Samuele Bacchiocchi and HH Pope Benedict XVI

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Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI, 19 April 2005 – 28 February 2013

Bacchiocchi states in his recent newsletter – Endtime Issues 132:

He [Pope Benedict XVI] makes no attempt to examine the biblical legitimacy of historical Catholic teachings, because for him the traditional interpretation supersedes any objective study of Scripture. Like the late John Paul II, he is a devout and sincere man who is blinded by tradition. Such a blindness causes him to accept and enforce Catholic heresies as if they were biblical truths.

The papacy features a lot in Adventist prophecy, and it’s not surprising that Dr Bacchiocchi has taken the opportunity of the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI to promote Adventism’s anti-Catholic views. But this statement of his shows his extreme ignorance of the two men. Both were/are deeply committed to the Bible as God’s word, and know it in detail. Adventists may disagree with Catholic teaching, but to say that these men were/are ignorant of the Bible’s teachings and prefer Catholic Tradition is truly out of line. Catholics, including both popes, believe that their beliefs are fully supported by the Bible, and can be found implicitly, if not explicitly, in its text. For Catholics there is not the false dichotomy presented by Bacchiocchi – we do not have to choose between Tradition and the Bible – as if it were one or the other. We believe that both are in harmony. Tradition does not conflict with the Bible. The teachings of the Apostles cannot conflict with the Bible. Both men spent years studying both the Bible and the teachings of the Catholic Church, and, judging by their writings, knew the Bible well, and knew that neither the Bible nor Tradition conflicted with the other.

Adventism has its own tradition – that of Ellen White. While Bacchiocchi has gone as far as pointing out inaccuracies in her writings, Adventism as a whole still tends to favour an interpretation of the Bible that is not supported by proper exegesis, if it has Ellen White’s support. The Sabbath is one such example – they turn a Mosaic law not identified as important to Christianity and turn it into such an essential element of Christianity that the very “Mark of the Beast” is seen as Sunday observance. Yet nowhere does the New Testament tell us to keep the Sabbath, and nowhere do we see Christians keeping it in the New Testament after Jesus had risen from the dead. Yet Bacchiocchi can pontificate about the papacy and how well the popes know the Bible???

Jesus never told the Apostles to write a book. He told them to teach. In the process, some of their written teaching came to be accepted as part of the divinely inspired word of God. But nothing in their written or unwritten teachings indicates that their authority to teach would come to an end. And nothing in their written or unwritten teachings suggests that the Bible alone is our source of truth – in fact, the Bible says the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth. The Apostles spoke with authority given to them by Christ, not by the Bible. Neither Bacchiocchi nor Ellen White can make such a claim. Those following in the footsteps of the Apostles today can. This makes the Pope and the body of bishops more than just Bible scholars – they have a God-given teaching authority – and duty – that no scholar or recipient of private revelation can claim. They do more than just preach their own opinions and personal interpretations of the Bible. They are Christ’s ambassadors sent to teach the world.

Instead of picking on the Pope to force some non-biblical prophetic scenario to seem viable, Bacchiocchi should focus his attention on his own denomination. Instead of Adventism trying to force its teachings into the Bible, when nobody had found some such teachings there before Ellen White and friends came along, they should seriously review their teachings in light of the Bible.

The dilemma is this: is Bacchiocchi willing to look at his denomination and direct at them the same sort of criticism he directs towards the papacy? Perhaps ending up like those who did – Desmond Ford, Walter Rae, and others? In his criticism of Ellen White, and in his rejection of the traditional “history” Adventists have been taught about the Sabbath originating with Constantine, and in his defence of the pastor as a spiritual father, he has gone half way. Will he go all the way? Or will he help Adventism force the Bible and history to pretend that their beliefs are indeed the historical beliefs of the early Christians?

A few more comments:

Bacchiocchi quotes Bishop Eero Huovinen of the Finnish Lutheran Church as saying, “Lutheran cannot live without the sacrament of the Eucharist.” He links this to the ecumenical efforts between Lutherans and Catholics, and then, naturally, to the observance of Sunday. He doesn’t realise that the Finnish Lutherans have not changed their position on the Eucharist (or Sunday observance) due to interaction with Catholicism. The Finnish Lutherans have always been much closer to Catholicism in doctrine and practice regarding both the Eucharist and Apostolic Succession than mainstream Lutherans. Mainstream Lutherans in fact do not believe in Apostolic Succession, whereas the Finnish Lutherans do. It should be made clear that this bishop’s statement reflects centuries of belief amongst Finnish Lutherans, and not a movement away from historical protests.

It is worth noting that the Vatican in currently engaged in dialogues or consultations with the major Protestant churches, including our own Seventh-day Adventist Church. The primary objective is not to convert these churches to Catholicism, but to create a climate of respect and mutual acceptance. The success of the Vatican in softening the anti-Catholic teachings and prophetic interpretations of Protestant churches, can be seen in the evangelical acceptance of Roman Catholicism as a legitimate Christian religion.

Of course Catholicism is a legitimate Christian religion. Try as he might, in his doctoral thesis and other writings, Bacchiocchi cannot refute the overwhelming historical evidence that the early Christians were Catholic. That is a fact often ignored by anti-Catholics when quoting the Church Fathers – they use them to show something they believe, but ignore the rest. They would never quote the Pope to use his writings for inspiration purposes, but they will with the early Christians, as if they shared the same set of beliefs.

