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Being Bereft of Christ
Globalism - Ecumenism
Friday, January 09, 2015
Alf Cengia

I've noted before that I learned about God at my mother's feet and at Catholic Grade School. As I grew up, I encountered the challenge of evolution and was faced with the skepticism of my first atheist friend.

The priests couldn't help me. Our school's Christian Education sessions amounted to social conversations around old Simon and Garfunkel and The Seekers songs. I didn't even like those songs. Moreover, I wanted answers, not folk music.

My search for answers led me to a cult which was attractive because it provided some answers to the problem of evolution. Sadly, its teachings were also a concoction borrowed from the Millerite movement with personalized additions by a self-styled "Apostle." I soon left it.

From there I drifted for years exploring New Age teachings without any satisfaction. God finally and mercifully took me by the shoulders and shook me out of it. Yet that left me with a problem - where do I go to attend church?

I lived down the hill a short way from the Catholic school and church I'd attended as a boy, so I went to Mass there a few times. There aren't too many options in Melbourne, Australia. While I'm sure the ritualism satisfied some of the parishioners, I found the priest's sermons consistently dry and empty.

While Christ's name was invoked (along with the myriad references to Mary), the homilies never satisfied me. The focus seemed continually trained on "reconciliation" in all its social connotations. Certainly Jesus was mentioned, yet He was missing. Finally, during an Easter Mass and after an insipid homily, the priest led us outside the church where we all lit our candles in front of a bonfire.

I left and never returned.

Soon after we moved into our current house, my wife and I began looking for a church to attend. We tried one a few times, but something was lacking - Jesus wasn't a primary focus. Almost half-way through one of these "sermons", we got up and left. We never went back.

Having Catholic relatives, I'm concerned and interested in what the current pope has been doing since taking office. Pope Francis is, arguably, the most prominent religious leader in the western world, but in many ways he reflects the spiritual condition of other denominations.

Sadly, he sounds uncannily like my priests who played those folk songs back at school. He reminds me of the priest I left at that bonfire. Like that priest, Francis has taken up all the popular social causes. He's defended evolution (contra the Bible), wants us to treat gays and atheists kindlier (thereby implying most of us haven't) and wants us to show more care for the environment.

Note that the pope's position on evolution is troublesome in light of the fact that he isn't a scientist, and that many brilliant Christian scientists have refuted it. In effect, he's allowed popular evolutionary teaching to dictate his biblical interpretation. The opposite should be the case.

He's won fans along the way. Elton John declared the pope a hero. He even called for Pope Francis' sainthood. One wonders, however, how the singer might react to a Francis who confronts him with his personal need for Christ and repentance of sin in lieu of eternal damnation.

The pope has also invited criticism.

Charles Krauthammer was not impressed with his position on global warming. He said, "I wasn't aware that he [the pope] was a scientist." Krauthammer added that, "... the Catholic Church has a somewhat checkered history when it comes to how to handle new science..."

While the pope's stance on Cuba delighted President Obama, he drew strong criticism from Cubans who escaped the regime. When he visited the Dome of the Rock, Muslims leaders told him that there will never be peace until Israeli “violence” and “occupation” ends. Meanwhile, one Israeli spokesman dismissed the pope's silent prayer at a West Bank barrier as a “propaganda stunt.”

One American Cardinal was prompted defend the pope's Middle East visit and interests by stating that he:

“...is not putting himself out on a limb, he’s putting himself up on the Cross, and that’s what he’s called to do.” (Emphasis mine)

If Francis has inherited Peter's office then he's called to feed and shepherd Christ's sheep (John 21:15-17), not to become immersed in social justice issues and political machinations. He is called to proclaim the gospel and make disciples (Matt 28:19), not put himself on the Cross. That position has already been taken and successfully vacated. This is not to say we are not called to take up our own crosses - that's a different matter.

In his Christmas speech, Pope Francis highlighted the world's tragedies and mentioned the tearful "Infant Jesus." This isn't the Jesus I've come to know. The Jesus I know grew up and will one day return in power and glory and rule with a rod of iron (Rev 2:27, 19:15). Where was the hope of Christ's triumphant return in Francis' speech?

No one is going to change the world through homilies and inter-faith dialogue. Now, more than ever, Christian pastors need to point the way to Christ. There is no other Way - not through Mary or the other saints, or social engineering. Sadly, too many popular church sermons are bereft of the real Jesus Christ.

I had the privilege of attending an edifying sermon last Sunday. The message was about keeping on, keeping on. Despite the adversities we may meet in 2015, we must keep putting our faith and trust in God.

God's ministers are charged to keep doing that regardless of how their sermons affect attendance numbers (2 Tim 4:2). It's a pity the sermon didn't get worldwide coverage.

Finally, this pope appears to be aggressively following the same political path of other popes throughout history, at the cost of preaching Christ only.

Where might this lead to, I wonder?

About Alf Cengia

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