The Death of a Pope

By Not Known

Last Sunday the Roman Catholic community lost one of its most important leaders for many years. As well, Pope John Paul II reminded the wider world of the spiritual and moral realities at a time when materialism and pragmatism seemed to rule. In these respects, he was a force for good.

What should Protestant Christians make of this? We should offer our condolences to the Roman Catholic community as it mourns a beloved leader. We can sincerely thank God for the late Pope’s positive contributions on the world stage.

To some extent our view of the Pope is linked to our view of the Roman Catholic Church. Our denomination was born out of the struggles for Biblical reform of the Roman Catholic Church in the sixteen century. Much reform has happened in the Roman Catholic Church since, and certainly in the twentieth century after Vatican II Council. But, some of the old issues remain points of concern.

Many of these concerns relate to the problems of ‘add-ons‘. In its formal statements the Roman Catholic Church holds to the great gospel doctrines of the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, and salvation through the shed blood of Jesus. Trouble is, these doctrines are hidden and sometimes undermined by the things that have been added to them. In particular Roman Catholicism tends to put much emphasis on the Pope, the church, Mary and the saints, and the sacraments. The effect is to clutter the simple teaching of the Bible that salvation is by God’s grace accessed by our faith in Jesus Christ (Eph 2: 8)

(Of course, the Roman Catholic Church is not the only body to add its own traditions to the faith of the Bible and some present commentators notice the same problem in evangelical and charismatic churches. we all need the Reformation value of ‘reformed and always reforming‘, with the Bible as our yardstick. On the other side, liberal Protestant churches has the problem of taking things away from the Biblical faith.)

We can focus these issues through the question that some of our members have asked: Is Pope John Paul II in heave? Ultimately that is God’s business, not ours. But we can say this: If Karol Jozef Wojtyla is in heave it is not because he was Pope, or from any merit of his, but through the saving grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. The late Pope may have understood that better than some of us.