Pope Francis signs peace declaration on ‘Human Fraternity’ with Grand Imam

Pope Francis signs peace declaration on ‘Human Fraternity’ with Grand Imam.  Really.  The Pope and a Grand Imam.  Agreeing on the “Human” Fraternity”.  At first glance, this is shocking.  On second glance, after reading the article from The Catholic Herald, it’s still shocking.  After reading comments from North Catholic Texas, on third glance, it’s still shocking.

Pope Francis signs peace declaration on ‘Human Fraternity’ with Grand ImamNow, it’s time to really look into exactly what’s going on There. 

People of The Book

The Pope is the head of the Catholic Church, which teaches that Jesus is the Son of God and His death on the cross is our only way to salvation.  The Imam in this agreement is the grand imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque, where Muslims are taught that anyone who believes Jesus is the Son of God is going to Hell.

How can these two men, given their religious beliefs, possibly say all who believe in God must work together to build a culture of love, peace and human fraternity.  They don’t even believe in the same God.  One says Jesus is God.  The other says Jesus was a prophet and to call Him God is blasphemy that will condemn the person to Hell.

For instance, the Qur’an says this about People of the Book (Jews and Christians) – what they are supposedly doing to Muslims, in Sura 2.

109 Many of the People of the Book wish to turn you back into disbelievers after your having believed, out of envy in their souls, even after the truth has become clear to them. So pardon and forbear, until God comes with His Command. Truly God is Powerful over all things.  1)Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary (p. 13). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

So it’s saying that Jews and Christians are trying to turn Muslims believers into non-believers.  This is because the Jews and Christians were trying to convert Muslims into either Jews or Christians.  The only obvious conclusion is that Jews and Christians are non-believers.  There’s just no other way to spin this.

And from Sura 4.

171 O People of the Book! Do not exaggerate in your religion, nor utter anything concerning God save the truth. Verily the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of God, and His Word, which He committed to Mary, and a Spirit from Him. So believe in God and His messengers, and say not “Three.” Refrain! It is better for you. God is only one God; Glory be to Him that He should have a child. Unto Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is on the earth, and God suffices as a Guardian.  2)Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary (p. 189). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Here, Islam says there is no such thing as the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  That’s what’s meant by say not “Three.”  

This same thought is repeated many times in the Qur’an.

How then, can Islam and Christianity believe in the same God?  Jesus either is or isn’t God.  There’s no way it can be both.  And in the same way, the presence or absence of the Son and of the Holy Spirit indicates that the two religions cannot believe in the same “God”.

After all, Christianity says that Jesus, as God, paid the price for our sins.  And the Holy Spirit is the “person” of God that is with us after we’re baptized.  Take away these things and we’re no longer Christians.

The human fraternity – first look

Here’s part of the Catholic Herald article.

The document, entitled “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” invited “all persons who have faith in God and faith in human fraternity to unite and work together so that it may serve as a guide for future generations to culture of mutual respect in the awareness of the great divine grace that makes all human beings brothers and sisters.”

The human fraternity: World Peace and Living Together.  

Nice words. 

In truth, there were the crusades against Muslims.  However, there is no basis in anything that Jesus ever said or did to indicate that the crusades were something He would have encouraged, let alone even said was OK.  Jesus’ teaching really was one of peace and love.  God’s peace and God’s love, which people are honestly incapable of.

But there’s no escaping what the Qur’an says and there’s no escaping what Muhammad did.  Muhammad built a great Islamic empire by waging war against what was termed people of the book.  People of the book are Jews and Christians.

Here’s an excerpt from Sura 4.

88 What is with you that you are [divided into] two groups concerning the hypocrites, when God Himself has cast them back for that which they have earned? Do you seek to guide those whom God has led astray? Whomsoever God leads astray, thou wilt not find a way for him. 89 They wish that you should disbelieve, even as they disbelieve, that you may be on a level with them. So take them not as protectors till they migrate in the way of God. But if they turn their backs, then seize them and slay them wherever you find them, and take no protector or helper from among them, 90 save those who seek refuge with a people with whom you have a covenant, or those who come to you with hearts reluctant to fight you, or to fight their own people. Had God willed, He could have given them authority over you, and then surely they would have fought you. So if they withdraw from you, and do not fight you, and offer peace, God allows you no way against them. 91 You will find others who desire to be secure from you, and secure from their own people, yet whenever they are tempted back to hostility, they are plunged back into it. So if they withdraw not from you, nor offer you peace, nor restrain their hands, then seize them and slay them wheresoever you come upon them. Against these We have given you clear warrant.  3)Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary (p. 189). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Once again, there’s just no way to get around what this says.  Seize and slay means what it says.  And while some would like to say these verses are misinterpreted when violence occurs, the perpetrator does what they say, when it’s done in the name of Allah.  Further, this verse tells them to perform these seizures and slayings against the ones who don’t believe in the Allah of Islam.

