Friday, 3 July 2015

Pope meets the Waldensian Church

The visit of a pope to a Waldensian church, the embrace of the moderator of that church, the pope in an act of asking for forgiveness for the suffering caused to the Waldensians by Catholics in the past and then kissing of the Waldensian Bible, should certainly make one rejoice - and partly it does. I say ‘should’ because, if we look at things from a biblical perspective, we no longer live in a world that can be called ‘normal’ or ‘rational’.

This full-blown ‘historic event’ occurs within a post-modern culture characterised by ethical and doctrinal relativism - it includes ‘everything’. From a biblical point of view, we consider this a misunderstanding, a ‘false’ love without truth substituted for the gospel’s Truth.

We believe that ‘hugs’ and forgiveness in this context, has little meaning. This is because the Catholicism represented by the current pope and the version of faith represented by the current ‘Waldensian’ moderator has very little to do with the actual Catholics and Waldensians who were in conflict. They may consider themselves their successors, and true ‘representatives’ but, in our view, they are not. Instead, they are an ‘evolution’, not necessarily for the best.

Pope Bergoglio is a typical representative, in his own way, of post-modernist relativism. The lips which kiss the Waldensian Bible belong to the same pope who kisses statues of the Madonna and honour John Bosco, a staunch opponent of the Waldensians. These lips also pray in mosques and Buddhist temples. The pope seems to ‘value’ without discernment each form of religiosity, pretending to keep them all together, in the name of an unspecified spirituality. Undoubtedly, to the ‘ecumenical’ modern relativist this is pleasing. It avoids the question of truth arising. Everything is resolved in a sentimental ‘love’ without discernment.

All this certainly has its own logic, but is it something we want to subscribe to? The same applies to the modern ‘Waldensians’. While the Waldensian Church is formally the same institution as it was, modern Waldensians, despite their claims, have little in common with their historic predecessors who drafted their confession of faith and joined the Reformation in Geneva. Although formally subscribing to this, the modern Waldensians leaders continually contradict it or believe they have ‘moved on’ from it. They are not children of the the Reformation, but children of Enlightenment rationalism and higher biblical criticism, which sought to undermine the authority of the Bible (so that it would not longer be considered the Word of God). They have sold out to the myth of ‘progress’. They are enthusiastic supporters of any ideology that is fashionable. Undoubtedly, they speak about ‘love’, but it is love without discernment or defined in a very questionable way. Above all, this love is devoid of the moral criteria established by God in His law, which is relativised.

What, then, do we think of this meeting of the pope and the modern Waldensians? We consider it essentially mystifying, a ‘reconciliation’ acted out ​​by people and institutions with which, as Christians, we do not identify with and which do not represent us.

Our own approach may be anti-institutional, but we are working for collaboration between Christians who see the Bible as the Word of God, the rule of our faith and conduct. We are not supposed to criticise the Bible and conform it to what we think is right. On the contrary, we must allow the Bible to criticise our assumptions and obey its guidance. We must not just claim formally that it is our rule of faith and practice, but we have to submit to it, in a verifiable way. Too often, today, we see self-professed Christian teachers manipulating and revising the Bible to make its teaching comply to their own traditions and alien presuppositions.

We believe in collaboration - not between conformists and ‘servants of institutions’ - but among those who place themselves in the biblical, prophetic tradition which is critical of a world hostile to the true and living God and his purposes. These are revealed among Christians ‘who hold high the Word of life’ (Philippians 2:16).

To better understand our position, this is the purpose of our movement: ‘Old Waldensian Paths’ (‘Sentieri Antichi Valdesi’ or ‘SAV’) is an ecclesial movement in the line of the old, Reformed Waldensian Church. It aims to raise awareness, defend and promote the guiding principles of this movement and that of the classical Protestant Reformation.

The former Waldensian Church was based on the belief that the Bible is entirely the Word of God and the rule of church faith and conduct. These principles were authoritatively confirmed by the Waldensian Confession of Faith of 1655, which together with other creeds of the Calvinist Reformation, faithfully follow and express the teaching of the Old and New Testament.

The signatories of SAV have come together at a time when, in pain and sorrow, they see many churches that claim to subscribe to these principles (such as the contemporary Waldensian-Methodist Church) falling away from it, under the increasingly corrupting influence of fashions and ideologies that are philosophical, social, political and cultural. In our opinion, they are embracing these with little, or with erroneous judgment, in the name of a misunderstood ‘progress’.

Our calling in SAV, is not only to protest at and denounce the current involution (decline, regression, the opposite of progress) but also to bring together, support and give voice to those who cannot and will not follow the prevailing direction of these churches. They are now marginalized in the modern Italian Waldensian and other churches where they no longer feel ‘at home’ and where they have been, in their view, betrayed.

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