Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Wednesday, April 16, 2008

    Pope Benedict's Visit: Christian, Protestant, Evangelical Response

    This post is to provide a place for responses to the Pope's visit. Feel free to comment as news of his visit continues to come to light.

    While his visit so far has been more ceremony than substance, the following comments can already be made:

    [Note: Some may want to comment on the "good" that will come from the Pope's visit, my concern in this intitial post is simply to address statements from the Pope that contradict Biblical teaching or practical wisdom. While I'm grateful for my Protestant heritage that has historically come through the Catholic church, differences between the Pope's statements and position (or those made to the Pope) and that of Scripture are worth pointing out.]

    "I come as a friend, a preacher of the Gospel and one with great respect for this vast pluralistic society," Benedict said in a speech after Bush welcomed him to the White House at a ceremony that included 21-gun salute.


    Response: While the intent of his statement referencing "respect" for this "vast pluralistic" society was probably to gain greater acceptance by a broader audience, statements such as this will in the end do more damage than good. While some can differentiate between having respect for a people even though they hold pluralistic views, on the surface it can come across (and many will take it to mean or suggest) that pluralism is good. (While President Bush commented "We need your message to reject this dictatorship of relativism ...; the Pope's statement could do the opposite).

    Looking forward to his speech to the United Nations, the pope said the need for global solidarity is "as urgent as ever if all people are to live in a way worthy of their dignity" and secure a place at "that table which God's bounty has set for all his children."


    I'd love to know what he meant by this. While global solidarity is important (along issues in keeping with justice, mercy, etc.), it's important to note that God's blessings come to us as gifts "secured" by Christ, not by man. Yes, only those "qualified" will receive the blessings, but man does nothing to merit or "secure" bounty from God.

    Later on Wednesday, the pope was addressing U.S. bishops at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where he was to discuss the scandal of sexual abuse of children by priests, which he said had left him "deeply ashamed."


    While the victims are looking for actions rather than words, I'd also be interested to see his defense of the requirement of celibacy for the priesthood.

    "Most of all, Holy Father, you will find in America people whose hearts are open to your message of hope," made by President Bush.


    Depends on what message of hope he's referring to. If he's referring to the hope that comes as God's people exercise faith and serve as salt and light, etc., then yes, I'm open on one level. However, if he's referring to the "gospel" the Pope brings, ...My heart has received God's message of hope, which is based on grace alone through faith in Jesus.

    8 comments:

    Godservant1 said...

    I am so with you! As was said in the days of the reformation and still Biblical today, the Catholic system is Antichrist. Nothing against anyone that doesn't know this, but the truth remains the same. It's not much longer until our High Priest comes and we will say Lo, here is our God, we have waited for Him and He will save us!

    jazzycat said...

    1 Kings 18:21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

    Apparently God is not too keen on pluralism and the thinking that many roads lead to the mountain top as long as you are sincere....

    swordbearer said...

    Thus far, not much being reported except sentimentalism over externals and ceremony.

    swordbearer said...

    To quote commentary from NYTimes: "Benedict has warned the bishops in particular, but also Catholics in general, that when Catholics do not internalize their identity and express it in the public square, “faith becomes a passive acceptance that certain beliefs ‘out there’ are true, but without practical relevance for everyday life. The result is a growing separation of faith from life: living ‘as if God did not exist.’” In other words, that new growing breed of “Agnostic Catholics.”

    You want an example? Here comes Benedict again: “We have seen this emerge in an acute way in the scandal given by Catholics who promote an alleged right to abortion.”
    Again: today’s speech to the bishops, including the Q&A that followed, covered many bases. But it was a well-crafted, finely honed argument that inevitably leads to a demanding conclusion: “What is needed, above all, at this time in the history of the Church in America, is a renewal of that apostolic zeal which inspires her shepherds actively to seek out the lost, to bind up those who have been wounded, and to bring strength to those who are languishing.”
    The ball is now in the bishops’ court."

    Response: It's hard to maintain zeal and encouragement when:
    a. Denying salvation is fully by grace, for who can stay encouraged when the standard of righteousness depends (in whole or) in part on them, and they continue to fall short.
    b. Righteousness depends on participation in externals, a requirement which continues and never can be met.
    c. Externals are participated in as works righteousness and therefore void of Christ. This results in a burden, rather than a response of worship, gratitude and joy.

    While it's true that faith is relevant to life, and that the faithful need to apply faith to life, life itself is found in Christ and apart from a living,connected relationship with him, doctrine alone will not matter or suffice.

    As far as the Pope attempting to put responsibility and call for leadership from the bishops, this is perhaps a wise move of leadership on his part, as he will not be here and the bishops must provide leadership here in America.

    Finally, while one of the efforts of the Pope is to stir up the hispanic population in view of their Catholic roots / identity; I feel there's going to be a struggle here, for for many their dead catholicy will be confronted with live evangelicalicsm here in the United States, and it's only a matter of time until their heritage will be put to the test, be it by the world, or by the Christian (Protestant) church. My experience is that when confronted with the truth of the gospel along with the life and power of the gospel, hispanic Catholics are open to hearing the good news and their Catholic roots form a natural or familial relationship/bridge for acceptance and transition to the gospel of grace. How much influence the Pope will have, only time will tell. My prediction is, however, that given the religious and cultural context in America, it will not have the strength it would have had in days past, though from his perspective it was worth making. In the end, however, all the more reason for protestants to reach out and evangelize hispanics, not only that they might not be led astray by others who will seek to influence them, but that they might come to knw the peace, freedom, and the zeal that comes from knowing God's grace and truth in Christ.

    swordbearer said...

    To quote: "He paraphrased the pope's message: "The whole character of our civilization right now is under attack," Morris told FNC. "We have to accept the sins of the church. We have to recognize as well that this comes forth from a society that is very sick."

    Response: I do not believe calls for forgiveness by the Pope or statements that "We have to accept the sins of the church" will be considered or accepted as sufficient. While people recognize that no one including the church is perfect in this world, at the same time sins of the magnitude being referred to will not be silenced when it is generally recognized that even in any other spheres of life, leadership would be looked upon to take significant measures given the crimes that have been committed. I have a feeling statements like this will come back without the results their makers hoped for.

    swordbearer said...

    The attempt of those calling themselves the "church" trying to cast off blame or justify their sins/actions by blaming thinking/faults in society is unsatisfactory. The church is to be different, set an example, and do right regardless of society.

    Seems it's an argument of the tail wagging the dog.

    swordbearer said...

    To quote: He deplored the “crude manipulation of sexuality so prevalent today,” saying that not only the church, but also families, teachers and the news media and entertainment industries have to take responsibility for “moral renewal.”

    Response: I agree.

    To quote "Here in America,” Mr. Bush said, “you’ll find a nation that welcomes the role of faith in the public square. When our founders declared our nation’s independence, they rested their case on an appeal to the ‘laws of nature and of nature’s God.’ ”

    Response: Amen!

    swordbearer said...

    To Quote: "Among them: a call for bedrock ethical and moral principles as a guiding force even in pluralistic societies, a human rights agenda that encompasses religious freedom and the sacredness of human life, and the responsibility of first-world nations to aid developing ones."

    Response: Not bad, but the issue ultimately becomes what are those "bedrock" ethical and moral principles? This is where pluralistic societies are divided. All the more reason for those who rest on Scripture to speak out, cast their voice and their vote, and be prepared to argue our case against pagan views and relativism.