Pope Benedict XVI Announces His Resignation

Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would resign as Pope on February 28th. This is indeed news. I read a book last year called The Pope Who Quit which I found quite interesting. Pope Celestine V resigned the papacy in 1294 (he served for five months). He was not the first and if my history is correct Pope Benedict will be the fourth Pope to resign the office.  Pope Gregory XII (1406-1415) and Pope Pontian (235) are the other two. Pope Benedict has been a wonderful Pope and he has done much good in the short time that he has served the church as Pope. Now we wait to see who his successor will be.

Of course the Catholic blogs are buzzing with activity. One of the things I appreciated were these words from Elizabeth Scalia:

“I’m kind of appalled at how some members of the press are reacting to this. The announcement wasn’t two hours old when the cable news gasbags started in with their “wish list” and expressing hopes that the next pope “gets it right” on the “important issues.” A few sound like they’re all but crossing a line through this pontificate with zero understanding or appreciation of what it has actually been. And some of the comments in the Facebook threads are just so…awful. People are so busy thinking about their personal “agenda” for the church — be it “progressive” or “Conservative” — that they’re not even taking a breath to consider that the man and his pontificate will be more than a footnote to John Paul’s; they have no idea what a force for Christian unity he has been in the midst of so much division.”

You can read her full post here. She also has a short list of reactions from Patheos.

VATICAN POPE

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9 thoughts on “Pope Benedict XVI Announces His Resignation

  1. I am puzzled and somewhat concerned that Baker, which I understood to be a conservative evangelical publisher, is commenting on the death of the Pope in such warm and commending terms. You write, “Pope Benedict has been a wonderful Pope and he has done much good in the short time that he has served the church as Pope” and yet this is a man who denies many of the fundamentals of the biblical Christian faith and has retrenched the Roman Catholic Church in many of their erroneous doctrines.

    • John,

      I am curious to hear what fundamental biblical doctrines you would charge Pope Benedict with denying. Also, could you give an example of a Christian leader you think exemplifies the kind of Christian faith you’re referring to? “Conservative evangelical” is a very ambiguous term for me, so I’m just wondering what kind of ideas you’re using as a foil to Pope Benedict.

      Thanks!

      • Hi Dean. I agree with you about labels and terms, but by evangelical, at any rate, I mean accepting the Scriptures as the inspired, authoritative, infallible, inerrant word of God and seeking to live by its teaching. I also accept that the current Pope has taken a strong line on the sanctity of life, for example, stronger than some Protestant leaders. However, as head of the Roman Catholic church, and one of the most traditional and ‘conservative’ heads at that, the Pope denies the basic tenet of justification by faith alone, teaching that salvation is through the church; he denies the ultimate authority of Scriptures, teaching that the ultimate authority lies with the church whose Priests are the only ones able to correctly interpret and apply its teachings; he teaches Mariolatry and and prayer to and through; he teaches purgatory which is nowehere taught but denied in the Bible; he practices the blasphemous Mass in which he believes that the physical elements actually arwe transformed into the body and blood of the Lord….and so on and so on. I could give numerous examples of Christian leaders who seek to live faithfully by the teaching of Scripture, none of course perfectly, but none denying such foundation truths – many well known and others much less well so. If you want me to name names I would offer men like John Piper, John MacArthur, R C Sproul, Sinclair Ferguson and so on and so on.

        • Thanks for your response, John.

          It seems to me that your definition of “evangelical” would actually apply completely to Pope Benedict’s theology. While I understand the distinction you’re making between doctrines that grow form traditions as opposed to doctrines that grow from Scripture alone, I would suggest the authors/thinkers you listed have grown out of a particular tradition themselves. I’m not Roman Catholic, but I do think it’s a bit too far to suggest that Roman Catholics are not Christians, which seems to be what you’re hinting toward. Catholics, since Vatican II, would happily welcome Protestants as fellow believers. One way I have heard Catholics refer to Protestants is as “estranged brethren,” which I think is a great phrase, as that is precisely how I would hope Protestants could see in Catholics–brothers and sisters who are part of the family, despite being estranged in one way or another.

