Anyone paying attention to the news last week could not have missed Pope Francis’s historic visit to the United States. Perhaps the most alarming aspect of his visit was the way in which some evangelical leaders enthusiastically embraced him. Today’s article addresses one of the many reasons why evangelicals should neither endorse nor applaud the office of the papacy.
The Popularity of the Papacy
Francis is unarguably one of the most popular popes in recent memory. That popularity has been fueled, largely, by his unexpected message of tolerance toward those who have historically been condemned by the Catholic Church.
In last few months, Francis has even shocked many Catholics with statements he has made about homosexuality, divorce, abortion, capitalism, climate change, and how he views of people in non-Catholic religions. Some of his comments have been so surprising, in fact, that it leads one to wonder about the continuing validity of the rhetorical question: “Is the Pope Catholic?” With Francis, it’s getting harder and harder to say for sure.
In spite of all of that, the pope has never been more popular. Type the words “pope Francis souvenirs” into Google and over 1.8 million results show up. There are Pope Francis bobble heads, coffee mugs, commemorative buttons, key chains, wall art, collectible stamps, prayer cards, throw pillows, and a whole lot more.
Incredibly, the pope’s popularity has even spilled over into some Protestant circles—enticing a number of evangelical leaders to embrace him as a brother in Christ, rather than to reject him as a false teacher. In the words of one well-known television preacher, regarding Francis: “I love the fact that’s he’s made the Church more inclusive. Not trying to make it smaller, but to try to make it larger—to take everybody in. So, that just resonates with me.”
But the fact of the matter is that the popularity of this pope or any other pope represents the tragic reality that there are more than a billion people today caught in the clutches of a false religious system. The Roman Catholic church is not the true church. It is an apostate movement that has undermined the gospel by elevating the traditions of men above the Word of God.