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Larry King Live

How Does the Christian World View the Pope's Pilgrimage to the Holy Land?

Aired March 22, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, as the pope mixes prayer and politics in the Holy Land, religious wrangling makes headlines in the United States. Joining us, Father Gregory Coiro, director of media relations for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. In Louisville, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In Washington, Father William Byron, director of the Jesuit community at Georgetown University and author of "Answers From Within." In Chicago, Don Carson, research professor of the new testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. And in Boston, Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of "When Bad Things Happen to Good People."

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We're going to begin first by taking you to Jerusalem where Father Michele Piccirillo is standing by. He is an archaeologist and also a Franciscan, as is one of our guests, and he's been with the pope since this trip began and was with him -- was with him yesterday on Mount Nebo.

How do you explain, father, this 79-year-old's incredible stamina?

FATHER MICHELE PICCIRILLO, WITH POPE ON MOUNT NEBO: That's a surprise to me: how is determined to do what he wants. I mean, that was a long desire to come and now he reached his goal.

KING: Is this his last trip?

PICCIRILLO: I hope no, but you know, that's from God.

KING: I mean, there aren't any others planned as of now, are there?

PICCIRILLO: I don't know until now what is planned. For the moment, I think is enough. For sure is the most important of his trips abroad, I would say...

KING: Now as an archaeologist, we know that you know that Mount Nebo we relate a lot to Moses. That's where he saw the promised land. What's the effect of Mount Nebo on the Catholic?

PICCIRILLO: I -- you know, we have a long tradition there, starting from the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was here the bishop (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the sea. As a biblical scholar, he wrote a, like to say, a book of biblical geography and he speaks about Mount Nebo. It locates on the 6 miles of the Roman Road going from Jerusalem to Jericho to Levius (ph) in the Jordan Valley up to Hesbon (ph), or Heshon in the Bible and the high plateau of Moab (ph).

So it was at least in the Roman period this mountain was known and was visited by the Christian pilgrims I suppose after a Jewish tradition.

KING: We have shots of you with the pope on Mount Nebo. How is he reacting to this -- and there you and he are -- emotionally? What's -- what -- what does he tell you is going through him as he visits this place of such important heritage to him?

PICCIRILLO: Yes. He was very happy, I realized, and also very curious to know not only inside the basilica, the so-called Tomb of Moses, because he had the same reaction of a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) pilgrim who came at the end of the first century (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Thanks to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as archaeologist we could locate the memorial of Moses and the ruins of the top of the summit of Ciarga (ph) as...

KING: So he...


KING: So he was moved?

PICCIRILLO: So he said to -- yes. You -- he asked why you say this is the tomb when in the Bible it's written that nobody knows his grave or where his grave is located. So I answered the same way the monks answered (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Our ancestors told us and we will repeat.


But I'm sure that that's only an altar, a memorial -- a memorial place in -- for the prophet, a man of God.

KING: When will he meet with Israeli leaders?

PICCIRILLO: I think today.

KING: It's -- it's nighttime there until the morning, so it'll be on Thursday.

PICCIRILLO: Yes. Yes, for sure.

KING: And the trip winds up on Sunday, right?


KING: The last day of Sunday.

Thank you so much, father. We appreciate it.

PICCIRILLO: With a prayer in the Holy Sepulcher. KING: That's right. He will conduct mass. And he did mass in Bethlehem as well.

Father Michele Piccirillo...

PICCIRILLO: Yes, yesterday.

KING: ... on the scene in Jerusalem. We thank him very much, archaeologist and Franciscan traveling with the pope.

Let's have some thoughts of our panel. How important is this trip, Father Gregory?

FATHER GREGORY COIRO, ARCHDIOCESE OF LOS ANGELES: I think it's very important for the pope, because he has said from the outset, from 1978 when he was first elected, that one of the things that he would like to do would be to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and not only to the places made holy by Jesus, but going before Jesus the places made holy by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and so forth.

KING: So it's very personal.

COIRO: It is, and the holy see has been quite insistent that this is a personal pilgrimage and that the pope is not going to the Holy Land for the sake of any political purpose.

KING: And how, Reverend Mohler, do the Southern Baptists look at this trip? As just interesting or more?

REV. R. ALBERT MOHLER, PRESIDENT, SOUTHERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: Well, it is an interesting question. Here you have in the papacy one of the critical problems being the claim to both temporal and spiritual power, claiming to be both the head of a religious organization and also the head of state of the Vatican state. It's hard to say that he's going for spiritual and not political reasons, as is seen by all the jockeying of all the groups who want to meet with him and to have something specific they hope he will say.

