"What the Hell is going on!"

Protestants Need the Pope

By Graham Glover -

The-Papacy

We do. We really, really do. We Protestants need the papacy. We need it for our theology. We need it for our politics. We need it more than we want to admit.

And this is a good thing. (Yeah, I said it Rev. Hess, the papacy is a good thing!) For those Lutherans and other Protestants who think Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI, and Saints John Paul II and John XXIII are the antichrist, you should probably stop reading this post right now, because I am a Lutheran pastor who is utterly captivated by the papacy.

Let’s take Saint John Paul II. Part of me gives credit to one of our nation’s great presidents, Ronald Reagan, for the fall of the Soviet Empire. I also give credit to Lady Thatcher of Great Britain and to the inherent failure of the communist system to sustain itself. But any student of theology, history, and politics, must give enormous credit to John Paul II in bringing down this evil regime. John Paul’s role in Poland’s solidarity movement offers a textbook case in how the Church ought to involve herself with politics. It is the Gospel that changes people’s hearts. Only the freedom of the Risen Christ offers people true hope when confronted with the perils of this world. John Paul the Great preached this and his message was instrumental in freeing millions throughout the world.

Pope Francis

This same approach to politics is what draws many to Pope Francis. His way of dealing with and speaking to people is certainly different than his most of his predecessors, but the message remains the same. Francis’ language reminds me a lot of my own church’s bishop, Rev. Matthew Harrison. They both speak a lot about mercy – Christ’s mercy – and how this mercy is the foundation of the Christian faith. And both of these shepherds engage people in every station of their life, regardless of their situation or past transgressions. To the best of their sinful ability, they both model the love of Christ to others – with believers and unbelievers alike increasingly drawn to their message.

Then there is my favorite pope, Benedict XVI.

A Bavarian who understands Lutheranism more than any of those who preceded him as Bishop of Rome, I am absolutely convinced that history will regard this man as one of the foremost intellectual giants of Christendom.

I would put him on par with Thomas Aquinas. He’s that good. Probably better. His writings cover a great deal and never disappoint. I think he is most solid on the Liturgy. But we Protestants should also love him for his insight into the greatest evil today’s world knows, “The Dictatorship of Relativism”. Benedict understands how deceptively threatening relativism is to our world and challenges us all to confront it head on, with the Law of God to be sure, but even more with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

pope-benedict2

Saint John XXIII was a pope I did not know. But Protestants, this is your guy. Remember that reformation our ecclesial forefathers wrought? You know, the movement that called for the Mass to be said in one’s native tongue? Or the one that called for the Eucharist to be celebrated in both kinds? Or what about its renewed focus on the Holy Scriptures and plea for religious liberty? John XXIII did this remarkable thing in calling the Second Vatican Council. And it was there that Rome made many of the reforms the Protestant Reformation called on her to address. I know, Rome is not perfect. But neither are any of our denominations. Pope John XXIII though did more to advance the cause of Christian unity than anyone prior to his pontificate.

You may not want to admit that Protestantism needs the papacy, but it does. Try as we do, there is no other individual – no other institution – that represents Christianity like the pope. Our theological disagreements with Roman Catholicism are wide and varied, and should continually and heartily be addressed with our separated brethren. But this much remains, we need the pope. We need what his office offers the world. Our own ecclesial traditions are defined by him (largely in protest), but they are and ever will remain shaped by him. Disagree when you must. But acknowledge the goodness that the Bishop of Rome offers to us all.

Update: For a response to this article by our own Scott Keith, click here. (Ed.)

Pope_Luther_cartoon

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89 Responses to “Protestants Need the Pope”

  1. Marc

    Ok buddy I find your comments compelling but can you articulate what this would in fact look like with out violating the spirit of the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope? Then can you define how that would be distinguished from our current definition of President of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod? Finally…do we have to call him PAPA? Just curious….

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    • Graham Glover

      Marc, it doesn’t look any different since we Lutherans are not in fellowship with the Bishop of Rome. I’m not calling for that reconciliation at this point. I pray for it. I long for it. But we have too many substantive differences to still work out (see THE issue of Justification). As for the Treatise, I’m not sure how to reply. I think the I can keep its spirit by pointing to the abuses of Rome at the time of the Reformation. Many of those abuses still remain, but as I note, I think many of them have been addressed (if not completely, at least some). I’d settle for the Bishop Rome being the first among equals. And you can call him whatever you want!

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      • Steve

        I’m a Catholic, and for the better part of a year I’ve been in regular dialouge with some confessional Lutheran acquaintances. I’ve become convinced that in regard to Justification, there is no substantive difference between Catholics (or Roman Catholics, if one prefers) and Lutherans.
        And that’s not to gloss over the differences which do exist. There is still issues of substance regarding post-justification merit, imputed vs infused grace, and authority. But in regard to justification, I’m convinced there is nothing which divides us.
        On several occasions I’ve sat down and walked through Session 6 of Trent with some Lutheran folks, Canon by Canon. Explaining it in its own terms, and what it meant by them, and why some things were phrased the way they were. In the end I ask, “What part did you disagree with.”
        The reply was that they disagreed with nothing, but couldn’t believe the picture I’d given them was accurate. I’m not sure if that is a step forward or not. But its something.

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      • Michael Siefert

        For a refreshing example of a Luth-Church–Missouri Synod parish living out what it means to be both confessional Lutheran and catholic in the best sense of that term, check out Zion Luth of Detroit. Every worship is Mass (except on Good Friday). Saints’ Days are remembered, etc., etc., etc.
        Pax,
        Michael Siefert

        https://www.facebook.com/ZionDetroit

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  2. elizdelphi

    The Eucharist has always and everywhere been consecrated under both kinds, because Christ intends this to symbolize in a visible way His once-for-all sacrifice that is what is substantively being offered by Christ who is really present, in the Mass. But “the lamb was standing as though slain” in St John’s vision of the heavenly liturgy, and same in the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is the risen, living Lord! The whole Jesus is present body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist–under either kind, the appearance of bread or of wine. Vatican II mentioned some very specific instances when non clerics might receive under both kinds, for instance the newly baptized, and left an opening for other instances to be specified by the Church. The celebration of the Mass has always involved consecration of both bread and wine (to do otherwise is gravely illicit and falls short of being the sacrifice of the Mass), but it is not the norm everywhere to routinely distribute both kinds, and I am indeed talking about the new, “post Vatican II” Mass. At my parish we sometimes receive Holy Communion under both kinds, for instance at Holy Thursday Mass, but far more usually we receive Jesus (all of Him) under the form of bread. That’s consistent with Vatican II envisioning distribution of both kinds as being in limited circumstances. As I say to the catechism children, there are two things we call the Body of Christ (and that are the Body of Christ), the Eucharist and the Church. And even the littlest or newest students always know the answer when I ask them how many bodies Jesus has: one! Yes, protestants need the ministry of the successor of St Peter, the bishop of Rome, above all protestants need the one Body of Christ, and by no means just protestants need that, but Catholics need unity with you, well beloved brothers and sisters.

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    • Graham Glover

      elizdelphi, thank you for your beautiful words. I’ve often struggled with that explanation about the Eucharist. That is, that we receive both the Body and the Blood of Christ in either substance. On one level, the logic fits. But as a Lutheran, whose doctrine is always normed by the Holy Scriptures, I find it hard to parse with the Lord’s command to take and eat and then to take and drink. Our Lord makes no distinction, so why does the Roman Church?

