Pope Francis is to declare to the world that ‘the Reformation is dead’, that Protestantism has had its day and its devastating effects on world history are over. This was the conclusion of the 2016 Martin Lloyd-Jones Memorial Lecture, hosted by the London Seminary at Kensit Evangelical Church, in October 2016.
Titled, ‘How evangelical is the pope: the theological vision of Francis’, the lecture was given by Dr Leonardo De Chirico, pastor of Breccia di Roma Evangelical Church, director of the Reformanda Initiative and lecturer in historical theology at IFED, Padova.
Dr De Chirico talked of the rise of the popular — and controversial — Pope Francis, who has modelled himself on St Francis of Assisi and talks a good talk on inclusivity and modernity. His cultural heritage, being one of only two non-European popes, has created a sense of the worldwide belonging of the Catholic faith.
Recent missives from the Vatican give soundbites which even some evangelicals might agree with. As Dr De Chirico said, ‘There are increasing levels of vagueness about where we stand as evangelicals with regards to the papacy’. But, while the pope’s comments may be winning over backsliding Catholics and softening up opposition, what is he really saying? And how might it affect evangelicals?
Little was known of the Jesuit Jorge MarioBergoglio before he became pope in March 2013, which has left Protestants and Catholics alike in the dark about his true beliefs. But there are a few lectures of his, from the 1980s, published in Spanish, which suggest a hard-line view against Protestants, the Reformation and evangelical Christianity.
A reading of these in the light of his latest missives reveal heretical views about original sin and God’s plan of salvation. ‘Pope Francis has said, “I have a dogmatic certainty God is in everyone’s life”’. In fact, he is teaching there is fundamental goodness in mankind and it is the individual’s conscience that determines approval by God. ‘The pope thinks more of the conscience of man as a determinative factor in God’s forgiveness, than the cross’.
The pope’s missives deny the grace of the gospel, saying, ‘Together with us, the Muslims adore the merciful God’. In essence, the Catholic Church’s mission is to bring more people within its fold by suggesting we are already justified by the grace of God, with no need for saving grace or repentance.
When asked by one attendee whether the Vatican as a whole would agree with Pope Francis, Dr Chirico suggested that, as his popularity in the media was designed to help the Catholic Church bring more people within its fold, there would be little resistance.
However, he did indicate that Pope Francis has been less ‘controllable’ than the Vatican first expected, with the pope taking over responsibility for his own diary, for example.