KING: So do you say that as an observer or a critic?

MOHLER: Well, a bit of both. Again, for an evangelical Protestant to respond to the papacy, we have to say that one of the problems is this critical claim to both temporal and spiritual power. And that is a very dangerous mixture. Who knows in what role he is speaking?

KING: And that's one of the big arguments, which we'll get into, occurring in the United States, which I guess kicked off heavily with the George W. Bush speech at Bob Jones University.

Father Byron, how do you look at this trip?

FATHER WILLIAM BYRON, S.J., GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Well, it's a pilgrimage and a pilgrimage has a lot to do with faith. It's a deepening of his own faith. But his idea is to look back -- and as you know, there have been -- he has attempted to express humiliation. He's attempted to express sorrow for sins of the past. But he does that in a way of awakening our consciences to the possibility of compromise here in the future, moral compromise in the present and in the future.

So it's inspirational. It's devotional for him. It's inspirational to the rest of the Christian world.

KING: We will take a break, come back, get the thoughts of Dr. Carson and Rabbi Kushner. They're our panel the rest of the way. We'll be entertaining your phone calls as well.

This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: Joining us as well is Dr. Don Carson, research professor of the New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

How do you approach this as a Protestant and a teacher of the New Testament? How do you look at this trip, Doctor?

DR. DON CARSON, TRINITY EVANGELICAL DIVINITY COLLEGE: There's no doubt in my mind that Pope John Paul views this as a religious quest. And for him it is immensely significant and important. But I also think it's naive to think that he could get away with something that's merely personal. That's why there is so much media interest. It's why there are people are pushing him to say a whole lot of different things.

From my perspective -- I'm looking on it as a bit of an outsider -- but it has to be viewed surely as something that is simultaneously a personal quest and something that has political and religious ramifications in a broader sweep.

KING: As a Protestant, does it in any way offend you, or is that a wrong word?

CARSON: Oh, no, it doesn't offend me. Where I would beg to differ would be if there were sweeping claims -- that the claim to speak for all Christians everywhere or claim somehow that he was representing all of Christendom. He doesn't represent evangelical Protestants.

KING: Rabbi Kushner, how does the -- I mean, you can't speak for all Jews of course, and the new issue of "Newsweek" has a brilliant story on how all faiths view Christ, but how do you, as Rabbi Kushner, view this trip?

RABBI HAROLD KUSHNER, AUTHOR, "WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE": Like Dr. Carson, I give the pope high marks for being willing to descend into that maelstrom, to try and make this a personal pilgrimage of faith, knowing that every single word he utters. from good morning to good night, will be given political spin by both sides. But you know, Larry, this pope drives me crazy. Seventy-five percent of the time, he is a magnificent spiritual leader -- courageous, humble, saying and doing all the right things. Then 25 percent of the time, he just turns around and does something calculated to drive his Jewish friends to distraction.

KING: Like?

KUSHNER: Like -- like his embrace of Yasser Arafat, like his remarks yesterday, like the beatification of Father Maximillian Kolbe, a Polish Catholic priest who edited a viciously anti-Semitic newspaper. I don't know if it reflects his own ambivalence or if there is a political faction in the Vatican that he has to placate. But every time you think you've got a fix on this guy and how really wonderful and ethical he is -- I think his penitential statement 10 days ago was absolutely historical and a magnificent spiritual document. And then he'll turn around and do something that just frustrates everybody who wants to like him.

KING: Before we get to comments about this, are you saying he should not meet with Arafat?

KUSHNER: No, I think he should. I have to believe he understands how carefully every word of his will be parsed and the impact it will have. And I -- my reaction was that his talk in Bethlehem was so one-sided, it will take this personal pilgrimage of faith and put an indelible political stamp on it which I think we will all have reason to regret.

KING: Father Gregory, he spoke for the Palestinian plight. What did you think of that?

COIRO: Well, I think the Israeli comment on it was perfect, because the Israelis said, well, he didn't say anything new, this has been the position that he's articulated all along and been a long- standing position of the holy see.

KING: But he said it wit Arafat, and he said it, right, in a historic place?

COIRO: But it's not the first time he would have said it with Arafat, because Arafat has been visiting him at the Vatican before.

KING: So does he cause you any problems as he does Rabbi Kushner? Is he contradictory?

COIRO: I don't see him as being so much contradictory. I think the pope has, in his mind, what is good for the Catholic Church, first of all, because he's the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church. So for example, even though it may have aggravated Rabbi Kushner that he canonized Maximillian Kolbe, Maximillian Kolbe was a martyr for the faith. He offered to give his life so that another man who had a wife and children might live when the Nazis were having reprisals. Somebody escaped, so 10 men had to die. They picked 10 people at random. One man started crying. He said: "I have a wife. I had children." Kolbe said: I'm a priest. I have no family. Let me die in this man's stead. And indeed, that's what the Nazis did.

