Editor's note: The Christian Post has arranged with noted evangelical Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher, an expert on and friend of The Catholic Church, to provide exclusive and rare coverage of the World Synod of the Catholic Church scheduled for October 3-24.
This Vatican Synod is generating great interest among Catholics and Evangelicals alike as Pope Francis continues to make overtures for increased cooperation with Evangelicals to protect religious freedom in a world of increased persecution of Christians.
Schirrmacher is president of the International Council of the International Society for Human Rights und Ambassador for Human Rights and executive chair of the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance, the largest evangelical association in the world.
Only one evangelical was invited to this year's three-week Synod: Dr. Schirrmacher. Below is his exclusive CP blog post from this historic meeting:
October 14, 2015
After having discussed Part I of the synod proposal, that studies the present situation worldwide, and after discussing Part II, stating the teaching of the church on marriage and family, the best part is yet to come from tomorrow on, Part III on pastoral applications of Part II to the situation of Part I.
The open discussion is growing, the different positions are stated strongly, even though they do not lead to any kind of political parties at the synod. And many bishops here are conservative concerning one topic and liberal concerning another.
Also the divide is more by continents. Often, by just listening to speakers you can tell from which continent they come even if you did not see their name and country.
Meanwhile there is a scenario in the air which no one expected. The final text of the synod will not get the necessary two thirds vote because language and style of arguing are of such bad quality that constant changes may not be able to repair this. Conservatives and liberals alike could vote against the document.
The Pope is not bound in any way to the document, if he does not choose so, but if no text is accepted, it will be the Pope, even more so, to find a solution for the discussed problems.
This is also part of the synod: A strong, conservative and private letter to the Pope was published in an Italian newspaper including the names under the letter. Half of the people suddenly denied that they signed the letter. Only the Australian cardinal Pell, somehow the speaker of the conservative line, admitted that he passed on the letter to the Pope.
But we Evangelicals have our own media circus.
A lot of blogs comment on what I am doing here in Rome. One Italian blog claimed that Pope Francis is the Antichrist. Of course, several cardinals and bishops asked me immediately what I thought about it.
My answer was, that reading 1 John 2:18; 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7 and Revelation 13:17-18 proves to me that the Pope is not the Antichrist and that I believe in sola scriptura.
The antichrist is the one who "denies that Jesus is the Christ" and denies "that Jesus Christ came in the flesh." Is this an honest description of the current Pope? I think not.
Pope Benedict wrote three volumes on Jesus, the Christ, God incarnate. The central descriptions of the antichrist in all the texts by John are the opposite of what the Pope stands for.
Indeed, it is 1 John 4:2,3 that makes me think we have to talk with the Pope and most Roman Catholic leaders in a very friendly manner, expecting that the Holy Spirit is active in their lives, even if we disagree with very important and well-known themes in their teaching.
"This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."
If you look for an Antichrist that fits these words, Islam would fit much better, as do other religions and worldviews. No Evangelical exegetical commentary on the market sees the Pope in the mentioned verses. If scripture does not say it, I do not care that some of my theological heroes used the term Antichrist for the Pope. Luther would praise me for applying sola scriptura. The Bible counts, not Martin Luther's — often harsh — words. For more on this topic, check out this blog post that my friend Thomas K. Johnson helped me to write.