"Gismos is on his way to meet with the council right now," one well-informed angel said to another.
"It's awful soon after his 'revival', isn't it? Has he completed his study of English?"
"Yes, I overheard someone saying that he had mastered the new language and was able to speak it."
"This should certainly be an interesting conference, although I must admit I still don't understand why Gismos volunteered to be totally removed from the events of Earth for nineteen hundred years."
"I know. Who would volunteer to 'sleep' for two millennia and have no part with what was occurring since the establishment of the church? He makes Rip Van Winkle look like a caffeine addict."
"What year was it again that he began his 'slumber'?"
"It was A.D. 102."
"I just know I would not have wanted to be absent that long."
"Of course, Gismos has all eternity to catch up on things."
"What do you suppose the council will do?"
"It's hard to say. I think they are going to give him instructions for his mission. We will all know soon enough, shortly after their meeting has ended."
"Well, we've waited nineteen hundred years to find out; I suppose a few more hours won't hurt."
"True. Some say that it has to do with the end of the world. We'll just have to wait and see."
"Dialogismos," he began, calling him by his full name, "Welcome back after your long absence."
"You have mastered the English language?"
"Yes, and although I miss the inflections of Latin and Greek, it seems to be a language of excellent quality--with a multitude of expressive possibilities."
"Good. You shall need an English name so as not to attract attention. You have always been regarded as one who can evaluate and reason well; so your English name shall be Reasoner."
"Thank you. And what is my mission to be?"
"You will be given several. Your overall purpose is to evaluate the conditions of all that occurs on the earth today. Your first assignment is to interview two of the worldŐs top religious leaders. Of course, they will not know that you are an angel, nor will they have any idea what your purpose is in speaking to them.
"What kind of questions shall I ask?"
"We want you to evaluate their teaching. How close, in your judgment, do you think they are to what God has revealed in the New Testament? You still have all of the books memorized, don't you?"
"Yes, of course. It would take longer than a few centuries to erase the Words of eternal life spoken by the Lord and His apostles."
"Right. We all eagerly waited for the full revelation to be made. Truly, the salvation the Lord obtained for mankind is wondrous indeed."
"Are there any specific questions you want me to ask?"
"We cannot prompt you in this matter. You will have to determine your own approach. We are confident that you will easily meet our expectations."
"How do I contact these men?"
"The meetings have already been arranged. Both men have agreed to meet with you. You will appear to each man's personal secretary (who serves a function somewhat like an amanuensis). We will await here your analysis. God's blessings be upon you."
Gismos, noticing first his own attire and thinking, "So togas are no longer the style," said, "I am Mr. Reasoner."
Recovering quickly, the secretary said, "Oh, yes, we've been expecting you." He pushed a button on some sort of box and spoke into the air, "Mr. Reasoner is here." A voice from nowhere answered, "Please show him in."
Gismos was wondering about that and some of the other furnishings in the room, but the secretary was on his feet. "Come with me. His holiness will see you now," which was really confusing. He had just left Heaven. Were there more instructions to be delivered to Him by God Himself? That might explain the faceless voice he had heard.
The secretary opened the door; inside a man small in stature awaited him. He wore a long robe and had his head covered. The fact that angels can survey things very quickly only served to confuse Gismos even more.
"Please, have a seat, Mr. Reasoner. Do you speak Italian or Polish?"
"Uh, no. I'm afraid I only know English and some of the older languages: Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic."
"So, you're a classical scholar?"
"Of sorts. Let's talk about you. How would you describe yourself?"
"I am an old man, who probably does not have much longer to live," he said somberly, "but I am not complaining. I have been privileged to be the head of the church on earth for 24 years."
"Excuse me. Some of my questions may sound strange to you, but I will ask them just as if I had only arrived on earth a few moments ago. Over what church are you the head?"
A little contempt arose, "You know full well that I am the pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, which has millions and millions of followers worldwide. Even someone from another planet would know that."
"No other planets are populated--er, so I've been told."
"That remains to be seen. Young man, I am the pope, the head of the church Jesus Christ established, and a successor of Peter, whom Jesus appointed the first pope."
Gismos' mouth fell open. He spoke too quickly, "But Jesus said He was the head of the church in heaven and on earth. And Peter was never the head of the church."
"Young man, are you challenging my authority and years of religious tradition?"
"Tradition? Did not Jesus say, 'In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men' (Matt. 15:9)? (When Gismos learned English, he had studied the chapter and verse divisions also.)"
"You are challenging me! Who do you think you are to criticize the oldest Christian tradition in the world?"
