Papal office filled once again, students respond positively

photo from George Bog, PD

by Jenna Pirrie editor-in-chief

Editor’s note: Due to the feedback this post has received, a clarification may be necessary. Neither this post, nor the views expressed in the quotes within, in any way represent the official views, standing or doctrinal positions of the Moody Bible Institute as a whole (see our Disclaimer). Individual opinions belong solely to the individuals quoted. Additionally, close examination of all quotes should reveal that these students are not standing in support of the Roman Catholic Church, but rather expressing optimism for the new leadership. The staff of the Moody Standard would greatly appreciate readers’ examining carefully what is actually being said by these students and faculty before accusing the Institution of MBI of falling away from its carefully guarded doctrinal beliefs.


White smoke rose above the Sistine chapel Wednesday afternoon to announce the election of the 266th pope. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has taken the name Pope Francis, and, being from Argentina, is the first non-European pope of the modern age.

“I was excited to hear the news about Francis’ selection,” said Andy Decker, sophomore communications major. “Being the first Pope from outside Europe in over 1,000 years, he’ll hopefully offer a fresh perspective that the Vatican desperately needs. I’m curious to see how God will use him to shape the Roman Catholic Church.” Decker adds, “Francis is known to have immense concern for social justice, as evidenced by his simplistic lifestyle choices, and the question has been raised as to how his Latin American roots will affect Catholicism’s views on liberation theology. The Roman Catholic Church finds itself in a very tight spot at the moment, and, from what I know about him, I think they’ve chosen the right man for the job. Only time will tell.”

Dr. Bryan Litfin, professor of theology, gives a different angle on Francis’s non-European status. He said, “The important point about Pope Francis is not that he is a non-European, but that he is a Latin American. Latin America and South America represent a large part of the ‘next Christendom.’ The strength of global Christianity is rapidly shifting away from the North Atlantic to the South and the Far East. So this papal election is further evidence of the post-Christian turn that is happening in Europe and the U.S., and the rise of a new kind of Christianity south of the equator.”

Letter to the Editor: Response to comments on the “Papal office filled once again”

Brandon Robertson, junior pastoral studies major, remarked on Pope Francis’ theological leanings. “Francis is an Evangelical Catholic with great theological positions that are leading the Church back to its historical theological roots and closer to ecumenical unity with Protestants … His agenda is simple – reground the church socially and theologically in its roots.”

Each new pope traditionally chooses a new name; the names chosen, often representing the pope’s agenda, are typically picked from the names of past popes. In this, Pope Francis broke precedent – he is the first Pope to choose the name Francis. On the new pope and his choice of name, Elijah Turrell, senior biblical studies major, said, “I am ecstatic that the Roman Catholic Church is moving forward! Pope Francis chose the name of a pious, simple, gospel-focused preacher who met the felt needs of those around him. I hope he leads the church into an era of hope for the oppressed.”

To give more background on Francis’s choice of name, Litfin adds, “According to the biographers of St. Francis of Assisi, he was praying before a crucifix when Jesus said to him, ‘Francis, go repair My house, which you can see is falling into ruin.’ I think the new Pope Francis probably feels the need for some ‘repair’ of the Catholic Church during his pontificate. He also wants to take up the spiritual legacy of St. Francis as one who cared for the poor and lived in harmony with nature. But let’s not forget the other Francis: Francis Xavier, founder of the Jesuits. This tells me that the new pope is going to be intentionally missional as the Jesuits always have been–and that the missional model is going to be the witness of humble service, not authoritarian power.”

The newest pope, a Jesuit himself and previously the archbishop of Buenos Aires, first appeared to the public on the balcony of the Vatican at 3:23 p.m. on Wednesday. During his first appearance, Pope Francis said, “It seems to me that my brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am.” The papal Twitter account went active shortly afterwards for the first time since Pope Benedict XVI’s retirement, tweeting:

EDIT: This tweet has since been removed, and the account has been officially transferred over as the official account of Pope Francis.

