Skip to comments.Protestants and the Pope
Posted on 07/10/2007 8:10:26 AM PDT by topcat54
The death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI have drawn great attention to the papacy in recent months. Such intense interest is remarkable. Much of it relates to the personality and accomplishments of John Paul II. He was a man of great courage and contributed significantly to the collapse of communism in eastern Europe.
Part of the interest also results from the powerful images that Rome can offer television cameras. Some of the greatest art and architecture of western civilization serve as a backdrop for elaborate rituals performed by gloriously clad clerics.
Part of the appeal for manyincluding non-Roman Catholicsis the sense of continuity and certainty provided by the institution of the papacy. The office of the pope connects us with the past, with a time of greater Christian presence and influence at all levels of society and culture in the west. It also speaks of certain moral standards defended against the relativism of our times.
All of these elements of appeal for the papacy went largely unexamined by the media. I heard few authentically Protestant voices challenging the papacy on historical or theological terms. A few Protestant leaders briefly provided words of praise for John Paul II, but the only criticism of papal theological positions came from more liberal Roman Catholics.
Perhaps the nature of the event (and of the media) made it unlikely that much Protestant opinion would be expressed. But in Americawith many more Protestants than Roman Catholicsone might have expected some media exploration of why Protestants do not acknowledge the pope as the head of the church. The repeated claims that the pope is the successor of Peter and that the papacy is a 2000 year old institution went unexplored and unchallenged.
This Protestant silence says much about the state of Protestantism today. After observing the postponement of a royal wedding and the presence of the Prince of Wales, the prime minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury at the papal funeral, one Oxford historian declared, Protestant England is dead. Similarly, in America the reaction to the death of John Paul II was surprising. Our president, a Methodist, ordered American flags flown at half-staffan honor not even accorded Winston Churchill. And while Mrs. Lillian Carter headed the American delegation to the funeral of John Paul I, the president and two former presidents represented the United States at this funeral. Does the American response indicate that Protestant America is more interested in religious toleration or a Christian united front than it once was?
Historic Protestant View of the Pope
Historically Protestants have been very critical of the papacy as an institution. They have rejected the papacy for its theological claims and for its tyrannical exercise of power over the churches.
Romes Claim #1: The Bishop of Rome is the earthly head of the whole church. Protestants have wanted to show historically and theologically that this claim is invalid. They have argued that the papacy is not a 2000 year old institution. Even if Peter did minister and die in Rome, it can not be demonstrated that he was bishop there in the Roman Catholic sense of that word. For Rome a bishop is a separate office in the church superior to the ministers (or priests) who serve under him. If Peter was a bishop in Rome, he was bishop in a New Testament sense where bishop is simply another term for minister or elder (see Titus 1:5-7). In I Peter 5:1 Peter simply refers to himself as a fellow elder.
Certainly many churches in the first five hundred years of the history of the church did not recognize a sovereign authority in the bishop of Rome. The churches of Eastern Orthodoxy have never recognized such a claim, and many churches in the western part of the Roman empire during those early centuries did not recognize them either.
Romes Claim #2: Peter is the rock on which the whole church is built. Roman Catholics have argued that Jesus indicated that the church is built on Peter as its rock, appealing to Matthew 16:18, 19. Peter (Petros) confesses that Jesus is the Christ, and Jesus responds that on this rock (petra) he will build his church. Most Protestants have insisted that Jesus the Christ is the rock on which the church is built. (Some argued that Peter as the confessor and believer in Christ stood for the faith of the church and in that sense was the rock.) Peter in his first epistle sees Jesus as the rock, calling Jesus the rock of offense (I Pet. 2:8). Also the keys of the kingdom given to Peter in Matthew 16 are not uniquely given to him, for Matthew 18:18 shows that they are given to all the disciples.
Even if Peter were the head of the entire church and the rock on which the church is built as the leading apostle, that fact would not demonstrate that Peters power could be passed on to anyone else. Only Jesus makes apostles, and even Rome grants that the office of apostle does not continue in the church beyond the first century.
