HABEMUS PAPAM! We have a Pope! With fellow Catholics around the world, I have been riveted by all the events in Rome over the past several weeks, culminating in the election of our new Holy Father, Pope Francis. What an exciting time to be Catholic!
I have been pleased to notice that this excitement has not been confined only to the Catholic faithful, but have found many non-Catholic Christians to be also interested and excited: The Orthodox Patriarch Batholomew I of Constantinople was actually on hand in Rome for the Papal Inaugeration, which has not occurred since the Great Schism of 1054. Even among Evangelical Protestants, who are usually most allergic to anything Catholic, several prominent leaders have been quite positive in the media about Pope Francis: Rick Warren, Gary Bauer, Luis Palau to name a few. There was even a nice article in Christianity Today.
But, of course, not all Evangelicals are overjoyed about the positive attention given to the new Roman Pontiff by those in their ranks. One notable voice among them is that of Dr. Al Mohler, the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. A prominent Evangelical leader in his own right, he has been present in media outlets seeking to quell enthusiasm for the new Pontiff among the Evangelical faithful.
Take his 03-14-13 audio "Briefing" posted on his website (albertmohler.com), in which he repeatedly reminds listeners that the Pope holds an "unbiblical office." He is quoted elsewhere saying the same thing here, here, here, and here.
His words got me thinking, which often impels me to write - and so I ended up submitting a short message directly to Dr. Mohler through his website:
As a former Evangelical and Southern Baptist, and now Catholic convert, I am always interested in what my former compatriots have to say about my beloved Catholic Faith.
What I have read of your negative take on Pope Francis is surprising, given the many positive comments I have read from other Evangelicals and Southern Baptists. I think it is a time in our culture and world for faithful devout followers of Jesus to stand together in our love for Our Lord and in our stance on important moral issues, than to actively promote divisions, divisions which are already painfully there.
You seem to feel the need to keep saying that the office of the Pope is "unbiblical." I won't pursue the argument that it is indeed biblical, as you know well enough that the Greek word for the bishop's office (ἐπίσκοπος, epískopos) is in the New Testament, and the "Pope" is the Bishop of Rome, the successor of St. Peter, who of course is also in the Scriptures. A very solid scriptural basis for the papacy can be made. But I won't get into that, you've likely heard it before.
When you say something is "unbiblical," I know you are referring to the belief that everything in Christian belief and practice must be found in the Bible; I used to hold this belief myself. However, this is logically untenable since that very belief, that all Christian beliefs and practices must be found in the Bible, is itself not in the Bible. Sola Scriptura is "Unbiblical." That ironic and logical fallacy is part of what led me to end up becoming Catholic. This is after a very dedicated and fervent Evangelical life, and graduating from Liberty University, and moving to Louisville. (I've been to your Seminary before!) but I must follow where Truth and Our Lord leads me.
Another ironic fact about you saying that the Pope's office is unbiblical is that your own office, "President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary" is unbiblical, is not mentioned in Scripture. In fact, seminaries themselves are nowhere mentioned in Scripture, nor are doctorate degrees. Your Southern Baptist Convention has a President, an office which is equally "unbiblical." You see where all this leads.
In fact, you wouldn't have a Bible at all if you truly relied on Sola Scriptura, as there is no table of contents as part of the canon of Scripture, and most of the books themselves do not claim to be scripture. An outside authority, established by Jesus when he was on Earth, is needed.
I will pray for you whenever I drive by Southern Seminary - you have a Catholic praying for you! - that you continue your fervent Christian service and following of truth, but that you tone down your public negative attacks on Pope Francis, and at least promote a common effort of all Christians to preserve this culture from its current moral degradation.
God Bless!I don't look for Dr. Mohler to write me back, but it sure made me feel better to write to him about this!
Have a blessed Easter Triduum, and pray for our new Holy Father Pope Francis!