Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Pope as antichrist

I had planned out a post about how the old Reformed creeds all viewed the pope as the antichrist, and how we have lost such a view, but Matt has not only beaten me to posting about the Pope, he has posted thought provoking ideas worthy of interaction.

Matt makes good points about not needing to be doctrinally perfect to get into heaven, and that no man should say ‘every Roman Catholic is going to hell.’ To that I say, Amen. Yet, the Pope is not just any Roman Catholic, he is the head of that church, the dispenser of eternal blessings, the maker of Saints, and vicar of Christ on earth. While, it is impossible to know with 100% accuracy the eternal destination of the Pope, and saying that we should leave such things up to God is never wrong, saying that Pope John Paul II is in hell, I think it is a pretty safe bet. Baring any death bed conversions, his life proves, as the life of every pope must, that he is not a man of faith, but a man denying Christ. Thus, the ancient designation of antichrist for the popes, which I believe was not only born of the persecution, but a theological point that is still valid today. Matt states,

For all the RC's faults, they believe in the trinity, the deity of Christ, and his substitutionary death on the cross for our sins. . . All of this, it seems to me, add up to the core of the gospel, even if they have dumped a truckload of other garbage on top of those beautiful doctrines, obscuring them to millions

To this I would like to disagree. And I believe it is here my greatest disagreement with Matt lies. I do not think that Roman Catholic theology truly believes in the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross for our sins. Instead, I think that Romanists hold to a continual substitution through the Mass, which denies the work of Christ on the cross. And denying the finished work of Christ on the cross is denying the core of the gospel. As Heidelberg Catechism Q.80 beautifully summarizes, “And thus the Mass at bottom is nothing else than a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry.” It seems to me that Pope John Paul II fully held to this denial of Christ, never repudiated the Mass, and taught it to others. If he did not believe such things about the Mass, then he is a giant hypocrite for never using the Papal chair to speak out against it. Paris is not worth a Mass, and neither is Rome. It is wrong to take the Mass if one knows better.

It seems to me then that one who denies the work of Christ through his theology of the sacraments, participates in what can only be called idolatry, and truly believes himself to be the head of the church and our Lord’s vicar here, rightfully holds the title antichrist (little ‘a’, not big ‘A’ which rests on tenuous biblical proof). While the Romanists and Pope John Paul II might be our friends on cultural issues like right to life and bringing down communism, they are not friends of the faith.


Stuart said...

I'm going to repeat the comments I posted on Matt's blog:

The Roman empire was a religious parasite, adapting the religions of the peoples it conquered. The Roman Catholic church is little different. Its simply replaced pagan goddesses with Mary and pagan gods with all those "saints". I don't belive that the RCC is Christian at all. Everytime I hear this dead pope being praised I can't help put think of 2nd Corinthians 11:13-15 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. KJV

Matt Powell said...

I appreciate your comments, but I think you're missing the spirit of what I said. I never denied that there were serious problems with the RCC doctrine. But by your definition, pretty much nobody before Anselm or so went to heaven. If you have to be exactly right about the nature of substitutionary atonement, then that's a pretty narrow net.

The Catholics certainly believe in Christ's substitutionary death. They just believe something very different and very wrong about how we gain the benefits of that substitution. And I'm not pushing for any kind of ecumenicism here or anything like that. I'm just saying, like you, that we can't be 100% certain of his fate, and so we should be slow to resign such a man to hell.

Anonymous said...

I am highly perturbed that you are clearly going against Romans 10 by claiming if a person is going to Hell (which is to bring Christ down). Secondly I would like to explain a little bit of the transubstantion theology. In the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men (Exodus 13:3). In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real. This is how Israel understands its liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is celebrated, the Ecodus events are made present to the memory of believers so that they may conform their lives to them.
In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ's Passover, and it is made present: the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present (Hebrews 7:25-27)
Thus the Eucharist is not repeating the sacrifice that was once for all and was finished, it is offering the sacrifice that is ever before the Father, who is trancendent of all time. That is why there is "a Lamb stading as if slain"(Rev. 5:6) in Heaven.
God Bless you in Jesus Christ's name

lori said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Correction: When saying whether someone is going to hell you are bringing Christ up from the dead. (Romans 10:7)

Lee said...