KING: Do you -- how do you view -- Reverend Mohler, do you share the views of Bob Jones as expressed on this program, that the church is, in so many words, a cult?

MOHLER: Well, I think the word "cult" is now basically useless in our common vocabulary, especially as applied in this sense. A cult means a small group. A cult, in our common cultural language, talks about some kind of psychological control. I'll prefer to speak as a theologian. And as an evangelical, I believe that the Roman church is a false church and it teaches a false gospel. And indeed, I believe that the pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office.

So I would prefer to use careful language, but I would not call Catholicism a cult, but I would draw the distinction between their understanding of the Gospel and the evangelical understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

KING: And you would include the Mormons as well in that criticism?

MOHLER: Yes, and we should point out that the Roman Catholic Church has referred to the evangelical understanding of the Gospel as a false gospel and anathema. And the Mormons would be the first to agree that they disagree with us.

KING: All right. We'll get the thoughts of Father Byron and the others. Anyone can jump in at any time as we continue this discussion, as religion takes front focus in this country with the trip of the pope. And we'll discuss that apology as well.

Don't go away.


POPE JOHN PAUL II: Dear brothers and sisters, refugees, do not think that your present condition makes you any less important in God's face, God's eyes. Never forget your dignity as his children.



KING: Before we ask Father Byron's thoughts, here's what Bob Jones of Bob Jones University said -- one of my questions dealing with the pope. Watch.


KING: If you call the pope the antichrist, you will offend Catholics. I mean, that's logical to think that, right? Just as if I said something derogatory about Jesus Christ, I would offend you?

BOB JONES III, PRESIDENT, BOB JONES UNIVERSITY: Yes, but you know, the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is supposed to be believed by all Presbyterians that have embraced the Westminster Confession -- it is their doctrinal basis. Article six of the Westminster Confession calls the pope an antichrist. This -- there's a long tradition for this.

In fact, Wickleth (ph) that I talked about a while ago in the 14th century, he called the pope an antichrist.

So Protestants do not -- the pope doesn't go down well.


KING: Father Byron, how do you react when you hear that?

BRYON: Well, we call the pope the vicar of Christ. We have him in the place of Christ, and he's also the vicar of Peter. He's our leader and he's the rock.

KING: But are you offended when you hear what Reverend Mohler said or what Bob Jones said?

BYRON: Yes, I'm offended, but not to the point of wanting to get into an argument about it. I think a pilgrimage has a lot to do with solidarity. When you're a pilgrim, you move through strange lands, you see strangers, and then they become less strange. You get to know them. I think this pope has solidarity as a moral category in mind. He's trying to bring us all toward union. And I think we ought to be open to union, and indeed, each one of us, in our own way, ought to be working toward union.

KING: Isn't that a wise thing, Dr. Carson, a way to look at this, that maybe you should all come together rather than point out differences?

CARSON: Well, I think that it is important to say what things we have in common. We are both Trinitarian. We both have the same visceral reactions about a lot of injustice and that sort of thing.

But I think that one of the things that has happened in this country in the last 20 or 30 years is that there's been a fundamental change, a sea change, in the very definition of tolerance. It used to be 30 years ago a person was considered tolerant if he or she held strong views but insisted that the other person had the right to give his or her views. That person was still considered very tolerant. Nowadays, tolerance is increasingly taking on a different hue. It means that a person has no strong views or no strong views except the strong view that you mustn't have strong views. And as a result, tolerance now takes on the flavor of saying that nothing matters in the discussion. The only heresy left is the view that there is such a thing as heresy.

And the result is that on many campuses now, the most negative feelings, the most harsh intolerances, are from those who are intolerant against anyone who has strong views about anything. And within that framework, I think that it is far wiser on the long haul for evangelicals and Catholics and other groups, likewise, to admit where our differences are, face them honestly, discuss courteously, but not flinch. On the long haul, that is far more civil, far more honest, far more intellectually open, clean, while also being grateful for the things we hold in common, than to pretend that the differences that do divide us aren't even there.

If the Westminster Confession says what it does about the antichrist -- which is not an expression I would be particularly comfortable with -- nevertheless, the Catholic Church has pronounced it's anathema -- zip, let him be damned -- against all kinds of people who hold exactly what I believe too. Well, we've got to get on and start talking about what are the differences.

KING: Rabbi Kushner, does the Jew look at this as, sort of, an outside observer with an intraparty warfare?

