Does God will many religions?

Well, of course the answer is Yes and No. Before the fact of our sinfulness, No, God does not will many religions.

[1 Timothy 2]
{2:1} And so I beg you, first of all, to make supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings for all men,
{2:2} for kings, and for all who are in high places, so that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all piety and chastity.
{2:3} For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
{2:4} who wants all men to be saved and to arrive at an acknowledgment of the truth.
{2:5} For there is one God, and one mediator of God and of men, the man Christ Jesus,

God wants everyone to know the full truth, as taught by Jesus and His one true Church, which is guided by the Holy Spirit. He does not want some persons to enter other religions, which have more or less of truth about faith and morals.

However, after the fact of our sinfulness, God does will other religions. We know this for certain because we see the grace of God working in other religions. We see Protestants who love Christ and who live the Gospel. We see Jews and Muslims who love God and do works of mercy to persons in need. We see good persons cooperating with grace, throughout the world. God is working with them and in them. However, He does so as a type of compromise. They are not cooperating with grace to a sufficient extent to convert to Catholicism, so God works with them despite their failings.

And this is no less true for any Catholic. Each of us has misunderstood Catholic teaching in various ways. Many Catholics have unwittingly adopted heretical errors in their understanding of the faith. And yet God is with them (as long as they avoid actual mortal sin). Many Catholics err so much, it is no different than if they were members of a different religion, one of their own making.

However, some religions have little or nothing of true religion and true morals in them. Such religions are not an expression of God’s will at all. Even so, God works with the members of those religions (such as the ancient pagan religions) to guide them by natural law and grace. He does not will those religions, but He wills to tolerate them.

Pope Francis: “Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives. Therefore, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept;” [Human Fraternity]

People have a fundamental human right to “belief, thought, expression and action.” And if they make those decisions in good conscience, they may well be in the state of grace, even if their decisions are objectively wrong. God wills plurality and diversity in religion, because He wills freedom of conscience. So if someone mistakenly thinks Protestantism is the way to God, His grace assists them. God wills plurality and diversity in religion because He knows that we are weak and often misunderstand. And he does not want to have only two options, the Catholic Christian faith or perdition. Whatever that is good in faith and morals, is pleasing to God, even if it is within a religion with many other ideas that are in error. And we Catholics, as individuals often err on faith and morals ourselves. So we cannot claim that they are entirely lost who have adhered to error in good conscience.

“The first and most important aim of religions is to believe in God, to honour Him and to invite all men and women to believe that this universe depends on a God who governs it. He is the Creator who has formed us with His divine wisdom and has granted us the gift of life to protect it. It is a gift that no one has the right to take away, threaten or manipulate to suit oneself. Indeed, everyone must safeguard this gift of life from its beginning up to its natural end. We therefore condemn all those practices that are a threat to life such as genocide, acts of terrorism, forced displacement, human organ trafficking, abortion and euthanasia. We likewise condemn the policies that promote these practices.

“Moreover, we resolutely declare that religions must never incite war, hateful attitudes, hostility and extremism, nor must they incite violence or the shedding of blood. These tragic realities are the consequence of a deviation from religious teachings.”

In speaking of religions willed by God, whether permitted or positively willed, the Pontiff narrows the term religion per the above quote. Not everything that men call “religion” is in any way willed by God, but only those religions with substantial truth and goodness. I would say that the love of truth, life, and one’s neighbor is essential.

The statement above by Pope Francis is not really controversial. It could have been made by Pope Benedict XVI or Pope Saint John Paul II. It is only because of the pride and animosity of certain conservatives that they are making a big deal out of this minor point.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian
* My books of theology
* My translation of the Bible
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2 Responses to Does God will many religions?

  1. MG says:

    Message that Pedro Regis recorded from Our Lady of Anguera.

    April 9, 1988, “Dear Sons and Daughters. Many people go to protestant
    churches thinking they are of God. They are wrong. The people who take
    part in these are on the way to perdition for sure. Dear children, the religion
    founded by My Son, and which is of living faith, is Catholic. The rest are
    from the devil. Be at peace.”

    How do you explain this message in light of your post? Also there is this following message from Our Lady of Medjugorje:

    Thursday, October 1, 1981
    Are all religions the same?
    “Members of all faiths are equal before God. God rules over each faith just like a sovereign over his kingdom. In the world, all religions are not the same because all people have not complied with the commandments of God. They reject and disparage them.”

    • Ron Conte says:

      The members are equal before God. The religions are not the same, of course. Objectively, the other religions have grave errors in them, which errors are of pride (the sin of the devil). However, this does not mean that other religions are literally of the devil. The Jewish faith was created by God, as we all know. And protestants are in the state of grace by valid baptism, and certainly can die in the state of grace. Catholics who leave Catholicism for Protestantism, which is very common in South America, are on the way to perdition, objectively. Though they might have a sincere by mistaken conscience.

      Not everything is so simple. Please don’t make the mistake of oversimplifying the answer to every question in the faith. Some things are true in one sense, but not another.

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