Pope Francis, impaled by an ellipsis

Pope FrancisThe Pope has much to criticise him for. There are many issues, all springing from his pandering to a secular agenda with a Leftish, which is to say anti-Christian, slant.

His views on the economy, defence, feminism, single world government, homosexuality, euthanasia and so forth could easily serve as planks in the electoral campaign of any socialist party. Hence I sometimes jest that the proper answer to the perennial question “Is the Pope Catholic?” should be “Yes, but…”, followed by the litany of his suspect pronouncements.

Yet criticism should ideally be constructive and definitely fair. Unfortunately, many attacks on the Pope come from people who not so much dislike his views as hate the Catholic Church or, for that matter, Christianity in general.

Now since I object to many of Pope Francis’s views, I’m receptive to similarly minded articles, provided they’re motivated by good will. Yet even I was taken aback by this lead paragraph in an on-line publication:

“Pope Francis was caught attempting to turn his Catholic followers away from Jesus Christ after he warned them that ‘having a personal relationship with Jesus is dangerous and very harmful’.” This “liberal statement”, continues the article, raises “fears that he is, in fact, an illegitimate pope with a sinister agenda.”

The papal statement in fact sounds worse than liberal or even sinister. Since it’s tantamount to telling believers not to pray, it sounds impossible.

No priest could possibly tell that to other Christians. That’s like saying he doesn’t believe in God, and neither should they. Since His Holiness is supposed to have uttered those seditious words to a crowd of 33,000 pilgrims, he must have been off his rocker. Call for the men in white coats.

However, since no one has so far claimed that the Pope is mad, I looked up what he actually said. Sure enough, he did say it’s dangerous to believe one can have “a personal, direct, immediate relationship with Jesus Christ…”

But that wasn’t the end of the statement. It continued: “…without communion with and the mediation of the church.” Suddenly the pronouncement stops being liberal, never mind sinister, and becomes an article of faith in apostolic Christianity.

Rather than turning his followers “away from Jesus Christ”, the Pope decries Protestantism in general and Evangelism in particular, which he obviously and correctly identifies as heretical and therefore divisive and therefore ruinous for Christianity.

But of course subversive types, religious, political or scholarly, always master the art of elliptical quoting. Yet an ellipsis may not only distort the meaning but indeed reverse it.

For example, back in the eighties the US charity United Negro College Fund advertised under the slogan “Because a mind is a terrible thing to waste”. Now abbreviate this slogan to “Because a mind is a terrible thing…” and the well-meaning charity can be accused of rank racism. Such macabre rhetorical tricks are favoured by both Lefties and, as in this case, Evangelicals.

Nailing his 95 Theses to the cathedral door, Luther declared that “every man is his own priest”. That pushed the button on the delayed-action bomb of atheism. And the bomb’s time setting was considerably shortened by Calvin’s Reformation within the Reformation.

For, when a man believes he can be his own priest, his grandson will believe he can be his own God. Eliminating the church, the Body of Christ, as the teacher and mediator means disembodying and thereby marginalising Christ. It’s also an invitation to hubris, the worst kind of pride and the deadliest of the deadly sins.

For Christian doctrine is an extremely complex body of thought, which is why it has taken history’s best minds many centuries to develop. The Evangelical notion, however, is that anyone can glean every doctrinal intricacy straight from the Bible, provided he’s guided by the Holy Spirit. Well, if that’s the case, the Holy Spirit has a superhuman knack at refuting itself.

After all, there are at least 40,000 different Protestant, mainly Evangelical, denominations, each claiming to have been guided by the Holy Spirit to widely diverse, often mutually exclusive, beliefs.

Since they all claim to worship the Bible, they should remind themselves of Mark 3:25: “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand”. The house of Christianity certainly hasn’t stood, at least in the West. In fact, the West today is the only atheist civilisation ever – which is to say it’s no civilisation at all.

For no civilisation can be formed solely by pursuing materialist desiderata. And conversely, a single-minded pursuit of such desiderata has demonstrated its potential for destroying any civilisation, no matter how great.

A system of belief lies at the beginning of any civilisation, but it’s not the end of it. For faith spins out a cocoon of many sub-systems, moral, social and intellectual.

By atomising Christianity into thousands of sects, most if not all downright heretical, the Reformation set the scene for that great misnomer, the Enlightenment, which in due course produced every modern perversion (including those so ill-advisedly advocated by His Holiness).

Encouraged to work out for themselves the intricacies of Christian worship, people began to think they can also grasp every complexity of quotidian life, no outside help necessary, thank you very much.

Moreover, not only can they arrive at an infallible judgement in such matters by themselves, but they have every right to have their opinion heard and acted upon. The Holy Spirit tells them they’re all equal, so who’s to say their judgement on anything is at fault?

