ADVERTISING
 
Monday, November 20   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
'... Christian'
I would define myself as...





SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



De Chirico and Pritchard
 

The Need for Clarification: Is the Reformation Over? (I)

A response by Leonardo De Chirico and Greg Pritchard to articles written by Thomas Schirrmacher and Thomas K. Johnson. 

FEATURES AUTHOR Leonardo De Chirico, Greg Pritchard 03 NOVEMBER 2017 09:34 h GMT+1
The Coliseum, in Rome. / Alex Blajan (Unsplash, CC)

Introduction



In 2015, the Evangelical Reformanda Initiative was established to describe and analyze the Roman Catholic Church’s beliefs and practices.  It was created because many Evangelicals seem to be uncertain about what Roman Catholics actually believe. Do they believe in the same Gospel, or something significantly different?  One of the first articles produced by the Reformanda Initiative was “What Do You Think About Pope Francis?, co-authored by the writers of this paper, Leonardo De Chirico and Greg Pritchard.[i]



In response to this article, Thomas Schirrmacher (with Thomas Johnson) wrote the article “Why We, As Evangelical Reformed Christians, Seek to Dialogue with Pope Francis.”[ii] Unfortunately, the article was emotionally reactive and lacked academic rigor, even including many simple misspellings and grammatical mistakes.[iii] But more seriously, it accused our article “of painting a very negative picture of the Pope’s character” and charged that we “impugn both the Pope’s motives and his character.  They seem to suggest that Pope Francis is an expert at deluding people.”[iv]  At that time, we did what one often should do in response to false accusations: nothing. 



In October of 2016, the Reformanda Initiative released the statement “Is the Reformation Over?” (“Is the Reformation Over?” Statement or the Statement), which was signed by over two hundred global Evangelical leaders and scholars and translated into French, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, Italian, Swedish, Slovakian, and Romanian.[v] 



Schirrmacher and Johnson (this time as a co-author) wrote a response to the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement with the article “Let the Reformation Continue!”[vi]  Again, this article makes very strong accusations against not just us, but also against the hundreds of Evangelical leaders who either helped craft or signed the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement:



The statement seems to assume that the Pope purposely deceives us or even lies to us and the public without providing clear evidence.  We are afraid this could violate the ninth commandment by bearing false witness against our neighbor (in this case the Pope and other Catholic leaders).[vii]



This is a very serious charge. As we will see shortly, this accusation is also false, but it cannot be ignored as the first article was.  The hundreds of leaders and scholars who signed the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement will be tarred by this accusation, and so we believe we must respond.   



The present article is a response to both Schirrmacher’s first article and Schirrmacher and Johnson’s second article.[viii]  We have to acknowledge that this article has been painful to write.  It is not pleasant to publically critique two brothers in Christ. Both Schirrmacher and Johnson have knowledge of Roman Catholicism and extensive experience working with Roman Catholic leaders, and we would have welcomed a critical response that advanced the discussion. However, because their articles have so many inaccuracies, distortions, and false accusations, we need to respond in a candid and straightforward way. 



Our hope is that this article may serve a wider audience. Because the topic of the relationship between Evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism is crucially important, especially given that this year is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, our anticipation is that this article may be useful to clarify why the Reformation is not over and what both Roman Catholics and Evangelicals actually believe. 



We will first make a few comments about both articles’ general method of argumentation and then evaluate the central argument of the Schirrmacher-Johnson article. 



 



Articles’ Method



There are multiple problems with both articles’ basic method.  We will only mention two here:



 



1)  Inaccurate and Misleading Statements



There were an alarming number of inaccurate statements in both articles, and we do not have space to respond to all of them.[ix] However, we will briefly respond to Schirrmacher’s accusation and Schirrmacher-Johnson’s accusation mentioned above. 



Schirrmacher writes that the authors of “What Do You Think About Pope Francis?” are “painting a very negative picture of the Pope’s character,” “impugn both the Pope’s motives and his character,” and “seem to suggest that Pope Francis is an expert at deluding people.”[x]



What does the article “What Do You Think About Pope Francis?” actually say about Pope Francis?



