In Vultum Dei, Pope Francis taught on the salvation of non-believers

…and few persons noticed. Here is what Pope Francis, the Supreme Teacher of the Universal Church, taught:

“Seeking the face of God has always been a part of our human history. From the beginning, men and women have been called to a dialogue of love with the Creator. Indeed, mankind is distinguished by an irrepressible religious dimension that leads human hearts to feel the need – albeit not always consciously – to seek God, the Absolute. This quest unites all men and women of good will. Even many who claim to be non-believers acknowledge this heartfelt longing, present in every man and woman who, drawn by a passionate desire for happiness and fulfillment, never remains fully satisfied.” [Vultum Dei, n. 1.]

From the beginning of human history, and therefore prior to Christianity and Judaism, men and women have been called to seek the face of God, their Creator. Truly, human reason, apart from Divine revelation, can know that Creation must have a Creator-God, and that we should love and worship our Creator. And the Church has clearly taught these points before.

Then the holy Pontiff, the Father and Teacher of all Christians, goes on to teach that people are drawn to seek God “not always consciously”, that is to say, some human persons seek God implicitly, by seeking transcendent goods, such as happiness, truth, love, mercy, justice, etc. And this search for God includes non-believers. They “claim” to be non-believers, but they are implicitly seeking the face of God — as long as they are persons of good will.

The Holy Father teaches us that all men and women of good will are united by the quest to seek the face of God. And this implies that all persons of good will are necessarily in the state of sanctifying grace. Certainly, if you are in the state of grace, you have all three theological virtues — love, faith, hope — and therefore you love God and neighbor and are a person of good will. But can we say the reverse? If someone is truly a person of good will, not merely apparently so, are they necessarily in the state of grace? Pope Francis implies that they are. For they sincerely seek the face of God; they seek a dialogue of love with their Creator.

My understanding is that, if we define “persons of good will” properly, then all persons of good will are in the state of grace. For you cannot be said to have good will toward other human persons unless you have true selfless love of neighbor. And whosoever truly selflessly loves their neighbor also loves God, at least implicitly. Pope Francis acknowledges this implicit love of God by non-believers when he includes “many” of them, though not all of them, among persons of good will. All persons of good will are united by a love of God that is at least implicit, and by the love of neighbor.

[1 John]
{2:10} Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause of offense in him.

If there is “no cause of offense” in someone, they must be in the state of grace. So the love of neighbor implies the state of grace, and therefore also the love of God, which may be implicit or explicit.

Therefore, atheists, agnostics, and persons of any religion that sincerely seeks the face of God can all possibly be persons of good will and in the state of grace. And whosoever dies in the state of grace will have eternal life in Heaven. An atheist can be saved and go to Heaven, if he or she truly selflessly loves other human persons.

Christians are not the only ones who are saved. Christians are not the only ones who are children of God by spiritual adoption. All persons of good will are saved, as long as they remain persons of good will by avoiding (or at least repenting of) actual mortal sin. All persons of good will are in the state of grace, by means of one of the three forms of baptism. All persons of good will are children of God by spiritual adoption.

Pope Francis taught something very important (and somewhat controversial) on salvation in Vultum Dei — and few persons noticed.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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7 Responses to In Vultum Dei, Pope Francis taught on the salvation of non-believers

  1. Elizmary says:

    Very confused,so what you are saying is if one loves ones neighbors and has good will towards everyone even if you are an atheist and you don’t believe that there is a God and there is nothing after death you will still go to heaven

    • Ron Conte says:

      Yes: if one loves one’s neighbors and has good will towards everyone, even if you are an atheist, and you don’t believe that there is a God, and [you instead believe that] there is nothing after death, you will still go to heaven. God’s grace works in mysterious ways. The Roman Centurion, who had great faith and who loved his servant selflessly, was not a Christian or Jew, yet he was saved.

  2. Elizmary says:

    Yes the Centurion was saved because he had great faith in Jesus Christ. Atheists do not believe in God or Jesus Christ they have no faith in God so how can they be saved

    • Ron Conte says:

      They can be saved by a baptism of desire, which is implicit. Whosoever truly selflessly loves his neighbor has the state of grace, which includes love, faith, and hope. A person can have implicit faith in Christ, by faith in the transcendent goods of love, truth, mercy, justice, etc. The Beatitudes are really a description of the path of salvation and the different ways that one can obtain and maintain the state of grace.

  3. Elizmary says:

    I think you are talking about exceptional people living saints really. I am talking about the young people that do not believe in God do not believe in Jesus Christ they are just not interested they are too busy having a good time they don’t think their doing anything wrong,so when their told if you are an atheist and you do good work you will go to heaven so they think that’s great I’m saved they will go on their merry way not knowing that if you are an atheist it is one of the sins that will lead them to hell.

    • Ron Conte says:

      If they love their neighbor, selflessly, then they are in the state of grace. If they are filled with selfishness or malice, they are not in the state of grace. If an atheist sincerely does not believe that there is a God, he will not be sent to Hell for that sincere error. But if he also hates his neighbor, he will be sent to Hell for that sin. “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause of offense in him.”

  4. Bitter Catholic says:

    We shouldn’t bank on invincible ignorance. Most men do not care about the truth, so they never seek it or find it. Most pagans don’t even worship the gods they claim to worship, they are their own gods deciding what is good and evil. If they publically pay homage to a supposed divinity it is because it is socially accepted. Just like many who claim to be Christian. The history of western civilisation for the past 500 years is a contradiction of Jesus, His teachings and His Love–scandalising many non believers. Can someone who reads the sermon on the mount hate brown immigrants? Can a Christian country claim to be godly and claim His protection after genocide against people who originally lived there who had things Europeans wanted? Even now preachers preach about abortion and homosexuality as if God doesn’t care about genocide and mass murder of “heathens” and “infidels”. And no, it hasn’t ended, as seen in the Middle East. They’re considered non people by many because they are considered brown Muslim savages. Never mind how they became war refugees in the first place or who helped Islamists and dictators come to power. As soon as their natural resources become unimportant the “war on terrorism” will end or target another people who have booty that western countries need.

    Why do most people just don’t live according to ther religion? Because they don’t have a religion, despite pretending to. Invincible ignorance or culpable neglect for not caring about the truth? Do you trust those odds?

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