KUSHNER: No, I think we're much too polite to do that. Larry, it offends me, it offends me when I hear people speak of someone else's sincerely held religion that way. And I don't think I'm guilty of the relativism that Dr. Carson was just speaking about.

My sense is there ought to be a way to affirm that my religion is true without having to say everybody who disagrees with me is wrong. I would insist a religion is true if it makes a person a better person when he or she lives by it.

I would like my Christian colleagues to acknowledge the truth of Judaism, if they know Jews who are made better, more committed, more charitable people, because they take their Judaism seriously. I acknowledge the truth of Christianity because I know people who are made into wonderful souls because they live out their faith.

Larry, I can love my wife and say my wife has got to be the most wonderful woman in the world and expect my neighbor not to agree with me, but to love his wife and call his wife the most wonderful woman in the world, and we're not really disagreeing with each other.

KING: Well said. Father Gregory?

COIRO: You know, I would like to get back to, you know, the -- sort of -- the juxtaposition between what Bob Jones said -- which I would say is anti-Catholic -- and what the other two Protestants are saying, which is merely expressing a theological difference.

Where the line is drawn, I think, is where you start saying that the Catholic Church is a Satanic cult or the pope is an antichrist. Then you've moved from a theological difference -- I mean, after all, if they agreed with us theologically, they'd be Catholics.

So there has to be room for that kind of honest disagreement. But the disagreement has to be such that we're not calling each other names nor are we demonizing each other, but we're saying that we have a great deal in common, and we have a great deal that separates us.

KING: Concerning the apology, we're going to show you the pope's and also we're going to discuss that apology. And we'll -- and Protestants have apologized for treatments of blacks on Sunday morning in churches. I think Reverend Falwell has apologized in the past for that. We'll ask Reverend Mohler and others about apologies.

Here's the pope on apology.


POPE JOHN PAUL II (through translator): We humbly ask for forgiveness for the part that each of us with his or her behaviors has played in such evils, thus contributing to disrupting the face of the church. At the same time, as we confess our sins, let us forgive the faults committed by others toward us.



KING: Reverend Mohler, how did you react to the apology?

MOHLER: Well, it's an interesting historical development and certainly very meaningful. Too many persons, both Catholic and Jewish, it raises the theological issue of how you can apologize for generations departed. I think we basically cannot ask forgiveness on their behalf but we can acknowledge -- not only Roman Catholics, but Protestants and others, all persons -- a legacy that we regret either in terms of racism or other kinds of prejudice.

The larger problem I have with the pope -- this pope in particular -- however, is how he has redefined the Christianity and the Gospel. And he has actually embraced all monotheists, both Jews and the followers of Islam, as long as they're sincere within the penumbra of the Gospel, within the canopy of the gospel. And that is just unbiblical, and by the way, not very pleasing to either Jews or to Muslims either.

We need to be very honest about our disagreements. We have a fundamental disagreement on the issue of truth. And I heard what Rabbi Kushner said, but that's just a fundamentally different view of truth. I'm not concerned with the definition of truth that is related to how happy a person is. I want to know whether what I believe corresponds with the reality of the true and living God and what he has set forth himself as the gospel.

KING: Father Byron?

BYRON: Well, Larry, we say the gospel says: "God so loved the world" -- the whole world -- "that he sent his only son." And union of all men and women of all convictions, of all colors, races, that's the objective. We're moving toward unity.

When you look at forgiveness, you have to look vertically and horizontally. Vertically, we ask God's forgiveness, and in faith, we know we are forgiven. Horizontally, we look out forgiving one another and counting on those who are receiving our apologies to accept those apologies and to do a constructive building of the human community.

Forgiveness has great power, but if one is unwilling to forgive, one's just going to scrap -- to scratch away at a scab that's never going to heal.

KING: Dr. Carson, were you surprised at the apology?

CARSON: No, I wasn't surprised. He's been moving gradually in that direction for some time. And in one sense, he really is to be congratulated for the courage of the whole thing. In fact, there is a sense in which I would like to see that cast into a larger framework yet.

In this bloodiest of all centuries, the 20th century, we've managed to kill 6 million Jews horrendously. We've also managed to kill something close to 20 million Ukrainians; 50 million Chinese; about a third of the population of Cambodia; endless Hutus and Tutsis; and the endless struggles in the Balkans, and on and on.

Perhaps a 100 million people, apart from war and other devastation, not to mention the horrors of endless other private sins or societal sins or the like. And to move at this stage in our existence into a kind of philosophical relativism in which we pretend that everything is getting better or smoother or we just have to love each other more is, in my view, just not coping with the kind of intrinsic evil that all of us are capable of if we push hard enough.

