Pope Francis continues to headline grabbing statements in the mainstream media. The latest is that “Evolution is not Inconsistent with Creation,” which came during a meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. This, for keen observers, isn't actually new news. In fact, this has been the quasi-official position of the church for decades. In the 50’s Pope Pius declared that he saw no issue between the Church’s theological position and evolution. Since then, this view has been supported by various Pontiffs (including John Paul II). The debate about Evolution and Creation (which in my opinion, is a debate not correctly formed) is not what this post is going to address.
The troubling part of Pope Francis’ comments don’t surround the evolution vs. creation debate that caught the media’s eye. Instead, the statements which causes great alarm to me, and should all Christians, is when the Pope calls into question the power and nature of God. Orthodox Christians that is, Christians who hold to a right understanding of God, believe Him to be all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present (these are the ‘omni’s’ which are often bandied about: omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent).
Pope Francis said, “when we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so.” And again Francis says, “God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life.”
In those two sentences, Pope Francis calls into question who God is. There is a denial of God’s power and ability to do anything; instead God is limited to acting according to natural laws which humanity understands. Also, the question arises if God is not a divine being, what is He? Who have we been believing in?
Time and again in Scripture, which is the account of God’s loving action in the world, we have reminders of God’s Divine intervention which is beyond human compare or imagination. Here is a very short list, but if you have time simply open your Bible to any page and you will likely see some reference to God’s all-powerful nature:
1. The book of Exodus details God’s miraculous interventions to save His people; interventions that go beyond the human mind to comprehend.
2. The Gospels chronicle countless miracles of Jesus, who we believe to be God Himself, which show His might over sin, death, nature, and sickness. While Jesus didn't just wave a magic wand, He still clearly demonstrated His power and authority over these things.
3. Isaiah speaks of God’s sign to Hezekiah whereby He made the sun move backwards as a testament to the promise of life He made to Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:7-8).
Without these statements of God’s power, there would be no reason to trust and believe in God as the supreme ruler of our lives. Without a God of power, we would be left where we once were, relying on our own strength and ability to try to make something of ourselves. I need to believe in a God of power, I need to believe in a God who can do everything because I can't and without that, I’m lost.
Photo Used under CC0 License: http://pixabay.com/en/earth-blue-planet-globe-planet-11015/ No changes made
Perhaps you have found yourself wondering about the state of the world and our country given the events of the past few days. For so long, Canada has been a safe and peaceful country where freedom reigns. Suddenly after several shocking events designed to induce terror occurred, our sense of normalcy has been rocked. “Acts of terror only happen in other places,” we’ve told ourselves, but no longer. This is now part of the reality we as Canadian will face every day. While the threat still seems distant for me living in small town Saskatchewan, it still weighs heavy on my heart, especially for my children.
In moments like these, it is easy to get caught up in a spirit of fear or worry or misplaced anger. But it is also in moments like these that God’s Word speaks to us most powerfully as we are reminded that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). Much of the New Testament was written to Christians who were enduring persecution because of their faith. As we look around us today, it is hard not to see the threat of persecution growing each day. In the past week alone, I’ve heard of numerous examples: in Texas where sermons were subpoenaed by the mayor of Houston and at the CALC Convention this past weekend where we heard of the struggle of Trinity Western University in opening a Christian law school.
See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet...Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for me name's sake
Jesus reminds us of what is to come, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake” (Matthew 24:6-9).
We as Christians are to be alert; we’ve received warning of all that is to come. And yet, in this precarious time marked with uncertainty and fear, we trust in Jesus telling us not to be alarmed. The events this week and the events taking place around the world are not merely about democracy or nations’ power but about the in breaking of the Kingdom of God; a Kingdom so feared and despised by this world that it will stop at nothing to halt its advance. This is ultimately a spiritual battle between the Redeemer of the world and everything opposed to Him. But the Goodnews to which Christians around the world cling is that God’s Kingdom prevails (Rev. 21-22), it will not be stopped. It will be established bringing peace, bringing healing, bringing wholeness, and life eternal.
And so, as we continue to reflect on the shocking events of this week we should not be surprised to experience more persecution in the future. But as we do, we can face the future not with fear but with but with the strength of Christ as we endure for His name’s sake.
Lord, let Your Kingdom come: in our nation; in the hearts of those who seek our destruction; in the families of those mourning loved ones lost; and in our own hearts, that Your peace and strength would reign. Amen.
If you follow the news you may have heard of the 'radical' shift the Catholic Church is proposing in how it defines marriage and family relations. The sensationalized story that mainstream media has produced would have you believe that the Catholic Church is eliminating restrictions on participation within the church for cohabiting couples, divorcees, and individuals in committed homosexual relationships. One could even stretch their interpretation of the Report on Family (full text here) to read it as affirming these relationships as the norm--the Church is finally going to throw open its doors to some enlightened thinking.
In fact, the Report on Family does show a great deal of enlightened thinking, although it is not particularly ground breaking in its proposals. The central theme of this document is about acknowledging the reality of societal pressures on family relationships; it seeks to affirm the positive, life-giving elements found in cohabitation, civil marriage, divorce, and committed homosexual relationships while acknowledging these are not ideals. This report is a positive step toward recognizing the brokenness within family relationships while also looking for moments of redemption in which to speak words of grace. In short, it is an exhortation to pastoral sensitivity in dealing with painful and divisive issues whereas in the past, the church sought a one size fits all approach to dealing with family issues.
The church needs to major in the art of accompaniment as individuals walk with each other pointing out sin but importantly also proclaiming grace.
As I said previously, this is not a new theological framework. It is in fact the very thing Jesus modeled. When dealing with sin, Jesus affirms the ideal laid out by God but always speaks words of grace into the life of the broken person (people). Perhaps the clearest example of this comes in Matthew 19 where Jesus teaches on divorce. He affirms God's desire for family from Genesis 1 & 2 but then acknowledges divorce as a reality because of hardness of heart.
The church needs to major in the art of accompaniment as individuals walk with each other pointing out sin but importantly also proclaiming grace. This pastoral sensitivity needs to be applied to all areas of life, balancing law which lays out God's standards/ideals for life while also speaking Gospel in the midst of brokenness. It is like dealing with my children. I do not expect them to get everything right, they will try and not be able to do somethings, they will rebel and choose to disobey me for which there are consequences but there are also opportunities to instruct, encourage, and show compassion. There are redemptive moments in the midst of struggling, suffering, and hurt.
The church is full of broken people whose lives are in varying degrees of mess. We need to walk with one another humbly, supporting each other, mourning, hurting, and rejoicing together. As we do so with authenticity and openness, there will be moments where the Gospel can be shared. In the midst of all of our brokenness, we each need to hear the life-giving message of the Gospel set against the ideal which the church is called to model as a Christ's body on earth.
So, this document is not groundbreaking in the ways that mainstream media has portrayed and yet it is groundbreaking because it admits the church's failures in seeking redemption in society. It is groundbreaking in the very fact that it calls the church toward God's redemptive heart in announcing the life changing message of forgiveness, reconciliation, and love of Jesus.
Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/53558245@N02/4979010754/in/photostream/ Not changed. Used under creative commons license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Pastor J-M shares some occasional thoughts and musings on our life together as followers of Christ. The views are his own.