AN INFALLIBLE POPE?
Since the days when Pope John XXIII called into session Vatican II the Roman Catholic Church has been swept by calls for reform that have grown increasingly loud and strident. There have been changes suggested and made in various practices and in the liturgy of the Romish Church. There have been many theologians who have attached some very important doctrines of Roman Catholicism and questioned many others. There have been voices raised which have openly denied the fundamental doctrines of Scripture to which the Romish Church has always remained committed, People in the Church have openly questioned the Church’s ethics on various points as, e.g., on the question of birth control. Various elements in the Church have moved in the direction of closer union with Protestant.
While on occasion conservative officials in the Church and the pope himself have tried to put a brake on these sweeping changes in doctrine and practice, not much from a very practical point of view has been done to stem the tide of new thoughts.
But apparently it is possible to go too far; and when one goes too far, the hand of the Church can be heavy indeed.
One leader in Roman Catholicism who strongly advocates change is the German theologian Hans Kung. He has been one of the most consistent critics of the Church and one of the most articulate advocates of reform. He has stirred the Church deeply and was, in fact, called to Rome in 1968 to give answer to Church officials concerning his views. In 1968 he refused to go, however, on the grounds that no specific charges had been brought against him. And the Church did not press the matter.
But recently, in a new book, the 42-year-old Kung attacked one very sacred cow of the Church: the doctrine of the infallibility of the Church. In this book, entitled “Infallible? An Inquiry,” Kung. claims that there is no basis either in Scripture or in Christian tradition for the view that either the pope, or the Church, or any Church Council is infallible in its declarations on dogma.
This it seems, was going a bit too far. The attack against Kung has begun. For one thing, several other Roman theologians, in some cases personal friends of Kung, some of whom are. considered as liberal as he in their views, have attacked his book and have warned him that he is on a collision course with the Church. The German Conference of Catholic bishops called him to appear before them for an “intense but friendly exchange of information” about his book. These bishops have the power to decide that Kung is teaching heresy, and this would bring quickly into the picture Vatican authorities who could and probably would summon him to appear in Rome to defend his, position.
What the outcome will be ‘has yet to be seen. It is significant that this question of papal infallibility is central to Roman Catholicism and is one point on which the Church has refused to budge even the slightest in all her contacts with Protestantism.
DISCORD AT CONCORDIA
Concordia Theological Seminary is the largest Seminary in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. It has also been in the center of bitter controversy in this denomination between liberals and conservatives. There are many in the Missouri Synod-Luthern Church who have gone the way of so many other denominations in denying the infallible inspiration of the Scriptures, in teaching evolutionary hypotheses concerning the religion of the nation of Israel, in denying the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and in denying the literal interpretation of the first eleven chapters of Genesis. But there is also in the Missouri Synod Church a large number of conservatives who wish to remain faithful to the Scriptures in these key areas and who have fought long and vigorously in the defense of the faith. Their chief voice is the newspaper size periodical “Christian News,” in which they have in a very calm and searching fashion joined battle with the liberals and exposed a great deal of false doctrine in the Church. Their attacks have focused chiefly on Concordia Seminary since many of the heretical teachings of liberal churchmen seem to originate there.
The conservatives succeeded at the last General Synod in electing a fellow conservative to the office of president of the Synod. Dr. Jacob A.O. Preus had promised, after being elected, to investigate Concordia Seminary to see if the charges were true. This investigation is now under way.
The liberals are apparently very afraid of such an investigation. Their attacks against the conservatives in the Church and against “Christian News” have become increasingly bitter. They have made good use even of the secular Press to discredit their investigators. And they are not very cooperative thus far in the investigation. Characteristically of heretics, they have concentrated their attention on irrelevant matters and have failed to-state clearly their own positions on the fundamental questions at issue. They have spoken loudly about heresy-hunts. They have attempted to make conservatism and fundamentalism onerous terms to be applied to those who refuse to be “scholarly” in their study of Scripture. They have made appeals to procedural matters and attempted to stop or derail the investigations with these types of tactics. But thus far it seems as if Preus is determined to push ahead with the investigations.
There is overwhelming evidence which has already appeared in the public Press and in countless books and magazine articles which points to the correctness of the charges. It seems completely obvious that heresy abounds in Concordia. From this point of view the investigation is bound to substantiate the charges.
The one real question is whether the Church as a whole will have the spiritual strength to cope with this matter. Already there are many in the Church who apparently do not think so. Several congregations throughout the country have already severed their relationships with the denomination, convinced that reform and repentance is hopeless.
While surely there are important doctrinal differences between Lutheranism and the Reformed faith, we hope and pray that this denomination will still have the spiritual strength to purge itself of those who deny the Scriptures. And if this is not the case, we hope that there are many who will have the courage to leave this once staunch Church which is now on the verge of going the sad way of so many denominations in our day.
