Reformed Baptist Fellowship

From One Antichrist to Another: Thoughts on The Papal Transition

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on February 14, 2013 at 10:12 pm

pope

 

A Commentary by D. Scott Meadows, Pastor

Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed) of Exeter, New Hampshire

Joseph Ratzinger (a.k.a. His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI) just announced his resignation from the Papacy by the end of this month, February 2013. The process of selecting a successor has begun, with all of this garnering much attention in the news media. As a theologian and pastoral leader, my conscience constrains me to comment.

Years ago I was asked my opinion about the new Cardinal of Boston. I replied, “That’s like asking me about the new captain of a pirate ship. The whole enterprise is illegitimate.” I do not deny that these events may have momentous implications, but I strongly and solemnly protest the show of reverence and awe for such men and for this religious institution even from those who should know better.

A great champion of the biblical faith once wrote a magnificent book entitled, Christianity and Liberalism (1923). In it, J. Gresham Machen detonated an enduring and powerful blast against theological liberalism by asserting that it is not Christianity at all, but an alternative, a competing religion, and deeply anti-Christian.

The same is true of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). Plainly it is not the Christianity of the New Testament’s apostles and early Christians, as those in agreement with them, and knowledgeable about Roman Catholicism, can discern and attest. At crucial points, the RCC has steadfastly opposed that faith once-for-all delivered to the saints. Historically, she has even slaughtered a great host of Christian believers unjustly branded as heretics. At least since the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the RCC has formally, meticulously, and vociferously repudiated the true, biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ, pronouncing curses upon any who dare to preach it. For example, the Council proclaimed,

CANON XII. If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified: let him be anathema.[1]

That this remains the RCC’s position today is clear from the fact that it still appeals in its modern catechism (c. 2000) to Trent as an authoritative doctrinal statement and teaches in substance along the same very lines.

Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man (Council of Trent [1547]).[2]

Though it exceeds the scope of this commentary to vindicate the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone apart from our works, let the reader remember this Scripture passage:

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom 3.20-24).

The important Reformed theologian Charles Hodge aptly said of this passage,

The righteousness of God which is revealed in the Gospel is to be attained by faith, not by works, not by birth, not by any external rite, not by union with any visible Church, but simply and only by believing on Christ, receiving and resting upon Him.[3]

Without a doubt the esteemed Mr. Hodge hereby consigned himself to eternal hell, if the pronouncements of the RCC are to be believed.

Today the RCC’s reputation among many Bible-believing Christians is considerably better than it was in the days of the Protestant Reformation. This change is unwarranted and dangerous. The RCC still represents the same anti-Christian apostasy that threw curses like firebrands and punished by literally burning alive and reducing to charred ash the bodies of sincere Christians eminent for their learning and piety. Her policy may have switched from mass murder to ecumenical seduction, but she still propagates infernal lies about the way of salvation. Paul’s ancient warning has applied to the RCC for many centuries now.

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth (1 Tim 4.1-3).

The RCC has a legacy of ascetic abstention from marriage and meats, the very manifestations of damnable heresies so dangerous to the true church.

By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul issued a divinely-sanctioned curse that now applies to the RCC:

8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed (Gal 1.8-9).

For about three hundred years, Protestants consistently recognized the profound spiritual threat the RCC poses to mankind. That there was near universal agreement about this appears from the strong consensus statements of the Reformed confessions. For example, the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith proclaims, as an instance of “the things most assuredly believed among us,”

The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner; neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.[4]

The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646, Presbyterian) and the Savoy Declaration (1658, Congregational), say the same thing. In some of my other writings, I have produced a long list of quotations from Protestant church leaders over the last four centuries who evince sympathy with this strong opposition to and utter repudiation of the RCC as a true church.[5]

Now godly men today may debate whether the Papacy is to be so certainly identified as “that antichrist” specifically foretold by the Holy Spirit through Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2. Personally, I am not grieved by dissent on this particular point. Yet people of discernment, in my judgment, cannot doubt that the Papacy is at least an antichrist.

That contemptuous term “antichrist” contains a prefix capable of being correctly understood in two ways. A modern dictionary says “anti” conveys a sense of antagonism and opposition,[6] and with this we are all familiar. Some may not realize, however, that the Greek prefix can also mean “instead of.” The towering Protestant scholar Francis Turretin (1623-1687) wrote an extensive treatise in Latin, arranged under 23 topics and 4 appendixes, to prove the thesis that the Papacy is the Antichrist foretold in Scripture. Of the word itself, he wrote,

The term Antichrist implies two meanings: (1) That he is an Enemy and Rival of Christ; (2) That he is His Vicar. The definition of the prefix anti, indeed, introduces both, which, when used in conjunction with a noun, means, on the one hand, before, and on the other hand, against. It can also mean in place of, and, indeed, a substitute. . . . In this regard, the Antichrist certainly presents himself as the great adversary of Christ, in so far as he makes himself equal to Christ as a rival, while professing to hold the place of Christ on earth, as His Vicar.[7]

The RCC insists that the Pope is Christ’s “Vicar” (“from Latin vicarius substitute”[8]). Here is evidence from their recent catechism:

For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.[9]

Few Christians seem to be aware of the blasphemously honorific titles and divine prerogatives which the RCC has boasted for their Pope, including “Supreme Pontiff”[10] (i.e., Bridge, Mediator between God and man; cf. 1 Tim 2.5), “Lord and God,”[11] and these idolatrous assertions:

Since the Pope is God, therefore he cannot either be bound or loosed by men.[12]

From this it appears that the Pope is above Scripture, councils, princes, and all powers upon earth, upon the account of his divinity.[13]

Because he presents himself as Christ’s representative, any particular Pope represents a much greater threat of seduction to professing Christians than, for example, the Dalai Lama, the chief lama of the dominant Tibetan Buddhist order, since he makes no pretense of being a Christian.

So, it seems we are on the verge of a transition from one Pope to another, and therefore, from one antichrist to another. Am I to be blamed if I show no preference for any of Satan’s minions? God helping me, I will not recant, even before the threat of martyrdom. I am praying for the complete demise of this Satanic kingdom. Let all Christ’s loyal followers rally with me! In our generation more than ever, fearless protest may distinguish those of sound understanding and deep conviction from the naïve and cowardly. May the Lord come quickly and destroy His Enemy (2 Thess 2.8). Amen.


[1] Schaff, P. (1890), The Creeds of Christendom, II.113.

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church (2000), #1989.

[3] Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, in loc.

[4] 1689 LBCF XXVI.4.

[5] When Protestants Protested (2005), my introductory work; The Papal Antichrist—A Call to Recognition and Opposition (2006), a more complete treatment. Online at http://ibrnb.com/articles2/?p=15 and http://ibrnb.com/articles2/?p=38.

[6] Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Sixth Edition (2007), in loc.

[7] Francis Turretin’s Seventh Disputation, Whether It Can Be Proven that the Pope of Rome Is the Antichrist.

[8] SOED, in loc.

[9] CCC, #882.

[10] CCC, #837.

[11] Primary source: Decretales Gregorii IX., Tit. 7, cited by J. A. Wylie in The Papacy Is the Antichrist (1888), p. 45.

[12] Primary source: Vide Text. Decret., dist. xcvi. cap. 7, cited by Henry Wilkinson in Puritan Sermons 1659-1689, VI.1.

[13] Primary source: Canon law set forth by Gregory XIII in 1591 A.D., also cited by Wilkinson.

 

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