          I would also put forth the idea that your characterization of Catholic beliefs is slightly overdrawn. Catholics would never for example, suggest that salvation is through the church, nor would they deny the idea that justification is by faith alone, understood with certain qualifications (Roman Catholics and Lutherans famously agreed on this point not long ago, denominationally, which is a pretty huge development). Further, the Scriptures remain in a higher authoritative position than priests, and the priests and scholars of the Roman Catholic Church are by no means unified in their interpretations of specific ideas, verses, and theology. There is a wide range in the Catholic Church, and I think we would do well to be wary of generalizing too much. I would encourage you to look into Hans Kung, Karl Rahner, and others. You might be surprised by what you find.

          Either way, I think it is best that we pray for all people, believers or not. Blessings as you continue to pursue the truth, brother. Thanks again for the conversation.

          –Dean

          • Thank you Dean. I don’t want to prolong this but feel I ought to make a couple of points of clarification. First, I know that there are some individual Roman Catholics who are genuinely converted and saved through repentance and faith in the atoning work of Christ alone. I believe they are misguided and wrong to stay within a church that teaches and practices the sort of error I mentioned in my previous comments. However, you did not ask me to comment on Roman Catholics but on one Roman Catholic, the retiring Pope. You would have to stretch the word ‘evangelical’ far beyond any recognisable usage to include him in that term, largely for the reasons I stated in my previous comments all of which he espouses strongly and all of which are in direct contradiction to Scripture which, I assure you from my having studied these things, is, in practice, subject to the interpretation and teachings of the Church and therefore is of a lower authority than the church itself. I know that there are differences of views within the Roman Catholic Church but the Pope, and have read some of Kung’s works with which, incidentally, the retiring Pope disagrees vehemently, but the Pope has to uphold and advocate the ‘orthodox’ teachings and traditions of the church which are incompatible with the teachings of the Bible. I also recognise that the evangelical leaders I mentioned have grown out of particular traditions themselves but they have aligned themselves with the teachings of Scripture, and look to Scripture alone – one of the great tenets of the Reformation – as their authority for life and teaching.

            The Reformation arose out of a need to expose and break away from the teachings which are largely unchanged in the Roman Catholic Church, not least the doctrine of justification by faith alone – without any qualifications.

    • Hi John,
      Thank you for your comment. Baker has published a book called Covenant and Communion: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI by Scott Hahn (a Catholic). This book had endorsements from Hans Boersma, Michael Horton, Kevin Vanhoozer and Tremper Longman III—all Protestants. Longman wrote “Through Hahn, I have a new appreciation for the mind and heart of Pope Benedict.” Horton said, “Long before his election as pope, Benedict XVI brought his wide-ranging gifts to bear in this field in a Christ-centered exposition. Even when one disagrees with some of his conclusions, Benedict’s insights, as well as his engagement with critical scholarship, offer a wealth of reflection. . . . An eminently useful guide for introducing the thought of an important theologian of our time.” Vanhoozer wrote that Pope Benedict XVI is “arguably the world’s most important contemporary theologian.” All of these Protestants would no doubt share many of your disagreements with the Pope yet they still see good in his work as a theologian. My comment was simply a sharing of this appreciation that is expressed by these and many other notable Protestants.

      • Thank you Louis. I appreciate that. However, I remain disturbed and concerned about describing someone who ultimately turns people away from the saving person and work of Jesus – however erudite and thoughtful his theological writings may be – as a “wonderful Pope”. He is a denier of the truth and blinds men and women to the saving truth that is in Christ and therefore an accessory in murder, in spiritual and eternal terms. All the so-called good things don’t mitigate for that.

  2. Pingback: Evaneglicals and a Yorkshire Pudding

  3. Apparently word got out that Ratzinger was trying to decide what to give up for Lent, to set the best possible example of true penitence for all Christians. John Brand tweeted him suggesting that giving up being the Anti-Christ would be a good start, and also a tough act to follow.

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