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      • Rich

        Christ consecrated the bread and wine separately at the Last Supper as a clear sign of His impending death, by the separation of His blood from His body, on the Cross on Calvary on Good Friday. The consecration at Mass is the sacramental re-enactment, as Christ commanded His Church to do through the ministerial priesthood he established, of the separation of His body and blood. On Easter Sunday, however, He rose from he dead and lives again, His body and blood reunited. It is the risen, living Jesus (body, blood, soul and divinity) that we receive in either the consecrated host or the consecrated wine; it is not necessary to receive both as the body and blood of the living Christ cannot be separated.
        That we truly receive the entire Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity, under either species is clearly supported in Scripture (1 Corinthians 11:27): “And therefore, if anyone eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily, he will be held to account for the Lord’s body and blood.” Note the use of “or” vs. “and”.

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  3. MikefromED

    As A Catholic I appreciate your comments about the papacy but can I just correct two things? Firstly, the Second Vatican Council did not decide that the whole Mass should be in the vernacular. Far from it. Secondly, while the Second Vatican Council did authorise some circumstances when the laity might drink the Blood of Christ from the chalice the circumstances were very, very limited.

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    • Graham Glover

      Mike, thanks for reading the post and for your comments. I acknowledge both of your clarifications into Vatican II. Can you agree though that the move to the vernacular (even if not whole Mass) and the increased use of the laity drinking the Blood of Christ from the chalice are substantive changes? My point is that Luther, et al, were calling for these things 450 years prior to their happening. I acknowledge that there are a lot more issues surrounding the reformation and this split within Christendom. My point is simply to point out to Protestants that Rome and her vicar have done many things which we ought (as Protestants) to appreciate.

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      • Ray Pastora

        I appreciate your post as a Catholic. You mentioned justification as being a very distinct difference between us. Often, the Catholic viewpoint is over simplified.
        We don’t believe you as saved by works and we don’t believe you are saved by faith alone. That word, “alone,” never appears in the Greek and was inserted by Luther in his German translation.
        If you understand that a covenant differs immensely from a contract then you really get to the heart of the matter. Christ formed a contract. He is not a sacrificial lamb that takes our rap (like in court of law) and subsequently little is required of us in return. Scripture supports completely the opposite, in fact.
        From Catholic Answers:
        “At the close of the last liturgical year, Pope Benedict XVI made a startling proclamation: “Luther’s expression sola fide is true if faith is not opposed to charity, to love” (Wednesday Audience, Nov. 19, 2008). At first, this statement might seem to collide with Trent: “If anyone says that the godless are justified by faith alone . . . let him be anathema” (Trent, VI, canon 9). Again, “For faith, unless hope and charity are added thereto, neither unites one perfectly with Christ nor makes one a living member of his body” (Trent, VI, ch. 7).
        There are differences of expression, emphasis, and insight here. But do the differences constitute contradictions? Heavens no!
        Catholic Doctrine
        Let’s begin by establishing the bedrock: defined Catholic dogma. Then we will consider the unique insights and contributions of our Holy Father.
        Justification is a mystery which cannot be exhaustively understood. We can only approach a mystery in receptive, vigorous wonder: “Put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Ex 3:5, RSV). Still, we can gather some understanding of this mystery. We can speak about what happens in justification; we can speak about who causes justification and through what means; and we can speak about the basis for justification. Let us start with a brief description touching on all these points.
        Justification involves the free forgiveness of sins and the re-creation of the sinner through the infusion of justifying grace, otherwise known as sanctifying grace. This infusion makes us God’s truly just friends and adopted sons (CCC 1266, 1999, 2000, and 2010; Compendium of the Catechism 263 and 423). God alone causes justification, working through the sacraments of baptism and reconciliation. The basis for justification—the grounds on account of which God justifies—are the merits of Jesus Christ. Let us now explore these elements in greater detail. “

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      • Ray Pastora

        I realize in the post below that I said that Christ formed a contract. I meant to say covenant. There is a big difference between a contract and a covenant. One is the exchange of items. The other is an exchange of persons.
        So a faithful Jew, for example, will practice the Passover meal and treat it as if he himself was present and taken out of Egypt.
        The same goes for the covenant of the Eucharist. We are taken back to the Last Supper when we celebrate it. We are there with Christ as he turns it into his body and blood and we celebrate his death and resurrection.
        Since Christ is God and is not bound by time, he can be wherever and whenever he wishes.
        Same idea goes with the covenant of salvation. It’s an exchange the requires full commitment.

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      • MikefromED

        Graham,
        I agree with everything in your comment. I just wanted to make sure that nobody thinks that these changes were made by the Second Vatican Council as that it a mistake which is often made by some people in the Catholic Church. Interestingly, Prof Jaroslav Pelikan, at the time a Lutheran, made the following comment on the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:
        “In view of the explicit commandment of Christ and the evident practice of the early Church, what is the justification for still denying the chalice to the laity except at a few very special occasions…”

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      • Bobby

        In response to your question in the above post:
        The change to vernacular and the drinking of the Blood of Christ are considered accidental changes in the Liturgy and do not change the essence of the Mass. There have been times in history that the Blood of Christ has been distributed in the early Church, and in the East with both the Body and Blood, so distribution of the Blood is not really a new thing.
        Moreover, Latin used to be the vernacular in Europe, so to say Mass in the vernacular is also not exactly a new thing (Mass in Greek as well, which is found in the Eastern Catholic Churches and in the early Church), but rather something found from Apostolic Times.
        In short, the move to vernacular and distribution of the Blood of Christ are not substantive, but rather, accidental changes and they don’t change the nature of the Mass.

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      • scragsma

        Actually, no. Those are not substantive changes. Mass has been said in the vernacular in many regions at all times since the time of the Apostles. Latin was made the norm specifically in order that it could be understood by everyone, since Latin was the norm throughout Europe. Likely the use of other languages could have been made more common sooner than it was, but there’s never been a time when Latin was the ONLY language permitted, and it certainly is only an accidental change in custom and not a substantive change. As for laity receiving the Blood, that is again merely a matter of custom, as the whole Christ is received whether the Body only, or the Blood only, or both is received, and that’s always been Church teaching.

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  4. Bob Hiller

    His eminence, the Rev. Koch, mentioned this topic to me over coffee today, and now my wheels are spinning. A couple of thoughts for you to rip apart:

    I think Melancthon agreed with this sort of idea when he signed at the end of Luther’s Smalcald Articles. So, you are not the only Lutheran who saw some upside to the office of the pope.

    However, it seems to me that there is a great deal wrong with having a man who claims to be the sole vicar of Christ on earth. We would have to say that a protestant pope is subject to the scriptures and is not in office by divine institution. In which case, what kind of authority would he have beyond, say, a lay person equipped with the Bible? It seems that any emphasis on the ecclesiastical authority of a human institution tends to work against the priesthood of all believers (which, of course, is a wildly abused doctrine in our day, but I would contend resorting to a new pope is a bit of an extreme response).

    You seem to point out a lot of good things that happened because of some popes. A lot of folks down here in SoCal would name a few things John Paul II was ignoring/covering up while he was out ending communism. What good did having a pope do for the priest sex scandals? It sounds from the article like JP2 was this great, Christ focused preacher. And, I’m sure he did preach Christ. But, also he prayed to & preached Mary. Not to go down too many rabbit trails here, but my point is simply that his session on the papal throne did both good and bad. If having a pope doesn’t do away with theological or societal problems, what is the upside?

