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Posted by on Mar 15, 2013 in News | 2 comments

Regarding the Pope

Regarding the Pope

(Editor’s note:
 Within Evangelical circles, there is great division as to how to respond to the election of Pope Francis I. In this analysis, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, offers thoughts on the papacy in light of this week’s development. Blogger Ryan Smith offers some reactions below. Feel at liberty to send your writings, opinions and comments on this or other topics to, or make use of the comments section below. The views of contributing writers do not necessarily represent those of The Baptist Messengerof any its affiliated publications.)

Like most people, I spent last Tuesday and Wednesday going about my normal business of weight-lifting and charity work. However, for millions of Catholics across the globe, these two days not only were spent in anticipation and excitement, but in preparation for a possible new direction for one of the world’s largest religious denominations.

As a born-and-raised Southern Baptist, the papal conclave seems intriguing, yet wrapped in a bit of pomp and circumstance I would be fine without.  The robes, secrecy, white smoke, it all seems somewhat extraneous.  However, this is the method of a church that genuinely believes they are seeking God’s will in finding a leader in the line of St. Peter.

As Baptists, of course, we do not answer to the pope.  Often times our biblical doctrine comes into conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church. As Christ-followers, there are tremendous implications wrapped in the selection of Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis I.  Here are a few reasons why this selection could have major ramifications not only for Catholics, but for the world at large:

1) SEXUAL MORALITY.  In a move that may have more cultural implications than anything, the papal conclave chose not to cave to public trends or cultural waves in regard to sexuality, but chose a man who has been unwaveringly orthodox on sexual morality issues.  He is outspoken against abortion, so-called same-sex marriage, and contraceptives.  With over a billion Catholics worldwide, a pope taking such stands will likely keep sexual issues on the front lines of the cultural battle for years. For pro-life and sanctity of marriage advocates, this will be viewed as a huge win.

2) JORGE BERGOGLIO IS A JESUIT.  While you may not know about the Jesuits or Ignatius of Loyola, their founder, Jesuits are a pretty imposing brood.  Ignatius founded the Jesuits to be “Soldiers of God” in 1534.  Known also as “God’s Marines,” this group takes a sincere vow of chastity, poverty, on-call mission, and strict obedience to the pope.  If you are wondering why all the news outlets and media are so surprised by Bergoglio’s low-key and relatively bare lifestyle, this may be why.

3) THE PLIGHT OF THE POOR.  As a Jesuit, Pope Francis reportedly will focus much of the Catholic Church’s attention on the poor and disadvantaged.  Jorge Bergoglio himself is noted for going to a hospice center for AIDS patients in 2001, washing and kissing the ailing feet of twelve patients.  He was also a key figure in the Argentine economic crisis.  He noted in 2007, “The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers.”

4) MAN ON A MISSION.  Jorge Bergoglio has been noted for his evangelistic efforts.  He recently stated, “It’s true that when you get out into the street, as happens to every man and woman, there can be accidents. However, if the church remains closed in on itself, self-referential, it gets old. Between a church that suffers accidents in the street, and a church that’s sick because it’s self-referential, I have no doubts about preferring the former.”  If you thought the Lou Holtz commercials about “Coming Home” were pushing the envelope, just wait.

While the ideals of Pope Francis are just that—ideals—his focus and direction will no doubt have impact on the 1 billion-plus Catholics across the globe.  Despite the Catholic theology, methodology, or church polity, as those of us who are mission, it is important for us to know what this major religion teaches and the direction they are headed.  This not only has implications for the Vatican, but for our neighbors, co-workers, family and friends.

Regardless of where we agree or disagree, we should pray for all those in a leadership role. Finally, it is important to learn our distinctions, and be ready to make a defense for the exclusivity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith, and biblical orthodoxy.

About The Author

Ryan Smith

Ryan is associate pastor at Eagle Heights Baptist Church in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He is the author of Not That God.

Ryan Smith has blogged 121 posts at

2 responses to “Regarding the Pope”

  1. disqus_N6nvbO2p3q says:

    Please brush up on your understanding of the Jesuits……what you say there is very misleading and I think this link will be helpful to you in understanding what they really stand for. Appreciate your kindness to other religions, but we need to remember….Faith Alone, In Christ Alone. That is not what the Roman Catholic church teaches. These people are lost and we need to be evangelizing them.
    Please listen to this link and utilize other resources on this site linked to, to find out more biblical information from the Scriptures on this topic.

    • Ryan Smith says:

      Thank you for your interest in the article. After reviewing your website and specified podcast, it is clear that you believe the selection of Pope Francis as the first Jesuit pope is part of a conspiracy beyond the Vatican in an attempt to bolster a one-world solidification of religious power. That remains to be seen.

      I do certainly agree that we must contend for faith alone in Christ alone. In large part, I agree the Roman Catholic church has diverted from this teaching or orthodoxy. This is why I stated early on in the article that our biblical doctrine often comes into conflict with the teaching of the Catholic church. I agree there are a vast number of Catholics (nominal or otherwise) who are relying on something other than Christ’s atonement through the cross (grace through faith) for their salvation. We must present the gospel clearly to them. I would also assert there are many in our Baptist churches (nominal or otherwise) claiming something other than Christ’s atonement through the cross for salvation (Church attendance, morality, etc.). This is why the gospel must be pre-eminent in all that we do as evangelicals.

      Let it be noted, the point of this article was not to make a case for Pope Francis. The point, as stated in the introduction and two concluding paragraphs, was that we owe it to those in our circles of influence and culture at large to be educated on the leaders and shifts of major world religious – particularly those claiming affiliation with Christ. Something that was edited out of the article, yet remains implied throughout, is the fact that many in our world lump Catholics, Mormons, Baptists, Snake-Handlers, and all claiming any affiliation with Christ into one “them” category. Just as I do not agree with Mormon or Snake-Handling theology, I do believe it is important to understand who they are and what implications their movements may have on us.

      Your theory regarding the Jesuits and their attempt to work to places of prominence of late for sinister purposes may be accurate. Time will tell. Again, I appreciate your voice in the conversation and welcome your insights. The article was an introduction to a few factors regarding Pope Francis that will have cultural ramifications affecting all of us and our front lines to come. Hopefully it serves to that end.