KING: You mean, it should be more forcefully said?

CARSON: Not only forcefully said, but spread beyond the politically urgent demands of particular groups. There is a sense in which we really need to return again to a recognition of the potential for evil that all of us has -- that all of us have.

There's a wonderful passage in the prophesy of Isaiah, seven centuries before Jesus in the Hebrew Bible. He starts off denouncing all the sins of his age -- woe to this group, woe to that group, woe to the next group -- and then he comes face to face with the living God and he says: "Woe is me, I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips and I live amongst a people of unclean lips."

We have to remember that the Holocaust was perpetrated by a nation that was considered the most educated, civilized, broadly secular, broadly religious in the whole Western world. Its universities were the best. They could do it. Given the right pressures, the human race is capable of an immense evil. And we've really got to come to terms with that.

KING: We'll come back. We're only halfway through. We'll be including your phone calls. We'll reintroduce the panel. This is LARRY KING LIVE.

Tomorrow night: John and Cindy McCain, the first appearance live. Taking phone calls since he -- well, he didn't withdraw from the race, did he? He sort of took a leave of absence. The McCains tomorrow night. We'll be right back.


POPE JOHN PAUL II: Throughout my pontificate, I have felt close to the Palestinian people and their sufferings. I greet each of you -- each one of you, and I hope and I pray that my visit will bring some comfort in your difficult situation.



KING: We'll reintroduce our panel. We'll be getting to your phone calls as well. With us here in Los Angeles is Father Gregory. He is director of media relations for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Franciscan diocese. They only use first names. In Louisville, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In Washington, Father William Byron, director of the Jesuit community at Georgetown University and author of "Answers From Within." In Chicago, Dr. Don Carson, research professor of the New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. And in Boston, Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of the famous bestseller, "When Bad Things Happen To Good People."

How, rabbi, did you view the apology?

KUSHNER: I thought it was a historical milestone. I think it will go down in history books as one of the most wonderful things he's done. It got a little bit slippery in that he apologized for the sons and daughter of the church and not for the church itself when the fact of the matter is some of the things he was apologizing for -- the crusades, the inquisition, herding Jews into the ghettos -- were not done by individual Catholics: They were done at the highest levels of the church.

But I understand how hard it is for an institution to admit its own fallibility. I have a rabbinic colleague who begins the service every Yom Kippur by saying to his congregation, if I have done or said anything in this past year which offended you, you're probably too sensitive.


KING: Father Gregory, should he have -- was it strong enough? Was it brave to you to make that confession?

COIRO: I think it was extremely courageous for the pope to get in front of the entire world and in front of a global audience, and to say, I am sorry for what members of our church have done through the ages. And he makes a distinction that it wasn't the church itself but it was the members of the church.

KING: But how about the rabbi saying...

COIRO: And even the objection that Rabbi Kushner raises can be answered by the members of the church include popes, bishops, cardinals, priests, sisters, brothers...

KING: Semantics.

COIRO: ... and laypeople. Well, it's not semantic because our theology of the church is that the church itself is the immaculate bride of Christ, but the members of the church, those of us who make up the church individually, are capable of great sinfulness, as it was said earlier.

KING: Urbana, Illinois, as we include phone calls for our panel, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.


CALLER: I'd like to know if the panel thinks the apology made by the pope will help the relationship between the Jews and Catholics.

KING: Do you think so, Father Gregory?

COIRO: Oh, I am sure...

KING: Can't hurt as they say.

COIRO: I am sure that it -- what this pope has done over the past 35 years, the strides that have been made in Catholic-Jewish relations in him going to the synagogue in Rome -- he referred to Jews as our elder brothers in the faith -- established diplomatic relations between the holy see and the state of Israel. Two years ago, a document was issued apologizing for the role that the church and its members played in the years leading up to the Shoah as well as during the Shoah, and now the -- asking God for forgiveness last Sunday. It's phenomenal.

KING: Forty years ago, Rabbi (sic) Mohler, the -- I know most of the Southern Baptist churches didn't allow blacks into the services. Have they apologized as a church?

MOHLER: Yes. The convention in 1995, when we reached our 150th anniversary, officially made a statement adopted by the convention. I was a part of the committee that drafted that statement. And we felt like it was a very important statement of our corporate responsibility and the abhorrence we have of the historical fact of slavery in all of history.

KING: And has it improved relations between blacks and whites in the Baptist movement?

MOHLER: Well, I think there's no doubt about that. As a matter of fact, one of the largest-growing portions of the Southern Baptist Convention is made up of African-Americans and African-American Baptist churches. We see that as a very good thing and we see that as the best way to deal with this.