One other thing that cannot be erased or spun is history.  At first, Muhammad did try to get along with Jews.  But they rejected what he tried to do to their religion.  So Muhammad tried to get along with Christians, but also tried to modify their beliefs.  They rejected him as well.  

After that, and after attempts by other Arabs to kill Muhammad, he moved from Mecca to Medina.  Along with the move to Medina came the militaristic approach to crushing Jews and Christianity as well as spreading Islam.  Again – it is what it is.  And unlike the crusades, which have no basis in teachings of Jesus, the Qur’an was part and parcel of what Muhammad was doing at the time.

So while it’s nice to talk about wanting to have a culture of mutual respect in the awareness of the great divine grace, it’s hard to see how that’s going to come about unless one or both of them give up major basic beliefs of their respective religions.  Given that the Qur’an shows no respect for Christians or Jews, that’s going to be interesting.  And given that they don’t believe in the same God, the grace from that “God” is also going to be a huge challenge.

The order of the Qur’an – reading order versus revelation order

And let me say, I know some, maybe even many, will say that parts of the Qur’an do show respect for people of the book.  The Jews and Christians.  But I must point out again, those parts of the Qur’an are the early ones.  The ones where Muhammad was trying to influence Jews and Christians.  Once they refused to give up their basic beliefs, things took a decidedly dark turn from Muhammad.

That may be hard to determine from looking at the Sura (chapter) numbers.  For instance, the two quotes I have above are from Suras 2 and 4.  Sounds like they are early ones.  You’d expect them to be 2 of the first four.  However, they aren’t.  Far from it.  The one called Sura 2 is actually the 68th one in chronological order.  Sura 4 is even later, being the 74th.  There were 114 total Suras, so neither is early in time. 

Both are long after the Jews and Christians rejected the changes that Muhammad was trying to make to their faith.  Seems rather ironic, given that Muhammad accused the Jews and Christians of trying to turn Muslims into unbelievers.  That was, in fact, what he was trying to do to them.  And when that failed, as history shows, he response was violence against Jews and Christians.

Again, it is what it is.

The human fraternity – peace and freedom versus the things of God

The next thing from the Catholic Herald to look at is this:

The document discussed the importance of religion in building a peaceful and free society and the challenges of an increasingly secular world. It condemned all practices and policies detrimental to human life and freedom.

When did human life and freedoms become the most important thing?  By that, I mean when did things of this world become more important than the things of God?

Jesus said this:

Treasures in Heaven

6:22, 23 pp — Lk 11:34-36

Mt 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Mt 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Mt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

So the “things” we have in this world are not that important.  Treasure in Heaven is what we should desire.

And Jesus goes on –

Do Not Worry

6:25-33 pp — Lk 12:22-31

Mt 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ?

Mt 6:28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Again, we shouldn’t worry so much about things of this world.

Why does that matter?  If we’re going to try for a peaceful and free society and if we’re going to deal with the challenges of an increasingly secular world, and if the “things” of the world don’t matter – then it comes down to our faith.  Our faith in God, to be specific.  And yet, Christians and Muslims, from what each scripture says, do not believe in the same “God”.  

Again – where is the common ground, unless one or both religions is willing to give up their core beliefs?

The human fraternity – did God “will” multiple religions?

But let’s keep going.

Within a paragraph about human freedom, the document states that religious plurality is willed by God. “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings,” the document states.

“This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives. Therefore, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept.”

What!?  religious plurality is willed by God?

Let’s look at what the word “will” actually means, in Biblical terms.  From the Lord’s Prayer, as in

Mt 6:10 your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

here’s the meaning of the word translated as “will”

2307 θέλημα [thelema /thel·ay·mah/] n n. From the prolonged form of 2309; TDNT 3:52; TDNTA 318; GK 2525; 64 occurrences; AV translates as “will” 62 times, “desire” once, and “pleasure” once. 1 what one wishes or has determined shall be done. 1A of the purpose of God to bless mankind through Christ. 1B of what God wishes to be done by us. 1B1 commands, precepts. 2 will, choice, inclination, desire, pleasure.  4)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

So it was God’s will, inclination, desire, and pleasure that there be multiple religions?