The Pope as Antichrist: In Europe during the Middles Ages voices were raised against the claims of the Bishop of Rome. Some medieval Christiansnotably radical followers of St. Francis of Assisi and of John Husargued that the pope was in fact the Antichrist because of his power, wealth and corruption. The popes use of military power, his accumulation of vast wealth and various moral scandals in the Vatican all seemed to support this belief.
The conviction that the pope was the Antichrist was held by almost all Protestants in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. When the pope refused to support reformation in the church and began to use the power of his office to persecute the advocates of reform, Luther concluded that the pope was Antichrist. Most other Protestants followed Luther in that belief.
Historic Protestant View: Biblical Basis
These early Protestants appealed to various texts of the Bible to support their contention. They cited 2 Thessalonians 2:3,4,9,10: Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God .The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Those Protestants noted that the Pope opposed the truth and claimed miracles to support his unbiblical teaching. They argued that he seated himself in the heart of the church which is the temple of God and took divine prerogative to himself, especially in changing the Gospel of grace.
They also applied Revelation 13:6,7 about the beast to the pope: It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them . (See also Daniel 7:25.) Protestants claimed that Romes rejection of the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone was a blasphemy against God and his grace in Christ. This doctrine was anathematized, or denounced as accursed, at the Council of Trent (1545-1563), a council which Rome believes is an official ecumenical council of the church. Trents anathemas were approved by the popes and remain a condemnation of that doctrine to this day. Further, many Protestant believed that because the popes supported the persecution of Protestants, leading to the martyrdom of tens of thousands of them in the sixteenth century, the papacy was revealed as the Antichrist.
Historic Protestant View: The Confessions
So strong was this Protestant conviction about the Pope that it was incorporated into several Protestant confessions. Philip Melanchthon in the official Lutheran Apology of the Augsburg Confession, (1531), Article 15, wrote: If our opponents defend the notion that these human rites merit justification, grace, and the forgiveness of sins, they are simply establishing the kingdom of Antichrist. The kingdom of Antichrist is a new kind of worship of God, devised by human authority in opposition to Christ .So the papacy will also be a part of the kingdom of Antichrist if it maintains that human rites justify.
Martin Luther wrote even more strongly in the Lutheran confessional document, the Smalcald Articles (1537), Part 2, Article 4, The Papacy, this is a powerful demonstration that the pope is the real Antichrist who has raised himself over and set himself against Christ, for the pope will not permit Christians to be saved except by his own power, which amounts to nothing since it is neither established or commanded by God.
The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), chapter 25, section 6 declared: There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God.
While confessional Lutherans have not changed their confessional statements, most American Presbyterian churches have removed the declaration that the pope is Antichrist from their confession.
If many Protestants today are not persuaded that the pope is the Antichrist, what should we say of him? Has the theology of the Roman Catholic Church about the pope and about the Gospel changed? The Roman Catholic Church has changed some of its claims about being the only institution in which one can find salvation. It is willing to call Protestants in some sense separated brothers. There does seem to be more toleration and less commitment to coercion on the part of the bishop of Rome. We should be glad for these changes.
Still the basic teaching about the authority of the pope has not changed and the teaching about the Gospel also has not changed. The Roman Catholic Church still anathematizes the Protestant and biblical doctrine of justification.
The most important criterion by which any minister must be evaluated is this: did he preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ? As Paul taught clearly: But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed (Gal. 1:8). By that standard we must conclude that Pope John Paul II was no more a success than his predecessors since the time of the Reformation. Let us pray that Pope Benedict XVI, a very learned man, may come to see the truth as it is in Christ and teach it faithfully.
(c)2005 Westminster Seminary California All rights reserved
Let's spend less time polishing our armor and fighting each other. There's a war on, and Catholic Christians are our allies, not our enemies.
Frankly, I'm surprised that Reformed protestants even care. God can choose to elect anyone He chooses - even the Pope.
Or this version from Forbes/AP of the same story posted by Alex Murphy...
I just don’t get why the Protestant FReepers who think that they are absolutely right in their faith, would be offended when Catholics think the same. I don’t want any leader of any denomination to let his faith in what he believes to be watered down.
I have to agree with the FReepers stating that we have a bigger enemy than each other. The Evil One is smiling at every one of these threads.
I hope you both are posting the same kind of rebukes in the Catholic threads whenever they crow about the newest convert from Protestantism.
