To My Catholic Friends: Did You Hear What the Pope Just Said?
In recent years very prominent Christians have made heretical claims. Claims like hell isn’t real by former pastors like Rob Bell shocked the Christian church and brought immediate outcry. That claim seems to be miniscule in comparison to what Pope Francis has recently claimed.
Pope Francis gave an interview with La Croix, a French-Catholic publication, not long ago. In the interview the Pope made a statement that defies the imagination for the leader of the Catholic Church and has some saying he is the “anti-Pope.”
Pope Francis said:
“I don’t think that there is a fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest, which is partly drawn from Islam,” he told La Croix. “It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest.”
Wait, what? Did the Pope just compare fulfilling The Great Commission given by Jesus to spread the Gospel to all nations with waging jihad as given by a false prophet? Did the highest leader of one of the world’s largest religious groups really just denigrate evangelism for his millions of devoted followers?
If I was Catholic, how am I supposed to think about this? Catholics are already not known for their evangelism. Typically, when we think about evangelism, either locally in the US or globally, Catholics don’t come to mind. Maybe we think about the Southern Baptist Convention and their NAMB/IMB efforts. Or we might think of Reformed/Calvinist denominations that place great emphasis on personal and corporate evangelism. But we don’t often link evangelism and Catholics.
Given that Catholics are not known for their zealous evangelistic efforts one has to wonder if Pope Francis was targeting another group with this message. Was he directing it at the aforementioned groups that seek to actively carry the Gospel into the nations? Whether Catholic or Protestant this has to be one of the most disturbing comments I’ve seen from the Pope.
The Great Commission was given by Jesus Himself. It wasn’t a side thought for consideration for “really dedicated” Christians, as some like to conclude. The Great Commission is a central tenant of Christianity that informs every aspect of our lives. Whether we are going into our neighborhood, our workplace, or a remote village, Christians are to “go into all the world” with the joyful message of the Gospel. Failing to do so is to ignore our Savior’s clear teaching and instructions.
But it is one thing to ignore the words of Christ concerning our mission and purpose as believers, it is another thing entirely to equate it with an evil terrorist group and their cowardly and senseless acts of violence. To say that Christians living out The Great Commission are equal to ISIS fighters acting out jihad is an evil that is hard to comprehend.
One group brings much needed aid and relief efforts with their message of hope. The other brings terror, violence, and death. One group seeks to bless, support, and help the people and villages they enter. The other seeks to threaten, plunder, rape, and kill. The difference between Christians bringing the Gospel and ISIS waging jihad is so great that any passing comparison should be met with immediate condemnation by anyone paying attention.
For that matter any comparison between Christianity and Islam in general needs to be shunned. Not because Christians hate Muslims, that false conclusion is equally disturbing. It is because the message of Christianity and Islam is so inherently and radically different that any comparisons need to be condemned. It seems however, that Pope Francis would like to blend Christianity and Islam. It was recently reported:
“He goes ahead to make a pitch about his merger of Islam and Christianity…The angle the pope is using is to claim these meaningless wars are fueled by radical beliefs (not Islam). In this regard, by associating the murderous works if ISIS in the same context as the great commission, the Pope is thus saying, those who preach the Biblical truths are just as capable of such horrific killings and should be looked at in the same light as ISIS terrorists…Again, the other day, the Pope said that to be a christian, one does not necessarily need to have a doctrine that they abide by. Again, in this sense, the Pope is working to create that compromise. If the Muslims will let go of their doctrine and Christians too let go of their doctrines then ‘maybe’ we can co-exist in peace.”
This shows a lack of theological understanding that is hard to believe can exist in a Pope. Of course that makes me wonder if the Pope knows exactly what he is doing. Is he deliberately seeking to alter the theological beliefs of Christians? Is he deliberately suggesting that Christians and Muslims can blend their doctrines into some synergistic religion? If so, I would have no choice but to conclude the Pope does now know the same Jesus I know. His Bible and my Bible are not the same.
I feel bad for my Catholic friends. In the Protestant world, when a pastor or teacher goes off the deep end and spouts heretical views we simply cut ties and refuse to follow. When Rob Bell decided to ignore the clear teaching of Scripture and declare that there was no hell, renowned pastor and author John Piper simply said “farewell, Rob Bell.”
But Catholics are taught that the Pope is basically divine, that he is next to God and should be revered and listened to. Where does this leave our Catholic friends? Will they now fully abandon The Great Commission and seek to blend their beliefs with Islam? I certainly hope not. It is my prayer that Catholics will see the Pope as a false leader and seek to fully and finally follow Jesus. I hope God will use the Pope and his words to bring more Catholics to Jesus and bring something good from this terrible comparison.
I don’t mean this to offend Catholics, but to simply say that many Catholics, like many Protestants, are not born again and need to seek repentance. Perhaps the Pope’s recent comments will drive Catholics to seek greater truth than the unbiblical utterings of a man and they will finally turn to Jesus. And maybe now is a time when Christians should be fulfilling The Great Commission among our Catholic friends and family.