Or is it that it was God’s choice?  We’ll look at the word “choice” shortly, in terms of God choosing to allow the Hebrew people to get divorced, as opposed to that being part of His original plan.  It’s a different level of “will”.

The human fraternity – are any of the multiple religions false?  Or are all true?

There’s a huge difference between choice and the other possible meanings.  Let me start by saying that.  Then we’ll see what comes next, before talking about that difference between choice and the others.

“The idea that God wills the diversity of color, sex, race and language is easily understood, but some may find it puzzling to hear the Vicar of Christ talk about God willing the diversity of religions,” he noted.

“It is puzzling, and potentially problematic, but in the context of the document, the Holy Father is clearly referring not to the evil of many false religions, but positively refers to the diversity of religions only in the sense that they are evidence of our natural desire to know God.”

OK – now, on fourth look, I’m still shocked. 

I do not understand how it says the Pope is clearly referring not to the evil of many false religions, but positively refers to the diversity of religions only in the sense that they are evidence of our natural desire to know God.

Wouldn’t that also mean that the pagans, who worshipped many Gods, weren’t also acting out of their natural desire to know God?  Where does one draw the line?  While some may disagree, Catholics are Christian.  As a former Catholic, I get the differences.  But I wouldn’t go so far as to say they aren’t Christian.

In that light, what’s the difference between a pantheistic religion that says there are many gods, and one that has, according to the Christianity, an incorrect definition of God?  Is the Pope saying that as long as there is only “one” God, then it’s OK? 

If that’s the case, then what does the Pope think of when Jesus says this:

Jn 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

While the interpretation of the Greek word translated as “the”, as in “the way”, is somewhat ambiguous, there’s no such problem with “No one”.  Here’s the single Greek word that gets translated as “no one”.

3762 οὐδείς, οὐθείς [oudeis, oudemia, ouden /oo·dice/] pron. From 3761 and 1520; GK 4029 and 4032; 236 occurrences; AV translates as “no man” 94 times, “nothing” 68 times, “none” 27 times, “no” 24 times, “any man” three times, “any” three times, “man” twice, “neither any man” twice, and translated miscellaneously 13 times. 1 no one, nothing.  5)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

There is no ambiguity there at all.  It’s none – nothing, no, no one.  Period.

And that forces the interpretation of “the” to be correct.  In fact, a more correct meaning might be:

I am the one and only way and the one and only only truth and the one and only life.

Jesus wasn’t saying He’s one of the ways.  He said He was the one and only way.

And that leaves no room for a religion to deny the deity of Jesus and still be a “true” religion.

Beyond that one verse, what does the Pope have to say about this passage, also from Jesus.

A Tree and Its Fruit

Mt 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Mt 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

What did Jesus mean by this?  Did Jesus mean that good fruit could come from a prophet who denied Jesus’ deity?  That good fruit was calling Jesus a liar when He said He was the Son of God?  

And Did not Jesus say that many would claim to be His followers, but be told by Jesus that He never knew them?  Isn’t denying that Jesus was the Son of God grounds for hearing, I never knew you?

The human fraternity – let’s lose the pretense

The closing paragraph in the article is this:

“The time has come when religions should more actively exert themselves, with courage and audacity, and without pretense, to help the human family deepen the capacity for reconciliation, the vision of hope and the concrete paths of peace,” he said.

So let’s lose some pretense.  The correct path, regardless of anything else, is the one that leads to God.  The paths of Islam and Christianity do not lead to the same path.  

Furthermore, and maybe most importantly, is the vision of hope.  And while we’re at it, here’s something from Paul that includes both the true hope and peace.

Peace and Joy

Ro 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Ro 5:6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Ro 5:9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

This is the vision of peace, joy and hope that Christians should have.

However, it is not at all a vision shared by Islam.  Jesus, as a prophet, provides none of those things in what Paul wrote.  It’s only because Jesus is the Son of God that Christians have peace, joy and hope.

For the Pope, or any other Christian, to sign an agreement, or even to say, that these things of this world are what’s important, is beyond belief.  It removes the hope that we have for the next life.

Paul even wrote exactly that.

