Thursday, March 7, 2013

"The Dean of Theologians"

Does Logia Believe the Papacy Is the Anti-Christ?
Logia’s John Stephenson on Pope Benedict XVI
Christian News, March 11, 2013,  Vol. 51, No. 10
“If  Joseph Ratzinger  (Pope Benedict  XVI) is not the ‘dean’ of theologians of a worldwide guild of theologians of those confessions which believe the Christian religion  is  true, I  don’t know who  else could be nominated for the honorific position” writes Logia  writes  Logia  Contributing Editor, John Stephenson. Dr. Stephenson is Professor of Historical Theology at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary (CLTS) in St. Catherine’s, Ontario. He is one of the Lutheran Church-Canada’s (LCC) representatives on the Working Group for discussions between LCC and the Canadian Conference of Catholic bishops.
The February 25, 2013 CN published a report and photo about this group. “Roman Catholics and Confessional Lutherans Explore Deeper Ties” and “Meeting, Yes! Deeper Ties,  No!” in the February 18 CN commented on such meetings.
Rev. William Weedon, LCMS Director of Worship, LCMS International Center Chaplain commented on the ALPB Forum: “I very much appreciated this article by Dr. Stephenson, reflecting on Pope Benedict XVI.”
CN has often said that when Lutherans and Roman Catholics meet they should discuss higher criticism of the Bible, evolution, the historicity of the Bible, justification by faith alone, Purgatory and the Papacy.
Stephenson writes in his praise of the Pope in Logia:
Since the Second World War, a variety of theologians have enjoyed the spotlight of their colleagues’ attention. In the realm of Protestantism none has gained the stature of Karl Barth. Among Ratzinger’s fellow Roman Catholics, Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar enjoyed their season of fame, but Rahner’s thought is governed by philosophy, while Balthasar (though he had some good things to say) took off into flights of unwarranted speculation. What has impressed many Lutherans about Ratzinger is his rootedness in Scripture and the ancient Fathers and his quiet Christocentric focus. It is not without reason that, in his official reaction to Benedict XVI’s laying down the papal office, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany (SELK) noted that many of Ratzinger’s positions have been “startlingly close [durchaus nahe] to those of confessional Lutheranism” (selk_news February 11, 2013).
The works of Joseph Ratzinger have featured noticeably in the text and footnotes of my own writings over the past three decades, oftentimes in the context of agreement, but not seldom in a setting of debate (Auseinandersetzung) where the Lutheran dogmatician (understandably) fails to see eye to eye with his Roman Catholic counterpart. Yet, although some big issues remain to be ironed out (and perhaps they will remain unresolved this side of eternity), a major fruit of the Ecumenical Movement has been the advent of greater charity in theological debate, and Ratzinger himself has been exemplary in the courtesy he displays to those who disagree with him.
Whenever I speak at Brock University (St. Catharine, Ontario), I aim to accomplish two things in any specific address: first, and obviously, to express something distinctively Lutheran; and, secondly (especially given that Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary—the institution with which I am a professor—is the only Christian institution on campus), I aim to say something that speaks for and to all believing Christians, and that therefore belongs under the heading of C. S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity.”
As Ratzinger (especially during his quarter century as chief doctrinal spokesman for his church body) has himself said much that is distinctively Roman Catholic, I find it remarkable that he has crowned his tenure as Pope with the publication of a trilogy—Jesus of Nazareth—that represents a beautiful, clear, and powerful witness to Mere Christianity.
A couple of years ago, a seminarian from our German sister church who was having supper at our home with his wife, told me of the positive reception the first two volumes Ratzinger’s Jesus of Nazareth was having in the SELK, with Bishop Emeritus Jobst Schöne leading the charge of appreciation. But, this student said, many professional New Testament scholars were upset that a non-specialist had made an uninvited foray into their discipline. After all, surely the subject-matter is too complicated and obscure, something inaccessible to the man in the street…
Well, as I recently argued in a review published in the journal of our two Canadian faculties, Ratzinger’s Jesus of Nazareth is a product of sterling scholarship that represents a literary triumph of Mere Christianity, a work in which believing Christians of all confessions may rejoice. Remarkably, just a few months ago the now retiring Pope held a copy of Lutheran Theological Review 24 (in which my review appeared) in his hands. He asked an American prelate working in the Vatican’s State Department to write me a letter of appreciation, noting especially Benedict’s thanks at my remark that he had “provided an ecumenical solution to an ecumenical problem.”
Debate (Auseinandersetzung) will, of course, continue, and I hope that another Roman Catholic theologian of Ratzinger’s stature will emerge to carry on his work. But, as a frail and exhausted man stricken in years now passes into the annals of history while remaining for a while alive on earth, I express my appreciation, admiration, sympathy, and prayers. And if, as talks between the Vatican and the International Lutheran Council continue, a panel of our theologians should soon sit across from their Roman Catholic counterparts somewhere in the Eternal City and this aged churchman and scholar should shuffle into the room, I would be most interested in what he might yet have to contribute to the discussion.
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Christian News Disagrees with Logia
CN does not share the enthusiasm of many Lutheran  high church theologians hailed as conservatives for such theologians as Karl Barth, Karl Rahner, and Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). This does not make the CN editor, as some high church hyper-euro Lutherans maintain, “A Fundamentalist.”
Karl Barth rejected the doctrine of the Trinity and physical resurrection of Christ as a fact which happened in real calendar history and not his realm of Geschichte. Olav Valen-Sendstad in The Word That Can Never Die, published by CPH in 1966, shows that Karl Barth denied the Trinity. Karl Rahner in his book The Trinity denies the scriptural doctrine of the Trinity and espoused the ancient heresy of model monarchianism. It was reviewed in the May 18, 1970 Christian News and reprinted on p. 595 of A Christian Handbook on Vital Issues. Through the years CN has reviewed books by Pope Benedict XVI which show that he promotes the destructive views of Biblical higher criticism and universalism. He supports evolution. He protected the many homosexual clergymen in the Roman Catholic clergy. The October 18, 2010 and February 18, 2013 issues of Christian News reprinted from the September 2010 Free Presbyterian Magazine “Does the Pope Believe in the Resurrection?” It quotes from the Pope’s main writings and shows that “Ratzinger flatly denied the fundamental biblical truth of the resurrection of the body.” The high church and hyper-euro Lutherans who defend the Pope refuse to read what CN has published during the last 50 years about the liberal theology now tolerated and  promoted within the Roman Catholic Church. Logia may consider Pope Benedict XVI “the ‘dean’ of theologians of a worldwide guild of theologians of those which believe the Christian religion is true.” Christian News does not. CN still accepts what the Lutheran Confessions  and the LCMS’s official Brief Statement say about the Papacy being the Anti-Christ. Does Logia?

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