Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Curious Dilemma

A lot of American Presbyterians don't believe that the papacy is the Antichrist. In fact, the American revisions to the Westminster Confession of Faith allow for both views (he is, and he is not). Confessional Lutherans, like Presbyterians who hold to the original WCF, consider the papacy/pope to be the Antichrist.

One might think that on some semantic level this would qualify as "anti-Catholic," not in the usual sense of the term which implies some sort of hatred, hostility, or bigotry, but in the sense of being opposed to the Roman religion.

There's one blogger out there who has attempted to use a different meaning for "anti-Catholic," namely referring to someone who does not think that those in the Roman communion are necessarily Christians.

On the other hand, I've come across a Lutheran blogger (link) who has pointed out that in Lutheran theology (allegedly) the view is that Rome is a true church. I'm not sure whether the blogger goes so far as to say that all Roman Catholics are necessarily "Christians," but he seems to be saying "yes."

What an interesting dilemma! If you think that a Roman catholic actually needs saving faith in Christ in order to be a true Christian, you might be an "anti-Catholic" but you can hold that the pope is antichrist, and that many Roman Catholics are going to hell, but if you simply label them as "Christians," you would not be anti-Catholic.

Perhaps the real key here is that "anti-Catholic" has become largely a tool for describing hatred, hostility, or bigotry, rather than some kind of nuanced word.



ChaferDTS said...

I do not believe that the Church of Rome is a true church at all. It has to be considered an enemy of the Lord Jesus Christ since Roman Catholicism directly denies the Gospel of the grace of God that is taught in Scripture and recovered by the reformers. The Pope has to be viewed as an enemy of the faith as he is a defender of a false system of theology that teaches a false gospel and under the condemnation of the apostle Paul in Galations 1:6-9. I hold that the false church of Revelation 17 as consisting of all the unsaved elements within professing Christianity. I often times get accused of being " anti-catholic " because I point out the false doctrines of Roman Catholicism. Today all you have to do is disagree with a Roman Catholic and the anti-catholic label gets thrown at you almost all the time. That is their trump card to throw at people. Though there have been a few exceptions to this with some friends of mine who are Roman Catholic. They do not consider me anti-catholic. They see what I do as a theological disagreement that does not get personal and is focused on what Scripture teaches. Of course they disagree with me but they do not see any hate in me towards Roman Catholics at all.

TF, good post and very informative on that issue ! Basically viewing the Papacy as the anti-christ is a belief of historical Protestantism with the first and second generation of reformers . We see this in Calvin's writings in his Institutes of the Christian Religion and in other reformers writings during that period of time. Some today fail to see that Roman Catholicism has not changed it's doctrine of salvation and that it is still heretical today as it was back at the reformation.

Andrew said...

"Perhaps the real key here is that "anti-Catholic" has become largely a tool for describing hatred, hostility, or bigotry, rather than some kind of nuanced word."

Isn't that the truth ... distinctions and precision aren't very popular these days, even in theological discussions.

Interesting post!

Godith said...

In order for the RCC, I mean the office of the papacy or the office of the Pope (same thing) to be considered Antichrist, it has to be a true church. A less pure church, but still a true church. (See WCF for pure and less pure churches). For the Antichrist must arise in the "temple of God" (the church). Thus you can rule out Mussolini and Obama.

ChaferDTS said...

I do not consider the Roman Catholic Church as a true sense in any proper sense of the word a " true church " considering that it has a false gospel of salvation and it's heretical additions that it dogmatically proclaimed. While Roman Catholicism does have some elements of truth in it never the less it's doctrines in key areas contradict the clear message of salvation and falls under the condemnation of what the apostle Paul spoke of. I have to view the RCC as false just like I would with Kingdom Hall and Latter Day Saints or Seventh Day Adventism. It's still a part of professing Christianity though it's doctrines are heretical and thus a false church. I do not consider Mussolini or Obama as the " anti-christ ". I have no idea where that came from at all from you.

The following reasons is why the office of the papacy should be considered an antichrist :

1. The Pope claims to be head of the entire visible church on the earth . It's office therefore seeks to replace Jesus Christ as head of the body of Christ. It's office claims universal authority over the entire church and human government. Thus claims a position and authority which belongs to Jesus Christ.

2. The Pope claims to be able to teach infallibly when speaking from the claimed chair of Peter. It therefore can invent doctrines that were never taught or believed by Jesus and the apostles and not found in Scripture. Basically the people must believe a doctrine because the papacy says it must be believed rather than because the Bible teaches it. It functionally replaces Scripture as a rule of faith for people within the context of the RCC.

3. The Papacy itself since Trent has denounced the true Gospel of salvation as being false. Thus a clear rejection of the Gospel is evident. The proof of this is te decrees of the Roman Church Council of Trent on the issue of justification.

4. The papacy supported and took part of the killing of the people of God who preached and believed the true Gospel message. This is seen in history from the times of the reformation. Though such conditions do not exist today in which this can presently take place at least in many parts of the world like it did in the past. When and if given the chance to be able to do this again I am firmly convinced that it would.

Coram Deo said...

Is there a more rabidly anti-catholic communion than Rome?

Ed Rae said...

