October 18, 2017

Pope Benedict on Common Ground and Present Challenges

Yesterday, we noted the historic meetings the Pope has been having with his Lutheran brethren in Germany. In his address to representative of the Evangelical Church, Pope Benedict XVI expresses his appreciation for Martin Luther, particularly his focus on the most fundamental questions of God, sin, and how human beings can know the grace of God.

Furthermore, the Pope extols Luther’s focus on Christ — the God who “has a face,” who “has spoken to us.” “Luther’s thinking, his whole spirituality, was thoroughly Christocentric: ‘What promotes Christ’s cause’ was for Luther the decisive hermeneutical criterion for the exegesis of sacred Scripture. This presupposes, however, that Christ is at the heart of our spirituality and that love for him, living in communion with him, is what guides our life.”

He urges the various branches of Christendom to remember that we have much more in common than that which divides us: “It was the error of the Reformation period that for the most part we could only see what divided us and we failed to grasp existentially what we have in common in terms of the great deposit of sacred Scripture and the early Christian creeds.” He notes the ecumenical progress that has been made in the past fifty years and calls believers to continue to stand together on the “undying foundation” of Christ as we live in this secularized world.

However, Pope Benedict sees two challenges to worldwide Christianity and to progress in our witness.

The first, surprisingly, comes from within Christianity itself.

Faced with a new form of Christianity, which is spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism, sometimes in frightening ways, the mainstream Christian denominations often seem at a loss. This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability. This worldwide phenomenon poses a question to us all: what is this new form of Christianity saying to us, for better and for worse? In any event, it raises afresh the question about what has enduring validity and what can or must be changed – the question of our fundamental faith choice.

The Pope describes a popular evangelicalism and pentecostalism that is growing rapidly, especially in the two/thirds world. To his credit, Benedict does not dismiss these movements but notes that they challenge the historic and mainline churches to examine questions of tradition and innovation with unprecedented urgency. What has “enduring validity”? What “can or must be changed” with regard to the faith? How can the electricity of such movements be channeled into useful energy for the glory of God and the good of others?

The second challenge springs from the increasingly godless world in which we live.

The second challenge to worldwide Christianity of which I wish to speak is more profound and in our country more controversial: the secularized context of the world in which we Christians today have to live and bear witness to our faith. God is increasingly being driven out of our society, and the history of revelation that Scripture recounts to us seems locked into an ever more remote past. Are we to yield to the pressure of secularization, and become modern by watering down the faith? Naturally faith today has to be thought out afresh, and above all lived afresh, so that it is suited to the present day. Yet it is not by watering the faith down, but by living it today in its fullness that we achieve this.

Pope Benedict XVI concludes with profound, prophetic words. We can only meet these challenges together.

…we should help one another to develop a deeper and more lively faith. It is not strategy that saves us and saves Christianity, but faith – thought out and lived afresh; through such faith, Christ enters this world of ours, and with him, the living God.

This is wisdom all Christians need to hear and to which we must respond.

Comments

  1. Some points on a fascinating post.

    On the first one about popular evangelism/pentcostalism there is something that needs to be more recognized about this movement. Often times it comes along with the prosperity gospel and is doing tremendous harm in places such as Africa and South America, etc.. In two of Philip Yancey’s books he writes about how this is a problem. In his book, “What Good is God?” (I think it’s this book….) he talks about large pentacostal mega churches in Brazil that poor people flock to only to leave through the back door disappointed. I’ve hung around a few Christian missionary blogs and have seen them lamant the growth of the prosperity gospel in places such as Tanzania. That I think is coming along with this evangelisim. While many fundagelcials may be giddy and say, “look at what is happening in the third word…” I don’t think all the seeds that have been sowen have been harvested; and I think in the years to come there will be more disappointed and frustrated people. I wonder if this will open a door for further advancement of Islam. There is another side to this evangelism which has yet to be fully discussed by many aspects of the church. In Uganda some aspects of American evangelism have contributed to a situation in which there is a bill in the government that calls for making homosexuality illegal, and arresting those who do not trun them in. At one point I believe the bill called for the execution of gays. Warren Throckmorton has been following it here:

    http://wthrockmorton.com/ugandas-anti-homosexuality-bill-prologue/

    But I think this is another ugly story that has grown out of similar “missionary” efforts and has resulted in great harm. I wonder if this is happening in other African countries. So I don’t think that there is a lot that is healthy in some of these parts of Christinaity.

    On the second part about society rejecting God I think that is due to many reasons.

