Why An Evangelical Protestant Pastor Cares about the New Pope

popefrancisCongratulations to my Roman Catholic friends upon the announcement, “Habemus Papam.”

I care about this Pope, and I pray God will use him. This is not to deny my substantial disagreements with Catholic theology, nor to kiss the ring of papal infallibility. What historians call the Protestant Reformation was a golden moment in the history of Western Civilization, in my opinion, and badly needed.

Even so, here are four reasons why I care about Pope Francis:

  1. The Sanctity of Life. No single institution on earth has stood as a bulwark for this principle as has the Roman Catholic Church. Against enormous pressures, the church has not budged an inch from the mother of all premises: that human life is sacred and belongs to God alone. In issues of abortion and euthanasia, if it had not been for the massive influence the Catholic Church, we would probably already have Death Clinics where the elderly, infirm, disabled, or otherwise unwanted could be disposed of in a “dignified” way. Yes, there have been plenty of excellent Protestant (and other) agencies dedicated to this cause. They have all made a difference. But for sheer ballast, on this issue, nobody has the weight of the RC Church. I pray for Pope Francis to hold the line on this important truth.
  2. The Existence of Truth. Some things are true, some things are false. You might get an argument about that. While I can’t go where Catholics go in many of the specifics of what they see as truth, I do appreciate their stance that truths emanate from God and are, therefore, not subject to fleeting whims of an increasingly messed up culture. There’s no such thing as your truth and my truth. The principle of non-contradiction never takes a holiday. When claimed-truths collide, at least one is wrong — i.e., it does not correspond to reality. The Catholic church has put its hulking body in the way of society’s flight from reason and from truth. May Pope Francis continue this tradition. May he hold to truth — and may he come to see the primacy of the written truth we call the Scriptures.
  3. The Preservation of Marriage and Family. Yes, the corrupt child-molesters within the clergy have painted a giant target on the catholic church — the hypocrisy is galling and the pain of the victims is horrendous. May every pedophile and corrupt priest be rooted out of the church (and every institution) and punished, and may all who protected them be punished too. It is a world-class irony that a church dedicated to a celibate priesthood — a convention that our Protestant and Orthodox friends never accepted — should also stand up for the idea of marriage as a divine institution, ordained by God, for the blessing of the race. When asked whether the church should adapt to society’s changing standards in this area, the outgoing pope smiled and replied, “The Church is the standard.” I would say that Christ and his Scripture is the standard, but even so, biblical definitions of marriage and family are essential for a world spinning into chaos. And Protestants and Catholics stand together on this. Let’s pray it stays that way.
  4. The  Possibility of Revival. What if there were a Holy Spirit induced revival in the Catholic Church worldwide? What if there were a mass turning away from what evangelicals like me would call erroneous teachings? What if there were repentance for sins, a deeper embrace of the infallibility and primacy of Scripture, and a gospel stripped clean of sacramental trappings leaving only Christ and him Crucified as the way to God? What if the Catholic church felt a new zeal to evangelize its own people first, not into any church, but into a permanent relationship with God through faith alone in Christ alone? Perhaps God will use Pope Francis to lead such a revival. Perhaps he can be a modern day Luther, from the highest chair of power in the church. One can only pray.

I have always said that when we die and stand before God, he will not ask for our church membership card. We will not care about denominations or affiliations in that moment. He will care about one thing: who is Jesus Christ to you? What have you done with Christ? Is he alone your Savior? Or are you clinging to a thousand other so-called-saviors too? Have you been saved by the blood of Christ shed on Calvary’s hill or not?

So, if you’re going to be a Baptist, be a saved Baptist. If you’re going to be a Lutheran, be a saved Lutheran. And if you’re going to be a Catholic, be a saved Catholic. My old Italian dad never left the Catholic church. But he was saved, and wanted us all to know it. I baptized him at age 82, in the evangelical, non-denominational church I founded in Chicago, not for salvation, but from salvation… as a public symbol of a prior inner reality.

May the truth of God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible Scriptures burst on Pope Francis’s mind as it once did to Paul on the road to Damascus. And may literally millions be brought to a saving place of faith alone in Christ alone because of him.

No flamethrowers in the comments… this is not a place or time to debate Catholic/Protestant differences… no name calling… 

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13 thoughts on “Why An Evangelical Protestant Pastor Cares about the New Pope

  1. Good thoughts, Bill. We have many things in common with our RC brothers and sisters that we can agree upon and and work together for. I was encouraged by the witness of Chuck Colson and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. We don’t have to pretend there are no disagreements in order to work productively together on things that we do agree upon.

    • Amen. Co-belligerents, on the same side, in so many things. The Colson/Neuhaus example is perfect. Did you know I co-lead the National Day of Prayer event in Chicago on the Federal Plaza with Father Michael Pfleger? We agreed on prayer for our nation!

      Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:15-18, NKJV).

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this, Bill! I very much appreciate your challenge, “So if you’re going to be a Baptist, be a saved Baptist. If you’re going to be a Lutheran, be a saved Lutheran. If you’re going to be a Catholic, be a saved Catholic.” It is so true that many in the evangelical denominations like to cast stones, but there are many in those denominations who don’t know Jesus as their Savior, and I know there are many in the Catholic church who do know Jesus as their Savior “by grace and grace alone.” Why any of us choose to stay within any of our denominational “quarters” because of tradition remains a mystery to me.

  3. I like what Vonnie said. God alone knows our true heart. It’s rocky ground when we decide who’s saved and who’s not. I’m just trying to love like Jesus wants me to, and hopeful that once in a while, someone may get a glimpse of Jesus in something I say or do and boy is that tough.

  4. Having been raised Catholic, and having attended Catholic schools, I think I got a great education from those nuns. But I got saved at age 39 in a CMA church in Kodiak, AK. That’s why I go to your church. As a hospice chaplain I met very few dying people who said they were Christian who knew why they were (perhaps) going to Heaven. I would always ask them, “o you think you’re going to Heaven?” They’d say yeas and I’d ask why and they nearly always said, “I lived a good life and made mostly good choices.” They were mostly all Protestant.

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