Pope Francis was elected on the second day of voting; Tuesday’s ballots each resulted in black smoke from the chimney of the Sistine chapel, indicating no pope was chosen. The white smoke, indicating a decision, rose at 2:09 p.m. on Wednesday, at the conclusion of the fifth ballot of voting.

Andie Moody, senior communications major, expressed her own reasons to be happy about the recent papal developments. She said, “As an ecumenical protestant, I am always concerned with issues that will effect the global Church in our lifetime, and I pray that the new pope would have the God-given guidance and wisdom to help lead the global Church faithfully and reverently.”

Litfin adds, “In today’s global religious setting, we Evangelicals should view the Catholic Church as much more of an ally than an enemy. Despite our many doctrinal differences, we stand together more than apart,  in comparison to other hostile religions and philosophies in the contemporary world. The election of Pope Francis is of vital importance to Evangelicals because, relatively speaking, Catholics are our co-religionists in so many ways.”

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    1. John Manning

      March 28, 2013

      As a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, I am saddened to read the views and perspectives of current students and professors regarding the new Pope. Have we forgotten that the Roman Catholic church teaches a works-based salvation which is abhorrent and heretical? I don’t understand the elation of the one student in hoping the Pope “leads the church into an era of hope for the oppressed.” There is no hope without the true gospel, which is not by works or sacraments but by repentance and belief in the finished work of Christ. Without the true gospel, the Pope will continue to deceive and mislead people into false hope as they rush headlong into a Christ-less eternity. This article grieves me greatly at how far off the mark the school has gone. May God have mercy!

      • Martin

        June 16, 2016

        Works based theology? Try faith and works (James 2:24). You can’t just pass off 50% of a Catholic theological doctrine as 100% of the truth. When you went to Moody, did you pass with a 50% grade on the test?

    2. Greg

      March 30, 2013

      Sure it’s a good thing, if…..
      (1) being dedicated to the Virgin Mary instead of the Lord Jesus Christ is biblical,
      (2) praying before an icon of the Madonna was not forbidden (Ex. 20:4; 1 Tim. 2:5),
      (3) never mentioning the name of Jesus in his first speech is religious,
      (4) being in favor of homosexual marriage is good (,
      (5) the pope actually speaks for God, which he doesn’t (Acts 4:12; Col. 1:18, 1 Tim. 2:5; John 14:6 and Eph. 5:23)
      (6) the RCC didn’t uphold a tradition of heresies found in the council of Trent.

      If all this is true, then sure Pope Francis is a positive thing. However, since the RCC is a heresy and false religion that is built upon demonic doctrine (1 Tim 4:1; 2 Jn 9-11) as they teaching the damnable heresy of faith + Works for salvation (a clear contradiction to Eph 2:8-9), they are to be evangelized and there is to be no talk of “what we have in common.” Without the fundamental core of gospel, we are to separate in order to maintain the purity of the church Jesus is building.

      As a Moody Alum, this article breaks my heart to see MBI move in a more ecumenical, unbiblical direction. Don’t get me wrong, I believe we need to pray for those in the false system of the RCC and share the true gospel with them. But they will not come to the true Lord Jesus by looking at what we have in common, because we honestly have nothing without Christ.

      I guess this means we can chuck the MBI song, because MBI seems to not care for it:

      God bless the school that D.L. Moody Founded;
      Firm may she stand, tho’ by foes of truth surrounded!
      Riches of grace bestowed may she never squander,
      Keeping true to God and man her record over yonder.

    3. Holly G.

      March 30, 2013

      Excited to hear of the new Pope? Wow…. how disappointing to see Moody Bible so far off the track… Do you not understand? They put themselves in the place of Christ and call themselves the “Holy Father” and accept worship from men, beyond the fact they preach another gospel…

    4. Janet Gernand

      April 2, 2013

      You are joking right? Are you not a Moody graduate or employee? Yes, we should love Catholics BUT we are NOT our co-religionists! I truly can see the one world order in play but for the life of me, I NEVER imagined in a million years that Moody would play a part in it. Lord help us!

