Pope Francis – should he be welcomed?
I am alarmed at how quick evangelical Christians have been to welcome Pope Francis. Does the fact we have a new one change the organisation? Or does it change the message it brings? I think not.
It might seem like a good thing to do (to welcome Pope Francis) but it gives credibility to the Roman Catholic Church (RC) and its leadership. We may agree with the RC in relation to many moral matters (and perhaps disagree) but I can say the same in relation to my Muslim friends and the Islamic faith.
In relation to doctrine, which is the most important part for Christians, the RC have little in common with evangelicalism. This is especially true in the veneration of Mary and the Saints, and in the 7 Sacraments. Ignorance of what the RC teaches is a problem. We willingly call them brothers and sisters in Christ. How? By finding the lowest common denominator (normally morality) for unity. High profile Christians, such as Jonathan Edwards of the Baptist Union of Great Britain among others, are giving credibility to the RC. This does not help but muddy the water. This is not to say that there are no brothers and sisters in Christ in the RC but, I think, ought not to be.
Salvation by works (what RC teaches) is not what evangelicals (protestants) believe – but works as a result of salvation, in Christ alone.
So, glossing over ‘the much that divides us’ is not helpful but blurs the line even more. The RC Gospel is another Gospel. And the Apostle Paul said that was anathema. This is the strongest condemnation anyone could give – basically saying ‘be condemned to hell’.
Now, I do not know Pope Francis and he may genuinely be a nice guy, humble, and loving but that is irrelevant if the Gospel is not right to start with. I have met my share of non-believers who would seem more Christian than Christians. And some Christians who, unfortunately, give non-Christians a run for their money in their lifestyles.
New Pope or not – the Catholic Church cannot change in regard to its essential doctrines. Therefore evangelical Christians who take the Bible for their authority (or those who claim that Jesus is) cannot have unity with the RC, its new Pope or any of its adherents – except those who truly have found faith in Jesus- and this in spite of the teaching (doctrine) of the RC.
And the main reason for well-known evangelicals welcoming Pope Francis along with many within evangelical circles is because of their lack of knowledge of Scripture or the ignoring of it or the denigration of it. No wonder we are sleeping instead of sounding the alarm.
On another point, wholly unrelated(!) his politics does not (yet?) [in response to an article about praying that this will be a ‘man of peace for the world’ in the Baptist Times] make him a man of peace for inflammatory comments he made last year in relation to the Falkland Islands. It reveals nationalism which would be abhorrent to most, especially Brits. And, of course, there will be a man of peace in due time who will be anything but, but to whom the whole world will go.
Do we welcome the new Pope? No. He is a man who will influence many – and I think that that will not be a good thing for it will harden hearts against the true Gospel.