Random Thoughts on Ratzinger, or Popeourri
Pro-life groups have been lauding Ratzinger's elevation to the papacy, and it is likely that he will continue to do battle with the forces of the Culture of Death, the radical homosexuals, and the ever so shrill feminists. I see, too, that Ratzinger opposes the silly idea of pre-emptive war (though he did make the ridiculous statement that "the United Nations is the [institution] that should make the final decision.").
OK, that's all good, but Ratzinger also said this:
It must always be clear, when the expression 'sister churches' is used in this proper sense, that the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Universal Church is not sister but 'mother' of all the particular Churches...[and] one cannot properly say that the Catholic Church is the sister of a particular church or group of churches. This is not merely a question of terminology, but above all of respecting a basic truth of the Catholic faith: that of the unicity of the Church of Jesus Christ. In fact, there is but a single Church, and therefore the plural term churches can refer only to particular churches."
The expression 'sister churches' in the proper sense, as attested by the common tradition of East and West, may only be used for those ecclesial communities that have preserved a valid episcopate and Eucharist.
So I am not, as a Baptist, part of a "proper church." That's fine as long as my Catholic friends and well-wishers allow me to quote Luther ("The papacy is the seat of the true and real Antichrist") and look to the Westminster Confession ("There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God.") for my views on the papacy.
OK, I'll be generous. Perhaps Luther had been drinking and the Westminster Divines could have inserted a period instead of a semi-colon and left off the last clause.
But Ratzinger also said this: "We are in agreement that a Jew, and this is true for believers of other religions, does not need to know or acknowledge Christ as the Son of God in order to be saved, if there are insurmountable impediments, of which he is not blameworthy, to preclude it."
No need to acknowledge Christ? But Jesus is the one mediator between God and man (II Tim. 2:5) and Christ Himself said we were to believe in God, and to believe in Him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:1-6).
"Insurmountable impediments" to knowing God? What did Paul mean, then, in Romans 1?
18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.
26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, Godhaters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
I'm not up to speed on Catholic dogmatics, but as I understand matters, the Church has historically denied there could be salvation outside the church. Then--and someone should tell me if I am wrong--the Church did a one-eighty on this at Vatican II so that now heaven will now be filled with all manner of non-Christians.
To this Protestant observer, it would appear that the churches "conservatives" are liberalizing their doctrine vis-a-vis salvation and have come to terms with Vatican II.
In the end, I guess I'm OK with not being part of a "proper church."