The article explains that the Pope is “one of the most liked leaders in today’s world” and his message is “inclusive and nonjudgmental.”  Personally, Francis is “sincere, kind, and loving,” “charming” and “relationally warm.”  He is described as “magnetic” and able to “winsomely communicate,” with an enormous capacity for “empathetic listening” and “profound political gifts.”  He is described as having an “extraordinary openness and warmth toward evangelicals.”[xi]



The article does explain that Francis is a Jesuit (he is), who is also a “gifted and canny politician” (he is), and that some have described him as a “chess player” (they have).[xii] At one point, Schirrmacher accuses the authors of falsely describing Francis as a chess player, and yet in the same article he asserts that “you have to be [a chess player] if you have to deal with the Curia!,” in effect disagreeing with himself. [xiii]



Schirrmacher seems offended by the article’s description of Francis’ extraordinary communication and political gifts as comparable to one of the greatest public communicators of the day, former U.S. President Barack Obama.  But both Francis and Obama have an amazing ability to listen to and empathize with others and communicate effectively, and the article seeks to help readers to understand Francis by using Obama’s extraordinary gifts as a point of comparison. 



Schirrmacher’s description of the article as “a very negative picture of the Pope’s character” which “impugn[s] both the Pope’s motives and his character” is clearly incorrect.[xiv]



In short, the article “What Do You Think About Pope Francis?” portrays Francis as an sincere, kind, and extraordinarily gifted Jesuit from South America who is also a canny political leader and the most ecumenical Pope yet -- who is relationally reaching out to Evangelicals (and others).  It encourages Evangelicals to do their homework regarding how to understand Francis and his role as the Pope of the Catholic Church as he is (according to Catholic sources) seeking to establish a new relationship between Catholicism and Evangelicalism.  



Schirrmacher-Johnson’s article continues the pattern of inaccurate statements and character assassination of the over 200 signers of the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement.  We quoted their comment before, but it bears repeating: 



The statement seems to assume that the Pope purposely deceives us or even lies to us and the public without providing clear evidence.  We are afraid this could violate the ninth commandment by bearing false witness against our neighbor (in this case the Pope and other Catholic leaders).[xv]



There are only two references to Pope Francis in the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement. The first explains one of the reasons why some claim that the Reformation is over:



The challenges for Christians worldwide (e.g., secularism and Islam) are so daunting that Protestants and Catholics can no longer afford to remain divided. A unified witness (with perhaps the Pope as the leading spokesman?) would greatly benefit global Christianity.[xvi]



The second describes the Roman Catholic theology of indulgences:



Moreover, the Roman Catholic Church’s view is revealed by its continued use of indulgences (i.e., the remission of the temporal punishment for sin allotted by the Church on special occasions). It was the theology of indulgences that triggered the Reformation, but this system has been invoked most recently by Pope Francis in the 2015-2016 Year of Mercy.[xvii]



It is likely that Schirrmacher and Johnson’s accusation is referring only to a short section of the Statement that they quote immediately beforehand, in which the Pope is never mentioned:



The fact that millions of Catholics have become Evangelicals in recent years has not gone unnoticed by Roman Catholic leaders. They are seeking to respond strategically to this loss of their faithful by adopting traditional Evangelical language (e.g. conversion, gospel, mission, and mercy) and establishing ecumenical dialogues with churches they once condemned.[xviii]



If they mean this paragraph when they use the term “the statement,” they seem to believe that this passage is asserting that because Catholic leaders in recent years have been strategically using Evangelical language and seeking to establish ecumenical dialogue, the Pope is exercising intentional deception by misrepresenting Catholic beliefs. However, that is clearly not what this quote states or implies.  At no point does the Statement, or the article about the Pope Francis, assert that Pope Francis is dishonest.  So again we have a false accusation with no evidence.



The fact that Schirrmacher and Johnson make such a false accusation is disconcerting, and should encourage a careful reader to question any of their assertions. A similar problem exists in how both articles distort the most basic descriptions. 



 



2)  Distortions not Descriptions



A key element of good scholarship is an ability to describe another writer’s argument fairly and honestly. 