    1. Not only in the US but in other countries there Christians that have merged politics and faith. I think many people have reacted to that.
    2. Though it is 2011 many Christians I believe are still at war with science and scintific research. Many in the world are hoping for a cure for many diseases which plague soceity. I would suggest that due to some Christians actions some people view Christians as being obstructionists toward science advancing. Think of a modern Galileo situation if one may state.

    Now what I would suggest is to offer or do something that is unique. I’d offer the world hope and show love and grace. I think many people view Christinaity from a jaded viewpoint and if the church could show unrestrained love that is unconditional I think that would shock people and maybe allow them to reconsider. But the church needs to show why its needed and why its important; and that’s not happening as much.

    Just a thought….

    • I have friends from many parts of Africa who say that prosperity preaching is a huge problem. one person in particular is a publicist who has been working hard to bring more sophisticated theological writings to these countries who know nothing more than prosperity fluff. there are, however, many other streams of Christianity at work as well. the Anglican church in Africa, for example, is very large, and they are very much engaged. i think the whole prosperity/fluff is a byproduct of the whole Western individualism that is permeating the globe, which is frightening.

      • Spiritual globalization. Mark Noll has a book in which he argues that the “American experience” of religion has become the template for the church around the world. Scary.

        • Evangelicals bringing about the dreaded one-world religion? Too funny.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Actually makes its own weird sense.

            Often had a suspicion that the classic Antichrist would be a Televangelist or Megachurch Celebrity type. Not only is it a great cover story, one of the classic archetypes of Antichrist is the Slick Deceiver (Anti- as in Imitation Of) and current pop eschatology tunnel-visions on the other archetype, the Fanatic Persecutor (Anti- as in Against). Both Antichrist archetypes work very well together as a Good Cop/Bad Cop tag team; fleeing the Fanatic Persecutor you seek protection from (and take the Mark of) the Slick Deceiver.

        • i very much hope that that is not the case. i have heard, though, that many missionary endeavers are non-western. Whether the bases of these missions are not already ‘american’ in its form is something i don’t really know.
          i am also told that the fastest growing Christian group is the Orthodox.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Now what I would suggest is to offer or do something that is unique. I’d offer the world hope and show love and grace.

      In other words, like what’s appealing in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

      I don’t like to keep Bronying out like this, but keeping my ears open at a Brony meet last Saturday (and checking con reports of BronyCon in New York), the offer of hope and love and grace — even from a fairy-tale world of magical ponies — is a major part of that show’s appeal. It wouldn’t have sparked a Trekkie-like fan phenomenon if it wasn’t such a contrast to the cynicism and pessimism and grinning nihilism that’s become Normal (TM).

      I have noticed a similar timing with two other fast-appearing dedicated media fandoms. Star Trek premiered three years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, when Human Extinction Through Nuclear War before 2000 was Inevitable. Presenting a Bright Future where we Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before instead of Inevitably Blowing Ourselves Up. Star Wars premiered at the peak of Post-Vietnam Angst, giving us Adventure where the Good Guys Win instead of the French Connection cynicism that was Normal (TM).

    • Wow Eagle. Challenging with only a hint of cynicism…at least no more than is common in the air on this blog. I’m really glad to have read what you wrote. Constructive and honest, but even more constructive. It would appear you haven’t lost all hope in us. Seriously, I really appreciated your comment.

  2. I wonder how many non-Catholic people are willing to admit the precariousness of these mass movements that lack stability, maturity, tradition, or guidance. these “moves of the Spirit” will be tested by time and then the truth will be known. it takes some real humility and insight to recognize the problems before everything falls apart.

    • I do.

    • Tom Huguenot says:

      “it takes some real humility and insight to recognize the problems before everything falls apart.”

      But it does not take lots of anything to recognize that those churches are often made of anti-intellectual weirdos. This is how most churched and unchurched people see them in Europe.

  3. Oh to have a thoughtful Pope – a blessing to many, a threat to how many?

    Insightful or inciteful?

