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Anti-Catholicism is nothing new. It began in the Western world during the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther was the first to foment this terrible ideology with his claims that the pope is the Antichrist, and the Catholic Church is the "Mystery Babylon" written of in the Book of Revelation. Luther had nothing to back this claim, other than his own ideology, but it served a purpose. It frightened the bejeebers out of German Catholics who quickly converted to Luther's form of Christianity for fear of being associated with the Antichrist. It also justified the theft of Catholic properties by German princes as well as the persecution of Catholic political enemies. It was very useful propaganda you see.
Quickly Luther's papal-antichrist cabal was picked up by other Protestant "reformers." Nowhere was this bogeyman from bogeyland tactic more readily employed than in England, where Catholics and Protestants contended for the royal crown. Eventually, Protestants won the day in England, and as a result, Luther's papal-antichrist rhetoric took root. For a few hundred years, Catholicism was virtually illegal in Britain (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). Catholics were persecuted there. England also engaged in wars against Catholic countries in the following centuries, and once again, Luther's papal-antichrist bogeyman came in very handy. It's much easier to kill Catholic Spaniards and French when you believe they are serving the Biblical Antichrist you see.
In truth, Luther simply invented the papal-antichrist cabal to serve his own purposes. It justified his religious schism with Rome, and solidified his position as a permanent religious leader in Germany. I don't think Luther ever imagined how far this babylonian-antichrist rhetoric would go. Politicians of the day couldn't resist. They, and those who followed them, employed it to its full potential. People were persecuted because of this propaganda. They were denied religious services and derided for their beliefs. Their religious properties were stolen, and they were made to be second-class citizens. Yes, some were injured and even killed in the name of this propaganda.
As centuries passed, people added to the tall tales of the fabled papal-antichrist. False stories were invented about the inquisitions and crusades. Endless justification was made for the persecution of Catholics. Even the British colonies in North America were initially no safe refuge for Catholics. Eventually, the colony of "Mary Land" (now known as Maryland) was created as a place where Catholics could live in relative peace. Even then however, such peace was often short-lived. The British colonists in America were no better than their Protestant counterparts in Britain when it came to their mistreatment of Catholics. However, as colonists were forced to try to live in peace with Amerindians (Native Americans), they eventually began to adopt a more tolerant attitude toward Catholics, at least on an official government level. You see, what most history books don't tell you is that many of the Amerindians (Native Americans) were already Christians by the time the English set up their colonies on the Eastern seaboard of North America. They were originally evangelised by French Catholics you see. Many brave French Catholic priests came to this continent years before English Protestant ministers. Consequently, many of the so-called "savages" in North America were actually devout Catholics. Now some tribes retained their Native American spiritualism, but a good number of tribes were also Catholic. British colonists gradually began to adopt more tolerant views of Catholics (and Jews) as time passed, at least on a government level. On a public and social level, prejudice remained, and the papal-antichrist fable continued to rear its ugly head.
On this blog, and in my book "Catholicism for Protestants," I have demonstrated that it is literally IMPOSSIBLE for the pope to ever be the Antichrist. For if he ever takes on the characteristics of Antichrist, he automatically ceases to be pope, indeed he would be an "antipope" which means he was never pope to begin with. Martin Luther was just plain wrong. The entire premise he bases his argument on is fatally flawed (as are most of the premises for many of his teachings), but this is where lousy logic will get you. I'll demonstrate once more why the pope cannot be the Antichrist...
QUESTION: Is the pope the Antichrist?
ANSWER: While this question may seem ridiculous to many people, you might be surprised to discover just how many Protestants actually believe it, or are at least suspicious of it. The notion comes from the first Protestant reformer himself – Martin Luther – in the sixteenth century, who asserted that the office of the papacy is the Antichrist. That's not to say any particular pope, but the office of the papacy itself. So when German Protestants began to mix with English Protestants in the United States during the nineteenth century, you can imagine what an explosive combination this created. As new American-style Protestant denominations were formed, the office of the papacy went from being the Antichrist on a purely philosophical level, to the actual incarnation of evil itself!
This notion has become very popular among some Baptist, Evangelical and Pentecostal groups in the United States, and is a bit humorous when you really stop and think about it. Before we start levelling the accusation of "Antichrist" at anybody, or any office, it might help to actually understand what the Bible has to say about it. After all, the whole idea of "Antichrist" is a Biblical concept.
