In a video released on Sunday, Roman Catholic bishop Robert Barron of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles told popular conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, who identifies with Orthodox Judaism, that those “outside of the explicit Christian faith can be saved” by following their conscience, or in Shapiro’s case, “following the commandments of the Law sincerely.” He pointed to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council as his basis.
“I feel like I lead a pretty good life, a very religiously-based life, in which I try to keep not just the 10 Commandments, but a solid 603 other commandments as well. And I spend an awful lot of my time promulgating what I would consider Judeo-Christian virtues, particularly in western societies,” Shapiro told Barron during a “Sunday Special” episode.
“So, what’s the Catholic view of me? Am I basically [in trouble] here?” he asked.
“No,” Barron replied, stating that while “Christ is the privileged route” as per John 3:16, the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) “clearly teaches that someone outside of the explicit Christian faith can be saved.”
“[T]hey’re saved through the grace of Christ indirectly received,” he stated. “So, I mean, the grace is coming from Christ, but it might be received according to your conscience—if you’re following your conscience sincerely, or in your case, you’re following the commandments of the Law sincerely.”
The Lumen Gentium of 1964 as published by the Vatican reads, “Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life.”
“Yeah, you can be saved,” Barron again affirmed, stating that even atheists “of good will” can go to Heaven.
“John Henry Newman said that the conscience is the aboriginal vicar of Christ in the soul. It’s a very interesting characterization, that it is, in fact, the voice of Christ—if He’s the logos made flesh, He’s the divine mind or reason made flesh—that when I follow my conscience, I’m following Him, whether I know it explicitly or not,” he explained.
Shapiro then asked Barron if Roman Catholicism is “act-based or faith-based,” noting that Judaism is “all about what you do in this life and that earns you points in Heaven,” while Christianity is about believing in “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
“I would say that it’s love-based. God is love. God so loved the world that He sent His only Son. We’re being drawn into the divine love,” Barron responded. “Now, do we have to accept that love as an act of faith? Of course. So, God makes this great offer in Christ. Is it accepted in faith? Yeah. Aquinas said faith is the door of the spiritual life; without faith you can’t get into the spiritual life. That means a trust in the divine love.”
He said that men are to be fully engaged in response to the love, which begins with grace.
“God invites us now to respond body and soul—everything we’ve got—in love to the love that He’s offered us,” Barron stated. “So, I’d put it that way. It’s grace, and then cooperation with grace, which manifests itself in a life of love.”
Barron continued by presenting the questions “What gets me to Heaven?” and “What is Heaven?” He answered his question by stating that Heaven is love.
“Paul says that three things that last: faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love. Because in Heaven, faith fades away. I don’t need faith anymore; I’m seeing. In Heaven, hope fades away. Who needs to hope? You’ve got it. But love endures, because love is what Heaven is,” he said. “What are you going to do all day in Heaven? That’s what Heaven is, is the act of love.”
Mike Gendron of Proclaiming the Gospel Ministries, a former longtime Roman Catholic, lamented Barron’s response to Shapiro’s question about salvation.
“This Catholic bishop is deceiving people,” he told Christian News Network on Wednesday. “It’s tragic that people like him are in a place of authority in the Catholic Church and they are misleading Roman Catholics about life’s most important issue, and that is, ‘What must I do to be saved?'”
“[I]n Galatians 3, we read that anyone attempts to be saved by following the Law places himself under a curse because no one can obey the Law perfectly,” he said. “In fact, in James 2:10, it says that if you obey the whole Law and yet stumble at one part, you are guilty of breaking the entire Law.”
Gendron noted that the Bible is also clear in regard to atheism, as he pointed to 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, which says that those who “know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ … shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.”
When asked what Barron should have told Shapiro, Gendron explained that the Bible teaches that God demands perfection for entrance into Heaven, but all have sinned, or violated the Law of God. Christ’s substitutionary death for sinners is the only means by which men can be forgiven of their transgressions and saved from the wrath of God.
“In 2 Corinthians 5:21 we read, that Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” Gendron outlined. “He (Barron) should have told Ben that the only way anyone can enter Heaven is to have their sins completely forgiven through the substitutionary death of Christ, and the only way into Heaven is through the righteousness of Christ because God’s righteousness demands perfect righteousness to enter into Heaven.”
“But not once did he mention that,” Gendron sorrowed. “It was all about this nebulous ‘love.’ He mentioned that God is love, but He never once said that God is holy and righteous and just, and that He must punish sin. … [His words] leave the listener woefully deceived that his sins can be forgiven by following his conscience and believing that God is love.”
He said that the words of every man should be tested against the Scriptures, and that includes those who listened to the interview with Barron.
“God has given us one infallible source for absolute truth, and that is His inspired, authoritative Word. We are to use His Word to test every man’s teaching,” Gendron outlined. “And that’s the principle given in Acts 17:11 when the apostle Paul was preaching in the synagogues in Berea. And as he was preaching, he noticed that the listeners were testing his teaching by studying the Scriptures daily.”
“And that’s my exhortation for all Roman Catholics,” he said. “Don’t believe any religious teaching unless it conforms to the authority of God’s Word.”
“Jesus Christ said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ He is the way for those who are lost. He is the truth for those who are deceived. And He is the life for those who are dead in their sin,” Gendron declared. “If anyone wants to be saved, they must look to Christ, and trust Him alone for their salvation.”