A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet
I am waiting for one slip, one false step, one mispronunciation, one SOMETHING for the world's media to turn on Pope Francis and tear him to shreds.
It's coming as surely as night follows day.
But before that happens, I'd like my readers to pause, take a deep breath and consider how Francis' life -- from here to his dying day -- will affect the lives of every single one of us, catholic or not.
I am not a Catholic, though as one who subscribes to "Old Lutheranism" you can imagine I am not particularly in awe of this pope or any pope for that matter. But, having said that, I respect the office as one of the most powerful and influential political and religious positions on earth.
(I have been queried a number of times about what I mean when I refer to myself as a subscriber to "Old Lutheranism." When I say I subscribe to Old Lutheranism I mean the old Lutheran Church, which stood on "Sola Scriptura" (Scripture Alone).
Sola scriptura was a foundational doctrinal principle of the Protestant Reformation held by the Reformers ... most importantly (to me, anyway) by Martin Luther, the Great Reformer, himself.
OK. So what exactly does it mean, this Sola scriptura?
Well, simply put, it means the Bible contains all the knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Consequently, sola scriptura demands only those doctrines are to be admitted or confessed that are found directly within or indirectly by using valid logical deduction or valid deductive reasoning from scripture ... ALONE. Read more on sola scriptura at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sola_scriptura
Martin Luther once said, "A simple layman armed with Scripture is greater than the mightiest pope without it". And, yeah, I agree with Brother Martin.
Luther also said this: "The true rule is this: God's Word shall establish articles of faith, and no one else, not even an angel can do so."
In some Evangelical and Baptist denominations, sola scriptura is stated even more strongly: it is self-authenticating, clear to the rational reader, its own interpreter (meaning it interprets itself), and is so complete as to be the final authority of Christian doctrine ... PERIOD.
When my branch of the Lutheran Church (in the US) left its sola scriptura foundation -- I left the church.)
I have no idea what kind of Pope Francis will turn out to be. At this point, I suspect NOBODY really knows.
Even if one does not subscribe to Apostolic Succession, and the infallibility of the Pope, one must still realize Pope Francis has an awesome responsibility to God and to man.
From what little we know of the man, it would appear he is aware of the unique "burden" he will carry to his death. One must remember the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church -- AND -- the Bishop of Rome --AND -- he is also the head of the sovereign city-state, Vatican City. (Whew!)
Now, as if that were not enough the Vatican maintains diplomatic relationships with more than 100 nations. He is the foremost public representative of Catholics. In speaking to the media and in making public announcements, the pope helps shape how Catholicism is perceived by the rest of the world. (Read more: What Are the Duties & Responsibilities of a Pope? | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/list_6681628_duties-responsibilities-pope_.html#ixzz2NzwxlwzR )
I may not be Roman Catholic, but I understand the importance religion has played, does play, and will play in the affairs of man on this planet. Even for those who claim to be non-religious, it is inescapable.
Collectively, man has decreed he needs a god to worship. That feeling of "incompleteness" without a god is so strong that man will actually create a god to worship from practically anything he can lay his hands upon.
The three things for which a man will most readily lay down his life are: his God, his family, and his country.
So, it is not inconsequential, nor trivial, that when a new pope burst upon the scene, all the eyes of the world turn toward Vatican City enclaved within the ancient city of Rome. He is the religious leader of well over a billion human beings on earth.
No matter your Christian denomination, no matter your faith, the plain truth is -- what this man does WILL impact your life to one degree or another.
So. With that in mind, may I be so bold as to suggest that those of us who pray, ask our chosen deity to extend His protection, and His blessings of wisdom and guidance to the man who sits on the papal throne in the Vatican.
After all, the Pope may be a "special" man, but beneath the robe, the alb, the crown, all the vestments of the priest, he remains -- JUST a man.
Frankly, (no play on words here.) knowing no more than I do now of this man Francis (Jorge Mario Bergoglio), I believe he would tell you exactly the same thing.
© J. D. Longstreet
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