Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question:
“Dear Dave and Tom,
What’s your take on the trend among evangelicals to be more tolerant of other beliefs, and in the process confuse people about the gospel and what they need to do to be saved?”
Tom: Dave, this is a simple question, but man, it just seems to be prevalent everywhere. The things that we’re hearing from evangelical leaders, a kind of a new tolerance, the statements that we’ve heard with regard to the pope and what a wonderful, moral leader he was – and not that he didn’t have some good qualities, but he certainly did not have the biblical gospel of salvation; but that seems to be okay these days.
Dave: Well, Tom, it’s really deadly. I just wrote an article about that, the death of the pope. I simply went into some of his beliefs. There is no escaping the fact that he looked to Mary for his salvation. It’s undeniable, and I give enough quotes of it. When he was shot, you know, twice by the would-be assassin, in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, he’s repeating over and over in Polish, “Madonna, Madonna, Madonna.” He tells you in a papal letter that he prostrates himself before the image of “Our Lady of Pompeii,” actually, in this particular case, but there’s all kinds of “our ladies” – and just cries out to her for salvation. I never find him trusting in Christ alone for salvation. I have never gotten the true gospel from the pope. But it’s always, you know, “Say the rosary for peace.” And you know, Tom, you’re the former Catholic; you know how the rosary goes and how it ends. It’s all about Mary.
Dave: You may say a few “Our Fathers” in there, and it ends, you know, she’s the “mother of mercy,” and she’s “our hope, our life,” and, “Mary, show us your Son Jesus when we finally – when life ends.” Mary is the one… In other words, the pope talked about salvation from Christ through Mary. Now, that’s not a sound gospel, and…
Tom: Well, furthermore, Dave, you’re offending people out there. I mean, people have been thrown off the air for discussing these issues, trying to bring truth into the matter.
Dave: Yeah, that’s a problem now, and we know of at least one talk show host who simply responded to a question from a listener: “Do you think the pope was in heaven?” Well, Tom, then let’s try to diffuse the offense: Cardinal O’Connor in the New York Times – this was in 1994, I think, way back there – I’m quoting him now; get offended with the cardinal. The cardinal said, “Church teaching is that I do not know at any moment what my eternal future will be. The pope, John Paul II, does not know whether he will go to heaven, nor does Mother Teresa of Calcutta.” This is what the man said. He went on to say, “I can hope and pray and do my best, but I do not know whether I will get to heaven.” On that basis, if the pope himself didn’t know whether he would get to heaven, then how could someone say for sure that he is in heaven? And why wouldn’t it be legitimate to ask the question, “Is the pope in heaven or isn’t he? And if so, on what basis?”
Tom: Absolutely. Dave, you have a book – we just got in a couple of truckloads of it, so if people call us and ask us about it, that would be great – Seeking and Finding God, because you lay out what the gospel is. These aren’t your ideas. You put it in a small book that people could have and take a look at – consider, at least.
Dave: Mm-hmm. Well, Tom, first of all, whether you get to heaven or not, that is God’s decision. He sets the standards, He makes the rules, and He does not consult Mary about it, and He will not bend His rules for Mary or for anyone else. You can turn over a new leaf, you can say you’re doing the best you can, [but] God is not going to lower His standards. So first of all, we’ve got to find out what does the Bible say? This is God’s Word. On what basis will He let me into heaven – welcome me, in fact? Jesus made it very clear: He said, “Straight is the gate, narrow is the way that leads to life. Few there be that find it, for broad is the road that leads to destruction; many there be which go in thereat.” Well, what is this narrow way, this narrow gate? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.”
Now, so just because you believe that somebody named Jesus lived on this earth and died on a cross… No, it involves much more than that. I mean, obviously, that’s not going to save anyone. What did He do to save you? Why did He die on the cross? Who is He? Why did He come? And Jesus Himself in John 8 says, “Except you believe that I AM…” He is in italics there. “If you don’t believe that I AM,” and I AM is the name of God. This is what Yahweh says to Moses: “I AM that I AM.” Jesus is saying, “If you don’t believe that I am God, you will die in your sins.” It’s that simple. You must believe that Jesus is God.
In another place, Paul says, “If we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead…” Well, you must believe in the resurrection. And you know that there are polls out there, Barna polls and so forth, of people who call themselves born again Christians. Some of them don’t believe – many of them don’t believe that Jesus is God. They don’t believe in the resurrection. Paul says, “This is the gospel by which you are saved that you believe and wherein you stand; how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” Now, that takes in all that the Bible says about Christ. Why did He die for our sins? There’s no other way; because sin is a very serious offense to God. It would separate us from God forever. This is not just a small matter, it’s a matter of eternity. It’s either heaven or hell forever. But it’s not Jesus plus something; it’s not, “Yeah, I believe in Jesus, but I’m also saying my prayers. I’m going to make my pilgrimages, or I’m doing good deeds, or I’m a regular church attender.” Be a regular church attender; that’s good if it’s a good church, but that is not going to help your salvation. So it is not Jesus Christ plus anything, and if you are not trusting totally and completely only in Christ for your salvation, I can say on the authority of the Word of God you’re not saved. You’re not trusting Christ, you are trusting Christ along with something else, and that will not do. Jesus is not going to share the credit for your salvation with anyone or any action or anything that you can do.