Essential to the Christian gospel is the need for forgiveness of sins and the promise of forgiveness of sins by the atonement accomplished by Jesus Christ. And so of all people, Christian people ought to know how to ask forgiveness and to ask forgiveness of a Holy God who forgives us by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

KING: Father Byron, that statement could have been made by a Catholic, could it have not?

BYRON: The interesting thing that has just been running through my mind, twice during his presidency Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation for a national day of humiliation, fasting, prayer, repentance for even crimes, he said, of the nation, crimes both of the nation and of individuals. But what he did, he put it in a context where we're also repenting past offenses but calling for a blessing on the present and the prospective action of the people.

I think this pope is calling us to justice. I think this pope is calling us to move forward, to work, to lower the barriers to the coming of the promised kingdom. Thy kingdom come, we pray. But thy kingdom has been promised and at hand for 2,000 years.

By lowering the barriers of discrimination, of hatred, of violence, the things for which this pope has asked pardon, by lowering those barriers we can hasten the arrival of the kingdom.

KING: We're going to take a break, come back with lots more and more phone calls. Here's what Bob Jones said when we asked -- discussed about the pope being saved. Watch.


KING: God loves the sinner as much as he loves you, right?


KING: So he loves the gay?

JONES: The homosexual.

KING: He loves the pope?


KING: All right.

JONES: A homosexual can be saved. The pope could be saved if he would embrace Jesus Christ and his finished work on the cross as the only means of salvation. If he would say grace is by Christ alone, salvation is not of works but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.



KING: Father, what's the difference between faith and works?

COIRO: Well, faith is an act of belief for putting your trust in, as Bob Jones said, putting your -- for a Christian, putting your trust in the sopithic (ph) work of Christ on the cross.

We just signed an agreement recently between the Catholics and Lutherans saying that we believe that justification comes by grace, which comes by faith, but that state prepares us to do work. So it's not just passively receiving the gift of salvation, but then it's -- the works are the active participation in the life of salvation. The scripture says we work out our salvation.

KING: You share that view, Dr. Carson?

CARSON: My father used to...

KING: Is that agreement well-stated?

CARSON: No, not quite. My father used to say that a text without a context becomes a pretext for approved text. And the passage that was just quoted about faith of the works is dead and so forth comes from the letter of James, where the whole point is proving out, justifying one's faith before a watching world, before others, and so forth. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul says, unambiguously, that we're justified by faith apart from words, because the whole argument of his thrust is that Christ's death on the cross looks after all of our sins. Now from that is such a change in our lives that there must be a different behavior, an ethical behavior, a behavior that increasingly conforms to Christ. There's no works...

KING: One would follow the other?

CARSON: Absolutely. But on the other hand, what commends us to God is not how good we are, because we just can't be good enough. So there is a fundamental divide historically between Catholicism and evangelicalism on that front. It's been cast in different ways, and sometimes not always wisely, but historically, there have been some fundamental divides on that very issue.

KING: Father Gregory.

COIRO: Yes, and I would just say that, you know, in Matthew 25, when Jesus talks about how he's going to judge the world, he says he's going to divide everybody as a shepherd divides sheep from goats and then he's going to judge them according to what they did and what they failed to do. So works plays an essential role.

KING: Now what does the Jew believe Rabbi Kushner about works and faith?

KUSHNER: First of all, Larry, I think we can be good enough. I don't think God demands the impossible for us, and I think it's impossible for us to be perfect. I think God appreciates the honest effort.

Judaism believes very strongly that you are what you do, not you are what you say, or what you proclaim or what you believe. If we have benefited from being Caucasians in a racist society, it's not enough for us to articulate our regret and our apology. We try and make up for it, with works of charity, with extending a hand to the oppressed African Americans, with working for laws that'll bring them into the mainstream of American life. We are what we do, not what we proclaim. I think that may be one of the fundamental, theological dividing lines between Judaism and Christianity.

KING: Hayden, Idaho, hello,


KING: Want to speak up sir -- go ahead.

CALLER: This is for Rabbi Kushner.

KING: Yes, go ahead.

CALLER: I want to make sure my question is couched in full respect. Rabbi, 2,000 years ago, the religious leaders of Israel rejected the messiahship of Jesus. If the messiah should come today, how would you recognize him? And are there signs and prophesies that would positively identify him?

KING: And then we'll ask the Christians how they will know if Christ returns.

Go, rabbi.

