Pope Francis’ vision of the church

Another lengthy and fascinating interview with Pope Francis was released recently. A couple of interesting quotes:

Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us. Sometimes after a meeting I want to arrange another one because new ideas are born and I discover new needs. This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.

And here:

I believe I have already said that our goal is not to proselytize but to listen to needs, desires and disappointments, despair, hope. We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love. Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace.

And here:

And I believe in God, not in a Catholic God, there is no Catholic God, there is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. Jesus is my teacher and my pastor, but God, the Father, Abba, is the light and the Creator.

And here, speaking of the saint from whom he took his papal name:

Francis wanted a mendicant order and an itinerant one. Missionaries who wanted to meet, listen, talk, help, to spread faith and love. Especially love. And he dreamed of a poor Church that would take care of others, receive material aid and use it to support others, with no concern for itself. 800 years have passed since then and times have changed, but the ideal of a missionary, poor Church is still more than valid. This is still the Church that Jesus and his disciples preached about.

Pope Francis is a Roman Catholic

My friend Jeremiah Gibbs has written his response to media coverage of Pope Francis.

The media has made a big deal out of Pope Francis’s recent open letter. They have an uncanny ability to mess up all things theological, and I think this is no different. But then, “The Pope Teaches What the Church Has Always Taught” is not a very tantalizing headline.

His whole post is worth a couple minutes of your time, especially if you have people in your church or life who are reading the media coverage of the Pope and getting a distorted impression of his ministry.

If you are interested, Pope Francis’ full letter to the Italian newspaper that gave rise to the most recent flurry of media coverage is published in English here.

Did Luther stand in the wrong place?

Recently I’ve been reading some books by William J. Abraham and NT Wright about the Bible. Both books argue to some degree that we read the Bible incorrectly when we make it primarily about settling arguments and establishing truth.

And then I read this story about indulgences being made available for people who follow the Pope’s trip to a youth conference on Twitter. Roman Catholic teaching about indulgences is complex and related to Catholic teachings about sin, sanctification, penance, and purgatory — among others. I do not pretend to be an expert, but like all heirs of the Reformation, know the story of Johann Tetzel and Martin Luther’s 95 Theses.

Now, I like this story because it gives me an opportunity to post a link to my favorite Lutheran polka tune.

But I do find the story also pressing back against the general undertone of both the books I’ve been reading. Both of them argue that while the Reformation had some good points, its emphasis on the Bible as the final authority on matters of faith and practice went wrong or too far or off base.

As I’ve been reading these books, I’ve been aware that they are both a sharp critique on John Wesley’s understanding of scripture, which would be called fundamentalist today. I’ve been stewing a bit about whether it is possible to hang on to Wesleyan theology while tossing aside the foundation upon which it was built.

But today’s news story about the indulgences raises a slightly different question.

Abraham, Wright, and a great number of contemporary Christians would reject Martin Luther’s doctrine of scripture. So do we also reject his defiance of the Roman Catholic Church? Or was he somehow right to oppose the practices of his own church even though he was basing his resistance on what we consider today to be an erroneous view of scripture?