  4. I want to challenge this quote from Pope Benedict: “God is increasingly being driven out of our society, and the history of revelation that Scripture recounts to us seems locked into an ever more remote past.” I disagree. What is being driven out by the so-called secularization of our world might be the hypocritical, non-Christian God who judges, condemns, separates and is most often envisioned as only “the old man in the sky.” And if this is the god that is being driven out….good riddance. This is the God that “Christians” have used for centuries to set themselves apart as “better” and has been re-created for the agendas of specific denominations to further set themselves apart as “more saved” than even their fellow-Christians. (ie: As in Pope Benedict and other Catholics as proclaiming the Catholic Church as the only path to the fullness of redemption and as the place in which the “fullness of the truth resides.” ) I see the driving out of this version of god as a GREAT thing…..if it allows us to set aside our perceived separations and embrace the LOVE that Jesus taught….a love that is FOR ALL….SAVES ALL…UNITES all, then I see that as FANTASTIC and perhaps not a departure from God’s revelation, but the fulfillment of it. Why can’t God be big enough for EVERYONE….and for EVERY experience, expression, etc. Do we have the courage to set aside the god that we have created in our own image for the God that transcends denomination, limitations, boundaries, definitions, descriptions and perceived separations? Can we allow God to reveal God’s self to us in all the limitless and infinite ways that God is? It is this God that I believe Jesus knew and invited us to embrace.

    • Lauri, you have a gracious, inclusive spirit, but IMO naive. There is a world system that stands in opposition to revealed truth, a flesh that opposes love, and a devil who, though defeated, still wreaks havoc. Grace purifies our discernment, it does not eliminate it.

      • And I would add, Lauri, that you are missing the point a bit. Pope Benedict is referring to the openly hostile view of Christianity (all religions, but our Jesus seems to really hack them off) permeating western culture. Bans on spontaneous public prayer, Chaplains who can’t say “Jesus Christ”, banning of Christmas from schools and offices, endless articles in the media about how stupid we are worshipping the Flying Spaghetti Monster…..just a few examples off of the top of my head very early in the morning.

        Many who are so VERY tolerant of homosexuality (and pedophilia) and who abhor any discrimation or lack of tolerance to anyone for anything do not extend their “Tolerance” to Judeo-Christian religious beliefs and traditions. Christians are to TOLERATE all sorts of sinful behavior and lifestyles, but we are NOT to BR TOLERATED!

        • …BE tolerated…..(where IS that EDIT button? or at least a “preview” option???) hint, hint

        • Let me say this. Christianity is only the most disliked religion in western nations because it is THAT religion that has been the majority religion. Had it been Islam or Judaim we would tend to have less patience with them. Because Christianity has been the majority religion, it has done things, as a religion, that have oppressed those who are not Christians. e.g. Blue Laws that required even those not Christians to adhere to the Christian sabbath (maybe they had their own Sabbath!)

          And frankly, I don’t accept the story of Jesus nor do I worship him. I will be polite and ignore references if it doesn’t become excessive in public prayer, but this politeness will not last forever. Expecting a Jewish cadet to constantly have to listen to prayers to a savior he neither needs nor recognizes is rude. And Christians are the only ones doing this at the moment (again, because they’re the majority. Look at the behavior of the black hates in Israel or the Muslims in Muslim nations for other examples) in the west.

          Another consideration, is that many of the most rabidly anti-Christian folks I have met have been former Christians. So it might help if Chrisitanity did something about its experience to stop turning out angry former Christians.

          • Very good points, cermak.

          • cermak_rd,

            I believe in some ways Pope Benedict was including all of Judeo Christian faith (though admittedly I may be over-extending his intent) in the secularization comments – as in God is not to mentioned anywhere or met with hostility.

            I also can understand your views with spontaneous prayer – as I understand it spontaneous prayer outside the temple or synogogue (the body or Israel) is more foreign – though I admit this may be dependent on the jewish sect (please correct me if I am wrong).

  5. Hans Küng gives his take on Pope Benedict’s (his former colleague) visit to Germany: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,787325,00.html

    • Extremely biased article…

      • “Extremely biased article…”

        Biased in what way, and, if so, what’s wrong with that? Is Hans Küng lying in anything he says?

        • Kung is an extremely progressive Catholic theologian and has been a harsh critic of Pope Benedict for years. He would like to see most Catholic doctrine watered down to the point of non-existence – hence easier secularization. He will highlight and focus on the negative and play down anything positive when it comes to this Pope.

        • I am not Catholic, but agree that the article is biased. It gives one side of the story, without the chance for rebuttal.

    • Kung’s theology is pretty liberal. He questions where Jesus was more than a man and thinks that the historical Jesus is so lost in the mists of history and legend that he is unrelated to the Christ of faith. When he talks about the primacy of Scripture he is talking about our inablity to have a relationship is Jesus Christ. We can have a relationships with Scripture and tradition, but not Jesus. He suggests that the Jesus of faith is the creation of the Church. Kung questions the Virgin Birth, whether Jesus death was freely chosen, the Resurrection and the Ascension.

