The World an end, and faith a means -or- Why the Pope Celebrates the Reformation

“Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours— and the more ‘religious’ (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here…” (Screwtape to Wormwood; C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, HarperCollins, New York, 1962, 34-35)

A “pretty cageful”— detail of popes in hell from “The Triumph of Death,” by Andrea di Cione Orcagna (1348)

“It is not a Christian religion, in the first place… And in the second place, Roman Catholicism is, in my opinion, worse than Atheism itself. Yes— that is my opinion. Atheism only preaches a negation, but Romanism goes further; it preaches a disfigured, distorted Christ— it preaches Anti-Christ— I assure you, I swear it! This is my own personal conviction , and it has long distressed me. The Roman Catholic believes that the Church on earth cannot stand without universal temporal Power. He cries ‘non possumus!’ In my opinion the Roman Catholic religion is not a faith at all, but simply a continuation of the Roman Empire, and everything is subordinated to this idea— beginning with faith. The Pope has seized territories and an earthly throne, and has held them with the sword. And so the thing has gone on, only that to the sword they have added lying, intrigue, deceit, fanaticism, superstition, swindling;—they have played fast and loose with the most sacred and sincere feelings of men;— they have exchanged everything— everything for money, for base earthly power! And is this not the teaching of Anti-Christ? How could the upshot of all this be other than Atheism? Atheism is the child of Roman Catholicism— it proceeded from these Romans themselves, though perhaps they would not believe it. It grew and fattened on hatred of its parents; it is the progeny of their lies and spiritual feebleness. Atheism! In our country it is only among the upper classes that you find unbelievers; men who have lost the root or spirit of their faith; but abroad whole masses of the people are beginning to profess unbelief— at first because of the darkness and lies by which they were surrounded; but now out of fanaticism, out of loathing for the Church and Christianity! … Why, Socialism is the progeny of Romanism and of the Romanistic spirit. It and its brother Atheism proceed from Despair in opposition to Catholicism. It seeks to replace in itself the moral power of religion, in order to appease the spiritual thirst of parched humanity and save it; not by Christ, but by force. ‘Don’t dare to believe in God, don’t dare to possess any individuality, any property! Fraternité ou la Mort; two million heads. ‘By their works ye shall know them’— we are told. And we must not suppose that all this is harmless and without danger to ourselves. ” (Prince Myshkin; Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot, trans. Eva Martin; Kindle Edition: 2012)

Did you catch all that? Now…this (sorry, Neil) from Christian Science Monitor:

The pope is set to commemorate the Reformation in a Swedish Lutheran Church, as he leads into a push to promote interfaith dialogue.

Pope Francis has tried to make such interfaith relations a key part of his papacy, Reuters reported.

For Protestants, the interfaith commemoration is an “extraordinarily positive move” that would have been unheard-of even a few decades ago, Charles Kimball, an ordained Southern Baptist minister and director of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma, told The Christian Science Monitor.

“Symbolically, it’s a very vivid and moving gesture that will be well-received, certainly among the Protestant world, and I would think among a large number of Catholics as well,” Dr. Kimball says in a phone interview.

He says that by commemorating the start of the Reformation with Lutherans – the first heirs to Martin Luther’s break with Catholicism – Pope Francis acknowledges both Luther’s concerns during the Protestant Reformation in 1517 and the reality that friendship among Christians of different sects is becoming more common and valuable.

“When together the Christians of different churches listen to the word of God and try to put it in practice, they achieve important steps toward unity,” the pope has said, according to The New York Times.

Pope Francis is set to lead a joint worship service alongside Lutheran World Federation President Bishop Dr Munib Younan and General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge on Oct. 31, 2016, as a kickoff commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which will be in 2017.

“I’m carried by the profound conviction that by working towards reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics, we are working towards justice, peace and reconciliation in a world torn apart by conflict and violence,” said Rev. Junge in a press release.

So far Mary Baker Eddy.

