Can You Imagine a Commentary on Peter's Epistles Written this Way?

I am suspicious of folks who draw up lists of things I need to know. Joe Carter does it for Protestants. Now in reporting on the new encyclical, Jimmy Aikin does it for Roman Catholics.

Aside from this annoyance, the striking aspect of Aikin’s post is the notion that an officer, the pope, who is supposed to resolve the confusions of the faithful (and even put an end to private opinions), actually increases speculation and the public expression of private opinion:

4. Does Lumen Fidei acknowledge Pope Benedict’s role in its composition?
Yes. In it, Pope Francis writes:

These considerations on faith — in continuity with all that the Church’s magisterium has pronounced on this theological virtue — are meant to supplement what Benedict XVI had written in his encyclical letters on charity and hope. He himself had almost completed a first draft of an encyclical on faith. For this I am deeply grateful to him, and as his brother in Christ I have taken up his fine work and added a few contributions of my own. [LF 7].

5. Does Lumen Fidei sound like Pope Benedict?
Much of it does. It includes many of the characteristic touches and themes of his writings.

For example, it contains many references to history, including early Christian history, Jewish history, and pagan history. It contains references to the thought of historical figures, including the Church Fathers Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. It also refers to the thought of recent intellectual figures, including the Catholic thinker Romano Guardini, the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, the agnostic philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, and the atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

6. Do particular passages sound like Pope Francis?
This is harder to judge. He is mostly known for his speaking style, and his own voice for a document of this nature may take time to emerge. One touch that is distinctly Pope Francis, though, is the way he signs the encyclical. Normally popes give their name in Latin, followed by “PP” (a Latin abbreviation for “pope”) and followed by their number. Pope Benedict, for example, signed Spe Salvi by writing “Benedictus PP XVI.” Pope Francis, being the first pope to use this name, does not have a number, so you wouldn’t expect that in his signature. He does, however, seem to prefer not to use the title “pope,” preferring “bishop of Rome,” instead. Thus he leaves out the “PP” in his signature and simply signs the encyclical Franciscus.”

Aikens also tries to read the tea leaves of Vatican politics:

14. Does this encyclical tell us much about how Pope Francis will govern the Church?
Not as much as you might think. Unlike Pope John Paul II’s first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, it does not appear to lay out a blueprint for his entire pontificate. This is largely due to the fact that he inherited an almost complete first draft of the encyclical from Pope Benedict. Thus Pope Francis’s second encyclical may actually shed more light on the agenda for his own pontificate. It does, however, contain some intriguing clues, including the emphasis on the role of faith in society, the allusion to marriage as the union of man and woman, and his own personal style, as illustrated by his signature.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a free country and Christian communions since the formation of free countries have had all sorts of trouble reigning in the flock, imposing uniformity, and achieving coherence. Roman Catholics in the U.S. have to try to make sense of their relationship with the Vatican just as Orthodox Presbyterians need to reckon with doings in the PCA and the Free Church Continuing.

But when Jason and the Callers are lauding the papacy as the balm to heal all Protestant wounds, they need to think how this sounds to anyone who is actually following what happens in the Roman Catholic press. (BTW, I wonder if Bryan has been avoiding Oldlife because I gave Jason top billing.)

Postscript: a way to out Jimmy-Aikin Jimmy Aikin is to speculate on Peter’s motives in writing of Paul’s letters that “There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” Was this payback for Paul’s rebuke of Peter? Was it an expression of jealousy for Luke following Paul rather than Peter? Was it a form of writer’s envy? Who asks these questions?