Friday, April 22, 2005

Random Thoughts on Ratzinger, or Popeourri

Al Mohler has a nice piece on Ratzinger and the Papacy. If you have a chance, check out Mohler's radio broadcast on April 19th, featuring Russ Moore and Mark Dever, too.

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."

8 Comments:

Blogger Lengua said...

I was raised Catholic, and interestingly, the pope never had a powerful bearing on my faith. It seems that the pope serves as a political representative for the Catholic religion, which is as relevent to Catholic's lives as the Queen of England is to the British. Nevertheless, what the pope says or does has an impact, but only to those that belong to the "true church" of coo coo.
Any Christian religion that forgets who is to be worshiped, has lost its validity as a church of God. But what do I know, these are just my random thoughts.

8:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And here I was planning to add something to the topic on suffering tonight. :-)

There are really two questions here: (1) How does the Catholic Church see its relation to the Protestant communities and (2) what does it mean to say that one can only find salvation in the Church. It's my belief that there are important keys to the understanding of both of these questions and one, Darrell, the first, you'll likely find more acceptable than the other. Perhaps we can hope for a proper understanding of the concepts involved even if we're unable to agree as to their validity. It's been my experience that people of good faith can almost always manage that. I certainly hope we can.

I think it is important to understand that when the Church speaks of the matter of the Redemption or of any of its various aspects she does so from a Trinitarian and Christological perspective, Darrell. She therefore would see more a description of a method, or, perhaps better, a simple assertion of fact than a kind of programmatic requirement in the statements, "No one comes to the Father except though me", and "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ". One would
fail to see this latter in them even with the most tortured of readings. Rather they would seem to point to the fact that the Father, in begetting the Son, embraces all of Creation in Him and that in His unity with Him, permits of no other vehicle for it's Redemption of necessity. Certainly, the Gospels are less stories about Jesus than they are an unveiling of the relations of the Divine Persons at the core of things. In any case, we would want to avoid the conversion of these scriptural assertions into a type of Jesusism, not that I see you as doing that. But in considering Joseph Ratzinger's (now Benedict XVI) comments respecting Jews and "insurmountable impediments", I think we have to begin here.

That framework notwithstanding, one nevertheless sees an inherent connection in logic between Ratzinger's comment and the "outside the Church" claim as the two are closely related. The Second Vatican Council in no way sought to change or "liberalize" the meaning of this formulation of the early Church Fathers. To the contrary, an important case might be made that in its central emphasis on a recovery of Patristics, or "resourcement" as it was called, that the Council sought to deepen the meaning of this statement Christologically. The construct "outside the Church there is no salvation", in any case is presupposed by the simple truth that all salvation comes from Christ the Head, through the Church, His Body. And it is precisely because He is present to us as Church that the Church is necessary to salvation. The Church is the place of baptism and faith, and it has been so from the very beginning. The Lord, of course, affirms these as preconditions. However, that someone, owing to, if I may, "insurmountable impediments" may be ignorant of the necessity of the Church - the Jew, perhaps, in thrall to an oppressive and lifelong cultural prejudice, who rejects Christ quite instinctively - is not decisive. It is mitigating that there exist a sincerely held desire, moved by grace, to do the will of God as it might be made known to conscience. In such instances, salvation is also possible. In either case, the ontological mechanism involved is identical: The one mediator, Jesus Christ. How fitting that the Savior who exhorts us to do our piety in secret might require a certain anonymity of Himself.

Now as to the matter of Church and what is meant by the term in Catholic understanding. Naturally, the most profound claims made by the Church as to the legitimacy of its ecclesiology are those based upon its antiquity. In and of themselves they are sound and thoroughly consistent. The rise of separated Christian communities and the existence of alternative ecclesiologies has presented Catholicism with an undeniable challenge. How to reconcile the lack of a valid sacramental life, so essential to Catholic practice, with the observed holy lives of so many of the separated bretheren, for example. Again, with the Second Vatican Council, a Christologically deepened ecclesiology has provided an answer. Where Joseph Ratzinger has employed the term "mother" to describe the Catholic side of the relationship, acknowledging a particular closeness in the case of Orthodoxy, I would the prefer the imagery of context. The Church provides context for all of Christianity, with the Roman Catholic Church seen as "subsisting" in it most purely. Other communities overlap this "subsistence", much in the fashion of overlapping circles. In some instances the overlapping portion is quite considerable; in others, almost negligible. The tenor of such a view is entirely positive without requiring the sacrifice of essentials. Protestant communities are simply seen as being more or less Catholic. But Ratzinger is right not to consider Catholicism as simply another denomination along side of other. Who would honestly expect him to see it otherwise?

Yours In The Holy Trinity,

John Lowell

11:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The idea is simply the idea of the authority of the Church to teach.What makes it "legitimate" authority?Why, the Sacrament of priestly ordination,which,by Grace,accomplishes the Great Commission.What makes the teaching presence of a baptist church in our community legitimate? The attendence of it's customers?Plainly,the Commission was given to the Apostles,and the Roman Church and her "sisters" point to the Apostolic Succession as their authority to teach.The thing is,sectarian "Christians" are in something like the position of Jews with respect to the Deposit of Faith.Many" impediments" have been discussed among Christians; infancy,ignorance....The thing to notice is the objective claims of Christology.Christ died for all men and nothing anyone can do ( including " to believe") can alter that fact.