I liked your post, and I never thought you were in some sore to soft ecumenism. I just disagree that the Roman Catholics truly believe in substitutionary atonement, since they believe it is repeated over and over. I don’t think that one has to get substitutionary atonement perfect (we can argue later about whether or not anyone believed this before Anselm) to go to heaven, but I do think one has to believe that it is finished. That Christ’s work on the cross accomplished salvation. The Mass denies this, and in my opinion denies a critical part of substitutionary atonement, namely that it is finished. That part, most of Christendom got until the Council of Trent.


I am not sure how the sacrifice is finished if it is always being offered again, even if it is now offered in a new way. Trent says,
‘It is one and the same Victim and the same Offerer, now offering by the ministry of His priests, who then offered Himself on the Cross; only the manner of offering is different.’(22nd Session chapter L, I think).
Of course they then add anathema to anyone who does not think the Mass a true sacrifice to God. Then they make clear that the Mass is a real propitiatory sacrifice, and who disagree are cursed. Thus, if the Mass stops, propitiation for sin stops. How is this not a denial of Christ’s finished work on the cross (John 20:30), and that he once offered himself for sins and then sat down (Heb. 10:12)?

Matt Powell said...

Good point. I guess I just think if we have any doubt, we ought to err on the side of ignorance on that particular matter, seeing as how God has explicitly reserved judgment to Himself.

It's just a question in my mind- does it mean that you have denied substitutionary atonement entirely, if you qualify or limit it in some sense the way the RCC's do?

And of course, that should in no way keep us from vociferously denouncing the destructive teachings of the RCC.


Andrew McIntyre said...

I believe this is a perennial problem in Christian theology. We are always looking for the absolute fundamental confession, the lowest common denominator, a list of doctrines the denial of which can be considered damning. I think this is akin to trying to list the works that a Christian must perform to be considered saved or to name mortal sins that we must avoid to prevent damnation. In the end we are saved by NOTHING we do or believe. We are saved completely by what Christ has done and He applies the benefits of His work to His elect. Good works and good theology are indicators of election, but they are not absolute. One can, hypothetically, be an adulteror and be saved. So, logically, one could be a heretic and still be saved. Even the test of repentance is insufficient. I am so inundated and permeated with sin, that I am certain I will die thinking somethings I have done, said, or thought were perfectly good, whereas they were wicked to the core. I will thus die unrepentant. But, Christ has saved me even from these sins. I, for one, believe there are many catholics that have the Spirit of God. I have a hard time accepting the idea that anyone can confess that Christ is God, and worship Him as such, without having a spark of true spirituality.

FrJeff said...

Did you not understand what the person listed as 'Anonymous' said? Let me try to explain. The Mass is not a reoffering of Christ's sacrifice, which is in fact once and for all. The Mass is instead a participation in that one sacrifice of Christ. During the Mass the priest repeats the words of Christ "Do this in remembrance of Me." The Greek (Greek was the original language for the New Testament after all and not the KJV) word for remembrance is the word anamnesis. But it means so much more that mere 'remembrance' as we understand it. Its fuller meaning is to make something present in the here and now. The understanding is not that Jesus is being re-sacrificed. The correct understanding is that those who have gathered together for Mass are participating in that one and final offering of Christ.

Also, be careful about saying that the Pope is in Hell (or anybody else for that matter) or you could end up there yourself.

Lee said...

I understood what you and Annoymous were saying. Indeed, the RCC does state that, but it also states that the Mass is a sacrifice, not just a commemoration, but a true and proper sacrifice, and that it is a propitiatory one at that. Allow me to quote the Council of Trent again.

