Protestants and the Pope

This article by Dr. Robert Godfrey, President of Westminster Seminary, California, and Professor of Church History there, was published on the occasion of the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Benedict XIV. It is a few years old, but it has an ongoing kind of relevance because what was "unexplored and unchallenged" at the time has remained publicly unexplored and unchallenged.

Dr. Godfrey wrote this:
...in America—with many more Protestants than Roman Catholics—one might have expected some media exploration of why Protestants do not acknowledge the pope as the head of the church. The repeated claims that the pope is the successor of Peter and that the papacy is a 2000 year old institution went unexplored and unchallenged.

This Protestant silence says much about the state of Protestantism today....
Of course, with a name like "Reformation500," my hope in the coming weeks and months and years, is both to explore and challenge the papacy in ways that we haven't seen for a while. Dr. Godfrey's conclusion at this point is a good call to action:
If many Protestants today are not persuaded that the pope is the Antichrist, what should we say of him? Has the theology of the Roman Catholic Church about the pope and about the Gospel changed? The Roman Catholic Church has changed some of its claims about being the only institution in which one can find salvation. It is willing to call Protestants in some sense separated brothers. There does seem to be more toleration and less commitment to coercion on the part of the bishop of Rome. We should be glad for these changes.

Still the basic teaching about the authority of the pope has not changed and the teaching about the Gospel also has not changed. The Roman Catholic Church still anathematizes the Protestant and biblical doctrine of justification.

The most important criterion by which any minister must be evaluated is this: did he preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ? As Paul taught clearly: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8). By that standard we must conclude that Pope John Paul II was no more a success than his predecessors since the time of the Reformation. 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.

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