I will be honest from the outset, I admire Benedict XVI (or Herr Ratzinger if you prefer) greatly. This may surprise some of my evangelical/fundamentalist brethren, but let me encourage you to cast aside the polemical blinders for a second, and take a look at one of the great theologians and Christian leaders in modern times. A Christocentric, Scripturally adept, and thoughtful theologian who is also an accomplished Mozart pianist and one who understand the worldview shifts going on in the West better than most. Anyone who publicly warns against the “tyranny of moral relativism” gets my attention. This is who Benedict XVI is, and as such, he represents the best of the Roman tradition, and is to be applauded. His trilogy on the life of Christ called “Jesus of Nazareth” should be read by all Christians, and in the words of one confessional Lutheran, the work is a victory for “Mere Christianity.” His defense of what has always been taught about life, marriage, and other moral issues are often stronger and more persuasive than some of the “playing nice” stuff that comes out of American evangelicalism in particular.
Now as one who is not in communion with the Bishop of Rome (Pope) over several areas of theological disagreement (with the Roman church in general), but who is tradition-minded, creedal, conciliar, and sacramental Western Christian, I am choosing to focus on the “Mere Christian” perspective, and wish more would do the same as the West becomes increasingly secularized. A fundamental Baptist, confessional Lutheran, continuing Anglican, and traditional Roman Catholic have far more in common than they do apart, especially in a culture of increasing secularism and hostility to the Christian worldview. Benedict was (and still is) an ally in this regard. We can only hope and pray his successor shares the same willingness to challenge the secularizing of the West.
But rather than continue praise his merits as a leader, scholar, and yes, fellow Christian, I thought I would demonstrate what Christians in other traditions have written about him, to show that I am not alone in this thinking, but rather a little late to the party! First, consider this article by Baptist theologian Timothy George at Beeson Divinity School:
To quote George:
“Soon after Benedict emerged as the surprise choice of the most recent papal conclave in 2005, I wrote an essay on why Evangelical Protestants, among orthodox believers of all persuasions, should be pleased at his election. I summarized the promise of his new pontificate in five points. I emphasized that:
• he takes truth seriously, an antidote to what he called on the eve of his papal election “the dictatorship of relativism”;
• his theology is Bible-focused, building on the declaration of Vatican II that “easy access to sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful”;
• his message is Christocentric, boldly asserting that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God and the only Redeemer of the world;
• he is a fierce champion of the culture of life, advocating for the most vulnerable members of the human community, the children still waiting to be born.
To these four items I added a fifth: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger is an Augustinian.”
Read the whole article here.
For another perspective which I alluded to above, a confessional Lutheran professor shares his thoughts, and says that “But, as a frail and exhausted man stricken in years now passes into the annals of history while remaining for a while alive on earth, I express my appreciation, admiration, sympathy, and prayers.”
If you aren’t praying already for the Cardinals gathered in Rome to select a new leader, you should be. There are many goats in the Roman church who want to compromise with the world and “change with the times,” and the media of course wants to choose someone who is politically correct. Like any Christian tradition, Roman Catholic, Protestant/Evangelical, or Orthodox, there are many forces for ill both within and without, as the Great Realignment continues. So pray! Any other perspectives you would like to offer?