It wasn’t too long ago that the Pope was widely considered by the Protestant world to be the Antichrist. Not just “antichrist”, but THE Antichrist, big “A”, long horns, pit of hell stuff. But then the Pope in those days was slaughtering Protestants and building huge cathedrals on the false hopes of ignorant peasants enslaved to a false gospel. Of course when I say that it wasn’t too long ago, I mean it was just a couple of centuries, but that really shouldn’t be a huge period of time to properly historically-minded people who don’t think that the world began on the day they were born.
But I digress.
Pope John Paul II was a different kind of pope, it seems to me. It’s all been said, so I won’t rehearse it here, but he championed freedom, life and values. He was more responsible for the downfall of communism than anyone else in the world with the possible exception of Ronald Reagan. He was a great man.
Of course, being a great man doesn’t get you into heaven. And in regard to Catholics, I’ve often said that while there are certainly individual Roman Catholics who may truly trust Jesus as their Lord and savior, it seemed impossible to me that someone could be well-versed in Catholic theology and yet be saved, with its works requirement for salvation, its deification of Mary and other saints, its many additions to Scripture, and its bastardization of the Lord’s Supper, the one sacrament which ought to be a continuing part of every Christian’s life. Big issues, these, and how could you be said to worship the one true God and at the same time give some of that glory to Mary?
How could a man who truly knew and believed these doctrines be said to trust only in Jesus Christ for his salvation? And who would be more well-versed in Roman Catholic doctrine than the Pope?
Just as being a great man doesn’t get you into heaven, though, neither does accuracy of doctrine. Being a good Christian doesn’t mean being a good scholar. All Christians ought to be scholars as they are able, but it is faith like a little child which is the instrument by which Christ’s redemption is applied to us, and only that sacrifice and death can “get us into heaven”. Did Pope John Paul II have that faith? How on earth are we to know?
For all the RC’s faults, they believe in the trinity, the deity of Christ, and his substitutionary death on the cross for our sins. They believe that it is necessary that I have faith in that death for salvation. They believe in the afterlife, heaven and hell, even if they did add a third, utterly unbiblical state, purgatory. All of this, it seems to me, add up to the core of the gospel, even if they have dumped a truckload of other garbage on top of those beautiful doctrines, obscuring them to millions.
So I’m not willing to say. And I don’t think anybody should. I think this is the proper use of that so often abused quote from Jesus- “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” If I judge John Paul to be condemned by his impurity of doctrine, I may just be judged on the same basis myself, and I am not so big a fool as to think that I’ve earned my place in heaven by my theological acumen. I am utterly dependent on the grace and mercy of God. So is Pope John Paul II, and I am content to leave it that way. “Will not the judge of the earth do right?”