Will Catholics Go to Heaven? John Piper Answers

Sistine Chapel
Michelangelo's frescoes in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, one of the attractions in the Vatican Museums. |

Will Catholics go to Heaven?

Bethlehem College & Seminary chancellor and DesiringGod founder John Piper answers this question.

In a podcast posted to the DesiringGod website on Wednesday, a listener named Jimmy asked Piper if a recently deceased friend of his who was Catholic would go to Heaven.

"He was a great man, a good friend, a mentor to many young men like myself, and a devout Roman Catholic," said Jimmy. "Will I see my friend in Heaven? Or do his theological views make this impossible? Can I rightfully experience Paul's 'sorrowful, yet always rejoicing' mantra, or was my friend merely a devoted husband, a wonderful friend, and a good man? In other words, do you believe devout Roman Catholics can be genuine Christians?"

Piper began his response by noting the theological issues he has with the Catholic Church, specifically concerns over how the Church views Scripture, the Virgin Mary, baptism, indulgences, the doctrine of justification, transubstantiation, and purgatory.

"At numerous levels, its contradictory stance toward Scripture produces a kind of religion that I fear has led many people astray, even into destruction," said Piper.

After explaining his main concerns with Catholicism, Piper then said he believed that Catholics who were "devout" and "inconsistent" were indeed saved.

"I think there are genuine Christians who are devout and inconsistent Roman Catholics. Devout in the sense that they're earnest, serious, and sincere. Inconsistent in the sense that their true heart embrace of Jesus is better than their mental ideas or doctrines," said Piper.

"If a person has a genuine encounter with the living Christ and recognizes the depth of human sinfulness and the hopelessness we are in without grace and without Christ, and if they see in Jesus the substitute that God provided to bear our punishment and provide all we need for acceptance with God, and if that person throws himself on the mercy of Christ, despairing of all self-reliance, and cherishes Christ as his supreme treasure and hope for eternal life, then that person will be saved — even if many doctrinal ideas are confused or erroneous."

This is not the first time Piper has been asked about the salvation of Catholics. In 2013, a listener asked for Piper's opinion on evangelicals converting to Catholicism, to which Piper stressed that it is "too rash to say that everyone who makes the trek from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism are unbelievers who are being weeded out of the fold."

"There are just too many different kinds of reasons and the stories are never over in this life. So if a person goes this way or that way, you don't know where they are going to end up. So don't write them off in either case," said Piper.

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