Pope Francis and the Cultural Blitzkrieg

The Church of Jesus Christ everywhere is under cultural Blitzkrieg.

Wallace Henley Portrait
Wallace Henley is an exclusive CP columnist. |

The German term was coined to describe Hitler's strategy in his early assaults especially on Poland, the Sudetenland, and Austria. The attacks combined suddenness (Blitz) and all-out war (Krieg) rather than slow incremental incursions.

Contemporary church leaders who are in denial, attempting neutrality, or even questing for compromise with the perpetrators of the Blitzkrieg have lost their vision for truth and God's Kingdom. Or, they may be so isolated they don't understand what is going on – though the blasts are all around them.

The subpoenaed pastors in Houston get it, as do others in the target-sites of the storm-troopers of political correctness.

But it appears Pope Francis may not.

When the Synod of Bishops meeting recently in Rome rejected the Primate's proposals that would alter Church practice relating to lifestyles contrary to Scripture, Pope Francis was disturbed. The Church, he replied, must avoid "a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God."

That statement tells us much about the Pope's personal theology. He seems not to understand biblical authority, inferring that God has some "surprises" for His people from beyond the "written word." Apparently, the revelation of God through the Bible is not the final word, and the Church needs to be on the look-out for some "new things", as the Pope put it elsewhere.

I have stated in previous columns that, though I have deep theological differences with the Catholic Church, I have admiration and love for it. I also am inspired by Pope Francis' passion for incarnational ministry. Were it not for those doctrinal barriers focused on critical issues like authority (it's really distressing when the Pope himself has an apparent problem with the authority of the "written word"!) and soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) I would run, not walk, "home to Rome."

Thus when I write about what I regard as the Pope's mistaken progressivism I do so with sadness not derision.

Despite doctrinal differences, evangelicals seeking to uphold biblical teachings about reverence for life, marriage, and sexuality have always felt they were allied strongly with the Roman Catholic Church. While many mainline Protestants actually went over to the other side, priests and nuns often joined arm-to-arm with evangelical pastors, elders, and other church leaders in marches for life and on sidewalks in front of abortion clinics.

Thus the "softening" of the Pope on crucial social issues is disturbing.

One distressing element is in the parallels between President Obama and Pope Francis. The President's "softening" in global affairs brings him to acknowledge that he underestimated ISIS, an entity that understands and applies Blitzkrieg. One hopes the Pope will not arrive at a day when he must acknowledge underestimating the cultural blitz.

However, the similarity between the President and Pope should be no surprise since they are both members of the Church of Progressivism, which sometimes tramples the biblical foundations of what hundreds of millions consider the real Church, especially on sanctity of life, gender, marriage, and sexuality.

Pope Pius XII in 1930s Europe was seen as, not a progressive, but a reactionary, slow to understand Hitlerism. It's easy to join the chorus of condemnation of Pope Pius for not doing enough to stop the Holocaust. However, he did act once he understood the problem, but it was too little and too late. The Bltizkrieg against an entire race was already an accomplished fact.

The stern marauders of today's cultural Blitzkrieg against the Church shout, "yield to us or we will sue you, throw you into jail, tie up your resources in lengthy court battles, even turn law enforcement agencies that would normally protect you into those who arrest you!"

In that decades-long cultural war, the Roman Catholic Church has been a stalwart ally of biblically revealed truth. She has opened her arms to all, sinners and saints, but she has always sought to baptize them, not only into the Church, but into important principles of the faith – the sanctity of life and relationships.

Winston Churchill once lamented the London blitz as Nazi bombs ripped the city indiscriminately. He voiced concern for the destruction of "this strong City of Refuge which enshrines the title-deeds of human progress…" The Catholic Church has been a strong citadel and repository of high values during the blitzes of the cultural wars, May its Pope, Bishops, Pastors, and People keep it as a "strong city of refuge."

May they – and all the Church – find creative ways to communicate Christ's Good News in culturally relevant styles. But may they not allow style to drive theology.

May the Church pastorally minister the hope of absolute grace as Christ did with the woman caught in adultery. But may the Church also prophetically call for repentance as Jesus did with the woman at the well.
May the Church be "cool" enough to converse with the culture. But may she not become so frigid she is an iceberg merely floating on trendy currents.

May the Church be as her Master, "soft" at the right times, and "hard" when she needs to be. But may she always discern the right moments for each.

Wallace Henley, a former Birmingham News staff writer, was an aide in the Nixon White House, and congressional chief of staff. He is a teaching pastor at Second Baptist Church, Houston, Texas. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

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