Pope Francis I: Sectarian Culture Warriors Trump Ecumenical Culture Wimps

I’m always eager to introduce opinions from people who know more than I do about a topic, such as the selection of the new Pope, Francis I. Privileged to feature a guest post from P. Andrew Sandlin, President of The Center for Cultural Leadership.  He founded CCL in 2001 with the conviction that only eminently equipped cultural leaders will actually create a new Christian culture — and that only transformed Christians can transform the present anti-Christian culture of the West. Follow his blog here and posts from all CCL scholars (including myself) on it’s new Twitter feed @CCLLeaders .

You may also enjoy this story with even more background on the new Pope written prior to his selection. HT Hugh Hewitt.

In electing the Argentinean Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis), the Roman cardinals signaled that they were not one whit impressed or cowed by modern (read: American and northern European) Catholics.

Francis, a philosophical theologian anchored in the conservative wing of the church, is pro-life, anti-homosexual, anti-liberation (i.e., Marxist) theology and reliably conservative on every other hot-button social issue that animates modernist Catholics and their allies in elitist academia and the mainstream press. It is comforting to know that one massive church body (in painful contrast to almost all major Protestant denominations) has the will to stand against the prevailing winds — more like cyclones — of socially apostate modernity.

Away from Squishy Ecumenism

Francis’ conservatism (he is the first Jesuit Pope) also means he is unlikely to be on the vanguard of Catholic-Protestant ecumenism. Traditional Catholics believe — wrongly and presumptuously — that there is ordinarily no salvation outside the Roman communion. But we theologically and culturally conservative (that is to say, Biblical) Protestants are not especially troubled by this intransigence. After all, we were not eager to join Rome in the first place.

Such serious disagreements stand in the way of any thought of either organizational or organic unity (the locus of authority, the appropriation of salvation, the nature of the church) that only squishy lowest-common-denominator religionists on either side of the Catholic-Protestant divide would seriously consider serious ecumenism. We orthodox Protestants have too much respect for Catholics like Francis than to expect them to pretend the differences are bridgeable.

For there to be a huge union, there must be huge changes.  Papering over differences under the guise of Christian charity is a slap in the face to doctrinal orthodoxies on either side.

Toward a Cultural Ecumenism

But doctrinal orthodoxies do not forbid cultural orthodoxies — nay, they produce them — and those cultural orthodoxies in turn generate cultural ecumenism. Which is to say, we Protestants stand as cobelligerents with Francis and his cohorts in championing a culture of life (and against aborticide and euthanasia and cloning and human egg harvesting), a culture of the family (and against homosexuality and all other extramarital sexual license), and a culture of liberty (and against political tyranny).

You cannot stand for truth in culture without standing against evil in culture.  [ Tweet this! ]And in standing for truth and against evil, we orthodox Protestants stand shoulder to shoulder with orthodox Roman Catholics in the culture wars.

A Sectarian Culture Warrior

The squishy ecumenists on both sides will likely find the traditionally sectarian Francis a less than stellar champion.

But we Protestant culture warriors much prefer a sectarian culture warrior to an ecumenical culture wimp. We can live (and have lived for nearly 500 years) with theological sectarianism.

But enduring both theologically and culturally apostate Protestants and Catholics is a burden we are not prepared to bear.

About Bill Blankschaen

Bill Blankschaen is a writer, author, and communicator who empowers people to live a story worth telling. As the founder of FaithWalkers, he equips Christians to think, live, and lead with abundant faith.

His next book entitled Live a Story Worth Telling: A FaithWalker's Guide is scheduled for release in May 2015 from Abingdon Press. His writing has been featured with Michael Hyatt, Ron Edmondson, Skip Prichard, Jeff Goins, Blueprint for Life, Catalyst Leaders, Faith Village, and many others who shall remain nameless.

Bill is a blessed husband and the father of six children with an extensive background in education and organizational leadership. He serves as VP of Content & Operations for Polymath Innovations in partnership with Patheos Labs. He is the Junior Scholar of Cultural Theology and Director of Development for the Center for Cultural Leadership. He works with a variety of ministries including Equip Leadership (founded by John C. Maxwell) when he's not visiting his second home -- Walt Disney World.

  • http://byzantium.wordpress.com Kullervo

    What about his storng commitment to social justice?

  • Jim

    This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation. (CCC 847)

    http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/what-no-salvation-outside-the-church-means

  • Martha Paxson

    THANK YOU for posting this! As a life-long Protestant I appreciate your comments that “doctrinal orthodoxies do not forbid cultural orthodoxies — nay, they produce them — and those cultural orthodoxies in turn generate cultural ecumenism. Which is to say, we Protestants stand as cobelligerents with Francis and his cohorts in championing a culture of life (and against aborticide and euthanasia and cloning and human egg harvesting), a culture of the family (and against homosexuality and all other extramarital sexual license), and a culture of liberty (and against political tyranny).” I will never completely agree with Catholic doctrine but I fully agree that we should stand with religious brothers and sisters in this human race for the right and against the evil.

    • http://BillintheBlank.com Bill Blankschaen

      You’re very welcome!

  • T. B.

    “(T)hat there is ordinarily no salvation outside the Roman communion” is a heresy known sometimes as “Feeneyism”. The traditional Catholics you refer to, are themselves ironically outside the Roman communion. Mel Gibson and his father are famous examples.
    The Ecclessia, in Extra Ecclessia Nulla Salus, includes ex opere operato all those baptised in the Name of the Trinity, including Protestants and Eastern Orthodox. Baptism of Desire may bring in others. You may mean, as many do, those schismatics like the FSSP when you say Traditional, but that can hardly include the Pope.


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