Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Protestant Pope?

Before you start ranting I am not having a go at Calvin....not in this post anyway. Rather I am having a go at protestants, particularly those with reformed theology. I say this being a protestant myself, although the reformed theology bit may be debated by some. I had a thought recently and wondered if anyone agrees, but John Calvin seems to be the Protestant Pope! In some cases I think people venerate him more then the Catholics do thier Pope. My Issue here isn't with Calvin. Although I disagree with him on many matters he did a great deal for the Kingdom. My problem is that you dont have to search too far to find out that within certain traditions Calvin's word is final. 'The infallibility of Calvin';The differences being that 1) Calvin would be greatly opposed to most people treatment of him and 2) Followers seem to think he's right always and not only when its declared with Espiscopal backing.

Try it yourself! Walk up to a Calvinist and say "I'm not sure if I agree with Calvin on X", then duck very quickly. I use Calvin as an example here because 1)He's the most widely venerated theologian 2)He's older and therefore the veneration has snowballed and 3) Its his 500th this year and I am expecting a lot more coverage of him this coming year because of it. However we can easily use many more example: Martin Luther, The Wesley Brothers, Terry Virgo, Rowan Williams and particularly John Piper at the moment. I'm sure you can think of a lot more.

So what am I suggesting? I believe we need to treat these people as we ought: As great men of God whom God has used, but who are also human and are capable of error. It is not wrong to look at thier writing, or listen to thier teaching but when this takes the place of proper Bible study then we are in danger, and I'm certain that Calvin would say the same. There is place for being thankful for them and thier work but we have too long been hypocrites. Slagging of the Catholics and the Pope, and doing exactly the same in practice ourselves. In fact it can be argued that this is how the Pope, as we know him, began; being venerated as the head bishop and it all snowballed from there. Let us then look at thier work, appreciate it and test in against Scripture.

Till next time remember: 'Sola Scriptura, not Sola Calvin.'

P.S. Sorry to Catholics. I know it doesn't all represent the orthodox view of the Pope but it does represent the common protestant view so I am using it to a compare.


  1. hmm. while i wholly and completely agree with you in being suitably 'Berean' in our agreement with theological research and doctrine i'm not convinced this is the way forward to encourage such action.

    Your message is accurate but in my opinion i'd suggest rather than promoting good theology this will further divide as people 'dig in' upon their views (especially catholics re the pope as this shows 'how those protestants feel some need for a papal figure') (i will admit there is instinct to follow but that instinct should be directed at Christ)

    Please be careful that you do not exchange 'bridal' health for a good introductory statement and contraversial topic...

    just my thoughts

  2. Hi Tj.
    Thanks for commenting.

    Certainly our aim for such discussion sounld be for the churches health and to build our knowledge of Christ. My concern however is if we deam a subject too controversial for discussion it very quickly becomes dodgy teaching, or even herasy.

    As for the 'controversial' title it has 3 reasons:
    1) It is attention grabbing and therefore encourages people to read the post.
    2) The term 'Pope' has a strong and specific meaning for protestants which is generally negative. It is good therefore to take those feelings which the term envokes and using them to view our own practices and traditions with the aim to remove any hypocrasy in us.
    3) It is an accurate term. 'Pope' simply meant the prime Bishop within an area. There weer originally lots of Popes. In about the 3rd century the Pope in Rome began to be given primacy due to is authorative geographical position and his reveared teaching, and eventually the term Pope was reserved solely for him. From this came his eventual veneration in the present position. We are already half way there with many of our leaders and need to be careful that we don't go the same way.......or at least lay of the RC's for doing it themselves

    Thanks again for sharing