Fr. Longenecker again on the Pope and Evangelicals

I think he’s got good insight into this:

The good thing about the emergent church movement is that it is vital, enthusiastic and energetic. Furthermore, these Christians are engaged in the kind of grassroots, down to earth, bare bones form of Christianity that also motivates and energizes Pope Francis. I think Francis understands that mainstream Protestants with their progressive agenda and modernist theology and terminal decline have little to offer for the future of world Christianity. He sees instead the vital, simple lifestyles of the best of the Evangelicals and thinks the Catholics could learn from them.

Beneath this is the clash between relative and revealed Christianity. To put it simply, for all their faults, misunderstandings about Catholicism, skewed “prosperity gospel” teachings and denial of elements of Catholic teaching, the Evangelicals believe the old, old story about a sinful humanity for whom God sent his only Son to redeem through his sacrificial death and mighty resurrection. The mainstream Protestants, on the other hand, with whom ecumenical discussions have traditionally taken place, are increasingly overcome by radical modernist, reductionist theology, the feminist/homosexualist agenda and secular relativism.

Coming from South America, Pope Francis has seen the “success” of Protestant Charismatic religion and is wise enough to see what is good about it while also realizing its limitations and faults. Instead of rejecting it in a condemnatory fashion he wants to engage with them, learn from them and find new ways of bringing not just bureaucratic, financial and moral renewal to the church–but also a genuine spiritual renewal.

The emergent church movement is an interesting development in ecumenism. To put it simply, old denominational boundaries are breaking down. Evangelicals are no longer happy to be Baptist, Methodist, Assembly of God or Church of Christ. As the structures are becoming more porous they are also increasingly interested in the theological teachings of different denominations. As a young Baptist seminarian said to me enthusiastically when I asked who he is reading, “We read everybody man. Bultmann, Ratzinger, Aquinas, Calvin…everybody.”

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One Response to Fr. Longenecker again on the Pope and Evangelicals

  1. Richard Grand says:

    “I think Francis understands that mainstream Protestants with their progressive agenda and modernist theology and terminal decline have little to offer…” The operative words here are “I think..” These sentiments should not be attributed to Pope Francis himself. As far as this description of “mainline” Protestants is accurate or not, this is an opinion only.

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