Benedict XVI

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As much as I would have preferred that John Piper or J. I. Packer had been elected to the See of Rome, both of those outcomes were rather unlikely.

Evangelicals should nevertheless be encouraged that the new leader of a billion Roman Catholics is someone who believes that there is objective truth about God and what He requires of us and that it is knowable. Not all branches of Christianity are so blessed. Can you imagine the chaos that would have been unleashed had some sort of mushy relativist been elected, particularly here in the United States where so many Roman bishops already lean in that direction? With the Roman Church under Benedict's leadership, evangelicals can hope not only to continue to find culture-war allies among the Catholic laity and priesthood, but increasingly among the hierarchy as well.

In the meantime, we'll keep praying that the full splendor of the Gospel of Christ will be restored to the Roman Church -- the splendor of God's grace, His unmerited favor towards us, which outshines every gilded reliquary and every shard of stained glass.

MORE: Tim Bayly, a conservative Presbyterian pastor, explains why he sees Cardinal Ratzinger's election as a positive outcome.

AND MORE: Dennis Schenkel, a Roman Catholic seminarian, posts some thoughts from one of his classmates, who says that Ratzinger's reputation as "God's rottweiler" comes from his faithful pursuit of his role as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and that he set aside his own speculations as a theologian to fulfill those duties. I found this bit particularly interesting:

He was a priest and Bishop in Germany in the late 50 and 60s. When he was serving in those roles, he worked on his own theological ideas, such as how the power to be a good Christian is a grace from God but at the same time, there is work to be done on our end in terms of preparing ourselves for that Grace. So, the big question is how does the fact that God gives grace freely work with the idea that our actions can make us more or less likely to receive it? It is a very complicated issue, and theologians around the world (such as Cardinal Ratzinger) are always encouraged to work on this idea (along with countless others) and develop their responses.... Cardinal Ratzinger, like any good theologian, would usually put his ideas out there and sort of say, OK, here is what Im thinking. I ask that fellow theologians and bishops etc. show me where Im wrong or unclear etc.

James Lileks writes:

The defining quality of 20th century modernity is impatience, I think the nervous, irritated, aggravated impulse to get on with the new now, and be done with those old tiresome constraints. Were still in that 20th century dynamic, I think, and we will be held to it until something shocks us to our core. Say what you will about Benedict v.16, but he wants there to be a core to which we can be shocked. And I prefer that to a tepid slurry of happy-clappy relativism that leads to animists consecrating geodes beneath the dome of St. Peter's. That will probably happen eventually, but if we can push it off for a century or two, good.

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Dennis said:

*friendly tweak*
And meanwhile, we Catholics will pray that the full Splendor of Truth and Apostolic unity will be restored to our separated evangelical brethren.

Thanks for the friendly comments about our new "head pastor."

W. said:

Can you elaborate on this phrase, Michael: " ... there is objective truth about God and what He requires of us and that it is knowable." How do we know what is the objective truth ... when faith and interpretation of the Bible requires some subjectivity? How do we truly know what God requires of us?

I'm not trying to start a fight, but an honest discussion. Lord knows (no pun intended) that many wars have been waged and evils have been perpetuated because someone is absolutely sure he is guided by God.

Doubt can be a valuable thing; it tests one's faith and makes sure it stands the test of time and evidence.

Thanks, Dennis, and I enjoyed reading the comments from your fellow seminarians.

W., to say that there is objective truth about God and what He requires of us and that it is knowable is not to say that I or anyone else knows it perfectly, but that it exists. In the realm of science, there's a lot we still don't understand about the way the universe works, but we make hypotheses and assumptions, always open to correcting our model to make it more closely match the way things are.

Too many people relegate God to a realm of feelings, where the test of what I believe about God is whether it gives me comfort or happiness, and it doesn't matter whether what I believe corresponds to reality. But either God exists or He doesn't. Either He created the universe or He didn't. Either He has sought to communicate with His creation, or He hasn't.

Benedict and I would agree that God exists, that He created all things, that we His creatures owe Him worship and obedience, that He has revealed Himself to mankind, and on many other points. We would disagree about how we know what He requires of us -- whether it is all to be found in the Bible, or whether other information has been handed down from bishop to bishop, whether the Bible or the Church is the final authority. Even so, we'd agree that we can't both be right, and that means we both acknowledge that there is a reality against which our beliefs are ultimately measured.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 20, 2005 12:07 AM.

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