9:38 AM  
Blogger izzy said...

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,1469055,00.html

This may be of interest

12:37 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Thanks for the link, Izzy. As to the rest of the comments, I attempted to answer in some way in the the post above on God's revelation.

9:38 AM  
Anonymous David M Zuniga said...

I grew up in a Catholic home and attended RC schools from grades 4-12, then found Christ while at the university, praise God. I'm also a Reformed credobaptist.

When I meet RC apologists, I ask them these seven questions, and that ends any hoohah or debate on their part. Been there, done that!

1) There are ONLY two places in Scripture that a 'queen of heaven' is mentioned (Jer.44, Rev. 17) and Rome’s popes, cardinals, bishops, and priests pray to a ‘Queen of Heaven’, teaching Vatican subjects to pray to the same. Which of the two are they praying to? Is it a third 'Queen of Heaven', not in Scripture?

2) Why do Roman Catholics call their popes 'Holy Father', array them in silk brocade and gold headgear, house them in an emperor's castle, and coin Vatican money with their imperial image on it... if God commands Christians NOT to do those very things in Matthew 23:2-9 and the 2nd Commandment?

3) Why do Catholics (especially in ignorant and 3rd-world cultures) pray to and venerate an internal organ, on fire?

4) Did Pope Boniface VII (984-985), murder Pope John XIV and "maintain himself on the blood-stained Papal Throne by a lavish distribution of stolen money," as the bishop of Orleans accused him of?

5) Were John XII, Leo VIII, and Boniface VII, whom the bishop called "monsters of guilt, reeking in blood and filth; Antichrist sitting in the Temple of God" members of some other papacy, or the unbroken line of Roman 'Holy Fathers'?

6) Pope Innocent III said, "Christ hath set one man over the world, him whom he hath appointed his VICAR on earth... In him alone is the right of making laws... His sentence is not to be repealed by anyone... He is to be judged by none." Was he referring to the Roman pope?

7) For over 30 years, priests have distributed signs for Catholic laity to post on their front door: it features an image of a Latin American goddess, and says: “This home is Catholic. We don't accept propaganda from Protestants or other sects. Long live Christ the King! Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mother of God!” If Rome is really a sect of Christianity, why would it be afraid for its subjects to fellowship with other Christians? Is that image on the warning signs a 'Queen of Heaven' that Rome teaches subjects to pray to?

12:14 PM  
Blogger Brian K said...

As a staunchly traditional Catholic, I will tell you that Joseph Ratzinger's statement is contrary to Scripture and contrary to over 1900 years of Catholic teaching.

It belies a fundamental misunderstanding of faith and salvation, and the greatest lights of the Church bear witness against Ratzinger's statement.

Scripture itself proclaims that "he that believeth not shall be condemned". And that we need not only believe in Our Lord Jesus Christ, but profess that belief to others. As the Apostle writes to the people of Rome, "For with the heart we believe unto justice, but with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."

I could choose numberless citations, but I will cite the most authoritative (google my citations if you want to check them):

The Athanasian Creed states infallibly that: "Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith." Further, that same creed insists that any person who wishes to save his soul must "believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ."

How can a Jew or Moslem be said to believe rightly in the Incarnation? He cannot. He will be damned, as Our Master teaches in the Gospel I cited above.

Saint Thomas Aquinas states in his Summa that "after grace had been revealed, both learned and simple folk are bound to explicit faith in the mysteries of Christ."

Explicit faith. Can a Jew who denies the divinity of Christ have explicit faith in Him? Of course not.

Try reading the sixth session of the Council of Trent and maintain your opinion. You can't.

Some Catholics will cite three encyclical written by Pius IX in the 1860's to support this blasphemous and heretical notion that belief in Jesus is not necessary to salvation.

Both an ecumenical council and a canonized pope say you are wrong.

The Vatican Council of 1870 taught in session iii that there is a distinct difference between natural knowledge and divine faith, and that only divine faith can save. Natural knowledge come from what we see, while divine faith is knowledge of 'hidden mysteries' which comes ONLY from revelation.

Vatican I teaches that if "anyone says that divine faith is not to be distinguished from natural knowledge of God and moral matters, let him be damned."

and

Those teachers who confuse "nature and grace, human knowledge and divine faith, they are found to distort the genuine sense of the dogmas which holy mother the church holds and teaches."

Pope SAINT Pius X was asked directly if good non christians could have any hope of being saved. His answer in 1907 was blunt: "It is not allowed to affirm that [men such as] Confuscius was saved. Christians, when interrogated, must answer that those who die as infidels are damned."

The teaching of the Bible and the Church are clear. If Benedict XVI still maintains the opinion he had as a Cardinal, he is teaching heresy, plain and simple and must be rejected not only as a false pope, but as a false disciple of Christ.

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