“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.”
No, those are not my words and I do not believe that the Pope is the Antichrist. In fact, I think that’s petty funny–how ridiculous can you get?! Those were, however, the words of the “Westminster Divines”, the group of Protestant pastors and theologians who gathered in Westminster (England) in 1646 to publish the official creed of the English Reformation. I would like to have heard the explanation given of “Why I Believe the Pope is the Antichrist”.
I also like this one:
“Such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, Papists, or other idolaters”
Papists there means Roman Catholics. So there are four divisions of men: (1) Reformed Christians, (2) Infidels, (3) Roman Catholics and (4) other Idolaters. Imagine the children of the Protestants, taught to believe that the Catholic Christians were followers of the Antichrist and idolaters! Of course, Catholics are blamed for the intra-Christian violence in the UK. Give me a break–the Catholics were there first!
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this. It’s a cartoon by Thomas Nast, published in Harper’s Weekly magazine in the formative days of the U.S.:
Here’s another one—take time to see the details:
Anyway, it is quite amazing today to see efforts at “ecumenism” or collaboration among non-Catholic Christian groups with the Catholic Church, where the non-Catholics seem to act as though statements like these were never made and that we were all old chums before the Catholics started picking on everyone. I’d argue that the first step towards any ecumenism should be a confession of sin. Maybe something like this, “We do not believe that the Pope of Rome is the Antichrist and we do not believe that Roman Catholics are justly lumped with infidels and idolaters.”
I think that would be a good first step.
After all, if they do still believe (in their hearts) that the Pope is the Antichrist, I can’t see the prudence in collaborating with his local minions in community activities!
Anyway, I would just like us to be honest about why ecumenism isn’t easy. When we’re being called followers of the Antichrist and lumped together with infidels and idolaters, it’s really tough to hug.
Beginning this year, the CLAA will be offering a course in the Westminster Catechism of 1646, as a means of exploring historic Protestant doctrine. It will be an enlightening and helpful study for Catholics and non-Catholics. Honestly, I don’t believe modern Protestantism has anything to do with “protesting” Catholicism at all. Most Protestants today (a) don’t know what the original Protestants actually believed or (b) what the Catholic Church actually teaches. Modern divisions are largely rooted in ignorance and the best thing we can do to move towards peace is learn what the teachings are on which Protestants and Catholics were first divided.