As many of you know, Pope John Paul II was “canonized” or officially declared a “Saint” by the Roman Catholic Church, on May 1, 2011.
Aside from the fact that Sainthood cannot biblically be given by the Roman Catholic Church, as I pointed out here, because all true believers in Jesus Christ are called saints in the Bible, it seems a good time to revisit the question whether John Paul (or any Pope, in this context) can legitimately be called a great spiritual leader at all — having just celebrated Reformation Day (October 31).
The following is not meant as a personal attack on Catholic folks, many of whom are my friends and family whom I love, nor as a personal attack on John Paul, or Popes in general. I find the current Pope Francis to be a likable guy, despite his appalling theology, which is constantly at odds with the Word of God, the Bible.
It’s about truth. As Jesus spoke to God the Father, “Thy Word is truth.” And that truth is found in the Bible, which is “inspired” by God, or literally, “God-breathed” — not in the words of mere men, “ex cathedra” or not.
I liked Pope John Paul II. He was kindly, charming, hard-working; a genius who spoke many languages, and he shared some of my own views on moral issues, such as the evil of killing our unborn, so I’m grateful for his influence in those areas.
And I wouldn’t judge his final destination, heaven or hell, because it’s God Who saves, by grace through faith, and none of us knows what may happen, even on a death bed.
But was John Paul a great spiritual leader? Particularly in this website about Grace, I must say “no”, for three reasons:
1) He taught and supported a religion of “grace” plus works. The Bible says clearly that if works is added to grace for salvation, it’s no longer grace (“But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.” –Romans 11:6)
Look at some excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (this is the “new” “modern” “open-minded” one…you should see the Traditional One!):
“. . Baptism is the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification, so that ‘we too might walk in newness of life,'”(Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 977). [note this first of seven sacraments obtains the forgiveness of sins]
“In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere ‘to the end’ and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ,” (CCC, par. 1821). [note "as God's eternal reward for the good works"]
“Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification.” (CCC, par. 2010) [note we not only merit for ourselves, but for others]
And since the Catholic Church obviously teaches that salvation includes man’s works, then it follows that the failure of man’s works can destroy that salvation and damn him again, after he’s been “justified”. The solution: more works! Read the following:
“Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as ‘the second plank (of salvation) after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace.” (CCC, par. 1446).
Acts of penance may be such things as prayer, saying the Rosary, reading the scripture, saying a number of “Our Father’s” or “Hail Mary’s”, doing good works, fasting, etc.
Hold on, I gotta breathe in some fresh air of the Word of God, here:
“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3)
2) John Paul also affirmed the Council of Trent, even traveling to Trento, Italy for the 450th Anniversary of the Council, and giving his approval. Among many other unbiblical teachings, the Council of Trent curses with damnation all of us who teach salvation “by grace through faith, not of works”. Excerpts can be viewed at http://www.carm.org/catholic/trent.htm .
3) Like many false teachers, John Paul was deceptive in his public speeches, opening the gates of heaven to almost anyone from Protestants to Buddhists, Hindus, etc., ignoring the words of Jesus, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Whether by deliberate deception, or personal confusion, John Paul spoke out of both sides of his mouth when it came to whom are children of God. At best his sloppiness has caused masses (no pun intended) of people to miss the pure beautiful gospel of faith alone, by grace alone, in Jesus Christ alone. At worst, he deliberately said whatever itching ears wanted to hear, in order to win the crowds.
Either way, he could not qualify as a great spiritual leader.
Let me say, I have a particular love for Roman Catholics. I was once a member of the Roman Catholic Church myself, and my wife Michele was raised Roman Catholic. Many of our family members are of that faith.
If you are a Roman Catholic, or anyone who thinks that heaven can be earned by Sacraments or good works of any kind, I have terrific news for you:
Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He was buried and rose again from the grave, to give eternal life to all who will believe on Him and trust that His work on the cross was enough…who will believe that He meant it when He said on the cross, “It is finished.” Whoever will may come to Him. God calls all men everywhere to repent, to change their minds. No works can earn it. It’s a free gift of God. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
If you want to learn more about this Jesus Christ, I recommend starting with reading the Book of John in the Bible.