As for creating a climate of respect and mutual acceptance – slowly, but surely, it’s working. The Adventist camp that promotes their traditional propaganda has decreased, and many now see Ellen White and her writings as flawed, affected by the anti-Catholic climate of their day, and no longer the absolute authority the more traditional Adventists of the past have seen them as. The anti-Catholic propaganda has dwindled – because Adventists are starting to learn the truth about Catholicism. The days where they blindly accepted their pastors’ claims that “Catholics worship Mary” and “the Pope claims to be God” and “the Pope changed the Sabbath to Sunday” are becoming history. When Adventists find out what Catholicism really believes, and leave the propaganda behind them, they can’t but accept us Catholics as fellow Christians. Bacchiocchi, in a way, whether wittingly or not, has helped this process. If wittingly, is he catering to the traditionalists when he makes such statements, so that he is accepted in both camps?

Furthermore, more and more Protestants have come to accept the Pope as the spokesman for Christianity and the symbol of Christian unity, because, as Billy Graham said of the late pope John Paul II, he has become “the moral conscience of mankind.”

Who else would fit that description? Certainly no Adventist leader stands out as a candidate. Christianity is unpopular amongst many factions in the Western world today, yet the Pope has stood by centuries of moral teaching to uphold those values. And often he has stood alone. Bacchiocchi is using the Pope’s Christian value system as an excuse to label him as a power his brand of Christian needs to be careful of.

Benedict XVI will sorely disappoint those Catholics who are looking for doctrinal and moral accommodation, because he firmly believes that a church with porous doctrinal and moral boundaries soon withers and dies.

Is that a bad thing? Would Bacchiocchi rather his denomination stood out as the leader in the field of Christian moral values? Thus far, Adventism has stood out as one of the leaders in the field of fanaticism over a certain day of the week … this is changing, but why should Bacchiocchi wish to malign Catholicism’s moral teachings? I’ve often said, in regard to the anti-Catholic propaganda some Adventists spread, that a denomination that needs to lie about other Christians in order to look good, is not worth much. Is this the same idea? Warn others about Catholicism’s strong moral views so that they can accept the idea that Catholicism is really the evil they should fear? Evil, as proven by their biblical morals?

For Benedict XVI participation in the Sunday Eucharist is “the heart of Christian life and the source of the evangelizing mission of the Church.”

Bacchiocchi is reading the abominable Sunday into everything the Pope says or does, it seems. He read a plot into Dies Domini, Pope John Paul’s encyclical – see my article on that on my website. Now, when the Pope speaks of the Eucharist, Bacchiocchi assumes – erroneously – that Sunday is an important issue in this.

The problem with this Catholic view of the Lord’s Supper, known as “transubstantiation,” is that it turns the symbolic and spiritual meaning of the bread and wine, into the real physical body of Christ that believers can eat. In other words, the nourishment comes, not from the spiritual symbolic message of the Lord’s Supper, but from the physical consumption of Christ’s body. This view is negated by Scripture which describes the eating of the bread and the drinking of the cup, not as a consummation of Christ’s body, but as a “proclamation of the Lord’s death till he comes” (1 Cor 11:26).

Bacchiocchi, like the disciples who walked away in John 6:66, cannot accept the truth taught by the earliest of Christians, even those he claims were Sabbath keepers. Again, he creates a false dichotomy – 1 Cor 11:26 does not negate Catholic teaching. It is part of Catholic teaching. There is no conflict between the two. He also implies that the nourishment comes from either the “symbolic message (sic) of the Lord’s Supper” or the “physical consumption of Christ’s body.” He chooses the latter. Catholics, like the early Christians, believe both.

Any attempt to objectify Christ or the other members of the Trinity, by identify them with objects, shrines, icons, crucifixes, or statues, is condemned by the Scripture as idolatry.

Nowhere does the Bible say that. It condemns the worship of idols, not the use of statues. God even commanded certain statues be made. Obviously the issue was not with representing things in image form in the arena of religion. See my essay on this on my website.

The legend for the present pope 111 is: “gloria olivae-the glory of the olive.” The phrase suggests that the pontificate of Benedict XVI will be distinguished for seeking to promote peace around the world. If the prophecy is correct, then the words of Revelation 13:3 about “the whole earth followed the beast with wonder” (RSV), will soon be fulfilled. The next pope in Malachy’s list of papal prophecies is the last pope who ushers in the final judgement and destruction of the earth.

I really hope Bacchiocchi doesn’t take Malachy’s prophecies too seriously. Although, judging by his previous newsletters, he seems to. Perhaps they just make for good anti-Catholic speculation … when his interpretation of them is applied.

The great Protestant truths of Scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, and faith alone, are still unacceptable to the new pope.

Yet 2 of these are not found anywhere in the Bible. They are “traditions of men,” not found in the Bible. They did not exist in Christian teaching before the Reformation, which had as its aim a separation from apostolic spiritual and moral authority. (Yes, Bacchiocchi fits the bill … he sounds like a Protestant – he is one. Moral authority [any authority] = proof of some or other beast or horn or woman.) :!: :!:

This reminds us of the prophetic endtime vision of Revelation 13:3: “And all the world marvelled and followed the beast.”

Or rather, Christians of all types are recognising and following moral authority, something the Pope and the bishops inherited from the Apostles. Where in the Bible does it show that biblical morals will be a sign of the beast to come?

Bacchiocchi is somewhat of a contradiction – pleasing the evangelical Adventist left by overturning traditional Adventist teaching on Ellen White and the Sabbath on one hand, while, on the other, promoting traditional Adventist anti-Catholic views (after some criticism from this faction,) even though there is a subtle message behind them that leaves one a bit puzzled – moral principles = the beast.

Perhaps he needs to put aside his bias, and take a hard, objective look at where moral principles and biblical authority and the early Christian witness point, instead of worrying about the Sabbath and how moral values might lead to the downfall of something the Bible does not even promote for Christians.

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