Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Al Mohler on the Pope's Visit to Turkey
What should the Pope say in Turkey? Again, this is a very hard question for an evangelical Christian to answer. In the first place, this raises once again the issue of the papacy. The evangelical rejection of the papacy is not just a rejection of historic papal abuses. To the contrary, evangelicals oppose the papacy as an institution. It is an unbiblical office that, even in its current form, seeks to claim both a spiritual and a temporal authority. Both are rejected by evangelical Christians. The Pope is received in Turkey as a head of state. The papacy's response to the furor over the Regensburg remarks was typical of the practices of state diplomacy. By the time the Vatican was finished clarifying (without apologizing) the message was not clear at all.
Put simply, the Pope's visit to Turkey--along with the media attention and hype--is further evidence that the mixing of temporal and spiritual authority will not work. A minister of Christ should speak clearly about the Gospel and about the reality of Islam. The central Christian concern about Islam should not be the undeniable threat of Islamic violence but the fact that Islam is incompatible with the Gospel of Christ. Islam explicitly denies what Christians centrally affirm--that Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God who came to save his people from their sins. Thus, the most significant challenge posed by Islam is not geopolitical (though this is real) but spiritual. I do not expect Benedict XVI to say this in Turkey.
Would he state this case in private? Probably so, but the Vatican is also responsible for confusing that issue. In the aftermath of Vatican II and documents such as Lumen Gentium, it is no longer clear that Roman Catholicism would call for the urgent evangelization of Muslims. When the Vatican speaks constantly of respect for other religions, it does so without being very clear about what this respect means. Does Benedict XVI see Islam as another legitimate way to approach God? A way that explicitly denies the deity of Christ and the centrality of the cross? I would not expect much clarity on this question while the Pope is in Turkey. Indeed, I do not expect much clarity on this issue while the Pope is in the Vatican.