      Kung questions a lot more than the Pope and his role in the church. He may not be fond of the Pope, but that doesn’t necessary mean he’s a friend to orthodox Protestants concerned about the role of the Pope.

      • “Kung questions the Virgin Birth, whether Jesus death was freely chosen, the Resurrection and the Ascension.”

        Can you even call it Christianity without the Resurrection?

  6. Chaplain Mike,

    Pope Benedict has some wise words to say here. New forms of fluffy christianity are not only a threat to established old world faith traditions but also to established mainline traditions as well. Sometimes I hear as much railing about Lutherans/Anglicans/Methodists from non-denoms as I do about Catholics. Remember if we disappear tomorow your denominations are next…

    I suspect though that this thread will turn into Pope Benedict bashing instead of focusing on the words quoted today. I will say this – christianity has few voices that will stand for what is right in the world (except those who want to burn the Koran to draw attention to themselves or invade dead soldiers funerals or say stupid things about sacramental marriage and alzheimer’s). Sometimes it might benefit to just listen and evaluate instead of dragging up all the past baggage…

  7. Shorter Pope: Waaah! Not everyone worships my god anymore! Not fair!

  8. David Cornwell says:

    Pope Benedict commented on “enduring validity.”

    Our pastor, in his sermon yesterday, preaching on Matthew 21:23-32, hit a similar note. Warning against strange and unusual interpretations of scripture he urged us to use the best of historical and traditional authority when we engage scripture. There is a delicate balance here. The temple needs its upsetting intruders to shake the place up. Thus Luther and maybe even Hans Küng demand a hearing and will get it. Yet, as the Pope is wisely suggesting we must cling to the best.

    And thus we love God with our minds.

  9. What’s interesting here is the lack of any self-awareness or criticism and the manner in which the ‘enemy’ is always outside:

    “This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability.”

    This seems like an apt description of the folk Catholicism which runs rampant throughout Latin America or the “your best life now” Protestantism.

    It seems like criticism would best be directed towards religious movements and ministries which one actually has the power to change.

    “God is increasingly being driven out of our society, and the history of revelation that Scripture recounts to us seems locked into an ever more remote past. Are we to yield to the pressure of secularization, and become modern by watering down the faith?”

    How exactly is God being driven out of society and by whom? It seems that religious freedom is now more widely experienced than at perhaps any time in human history. It seems that the primary responsibility of the churches and believers themselves to make God’s presence known in the larger world. The degree to which God is absent seems solely the responsibility of the churches themselves.

    We have met the enemy and he is us!

    • “what is this new form of Christianity saying to us, for better and for worse? In any event, it raises afresh the question about what has enduring validity and what can or must be changed – the question of our fundamental faith choice.”

      This doesn’t sound like a condemation of Pentecostalism–it sounds like he’s saying there is positive and negative and that there are things about ancient churches that must change and must stay the same. In South America there are strong Charismatic Catholic currents.

  10. Faith-prosperity is just one aspect of secularization: it is a pragmatic repackaging of spirituality to appeal to materialistic culture.

    But there is a lot of interest in religion and spirituality, even if those aren’t the terms used. As I mentioned during the 9/11 posts, the fact that ground zero is now “sacred ground” begs of religious interest. Many of these interests are misguided, but rather than attacking them, the church needs to listen and understand the grasping for something real, an ultimate concern, and be ready, like Paul in Athens, to proclaim the unknown God for whom they seek. Again, it is odd that people we call “secular” or “atheists” are looking for realness and wonder at a time when the church is looking material wealth, the sensational, and sexual pleasure.

  11. People today, like Luther, are still searching for a grace.

    “It seems that all my bridges have been burned
    But you say, ‘That’s exactly how this grace thing works’
    It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart
    But the welcome I receive with every start”
    – from “Roll Away Your Stone” by Mumford and Sons

  12. Cedric Klein says:

    Two other challenges within Christianity- an anemic naturalism & anti-Creedalism that strip Christ & the Faith of their unique & miraculous natures, usually to replace them with an emphasis on wealth distribution & sexual liberation, and historic institutional bodies who will protect the institution no matter what at the expense of those victimized by agents of the institution.

  13. Sorry… were his remarks toward the present Lutheran community, or Evangelicalism in general?

  14. Tom Huguenot says:

    Just one simple question: could someone please tell me what the REAL problem with “secularism” is??