Nonsense. All popes are blasphemous. No man sent by God would call himself “Holy Father” and “Vicar of Christ” being fawned and adorned as if he himseld is special. And then they proclaim that they are sucessors of St. Peter.
25 And when it came to pass that Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.
26 But Peter raised him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.
Luther and the his fellow reformers were right the first time.
Yes, you Protestants are in grave error.
This is an utterly shocking and absolutely unprecedented thing for the Pope to say, in view of the fact that you Protestants repeatedly and vigorously denounce Catholics for their grave errors in matters of justification, Mariology, the use of images, the canon of Scripture, church governance, the use of tradition as a source of divine revelation, the significance of the sacraments ...
I don't know of any who are myself. But reverse the nouns...
"I just dont get why the Catholic FReepers who think that they are absolutely right in their faith, would be offended when Protestants think the same."...and I can think of a dozen Catholic FReepers (some now banned) who this describes perfectly.
Bottom line bump
I'd say it was more indicative of honoring the passing of a great man who allied himself with the United States in its battle against Communism.
C'mon out of your cloister. I'm tired of arguing with fellow Christians about points that are, in the end, irrelevant. God and God alone chooses the elect. The elect, I'm sure, includes people with whose beliefs I disagree. So? It's God's right to be gracious to whom he will be gracious.
Fine, so the Pope is blasphemous...so are you and I. I am, as Paul said, "chief among sinners."
It's time for everyone to have a heaping helping of humilty and remember that we are ALL sinners that God didn't have to save if He didn't want to. Arguments about how, exactly, that salvation occurs are interesting, but hardly worth sinning over. I sin enough on my own -- I don't need extra help.
I don't post rebukes in the Catholic threads because I'm not a Catholic. Any rebuke I posted would be seen mainly as sectarian discontent, not as meaningful discourse between Christian brothers.
I do, however, post rebukes when either side gets into name-calling and the like. There's no room for that at Christ's table.
LOL, Campion... I don’t agree with you on a lot of theological issues, but you’ve got a great sense of humor. Can’t wait to meet you one day, when we all get together.
Yeah, I saw that. Wasted time on the Pope's part, IMHO. I can't imagine any situation in which Rome would espouse any *other* position than their own primacy, so why even bother?
Honestly, I have nothing against Protestants.
I married one.
So who exactly should give up their doctrines?
There are certain things that make Catholics, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc. I’m not asking anyone to give up their beliefs. If the leader of any other denomination said that my Catholic beliefs were wrong, would I be shocked. I don’t think so.
Sometimes it might be a good time to agree to disagree. As long as the Pope is not calling to cut off your head, why bother. You believe he is just some guy with a funny hat.
Jer 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-
Mt 26:28 “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Mr 14:24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.
Lu 22:20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.
1Co 11:25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
2Co 3:6 ¶ who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Heb 8:8 Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—
Heb 8:13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Heb 9:15 ¶ And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Heb 12:24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.
THERE IS NO MORE LEVITICAL COVENANT AND LIKE PAUL TO PETER I AM TIRED OF THE NEED TO MIX AND MATCH THE COVENANTS.
I HAVE BEGGED CATHOLIC BRETHEREN TO PRAY FOR REFORMED BRETHREN ON PRAYER THREADS WITH NO RESPONSE.
I HAVE BY GOD’S GRACE BEEN ON BOTH SODES OF THE CAMP.
GODBLESS CHRISTIAN UNITY ON THIS FORUM.
MY 78 YR. OLD MOTHER WILL BE HERE THIS WEEKEND,THOUGH STILL ROMAN CATHOLIC I BELIEVE SHE IS SAVED.
THE DIVISION HERE IS NOT CHRIST-LIKE!
“I just dont get why the Protestant FReepers who think that they are absolutely right in their faith, would be offended when Catholics think the same.”
too true! LOL!!
If the pope DIDN’T think this - he wouldn’t be the pope now would he?
Once again - people find themselves shocked...SHOCKED! That the pope is catholic!
Meanwhile protestant leaders continue to claim catholics are in error, some going so far as to describing our pope as the antichrist.
But let’s pay that no nevermind.
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