    Does Christianity need a representative? You say no one does it better than the pope. Not to sound too Pollyanna-ish, but wouldn’t it be better if we let Christ stand as the representative? Does the church need to take political stands and always speak out, or should we be known for preaching Christ? (Yeah…I see the reductionism here…but reductionism can be fun too…)

    I need something more than saying, “Look at the good things these popes did, ” to demonstrate the necessity of instituting Papal authority. Just as many abuses can be paraded out.

    I wrote much more than I expected. Sorry. Looking forward to your response!

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    • Graham Glover

      Bob, if you can call Rev. Koch, “His Eminence”, then surely you can find room for the Pope! Ha!

      Concur on Melancthon’s comments at the end of the Smalcald Articles. I could not agree more.

      I’m sympathetic to your concern about the pope being the “sole” vicar. It’s why I prefer for him to be first among equals. (But this would be a huge move for Lutherans…that whole apostolic succession thing!)

      I would take exception to what appears to be your understanding of sola scriptura. As a Lutheran I certainly believe that all doctrine is normed by the Holy Scriptures, but I also believe that Tradition (yes, capital T) and the Church (yes, capital C) have an authoritative place in the faith. Where Rome errs on some points is when her doctrine contradicts scripture. I’m not rebelling against the “priesthood of all believers”, but there is a distinct office of the holy ministry to which some have been called. We are not more righteous than others (oftentimes it’s the opposite!), but we are different.

      Yes, I do point out a lot of good things about some popes. But I also note that they too are sinners. They are not infallible in their person (only, or so they claim, in their authoritative office). Has Rome mishandled some sex abuse scandals? It certainly seems so.

      I’ll pass on the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary for now. His eminence can fill-you in, but on this subject I am most sympathetic with Rome. Stay tuned…I’m sure another blog post on that topic is ripe for discussion.

      Yes, I think the Church needs a representative. We’re called clergy, and as we say when pronouncing Holy Absolution, “…in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ…” I think the pope is the default leader of Christianity. There are certainly other great Christian leaders (among the ordained and the laity), but nobody has ever had the attention of the world’s Christians like the pope.

      Our mission is ALWAYS to first proclaim the Gospel. What we do in the civil realm comes AFTER this proclamation. But yes, I think we need to be involved in both realms and I think we Lutherans can learn a thing or two from our Catholic friends.

      Don’t read more into this post than is there. I love the papacy, but I love the Gospel more. And until these two things are in harmony, “Here I stand, I can do no other…”

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      • Ray Pastora

        A fair reply.
        The issue with Mary is rather simple. We view the covenant established by Christ as the establishment of a family here on earth. Christ, as the Son of God, is like an elder brother to us. Mary is his mother (and all our spiritual Mother, as we are children of God) (Rev 12:17). God is our heavenly father and the Pope is our spiritual father (Pope comes from Papa, which means father).
        When Christ was about to die, he gave Mary to one of his disciples. Would he offend John’s mother, who was present at the crucifixion? Was he simply leaving her in John’s care? Or was this a gift to all of the children of God and to us as his disciples.
        So, if Christ was a perfect observer of the 10 commandments, he honored his mother as he was commanded to do so (and I believe the original word actually meant “to glorify.”)
        We don’t worship Mary. We “pray” to her but use the word in its true meaning, which is “to plead” or “to ask.” It is no different than if I were to ask you to pray for me, except that she is in heaven and carries more weight in her prayers than either one of us.
        Regarding sola scriptura: Where is that teaching found in the Bible?
        Such a concept seems to be in direct contradiction to several passages, including 1 Timothy 3: 14-15
        “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.”
        To have a Church, you need to have a clergy with authority to preserve the deposit of faith or you get the chaos of Protestantism (no offense).
        Proof of this is evident in regards to contraception. Prior to 1930 all Christians were united in condemnation of the use of contraception as un-Biblical. But that changed in 1930 and all denominations followed afterwards. The Catholic Church remains the sole group that calls itself Christian and proclaims this truth based on Biblical arguments.
        But if an argument is upheld on Biblical grounds in one era, then how can it be conceded in a latter era?
        BTW, I enjoy and have been hungering for exchanges of theology like this. I welcome a respectful back and forth.

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      • scragsma

        There is no point on which Catholic teaching contradicts Scripture.

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      • jsantana09

        Graham, I kindly challenge you to take it one step further. You said above, “Where Rome errs on some points is when her doctrine contradicts scripture.” I challenge you to consider why you believe scripture is authoritative; what or who gives it authority? How can you prove that the Bible is infallible and authoritative? The Bible never claims to be so. The Bible doesn’t teach Sola Scriptura. Even Jesus never said that the scriptures are the sole infallible rule of authority.

        Secondly, what did the church do for the first 400 years of Christianity without the Bible? If the Bible is the only authority we have, then were the early church Christians abandoned by God? Understanding that we did not receive an infallibly declared canon of scripture until circa 400 AD, it was left to the early Church to declare what they believe using Tradition (the Church) and whatever writings of scripture they had available. There is a perfect example of this in Acts 15. As Catholics we believe that God inspires the church to teach infallibly just as he did with the writings of scripture. I think with some hard study and reading of the Chatechism of the Catholic Church you will find, as I did, that there are no contradictions.

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    • Jason Miller

      How in the world do you think the Pope can know the actions of the thousands of bishops around the world, in addition to being a diplomat, fighting communism, traveling around the world to visit the faithful (he is the most traveled pope in history), preaching, working on restoring union with other faiths, etc.? This accusation of “cover up” is bad faith on your part. There is NO evidence anywhere that he covered anything up. Naive? Maybe. Overly trusting? Maybe. Busy running a worldwide Church of over 1 billion people? “Guilty” as charged. You seem to think he should be omniscient. What won me over about the papacy were the fruits of it and the fruits without it. 1 billion people in spiritual communion vs. thousands of factions who can’t even agree on the most basic Truths. Chaos is not a fruit of the Spirit. Disharmony comes from the evil one – so literally illustrated by Tolkien in the Silmarillion. Even the Orthodox, whose liturgy and traditions are magnificent, can’t seem to stop its Patriarchs from fighting with one another and churches divided across ethnic lines (the poor Ukraine). The army of God just doesn’t function without a commander in chief. It falls divided, while the generals bicker about whose ideas are the best. The fight of John Paul II and the Church against communism illustrates this in such a concrete way – the fall of the Red Army to the Church Militant. The idea that a humble old Polish man with no family or wealth was perhaps THE major force that helped to bring down a world power is so beautifully poetic and absurd – just like Christ’s victory in His Crucifixion. To deny that he is not in the image (vicar) of Christ is to deny the reality of John Paul II’s actions. He personifies what so many faithful Christians have difficulty understanding – that good works don’t get you to heaven, but rather reflect the presence of the Spirit and His burning love. To bag on John Paul II sounds like those ridiculous folks who debate whether Mother Teresa went to hell or not.

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      • Joyful Noise

        My earlier post was in response to Bob Hiller’s post.

