“Why believers of all stripes should care about the new head of the Catholic Church,” begins Timothy C. Morgan in his Christianity Today article A Pope for All Christians. Historically there has never been a pope for all Christians and there is not today. Rome begs to differ, of course, claiming themselves the one true church that holds the keys to the Kingdom making the pope head of all Christendom. According to Rome, all other churches are not even true churches.
Morgan claims the health of Roman Catholicism affects all Christians because of globalization. Globalization is knocking down walls that separate “Catholics from Orthodox, mainline Protestants, evangelicals, and Pentecostals.” Morgan also points out the common moral failures between Rome and Protestants as if one should find comfort in a misery loves company sort of bonding. He goes so far to say that Protestants “want to help Christians everywhere comprehend that a healthy and gospel-proclaiming Catholic body greatly benefits all churches—and the cause of Christ.”
The problem is those walls of separation still exist. I, and all Protestants, are still anathema according to the great wall Rome calls The Council of Trent. I truly would love a “healthy and gospel-proclaiming Catholic body,” but as it stands, Protestants and Roman Catholics don’t agree on the gospel so how can they stand together for the cause of Christ?
Morgan applauds the social and political work the Catholic Church has done. Make no mistake, the Roman Catholic Church has done great work education, healthcare, and other important social areas. Protestants can definitely learn from and be motivated by Catholics in those areas. Yet, admiring goods works is no reason to join two different gospels together pretending they are one.
There is a difference in aligning with someone for a cause vs. aligning with them because. I can vote with conservative atheists and religious people of all types for a cause both socially and politically. However, I cannot vote with those same people both socially and politically because of the gospel. I can stand with certain atheists and Muslims for a cause, though it is because of the gospel that we will foundationally divide.
Interesting how Morgan notes how the Vatican reached out to disenfranchised Episcopalians to help them. Apparently there is a similar Catholic outreach for Lutherans in Germany, too. But what is the true aim of Roman Catholic ecumenism?
Morgan calls Protestants and Catholics to work together in the areas of “the authority of Scripture, the atoning work of Christ, the need for individual salvation and conversion, and the expression of the gospel through evangelism and social action.” He does not explain how this partnership can even begin when Catholics and Protestants don’t agree on the authority of Scripture nor on the finished atoning for of Christ. Nor does he explain how can two different gospels work together in individual salvation or put forward a common expression in evangelism and social action.
So here Protestants and Catholics are 500 words later, the same place they are 500 years later – at odds over the gospel. The partnership of good works in social and political realms cannot change the foundational disagreement. We can work together and love one another because neighbors don’t have to be brothers and sisters. Though we can’t substitute one gospel for another.
“That’s why even non-Catholics are praying fervently for the new pope,” concludes Morgan. I don’t agree with the “why” though many Protestants are praying fervently for the new pope to reform in his heart so that he may reform his church.
For the Kingdom…