Saturday, April 21, 2007

In Praise of Pope Benedict XVI

I just read that Pope Benedict has repudiated the traditional Catholic belief that unbaptized babies spend eternity in limbo - a blissful place, but still not heaven. The pope has stated that baptism is a rite of entry into the Church, not into salvation. Kudos to him! A few weeks ago, he declared that Christians need not object to evolution as a means by which God works in His creation. John Paul II also said this. You all know where I stand on this issue. Double kudos!

I greatly admired John Paul II. I'm beginning to admire Pope Benedict XVI even more. He has displayed great willingness to engage in theological contemplation that is informed by contemporary scientific, sociological, psychological and historical knowledge. What a wonderful example for Christians everywhere.


Dave said...

Though pronouncement is significant, limbo was not a formal RC doctrine. It had been widely taught since the middle ages but never became an "excathadra" doctrine.

Evie Sears said...

I realize that "limbo" is not a formal doctrine, just as non-sacramentalism is not a formal Salvation Army doctrine. Limbo has been a commonly held and authoritatively taught concept, however, just as non-sacramentalism is still practiced and taught in The Salvation Army.

Erik said...

I first thought that limbo was a kind of dance, but I looked it up and now I know what it also means. I went to orthodox-R.C. primary schools and limbo was presented very seriously as a place or situation, just as an official R.C. doctrine item. Whoever who wasn't baptised the R.C. way, wouldn't acquire eternal salvation, we were taught that the "baptism by desire" was equal to real baptism, if the circumstances didn't allow real baptism. But all these rules and regulations are not what it's all about. Many Muslims think one cannot pray without the washing ritual, otherwise your praying isn't real praying. I think religious contacts between God and men are not that dependent on rules and rites as we men often think they are. And I also admire a pope who confirms this in a tactical way, without deterring the many people who think different within the R.C. Church. The problem with this pope is that he is not a pope for the masses, he is too intellectual and he is constantly criticised for it, much to my grief. Didn't he pray in the Mosque of Istanbul, which was, for heaven's sake, built by Christians? I find his intellectual approach a pre: we have too many masses leaders already in this world. But our times don't appreciate thinkers. I'm going to read his book about Jesus Christ, Evie maybe something for your book notes?

Stephen said...

Interesting comments and observations. I am pleased to see the rational "spiritual" thought of His Holiness that is not only cognitive but I believe inspired by God. It has released him from the box of human made orthodoxy.

You mentioned in your response to David's comments about Salvation Army positions that are not "formal doctrine". When you said that, of course one thinks of the non-observance of the sacraments such as the Lord's Supper (communion)and baptism and current General's public statements on this. Not only has a very human based organization, yes, led by many "Spirit filled men and women" create with good reason during a period of religious legalism and regidity, a structure around a position that is not formal doctrine, but in reality, can be strongly argued, is also outside of scripture. Yes, we have devised scriptural arguments to support postions that are not doctrinal, I mean, I grew up with them thinking it was a sin to take part in the Lord's Supper! To this day, I have sat with officers and soldiers who will not participate as they sit with arms folded, in joining other Christians in this act of worship and sign of the unity we have in Christ.

The first doctrine of the Salvation Army says, "We believe that the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by the inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice."

When I think of the "Lord's Supper" (Feast of Remembrance is what we call it here at Berkshire - we observe this sacrament four times a year), my mind turns to this doctrine which clearly declares our foundational belief in the supreme authority of scripture. I think about how Jesus broke bread saying how this act symbolizes his body and the wine shared from his cup as his blood given for our redemption. The Salvation Army's first doctrine clearly states we believe that Jesus did this. But not only did Jesus do this act, he also commanded his disciples to do this as an act of remembrance when they gather together. We are talking about an act of worship. The second half of the first doctrine says that scripture is the authoritive and final word by which we are to live our lives.

Therefore, it is my prayer that our current General, will not be afraid to embrace the place of authority of scripture when it comes to the position of "non-sacramentalism" that is not formal doctrine. My conscience says, "who do I obey? God's final Word" or do I "uphold a position, no matter how well meaning, is not found in scripture but in human made orthodoxy?"

The Sal. Army is a very sacramental organization. I love the use of the mercy seat, the holiness table, the Army flag and the uniform. To utilize the Lord's Supper as an act of worship soaked in the teaching of holiness is very powerful. I have witnessed this personally since moving here to Berkshire.

It concerns me greatly that a General, the leader of the world wide SA would speak of these beautiful sacramtental acts of worship and witness as a threat to the unity of the Army and in the same sentence as the issue that is threatening to split apart the Anglican communion (gay ordination and gay marriage)! It's a shocking comparison!

Do I obey God? Or man? There is absolutely no discussion on this matter!