Does God Need the Pope’s Protection?

Pope Francis has suggested revising the statement in the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:13 from “lead us not into temptation,” to “do not let us fall into temptation.”

This is exactly what French Roman Catholics have recently decided to do, changing the wording from et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation (“and subject us not to temptation”) to et ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation (“and let us not enter into temptation”). These are all renderings of the Latin et ne nos inducas in tentationem, which is a rendering of the Greek text of Matthew 6:13 and Luke 11:4, καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν.

The thinking behind the change is that the wording is misleading, suggesting that when we are tempted, God has led us into that circumstance. This suggested change is significant both from a grammatical and theological perspective.

Is the Pope Suggesting Editing the Word of God?

From a grammatical perspective, the Greek text of the Lord’s prayer is unambiguous. Jesus models prayer for us, making a request to God the Father, that he would not “bring us into” or “expose us to” (Greek, εἰσφέρω) temptation, but instead, that he would deliver us from the Evil One (traditionally, “evil”). The Latin verb induco means essentially the same thing, “to lead into.”

In this ask, Jesus presupposes that sometimes the Father ordains for us to be exposed to temptation, but that it is good for us ask God to protect us from temptation. More on this below.

Grammatically, what the French have done, and what Pope Francis agrees with, is changing the verb from the idea of “causing us to enter” to “allow to fall/enter.” In the former, God the Father is unambiguously sovereign over the circumstances of temptation, while in the latter, he is simply observing us trip up. Francis said as much in a televised interview, speaking of God leading us into temptation, “A father doesn’t do that. He helps you get up right away. What induces into temptation is Satan.”

But the Spirit of God did not inspire Matthew and Luke to write do not let us “fall into” temptation. God is definitely not the cause of our sin, but wrestling with a clear theology of temptation should never lead us to edit the Word of God. Editing the Roman Missal would, in effect, change the way Italian Roman Catholics memorize this part of God’s Word.

Who Knows Better than God?

The root of the issue isn’t grammatical, it’s theological. The Pope and other Roman Catholics aren’t comfortable with God being sovereign over temptation. The problem here is twofold, first the Bible clearly teaches that God is sovereign over temptation (James 1:2-4), but he is not the cause of it. Second, if God isn’t sovereign over temptation, then who is?

The concern of the Pope and the French Catholics is that people think the prayer says that God intentionally leads people into circumstances where they will be tempted. People think that because that’s what the prayer request assumes. The premier example of this is in the ministry of Jesus when the Spirit leads him into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan: “Then Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the Devil” (Matthew 4:1, my translation, different verb than in Matthew 6:13). Satan is the primary agent of the temptation, but God is sovereign over it.

Here’s the tough truth: sometimes God ordains difficult circumstances and trials to help us grow in our faith. While we need not desire difficulties, trials, and temptations (see the Lord’s Prayer), we should trust our sovereign God in the midst of them (cf. Genesis 50:20, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-7, Romans 5:3-5).

A Better Solution

Rather than edit the Word of God, a better solution is a church that teaches the Word of God in its entirety, and has a robust Biblical theology of God’s sovereignty, sin, and temptation. It’s hard to effectively shepherd people through the mere recitation of verses. God has given us his Word that we might understand it, which means we need to work hard to explain it.

Perhaps we could learn here from the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:2, “but we have renounced the secrecy of shameful ways, not acting deceitfully, nor distorting the Word of God.”

Rather than editing the Word of God to suit our theological ignorance, the church must let the Word of God form and shape our theology.

4 Comments

  1. Ryan,
    I understand what you are trying to say here and I do not entirely disagree with you. You have obviously done a very thorough investigation of all the respective linguistics in this Gospel. I respect that and bless you for that. However, it seems that you are implying that Pope Francis is a Deist. He is not. He is is a Christian, as are MANY of US. He most assuredly believes in and lives his life under the Sovereignty and Providence and Grace and Love of God. It is true that there are people out there who say they are “Catholics” (or “Christians”), but don’t seem to have a clue as to what that really means. I pray for them and seek to gently lead them to Christ.
    I think your comments at the end where you say, “It’s hard to effectively shepherd people through the mere recitation of verses.” is just a little presumptuous, harsh, and “tongue in cheek”. Satan doesn’t need any more help in trying to divide the Church (the whole Church). I prefer to focus on Jesus’ other prayer in John 17: 14-23.
    “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
    I believe that Jesus knew there were going to be arguments, trials, and temptations among His future followers. We must resist the temptation to criticize one another over the little things. It is just disrespectful of Jesus’ prayer that we should love one another and be ONE in Him. I do love you. Let us pray for the continuing sanctification of one another.
    In Christ’s Love and Grace,
    Denise K.

    1. Thanks Denise. I appreciate your comments. There are real and significant theological differences between Roman Catholic theology and our church’s understanding of the Word of God. Making adjustments to the Word of God itself, even in this end around way, is no small matter. My prayer is that the Spirit of God would lead more people to repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ alone for salvation, whoever and wherever they might be.

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