TWENTY-SECOND SESSION, CANONS ON THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS: "If anyone says that in the mass a true and real sacrifice is not offered to God; or that to be offered is nothing else than that Christ is given to us to eat, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass, Canon 1).
TWENTY-SECOND SESSION, CANONS ON THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS: "If anyone says that by those words, Do this for a commemoration of me, Christ did not institute the Apostles priests; or did not ordain that they and other priests should offer His own body and blood, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass, Canon 2).
TWENTY-SECOND SESSION, CANONS ON THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS: "If anyone says that the sacrifice of the mass is one only of praise and thanksgiving; or that it is a mere commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross but not a propitiatory one; or that it profits him only who receives, and ought not to be offered for the living and the dead, for sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass, Canon 3).
TWENTY-SECOND SESSION, CANONS ON THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS: "If anyone says that it is a deception to celebrate masses in honor of the saints and in order to obtain their intercession with God, as the Church intends, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass, Canon 5).

Chapter 2 of Session XXII – “And since in this divine Sacrifice which is performed in the Mass, that same Christ is contained in a bloodless sacrifice ho on the altar of the cross once offered himself with the shedding of blood of his blood: the Holy Synod teaches that this sacrifice is truly propitiatory. . .For there is one and the same victim, now offering through the ministry of the priesthood, who then offered himself on the cross; the only difference is the method offering.”

Tridentine Profession of Faith, 1564: “I profess likewise that true God is offered in the Mass, a proper and propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead . . .”

Your understanding of the Mass is that all who partake are partaking of the once for all finished sacrifice of Christ, but according to your church council, reaffirmed at Vatican II and by the Pope, you must also believe that that Mass is a true and real sacrifice, and that Christ is offered in it. You must also say it is not a mere commemoration of Christ. You must also say that the sacrifice of the Mass is a propitiatory one that benefits, not only me, but also the living and the dead. If think that these Anathemas are merely stating that the Mass is a remembrance and participation of the sacrifice Christ made long ago, then we seem to disagree on the meaning of these curses by the RCC.

I appreciate your warning about saying that the Pope is in hell, and I do in the main article say that no one can know with 100% certainty. I hope that he is. Yet, we are allowed to make judgments here on earth. And I would also want to remind you that your church through the Anathemas has already condemned me to hell. So the warning should go both ways.

johnMark said...

Good post, Lee.

FrJeff said...

Whatever man. I guess Jesus was right, "Let him who has ears to hear..." You obviously do not want to hear what I have to say. There is an explanation that could be offered but I believe you already have your mind made up so what is the point? Anyway, I just cannot believe that you really hope that the Pope is in Hell. He would have never wished that on you and neither do I.

One last thing, you said "Yet, we are allowed to make judgments here on earth." Whatever happened to "judge not lest ye be judged." I will pray for you.

Lee said...

I apologize FrJeff, and everyone. My last comment was supposed to say, "I hope he is NOT." I do not hope the Pope is in hell, and I do apologize for the poorly worded comment.

As for "judge not" indeed Christ warns us not to judge with to harsh a ruler. But, he also tells us we will judge the world (I Cor. 6:2) and we are to judge those who are within the church (I Cor. 5:12). Christians are to make judgments since we are to practice Christian discipline.

Matt Powell said...

That's pretty sad. Lee just quoted your own authoritative documents, and all you have to say is, "You obviously do not want to hear what I have to say." Why don't you just explain to us the meaning of your own documents?

B.Schulz CBC Saginaw said...

Pope John Paul II has as much a chance of going to heaven as Saul of Tarsus -- That is, if he trusted Christ as his ONLY Savior. I am hoping he made a death bed plea for God's mercy.

I understand all of the stuff about the antichrist, etc. I do not think it is godly to point the finger and use someone's eternal destiny to discuss it. "He is not willing that ANY should perish." Such a sacred thing as one's eternal destination should be left to God alone to discuss.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Ray Pritchard
Author, Speaker, Pastor, Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park, IL

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Did the Pope Go to Heaven?

