One of the first things I said last week regarding the death of John Paul II was, “Sit back and start taking notes. How many, anywhere, even in ‘Christian media,’ will address the only relevant issue regarding the death of John Paul II?” I was such an optimist! I hadn’t yet realized that not only would the gospel be ignored, it would be thrown under the bus. Well, maybe I should rephrase that. You can’t throw something under the bus that you don’t possess, and evidently, a very, very large portion of “evangelicalism” surely does not count the cross, the resurrection, justification, faith, atonement, substitution—sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria—as something “precious.” In fact, they act as if they’ve never even heard of it.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a splinter group from the Southern Baptist Convention. I was just directed to “Pope John Paul II – A Baptist Response” found here. Some of the more revealing comments:
As Baptist Christians we give thanks to God for the life and legacy of Pope John Paul II. His devotion to Jesus Christ has inspired and challenged multitudes….In this hour of loss, those of us in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship offer our prayers for our sisters and brothers in the Catholic Church. We also offer our hand of Christian fellowship in serving Christ’s Kingdom.
Just a few observations: obviously, devotion to Christ can co-exist, in Daniel Vestal’s mind, with Marian devotion of the highest order, as seen not only in the Papal Coat of Arms’ sporting the “TT” of “Totus Tuus,” but also in his casket, with the large “M” engraved on the lid. So, devotion to Jesus Christ, for Daniel Vestal, is not singular devotion to Jesus Christ. One’s devotion can be divided and varied. Secondly, as we have now seen repeatedly, the gospel does not define brotherhood and sisterhood in the faith (anyone recalling a certain debate I did last November in Los Angeles? Yeah, that consistency thing again).
On the same page we find these “suggestions” for churches:
# Provide time in worship this coming Sunday (or the following Sunday) for corporate prayer. Give thanks for the life and legacy of Pope John Paul II and intercede for our Catholic brothers and sisters.
# If you have a relationship with a Catholic church in your community, communicate with them personally. If you do not have a relationship with a Catholic church, use this event as an opportunity to get acquainted.
# Encourage your members to communicate personally with friends and neighbors who are Catholic and offer condolences and friendship.
# Encourage your members to engage in conversation with one another and with friends and neighbors about their own faith using this event as an introduction.
# Pray that the life of Pope John Paul II and the events of this week would be a continuing witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his Kingdom of hope, righteousness and reconciliation.
Very warm and friendly sounding, but, did you notice what is missing? Yeah, this one:
# Take this opportunity to share with your Roman Catholic friends and neighbors the life-changing, peace-bringing gospel of the finished and perfect work of Jesus Christ upon the cross of Calvary.