In the last few days as the Vicar of Christ, the leader of the Catholic church, has been visiting the United States of America, many people have asked me about the Pope. What do you think about the Pope, Pastor Brian? I have two answers to this question.
First, at least from what I can glean, I like Pope Francis. There is something genuine about him that does in fact often reflect Christ. I am thankful that he is constantly drawn to people in need. He appears to be a humble man who loves people. He reminds me of a Papal “Robin Hood” taking from the rich to feed the poor. He has the courage to be different and to challenge the status quo and I respect that in him as a person. There are many things to like about Pope Francis all the way down to his smile and easy manor of speaking. He is a Pope of the people and I like that.
Second, however, we reject the papacy as an unbiblical office. This is not an objection to Pope Francis as a person but instead is a rejection of the papacy, theologically. I have now angered my Catholic friends but as they are historically and theologically astute, they are not surprised and I hope will continue to love me as I love them even in our disagreement about the papacy. The reasons behind the rejection of the office of the Pope are the same reasons that caused the Reformation in the 16th century. Two significant problems arise, among others, in comparing the office of the Pope to the words of Scripture.
(1) According to Catholic doctrine, the Pope is the representation of Christ on earth having the power to forgive sins, making him a mediator between God and man. This explains why people all over the world flock to him when he arrives like we have seen in recent days in America. In contrast, the Biblical teaching is clear according to 1 Timothy 2:5. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus who gave himself as a ransom for all…” Both cannot however be true.
(2) The official teaching of the Roman Catholic church is that the Pope (any Pope, not just Francis) has full and supreme power and authority over the Universal or Catholic church. He is called Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Servant of God’s servants, etc. Again, we have a problem when we view the Biblical perspective on the Head of the church universal. “And he (meaning Jesus Christ) is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all of the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross.” According to the Scriptures, the head of the church is Jesus, the only one who has the power to reconcile people to God.
The problem with the Pope is not personal, it is theological… but it is a problem. It is a gospel problem as the reformers understood in the 16th century and as we understand now.