The New Pope, Luther and Our Need to Take Aim at Ourselves

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been a little unnerved about how the process of selecting the Pope has been discussed among evangelicals, specifically the Reformed community. My people. While many have been kind and respectful, others appear to be sitting around thinking about a funny tweet to thrust into the ether. (My tribe talks missional but they are more Chris Farley then Leslie Newbigen.)

Or they wanna refight the Reformation.

Don’t get me wrong, some is not mean-spirited and is genuinely lighthearted. But much shows absolute contempt.

But then I thought about Luther and all the contempt he displayed towards the Pope and all the trimmings. And I thought, maybe it’s OK to make fun.

But it never sat well with me.

And it’s not because I’m Catholic or heading that way. I’m sympathetic to Catholics and what they want out of their spirituality but I can’t go there. I’ll read Merton for sanity.

And then it landed on me this morning. The reason I was ill at ease about evangelicals making light of the papal process and then using Luther to defend it was this. Luther was taking aim at his own tradition. Not the tradition of his neighbor alone. Luther was not trying to start a new religion or denomination or sect. He was trying to reform the church already there. Luther was Roman Catholic, if you will. not Lutheran.

And of course they wanted to kill him. So his criticism and strong language should be seen in that light.

Here is what I think, you wanna be like Luther? Set your aim on all the silliness with evangelicalism. The legalism. The celebrity. The concerts disguised as worship. The worship disguised as concerts. The marketing ad nauseum. The legalism. The calls for radical living from pastors with iPads and iPhones who live in the suburbs with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. Set your aim on the cover-up of sexual abuse. The legalism. Set your aim on a theology that questions everything and stands for nothing. The pastor as CEO. The pastor as rock star. The legalism.

Making fun of the conclave given the task of selecting the Pope is easy while living in the evangelical enclave. You lose nothing and get some laughs. Luther took on the church from within. And not for a laugh but because he genuinely sought God and cared for people.

22 thoughts on “The New Pope, Luther and Our Need to Take Aim at Ourselves

  1. stillfrustrated March 15, 2013 / 9:26 am


    Your post touches a nerve for me, coming from the background of being born a minister’s son and being in church literally all of my life.

    As a child, we attended and were involved in churches that were by today’s standards considered legalistic. The Lord in his tender mercy brought us out of that environment. But sometimes I wonder to where/what . . . . . ?

    I’m tired of celebrity pastors, I’m tired of the concerts that are supposed to be “worship”. Maybe they are, but it seems to be more self-centered worship than Christ-centered worship. I’m tired of the need for constant affirmation by whoever’s on the stage at the moment and needs a hand clap after completing every task/performance/whatever.

    I’m tired of hearing about “intentional, missional, transparency, accountability” and any of the other current catch phrases. After getting involved with more contemporary, progressive-thinking churches and realizing they too have their own traditions and are just as hypocritical as the legalistic churches they make fun of, I have to force myself to go to church, any church, anymore.

    And it seems you are forced into one of two camps. If you suggest that according to the Word, there is scriptural instruction for how a Christian is to live their life so that it honors Christ, (not themselves), you are labeled legalistic.

    On the other side is the “you are free to do whatever you want because you are not under the law, you are under grace”.

    The unbelieving community is presented with two options then:

    1) Legalism – Everything is bad, wrong, sinful. If these people don’t love me, how could their God?

    2) Grace – The professing believer says they have a relationship with God and that I need Him in my life, but they behave the same way I do, there’s no difference that I can see, so why do I need God?

    Saying this to go back the point you were making, instead of criticizing or making fun of others outside of our belief system, why don’t/won’t we deal with our own issues?

    Any reference to Old Testmantent scriptures in today’s “enlighted” church elicts those same cries of law/legalism so I would like to mention then New Testament scripture, I Peter 4:17 that states, “judgment must begin at the house of God”.

    Perhaps, we should judge ourselves first . . . . . .

    • K March 21, 2013 / 12:25 am

      Matt, look into the International Communion Charismatic Episcopal Church

  2. Dudley March 15, 2013 / 10:39 am

    Well said Matt.

  3. ali1 March 15, 2013 / 8:03 pm

    Good. Very true.

  4. kinnon March 15, 2013 / 8:27 pm

    Another very good post, Matt. Well said.

  5. chad Sentell March 16, 2013 / 7:56 am

    Reddawg, thanks for the good thoughts. Luther’s heart was to see reformation in his church, the catholic version. Calvin on the other hand, not so much. Anyway, I enjoyed your article, take care my friend!

    • mattbredmond March 16, 2013 / 8:31 am

      Calvin was younger than Luther. His view of the Church and its trappings and abuses are shaped by one who came of age in the throes of the Reformation. Luther had already been deemed a schismatic by the time Calvin comes on the scene. So schism would be more palatable to him.

  6. Alex March 16, 2013 / 12:59 pm

    Best thing I’ve read in a very long time. This resonates with me big time.

  7. Mike Bartosch March 16, 2013 / 5:36 pm

    I won’t engage in that argument, but I was troubled by the fact that I don’t recall hearing the name of Jesus once during the whole process. I was all about selecting the human leader, but with no mention of the primacy and supremacy of God and His son Jesus Christ. I didn’t expect the media to mention it, but I did expect to hear it at some point!

    • mattbredmond March 16, 2013 / 5:48 pm

      Mike, if you didn’t expect to hear from the media, then who did you hear anything from? You may just not be reading in the right places.

    • Andrew O'Brien March 17, 2013 / 12:39 am

      I heard it quite a bit, though, since I am Catholic I naturally followed more “Church friendly” news organizations. On a local level, we were of course also praying for this. Here is the opening prayer for Mass for the selection of a Pope (notice who is referred to as governing the Church): O God, eternal shepherd, who govern your flock with unfailing care, grant in your boundless fatherly love a pastor for your Church who will please you by his holiness and to us show watchful care.

  8. Doug Jantz March 16, 2013 / 8:02 pm

    Referred to this with my own comments on my blog. Well said and needed!

  9. Eagle March 16, 2013 / 9:59 pm

    Very well said Matt….

  10. Abe March 17, 2013 / 4:18 pm

    No words about the false gospel of works that leads to hell, which catholicism teaches? No words about how every pope is a false prophet that contradicts Scripture? Forget Luther. What about the Word of God that you profess to represent?

  11. Headless Unicorn Guy March 22, 2013 / 9:59 am

    The Treaty of Westphalia ended the Reformation Wars in 1648.

    It is now 2013, and a lot of very vocal Protestants STILL haven’t gotten the news.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s