At the beginning of the article “Let the Reformation Continue!”, Schirrmacher-Johnson summarize their main point in extra-large bold font: “We respectfully believe that the statement ‘Is the Reformation Over?  A Statement of Evangelical Convictions’ is not a sufficient description of our present theological situation.”[xix] The remainder of the article then seeks to unpack why the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement is not a “sufficient description of our present theological situation.”[xx]



But this was not the point of the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement.  There is an extensive list of topics one should address in attempting to provide “a sufficient description of our present theological situation.”[xxi] To list only a few issues from an Evangelical perspective, one would need to include the health and wealth gospel, Islam, Evangelicalism’s discipleship crisis, new perspective movement, higher critical approaches to the Bible, theological education, etc. However, the goal of the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement was only to provide a 2-page summary of Evangelical convictions regarding Roman Catholicism on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.



Imagine walking into a typical Italian restaurant and asking for sushi. They don’t serve sushi.  Why would you ask for something they don’t have? This is similar to what Schirrmacher and Johnson have done with their article. They inaccurately describe the goal of the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement and then say it has not achieved the false goal they have foisted on it. This fundamental distortion is embedded in (and garbles) their entire article. 



There are many distortions and wrong characterizations in how Schirrmacher and Johnson formulate the issues and questions in their articles.  In particular, Schirrmacher-Johnson list seven statements that, they assert, are stated or assumed in the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement and then explain why they disagree with each statement.  However, these seven statements distort the most basic issues and do not provide a fair description or analysis of the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement’s claims. The rest of this article seeks to clarify and evaluate just a few of these distortions.   



Leonardo De Chirico is the pastor of Breccia di Roma and Vice Chairman of the Italian Evangelical Alliance. He also is the Director of the Reformanda Initiative.



Greg Pritchard is President of Forum of Christian Leaders (FOCL) and Director of the European Leadership Forum.




[i] De Chirico, L., & Pritchard, G. A. (2015, September 24). What Do You Think About Pope Francis? Retrieved from http://reformandainitiative.org/what-do-you-think-about-pope-francis/.





[ii] Schirrmacher, T. (2015, October 27). Why We, As Evangelical Reformed Christians, Seek to Dialogue with Pope Francis. Retrieved from http://wrfnet.org/articles/2015/10/wrf-member-thomas-schirrmacher-suggests-reasons-why-evangelicals-should-engage-pope#.WMxY0DvythE.





[iii] An indication of this emotional tenor can be seen in Schirrmacher’s use of exclamation points (3 times), underlining (9 times), and bolding (2 times), italics (5 times), and all capital letters (3 times). Grammatical errors include misspellings of “retheoric” (paragraph 4, line 4), “Petecostals” and “entert” (par. 9, line 6), “no” instead of on (par. 11, line 3), “France’s charm and kindness” (par. 16, line 2), “opporyunity” (par. 21, line 4), “definuition” (par. 23, line 13), “ge” (par. 30, line 3). Other grammatical errors include “respecting each others opinions…” (par. 2, line 2, missing apostrophe), “Pope Francis does seem to worry…” (par. 10, line 2, should be does not), “explicitly see it Pope Francis’ strategy…” (par. 13, line 1, “it” is unnecessary), “The fact that people have contact me” (par. 13, line 4, instead of contacted), “confused’” (par. 24, line 6, extra apostrophe), and “in order to to get together” (par. 29, line 1, “to” repeated). It is also curious to observe the number of self-referential pronouns (I, me, my, we, us, our) used in the article (a total of 136 times in the 3502-word article, or every 26th word), even though the original article makes no reference to Schirrmacher.





[iv] Schirrmacher, Why We, as Evangelical Reformed Christians, Seek to Dialogue with Pope Francis.





[v] Is the Reformation Over? A Statement of Evangelical Convictions Retrieved from http://isthereformationover.com/.





[vi] Schirrmacher, T. and Johnson, T. (2016, December 16). Let the Reformation Continue! Retrieved from http://wrfnet.org/sites/default/files/Let%20the%20Reformation%20Continue!.pdf.