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    • Tero T

      Quoting David Scaer (Evangelical and Catholic – A Slogan in Search
      of a Definition, p. 335-336):
      “Where the Scriptures are regarded as products of a divine inspiration
      that isolates them from the Christian community or when a community
      introduces teachings and practices contrary to the gospel, tension is
      inevitable – the Reformation. Scriptures originate from within and for the
      historic community of the church. Their historical quality no more
      detracts from their inspiration than Christ’s humanity detracts from his
      divinity. Scriptures reflect what the church already believes and do not
      bring new and strange doctrines (catholic principle). Innovations are
      suspiciously gnostic. Scriptures are not superimposed on the church as
      alien documents from the outside and church imprimatur does not
      contribute to their authority. Rome’s claim to exclusive catholicity did
      not force the Lutherans to abandon their own claims. Pietism began to
      undo the Reformation evangelical-catholic harmony by placing
      individual biblical interpretation on the same level as the church’s. Then
      the Enlightenment took the Scriptures deeper into “Babylonian Exile” by
      giving hermeneutical rights to the universities, where attempts to bring
      ancient opinion into the biblical task are still viewed as annoyingly
      immature. In freeing itself from catholic principle, Pietism and the
      Rationalistic Enlightenment gave radical expression to the sola Scriptura
      principle in a way that contradicted Reformation theological method.
      Recently some scholars have challenged the discontinuity between the
      apostolic and post-apostolic periods, but have largely been ignored.
      Exegetical approaches separating the Scriptures from church
      interpretation are ipso facto operating without the catholic principle.
      Paradoxically those with a high view of inspiration proceed in the same
      way.”
      http://www.ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/scaerdevangelical.pdf
      Lutherans need a concept of Magisterium as well as do Catholics.

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  5. brianniemeier

    Thank you, Rev. Glover! I wholeheartedly second almost all of your points. But my goodness–B16 _better_ than Thomas Aquinas? That’s a bit too bold for me, and I’m Catholic. (Then again, who am I to question your informed opinion?) I’ll gladly place him on par with Gregory the Great, though.
    God bless.

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    • Graham Glover

      Brian, I know, it’s a bold statement about Benedict. But his writings are classics. However we rate him, he is a giant of a theologian and I think will be even more appreciated in the years to come!

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  6. Ray Pastora

    I found this on a Priest’s blog and wanted to share it since I think it captures why we feel authority is so important:
    “Last week, two very nice Jehovah’s Witnesses visited me at my rectory and we spoke for a couple of hours. I believe we were debating whether one of Jesus’ “I Am” statements in John’s Gospel was a profession of his divinity when one of my guests remarked, “We can’t really be certain what he meant.” I replied to the effect, “You’re right!–If your opinion and my opinion are all we have to go on, if there’s no visible authority on earth with power from Jesus Christ to infallibly answer biblical questions, then we can never be certain our interpretations are true–since many sincere, reasonable, and even scholarly Christians firmly disagree. Without a clear, external teaching authority within the Church, we are left as sheep without a shepherd, and will inevitably scatter.” Most Christians revere the Holy Scriptures as God’s infallible Word, and this is right and good, but for some reason many of them reject the Catholic Church through which the Scriptures come.”
    Christ founded a Church, not a book, and he gave it authority, as 1 Timothy 3: 14-15 shows.

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  7. JGPADAWAN

    I just can’t help but wonder, if these guys are so good and they represent the face of the church to the world at large then why is this world getting worse and worse under their supposed spiritual leadership?
    I think maybe we need more John the Beloveds and Paul the Apostle types. I think what we all need is to have our s ouls ignited in the fire of passion for our Lord. We could all have monumental impact right where we are!
    No, my sagacious one, what we protestants and Baptists (as we are not protestants) need is personal revival.
    Though i will say that I’m glad to have anyone speaking out for truth and calling this world back to God; Pope, J.O (you know), Billy Graham, Phil Robertson, or Grahambo G- Lover himself!

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    • Ray Pastora

      I would offer to you that Christ Himself addressed this when he talked about how hard it is to get into Heaven; Narrow is the way.
      The fight is against a losing battle of secular messages constantly bombarding the faithful. It is easy to turn away from Christ and embrace what feels good versus what we’re called on to do.
      I’ll admit that I was a perfect example of a lazy Catholic. I ignored the teachings regarding contraception and sex before marriage. I paid dearly for doing so. The recent government actions have forced me to study why the Church teaches as it does on these issues and my eyes were opened. I use to dismiss such teachings as antiquated. Now I respect the very idea of protecting the deposit of the faith because it will otherwise lead to the destruction of the Church.

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      • Graham Glover

        Ray, excellent point that it is easy to “embrace what feels good versus what we’re called on to do”. Our faith often times doesn’t feel good. It’s certainly not what I want to do. Alas, I take great comfort in the hope of the Gospel and the forgiveness of sins that is ours in Christ Jesus.

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    • Graham Glover

      JG, one answer: sin. The popes are good (by and large), just like Billy Graham, but until our Lord returns, sin will continue to infect this world. My point in this article is that Protestants should not be so quick to judge the papacy and as we all seek to do the Lord’s will, we ought to rejoice in the goodness that is this office. Keep fighting for the Truth my friend. I will and I know you are too!

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    • scragsma

      The answer to your first question is very easy: The world is getting worse and worse precisely because they DON’T acknowledge the Pope’s spiritual leadership.

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  8. Graham Glover

    Ray, you’ve offered a lot to consider and I really appreciate what you add to the conversation. I am most intrigued by the Justification article you referenced. I’d like to read it and consider it more before responding to its issues.

    As for the Blessed Virgin Mary, you will find little, if any argument from me on these issues. Luther, as you may well know, had a very high Mariology. As we all should. She is indeed full of grace, our Mother, the New Eve, and as the Lutheran Confessions attest – prays for us. This is why the ‘Hail Mary’ is such a beautiful prayer. I am completely on board with Mary’s perpetual virginity (as was Luther). I take no exception to her Immaculate Conception (as it gives honor to Christ). Luther concurred. Nor am I opposed to her Assumption (although this is the least convincing). The problem for me is that Rome has made the latter two statements doctrine. While I believe them, I’m hard pressed, without Scriptural authority, to demand these on others.

    This leads us to what may be the real issue that divides our communions, that of authority. Justification is key, but I think there is more agreement than some would suggest on this doctrine. So, who’s right? Or, even better, who’s has the authority to make decisions about the faith.