So Il Papa‘s big symbolic gesture at the quincentenary of the Reformation is to be made in concert with the LWF, the worldwide conglomerate of liberal Lutherans who celebrate sodomy and uphold the gnostic practice of the ordination of women— yes, they obviously deny the authority of Scripture, but I’m not sure if that’s the cart or the horse. I am sure, however, that it’s a Hegelian’s Cardinal Kasper’s dream come true, after all. The Zeitgeist is drawing and reconciling all things to Geist-self, and in the frenzied erotic heat of synthesis all of the accretions of “dogma” and “doctrine” shall all melt away. Why? Evidently so that “we” can get on with the real business of Christianity, which is “working towards justice, peace and reconciliation in a world torn apart by conflict and violence,” as the Irrev. Junge aptly summarizes above.


And who’s “we”? Humanity? The Church? Class Mammalia? It is all abundantly unclear. What’s clear, though, is that questions of ultimate concern— the justification of the sinner before God; the uniquely saving Person and Work of Christ; the reigning truth of God’s Holy Word— are in fact of no real concern. Do what is in you, be sincere, and try to live a moral life (whatever “moral” might mean to you), and all manner of things shall be well. “But do good,” says the pope, “we will meet one another there.” Don’t let thorny and divisive questions about absolute truth distract you. The real business of the Kingdom of God is not the ingathering of the nations into the Church unto the salvation of their souls but rather the convincing of the nations that there’s a good chance that, whoever they are, they’re somehow already in the Boat, so they shouldn’t worry about that bit. Viva la revolución!

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I will belabor the necessity of good works and striving after holiness loudly and at length against some of my fellow confessional Lutherans who seem unfortunately to list to the leftward ditch of antinomianism. That’s different. What we are witnessing with the current bishop of Rome is the marriage of liberal Jesuit Gospel reductionism (as Dr. John R. Stephenson recently noted in an article in LOGIA) and garden-variety social-justice-crusade legalism. If this sounds familiar to Lutherans, that’s because what I’ve just described is the ELCA in a nutshell. And what the ELCA is in the American context, the LWF is in the global context: liberal ecumaniacal apostates who march upon the road of “good” intentions under the banner of “Deeds not Creeds.” But, as Heraclitus said, “The road up is the road down.” And so it is.

The new ecumenism with which the Roman pontiff is so besotted merely manifests what has been true of that communion since it began in 1563: whether in the strident anathemas of Trent or the cloying doublespeak of Vatican II, the “theology of glory” ever holdeth sway. Humanity will save the world. Humanity will rise above the confining and dividing strictures of dogma and doctrine which keep us from uniting in our great common task. Onward and upward, as long as we’re under the guiding hand of the pope.

Don’t mistake all of this for sour grapes. Orthodox Lutherans aren’t interested in unionistic charades of the sort being planned by the RCC and the LWF for the quincentenary of the Reformation. It’s just piquant to point out, once again, that when it comes to official dogma, the Church of the Augsburg Confession and the Church of Rome— pre- and post-Reformation, even— are ironically in vastly greater concord than the LWF and the Church of Rome, at least on paper. The Trinity, Christology, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the Office of the Keys— even granting that disagreements exist regarding some specific points in these loci, we agree that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; that Christ is true God and true Man and that His flesh is vivifying; that Baptism regenerates and confers the Holy Spirit; that the Eucharist is Christ’s true body and blood; that the priests of the Church stand in the stead and by the command of Christ to forgive the sins of the repentant and bind the sins of the unrepentant.

But Augsburg and Rome do not agree regarding the article of justification, the Gospel itself. And for this, all is next to naught. Without a right understanding of justification, you do not know how God is towards you. You may know Him as the Potentate of Time, but not as your dear Father. You know Him as What, not Who. Rome has never repented of her erroneous teaching regarding this most vital doctrine, for, ironically, the penance would just be too humiliating.

And so we come to today, where virtually the only people Rome still looks askance at are those who say, “I am not a ‘good person’; my ‘good works’ cannot save me; Christ has saved me, and in Him alone do I trust.” Say anything but that— say that God is a force, not a Father; say that morality is relative; say that Christ didn’t really die; say that you do not even believe in God, just don’t confess that you are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone. Avoid this confession and the pope will celebrate the Reformation with you, too.




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