[vii] Schirrmacher and Johnson, Let the Reformation Continue!





[viii] From this point forward, we will refer to the first article, “Why We, As Evangelical Reformed Christians, Seek to Dialogue with Pope Francis” as “Schirrmacher’s article” and the second article, “Let the Reformation Continue!” as the “Schirrmacher-Johnson’s article” or “Schirrmacher and Johnson’s article”.





[ix] There are many inaccurate comments in these two articles, and it would take a much longer article to describe, analyze and evaluate all of them.  We will simply list below some of these remarks and make a brief observation. 1) Schirrmacher asserts that “Leonardo De Chirico and Greg Pritchard criticize those evangelical leaders who visit the Pope.”  We did not criticize all Evangelical leaders who visit the Pope.  We criticized those who don’t do their homework regarding what Roman Catholicism actually teaches and gave specific examples.  2)  Schirrmacher states that “the authors… are convinced that Reformed evangelicals who visit with him (the Pope) are naïve and ignorant of the Pope’s real goals and of Catholic theology”.   We never used the phrase “Reformed evangelicals” or talked about Reformed Evangelicals.  3) Schirrmacher writes that we “have moved a bit too quickly to a final judgment about Pope Francis’s motives.”  We tried to describe Pope Francis honestly and fairly and never stated that we know or have come to a “final judgment about Pope Francis’s motives.”  4)  Schirrmacher states, “The Pope apologizes for something different nearly every month.  Is this all to win Evangelicals?”  We never said or implied this.  In fact, we noted that he has apologized to non-Evangelical groups and that he also seeks to reach out to others including Muslims, liberals, homosexuals, atheists, etc.  5)  Schirrmacher and Johnson state that the signers of the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement have not been involved in dialogues with Roman Catholics but “Viewing this process from afar, they have made presumptions about what is happening that are not consistent with reality.”  The signers of the Statement have a wide and rich history of official and informal dialogue with Roman Catholics.  For example, one signer attended all three of John Stott’s Lausanne discussions with Roman Catholics and noted that they started in 1977, not in 1983 as Schirrmacher claims. 6)  Schirrmacher-Johnson write that “Bishop Tony Palmer has stated privately several years ago that Luther’s protest is finished.”  As noted in this article, Tony Palmer has made very public arguments that “Luther’s protest is over.”  7) Schirrmacher-Johnson assert that parts of the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement “imply that the Evangelical world is theologically in good health.”  The Statement neither states nor implies this.   8)  Schirrmacher-Johnson argue that the “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement’s “actual content does not do justice to the authority of the Bible, as it does not argue on the basis of the exegesis but only on the basis of history.” Schirrmacher-Johnson are once again foisting a false goal on the statement.  We would repeat what we argue in this article, that the purpose of the Statement is to provide a two-page summary of Evangelical convictions on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  But we find it curious that this expectation of exegesis in a theological article is written in a theological piece that is almost three times as long as the Statement and yet never once quotes Scripture or does exegesis. 





[x] Schirrmacher, “Why We, as Evangelical Reformed Christians, Seek to Dialogue with Pope Francis”





[xi] De Chirico and Pritchard. “What Do You Think About Pope Francis?”





[xii] De Chirico and Pritchard. “What Do You Think About Pope Francis?” For one example of Francis as a chess player, see Grimm, W. (2014, Nov 18): “Is Pope Francis moving towards checkmate? Recent developments suggest the Pontiff might well be a formidable chess player.” Retrieved from www.ucanews.com



http://www.ucanews.com/news/is-pope-francis-moving-toward-checkmate/72414.





[xiii] Schirrmacher, Why We, as Evangelical Reformed Christians, Seek to Dialogue with Pope Francis





[xiv] Schirrmacher, Why We, as Evangelical Reformed Christians, Seek to Dialogue with Pope Francis





[xv] Schirrmacher and Johnson, Let the Reformation Continue!





[xvi] “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement





[xvii] “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement





[xviii] “Is the Reformation Over?” Statement





[xix] Schirrmacher and Johnson, Let the Reformation Continue!





[xx] Schirrmacher and Johnson, Let the Reformation Continue!