The Resurrection of the Dead

1Co 15:12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

I for one, am not willing to give up my belief in Jesus as the Son of God.  I have no desire to become an unbeliever for any reason.  But especially not because someone who is supposed to a leader of a Christian faith, however off the mark they may be on some teachings, is willing to negotiate Christian beliefs with someone who doesn’t even believe in the deity of Jesus.

Christianity without Jesus, the Son of God, is nothing.  And people who believe that, while expecting salvation, are beyond what Paul wrote – to be pitied more than all men.  Because Paul wrote about the unlikely possibility that the teachings of Jesus were wrong.  But people who willingly give up their beliefs are betting on Jesus actually lying.  That’s a place I refuse to go.

The human fraternity and a diversity of religions.  Before we go …

Things aren’t looking good, to me, for this agreement.  Before I end the topic though, I do want to look at the article I mentioned at the top from the North Dallas Catholic Diocese.  Their headline is: Does God really want a diversity of religions?  

They have the same major objection I have – is the Pope saying that Islam and Catholicism, a flavor of Christianity, are equally “good”?

Here’s the statement that got so much attention: “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race, and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.” God wants a diversity of religions? Hello?

Some people, including some Catholics, jumped on this to claim the pope had said every religion is as good as the others. That, of course, would directly deny Catholic teaching.

That’s not what the words mean, says theologian Chad Pecknold, who teaches at the Catholic University of America. He’s been critical of Pope Francis in the past. Here he thinks the pope has been misunderstood.

Speaking to the Catholic Herald, he explains: “In the context of the document, the Holy Father is clearly referring not to the evil of many false religions, but positively refers to the diversity of religions only in the sense that they are evidence of our natural desire to know God.” He thinks the statement could have been more clearly written, and I agree.

The statement itself explained the words this way: “Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression, and action. … This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives.” It declared that people shouldn’t be forced to accept a particular religion or culture.

Pecknold explains the explanation: “God wills that all men come to know Him through the free choice of their will, and so it follows that a diversity of religions can be spoken about as permissively willed by God without denying the supernatural good of one true religion.”

Regarding that last paragraph, I think it’s better to use a word other than God’s “will”.  That’s because I don’t think we all use the word the same way.  Some think God’s will is something that’s going to happen no matter what.  The phrase, God wills that all men come to know Him through the free choice of their will, can be confusing.  It can appear to pit God’s will against man’s will.  Further, it can lead some to think that man can subvert God’s will.

What’s really meant by that sentence, I hope, is that God does give us the opportunity to come to know Him – or not.  Even better, the choice is to love God or not.  And the only way for that choice to happen is for God to give us the “free will”, the choice, to do one of several things, for instance to love God, hate God, not care about God, Etc.

The problem comes when we read something like this: so it follows that a diversity of religions can be spoken about as permissively willed by God without denying the supernatural good of one true religion.

Permissively willed by God?  What does that mean?

Does that mean God’s OK with different religions?  Like maybe all of them ultimately lead to Him?  It can certainly sound like it.

But then, think about what Jesus said about God permitting divorce in the Old Testament.

Divorce

19:1-9 pp — Mk 10:1-12

Mt 19:1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Mt 19:3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

Mt 19:4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

Mt 19:7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Mt 19:8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Yes, God “permitted” them to get a divorce.  But it wasn’t because God was pleased with what they were doing.  Jesus tells them clearly that it was still wrong.  Because their hearts were hard – turned against God.

That’s something God found objectionable.  But for that time chose to “allow”.  The thing is though, the act of divorce, by itself, didn’t necessarily lead the people to another God.  In the extreme, like getting lots of divorces and always chasing a younger woman, it can lead to a “god of lust” or something along those lines.  Even that must have had a limit.

But there are still at least two major problems with both what the Pope said and how North Dallas Catholic tried to “explain” or justify what the Pope said.

The human fraternity – one more time

This “human fraternity” thing is very disturbing.  What is it, and why is it more important than Christian community?  

Jesus said, “No one is good—except God alone.”  It’s one of those statements that doesn’t really need context.  It’s always true.  But if you want to look it up, it’s from the Parable of the Rich Young Man, starting at Mark 10:17.

Given that no person is good, what can we expect from a bunch of people getting together, absent the presence of God?  And yes, in this human fraternity thing, it will be without the presence or blessing of God.  Remember:

A Brother Who Sins Against You

Mt 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Mt 18:18 “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Mt 18:19 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

And that’s a problem. 

