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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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…