Lean and Means

Charles Pope — good for him, none of this Rodney King, CTC pose — takes issue with Protestants for separating faith from works, grace from transformation (ugh), and Scripture from church authority:

There are a lot of “solos” sung by our Protestant brethren: Sola Fide (saved by faith alone), Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone is the rule of faith), and sola gratia (grace alone). (See the Protestant logo to the right.) Generally, one ought to be suspicious and careful of claims that things work “alone.” It is our usual experience that many things work together in harmony, that things are interrelated. Very seldom is anyone or anything “alone.”

The problem of the “solos” emerges (it seems to me) in our minds, where it is possible to separate things out. But the fact is, just because we can separate something out in our mind does not mean that we can separate it out in reality.

What Pope doesn’t seem to consider, first of all, is that the solas of the Reformation were not mere intellectual exercises but efforts to restore the supremacy of Christ and his accomplishments (both in redemption and revelation). You clutter up Christ with images and pilgrimages and stigmata and saints and the next thing you know you don’t have Christ alone. And where will you be on that great day?

But, second of all, does Pope ever wonder how sloppy Christianity gets when you don’t eliminate some of the clutter? When it comes to marriage and divorce, Pope can sound pretty sola himself. He doesn’t want divorcees to be harmonized with faithful spouses, or marriage between husband and wife cluttered with gay marriage.

So either Pope is selective in the way he separates things or is unaware of the importance of such separation. Either way, for those Christians who wanted a reform of the Western Christian Church, Pope’s desire for seeing the interrelations of things is an important reason for doubting that a reformation of Rome will ever happen. As Mike Horton said somewhere, you can’t keep adding pages to the notebook. At some point, you need to take out the page the conflicts with the one you just inserted. After Vatican 2, though, the Roman church’s mode seems to be insertionamento.

The "Good" News of Obedient Faith

Msgr. Charles Pope (how’s that for a name?) explains:

3. The Gospel is not merely noetic (informative); it is dynamic (transformative). God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Thus when God says “Be holy,” His words contain the actual power to effect what they announce, provided we receive them in faith.

4. The Gospel is no mere written word. The Gospel is Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh. Therefore the Gospel saves all who receive it (Him) with faith and heed its warnings and teachings with the obedience of faith.

Thus, the term “gospel” means more than “good news.” And given our cultural setting and its presuppositions related to the word “good,” the notion that “gospel = good news” can be downright misleading. It is better and richer to understand the term “gospel” to refer to the life-changing and transformative utterance of God, which is able to save us if we obey its demands in faith. It is in fact Jesus Himself who is the Word made Flesh. Perhaps this is less memorable, but it is more true and less misleading.

But given our historical setting post-fall, good news that promises we will be saved if we obey God’s commands doesn’t sound very good. (Why should the gospel be only “Good News” instead of like awakenings “Great News” or revolutions “Glorious News”?) That’s why the first Protestants (read Lutherans) were known as evangelicals. Obedience Boys take note.

If So Many Mediators, Why Only One Pope?

Here is part of Charles Pope’s (real name) response to a Protestant who insists that the Bible teaches that Christians have only one mediator, Jesus Christ:

Rather we speak of a subordinate mediation when we seek the prayers of the saints, or of one another. For indeed we could have no communion with them or each other if it be not for Jesus Christ, who as the head of the Body the Church, unites all his members and facilitates our communion with each other.

You seem to speak of there being one mediator in an absolute sense, excluding any other possible interaction or any subordinate mediation. But Consider, that if there is only one mediator in the absolute sense you say, then you ought never again to ask ANYONE to pray for you. Neither should you attend any church, read any book, listen to any sermon or even read the Bible (since the Bible mediates Jesus words to you).

Now, a “mediator” is someone or something that acts as a kind of go-between, as something which acts to facilitate our relationship with Jesus. And though Jesus mediates our relationship to the Father, he also asked Apostles, preachers and teachers to mediate, to facilitate his relationship with us.

Thus Jesus sent apostles out to draw others to him. And St. Paul says, How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Rom 10:14-15, 17) And thus Jesus has his relationship with us mediated through his Word, and through the apostles and others who announce that Word and draw us to him.

But since you say there is absolutely only ONE mediator, and no subordinate or deputed mediators, there is therefore no need to ask ANYONE or ANYTHING to mediate. So burn your Bible, stop asking anyone to pray for you, seek no advice, NO ONE can mediate a single thing to you Gerry. No one can do this because there is, as you say in an unqualified sense, absolutely only ONE mediator. ONE!

Aside from the squishy word play (Framelike) which takes one sense of interacting with other believers (including a very porous idea of speaking to dead saints) and using that to justify prayers to dead, I wonder if Pope would be that expansive in explaining papal supremacy. In other words, why be so particular with the authority of one particular bishop and not equally particular about the work of Christ? Inquiring minds and all that.