UPDATE: Looks like the Lord answered our prayer for the Conclave in the negative for now. These are some of the first words of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, now Pope Francis:
“Let us all pray together for [Pope Benedict XVI], that the Lord bless him and Our Lady protect him.”
“Tomorrow I want to go to pray the Madonna, that she may protect Rome.”
As well, as a Jesuit from Latin America, I’m sure he has liberation theology background. But who knows? A person is not beyond repentance from errors and heresies until the day he dies, as the thief on the cross did. We have to wait on the Lord for a future Reformation Pope.
Today, a Facebook post by Roman Catholics urging their flock to pray for the cardinals in the process of electing the next Pope got me thinking. The prayer was this:
That the Holy Spirit will inspire and strengthen the Cardinal-electors as they choose a new Holy Father to lead us.
So I re-read Robert Godfrey’s article, “Protestants and the Pope,” he wrote right after Pope Benedict XVI’s election in 2005. In the article, he refuted the major claims by the RCC about the Pope as the head of Christ’s church and Peter as the foundation of the church. But the surprising end to his article was this exhortation:
Let us pray that Pope Benedict XVI, a very learned man, may come to see the truth as it is in Christ and teach it faithfully.
The two prayers are in stark contrast to one another. The former is a prayer merely for a new Pope to lead the RCC. The latter is a prayer that the Pope will come to see the truth in the Holy Scriptures, not in the Pope, nor in the Roman church.
As a Reformed believer, my attitude at first was to laugh at and ridicule this process. But then it came to my mind that nothing is impossible with God in preserving his true Church. Martin Luther was alone and was never taught the truth by Rome. How did he come to the truth? He diligently prayed for understanding as he studied the Scriptures. About 1513-18, as he was preparing his lectures on Romans in the tower of Wittenburg Castle, he was pondering on the meaning of Romans 1:17, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.'” In his so-called “tower experience,” he later wrote:
Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the righteousness of God and the statement that “the just shall live by faith.” Then I grasped that the righteousness of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before “the righteousness of God” had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven…”
And so the great 16th century Protestant Reformation was birthed from pondering the Holy Scriptures “night and day.”
The Worldwide Church of God cult had a similar “reformation.” Herbert W. Armstrong was its founder, but he was a false prophet and a heretic. His belief was a smorgasbord of Seventh-Day Adventism, Mormonism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Law-keeping (especially the Jewish Sabbath). He also made countless false prophecies from the 1930s till he died in 1986, and taught British-Israelism—the view that the Anglo-Saxon race descended from Israel.
After his death, Joseph Tkach Sr. became the leader of the cult. Although it was a cult, the church always held the Bible with the highest regard. So in about ten years, the new leader came to Biblical truths, and slowly rejected the “unbiblical teachings, errors, and heresies” of their founder. Finally, in December 1994, he preached a sermon entitled “The New Covenant and the Sabbath” in which he embraced all that the mainstream evangelical churches believed as the truths of the Bible. His son, Joseph Tkach Jr., wrote about the return to the truth:
In his mercy, God has shown us that old covenant obligations do not apply to Christians, who are under the new covenant. He has led us into the riches of his grace and a renewed relationship with Jesus Christ. He has opened our hearts and minds to the joy of his salvation. The Scriptures speak to us with fresh meaning, and we rejoice daily in the personal relationship we have with our Lord and Savior.
Because of this radical change, there was a huge exodus from the church. From a membership of about 133,000 in 1990, the church dwindled to 49,000 in the same year (1995) that the “New Covenant” was published. Offerings plummeted by 50 percent.
Is it possible that the Roman Catholic conclave of cardinals would elect a “sleeper,” one who would take Catholics from Rome to Wittenburg and Geneva? If the Holy Spirit could teach Luther alone in his tower studies, and if he could also lead cult leader Tkach to Biblical truths, why can he not lead the new Pope, even if he’s alone and knowing its dire consequences upon the Papacy, to a 21st century Counter Counter-Reformation?
Let us pray:
Almighty God, giver of all good gifts, who of thy divine providence has appointed divers orders in thy Church; give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to all those who are to be called to any oﬀice and administration in the same; and so replenish them with the truth of thy doctrine, and endue them with innocency of life, that they may faithfully serve before thee to the glory of thy great Name, and the benefit of thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (from the 1790 American Book of Common Prayer)