The secular and ecclesiastical Press has recently reported a startling growth in Satan worship. Especially in this country, although also abroad, many new groups are being formed which openly adopt as their religion the worship of Satan. In some instances such Satan worship has been associated with terrible sexual aberrations, with a revival of witchcraft and the black mass and with oaths and ceremonies which make the blood run cold. But this is not true in every instance. In many instances the sole purpose is to deny all religion, to desecrate all that is holy and to mock the most sacred truths of God. Besides, there seems to be a very real but unutterably terrible desire on the part of those who follow this path to sell their souls to Satan so that they may become complete instruments of his power and complete slaves of his will. As one leader of all this put it: “I’d rather rule in hell (on earth) than be a servant in heaven. . . . Everyone likes to have a certain amount of power and with the help of Satan, you can do anything.”
There is something frightening about all this. It is true, of course, that the wicked in the world are completely depraved. They are, in a very real sense; slaves of sin. They are servants of the devil, allied with him to accomplish his wicked goals of destroying God. Basically and fundamentally this is true of all who are not saved by the power of grace. Jesus called the Pharisees of his day children of their father the devil whose works they do.
But in this kind of thing there is something different. Perhaps not anything essentially different, but different nonetheless. Something more terrible, more depraved, more frightening than the current wickedness of the world in which we live. It seems to be possible, and the Scriptures seem to suggest this in various places, for a man deliberately and willfully to go beyond the “normal” depravity of the human race and give himself over in a special way to the power of Satan. He can, if so he chooses, sell his soul to Satan; put himself with his heart and mind and will and body in the service of the devil and his hosts; become deliberately a special kind of instrument of the fallen angels of hell, so that the terrible powers of darkness conquer him so completely and utterly that Satan’s power is unleashed in the world in a special kind of way. These people have Satan looking through their eyes and the smell of hell about .them. But they become in some special and awful way instruments of Satan’s terrible power in this world. In His letter to the Church of Smyrna Jesus speaks of those who “say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” Rev. 2:9.
As history draws to its close we may expect that the powers of darkness grow stronger under God’s direction, and forces of evil are unleashed in the world such as history has never seen. These things too speak of the coming of the Lord.
The women’s liberation movement is growing rapidly. There is something very silly about it, which even the world recognizes; and it is the butt of innumerable jokes. But there is also something very serious about it—and surely those who are taking the lead in the movement are in deadly earnest in their efforts.
In a way this whole movement is the natural result of tendencies which have long been present in this country. For many years there have been increasingly strong pressures to give to women a place which is equal to that of men. It began presumably with woman suffrage. It continued as women occupied a position in life which had, for centuries, been reserved for men. Women went to work in the shop. Women became independent as wage earners. Women demanded a voice in every area of life. Women chafed at the monotony of household chores. Women became officebearers in the Church. And now we have a movement dedicated to the principle that women must be equal in all respects to men.
There is something wicked about this. It runs contrary to all that Scripture says about the role of women in life. It is a denial that the man is head of the home and that the position of authority in every area of life belongs to men. It is against the ordinance of creation. It is a violation of what God intended women to be.
When the ordinances of God are violated; this can have (and will inevitably have) serious consequences. In a way it is, I suppose, understandable. Sin disrupts all the relationships of life. Sin also disrupts the relationship between man and woman. Sin so corrupts these relationships that, in the world of wickedness, man who is supposed to be head and king becomes dictator and tyrant. He rules, not in love, but in selfishness. He rules cruelly, abusing women and seeking only his own pleasure. That women rebel against this at last is not strange. But such rebellion simply creates worse problems. For one sin cannot be corrected by another. The result is that the home disintegrates, and society at large goes to pieces.
But what is so extremely distasteful about all this is that when women step out of their God-given role and try to occupy a role that is not their’s according to the ordinance of God, they lose their own femininity and become monstrosities. If anyone has ever looked only at the photographs of the leaders in the women’s liberation movement, one cannot help but be struck with the fact that these women have lost all their femininity, all their attractiveness, all their beauty sacrificed on the altar of equality. They are not what God created them to be; and when they become something God has not intended them to be, they become something ugly and repulsive.
It is all rooted in some sort of wicked notion that the God-ordained role of women is undesirable and distasteful. How terribly wrong. How often Scripture exalts the role of women who occupy their God-given place. How often have not these women been the strength of the home, the strength of the Church, the strength of the nation when Israel occupied a central place in the drama of history. To despise this is to despise all that is beautiful.
It is by grace that the proper role of women can be fulfilled. It is beneath the cross that women are the attractive and beautiful creatures God intended them to be. It is in a home, in the Church, in life when the spirit of God rules that women occupy a place in life which is so important that without it life disintegrates.
Perhaps the world cannot understand this. But surely the Church can. May God give the daughters of Sarah grace to occupy their rightful place according to the ordinance of grace in Christ.