Friday, March 15, 2013

What difference a pope?

How should evangelical Protestants feel about the new pope? I found these relevant comments in the last couple of days. The first is from a Christianity Today interview with Luis Palau, a native Argentinian Protestant evangelist based in the US, who knows and likes the new pope:
What was your reaction when you heard that Bergoglio had been selected as pope?

It was exciting because of Argentina, because of his personality, and because of his openness toward evangelical Christians. I got kind of emotional, simply having known him. ....

You count the pope as a personal friend. What can you tell me about his character—as a man, and a Christian, not just as a Cardinal?

You know he knew God the Father personally. The way he prayed, the way he talked to the Lord, was of a man who knows Jesus Christ and was very spiritually intimate with the Lord. It's not an effort [for him] to pray. He didn't do reading prayers; he just prayed to the Lord spontaneously. It is a sign that good things will happen worldwide in the years of his papal work.

He's very warm and gentle and spiritual. He may not go around smiling all the time—he's not a Hollywood actor—but he's a very warm person; you don't feel cold and distant from him. He's always been warm. He likes to mingle with people.
He's gentle in his conversation. He's always asking people for prayer. It's surprising that he did it in public [at his first address], but anybody who knows him, [knows that] he always would say, 'Please pray for me.' He really meant it. He said it always. ....

What can you tell me about Bergoglio's leadership style?

He's a very Bible-centered man, a very Jesus Christ-centered man. He's more spiritual than he is administrative, although he's going to have to exercise his administrative skills now! But personally, he is more known for his personal love for Christ. He's really centered on Jesus and the Gospel, the pure Gospel. ....

Although he's gentle, he has strong moral convictions and he stands by them even if he has to confront the government. And he's done it before. With the evangelical community, it was a very big day when we realized that he really was open, that he has great respect for Bible-believing Christians, and that he basically sides with them. … They work together. That takes courage. That takes respect. It takes conviction. So the leaders of the evangelical church in Argentina have a high regard for him, simply because of his personal lifestyle, his respect, his reaching out and spending time with them privately. ....

If that's the case, what can evangelicals expect from the Francis papacy?

He's a man of strong convictions. He isn't swayed by the powers that be of any kind, even political. He's very strong on moral issues. I think we'll see a papacy that will make relations easier and lessen tensions. It doesn't mean [evangelicals and Catholics] will agree on every angle; that should be said. He is the Roman Catholic pope, and there are issues that need to be talked about, prayed about, looked at the Bible about. … Those differences in doctrine are there, but when there's a proper attitude toward one another and to the word of God, and you take it seriously, light comes from the Lord. .... [more]
And then, via Justin Taylor, from Carl Trueman, reviewing a book by a Catholic about the state of Catholicism, some reasons a Protestant should care:
First, Protestants benefit from a conservative papacy: on public square issues such as abortion, marriage and religious freedom, the RCC has a higher profile and more power—financial, legal, institutional—than any Protestant group. We all benefit from the cultural and legal power of the RCC in these areas.

Second, your neighbours probably do not distinguish between Christian groups. A sleazy, morally corrupt RCC is like a sleazy, morally corrupt televangelist ministry: we are all marked with the same brush in the public eye and our task of evangelism becomes that much harder.

Third, RC authors often offer more penetrating insights into secular culture than their evangelical equivalents. Comparing George Weigel to Rob Bell in such circumstances is akin to comparing Michelangelo to Thomas Kinkade. .... [more]
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