Monday, December 3, 2007

The One True Church – Part I

I hope my blog is meaningful to most people most of the time, regardless of religion, church affiliation, or denomination. Some of the things I talk about transcend any particular denomination or religion. Most religions and denominations share many of the same values and principles, even if they significantly differ theologically. Because I am a Christian pastor, this blog is generally focused on Christian viewpoints. More specifically, I am a Protestant pastor, so I am usually coming from a Reformation point of view.

Certainly it is not my intent to offend anybody (except for the perpetually offended, who are “offended” by just about anything that isn’t perfectly politically correct). In giving my opinion, some people might take offense, but I think it is important to call it as I see it. When appropriate, I’ll criticize fundamentalists, evangelicals, liberals, Catholics, Protestants, Christians, Jews, Muslims, secularists, political correctness and prejudice.

In this particular blog, I am probably going to offend some Roman Catholics because I am going to criticize the Pope and the Catholic Church’s position when it comes to other Christian churches. Therefore, if you think this will bother you too much, stop reading now.

I am upset by two recent events within the Roman Catholic (RC) Church. The first one is the Pope’s public reassertion that the RC Church is the only “true” Christian church. According to the Pope’s statement, the Eastern Orthodox churches are close, but no cigar. The Protestant churches are merely pretenders. While I know this is official RC doctrine going back to the Council of Trent, I find it offensive and unnecessary that the Pope had to publicly reassert this claim. What’s his point? What’s he afraid of? That he has to “protect” the Church from contamination from those terrible Protestants?

The RC Church’s claim is based almost solely on allegiance to the Pope. Those churches that don’t accept the Pope’s authority aren’t “true” Christian churches (and therefore not truly “apostolic”) according to the RC definition. When you think about it, such a position is ludicrous, not to mention arrogant and unbiblical. The measure of any person’s or any church’s “true” Christian status should not be judged according to allegiance to any earthly power, only to God alone. Faith in Jesus Christ and belief in the fundamentals of the Christian faith should be the criteria, not allegiance to the Pope. Moreover, only God can truly judge one’s heart (Matthew 7:1).

If you look back in church history, the Bishop of Rome assumed for himself more and more authority, proclaiming himself first among equals among the various bishops of the early church. Notwithstanding the RC Church’s misinterpretation of Matthew 16:18-19, Jesus never envisioned a pope-like supreme ruler of Christianity. Given the sordid history of the papacy, we can see why Jesus never made any man head of his Church, only Jesus himself. Therefore, the RC Church’s claim of superiority over all other Christian churches is fallacious, and an insult to those hundreds of millions of devout Christians who do not proclaim allegiance to the Pope.

More on this in a future blog, where I will discuss the second recent event that I find highly offensive.

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