    I did appreciate some things the Pope had to say, but expressions like “God is increasingly being driven out of our society” make my teeth cringe, especially when they come form the representative of a denomination that has a long history of denying democracy.

    • Isaac Rehberg (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

      I think it’s a worldview thing. What are the foundational philosophical principles/assumptions through which we filter everything we experience, learn, etc? The danger with secularism (or rather the current post-modern form of secularism) is that it plays something of a shell game with one’s worldview because the foundational philosophical assumption is based around relativism. I.e. Truth is subjective; something can be legitimately true “for you” without being true “for me.” Where the shell game comes in is that something’s eventually got to give. When folks’ competing subjective “truths” come into conflict, someone’s gonna come out on top. And that someone is going to be the one with the power. Liberty, especially religious liberty is severely challenged by such a system. This goes especially true for Christianity when we stick to our core “Jesus is Lord” principle when the various Caesars want that job.

      • Thank you for taking the words from my heart and getting them on paper.

        Drunken orgies followed by child rape and human sacrifice…sounds “right” to some people….isn’t that so, Emporor Caligiula?

      • I’ve missed your commentary Isaac

        • Isaac Rehberg (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

          Been too freakin’ busy, man. 12-hour work days don’t leave much time for blogs 🙁

      • I don’t know anyone who literally believes the true for you concept. It’s simply a polite way of people of various beliefs being able to live together. If I say I do not believe in Jesus, nor believe he ever existed and you shouldn’t either, then that’s considered rude (and is). If I say, well, I’m sure Jesus is true for you, but he is not true for me, it’s a much politer way of dealing with it.

        I mean, truth I consider to be things like gravity, the fact that the USSR no longer exists… Things that are verifiable. Religion, I like to say, is a constitutionally protected opinion.

        • Isaac Rehberg (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

          Of course no one REALLY believes that deep down. It’s an unsustainable belief. Too self-contradictory. What they really believe is that you can believe whatever you want as long as it doesn’t step on my toes. But you’ll find lots of people that hold to the THEORY that all truth is relative. Heck, that’s how most of my generation thinks.

          Yes, here in the US, religion is constitutionally protected. But even that is to a point. You can’t use religion as an excuse to break the law. Something we’ve seen even in other English-speaking countries, however, is that the secular law starts to become more intrusive as Caesar assumes power over more of the minutia of life. For example, according to things I’ve read from England and Canada, if you preach a sermon that teaches the traditional biblical understanding of homosexual behavior, you can be liable to the civil law under hate-speech legislation. Another example is the new law in France against covering one’s face in public. We ALL know that’s a nice way of messing over certain traditional Muslim dress. Sure, freedom of religion is protected in these countries, but only as long as you play nice with Caesar. What happens when Caesar decides that playing nice is going to be a lot harder?

          And that says nothing about countries that don’t protect religion.

          • Isaac Rehberg (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

            One more thing. The reason Caesar has been playing nice for the last couple hundred years is that Caesar has by-and-large upheld the values and beliefs of “ethical monotheism” (i.e. Judaism & Christianity) even in places that separate church and state. The Pope’s concern seems to be that these values and beliefs are becoming increasingly marginalized due to the increased secularism in the greater cultural philosophy. As these values and beliefs are marginalized, it’s a small step before the freedoms and protections demanded by these values and beliefs are equally marginalized.

          • The French example is not quite apt. The Church (standing in for all religion) was a part of the power structure of pre-revolutionary France and therefore secular ideals have been part and parcel of the French Republic ever since. Consequently, the face covering thing is about more than just ethnic conflict.

            The Church in the UK is in a unique position because it is established. There are simply ways in which Anglicanism is limited as a result. Doesn’t Parliament or the Queen have to OK the Archbishop of Canterbury for instance. And aren’t the 39 Articles even still officially part of the government expectation of the C of E?

            Given Canadian case law, I would find it surprising if a preacher, in the context of a private religious service was not allowed to preach on anything without being troubled by the law.

          • Isaac Rehberg (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

            Doesn’t that provide evidence for the Pope’s point, though? Even if we enjoy greater freedom here in the States, we see the problems in other parts of the world. And let’s face it, we’re still a lot more publicly religious here in the States than is acceptable in most of the rest of the Western world. Freedom’s celebrated unless it challenges the dominant cultural assumptions.

  15. It was good of the Pope to say such nice things about Luther’s Christo-centric theology.

    But aside from the Pope’s point of stability is the more important point of faithfulness to Christ’s gospel of the forgiveness of sins for sinners.

