- Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Dear Dr. E: Recently, Pope Francis did an interview with 60 Minutes where he said, “We are all fundamentally good. Yes, there are some rogues and sinners, but the heart itself is good.” I know you’re not Catholic, but I’m wondering what your take on this is. Something about it seems off to me. — YOUR CATHOLIC BROTHER FROM OKLAHOMA CITY

Dear Catholic Brother: Frankly, what Pope Francis just said is causing a lot of us to scratch our heads in confusion. Yes, Catholics and Protestants disagree on many fine points of theology, but the one thing we have always held in common is the belief in the pervasiveness of sin. After all, if everyone is “fundamentally good,” then what’s the point of confession? If only the “rogue” few are sinners, then why was the Atonement needed? And what’s the point of the doctrine of “propitiation” if sin is just an anomaly rather than the universal norm? Doesn’t the Pope’s declaration that we are all good people essentially upend 2,000 years of Church teaching on the need for Jesus’ incarnation, life, death, and resurrection, and the consequent good news of the Gospel?

Aside from our significant differences, all confessing orthodox Christians should be able to affirm two basic truths: First, sin is universal. No one is worthy. None of us are good. “For there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). Second, denying this first point makes you nothing less than a liar about yourself and God. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us… If we claim we have not sinned, we make God out to be a liar.” (1 John 1:8,10)

G.K. Chesterton seemed to anticipate the bad teaching of his own forthcoming pontiff when he wrote nearly a 100 years ago: “Today, new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology that can really be proved… In their almost too fastidious spirituality…  they essentially deny human sin, which they can see in the street. [They forget that history’s] strongest saints and the strongest skeptics alike took positive evil as the starting point of their argument.” 

Chesterton’s point was simple. If you want proof of your sin and that of your neighbor, all you need to do is look out the window or even in the mirror. None of us are above it or without it. We are all broken, and if we think we are justified, we stand condemned by our own deceit. 

The Bible is clear: 

SEE ALSO: Ask Dr. E: How do parents teach their children to be optimists and confident leaders?

“The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9)

“We all once lived in the passions of our flesh and were by nature children of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:3)

“All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

 “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)

The bottom line is that apart from Christ, we are enemies of God (Romans 8:7) and we do not have “good hearts” but rather “hearts of stone” (Ezekiel 11:19); calloused, hardened, rebellious hearts that are the exact opposite of what Pope Francis just described. 

But there is good news. It’s the news of the Gospel. All of us can rise above our rebellion and become new creations. We don’t have to let our passions control us. We don’t have to be enslaved by our vices. We don’t have to be defined by our desires. We do not have to be held in bondage by the sins of others and the sins we find in ourselves. We can die and rise again in new life with Christ! We can be born again. We don’t have to accept that we were born that way! We can be saved! Saved from sin and saved from ourselves.

John Newton once said, “There are two things I know: I am a great sinner, and Jesus is a great savior.” All of us, even Pope Francis, would do well to remember these words as well as those from the hymn Newton authored: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!” 

If you are seeking guidance in today’s changing world, Higher Ground is there for you. Everett Piper, a Ph.D. and a former university president and radio host, takes your questions in his weekly ’Ask Dr. E’ column. If you have moral or ethical questions for which you’d like an answer, please email askeverett@washingtontimes.com and he may include it in a future column.

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