William McKeachie on the Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI

Posted by The_Elves

He has helped steer the Roman Catholic Church closer to mutuality with Bible believing Protestants to a greater degree than any other pope since the Reformation; he has been a true mentor for orthodox Christians of many denominational stripes and an incomparably better biblical theologian than many who call themselves Protestant; and there has been no more stalwart spiritual warrior against the ideological assault on Christian civilization from without, and its betrayal from within, among his generation.

In the face of the twin twenty - first century threats to the Gospel from Mohammedanism and Secularism, all adherents of Nicene Christianity are better equipped spiritually and intellectually to “fight the good fight” than they were before Benedict XVI’s pontificate.

As we await the emergence of his successor, thanksgiving for the servant leadership of Joseph Ratzinger during the last half century should be both oecumenical and fervent.

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THE POPE EMERITUS OF ROME: CATHOLIC, GODLY, BIBLICAL, AND EVEN A LITTLE PROTESTANT !
by the Dean Emeritus of South Carolina !

As I write, the Roman Catholic Church and indeed many other oecumenically minded Christians find themselves in what might be called a kind of papal limbo! Benedict XVI has stepped down, even though Joseph Ratzinger yet lives amongst us; and a new pope has still to be elected. As our Jewish brothers and sisters say: L’Chaim! To Life!

On the other hand, on the very last day of his papacy I read a scathing judgment of Benedict—of the man personally and equally of his vocational track record—by one of his American communicants, or rather (by self - definition) excommunicants, who also happens to be an alumnus, as am I, of the Episcopal-affiliated University of the South, Sewanee. The writer’s enmity—dating from Cardinal Ratzinger’s time as his predecessor’s putative ‘enforcer’ of discipline—was expressed in terms doubtless intended to bring to mind the animal analogy of choice among the Pope’s longtime foes, that of the Rottweiler caricature; but it only prompted in me an equal and opposite reaction by way of gratitude for this German Shepherd of a Bishop—many of whose theological views are of course quite foreign to mine!

Half a century ago, long before Joseph Ratzinger became a household name outside oecumenical circles, I was privileged to serve as a theological participant in Anglican - Roman Catholic Dialogue on the Anglican side. The aspiration of that venture remains unfulfilled, but even at that time Joseph Ratzinger was already a sympathetic behind-the-scenes encourager (not ‘enforcer’!) of it. In 1973, by way of contribution to the official Dialogue, I was commissioned to write an Anglican assessment of the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum.

Working closely with a staunchly evangelical colleague, Jacob Jocz, my conclusion was not only that the document represented a decisive shift away from the Tridentine ‘two sources’ theory of the role of tradition as equivalent to scripture, but that there were ‘deconstructive’ trends in biblical criticism on the Anglican side potentially far more subversive of biblical authority than any residual over - emphasis on ecclesiastical tradition by Rome. Dei Verbum reflected a more Reformational stand on the authority of the Bible than did many New Testament faculty members in Episcopal Church seminaries!

Subsequently, as biblical revisionism has increasingly gained the upper hand in the pulpits of the Episcopal Church, the contrast with Benedict’s faithfulness to God’s Word written has been striking.

What’s more, it is in all likelihood his very commitment to the claims of Holy Scripture that accounts for the petulance and calumny to which he is subjected—ironically, in the name of ‘tolerance’—by self-defined liberals for whom liberalism means libertinism, whether ideological or moral.

As I read my fellow Sewanee alumnus’s diatribe, I realized how axiomatic this attitude has become among those who, frustrated by the Pope’s resistance to their ethical and intellectual nihilism, have cast envious eyes at the Episcopal Church’s explicit denial of ‘core doctrine’ in faith and morals. Many of them have flounced across the Tiber in reverse direction and are now part of the new profile of the National Cathedral in Washington to All Saints’ Chapel at Sewanee and beyond.

Although I am no fan of the Curial system, of Tridentine ecclesiology, or of Rome’s soteriological compromises in dogma, it seems to this Anglican that Joseph Ratzinger was the providentially right man in the right job(s) for the last several decades.

He has helped steer the Roman Catholic Church closer to mutuality with Bible believing Protestants to a greater degree than any other pope since the Reformation; he has been a true mentor for orthodox Christians of many denominational stripes and an incomparably better biblical theologian than many who call themselves Protestant; and there has been no more stalwart spiritual warrior against the ideological assault on Christian civilization from without, and its betrayal from within, among his generation.

In the face of the twin twenty - first century threats to the Gospel from Mohammedanism and Secularism, all adherents of Nicene Christianity are better equipped spiritually and intellectually to “fight the good fight” than they were before Benedict XVI’s pontificate.

As we await the emergence of his successor, thanksgiving for the servant leadership of Joseph Ratzinger during the last half century should be both oecumenical and fervent.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI

2 Comments
Posted March 8, 2013 at 5:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Adam 12 wrote:

Amen and Amen!

March 8, 10:54 am | [comment link]
2. Ad Orientem wrote:

Well said.

March 8, 5:16 pm | [comment link]
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