The death of John Paul II has generated no small amount of discussion in the Christian blogosphere. When it comes to evaluating his legacy, evangelicals almost invariably end up saying something like, "He was a great and good man, but . . ." And therein lies the difficulty. Most of us (not all of us, certainly) liked and admired the pope for many reasons, most especially for his strong stand on moral issues and because the part he played in bringing an end to Communism in his native Poland and in other countries in eastern Europe. God bless him for all that.

And no one doubts his sincerity in the least. He was not a liberal or even a moderate on the core teachings of the Catholic Church. He defended the teaching of the Church and did not try to water it down for modern sensibilities. Personally I admire him for that, even when I disagree with many of those teachings. I'd much rather deal with a man who actually believes what he is supposed to believe than with someone who fudges the hard edges of what his church says it believes.

I don't think it should surprise us that evangelicals have been all over the board in their evaluations. John Trainer has a good roundup of various evangelical reactions. I heard Franklin Graham on TV praise the pope for his moral stands, for his call to a deeper spirituality, and for his efforts to reach out to evangelicals. He also wrote this positive appraisal for USA Today. Pat Robertson said that while we disagree with Rome about the place of Mary, we have decided not to talk about that. Check the World Magazine weblog here and here and here for some give-and-take between evangelicals and Catholics over the differences that divide us. Paul McCain addresses the question from a Lutheran perspective. Two-Edged Sword says it's a good bet that the Pope is in hell. Mark D. Roberts writes about the many shared beliefs that join Catholics and Protestants and offers a prayer for the new Pope the cardinals will choose in a few days. Parableman argues that the differences between Catholics and Evangelicals are not as great as we have imagined. Fred Barnes, writing in the Weekly Standard, calls him A Great Christian.

The best general summary of evangelical reactions comes from a Christianity Today article called 'Antichrist No More': Evangelicals Praise Pope. The article references this interview with Mark Bailey, president of Dallas Theological Seminary, in which he offers a balanced assessment of Pope John Paul II.

There is more, much more, but that should suffice. A few comments are in order:

1) No one should be surprised that the pope's death has brought forth commentary like this. The nonstop coverage from Rome had made it impossible to ignore Pope John Paul II, his legacy, and the ongoing debates between Catholics and Protestants.
2) It is not wrong to express appreciation for the man and his many worthy accomplishments while at the same time pointing out the genuine differences that led to the Protestant Reformation. It is also fair to note the large areas of agreement between Catholics and Protestants.
3) Since we cannot read another person's heart, we do well to leave final pronouncements regarding heaven and hell with the Lord.
4) As thoroughgoing Protestant myself, I do not find myself in agreement with a number of Catholic doctrines and practices. But I do not infer thereby that all Catholics are lost or that the pope himself could not truly have trusted Christ in the evangelical sense.
5) We are told that in his last hours, Pope John Paul II asked that the Scriptures regarding the death of Christ be read to him.
6) We like to say that anyone can be saved, anytime, anywhere.

I note that in the pope's final message, he helped prepare the text of a prayer read on Saturday at a mass in St. Peter's Square. Here is one part of it: "O Lord, who with your death and resurrection reveal the love of the Father, we believe in You and with confidence we repeat today: Jesus, I trust in You, have mercy on us and the entire world." One can only hope that John Paul II took those words to heart himself.

If the pope went to heaven, it is not because he was the pope, or because of any good works he did, or the great things for which he is justly remembered. I certainly hope he is in heaven and will be glad to see him there. If we both make it, we will get there the same way--by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Anonymous said...

The Pope was a holy man and devoted to following Christ. If such a person isn't going to heaven, none of us are. You seem to be hung up on man-made doctrine, which is what most Protestants don't like about the RCC.

Phil said...