Even the opening statement by Jesus is at odds with this human fraternity thing.  First of all, the Pope and the Imam are not brothers is Christ.  They can’t be.  Because one of them (is supposed to) believes that Jesus is God.  The other believes that believing Jesus is God is blasphemy, and worthy of eternity in Hell.  So how can they possibly be brothers in Christ?  Answer: they cannot.

Even if someone wants to go against that thought, and somehow claim they are “brothers” of some sort, then we have the issue of sin.  Once again, when one (supposedly) believes that Jesus is God, and the other doesn’t, both are committing a sin in the eyes of their respective religion.  And while that maybe isn’t a sin directly against the other person, it’s most certainly a sin against the “God” of the other.  As I said, Islam teaches that saying Jesus is God warrants an eternity on Hell.  

And then we get to: if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  Once more time, we have the issue of Jesus being God.  The Son of God, part of the Trinity of God.  Jesus never promised that anything agreed on or asked for by this pair of people – one (supposedly) believing that Jesus is God and one who doesn’t – nothing these people ask for is promised to be done by the Father.  Why not?  Because it’s not even two people who agree that Jesus is the Son of God.  At best, it’s one.

You may wonder why I keep putting “supposedly” along with what the Pope believes.  It’s because I have to question, what does he actually believe?  Surely he knows Scripture.  But what is he doing?

The Peter principal.

OK.  Many of you probably have heard about the “Peter Principal”.  That’s the saying from Laurence J. Peter.  It says, “In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”  That’s not what I’m talking about here.

No – the “Peter principal” I’m talking about is this:

Peter’s Confession of Christ

16:13-16 pp — Mk 8:27-29; Lk 9:18-20

Mt 16:13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

Mt 16:14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

Mt 16:15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Mt 16:16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Mt 16:17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.”

Jesus said He would build His church on this rock.  Catholics are taught to believe the rock is Peter.  

So let’s see if Peter wrote anything about a scenario like this.

False Teachers and Their Destruction

2Pe 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

False prophets.  False teachers.  Trying to get people to believe things that are against the basic teachings of Jesus.  Sounds a lot like when the Qur’an talks about turning believers into unbelievers.  Except that it’s the other way around.  It’s the Imam trying to get the Pope to go along with the teachings of Islam that are 180 degrees opposite of basic Christian beliefs.  Actually, basic requirements of Christianity, without which Christianity has no meaning.

2Pe 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority.

Despising authority.  Claiming Jesus is not the Son of God, or even the appearance of going along with saying Jesus is not the Son of God.  Seems to me, that’s despising authority to the highest degree. 

And that’s a problem.  Earlier I explained why I put “supposedly” with saying the Pope (supposedly) believes Jesus is the Son of God.  It’s not that I know he doesn’t believe it.  I certainly hope he does.  I expect him to.  However, this agreement can give the appearance that either he doesn’t believe it, or that he’s so into this human fraternity thing that going along with someone who teaches Jesus is not the Son of God – that the critical importance of Jesus actually being the Son of God gets pushed to the side.

Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; 11 yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. 12 But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.

Saying Jesus is not the Son of God is blasphemous.  But also forgivable.  If forgiveness is asked for.  Oh yeah – if the statements about Jesus are retracted as well.  Ultimately, belief that Jesus is the Son of God, for a Christian, is a requirement.

But Islam teaches there’s no such thing as the Trinity.  Remember –  say not “Three.”  That’s blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  And here’s what Jesus said about that.

Mt 12:30 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

I’ve got to believe that teaching Jesus is not the Son of God falls under the category of false teaching.  If it could even be worse, teaching that believing Jesus is the Son of God sends one to an eternity in Hell is even more of a false teaching.

So, the teachings of Islam include blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  Why this isn’t talked about, I don’t know.  But once again, it is what it is.

Is Peter the “rock”?

I mentioned earlier that Catholics believe Peter to be the rock upon which Jesus said His church would be built.  Catholics also believe that Peter was the first Pope.

However, was Peter being the rock actually the message that Jesus was trying to give?  Here’s the into to a three-part series on my other site, On this rock, that examines this question.  It presents an analysis of why that’s not what Jesus meant.

The conclusion of that series is that “the rock” is actually the Word of God.  The Word of God then can one or both of the following:

  1. The Bible – both the New and Old Testaments.
  2. Jesus, as described in the opening of John’s Gospel:

The Word Became Flesh

Jn 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.

Jn 1:3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

Jn 1:6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

Jn 1:10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Jn 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jn 1:15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ” 16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

I know – it seems like I’m saying pick one – it’s either the Bible or it’s Jesus.

