Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Pope as Reactionary Lutheran

"This is the scandal of the Cross!"

Earlier in his pontificate, the Pope gave a homily where he said this:
What is reconciliation? Taking one from this side, taking another one for that side and uniting them: no, that’s part of it but it's not it ... True reconciliation means that God in Christ took on our sins and He became the sinner for us. When we go to confession, for example, it isn’t that we say our sin and God forgives us. No, not that! We look for Jesus Christ and say: 'This is your sin, and I will sin again'. And Jesus likes that, because it was his mission: to become the sinner for us, to liberate us. 
Christ became sin for me! And my sins are there in his body, in his soul! This - it's crazy, but it's beautiful, it's true! This is the scandal of the Cross!
Now, unless you're a sycophantic Franboy, or are completely indifferent to the Christian message, you might find the above disturbing, or at least confusing. So let me set the record straight, especially for my non-Catholic friends about Catholic Confession. We don't say at Confession, "Jesus, this is your sin." Instead, we say, "forgive me for my sins." We don't say, "I will sin again." Instead, we say, "I promise to amend my life." And certainly, no Gospel source, Christian Father, Catholic theologian, saint or pope (up to now) has ever said, Christ likes it that I will probably sin again.

As Seinfeld might say about the Pope's views on Christ, sin and forgiveness--that's crazy talk.

It's also heretical, blasphemous, harmful and, well, false.

This particular bizarro claim never get the attention it deserved. I assume it was brushed over initially as a sort of an over-exuberant theological flub that the Pope didn't really mean. And recently his pontificate has become such a train-wreck with communist crucifixes and all the rest that few have the time or the desire to rake through the archives, so to speak.   

In fact, the Pope makes weird statements like this all the time now. And the most charitable interpretation is that he makes them, well, to be weird. He thinks the point of homilies is to shake up our preconceptions or to "make a mess" or whatever. And true enough, if you want to make a mess, there's nothing like giving a bizarro homily. It will make your audience think, after all.

Actually, though, in this particular case, the Christ sinned thing does have a theological pedigree. I didn't say it had a Catholic theological pedigree, but still. And I don't even claim that Pope Francis is aware of this pedigree. Frankly it wouldn't surprise me either way.

What is that pedigree? Well, actually it was Martin Luther:
All the prophets of old said that Christ should be the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, blasphemer that ever was or ever could be on earth. When He took the sins of the whole world upon Himself, Christ was no longer an innocent person. He was a sinner burdened with the sins of a Paul who was a blasphemer; burdened with the sins of a Peter who denied Christ; burdened with the sins of a David who committed adultery and murder, and gave the heathen occasion to laugh at the Lord. In short, Christ was charged with the sins of all men, that He should pay for them with His own blood. The curse struck Him. The Law found Him among sinners. He was not only in the company of sinners. He had gone so far as to invest Himself with the flesh and blood of sinners. So the Law judged and hanged Him for a sinner... 
I am told that it is preposterous and wicked to call the Son of God a cursed sinner. I answer: If you deny that He is a condemned sinner, you are forced to deny that Christ died. It is not less preposterous to say, the Son of God died, than to say, the Son of God was a sinner.
Despite the title, this is not an anti-Lutheran post. In my experience, modern-day Lutherans don't know or care much about the actual theology of Luther. Again, that's not a criticism. Just an observation. On the main Lutherans seem to be "straight ahead" Christians that are often more "orthodox"--theologically and liturgically--than many Catholics.

However, as might be apparent, I don't like Martin Luther very much. No informed and faithful Catholic should. Part of the reason I don't like him is because of the dangerous and false things he said about Christ--things which most contemporary Lutherans probably wouldn't agree with anyway.

But our Catholic Pope does.

And in fairness to Martin Luther, even he didn't say that Christ likes the fact that we sin or will sin again.

Leave it to Wayne Jackson, an anti-Catholic Protestant, to defend Christian orthodoxy against Luther (and the Pope):
The theory (that Christ became a sinner) is false for two reasons. 
First, if Christ was “guilty” of sin on the cross, then his punishment was just. And...if it was deserved, there can hardly be merit in it for others...This dogma strikes at the very heart of the Christian system and the atoning death of our Savior, and logically reflects outright heresy... 
In addition, the theory of imputed “sin” is nonsensical. Sin is an act committed by personal choice (1 Jn. 3:4). It is “behavior or activity” that does not conform to the divine standard...A person cannot be “sinful” by the act of another (Ezek. 18:20)... 
...All humans suffer the consequence of Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:12), though not the guilt (as alleged by Calvinism). And as a result of Christ’s atoning death, and our obedience to him (Rom. 6:17-18), we are “reckoned” as righteous before God (Rom. 4:5). In a manner of speaking, his perfect sacrifice was “credited to our account” ...“[T]hough Christ was free from sin" (Jackson is now quoting a 19th century Protestant theologian), "he underwent the punishment of death, which is the consequence of sin: he was accounted as a sinner”...though he was not.
There are a few things here that are not quite how a Catholic theologian would put it. But on the main it works.

Pope Francis as reactionary Lutheran. Pretty soon he'll be denying free will and helping to put down peasant revolts. You laugh at the last one? What do you think his protege and ally, the Archbishop of Havana is doing to dissidents in Cuba?


  1. This is Francis actually saying something heretical, as opposed to "maybe" saying something heretical.

    He is either so poorly formed theologically that he believes that Christ likes it when we sin, and that Christ was a sinner, or he's intentionally trying to be deep and original. But he's failing at that badly.

    I'm sorry I just don't think he's very bright.

  2. From two years ago

    1. Ha! Talk about untruths. Thank you Bones. I've made the relevant corrections.

  3. "...I just don't think he's very bright."

    If only!

    "'This is your sin, and I will sin again'"

    This comes awfully close to denying free will right here.