This massively encouraged solipsism has produced a moral and intellectual catastrophe, and we’re all reeling from its effects. At the heart of the catastrophe lies relativism: if truth is sub-divided ad infinitum, it’s hard to accept that absolute truth exists at all.

People used to know that, if X is true, and Y contradicts X, then Y is false. The solipsism initiated by the two reformations has produced the current belief that, if X is true, then all the other letters of the alphabet are differently true.

You can see the results of this thinking in everything, from politics to the economy, from art to science. People no longer seem to pursue the truth – they’re after gaining a short-term jump on the competition, with both sides losing in the end.

I don’t know whether or not the Pope thinks in such categories. I rather doubt it: he seems to be weak at applying orthodox Christian tenets to everyday life. But he does preach such tenets more often than not – and the statement so crassly bowdlerised is one such instance.

9 thoughts on “Pope Francis, impaled by an ellipsis”

  1. “it’s dangerous to believe one can have ‘a personal, direct, immediate relationship with Jesus Christ…’”

    Correct. All sorts of prophets, mystics, seers, “holy men” say they have had an insight into GOD and personally receive messages and instructions for GOD. Gotta be careful. If you ARE receiving messages and signals WHO exactly it is coming from.

    Fundamentalist Protestants in the USA use that term all the time too! “A close and personal relationship to GOD.”

  2. Has God really bestowed upon the Roman system to be the authoritative convener of truth? Because the Roman church introduced celibacy of priests, extreme unction, purgatory, limbo, transubstantiation, papal infallibility and all the Maryology; her immaculate conception, her assumption and perpetual virginity (despite the naming of James, Joses, Simon, Judas and their sisters in Matthew 13:55-56), it is clearly obvious that Rome does not have a continuous divine mandate bestowed upon it to be the reveler of doctrine and the will of the Almighty.
    As for there being 40,000 denominations of Christianity, the question should be “why aren’t there even more?” As soon as soon as a few believers meet in a house for prayer and worship we have an extension of the Body of Christ.

  3. “Matthew 13:55-56”. Siblings all the children of Joseph by another marriage. Joseph was what we call a widower today. Siblings as listed half-sisters or half-brothers as defined today.

      1. Correct. Joseph had another wife before Mary. Joseph again was a widower. Children by the other wife were the half-brothers of JESUS James the son of Joseph but Mary the Son of JESUS as it is recorded. That was the way folks at the time determined sibling relationships.

        1. I don’t see any proof of this and so it sounds like folk-law to keep happy those Mary worshipers who assume sex is dirty. Mary in fact did have sex with Joseph and probably quite often so as to produce so many wonderful children.
          Likewise, she was a normal young lady who did not ascend to Heaven like Jesus nor did she have an immaculate conception.

          1. God did! I’m not arguing that point, which has not been raised. According to Rome the immaculate conception is that Mary is free from original sin by virtue of the merits of her son Jesus Christ. My concern is how Rome takes upon itself to introduce teachings and a range of “law” that is way beyond anything in the Holy Scriptures.

  4. Hi Alexander,

    I enjoy your writing and agree with the general thrust of this article. However, as a reformed evangelical, I think some of your arguments misrepresent reformed theology and its dangers.

    “For, when a man believes he can be his own priest, his grandson will believe he can be his own God. Eliminating the church, the Body of Christ, as the teacher and mediator means disembodying and thereby marginalising Christ.”

    While it’s true we believe that we’re a royal priesthood, in the sense that we are called to offer spiritual sacrifices and (1 Peter 2:5,9), we also believe that we can only access Heaven through our ultimate priest and mediator, Jesus Christ. In my view this does not marginalise, but actually centralises, the work and person of Christ. It strengthens the connection to His body, the church.

    Nor does it follow that believing in our own priesthood necessarily lead to a belief that we’re our own God. We believe in the supremacy of Christ and authority of the holy scriptures, which make it clear our position as subject to Christ. I agree that the lack of dogma, as in the Catholic Church, and our responsibility to search the scriptures for ourselves (John 5:39), opens the door to heretical beliefs. But this does not follow as a matter of course. Any departure from sound, biblical interpretation can lead to heresy, but apparently God thought this a risk worth taking. I would argue that the risk is even greater when the responsibility of discerning God’s will falls to a single leader – any errors are propagated across the entire church and there is less opportunity for challenge or self-correction.

    The thousands of protestant denominations does little to argue for, or against, the truth of the fundamentals of reformed theology. Sinful man has always sought his own path – this may take the form of a new protestant denomination, atheism, or – I would argue – the entire Catholic Church.

    Rather than work backwards from the effect, I would prefer to build up arguments for the truth from first principles. What is the authoritative base for the Catholic Church and why does this trump reformed theology? I’d love to read an an article on this topic.


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