      • Katrina

        April 4, 2013

        You all do realize that this is a newspaper, right? It is a newspaper’s job to report on major world events. To ignore this would be negligent. Also, like it or not, the Roman Catholic Church has more in common with us than many would like to admit and share in our heritage. Yes, there are many doctrinal disagreements, but God, in His sovereignty has allowed him to be in this position. It is not our place to judge whether or not Pope Francis is saved, because he very well might be. We are commanded to pray for these people in power, not slander them:

        “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4

        All of this aside, this article interviewed a FEW students and ONE professor. This in no way reflects the opinion of the entire Moody student body. Reread the student’s comments. No one is endorsing his theology, but simply remaining hopeful because he is such an influential leader and figure with a large platform and the potential to do a lot of good in our world.

    5. Joel Lyon

      April 4, 2013

      Pro-Catholicism was a problem when I graduated from Moody a few years ago, and I am sadly not surprised to see that it is still so. My roommate and I fought tooth and nail for 3 years against people there who did not understand that the Council of Trent STILL condemns those who believe in faith apart from works and that the Catechism of the Catholic Church STILL condemns Protestant beliefs in general. And now I see that was clearly in vain…

    6. Deborah Lowenhar

      April 4, 2013

      I felt I had to respond because I was so disappointed and shocked to read how some students at Moody are so easily swayed by the world and catholic indoctrination. I have been asked to donate to Moody to help pay tuition for Moody students but how can one know your money is being used to support students who revere Jesus as King and Lord of Lords or those who choose to be duped by a cult who worship Mary and a Pope. This truly is a sign of end times and how easy it will be to usher in the anti-christ by believing false doctrine. and false teachers.

    7. John Osborn

      April 4, 2013

      The vitriol and anger directed towards catholics and catholicism, and the melodramatic mourning and lamentation over Moody Bible Institute’s perceived ‘fall from grace’ evidenced by most of these comments is alternately (and equal parts) saddening and amusing. Understanding that salvation is unto those who have believed and confessed the lordship of the resurrected Christ (Romans 10:9) will, I think, put things in perspective.
      Catholics are in deed and in fact our brothers and sisters (co-religionists ) in Christ, and even if they walk in error, we are called to love them, pray with and for them, and rejoice with and comfort them (Romans 12:15). Getting a little excited that a new pope might lead them closer to the pure proclamation of the Gospel does not constitute ‘chucking’ the values the Institute has stood for for so long.

    8. Lauriebeth

      April 4, 2013

      The problem is, people with little education in what the RCC stands for, or the role it has played in history, and will play in history, are going to read articles like this and assume that MBI supports catholicism, period. It is to our SHAME that we (the “evangelical” church in America) have not educated our youth, not only the heretical doctrines of other faiths, but also neglected the history of our own beginnings. Most evangelical christians here in the states have NO IDEA how reformed christians have suffered throughout the ages in order to preserve and pass on the purity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This has given the RCC the perfect opportunity to get the proverbial foot in the door and they are taking full advantage of it. Apostasy is running rampant in the west…what better proof than this?

      • John Osborn

        April 5, 2013

        To what proof do you refer? That Moody students are respectfully hopeful that Francis might pilot the RCC towards truth? Hardly apostasy.

    9. Andy Decker

      April 6, 2013

      Hey everyone, this is Andy Decker, mentioned in the article. I’ve found many of the comments on this thread very distressing, and I thought it might be prudent for me to clarify my excitement over the selection of Pope Francis I so as to settle any confusion.

      Firstly, putting all religion and doctrinal differences aside, the selection of the Pope is something that should be important to us because of the power and influence he has. Think of it in terms similar to the election of a president – except on a larger scale. The Pope, presiding over the largest branch of “institutional” Christianity, leads over 1.2 *billion* people across the globe. I’d hope and pray that the person appointed to that position is a stand-up guy of truly Christ-like character, as much as I’d hope for any other world leader to be.