    More later…

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    • Ray Pastora

      Well, that’s really what it boils down to. When Christ established the Church, he gave his apostles authority. He told Peter he was the rock. Now, I’ve heard the argument that the Greek has two different connotations about “rock.” The problem is that Christ spoke Aramaic and the Aramaic word for rock is Khefa. There is no masculine and feminine in Aramaic, so the word used was the same.
      Christ established a Church with authority. He gave Peter the keys to the kingdom and the authority to bind and loose.
      Have you ever heard of Scott Hahn? He was a Presbyterian minister and fervent anti-Catholic for years. He really embraced the idea of the covenant and studied the meaning of covenants. That’s when he realized that the idea of us as a family in the New Covenant was exactly what Christ was establishing. He started preaching this in his congregation.
      It was the issue of contraception that opened the door slightly to at least being open to reading the Catholic arguments against its use in the marriage covenant. He didn’t want it to make sense, but it did. In fact, I know of several converts who started their road to the truth via the issue of contraception.
      The concept of covenants really threw him into questioning sola fide and it was an ex Catholic student of his in theology school that challenged him on sola scriptura and where such an idea is found in the Bible. Scott had no answer and simply said, “That’s a dumb question.” His student responded with, “Then give me a dumb answer.”
      Scott Hahn has come around and has really embraced the Catholic Church and has become the most powerful voice of apologetics. He says that if sola fide and sola scriptura are called into question and a strong case can be made against them then the entire foundation of Luther and Calvin falls.
      But I think the key central division between us and all of Protestantism is in the question of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
      I honestly can tell you that the times I attended Protestant services I walked away feeling empty. The lack of the Eucharist really hit me. I did see communion at a Lutheran church and I’ll admit I’m not familiar with the Lutheran approach on the matter, but it is my understanding that we are the only ones who believe that is actually Christ. I read John 6 and have a hard time understanding it in any other way, especially when tied to Paul’s reinforcement of it in his letters (1 Cor. 10:16–17, 11:23–29; and, most forcefully, John 6:32–71)
      I encourage you to go to lighthousecatholicmedia.org and look for the mp3 of Scott Hahn, “Why a Protestant Pastor Became Catholic.”
      It is the most distributed CD you can find amongst Catholic apologetics. He lays out the path that led him to convert and really discusses his ideas on the covenant as the key to understanding the Bible.
      One of his most fascinating books is called “The Lamb’s Supper.” He ties the mass to Revelation. He said he spent years trying to make sense of Revelation and all its symbols and meanings but it wasn’t until after he converted and revisited it that he realized that Revelation directly describes the mass in it. It is a fascinating read.
      One of the things which led his wife to convert (she took much longer), was witnessing a Catholic baptism. She heard the words and never saw it as some ceremony that made her a slave to Rome, but was really fascinated by the liturgy and the words when the priest touched the baby’s ears so that she could hear the gospel, and her lips so that she could preach it.
      I also thoroughly welcome exchanges on these issues. It’s how I’ve been forced to learn my faith. Granted, it hasn’t been with a respectful dialog but is usually when I’m accused of being part of the church of satan, etc.
      I think that we as human beings need authority. Someone has to have the final word on a matter.
      I’ll offer this question up, not to stir the pot, but simply to ask you to consider it: Do you believe that Protestants will cave on the issue of gay marriage?
      I can tell you with 100% confidence that the Catholic Church teaching on this will be the same now and 300 years from now, no matter the societal consequences just as the issue of contraception will be the same 300 years from now. Do you think that Protestants will hold up marriage as defined by Christ?

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      • Graham Glover

        Ray, I can only speak for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, of which I have been a member for my entire life and a pastor for the past 10 years. And I think it’s safe to say the LCMS is very strong on this issue. I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but I don’t see any movement on this in the near future. If so, then Lord have mercy…

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      • Ray Pastora

        Your answer to that question is a good example of the importance of having a central body of authority. Their primary mission is to preserve the fullness of the Truth. Challenges will always arise and the Church must be there to stand against what is popular at the time, but is a moral absolute.

        I really hope that I’m wrong, but I predict that in 20 years or less we will see every Protestant denomination “blessing” same sex “marriages.”

        The alternative is lawsuits and persecution and hatred. THAT is a tough road to stay on.

        I encourage you to look into Human Vitae. There’s also a book called Sex and the Marriage Covenant which addresses the covenantal sacredness of the marital act. I haven’t read the latter, but it was highly recommended.

        We live in a society that is increasingly hostile towards Christians. The day is coming when churches will be sued, protestors will disrupt our services, and Christians will be fined, jailed, and persecuted for holding on to religious truths. Ask any Christian baker or photographer how that’s been going lately.

        There was a bishop who recently said, “I expect to die in my bed. I expect my successor to die in jail. I expect his successor to die a martyr.”

        I hope he’s wrong, but the forces of persecution and godlessness are organized and hostile.

        THAT reason alone is why it is important to have a central authority to protect the faith. It prevents giving in to pressures from society.

        Another aspect of your answer gives food for thought. You said that you can only speak for your church in Missouri. The contrast is one of the beauties of being Catholic. I can walk into a church in Ethiopia and know that while I may not understand the local language, I can pull out my missal and follow the mass because the prayers are the same, the readings are the same, and the structure of the mass is the same. It is at the heart of what Catholic means, which is “universal.”

        That applies to the doctrines as well (disciplines and customs vary). But the trinity is as real here as there. The Eucharist is revered here as it is there. Marriage and its sanctity is viewed the same.

        But I want to emphasize that there is a big difference between the church members and the clergy in the sense that it is far too often that Catholics ignore or stray from Church teachings or they pervert them (as is done by the mafia or Mexican cartels). Even some clergy stray and either fall into sin or teach incorrect doctrine or rebel. I witnessed this in Nicaragua where a famous priest embraced communism and would twist theology and the gospel to preach its evils. And of course, you have the scandals, but I would argue those are societal and not unique to the Church. The scourge of molestation is found in schools, sports, other churches, and any place that has large numbers of children.

        Sadly, sometimes these people are seen as the face of the Catholicism and mistake their heresies (such as Santa Muerte) for actual Catholic doctrine.

        So this long post was intended to address the problem with not having a shepherd. I would have to ask, what has the Pope declared recently which is so terrible or is so objectionable (from a theological standpoint) that it warrants remaining separated?

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      • Michael Siefert

        Dear Ray, your last paragraph’s question is easy to answer: A recent objectionable act of the Bishop of Rome ( Francis) making for separation was his issuing another indulgence for youth who participated via social media in a church event.

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      • Michael Siefert

        Dear Ray Pastora:
        Yup. Your gratiously provided link, which I quote below, is exactly why Francis dispensing such is indeed objectionable–and cause for separation.

        “What is an indulgence? The Church explains, “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain defined conditions through the Church’s help when, as a minister of redemption, she dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions won by Christ and the saints” (Indulgentarium Doctrina 1).”

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      • Ray Pastora

        I will admit that I don’t fully understand indulgences. I know they were abused where Luther was, and that Trent put restrictions on it. The impression I get is that it is a blessing that comes for supporting a mission of the Church, such as helping the poor.

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      • Aldwin

        Dear Michael,
        To understand indulgence is to understand the justice and mercy of God. He is both, not one or the other. God’s mercy forgives our sins and the justice of God demands that we make amends to the effects of the sins we committed. Remember David in the old testament?
        It’s like when your child did something wrong and broke the neighbor’s window, your child will be forgiven but still the broken window needs to be repaired. The parents action to have the window repaired would be the indulgence given by the church. Parents will find a way how to repair those windows for sure.
        This link talks about biblical principles behind indulgences and will give you clearer explanation on indulgences.
        http://www.catholic.com/tracts/primer-on-indulgences)
        http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otn.cfm?id=389&repos=6&subrepos=5&searchid=1317606 – Indulgences and the nature of the Church

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  9. Captain America

    I’m always amazed at how Protestants always are horrifically driven to oppose Catholic Christianity–it’s at a deep emotional level at this point.
    Rationally, it’s impossible to BE good, without DOING good. It’s also impossible to BELIEVE IN JESUS without FOLLOWING JESUS. . . the whole “problem of justification” comes across to me as a false problem or a canard.

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    • Ray Pastora

      But there is an element of Protestantism that believes “once saved, always saved.”
      A thorough examination of scripture shoots that down. Christ himself addressed it in the parable of the sheep and the goats.

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    • Graham Glover

      Captain America, I share your amazement and like to remind my Lutheran friends that Rome is from whence we came and where we should look first in our ecumenical dialogue. Pray for unity. I do.

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      • Captain America

        I think unity’s possible. But it has to be done without a “I told you so” attitude or “the black sheep’s found his way” attitude, or “our team won” attitude. That would be detrimental and pointless.
        It is possible to “mentally agree” that I believe in Jesus, but this is a lazy kind of thinking. Belief involves your whole being, if it is genuine conviction. Otherwise, it’s essentially mental bubble gum.
        As a Catholic, my Bible reading focuses on the Gospels and I pay special attention to what Jesus says and does in the Gospels. That’s plenty enough for me to handle: I know I don’t know enough theology to make full sense of the Old Testament! I’m reliant on professionals for this.
        The practical problem for Protestantism is that it’s kind of a “rope of sand,” to use Emerson’s phrase, and it’s possible to change in all sorts of directions. This has been a bad thing currently for Christianity, where we find media circuses in which radical fundamentalists are portrayed as representing the Christian intellectual tradition. It’s easy to win intellectual victories against someone who declares the earth’s only 10,000 years old!