KUSHNER: I have a friend who says that this business between Jews and Christians is really overblown. We're waiting for the messiah. They're waiting for the second coming. When the messiah comes, why don't we ask just ask him, have you ever been here before? We will know when the messiah comes because the world will be perfect. There will be no more lying, no more fighting, the wolf will lie down with the lamb, people won't hurt each other anymore -- it'll be so different from the world that you and I are living in today that you won't even have to ask how do you know that the messianic era has arrived?

KING: Rev. Mohler, do you agree with that?

MOHLER: No, not at all. When our Jesus Christ returns, there will be no question what has happened or who he is. for he will come back visibly, bodily; he'll come back in glory. In his first coming in the incarnation, he came in the lowly form of an infant, took on human form, live a sinless life. There in humility, as the Apostle Paul says, he humbled himself even unto death, the death of the cross. He was resurrected by the power of God. When he returns, he will be visible and clear, and we will know exactly who he is. But we are right now at the very heart of issue of truth.

I don't -- I can't agree with the rabbi that what God expects is that we'll make a good go of it. He is a holy God who hates sin with an eternal hatred and the outpouring of his wrath. The question is how we may be saved. And this gets to the issue where evangelicals are distinct from Roman Catholics. The Council of Trent responding to reformers in the 16th century said, and I read, "If anyone sayeth that justifying faith is nothing more but confidence in the divine mercy which remits for Christ's sake." It goes on to say, "let him be anathema." So we have a clear distinction and understanding what the gospel is, and it continues in the present, not just in historical fact.

KING: Rabbi Kushner, does the Jew use the word "saved?" KUSHNER: No, that's really not part of our vocabulary. In contrast to Reverend Mohler, I give God credit for being more realistic, and more forgiving and more compassionate than that. I think if you made an honest effort to be a good person and you've basically succeeded, God doesn't expect anymore than that from you.

KING: And what, Father Byron, do the Catholics think about this division between Mr. Mohler and Rabbi Kushner?

BYRON: Well I am having a little trouble following the ball here, but what I would want to say, Larry, going back to the faith works. that those works are graced, and it's God's -- that the task is ours, but the power is the Lord's. And when you talk about works, you're talking about an agenda. On the other side, you have a credenza, that which is to be believed, but the agenda awaits us. We've got to get together and start doing something to build a better world, to pursue the common good and to bring all of us together in a way that's going to reflect the goodness and unity of God.

Go ahead.

KING: What does the Catholic believe about a person who does not believe, but does only good things?

BYRON: Well, the Catholic...

KING: Never did a sin in his life except not believing?

BYRON: They would say that's happening by God's good grace. God is, after all, the creator of all of us. So it's done by God's grace...

KING: So even though that person doesn't think it, you think that God gave them grace?

BYRON: That person will be saved, yes.

KING: And Reverend Mohler, would you agree with that?

BYRON: No, there is no anonymous Christianity. The scripture is very clear that those who are the redeemed are those who come to now Jesus Christ personally as savior and Lord and confess him as such.

And I can understand the desire on the part of many theologians and many groups to try to find another way to embrace other persons who do not know Christ, but the gospel -- the scripture itself is just emphatically clear that salvation is in the name of Jesus Christ and in his name alone.

COIRO: Jesus Christ said, "Those who are not against me are for me."

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more.

This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: Mayfield Heights, Ohio, hello. Hello?


I want to ask Father Gregory, has the hierarchy of the church, are they up in arms over the apology of Pope John II?

COIRO: No, the hierarchy, as a matter of fact, has been...

KING: He is the hierarchy.

COIRO: Well, he is the highest in the hierarchy. But the hierarchy, for example, in this country have themselves issued messages and lent him messages...

KING: Only the extremely conservative would be against that, right?

COIRO: I would say that there's a wing in the church that says to the pope, you know, you shouldn't apologize, you shouldn't appear to be weak, but really, it's in our weakness that we appear strong.

KING: Richmond, Kentucky, hello?

CALLER: Yes, good evening.

First, I have a quick comment for the Christian panel. I would like to remind you all that Jesus Christ was a practicing Jew, and he was considered a rabbi and did attend temple.

And that out of the way, my question is for Reverend Mohler. Since the pope has obviously made the gesture to enter denominational dialogue, when, if at all, will the Baptist denomination, specifically, the Southern Baptist Convention, extend the same olive branch, if you will, to help assuage the schisms between the Protestants, Catholics, and the other denominations, specifically, the Jews and the Muslims?

MOHLER: Well, there is in fact...

KING: Reverend Mohler?

MOHLER: Yes, thank you, Larry. There is, in fact, an official Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic theological conversation going on. And I am, as a matter of fact, a part of that team, and it has been a very interesting conversation. But the necessity of that is that we're very honest about our differences. And they are deep, and they go to the very issue of authority in the church, the role of scripture, the identity of the gospel itself, other issues...

