George Pell: Eternal life possible for all good people

Cardinal George Pell’s musings on Easter can be read via News Limited’s website. While there are elements in the message holding true to the Easter message, I’m rather concerned with these particular paragraph:

The Risen Christ has brought about the possibility of eternal life for all good people – including those who do not know or accept Christianity – and there are many rooms in the Father’s house after death.

Any Bible believing Christian should recognise that this statement contradicts the teachings of Jesus Christ, which imply that eternal life is a gift for those who embrace Jesus as their sole Lord and Saviour. Consider what is probably the most well known verse in Scripture:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16, NIV)

Emphasis added by me – it’s clear that people who believe in him accept and know the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. If you don’t know Christianity, you do not know Christ. If you don’t believe in him (which is a lot more than just knowing that he existed, but acknowledging that his death was the “great exchange” that enables us to be saved), you cannot work your way to eternal life. Good people are not destined for eternal life, and for those who believe that by being good they’re earning their salvation, you need to know right now that you’re putting your eggs in the wrong basket. It’s a confronting message, but one that all people, regardless of where they stand, would do well to consider.

There was no good thief on either side of Jesus on Golgotha. Pell neglects to mention that the thief whom he classifies as “good” acknowledged that he was by no means good, saying that they were being justly punished for offences caused in their life. Then he acts in repentance and asks Jesus that he be included in the Kingdom, a request that Jesus, in mercy, grants. See Luke 23:39-43.

As for what I believe most powerfully captures the Easter message, I defer to the Apostle Paul:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8, NIV)

Have a blessed and reflective Easter.


5 Responses

  1. I don’t think the thief would be familiar with the ‘fundamental doctrines of Christianity’ (however our tradition wishes to define them) and even if he did know them that wouldn’t merit his salvation. Granted though, he was saved by Christ the God-man, not the doctrine.

    How do you deal with Acts 10:34? God-fearing do-gooders are accepted by God but not saved?

  2. Yeah, that’s a fair point. I was merely querying Pell’s portrayal of the thief as good – yes, compared to the other one it could be said that he was, but not much could be made for a case that he was good (just like us all, really). And of course, mere knowledge is nothing without the faith that comes through a right response to salvation – the old head/heart comparison, if you will.

    Acts 10:34? I’ll have to mull over that one, which for me means usually consulting several different versions and a Strong’s. It depends what Peter is referring to when he says right – whether it’s a morally upright character that is shaped by simple desire to be a do-gooder as you’ve put it, or a response that is inspired by faithful witness. I’d be inclined to go with the latter naturally, but it’s better to look further into it.

    Thanks for your comment – I’ll have to add your blog to my list to keep an eye on. I like the work you’ve done to create that blog list.

  3. assuming you gave us all the context needed, Pell is 100% correct. Eternal life is “possible” for anyone, through faith in Christ.

    It seems you’re having trouble separating Christ from religion. One merely needs to believe in Christ to know God. “Christianity” is the man-made religion (ideally) centered on Christ’s teaching.

  4. Oh, and no one “works their way to eternal life”. Upon what do you base your claim that “if you don’t know Christianity you don’t know Christ”? Christianity is a man-made religion. It can become perverted like anything else made by men. Christ is absolute, eternal.

  5. Acts 10:34 – 43
    34Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

    39″We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

    its sound better when you read the lot

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