Hey guys I was the first anonymous,

I respect and think it's great that you would go straight to the council docs instead of listening to a second hand source. I think the main misunderstanding though is that just because the Mass is considered a sacrifice does not mean it is repeated or separate from the once and for all sacrifice of Crist on the cross. Take your time reading this.
We must look to the attributes of God. He transcends all time. Those who are saved were predestined before the foundation of the world. "How?, Christ hadn't even died yet...and...we weren't even born yet." A day is a thousand years and a thousand years a day to Him. Therefore everyday is/or can be present to Him who transcends all time.
Also we must look at the attributes of Christ's death. He died for the sins of the past, present and future. For us to be forgiven right now the Father must look through the sacrifice of His Son for us to be reconciled, therefore the sacrifice that happened once and for all, 2000 years ago is ever before the altar in heaven. Not because Christ is being sacrificed right now, but, going back to God's attributes, the sacrifice that happened once and for all can be present to the Lord. This does not mean it was not finished, for in fact it was, and because of that are we reconciled to God.
So the Mass is connecting our worship here on earth to the constant worship going on in Heaven shown in Revelation. The sacrifice in the Mass is connecting,(making it) the sacrifice that is ever present and before the Father, the "lamb standing as if slain"(Rev. 5:6).
To put it plainly Catholic doctrine will never say that the Mass is repeating the sacrifice of Christ on the cross nor will it ever say that Christ's sacrifce was not complete or sufficient. It will never say those things despite your take on the council's explanations. Why? because the word of God said Christ's sacrifice was once and for all and finished.

Lee said...

I understand and appreciate your thoughtful points. I do freely admit that no Roman Catholic would say it is repeating the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Yet, this leaves a big question of what is the Mass then? I hope that you can see why there is great confusion and misunderstanding when the Canons of Trent are examined. The Mass is not a repetition of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, but it is a true sacrifice, it is the same victim (ie. Christ), and it is for forgiveness, not only for those who receive it but for living and dead people. These beliefs seem hard to mesh with a once for all finished sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

Your point about God having to look at us through the sacrifice of Christ is great, but I do not see how that means our worship must have a sacrifice in it. Christ is in heaven now and is our mediator there, why then must we have some sort of connecting sacrifice in our worship? Did not Christ rise to heaven to be our mediator and serve the role that you seem to give to the Mass? I guess I don’t see your scripture argument for a constant earthly sacrifice needed to connect us to the heavenly sacrifice of Christ, especially in light of the attribute of God being outside of time you mentioned.

I see the Roman Catholic doctrine not as outright denying a once and for all sacrifice of Christ, but as a contradiction of it. You hold to Christ on the cross being sufficient, but also hold that the Mass is a real sacrifice of Christ in a differing manner that is necessary to connect us to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for God to be able to look upon us. To me, that seems contradictory.

Phil said...

Hey Lee,

I'm going to try to respond to your statements in the order you posted them.

Well to your first paragraph, the sacrifice of the Mass must be able to forgive sins if Catholics are to claim it is the sacrifice of Christ, because that is one of the, or the main, reason for Christ's sacrifice. Now meshing it together is difficult, because our minds are so finite , but if you understand that God can make any day present to Him, then it should deem it possible. Here is something also to think about. Christ is God, and God is unchanging. The sacrifice on the cross was one of self-giving love. Since God is unchanging, Christ is and has always been giving us himself fully out of love. "He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake"(1 Peter 1:20). Christ did sit down next to the Lord, but he is still giving himself to us in a different manner. The cross was the most powerful mainfestation of that love.

To your second and third paragraphs, sacrifice is an integral part of worship. Christians are a royal priesthood(1 Peter 2:9) and we are to "offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship"(Romans 12:1). Additionally, "we always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body"(2 Cor. 4:10). As for the role of the Mass, it must not be seen as a replacement to Christ's mediation, because to Catholics the sacrifices are one and the same. Secondly while Christ did rise to heaven, does he not dwell in our hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17)as well? So yes, God is outside of time and in Heaven, but we don't dare limit Him to that. He is completely soveriegn and intimate as well.

So, God is not limited to the Mass to look upon us. But, Christ did say this is my body and this is my blood, and do this in remembrance of me. Therefore Catholics feel it is the fullfillment and obedience of Christ's words.

I'm enjoying this Lee. I love you as a fellow brother in Christ. I pray that you might be led closer to him in your daily walk. peace