    Here’s Luther’s 95 theses:

    http://www.biblestudytools.com/history/creeds-confessions/luther-95-theses.html

    Many in the church still see many of these complaints as an ongoing problem for the Catholic Church.

    For those of us not yet willing to return to Rome, which of Martin Luther’s complaints still bother you, and if the Roman Church would rectify those doctrines and practices would you ‘return’ to Rome?

    Thanks.

    • Isaac Rehberg (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

      Yeah, for me that’s the rub. The bottom line is that while I understand the Catholic teaching on justification, it still blurs the line between justification and sanctification too much for me to ever swim the Tiber. God bless Pope Benedict and God bless my Catholic brothers and sisters. But there are some major doctrinal hurdles that I don’t see myself being able to jump without radically changing the way I read the Bible.

      • I’m right there with you, Isaac.

      • Glenn A Bolas says:

        Isaac, why do you think there has to be such a sharp delineation between justification and sanctification? If everyone can accept that both are entirely products of God’s grace in Christ, does it matter if they are seen as distinct?

        • Isaac Rehberg (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

          It matters to me because it seems that we start dancing into Pelagian territory when we blur the line too much. If I’m participating in any way in my justification, I’m in trouble. With sanctification, on the other hand, it’s certainly still by God’s grace that I’m becoming “better” (i.e. more like Christ), but there’s some of my effort going into it also (e.g. intentionally practicing the “spiritual disciplines”). He always gets the credit for any good in me, but part of that is his putting the desire to become better and enabling me to become better as I learn to walk in the Spirit. I.e. there’s still a good chunk of me in the equation when it comes to the never-ending-on-this-side-of-Eternity process and journey of sanctification. By contrast, in the Protestant understanding of Justification, there’s NO part of me in the equation. It’s 100% Him, period.. In the Roman Catholic view, the two concepts aren’t really separate. That’s a big deal to me. A deal-breaking deal, really.

          Of course, to my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, making such a sharp distinction between justification and sanctification is highly problematic. So we can agree to disagree. I’ve got no problem sharing fellowship and even the Lord’s Table with my Roman brothers and sisters. I wouldn’t have them teaching dogmatic theology classes in my church, but we can pray, study, fellowship, do “Kingdom work,” and even have Communion together as far as I’m concerned. As far as the Roman Catholic Church is concerned, however, that door doesn’t 100% swing both ways. But, that’s not really my problem, so I’m not too bent out of shape over it 🙂

  16. I grew up in fundamentalist Baptist churches that were often very critical of the surrounding culture. We were often reminded of a great “falling away” that would occur while constantly being reminded that we are living in the last days. Benedict almost seems to be consciously aware of this falling away (2 Thes 2:3) that my fundy mentors taught would happen before the return of Christ.

    Of course the “falling away” teaching was strictly KJV; the ESV renders that verse as “rebellion,” which is in all our nature. My wife and I have a two-year-old. I’ve had many older Christians, whose kids are grown, tell us they do not envy raising a child in this world today. All other things being equal, I will probably tell my daughter the same thing some day.

    “Even so come quickly.”

    • Amen, Clark.

      I am a grandmother and it seems that raising healthy, moral kids today is like living in a sewr pipe and trying to keep away dirt and germs for 16-20 years….Blessings on you and all young mothers and fathers!

      • Thanks we (parents) need it. My mom was great, but now that she is a grandmother she is blessing me, my wife and kids in a whole other way that I never anticipated. God does so amazing things through grandparents.

  17. The church that Christ founded has gone through a lot of changes and transformations over the past 2,000 years. Some of those changes has come through a gradual and (pardon the term) evolutionary process, while many of the most significant changes have come during relatively brief periods of extreme and sometimes violent upheaval.
    I think we’re well into one of those periods of rapid change, and it seems the Pope has recognized that.
    And I certainly can’t argue with the Pope when he refers to many of these newer incarnations of church as lacking depth and substance and stability. But I don’t see all this change and experimentation as necessarily bad. There is great opportunity in this time of change if we listen close to the Spirit and make the course corrections He’s trying to give us.
    Above all (and more so than just about any other juncture since Constantine), the church in all its various forms and incarnations now has the opportunity and the freedom to examine itself and re-evaluate its direction. And from root to branches, I think churches and church institutions, both new and ancient, should take advantage of this opportunity and examine and evaluate themselves in great detail and with brutal honesty by the light of Christ and His Gospel.