      The other primary reason I concerned myself over Francis’ election is that Roman Catholics are very dear to me, a people that God has set on my heart. This isn’t something that I could say for every Moody student, but something that is particular to me. My father was raised in a Catholic home, so a large portion of my family is in the Catholic church. After I graduate from Moody, I’m hoping to move to and do ministry in Ireland, a nation where at least 75% of its population would consider themselves to be “Catholic.” Thus, Roman Catholics are a people that I love and desire to serve and share my faith with, knowing full well that likely the majority of Catholicism’s adherents in the West are not saved.

      Now, I do want to clarify something – I do not personally believe that Christians cannot be a part of the Catholic church and still be saved. I have friends who are in the Catholic church that I am 100% sure of their salvation. My grandmother was saved three years before she died – she did not leave the Catholic church, but something was undoubtedly changed in her. Do I agree with and hold fast to the entirety of Catholic doctrine? Absolutely not. But I do believe that there are many more than many of us would like to believe within the Catholic church who truly understand who Christ is, what He’s done for us, and why we worship Him as Saviour and King, and have put their faith in Him, in the midst of the others who simply go with the flow, not really understanding or believing any of it.

      While I’m in no way condoning the fallacies in the Catholic doctrine, I’d like to make this point as well – none of us has a perfect theology. Every one of us, no matter what church background we come from or what school we studied in, has flaws in our beliefs about God. He’s more than we can comprehend, and I honestly believe that we will not get it entirely right until we pass on from these bodies and meet Him face to face on the other shore. Even then, I don’t know that we’ll truly understand, and that’s the beauty of it. We’ll have the rest of eternity to spend exploring the characteristics and wonder of who God really is, and it will never grow old.

      Yes, Catholicism has some absolutely massive problems with its doctrine. But I still believe that there are people within the Catholic church who are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we ought to love them.

      Moreover, I believe, based on what I’ve seen from him, that Francis I is one of them.

      Right out of the gate, this man has been breaking papal tradition left and right, and his character has shown him to be far more like Christ than I could say about myself. He made sure to pay his hotel bill on his first day as Pope, an act that is far more significant than one would think, putting himself on an equal plane with all others. He constantly urges Christians to seek and help the lost and poor, himself giving up an extravagant lifestyle and doing his part. He’s desired to create unity and peace between the Catholic and Protestant churches (something that stirs my heart as a missionary hopeful to Ireland). He broke tradition on Maundy Thursday by not only washing the feet of women, but of a Muslim woman as well. And, possibly best of all, he’s been quoted saying that Christ is the center and the head of *everything*, not the Catholic church or even the Pope.

      So, while this man has an imperfect doctrine (like me and you) and is a sinner (like me and you), I believe he, like me and you, is saved by grace and, moreover, has spent his life moulding Himself into the likeness of Christ, and successfully so. He’s broken Catholic tradition in word and deed many times already, and he’s not even a month into his papacy. This gives me hope that not only will he lead Roman Catholics towards Christ and godliness but that he’ll tear down many of the traditions and problems within the Catholic church, breaking them free of a works-based theology and pushing them to be more and more like the living, breathing, and active segment of the body of Christ that they ought to be.

      And *that* is why I’m excited about Francis I.

      Note: the views expressed here are mine and mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of Moody Bible Institute as a whole. Please understand this and do not pass judgment on the rest of the institution based on my statements.

      • Born Again Christian Woman

        October 10, 2015

        I just read this article for the first time today & I’m wondering if your views are still the same. You mentioned the good works that the pope has done. Since when does good works get anyone into heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9)? I believe that the very position of the pope is anti-Christ. Would a saved person accept being called ‘Holy Father’? He can at any time tell the world to stop calling him that because he is not the Holy Father (John 17:11). Would a saved person allow anyone to bow down to them as if he were Jesus Christ? Would a saved person delight in being treated like a rockstar everywhere he goes? Has the pope denounced a works-based salvation, among other Catholic practices that are unbiblical? Did he mention Jesus Christ to Congress on his recent visit to the U.S.? Do you see what I am getting at here? Jesus is the only way.


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