Thursday, April 14, 2005

More Fun Quotes

Just something for your reading pleasure. Larry gave me these, so I thought I'd translate them into English and share them here:

"Ministers really have it hard. As in the past, they still have to fight against sin today. But they no longer remember what falls under that category."
--Author Unknown

"If you think you're a Christian just because you attend a church, then you're kidding yourself. You don't become a car simply because you walked into the garage, either."
--Author Unknown

"The church is often like a house that has been renovated too often. It would be good to remove some of the old paint in order to find out what was originally beneath it."
--Author Unknown

"During religion class, the teacher asks the student, 'What happens if you break one of the Ten Commandments?' The student thinks for awhile, then answers slowly, 'Then there will be only nine left...'"
--Author Unknown

"What the church cannot prevent, that it blesses."
--Karl Tucholsky, 1890-1935

"Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind."
--Albert Einstein, 1879-1955

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

"The time has come," the walrus said, "to talk of other things..."

“…of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages, and kings…”

…and popes.

I was going to refrain from commenting about the Catholic Pope’s demise…however, since the media are all in a frenzy about it, and I am in the middle of a church history course, I suppose I’ll deign to express some thoughts on the matter. ;o)

Okay. So, in my previous post, I told y’all about the church history course, for which I spent a week in Bremen. The details of that terrific week are too many for me to give now—suffice it to say that I enjoyed it immensely, I learned a lot, and I’m still trying to process all the information that Jim gave us. After I returned to Chemnitz, I promptly got sick again and have spent the past few weeks recovering and trying to get back into a schedule of sorts, so that’s why I haven’t blogged recently.

And now, the whole world is talking about nothing so much as the death of Pope John Paul II and who his successor will be. It seems that most people have expressed shock that he actually passed away, as though his dying was completely unexpected.

Friends, I have news for you. He was always going to die. How do I know? Well, he was human.

Now, before I go any further in what will probably be a diatribe, let me assure you that I don’t mean to attack John Paul personally. Many years ago, I read a biographical article on him, describing his thoughts and actions when he was first elected (named? commissioned? the correct terminology escapes me) Pope. What I read in that article caused me to have respect for the man, as he seemed to be a genuinely kind, caring, and generous individual. My opinion of him in this respect has not changed. Furthermore, I saw him in person (from a distance!) in Rome several years ago, and his frailty—coupled with the weight of his man-made responsibilities—caused me to pity him. He carried a burden no individual human was designed to bear.

Which, of course, is the crux of the matter. The heart of the problem. I hope some of you have steel in your boots, ‘cause I’m about to stomp all over your toes.

After learning what I have about church history, 33-500 A.D., I can say with absolute certainty that the Catholic Church really screwed up. I won’t give you a history lesson on it, but what basically happened is this: Christians started listening to human teaching instead of focusing on the word of God. They ignored II. Timothy (which describes the leadership of the church) and passages such as Ephesians 4 and Colossians 1, which describe Christ as the head of the church. In the 4th century, Emperor Constantine had the brilliant idea of making Christianity required by law. Of course, when you have an emperor running things, you gotta have plenty of pomp and circumstance. And with pomp and extra ritual comes the necessity of someone special to maintain the ritual, hence, you gotta have specially ordained priests and so forth. Never mind that I. Peter 2 describes *all* Christians as a priesthood.

Meaning, if you’re a Christian, you’re a priest. I’m a priest. You, if you’re a Christian, are priest. We’re all priests together. No more clergy vs. laiety. God did away with that when he gave us Jesus as our ONLY high priest (see Hebrews).

Anyway, back to the happy people of the first few centuries. When they started calling all these Rome-connected churches the “Catholic Church,” they had some great unity all right. You know what “catholic” means? It means “universal.” Basically, it means that instead of diversity, you’ve got lots of little churches that are carbon copies of the big one in Rome. Instead of individuals’ taking responsibility for their own salvation, you’ve got a bunch of people listening to priests and bishops interpreting scripture for them, while the people themselves don’t have a clue what the scriptures actually say.

And heading it all is the Pope, also known as “pontifex maximus.” This is a Latin term meaning “greatest bridgebuilder.” According to Catholic theology, the Pope is the bridgebuilder between humanity and God. He’s it. He’s the summit. He’s the one we should all be following, because he’s our only link to God.

There’s nothing I can say to this. Someone else said it better than I ever could:

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus spoke those words. They’re recorded in John 14:6.

The writer of Hebrews says of Jesus: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, 'You are a priest forever.' This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:22-26).

The Catholic Pope is in no way qualified to be a bridge between me and God. Why? Because he is sinful. Yes! The Catholic Pope is just as much a sinner as you and I and any other human who walks this earth! He is sinful, he is stained, he is not separated from sinners, and he is not exalted above the heavens. He is prevented by death from continuing in office—this fact was obviated by John Paul’s death less than two weeks ago. THE POPE IS ONLY A MAN. Imperfect and impure, unqualified to be a high priest for anybody. “…(T)here is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22-23). This includes every archbishop, every bishop, archdeacon, deacon, priest, preacher, teacher, every so-called “saint”…and every Pope.

According to the passages of scripture quoted above, only Jesus Christ is qualified to build a bridge between me and God. Only Jesus is qualified to intercede for me. Because he is the only one who is perfect, unstained, eternal.

As a side note, the Papal title “pontifex maximus” has interesting origins. History tells us that this title belonged to the Roman Emperors, who were considered the “high priests” of the Roman state cult. You know, the cult that worshiped the pantheon of gods, including Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, Diana, etc. As “pontifex maximus,” the Roman Emperor functioned as the high priest and bridge between his subjects and the gods. So, “pontifex maximus” was a pagan and political title. Eventually, thanks to Constantine’s gifting the head of the Roman church with so much power, the Popes took that title for themselves. It’s no accident that the pagan and political title “pontifex maximus” is nowhere to be found in the Bible. And neither is the title “benedictus papa” or “Pope.” “Papa” is Latin for “father.”

Jesus said, “And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9).

As I hear of the media frenzy over the Pope’s death, and as I read online that thousands have already visited John Paul’s tomb to pay homage to this sinful human, I can only shake my head in disgust and sadness. This is not what God intended! This is a perversion, a mix of politics, pagan beliefs, twisted scripture, and wishful thinking.

Today, I read in a Yahoo! news article that many people visiting John Paul II’s tomb believe that he is a “saint.” They are praying to him and asking him to perform miracles in their lives. If it weren’t so sad, I would laugh at how ridiculous this is. Why aren’t they praying to Jesus, as the above-mentioned scriptures command? John Paul II was a great activist for human rights and morality, but he was not holy. He didn’t sacrifice his life to save the world. He didn’t function as the bridge between God and one single human. He didn’t do anything to deserve all this attention. Frankly, he’s just not worth all the fuss.

In closing, allow me to pose the following. Think about it carefully, and try to answer yourself honestly.

If Jesus, the homeless, penniless, dusty, dirty, ugly, unpopular, simple carpenter walked into the Vatican today, would he be welcomed? Would he fit into the grandeur of the Catholic cathedrals? Would he fit into the splendor of the church buildings “Christian” religions like to build today?

Thousands of people are honoring the Pope’s grave, and they are praying to the Pope. Would so many thousands of people turn out to honor Jesus Christ?

I think we all know the answer to that.