But really, it’s Jesus either way.

Here’s why.  Christians believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God.  At least we should.  If we don’t, then we need to take a look at whether or not we’re really Christian. 

Anyway, the authors of the individual books of the Bible were inspired by God.  By the Holy Spirit.  We see this in both the Old and New Testaments.  In Old Testament times, people were given the Holy Spirit for a time.  In order to do certain things.  But with the New Covenant, in the New Testament, baptism gives us the Holy Spirit.  And the Spirit stays with us, short of that unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  So the end result is that the Bible authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit.

But who is the Holy Spirit?

Wisdom From the Spirit

1Co 2:6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:
“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment:

1Co 2:16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord
that he may instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ.

The Holy Spirit is the mind of Christ.  So either way, option 1 or option 2 – it’s Jesus. 

So when Jesus says He’s going to build the church on this rock – He’s saying that the church will be built upon knowledge of the Word of God.  The Bible.  Himself.

Conclusion – peace declaration on ‘Human Fraternity’

So what’s the bottom line?  It’s not that hard to see.  Paul wrote this, about something as “simple” as eating:

The Believer’s Freedom

1Co 10:23 “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. 24 Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

1Co 10:25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

1Co 10:27 If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake— 29 the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

1Co 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

Paul’s talking about not causing another person to have difficulties with their faith, even because of something as simple and ordinary as what he eats.

What does that say about causing someone to have difficulties with their faith because of even a possible appearance of ignoring a basic tenet of our faith? 

How many will stumble because of the Pope signing an agreement with an Islamic grand Imam?  How many will stumble because that agreement might give the appearance of putting the “human fraternity” above the Christian community?

I don’t know what’s in the Pope’s mind.  That’s between him and God. 

But as the leader of the Catholic church, I feel his explanation, and the subsequent explanations that have come out trying to tell people what he really meant, fall far short of what Paul wrote.

The best that can be said about this is that it will cause people to stumble.

The worst that can be said, well, there’s more than one thing.

  • It can give the appearance that Catholics and other Christians believe in the same “God” as Muslim.  We’ve seen that cannot be true.
  • It can give the appearance that there are multiple ways to know God.  It can even give the appearance that pretty much any religion can lead to God.  This, in spite of Jesus saying that He is God, and He is the one and only way to the Father.
  • It can give the appearance that this human fraternity is more important than Christian community.  Even more so, it can give the appearance that the things of this world, the things of this short life, are more important than the things of Heaven.  That’s in spite of Jesus telling us not to worry about the things of this world, but to store up treasures in Heaven.
  • It can give the appearance that the Pope either doesn’t know, doesn’t understand, or doesn’t care about the basic beliefs of Christianity.  None of those are good things.  They’re all inconceivable.  And yet, as I’ve said many times here, it is what it is.  There’s the appearance of something drastically wrong.

As I said, I can’t and don’t know what’s in the Pope’s mind.  But all of those things I said “it can give the appearance” – I believe it does give the appearance.  That’s bad enough.  But what if even one of them is true?  That’s disastrous.

In his early years as Pope, I really like what he was doing.  But as time goes on, I’m losing that feeling.  Yes, I’m a former Catholic.  I actually left for a variety of reasons, but one was an attempt to get closer to God.  I feel strongly that I’ve done that. But still, even with my status, I believe what’s going on is not a good thing.  Whether it’s strictly appearance or actually true, even in part, this isn’t good.

Going back to Peter, this situation reminds me of a conversation between Jesus and Peter.

Lk 22:33 But he (Peter) replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

Lk 22:34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

That statement by Peter, claimed by Catholics as the first Pope, just reminds me so much of what’s going on with the current Pope.  

The problem, especially for someone today who should know better, is that Jesus said this to Peter, just before what we read above.

Lk 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Is the Pope being sifted as wheat right now?  If so, I’m sure Jesus is praying for him (the Pope) that his faith won’t fail.  And that when he turns back, he will strengthen the church he leads. 

Also that other Christians, Catholic or not, won’t be affected by what’s going on.  But of course, some will.  Maybe even many or most.   That’s why it’s so important when Jesus prays for his faith to not fail, for him to turn back, and after turning back to strengthen others.

Would you join me in prayer …

References   [ + ]

1. Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary (p. 13). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.
2, 3. Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary (p. 189). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.
4, 5. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Please leave a comment or ask a question - it's nice to hear from you.

Scroll to Top

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close

I footnotes