[#] Missionary to the Curious (2)

MaryNotMartha (hereafter “MNM”) gave us her insights a couple of days ago about the state of Christdom (as you may have seen on the last blog post). Here’s my response to MNM. She said:
I'm a protestant evangelical, and I honor the pope.
Well, MNM, I’m not sure what you’re talking about. If we simply concede the word “evangelical”, what do you mean by the words “protestant” (small “P” noted), “honor”, and “pope”?

See: the Pope doesn’t ask anyone to “honor” him (cf. “honor thy father and thy mother”), but to obey him unquestionably – to accept that when he affirms something regarding faith and morals, he is never in error. Yes, yes: I am familiar with the objection that every utterance from his Pontifical mouth is not subject to this interesting kerygma. Let’s keep the discussion as specific as possible.

Here is something the Pope has said which must be taken infallibly:
    we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.
    45. Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.

    47. It is forbidden to any man to change this, our declaration, pronouncement, and definition or, by rash attempt, to oppose and counter it. If any man should presume to make such an attempt, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.
Munificentissimus Deus is the source for this very interesting affirmation, and it was issued in 1950.

“Well, shoot, cent,” you say, “1950? That doesn’t have anything to do with John Paul II, and in that I can honor JPII but understand that whatever the Pope said in 1950 was, well, his own trip.”

Yes, that would be fine if we were talking about the Truman doctrine or Soviet Agricultural policy. Unfortunately for us – and our hunger to find allies in anybody who says the name “Jesus” outside of cursing – we are talking about the Pope and his teaching role in Catholicism. Now what is that role exactly? Well, it turns out the John Paul II did a very handy thing in publishing a comprehensive Catechism c. 1993 (sometimes noted as the 1994 catechism). Here’s what he says about the Pope’s teachings inclusively, in paragraph 891:
"The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.... the infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium"
Translation: A Pope is a Pope, and if he says something is doctrine, we all have to believe it. Hence: you either believe that Mary was assumed into heaven as a non-negotiable part of the faith, or you “incur the wrath of Almighty God”.

So I am left wondering what you mean by “I honor the Pope.” You don’t mean what he means by “honoring” him, I am sure. However, I am interested in what you mean.

Next we have:
Many protestant's have perverted the message of justification through faith to mean that they can live as they chose, without the cost of discipleship.
’k, I admit that I think this is the kind of teaching you find at various, un-named Megachurches with pastors who have TV shows on TBN, but I do not know of any person I would call a “Protestant” who thinks “justification through faith” means “free ticket to sin”.

To be clear, just because one is not Catholic does not make one “Protestant”. Mormons are not Protestant; JWs are not Protestant; Hindus and Jews and Muslims are not Protestants. “Protestant” refers to a position defined in the Reformation by the 5 solas and opposition to the anathemas from Rome at Trent. When someone can’t even name the 5 solas and has no idea what happened at Trent, then it’s pretty hard to call them “Protestants”.

Non-denominational evangelicalism, in my opinion, is far more guilty of dumbing-down doctrines and misusing Christian liberty than actual “Protestantism”, though I’d be willing to allow that some historically-“Protestant” denominations have, in the last 30 or 40 years, completely fumbled the ball and have suffered for it.
This is not true faith, and will be the downfall of the protestant church.
I agree that saying “justification by faith” = “liberty to do anything you please” is a false gospel. The question is if “You must accept the assumption of Mary or face God’s wrath” is a false gospel or not.


Tim Challies said...

This is very important and well-said: "the Pope doesn’t ask anyone to “honor” him (cf. “honor thy father and thy mother”), but to obey him unquestionably – to accept that when he affirms something regarding faith and morals, he is never in error." Indeed, the pope demands loyalty to the doctrine he teaches (infallibly). Even he does not require honor.

This sounds like another case of Papal Envy, something I wrote about a few days ago.