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“We Don’t Want to Convert the Young People to Christ”

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A Roman Catholic Bishop named Americo Aguiar of Lisbon, Portugal got into some hot water recently. He is the chief coordinator of the upcoming Roman Catholic World Youth Day, a major form of outreach for the Roman Catholic Church. However, the bishop apparently told a Portuguese station he doesn’t want young people to become Christian:

“We want it to be normal for a young Catholic Christian to say and bear witness to who he is or for a young Muslim, Jew, or of another religion to also have no problem saying who he is and bearing witness to it, and for a young person who has no religion to feel welcome and to perhaps not feel strange for thinking in a different way.... We don’t want to convert the young people to Christ or to the Catholic Church or anything like that at all.... That we all understand that differences are a richness and the world will be objectively better if we are capable of placing in the hearts of all young people this certainty...” (see here and here).

I assume he just misspoke. If you’re in the public eye and talk long enough to anybody, you’ll eventually say things you don’t really mean, or express badly, or don’t say clearly.

However, if the bishop was serious, and meant what he said, then frankly, I’m glad to hear it.

Think of it this way. Did Paul wish the Judaizers would stop preaching their false gospel? Of course he did. Yes, the Judaizers might have been sharing some truths about Christ, but because it was wrapped up in a false gospel of works salvation the whole message was poisoned, and Paul wanted them to stop: “I wish those who are disturbing you might also let themselves be mutilated!” (Gal 5:12). (“Mutilated” is a euphemism!)

I’d be just as glad if the Roman Catholic Church gave it up trying to convert the youth. That’s not due to any anti-Catholic prejudice I have. I read Catholic authors all the time. But when it comes down to basics, they get the gospel wrong. They teach a great many truths about Christ and Christian living, but at their worst, they also teach a gospel as false of salvation by faith plus works, not unlike the one preached by the Judaizers.

So if Bishop Americo is serious, I’m glad. Instead of converting people to a Catholic gospel of works, I’d prefer to if Catholics converted to the gospel of grace (Eph 2:8-9).

Send your questions or comments to Shawn.


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