceives" it is pure nonsense when compared to standard of Scripture. Some men conceive that Christianity is evil, according to the Pope’s ethic they should fight against it and that will make the world a better place. There are more than a few people throughout the world who think America is the greatest evil in the world and they strive to kill all those who support her. They have conceived us as evil and are fighting against this “evil.” Is this ethical? Is this good? No, even if others conceive it as so. Man is not inherently good and therefore man cannot be counted on to judge rightly between what is good and what is evil. 

There is only one who is good (Matt. 19:17) and that is God. He is the standard of good and he has revealed it to us through his Word what is good and what is evil. To suggest that each man should choose for himself what is good and what is evil is to place man on the throne of God. It is idolatry. To suggest that we are even able in our fallen state to see clearly enough to tell the difference between good and evil is to ignore the clear teaching that man is fallen and that, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick,” (Jer. 17:9). Wisdom and knowledge of what is good and evil comes from God not man (Prov. 2:6). Anyone who suggests that man can be his own judge of what is good and what is evil is merely repeating the same lie that the Serpent did in the Garden in Genesis 3:5, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.” This lie has never worked out well for mankind. We will never be like God in this way, and all attempts to place ourselves on his throne leads to more evil than good.

             Pope Francis, there are consequences to your ideas. Do you really want each man to the judge of what is good and what is wrong for himself? Have we not seen the results of such thinking throughout our history? Ideas have consequences. It is clear that how the Pope forms his ethic, that every man is his own judge, impacts his controversial statements about abortion, homosexuality, atheism, and evangelism. This line of thinking is pure relativism. If each man becomes the moral judge of himself who is the Pope to condemn abortion? To condemn any immoral action? How can the church speak out against anything? The Pope has forgotten that God is a righteous judge and he will in no way pardon the guilty (Ex. 34:6-7). God is the standard of morality, not man, and Christians know this to be true for the Word of God tells us so. The Pope who was hailed as a Pope for All Christians is turning out to be a Pope who looks and thinks an awful lot like the world and not the church