KING: Is it getting anywhere?

MOHLER: Well, if getting somewhere means being honest about our differences, then we're getting somewhere. But at this point, there is no motion towards agreement because the differences are so fundamental. And, you know, we have to pray for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to be one, but that oneness is going to be on the basis of the pure gospel of Jesus Christ and upon the authority of God's word alone.

KING: So you believe then that Catholics and Jews and Muslims are not saved?

MOHLER: I believe there's only one gospel whereby men might be saved and that is the pure gospel of salvation by grace through faith as accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that there may very well be some members of Catholic churches who know the Lord Jesus Christ as savior, but the Catholic Church itself -- evangelicals have believed ever since the Reformation -- it's teaching and represents and holds forth a false gospel. A gospel of works rather than grace.

KING: I'm going to have Byron comment and some final comments from all of our guests right after this. Don't go away.

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KING: Father Byron, does that mean, by what Reverend Mohler said, that you can never get together?

BYRON: No, I think we can get together. Evangelical means "good news" and it's joy to the world, the whole world. The Holy Father started this as a jubilee year and jubilee and jubilation are related. We're celebrating salvation.

If I could just say one thing about a comment that Rabbi Kushner made. I'd like to do that because I so admire that book of his and I've recommended it to many. But when you say, Rabbi, that you are what you do, I think you can see how that's opening up to something that we deal with pastorly.

There's a great American, secular heresy abroad that what you do is what you are. And if you find yourself doing nothing -- for instance, being laid off, unemployed -- you conclude that you are nothing. But we know that each one of us counts. We're human beings, not human doings. We're created by a God who loves us and who holds us really right there in his hands.

KING: Rabbi, you may comment.

KUSHNER: Yes, I didn't mean what you do professionally. I mean what you do to act out the implications of your faith. Larry, you know, I grew up in Brooklyn just as you did. My rabbi in Brooklyn, who is a national Jewish leader, probably did not know a single Christian clergyman on a first-name basis. I am very gratified by the number of personal friends I have who are Christian clergy and Christian leaders. It's one of the really heartening things that's happened in the last half century. We are not enemies to each other. Cruelty, hatred, vindictiveness, they are the enemy, and we're all on the same side.

KING: Well, Dr. Carson, you think things are getting better?

CARSON: Oh, I'd like to think so, but I'm not sure. I sometimes say that I'm either a prophet or the son of a prophet and I work for a nonprofit organization. And so, most of our projections as to the future are merely elaborations of...

KING: Right.

CARSON: ... the current trends. And you know as well as I do, Larry, that the whole thing could reverse very quickly and then all our projections are off. It does seem to me that some of the frustration of this discussion, though -- maybe you don't sense any frustration but I sense a certain kind of frustration -- is in part that we're talking about different goods. And if our ultimate good is so that we can all be sort of nice, then you look for a certain view of salvation or the hope for the future or whatever...

KING: By the way, that wouldn't be terrible.

CARSON: No, it wouldn't, it wouldn't, absolutely. But on the other hand, I also think that it's, historically, pretty implausible, unless there's some deeper goods that are sought. And I would want to argue that the deepest good to pursue is being rightly related to God. And that's got to be on his terms. And that's why evangelicals returned finally to scripture to see what he says about how one is rightly related to God with its implications for how to get along with others and loving others and being forbearing and so forth.

KING: Right.

Brother Greg Coiro, are you optimistic?

COIRO: I'm very optimistic. Say, for example, in the relationship between Catholics and Jews, how far we've come in 40 years, who would believe that is was only 40 years ago that on "Good Friday" Catholics would pray for the perfidious Jews, and Pope John the XXIII excised that from the liturgy. That we've -- we've renounced the idea that Jews were responsible for the crucifixion.

KING: Do you think it could happen between you and Southern Baptists?

COIRO: You know it's a funny thing how Catholics and Jews seem to be friendlier than Catholics and some Protestants, but yes, I'm very hopeful. I'm an optimist.

KING: Are you hopeful, Reverend Mohler or you doubt it?

MOHLER: Well, it all depends on how you define the terms. And let me just say that I join you in hoping people will be nice, but unfortunately, I believe there will be many nice people in Hell. The most precious...

KING: We're out of time. We're going to have to do more of this. Thank you, Reverend, thanks, everybody, for being our guest.

Stay tuned for CNN "NEWSSTAND." They're going to look at Northern Ireland.

Talk about religious conflict. Thanks for joining us. See you tomorrow with the McCains. Good night.



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