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    • JGPadawan

      Can I get your autgraph? Please send it on a photo to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave…oops, wasn;t supposed to reveal my true identity! Never mind.

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  10. Ray Pastora

    Mr. Glover, please feel free to friend me on FB. I enjoy these exchanges, but don’t wish to hog your page in what could be a private exchange of ideas. And you won’t offend me if this comment doesn’t pass moderation. It’s intended just for you.

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    • Graham Glover

      Ray, feel free to contact me a revgbg at gmail dot com if you want to continue the conversation elsewhere.

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  11. Anthony Hulse

    Good news Graham:
    JOINT DECLARATION
    ON THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION
    by the Lutheran World Federation
    and the Catholic Church
    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_31101999_cath-luth-joint-declaration_en.html
    5. The Significance and Scope of the Consensus Reached
    40.The understanding of the doctrine of justification set forth in this Declaration shows that a consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification exists between Lutherans and Catholics. In light of this consensus the remaining differences of language, theological elaboration, and emphasis in the understanding of justification described in paras. 18 to 39 are acceptable. Therefore the Lutheran and the Catholic explications of justification are in their difference open to one another and do not destroy the consensus regarding the basic truths.
    41.Thus the doctrinal condemnations of the 16th century, in so far as they relate to the doctrine of justification, appear in a new light: The teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this Declaration does not fall under the condemnations from the Council of Trent. The condemnations in the Lutheran Confessions do not apply to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church presented in this Declaration.

    44.We give thanks to the Lord for this decisive step forward on the way to overcoming the division of the church. We ask the Holy Spirit to lead us further toward that visible unity which is Christ’s will

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  12. Manny

    As a Catholic, I appreciate this piece. Thank you Reverend. I too pray for unity. And I agree about Pope Benedict XVI; I find him the most compelling of all the Popes you mentioned. God bless.

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  13. Caspar

    If I might also recommend a book: Louis Bouyer’s The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism is a fascinating dissection of the key spiritual insights of Protestantism and an argument for their fulfillment in Catholicism.

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  14. Michael Siefert

    Graham,
    You went over the top this time!! And that’s an excellent thing. To see the calibar of thoughtful responses your article engenders is most refreshing.

    A couple of my own suggestions:
    a) The greatness you ascribe to various popes of the past century is no exaggeration. I would suggest, however, that it was not their being Pope, but their God-given abilites and fortuituous circumstances which are to be credited. Yes, being Pope gave them a high platform, from which to effect great change–hence the next point:

    b) Yes, let’s have a Lutheran Pope: easy peasy with the following three stipulations:
    1. Rather than styling himself as Vicar of Christ, let him be Chief Surrogate–not of Christ, not even of the Church Militant, but of the visible church–saints, sinners, hypocrites, warts, et al.

    2. Rather than declaring God’s revelation ex cathedra, let him broadcast to the world the Confessional Lutheran understanding of what God Himself has already revealed to us in His Word. (Instead of ex cathedra, it’s ex bully-pulpit.)

    3. Rather than Pope Gregory the Great who stated “I am the first to serve,” let him state, in modern idiom, “I’m the No. 1 servant.”
    Pax,
    Michael Siefert

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    • Graham Glover

      Michael, always looking to go over the top…to stir the pot a bit!

      I think their greatness is found in both things you suggest. They were certainly men worthy of the office they were elected to, but the office also gave them a platform to do their “job” (vocation).

      I’m not wed to the “Vicar of Christ” language used by Rome, so sure to your language.

      If Rome wants to accept the Book of Concord I’m all for it!

      I think Pope Francis would concur 100% with your 3rd point.

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  15. kelso

    If you want to be saved then just renounce Lutheranism and become a Catholic. There is no salvation outside the Church. This has been defined from the Chair of Peter by two ecumenical councils (the pope approving) and by Boniface VIII in the bull Unam Sanctam.
    With the likes of Henry VIII how can an honest person call themselves an Anglican. It is an insult to God. Same with Luther, who wrote, among hundreds of other outrageous things:
    “If we punish thieves with the yoke, highwaymen with the sword, and heretics with fire, why do we not rather assault these monsters of perdition, these cardinals, these popes, and the whole swarm of the Roman Sodom, who corrupt youth and the Church of God? Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?”
    Source: Martin Luther, On the Pope as an Infallible Teacher, 25 June 1520
    What are you protesting? As far as the teaching of the Church is concerned. Bad popes? You seem to be above that. A pope can lose his soul if he does not lie up to his Faith. Otherwise why pray for him. Cease calling yourself “Protestant”! A true Christian is not a “protester” in the sense the word is understood by all. He protest against evil, not the one true Church, albeit the Church is not without its evil members. Think again of the saints, of the ordinary Catholics who submit their mind and heart to the authority Christ established in the Church. “Hear the Church” not the liberals who deny the teachings of the Church. Do not listen to this false ecumenism that even the popes of our time have espoused, just adding to the confusion. We need real men in the Church who call a spade a spade. That is true charity. Become a Catholic. Be a real Christian man. Fight for Jesus as a courageous member of His Sacred Body. Let us convert all Protestants of good will by telling them the truth. Read Orestes Brownson, one of the greatest American converts.

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    • Michael Siefert

      Of course, there is no salvation outside the Church. Luther in particular, would agree. To dwell on the obvious begs the real question: “And what constitutes ‘the Church’?” Is it really founded on the bishopric of Rome–or on the one true, universal, i.e., catholic, faith, as we see it summarized in the Nicene Creed, which church council was not called by the bishop of Rome, nor conducted by him, nor controlled by him?

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      • Graham Glover

        Michael, I wonder if the crux of our debate with Rome is not the article of justification (they seem much more willing to “negotiate” on this topic than the Lutherans), but the article of Church. I really think it’s the later where our disagreements begin.

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      • Michael Siefert

        Yes, yes, and yes, Graham. Do we have God’s Word as it is revealed in Scripture because of the Apostles (and their “successors” in Rome)–or do we have an Apostolic Church because the Word came first–and once made Incarnate–called and established the apostles and all Christians ever since?

        Being a student of history, I often wonder how the course of the visible church would have developed if, after the first three apostolic centers of Christendom were overrun by Muslims (Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem) and there remained but Rome and Constantinople, if the Muslims had succeeded in taking Rome when they briefly took Sicily, instead of taking Nicea and then even Constantinople itself. God only knows.

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      • scragsma

        The Bishop of Rome (the Pope) may not have called, conducted, or controlled the Council of Nicea, but he did send official representatives to it; and the Council submitted its documents to him, and didn’t consider them final or authentic until he approved them. His approval is what gave them legitimacy.

