On the Gospel in Italy:
The faithful evangelical witness of past generations in difficult circumstances is inspiring. The gradual growth of cooperative efforts—for instance, in advocating for religious freedom or mercy ministries—is also encouraging. There are more solid books being translated into Italian (e.g., authors like Don Carson, Tim Keller, John Piper, John MacArthur, Mark Dever), and conferences and training initiatives are available for the Italian public. Recently the Dictionary of Evangelical Theology, a 900-page volume with more than 600 entries, was edited by Italian theologians and had to be reprinted—something unthinkable even a few years ago. There are 120 students following a non-residential five-year course in Reformed theology at the Istituto di Formazione Evangelica e Documentazione (IFED); this is also encouraging.
In the past, Italian theologians have significantly contributed to the cause of the gospel worldwide: I think of Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499–1562), peer to John Calvin and Heinrich Bullinger, whose Loci Communes (Common Places) were standard works for generations of Protestant pastors. I think of Francis Turretin (1623–1687), whose Institutes of Elenctic Theology is a crown of Reformed orthodoxy that served as the theology textbook at old Princeton Seminary. So while there’s still much to be translated, I’m convinced of the need for Italians themselves to write and develop contextually appropriate resources.
On “Roman Catholicism”:
The allure and appeal of unity with Rome is as enticing as ever. Yet the need is to understand Roman Catholicism as a system governed by spurious principles such as optimistic anthropology, synergistic salvation, abnormal ecclesiology, and ambiguous church-state identity which lies at the heart of the church (emphasis added). The Vatican Files are tools designed to help grasp the theological system binding the whole of Roman Catholicism—and it attempts to go beyond simplistic and superficial understandings of it. …
Today, the contribution that Italian theology can make to the global evangelical family perhaps lies in helping it to frame a biblically robust assessment of Roman Catholicism. More than ever this is at the top of the list of the global evangelical agenda.
On the secular popularity of “Pope Francis”:
Pope Francis is working hard to change the overall narrative of the Roman Catholic faith, wanting it to be marked by mercy and inclusivity instead of tradition and rules. He’s pitting the “letter” against the “spirit” of Roman Catholicism, pushing the latter over the former. This explains the concerns of certain traditional quarters about ambiguities in his language, also present in the final document of the recent Synod on the family.
Pope Francis wants to overcome the letter of canon law with a merciful spirit that welcomes all without challenging anyone. This is why he’s so loved by secular people. Everyone feels affirmed and no one feels questioned by what he says. But the biblical good news is that Jesus has come to pay for our sins and calls all persons to repent and believe. If you miss one bit of the gospel, you miss it all. The Pope uses language that resembles the gospel, but the meaning of what he says is far from it (emphasis added).
How can we pray for the evangelical church in Italy?
Please pray for:
a growing appreciation for gospel centrality in all we are and do;
a stronger sense of being part of the historical and global church of Jesus Christ;
a deeper sense of unity based on gospel truth;
a new enthusiasm in church planting and evangelism, especially in urban centers;
a support of training initiatives that are biblically sound and culturally relevant;
a peer-to-peer gospel partnership between the Italian church and the global church wanting to help us; and
a renewed gospel-centered engagement of society that addresses the bankruptcy of both religious and secular illusions in the hope God will move powerfully in the country.