Gismos could see that the interview had quickly deteriorated, with little chance of learning more; furthermore he was galled by such presumption. He spoke calmly but firmly, "Mister, I will tell you who I am. I have not been forbidden to do so. I am the angel Dialogismos. I was present for the beginning of the church and for many decades thereafter. There is no such office as "pope." The Lord Jesus ordained elders and deacons in every congregation, and all His churches were autonomous. There is only one Head, Jesus Christ. Peter was an elder, but he was never exalted to earthly head over the church. He did not even imagine such a thing."
"Are you about finished? If you are an angel, you must be one of the devil's. You come in here telling all sorts of lies. Imagine, refusing to accept nearly 2,000 years of tradition! Who put you up to this, Protestants?"
"Who are they?"
"As if you didn't know. They call themselves Christians, but like you, they deny my authority and empowerment from Heaven."
"I speak the truth when I say you are not of God. You refuse to believe the very words of Jesus."
The little man began to pray to Mary, and it was more than Gismos could stand. He vanished suddenly.
"You did fine," Raphael reassured him.
"No, I have rarely been so incensed. Do you know there's a megalomaniac loose on earth claiming to be the head of the church?" Raphael nodded sympathetically. "He's claiming things that are not true about Peter, thought I was sent by some group called Protestants, and I left when he began mumbling something about Mary being the mother of God. Has everyone gone wacko since I've been asleep?"
"That is your task to determine. Your other appointment begins shortly. Take a few minutes to collect your thoughts. All I can tell you is that the man to whom you will speak next would be classified as a Protestant. Historically, these people do not accept the authority and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church."
"So, Mr. Reasoner, are you any relation to Harry?"
Having no clue about the famous newsman, he answered, "I don't think so."
"Well, perhaps you'll become as famous anyway. Don't you have a note pad, or are you going to tape our conversation?"
"Uh, no. I have an excellent memory. Tell me, how would you describe yourself?"
"Oh, I'm just an evangelist who has dedicated my life to saving the souls of men."
Gismos immediately liked this conversation better. "So, you follow the Bible and not the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church?"
"Absolutely. We don't believe that good works have anything to do with salvation."
"Could you elaborate on what you just said?"
"Well, you know, in Catholicism, there is primarily a system of salvation by works. We believe a person is saved by grace and not works."
"Well, of course it is from God's grace that salvation flows, and meritorious works of man cannot avail. But what about the works God requires for salvation?"
A look of suspicion crept over the human's face. "What requirements are you talking about?"
"Just what the Scriptures teach: faith, the act of repentance, confessing the Divine nature of Christ, being baptized."
"Baptized?" he practically spat out the words. "You know very well that baptism is a work of men."
"No, sir, Mr...." he surveyed the room quickly for a name as he paused, "uh, Graham. Paul calls it the 'working of God' and sets it in opposition to works of righteousness in Titus 3:5, remember? He saved mankind 'through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.'"
"Who sent you? You sound like some church of Christ preacher." Gismos blinked; he had not heard such terminology before. "Salvation is provided for us through the work of Jesus upon the cross. We receive it by faith--and only by faith."
"What, then, of repentance, making the good confession, and baptism?"
"Baptism is something a person should do after he is saved, but baptism has nothing to do with salvation; we're saved by the blood of Christ."
"Have you never compared Revelation 1:5 with Acts 22:16? Sins are washed by the blood of Jesus WHEN people are baptized."
"Ridiculous! Are you saying that all of those who believe they are saved by 'faith only' are lost?"
"I have only said what the Scriptures say."
"That doctrine is monstrous! People are baptized BECAUSE they are saved--Acts 2:38."
"The Greek preposition eis means "unto"--not 'because of.'"
"As young as you are, you think you know Greek?"
Gismos started to say, "I spoke it fluently for 800 years," but he restrained himself. "Have you not noticed that eis aphesin hamartion ('unto the remission of sins') in Acts 2:38 is the same exact phrase used in Matthew 26:28? Jesus' blood was shed for many 'for the remission of sins.' Surely, you would not argue that Jesus shed His blood because manŐs sins were already forgiven?"
"Of course not. But baptism is still not necessary for salvation."
Gismos was astonished at the adamant refusal to accept an obvious truth--one that was so clearly preached in the first century. "Is your view typical of Protestants?"
"Yes, I think so."
"And what about repentance?"
"I'm sorry, Mr. Reasoner. I have another appointment. Perhaps we could talk another time."
"Yes, they do," Raphael assured him. "You will have a chance to meet them some time, but for now, think over your conversations and be prepared to discuss them tomorrow with the council."
"All right," he sighed.
"Take heart, Dialogismos. Your work will not go unrewarded. And your powers of reason have not diminished. You have done well."
Gismos wanted to ask many other questions, such as, "What is the function of the strip of material that humans wear around their necks and down their fronts?" But for now he needed to be alone with his thoughts.
*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "GISMOS AND POPULAR RELIGIOUS LEADERS" (11/10/02)."