My thoughts about the Pope

vaticanSo I awoke yesterday to find the news of Pope Benedict XVI resigning, the first pope to do so in almost 600 years.  As Lutherans it is a strange thing to look onto Roman Catholic matters knowing that we are a people who have come out of Roman Catholicism and who also say some very harsh but very true things about the office of the papacy and certain teachings of the Roman Catholic Church in our public confession of the faith (see the Book of Concord).

Here are some of my thoughts on this now resigning pope.  I have only had two popes in my lifetime (at least two that I was old enough to notice), John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  I think they were very different kinds of men and handled their faith quite differently.  John Paul II was very pro-life (good), a strong proponent of the adoration of the Virgin Mary (to the point of being described in ways that Scripture does not), and also very ecumenical (which can be either good or bad, usually bad in the current age).  Benedict XVI always appeared to be a little more strict on things than his predecessor.  He was an “old school” Roman Catholic.  Like a priest I once knew, I am pretty sure that Benedict would have no problem declaring a marriage between a Lutheran and a Roman Catholic as “interfaith” (not intrafaith).  Honesty is refreshing.  As a pope, a man who held up traditional Roman Catholic beliefs I can be saddened that the errors which he embraced are so damaging to the Gospel of Christ (and to the soul which embraces them).  As a man however, I respect Benedict for his adherence to his confession of the faith.  Benedict was not a wishy-washy pope, but a “confessional” one.  That I can respect even if the Scriptures condemn the errors of the Roman Catholic Church.

Come to think of it, confessionalism is on the rise.  In the last decade I have met “confessionals” of various faiths.  I have met true five-point TULIP “confessional” Calvinists who staunchly defend the teachings of John Calvin.  I have met staunch “confessional” Wesleyans who defend the teachings of John Wesley.  Pentecostals and Baptists too have seen a rise in people having conviction behind their specific and dinstinctive beliefs.  You can see this by the splintering of traditional denominations with conservative groups (usually preferring to be more strict in their beliefs) breaking off of of the often larger more liberal groups (usually more open and flexible in their beliefs).  This climate change of increasing conviction in religious discussion is a good thing.  This will allow actual discussion to take place rather than “pious” niceties.  In this new discussion can have solid meanings to words and concepts, contrary to much of the vague verbiage and results of other discussions founded upon being nice and getting along (a recent example might be the wordplay of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification).

So now we will watch as the guys in red get together from around the world to pick their new leader, and we can pray that the fruits of the Reformation would find some foothold in their church, that repentance would come and the pure Gospel would be proclaimed officially.


About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


My thoughts about the Pope — 51 Comments

  1. BJS posts an article about the pope and the Romish trolls come scurrying out from behind the Vatican cupboards. Let’s look at Martin Luther’s statements on the fairy tale of Mary’s immaculate conception:

    In1518 (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, 31:173) Luther states: “[T]he Roman church along with the general council at Basel and almost with the whole church feels that the Holy Virgin was conceived without sin. Yet those who hold the opposite opinion should not be considered heretics, since their opinion has not been disproved.”

    In 1521 (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, 32: 79-80) Luther states: “In regard to the conception of our Lady [the papacy has] admitted that, since this article is not necessary to salvation, it is neither heresy nor error when some hold that she was conceived in sin, although in this case council, pope, and the majority hold a different view.”

    In his 1532 sermon (Sermons of Martin Luther, Vol. 3, ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, p. 291) Martin Luther states: Mother Mary, like us, was born in sin of sinful parents, but the Holy Spirit covered her, sanctified and purified her so that this child was born of flesh and blood, but not with sinful flesh and blood.”

    In 1534 Luther sermon (Sermons of Martin Luther, Vol. 3, ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, 294) Luther stated that Christ was “born of a young maiden, as you and I are born of our mothers. The only difference is that the Holy Spirit engineered this conception and birth, while in contrast we mortals are conceived and born in sin.”

    In his 1538 sermon (D.Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Abteilung Werke 45:51 quoted in Martin Luther, What Luther Says, Vol. I, 152), Luther again mentions that Mary was conceived in sin, but Jesus was not:

    “In our Christian Creed we confess that Christ was conceived and became man or was incarnate (if I may so speak), that He became a real human being by assuming a body. We confess that He assumed genuine flesh and blood from the Virgin Mary that He did not pass through her as the sun shines through a glass but brought her virgin flesh and blood with Him. If this had taken place only with the co-operation of Mary, the Babe would not have been pure. But though Mary has been conceived in sin, the Holy Spirit takes her flesh and blood and purifies them; and thence He creates the body of the Son of God. This is why it is said that ‘He was conceived by the Holy Ghost.’ Thus He assumed a genuine body from His mother Mary, but this body was cleansed from sin by the Holy Spirit. If this were not the case, we could not be saved.”

    In his February 27, 1540, Disputation On the Divinity and Humanity of Christ, translated from the Latin text, WA 39/2, 92-121, by Christopher B. Brown, Dr. Luther mentions in response to Argument X:

    “Every man is corrupted by original sin and has concupiscence. Christ had neither concupiscence nor original sin. Therefore he is not a man: Response: I make a distinction with regard to the major premise. Every man is corrupted by original sin, with the exception of Christ. Every man who is not a divine Person [personaliter Deus], as is Christ, has concupiscence, but the man Christ has none, because he is a divine Person, and in conception the flesh and blood of Mary were entirely purged, so that nothing of sin remained. Therefore Isaiah says rightly, ‘There was no guile found in his mouth’; otherwise, every seed except for Mary’s was corrupted.”

    And a year before his death in 1546, some claim Luther did refer to the immaculate conception when he mentioned in a pamphlet, “… the pure Virgin Mary, who has not sinned and cannot sin for ever more.” But the pamphlet was a diatribe agains the pope, whom Luther refers to as “Your Hellishness,” and in fact the “…the pure Virgin Mary…” quote is a mocking reference (among others) to the pope himself (Against the Roman Papacy: An Institution of the Devil, 1545; translated by Eric W. Gritsch, in Luther’s Works, ed. Pelikan, 41, 263-376; quote from p. 264):

    “What is the use of spending such great pains and effort on a council if the pope has decided beforehand that anything done in the council should be subjected to him, that nothing should be done unless it pleased him very much, and that he wants the power to condemn everything? To avoid all this trouble it would be better to say, “Most Hellish Father, since it makes no difference at all what is or will be decided before or in or after the council, we would rather (without any council) believe in and worship Your Hellishness. Just tell us beforehand what we must do; “Good Teacher, what shall I do?” [Mark 10:17]. Then we shall sing the glad hymn to Your Hellishness, ‘Virgin before, in, and after childbearing,’ since you are the pure Virgin Mary, who has not sinned and cannot sin for ever more. If not, then tell us, for God’s sake, what need or use there is in councils, since Your Hellishness has such great power over them that they are to be nothing, if it does not please Your Hellishness. Or prove to us poor, obedient ‘simple Christians’ whence Your Hellishness has such power.”

    So, at best, one might find mentions of Mary’s immaculate conception Romanist fairy tale by Luther from early days. But after 1529, there is no solid indication, but indeed just the opposite, of Luther holding such a view, especially at the end of his life.

    [Emphasis added]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.