Skip to comments.No, I'm Not Offended [R. Albert Mohler, Jr./Southern Baptist Theological Seminary]
Posted on 07/13/2007 8:52:11 AM PDT by Alex Murphy
Aren't you offended? That is the question many Evangelicals are being asked in the wake of a recent document released by the Vatican. The document declares that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church or, in words the Vatican would prefer to use, the only institutional form in which the Church of Christ subsists.
No, I am not offended. In the first place, I am not offended because this is not an an issue in which emotion should play a key role. This is a theological question, and our response should be theological, not emotional. Secondly, I am not offended because I am not surprised. No one familiar with the statements of the Roman Catholic Magisterium should be surprised by this development. This is not news in any genuine sense. It is news only in the current context of Vatican statements and ecumenical relations. Thirdly, I am not offended because this new document actually brings attention to the crucial issues of ecclesiology, and thus it presents us with an opportunity.
The Vatican document is very brief just a few paragraphs in fact. It's official title is "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church," and it was released by the Vatican's Congregation for the Defense of the Faith on June 29 of this year. Though many media sources have identified the document as a papal statement from Pope Benedict XVI, it is actually a statement from the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith that was later approved for release by the Pope (who, as Cardinal Ratzinger, headed this Congregation prior to assuming the papacy).
The document claims a unique legitimacy for the Roman Catholic Church as the church established by Christ. The document stakes this identity on a claim to apostolic succession, centered in the papacy itself. As the document states, "This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him."
Lest anyone miss the point, the document then goes on to acknowledge that the churches of Eastern Orthodoxy also stake a claim to apostolic succession, and thus they are referred to as "Churches" by the Vatican. As for the churches born in whatever form out of the Reformation they are not true churches at all, only "ecclesial communities."
Look at this:
According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called "Churches" in the proper sense.
Pope Benedict was already in hot water with the media because of his recent decision related to the (limited) reinstitution of the Latin mass, complete with a call for the conversion of the Jews. He was not likely to be named "Ecumenist of the Year" anyway. This latest controversy just adds to the media impression of big changes at the Vatican under the current papacy.
There have been changes for sure. Benedict is truly a doctrinal theologian, whereas his popular predecessor, Pope John Paul II, was more a philosopher by academic training. Those familiar with the current pope know of his frustration with the tendency of liberal Catholic theologians and laypersons to insist that the Second Vatican Council (known popularly as "Vatican II") represented a massive shift (to the left) in Catholic doctrine. Not so, insisted Cardinal Ratzinger as head of the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith. Now, as Pope, Benedict is in a position to shape his argument into a universal policy for his church. Vatican II, he insists, represented only a deepening and reapplication of unchanging Catholic doctrine.
Evangelicals should appreciate the candor reflected in this document. There is no effort here to confuse the issues. To the contrary, the document is an obvious attempt to set the record straight. The Roman Catholic Church does not deny that Christ is working redemptively through Protestant and evangelical churches, but it does deny that these churches which deny the authority of the papacy are true churches in the most important sense. The true church, in other words, is that church identified through the recognition of the papacy. Those churches that deny or fail to recognize the papacy are "ecclesial Communities," not churches "in the proper sense."
I appreciate the document's clarity on this issue. It all comes down to this the claim of the Roman Catholic Church to the primacy of the Bishop of Rome and the Pope as the universal monarch of the church is the defining issue. Roman Catholics and Evangelicals should together recognize the importance of that claim. We should together realize and admit that this is an issue worthy of division. The Roman Catholic Church is willing to go so far as to assert that any church that denies the papacy is no true church. Evangelicals should be equally candid in asserting that any church defined by the claims of the papacy is no true church. This is not a theological game for children, it is the honest recognition of the importance of the question.
The Reformers and their heirs put their lives on the line in order to stake this claim. In this era of confusion and theological laxity we often forget that this was one of the defining issues of the Reformation itself. Both the Reformers and the Roman Catholic Church staked their claim to be the true church and both revealed their most essential convictions in making their argument. As Martin Luther and John Calvin both made clear, the first mark of the true Church is the ministry of the Word the preaching of the Gospel. The Reformers indicted the Roman Catholic Church for failing to exhibit this mark, and thus failing to be a true Church. The Catholic church returned the favor, defining the church in terms of the papacy and magisterial authority. Those claims have not changed.
I also appreciate the spiritual concern reflected in this document. The artificial and deadly dangerous game of ecumenical confusion has obscured issues of grave concern for our souls. I truly believe that Pope Benedict and the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith are concerned for our evangelical souls and our evangelical congregations. Pope Benedict is not playing a game. He is not asserting a claim to primacy on the playground. He, along with the Magisterium of his church, believes that Protestant churches are gravely defective and that our souls are in danger. His sacramental theology plays a large role in this concern, for he believes and teaches that a church without submission to the papacy has no guaranteed efficacy for its sacraments. (This point, by the way, explains why the Protestant churches that claim a sacramental theology are more concerned about this Vatican statement it denies the basic validity of their sacraments.)