[xxi] Schirrmacher and Johnson, Let the Reformation Continue!




 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - The Need for Clarification: Is the Reformation Over? (I)
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

 
Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation

Pastor Gary Wilkerson talks about what all evangelical Christians can learn from the Protestant Reformation and underlines the need for more churches with both a sound doctrine and obedience to the Holy Spirit.

 
Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe

Is the arrival of thousands of Muslims to Europe a threat to Christianity? What is the growth of evangelical churches in Eastern and Southern Europe? An interview with theologian and Lausanne Movement representative Lindsay Brown.

 
Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

 
Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission

“We want to see the youth not just being equipped, but also being multipliers”, Evi Rodemann director of Mission-Net. The European Congress took place in Germany from December 28 to January 2.

 
Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

 
Pablo Martinez comments on Evangelical Focus’ launch Pablo Martinez comments on Evangelical Focus’ launch

Author and international speaker Dr Pablo Martínez discusses the main challenges in Europe nowadays and hopes Evangelical Focus will be a useful tool to help build bridges between churches and society.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Lausanne younger leaders gathering in Budapest Lausanne younger leaders gathering in Budapest

About 70 people from European countries met at the Younger Leaders Gen gathering in Hungary (19-22 October) to discuss the challenges of the church in the continent and build partnerships. Photos: Evi Rodemann and Jari Sippola.

 
I am not on sale I am not on sale

Young Christians gathered at Madrid’s central square Sol to denounce human trafficking. A flashmob highlighted the work of three evangelical NGOs which support women who escape sexual slavery in Spain.

 
Stamps to commemorate the Reformation Stamps to commemorate the Reformation

Poland, Lithuania, Namibia and Brazil are some of the countries that have issued special stamps on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

 
‘Reconciliation’ in the Basque Country ‘Reconciliation’ in the Basque Country

Bilbao hosted the Spanish Evangelical Alliance's annual meeting (assembly). Politicians, professors and evangelical representatives shared views on social reconciliation. The theme was also analysed from a theological perspective and in workshops. 

 
The Progress of Europe, deeply connected to Bible The Progress of Europe, deeply connected to Bible

Indian author Vishal Mangalwadi spoke about how the biblical worldview shaped the West. 300 professionals attended annual GBG meeting on faith and work in Cullera (Spain). Photos: J.P. Serrano, S. Vera.

 
Impressions of Lausanne's #ylg2016 Impressions of Lausanne's #ylg2016

Around 1,000 young Christian leaders from 150 countries are participating in the 2016 Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering, to reflect on global mission.

 
VIDEO Video
 
Creation Care and the Gospel, in France Creation Care and the Gospel, in France

The conference drew about 90 delegates from across Europe. Scientists, theologians, activists reflected together on the theme “God’s Word and God’s World”.

 
“It is inconsistent to say we love the Creator while we destroy His creation” “It is inconsistent to say we love the Creator while we destroy His creation”

In creation care, “we need more people who lead by example”, says well-known Brazilian politician and activist Marina Silva. 

 
Human traffickers recruit girls and boys online Human traffickers recruit girls and boys online

The new video of the European Freedom Network addresses the dangers of social media. 

 
“Remember you are dust” “Remember you are dust”

Vaughan Roberts speaks from 25 years of ministry experience to share four lessons on staying the course as a Christian, despite ongoing battles with the world, the flesh, and the devil.

 
Walk Walk

A two-minute video on the meaning of Jude 24.

 
Playmobil animation on Luther’s life Playmobil animation on Luther’s life

British video platform GoChatter uses 4,000 individual photos to create stop motion video on Martin Luther's life.

 
Individualism: from the Protestant Reformation to 21st century capitalism Individualism: from the Protestant Reformation to 21st century capitalism

Indian author Vishal Mangalwadi on how the Protestant Reformation underlined individualism as a means to please God, and how secular Europe corrupted it.

 
Students in Europe: “We are present” Students in Europe: “We are present”

A summary video of the IFES Europe conference which brought together 1,700 students from many countries in Aschaffenburg (Germany) to reflect on God's mission in society.

 
Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

 
An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.