Interestingly, although the Scottish Covenanting Presbyterian, Samuel Rutherford, mentioned in a number of places that the Pope was the Antichrist, he also wrote the following: "It is hard to say the Church of Rome, in which there are the matrimonial Tables, the Old and New Testament, valid Baptism, and Salvation to a covenanted people by the fundamentals preached, is no Church, though communion with such a Whore be unlawful." - Samuel Rutherford, "A Survey of the ‘Survey of that Sum of Church-Discipline’ penned by Mr. Thomas Hooker," (London, 1658), p. 385.

ChaferDTS said...

I do not consider Roman Catholic baptism as being valid. The important fact is that it has a false gospel. It specifically denies the doctrine of justification taught in Scripture and defended by the reformers. The RCC specifically rejects the gospel and I have to view them as such like I would towards Jehovah Wittnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, Mormonism and Adventistism . Since 1658 the RCC added several additions like Papal infallibility, assumption of Mary and so forth. It is a false system in simple words.

Msaverio39 said...

Interesting, i do not believe presbyterians are Christian, if they go against Jesus' tene of love thy neighbor. You are a dochebag like many of your other narrowminded individuals on here.

Ed Rae said...

There seem to be four questions here: (1) Is the Roman Catholic Church a Christian Church; (2) Is it possible for a Roman Catholic to be a Christian; (3) Is Roman Catholic Baptism valid, and (4) has anything changed in the Roman Catholic Church since 1658 that would lead Samuel Rutherford to change his opinion from the quotation in my comment below. Obviously the answers to (1), (2) and (3) do not depend on the answer to (4), but I think that it is extremely important that we do not distort history when we are arguing against Roman Catholics and Roman Catholicism. As the doctrines of justification and the infallibility of the Pope are more serious errors than the Assumption of Mary, I will just briefly deal with them. First, the RCC view on Justification by Faith was defined at the Council of Trent in 1563, so since Rutherford was not born until about 1600, the most important Roman Catholic error was entrenched well before he wrote. Second, although the Roman Catholic Church's dogmatic decree on papal infallibility was only pronounced at Vatican I in 1870, this idea existed long before then. While there is some dispute as to when papal infallibility first arose, it was at least around in the disputes between the Conciliarists and Papalists (in the 1400s) where it was advocated by Cardinal Cajetan, and it was also a central part of the debate between the Roman Catholic theologians and Martin Luther. In Luther's "An Open Letter to The Christian Nobility of the German Nation" (1520), he attacked what he called "The Three Walls of the Romanists". Part of what he said was this: "The second wall is still more flimsy and worthless. They wish to be the only Masters of The Holy Scriptures, even though in all their lives they learn nothing from them. They assume for themselves sole authority, and with insolent juggling of words they would persuade us that the pope, whether he be a bad man or a good man, cannot err in matters of faith, and yet they cannot prove a single letter of it." Third, Martin Luther, John Calvin and Francis Turretin all agreed that Roman Catholic baptism was valid, (For Turretin, see his "Institutes of Elenctic Theology," Nineteenth Topic (The Sacraments), Eighteenth Question, pargraph I.

Ed Rae7 said...

Chafer DTS is correct that papal infallibility was not the unanimous position of the RCC until 1870. And I would agree with some of the other things that he says above. My point about not being deceptive about history still stands, though. Rutherford and Turretin belived RC baptism to be valid and Rutherford at least regarded the RCC as a true church (although in Rutherford's 'colourful' language, communion with such a 'whore' was unlawful). Chafer DTS tried to imply that Rutherford's (and presumably Turretin's) arguments in favour of the validity of RC baptism are invalid due to the RCC now officialy advocating papal infalliblity. It is that kind of misuse of history that I object to, however. As I noted, Luther, Rutherford and Turretin knew full well that the RC leadership made false claims to papal infallibility and yet they all accepted RC baptism, and it can be added that nowhere did they base their acceptance of the validity of RC baptism on the fact that the RCC did not take an official position on the Immaculate Conception or Papal Infallibility. In short, since there are more than enough valid arguments as to why Protestants are right and the RCC is wrong, it does not help the Protestant cause for us to attempt to distort history in order to make additional arguments against the RCC. So, what Chafer DTS should be arguing is (1) Luther, Rutherford and Turretin accepted the validity of RCC baptism, but (2) Luther, Rutherford and Turretin were wrong in accepting the validity of RCC baptism. (And so people know where I am coming from, I am of the view that infant baptism is unscriptural, so that RCC baptism, Lutheran baptism, Anglican baptism and Presbyterian baptism "may" well be invalid. But since on the issue of baptism the RCC view is closer to the Presbyterian/Reformed view [in being both trinitarian and paedo-baptist) than it is to the Baptist view, that does not mean that I am going to distort history by saying that Rutherford and Turretin would have agreed with me.)

turretinfan said...

Ed Rae7: there seem to have been a number of Reformed types who accepted Rome's trinitarian baptism, even while holding (as I do) that the papacy is the Antichrist.

ChaferDTS said...

My essential argument is that the RCC teaches another Gospel as the basis of their baptism as being invalid. This is why I view Adventist, Mormons Oneness Pentecostal and Jehovah Wittness baptism as invalid too.

Ed Rae7 said...

Turretinfan. Yes. That's exactly my point.