A recent article in the Moody Standard about the election of Pope Francis I provoked several alarmed comments about Moody’s relationship to Roman Catholicism. Let us all take a deep breath and consider the matter. First, let’s keep in mind this was an article in a student newspaper that primarily quoted undergraduate respondents. It wasn’t an institutional manifesto or official position paper, just a record of some off-the-cuff remarks made by a few young people to a student reporter. Articles in the campus newspaper do not speak for “Moody” as an institution.
The article also quoted me, and in my role as Professor of Theology, some may think I speak on behalf of the school. Fair enough, but in that case, let me clarify what I meant. Everyone can rest assured that Moody exalts the supremacy of Christ and the great principles of the Reformation. This will never change. When it comes to the Roman Catholic Church, there are good things about it and bad things. We share much in common with Roman Catholics, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the historical Resurrection, and the sanctity of life. My positive comments in the newspaper article must be taken in light of the fact that many forces are arrayed against us today, such as secularism, humanism, materialism, hedonism, the culture of death, the erosion of marriage, human injustice, and many aspects of global Islam. Therefore it would be wise to partner with Catholics against such forces. In my classes I teach my students to be catholic with a little c, but not to be, of course, Roman Catholics. I believe there is much good in the history of the Roman Catholic Church that we can embrace, as well as things I would never want to endorse. I sincerely hope the new Pope Francis I will be friendly toward Evangelicals because we have many common enemies in the world today, and the allies on our side are relatively few. When Catholics and Evangelicals are in agreement, we should join with them against moral evils and the degradation of our society.
In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the dwarf Gimli and the elf Legolas initially display hostility toward each other due to their differences—and the differences are in fact real. Yet when faced with a band of raving Orcs, the two peoples, elves and dwarves, quickly see they have much more in common than they thought at first. Friends, the cultural Orcs are at the gate. We don’t have the luxury of turning away from Catholics in the twenty-first century.
Dr. Bryan M. Litfin
Professor of Theology
Moody Bible Institute