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      • Michael Siefert

        Dear Scrasgma,
        In reply to your comment which I quote below:
        “The Bishop of Rome (the Pope) may not have called, conducted, or controlled the Council of Nicea, but he did send official representatives to it; and the Council submitted its documents to him, and didn’t consider them final or authentic until he approved them. His approval is what gave them legitimacy.”
        I have to agree, of course, that Rome sent delegates to Nicea. Even the heretic Arias attended Nicene Council. More importantly, delegates from the other 4 apostolic centers also attended, delegates from Africa, Europe and Asia attended. Christian leaders from archbishops to lowly deacons participated. Virtually all Christendom was represented. Quite a diverse bunch showed up, and concluded with a unified voice, a unifying creed. After attending mere local parish councils, I convinced nothing short of divine intervention could have made Nicea a success. Your reply, Scrasgma, leaves me in a quandry:

        a) If you think Christendom took Nicea as legitimate because the Bishop of Rome later approved of it, I urge you to study the post-Nicene fathers, esp. those harking from the other 4 Apostolic Centers, whose agreements or disagreements with Nicea had little or nothing to do with Rome’s approval.

        or:

        b) If you think Nicea–or any other Christian council–is legitimate only if approved by the Pope or his representatives, then the gulf between my belief and yours is far greater than I had thought. As Graham had earlier hinted, the more fundamental issue between Rome and Lutherans may not be justification, but the genesis and nature of the Church itself.
        Pax,
        Michael

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  16. Mack Hall

    Your essay is excellent, but you know deep in your mind that you can’t stay where you are. You can’t have anything both ways. You can’t stay in the middle of a bridge. You must choose a shore. God be with you.

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  17. DaveS

    The author’s take on Benedict XVI was spot on. He’s the liturgist while JP2 was the mystic. But Benedict was undeniably a right-hand man to JP2 for a lot of that papacy. And by liturgist he was, in American-speak, like a Constitutional originalist – i.e. orthodox. I am not so certain that John23 was a big fan of Vatican2 towards the end of his life. Thanks for the posting opportunity.

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  18. celestecc7j

    Graham, looking to contact you. Please send me an email, at your convenience….if you’d like. I find these comment boxes most impersonal for speaking and sharing matters of our Lord.
    Your post is inviting of prayerful reflection and further dialogue.

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  19. scragsma

    Um, what? Reading through your list of questions regarding the reforms the Protestant Revolutionists sought answers to, I can see none that actually apply. Mass was in the vernacular many places throughout history; having Mass in Latin was actually originally an attempt to be sure that everyone in every nation could understand it, since Latin was the common language of Europe at the time. The Eucharist was ALWAYS celebrated under both species – it’s never been valid any other way. Focus on Scripture? The Catholic Church has always been true to Scripture; after all, that’s where Scripture came from! And as for religious liberty, again, the Church has always stood for it. Not to mention that the Protestant Churches followed the culture of the time, in that BY CUSTOM a lord’s vassals and peasants participated in the lord’s faith, and this was enforced FAR more strictly by the Protestants than by the Catholics.

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  20. Jacob

    I thought that the Vatican and the Lutherans had reached an agreement on justification not so many years ago. Hasn’t that changed anything in the Lutheran attitude towards Catholic teaching?

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    • Michael Siefert

      Jacob,
      “the Lutherans” to whom you refer does not include the conservative Lutheran bodies around the world, especially in Africa; the largest of such conservative bodies who did not sign on to it in the US is the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, of which I believe Graham belongs. Still, the recent agreement on justification does show some movement toward reconciliation. With God, nothing is impossible–not even Christians agreeing with each other!
      Pax,
      Micahel Siefert

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      • Graham Glover

        Yes Michael, I’m LCMS. Have been from the time I was born…through Confirmation and Ordination!

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  21. kelso

    Three quick comments.
    First to Michael Sieffert. Luther’s Augusburg Confession (written not by him but by Melancthon) said more than that “there is no salvation outside the Church.” The original Confession, in German, ends with “Outside the Roman Catholic Church there is no salvation.” Melancthon was trying to protect the pope-hater Luther from from appearing to be “schismatic.” As if schism was Luther’s main problem.
    Second, to Ray Pastora, the Catholic Church has defined three times that there is no salvation outside the Church, AT ALL, decreed Innocent III. Pope Eugene listed all false religions, and schismatics, as being outside the ark of salvation, UNLESS they enter the Church. Definitions are, as Vatican I decreed, “IRREFORMABLE.” Vatican II, a non-defining council, could not abrogate defined teaching. But it could obrogate it — and, it did.
    Thirdly, as many Church historians have affirmed over the centuries (even the scholarly conciliar historian Bishop Heffele who opposed papal infallibility until it was defined at Vatican I) the Council of Nicaea was presided over by Bishop Hosius of Cordoba, Spain (not by Constantine, certainly, who graciously left the proceedings after greeting the bishops at the opening) who represented Pope Sylvester. Also the popes Roman legates, two priests, Vincent and Vitus, assisted Hosius in his capacity as presider. Yes, some contest this, but they are few, and they cannot deny, nor did they try to, the pre-eminence given to Bishop Hosius. No Catholic eastern bishop contested it, and Bishop Saint Alexander of Alexandria (whose diocese Arius ravaged) welcomed the support of the renowned Bishop Hosius and his employer Pope Sylvester.
    Again, for a Lutheran to be saved he must reject Luther’s heresies and become a Roman Catholic, under the pope. Just as the pope must submit to all the teachings of the solemn magisterium before him — which communicates the sacred deposit of Faith. As Jesus commanded “Hear the Church” etc. etc. as the erudite readers here all well know.

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    • Michael Siefert

      Dear Kelso,
      thank you for contributing a thoughtful comment. Permit me to add that the Augsburg Confession was composed in 1530, in the spirit of attempting to “compose differences” and seek, hopefully, unity with the church at Rome concerning not only the nature of the church , but also the Trinity, the dual nature of Christ, frequent use of the Mass, etc. , etc., etc.– and before Rome convened the Council of Trent. In short, from the Lutheran point of view, the Catholic church of 1530 was not the same as that after the Council of Trent.

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      • kelso

        Thank you Michael. Separations from the Church, when all is said and done, proceed from the rejection of God-given authority, ultimately to emotion, pride, and anger. Witness Luther rage against not only Pope Leo X and his corrupt court, but all popes and cardinals. He said he would like to wash his hands in their blood. He himself abandoned the moral law and he justified it by the outrageous heresy that no one could have interior justice, so “sin boldly but have faith.” Jesus will cover up (not eradicate and reform by His grace) all our wickedness with His justice. Schism is a sin against charity. Bad popes must be endured, a chastisement if you will from God. The reforms of Trent, and some exemplary confessors, did bring some Lutherans back to the one fold, but not so the majority. The pope is bound to the authority of the Church universal. He, too, must obey what has been passed down by the solemn magisterium (the chair of Peter and the bishops in union who work as one transmitting the apostolic Faith) The Hebrew church in the desert had to obey Moses when he spoke with divine authority. How much moreso Catholic Christians, members of the Mystical Body of Christ.

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  22. ericexcathedra

    I don’t see how the writer proves his point, which is that “Protestants need the Pope?”
    Let’s grant that he was correct the JP2 helped in bringing down Communism or that F1 gives everyone warm fuzzies with his amorphous talks on social justice and mercy. Let’s assume he’s right that B16 was a great scholar who was dead on about post-modern relativism and on some other doctrinal positions. Good for B16! Respect to him. But, we still have 3 big problems.
    1. None of this logically proves that protestants “need” the Pope. Where is the need?
    2. For all that these popes may have done for mercy works in the world’s eyes, they hold to the heresy that damns: that believing that Christ’s atoning sacrifice alone is enough… is not enough and you need to synergize with your own good works.
    3. All of them promote Universalism – lying to people that they can come to God in other ways than through the Christian Church. That’s idolatry breaking the 1st Commandment and teaching falsely breaking the 2nd Commandment by speaking lies of God.

