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Some days ago I posted a post here on FaceBook regarding fellowship between Catholics and Protestants and somebody replied to my post by sending me a link to Kris Vallotton's blog, where he talks about his meeting with the Pope. So I read the link and want to give a more extended reply.
First of all I try to form my own opinions and not just believe what other preachers say I should believe. That does not mean that I don't listen to other preachers or only like the preachers I fully agree with. I believe true fellowship is not based upon agreeing about theology but love for Jesus.
Some will maybe get provoked that I don't join his admiration for the pope, but for myself I chose not to only be friends with those who believe as I do.
Why should I admire the Pope?
I would like to answer this like Jesus often answered people asking him questions; by asking you a question.
Would you admire him if it was not for his title? If so, what would be the things you admired him for?
Or I might ask you another question.
If you met someone totally unknown and they believed in purgatory as well as the fact that you can reduce your time there by paying money to the church, that those who believe in salvation by faith alone are heretics and that believers should pray to Mary, and that the Catholic Church is the only true church. Would you admire them just because they also said they were filled with the Holy Spirit and believed that Jesus is the only way to heaven?
A person like that might be saved, but just have a very twisted theology. After all, none of us has a 100% accurate theology. But I would not call a person like that deeply spiritual, admire him or call him my hero on the basis of that. If I should admire him it would be because of something else.
Now, I am a big fan of Sting, but that is not on the basis of his lifestyle or his beliefs. It's because of his music and his genius in writing songs.
If a person disagrees with the following beliefs:
and still says he admires the Pope then it has to be something else about the Pope they admire; and I do wonder if it could be his position and influence.
Some might ask the question "Does the Pope really believe these things?" Well, they are the written beliefs of the Catholic Church of which the Pope is the leader. Regarding justification by faith alone, one of the official statements of the Catholic Church is:
"If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema (cursed)“
For those of you who live in Protestant countries, I would like to underline something. Believing in purgatory does not only belong to the dark ages; It is still the official teaching of the Catholic Church.
Who goes to purgatory according to Catholic theology? Contrary to what many believe, it is not the "bad guys". Purgatory is for the "good guys", because none of us is good enough the bad guys goes to Hell and the good guys to purgatory. Since nobody is good enough the good guys also have to suffer a little bit. The only people who, according to common belief, deserve to get to heaven right away, must be on the same moral level as for example Mother Theresa or the pope.
Many Charismatic Catholics also believe in purgatory even though they don't talk about it so much.
As I wrote in my earlier post I do believe the Catholics can be saved and then I can have fellowship with them on the basis of us being one in Christ. But just because I have fellowship with born again Catholics it does not mean that I have fellowship with the Catholic Church as an organization; I fellowship with people and not with organization.
When it comes to the question "should I admire the Pope?" I would say that I don't admire him because of his position and I strongly disagree with many of his beliefs. It's not up to me to judge if he is saved or not, but my admiration for him does not go any further than my admiration for any other believers.
I agree that he has had a much more "down-to-earth" attitude than the popes before him, but I'm not sure if that qualifies him for admiration in my eyes.