I actually appreciate the Pope's concern. If he is right, we are endangering our souls and the souls of our church members. Of course, I am convinced that he is not right not right on the papacy, not right on the sacraments, not right on the priesthood, not right on the Gospel, not right on the church.
The Roman Catholic Church believes we are in spiritual danger for obstinately and disobediently excluding ourselves from submission to its universal claims and its papacy. Evangelicals should be concerned that Catholics are in spiritual danger for their submission to these very claims. We both understand what is at stake.
The Rev. Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, responded to the press by saying that the Vatican's "exclusive claims" are "troubling." He also said, "what may have been meant to clarify has caused pain."
I will let Bishop Hanson explain his pain. I do not see this new Vatican statement as an innovation or an insult. I see it as a clarification and a helpful demarcation of the issues at stake.
I appreciate the Roman Catholic Church's candor on this issue, and I believe that Evangelical Christians, with equal respect and clarity, should respond in kind. This is a time to be respectfully candid not a time to be offended.
Adapted from R. Albert Mohler Jr.'s weblog at www.albertmohler.com.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. For more articles and resources by Dr. Mohler, and for information on The Albert Mohler Program, a daily national radio program broadcast on the Salem Radio Network, go to www.albertmohler.com. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to www.sbts.edu. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Original Source: www.albertmohler.com.
Scholars make arguments,
I know I sure cain’t,
But only God
Can make a Saint.
Very good! Gonna publish it? I can see it hanging in some Grandma’s houses around the country.
I think the Pope is right and Dr. Mohler is wrong.
I also think Dr. Mohler is mistaken in his take of a few points of what BXVI says. For example,the Pope doesn't define the catholic Church, in our view. Jesus DEFINES it. The Pope distinguishes it. (them niggly li'l distinctions is whut we papists do ....)
But I think Dr. Mohler is appropriately calm and to the point, and the attitude is such that one has the hope that folks could sit down and work in charity and with deliberation toward, well, somehow towards what is God's will.
Well, what he says in that excerpt does not jive real well with the words of the people who were actually taught by the Apostles.
The folks who were taught by Peter (Clement, Mark) by John (Polycarp, Ignatius) etc. left us historical writings. Those writings—while they may not be infallible—are certainly crucial evidence to this question.
Well, Claud, remember that the Catholic church also failed to reform some ridiculous practices when called upon by a priest to do so; I picture the Pope’s white elephant in parades while the church split and financial concerns over stopping indulgences . . . I’m not a big historian of the Church but I have a hazy view of a sort of Nero of Christianity, fiddling while the Church burned, so to speak, in Leo X. There was hardening was on both sides when the reverse was needed in light of Christ’s prayer for unity in the Church.
I’m waiting to put together the counted-cross stitch sampler version.
LOL. We’ll put it up next to the “Home, Sweet Home, Where You Can Scratch Where it Itches” plate.
The Pope's a Republican, and you have a problem with this? If it'd been a white DONKEY, now I'd be upset.
Yep, sometimes the only sign of anything like Papal graces was that they stayed the heck out of theology and confined themselves to grandiosity and whoring.
Who was it who said, "The Papacy at last is ours; let us at least enjoy it."
Uh, that would be Leo X.
As usual, Dr. Mohler (my favorite contemporary evangelical theologian, by a wide distance) hits the ball out of the park.
I like a pope who knows how to party.
Nope - a few of the bomb-throwing types have taken up the nazi insult it seems. They sure do get worked up over the Catholic Church, don't they?
I’ve never partied with a Pope, but my ancestors did. Tied one up and held him hostage for a while. Good Italian Catholics and republicans, they just had a policy disagreement that they felt needed to be ironed out . . .
In your comment, when you refer to the "excerpt", what in particular are you referring to? Mohler's reponse, or the text from the Vatican?
This is very very good. I am not only not mad. I’m grateful. The Pope is defending his beliefs as he has every right to. Now move over so we can defend ours. I find no insult in that. These are serious matters that we shouldn’t abandon in the name of unity. I appreciate the Pope’s comments on moral issues. He is not, however, my spiritual leader and I am 100% with Mohler on the importance of the issues that divide us. Time for clarity because too many souls are at stake. Let everyone hear all sides and then follow their own conscience on the matter. Why should that make anyone mad?
There is no 'priesthood' in the church of God, let alone a valid one...
Priest are valid only, 'under the Law'...And Christians are not under the Law...
Ah, sorry, should’ve been more clear. Mohler’s response.
Honestly, I was disheartened when the three posters keeping it up, continued.
Somehow I thought that what I did when I was 14 was well overshadowed by what I do now.
The ladies in my Pro-Life group should kick me out.
In other words, the Catholic Church believes it is correct - and protestant churches believe they are correct.
Nothing new here folks.
The Mosaic priesthood is valid only under the Law. But I don't think we can say that about the concept of priesthood in general
Peppered all over Hebrews is that Christ is a priest "according to the order of Melchisedek." So there's at least one priesthood that's ongoing.
And when you start thinking about a) what it means to be of the "order of Melchisedek", and put that together with His solemn command to b) "do this in memory of me", I think it all makes more sense.
>>Let everyone hear all sides and then follow their own conscience on the matter<<
Oh God Love YOU!
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