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    • kelso

      Eric, you would do well to read the Lutheran convert Sigrid Undset’s Life of Saint Catherine of Siena. Much to learn about the papacy. Do not confuse the pope’s personal opinionating with the solemn teaching from the Chair. The pope must obey the Church universal just as all the faithful. And the pope can fail, otherwise we Catholics would not need to pray for his standing strong in the Faith. The false ecumenism of recent popes is a scandal. It is an insult to the teaching of Christ, the one and only Savior, the one who enlightens all men to know the Truth. And Jesus has given His voice to the Church and the papacy especially. The pope must transmit this Voice from the apostolic tradition. He has no authority to innovate a novel doctrine. God would not allow him to do so from the Chair as universal teacher, in council and out of Council. He is free to innovate personally in a non-binding manner, and he does, and so, too, have popes before Francis. We obey the pope when he obeys, and passes on the traditional Faith. Nothing has ever been defined by pope or papally approved council, for these past 19 centuries, which was not explicit in tradition or explicit (or implicit) in scripture. This book I mentioned at the start is the best biography of a saint I have ever read.

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    • Ray Pastora

      How do they promote universalism?

      I believe that most acknowledge that the path towards God and ultimately His Church is a long one. So all the criticism, for example, about Francis’ comments about Atheists is unwarranted given the fact that by opening up a dialog it will force Atheists to engage in conversation of faith. That alone is enough to convert many. Several atheist converts testify that the things that helped change their minds was exposure to intelligent people of faith who were obviously respectful of academic disciplines but still believed in God.

      Just getting an atheist to acknowledge the possibility that there could be a God is a huge step.

      Separate question and issue:

      Did the Council of Trent address many of the issues or not?

      And what is the objection to indulgences? The doctrine was reformed to eliminate abuse. So what is the objection? I’m asking because I don’t understand, not because I wish to argue.

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  23. Graham Glover

    Michael, I’ve followed Zion for years. A wonderful example of a Lutheran parish!

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  24. Jacob

    Thank you for this interesting posting. Just for the sake of clarity, in reference to some of the remarks that have been made here, I would like to quote the very brief statement the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes: “What is the meaning of the affirmation, ‘Outsides the Church there is no salvation’? This means that all salvation comes from Christ, the head, through the Church which is his body. Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her. At the same time, thanks to Christ and to his Church, those who through no fault of the own do not know the Gospel of Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and moved by grace try to do his will as it is known through the dictates of conscience can attain eternal salvation” (No 171). This can be interpreted, as also in the case of Trent, by what Pope Benedict speaks of as the hermeneutic of continuity and reform as opposed to the hermeneutic of rupture: in other words, it is really a deeper understanding of classic Catholic doctrine. Thus, in the light of scripture, it is an integration of two teachings of St. Paul: 1 Cor 15:1-2 “Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel… because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you–believing anything else will not lead to anything.” On the other hand, he also says: “For when the Gentiles who do not have the law by nature observe the prescriptions of the law, they are a law for themselves even though they do not have the law. They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them on the day when according to my gospel, God will judge people’s hidden works through Christ Jesus.” (Rm 2:14-16). All of this leads of course to the famous statement of James: “I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works” (Jas 2:18) since Jesus himself had said, “without me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5). In short, it is possible for people to have a right relationship to Jesus, their Savior, even though they either quite totally or partially ignorant of his true teaching as found in the Catholic Church.

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    • kelso

      Jacob, this quote from the Catechism is an innovation and a truism. The Catechism is not infallible. To allege that “No Salvation Outside the Church” only obligates one who knows that the Catholic Church is the true Church and does not enter it, is deceptive and minimalist, and very uncharitable. Who is going to be challenged by such a minimalist proposition? Certainly not the world. The infallible decrees on salvation are clear and childlike in simplicity . That is why they are challenging, intending to upset consciences, as Jesus did. I do not want to hijack the blog, but if you need to know the ex cathedra pronouncements I can give you the link.

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  25. James Patterson

    It seems that you want a more visible leader. You seem to be calling out for a leader who will engage the issues of the day and be relevant. Our little denomination is drowned out by the noise of many (when it makes any noise). Better leadership would be great, but a pope is high price to pay. The veil in the temple was torn once for all: we no longer need a go-between to approach the father. No pope, popes, or priests, please.

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  26. samuel bartolome

    we all believe in the same Jesus who saves and we read the same Word of God, it is high time to treat each other not as enemies but as brothers and sisters in Christ. Come let us enter into a dialogue,i.e., searching for commonalities rather than differences (we Catholics call it ecumenism).

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  27. dmtilney

    “It is clear that the Roman pontiffs, with their followers, defend godless doctrines and godless services. And the marks of Antichrist plainly agree with the kingdom of the pope and his followers. For Paul, in describing Antichrist to the Thessalonians, calls him an enemy of Christ, “Who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). He is not speaking about heathen kings, but about someone ruling in the Church. He calls him the enemy of Christ, because he will invent doctrine conflicting with the Gospel and will claim for himself divine authority” (The Lutheran Confessions, Power and Primacy of the Pope, paragraph 39).

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  28. D. Stein - Just a layman.

    Pastor, I agree with SO very much in your article. Returning the Bishop of Rome to his proper place as the first among equals would be a fantastic step toward the unification of the Saints Militant. Our common foe is powerful enough without our sinful divisions.
    But I can’t for the life of me understand why you took a pot-shot at the Treatise… (a statement which, as an LCMS pastor, you are sworn to uphold!). You know darn well that all of our points against the OFFICE of the papacy are conditional. Why throw all your Lutheran buddies who remain faithful to the Confessions under the bus by using the scary “A-word” as if you don’t believe it? Unless, that is, you don’t subscribe to Smalcald?

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  29. John H. Aldher

    How much does the Pope have in common with the apostle Peter:

    The Apostle Peter:
    an elder who submitted to Jesus as the head of the Church (1 Pet. 5:1; Col. 1:18)

    The Pope:
    believes he is supreme head of the Church with universal power (CCC 882)

    The Apostle Peter:
    taught we are born again through the living, abiding Word of God (1 Pet. 1:23)

    The Pope:
    teaches we are born again through the ritual of baptism (CCC 1213)

    The Apostle Peter:
    taught salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone (Acts 4:12)

    The Pope:
    teaches salvation without Jesus Christ (CCC 841)

    The Apostle Peter:
    taught eternal life is a gift of grace and secured by the power of God (1 Pet. 1:3-5)

    The Pope:
    teaches eternal life is attained by merit and lost by mortal sin (CCC 2027, 1035)

    The Apostle Peter:
    knew Jesus was the rock (1 Pet. 2:7-8)

    The Pope:
    believes Peter is the rock (CCC 442)

    The Apostle Peter:
    taught Jesus was the guardian of the souls in the church (1 Pet. 2:25)

    The Pope:
    believes he has supreme and unhindered power over the souls in the church (CCC882)

    The Apostle Peter:
    warned of false teachers who would teach heresies and malign the truth
    (2 Pet. 2:1-2)

    The Pope:
    has revealed he is a false teacher by his perversion of the Gospel of grace (CCC 969, 1129)

    The Apostle Peter:
    was fallible (Gal.2:11-14)

    The Pope:
    believes he is infallible (CCC 891)

    The Apostle Peter:
    refused adoration of men (Acts 10:26)

    The Pope:
    welcomes adoration of men

    Therefore Lutherans do not need the Pope !!!!!!!

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