Question: On 11/30/05, Pope Benedict XVI declared to 23,000 people in St. Peter's Square in Rome, "Whoever seeks peace and the good of the community with a pure conscience, and keeps alive the desire for the transcendent, will be saved even if he lacks biblical faith." Could this explain how pagans throughout history who never heard the gospel could be saved?
Response: Everyone in every culture and time in history knows from abundant evidence that the universe was created by a God infinite in wisdom, power, and purity (Rom 1). God promises, "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart" (Jer:29:13). He will reveal Himself to everyone who truly seeks Him.
Not everyone, however, who claims to seek God, is seeking the true God. Most "seekers" are seeking a false god of their own imagination that will give them what they want. This is a flaw in the "seeker friendly" church growth movement: giving people the "religion" they want instead of the convicting truth they need. The Athenians claimed to be seeking truth; but when Paul on Mars' hill revealed the true God to them, "some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter." Very few believed (Acts:17:32-34).
The truth will never be popular. Many Jews, confronted by biblical proof, knew that Jesus was the Messiah but did not want their false view of the Messiah disturbed. So Jesus said, "And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not" (Jn:8:45). Benedict XVI did not tell his fawning audience the truth but what they wanted to hear (2 Tm 4:3,4).
The Pope's words are unbiblical and misleading. Having a "desire for the transcendent," does not equal seeking the one true God. Nor can seeking "peace and the good of the community" be equated with receiving as personal Savior the One who "made peace through the blood of his cross" (Col:1:20). Nor has anyone a "pure conscience": "There is none righteous, no, not one...all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God..." (Rom:3:10, 23). God has written His law in every conscience and every person knows that he has broken that law many times. When Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her," the woman's accusers, "convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one..." (Jn:8:7-9). The Pope and his Church offer false hope to sinners.