The New Pope’s Intention To Unite All Christians

The Faith Of Our Fathers
“But, the Son of Man, having come, shall He find the faith upon the earth?”(Luke 18:8)
A practical paper for fundamentalist believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. #01
Kenneth F. Pierpont, D.Min. M.Ed. Pastor, Jonesville Baptist Church, Jonesville, MI

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the oldest man ever to be elected Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, was elevated to that position April 20, 2005 before a watching world. So vast were the crowds that attended the funeral of John Paul II, his predecessor, and the subsequent election of Cardinal Ratzinger that this event has been called “the largest gathering in the history of the world.”

Having named himself, Pope Benedict XVI, this new “Vicar of Christ” quickly established himself as the pope intent upon “uniting all Christians and reaching out to all religions of the world.”

Media reports have stated that the population of Rome, usually put at about four million, doubled during the time Pope John Paul II lay in state through the installation of Cardinal Ratzinger. Note some of the comments of those who attended or reported: “I have no doubt the Holy Father [the deceased John Paul II] was interceding for us.”(A Vatican authority) “It was one of the most spiritual experiences anyone could ever go through.(Observer) “It was overwhelming.” (Onlooker) “I saw tears running down your cheeks.” (Reporter to devotee)

And of the new pope: “He is a shy professor of great holiness and integrity.” (Reporter)”He is the guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy.” (Vatican spokesperson)

With speculation running high that the College of Cardinals would elect either a man from Latin America or one from Africa, many were surprised at the election of the first German pope since the eleventh century. No one should have been!

WHY THIS MAN?

Cardinal Ratzinger has for many years held the post of “Grand Inquisitor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.” It is reported to be the second highest office in the Catholic Church. As defender of church dogma, Ratzinger has been called by the media, “God’s Rottweiler.” No wonder, “Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith” is the modern name for “The Inquisition.”

American Catholics have clamored for change in church doctrine to loosen restraints on birth control, abortion and a celibate clergy composed only of men, to name but a few popular issues on which ancient Roman Catholicism is “out of step” with current social “norms.” Most are saying none of this is likely to come about under the new pope, Benedict XVI.

So, why would the College of Cardinals choose someone who is certain to uphold beliefs that are unpopular among millions of Catholics? Why choose someone from Germany? Why not choose someone from Latin America where the largest concentration of Catholics in the world is found? The answer to these questions may not seem important to Bible-believing Christians. The truth is, this new pope’s mission puts him on a collision course with historic fundamental Christianity!

THE DRIVE TO “UNITE” ALL CHRISTIANS

Those believers who prefer to identify themselves as “evangelicals” rather than fundamentalists have been represented for more than ten years now by the movement entitled “Evangelicals and Catholics Together.” The respected evangelical theologian, J.I. Packer, summarized the initial introduction of this effort in Christianity Today on December 12, 1994:
(ECT) is the title of a programmatic statement composed by eight Protestants (leader, Charles Colson) and seven Roman Catholics (leader, Richard John Neuhaus) and composed by 12 more Protestants and 13 more Roman Catholics.”

Packer goes on to say that the statement by these men is in no way official and does not commit the churches, institutions and organizations these men represent to anything they may decide. Good thing: Southern Baptist scholars and others have since realized just how far evangelical Christianity would have to go to satisfy Rome. Some who initially signed the document have since withdrawn their names.

Defending himself as a signer of this document Packer states: “So I find that ECT is not a sellout of Protestantism, but is in fact a well-judged, timely call to a mode of grassroots action that is significant for furthering the kingdom of God.”

ECT continues to this day. Pope Benedict XVI may find it helpful at some point to encourage this or some similar effort to “unite” Christians. His credentials as a thoughtful German theologian will lend great support.

The question of whether or not evangelicals should apologize to the Catholic Church for the Protestant Reformation and the resulting split away from Roman Catholicism that has fostered the establishment of innumerable denominations and “sects” of Christendom is one that continues to be addressed. Weak evangelical writers seem content to raise mild objections.

As a biblical fundamentalist, I am frankly appalled by the notion that some future “union” of Catholics and Protestants could ever find favor with a majority of evangelical church leaders. Most certainly, such compromise could never be justified by Scripture. We must never forget that it was fundamentalist believers of yesteryear (though not known by that title, of course,) who were hunted down by Rome’s Inquisition and tortured and killed for raising some of the same objections we would feel obliged to raise today.

When Pope Benedict XVI states, as he does, that he wants to reach out and unite all Christians, we must bear in mind that he has also stated that he finds non-Catholic Christianity “deficient.” That blunt judgment should leave little doubt as to who will be expected to do the compromising to effect change!

THE POPULAR MIND

If you followed any of the proceedings from the death of John Paul II through the installation of Benedict XVI, you saw, as I did, the adoring masses of people thronging Vatican Square and St. Peter’s Basilica. These devotees are putty in the hands of Roman Catholic authorities who exercise authority over soul and body, doling out “salvation” as it were, on the installment plan. The sobering reality of this is that we are talking about a billion people under the authority of this mighty religious force.

One must also realize that there are many people with a spiritual hunger who are mightily influenced by the dazzle and pomp of Roman Catholic practice who are ripe for conversion to Rome. One such example is a young man who was interviewed by a television reporter in St. Peter’s Square: “I was so moved by it all that I went out and bought a rosary and became a Catholic,” he proclaimed.

The new pope may be rightly regarded as Rome’s watchdog over theology, change and adaptation to our modern world. He also may just be the one who lives to usher in the fall of “Babylon the Great,” of Revelation chapter seventeen! We shall see.

Looking Ahead: Our next paper will deal with Pagan Practice in Catholicism Today.