Published February 2, 2006
Judas Iscariot, whose greed prompted him to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, may be given an extreme makeover by Roman Catholic scholars. At least that is what The London Times reported on Jan. 12.
Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, head of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Science, claims that Judas was not deliberately evil, but was just “fulfilling his part in God’s plan.” He insists that believers should look “kindly” at this disciple who has been reviled for 2000 years.
Al Mohler, former editor of The Christian Index and president of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., addressed this subject recently on his radio program and commented, “Was Judas fulfilling a divine mission in betraying Christ? Jesus clearly knew that Judas would betray him (a fact mentioned as early as John 6:70). Furthermore, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached that the crucifixion of Jesus was ‘according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God’” (Acts 2:23).
Mohler added, “But does the affirmation of divine sovereignty mean that humans are not morally responsible? Not hardly. The omniscience and omnipotence of God are affirmed in these crucial texts, but the sovereignty of God is never cited to nullify full human responsibility.”
In the Gospel accounts, Jesus reveals to the disciples at the Last Supper that one of them will betray him and adds, “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!” In his high priestly prayer in John 17:12 Jesus says, “Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition …” Scholars almost unanimously contend that this is a reference to Judas. The Greek word the Lord used here for “lost” is the word apollumi and is one of the strongest words that can be used to describe final and hopeless destruction.
The Bible clearly states that once a person dies in his/her sins there is no hope for a reprieve, a change in venue or a reassignment for one’s eternal destiny. The account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 17 attests to the fact that once a person dies and goes to hell there is no exit from the place of eternal retribution. The dye is cast. Their doom is sealed. The verdict is carved indelibly in marble. The writer of Ecclesiastes alludes to this truth when he writes: “In the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be” (Ecclesiastes 11:3).
What does the Vatican hope to accomplish by this proposal to exonerate Judas? I fear that they will emerge from this muddled deliberation looking as if they have furthered the cause for ethical relativism or universal salvation.
First of all, let me declare that ethical relativism is the philosophical position that all points of view are equally valid and all truth is relative to the individual. In fact, I believe the vast majority of people in our western culture have come to believe that values are like fashions – a matter of personal taste and inclination, subject to rapid change and without final significance.
In fact, a recent Barna Group study revealed that six out of ten people 36 and older embraced moral relativism and 75% of the adults 18 to 35 did so. Therefore, it appears that relativism is gaining ground and the proposal to absolve Judas Iscariot by the Catholic Church will do nothing but hasten the move toward minimizing sin and maximizing existentialism.
Secondly, the effort to vindicate Judas would appear to promote the doctrine of universal salvation. Hypothetically, if Judas could be acquitted of his treachery, then no one should be left outside the fold of God. However, Judas, though filled with remorse over his dastardly deed, never repented of his sin of betraying Christ and is thus called the son of perdition, which means the son of everlasting punishment.
God is a god of love, but He is also a god of righteousness, and it is the holiness of His Person and the righteousness of His government that preclude Him from any mere benevolence that would make light of sin. In fact, sin is sufficiently sinful to require eternal retribution as the divine penalty for it. Furthermore, if God could save one soul from one sin by mere benevolence, He could save all souls from sin by benevolence and the death of Christ thus becomes the greatest possible divine blunder.
There is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ. Catholics need to know that and Baptists must never forget it.
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