So what does the Bible say about the Antichrist? Well, for starters, the Bible tells us that the "spirit of antichrist" was alive and well even during the Apostolic age (1st John 2:18). It also tells us that in order to be antichrist in any way, one must deny that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Jewish Messiah (1st John 2:22). One must also deny that God the Son came to earth in the form of flesh and blood (1st John 4:3; 2nd John 1:7). These are the only four times the word "antichrist" appears in the Scriptures. So based on the Biblical definition, to be an antichrist (or even THE Antichrist) one must deny that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah and one must deny that God the Son came to earth in the form of human flesh. Sorry, that's just the Biblical definition, and since the term "Antichrist" is a Biblical term, just like the term "Christ" itself, it has no real meaning outside this Biblical definition.
Now since every pope since the time of St. Peter has affirmed that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messianic Son of God, that sort of disqualifies every pope in history from being an antichrist. Of course, the office of the papacy itself was literally founded on Saint Peter's affirmation that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messianic Son of God (Matthew 16:15-19), so that disqualifies the papal office from being antichrist. Since the pope literally teaches, and his office is literally founded upon, the belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messianic Son of God, it is literally impossible (in every Biblical sense) for the pope, or his papal office, to be the Antichrist in any way. Again, sorry, but the Bible speaks for itself here. To assert that the pope or the papacy is somehow, in any way, the Antichrist, is to completely deny the plain and clear teaching of the Bible on this matter. Now, if some people want to go ahead and call the pope the Antichrist anyway, then they can go ahead, but in doing so, the rest of us need to understand they are directly contradicting the Bible when they do this.In the video above, Evangelical Pastor John Hagee regurgitates the same tired anti-Catholic propaganda of Martin Luther. However, he adds something to it which is really quite common among Protestant Fundamentalists today. In doing so, Hagee aligns himself with Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists and a host of other radical anti-Catholic groups. I've posted the above video for reference sake. I imagine most of my readers will not be able to tolerate watching the whole thing. It's really quite sad. However, what I wish to point out here is that nothing, and I mean literally nothing, John Hagee is saying here is new. It may be new to the people in the audience, or to the many fans he has on television, but what he's saying is actually not very new at all. It's really quite old you see. The basic premise of it goes back to Martin Luther, but that's just the basic premise. All the juicy stuff comes from another source in the middle 19th century -- a fellow by the name of Alexander Hislop.
From CATHOLICISM FOR PROTESTANTS by Shane Schaetzel
The Father of Modern Anti-Catholicism
Published in tracts between 1853-1858
Then as a book in 1919.
In the video of Hagee above, I noted more errors than I could count, not only in what Hagee says Catholics believe, but also historical errors as well. I'm not talking about little historical errors. I'm talking about enormous ones! For example; Hagee describes Emperor Constantine as the first Catholic pope. Constantine was a general and a politician. He was not a member of any clergy. He was never a priest. He was never a bishop, and he certainly was never a pope! Nowhere is he even listed in the Catholic Church's index of popes. This is an egregious historical error, and I do mean epic! Yet, not only does Hagee just carry on as if nothing is wrong, but his audience just nods and listens attentively. I think this demonstrates something. In order for this kind of ridiculous propaganda to take root in society, and for people like John Hagee to become wildly successful, you need to have a population that is woefully ignorant of history. I doubt any single person in Hagee's audience could tell you who canonised the Bible in AD 400. They probably wouldn't even know the Bible was canonised in AD 400. I doubt ten people in that audience could even tell you what the word "canonised" means. This is what I'm talking about. The American Christian population is so completely uneducated about Christian history that they will literally fall for anything. There is no way Pastor John Hagee could be a success in America if Americans actually knew their Bible and the history behind it.
However, I don't want to just pick on Pastor Hagee. He's not alone. Just as his ministry is completely unoriginal, and a knock off of anti-Catholics who came before him, so there are many more who are doing the exact same thing. Some of them have television, radio and Internet ministries. Others are just country preachers who have a single pulpit and a small congregation. There are many to be sure, but all of them have one thing in common. They all draw on both Martin Luther and Alexander Hislop as their primary source of information. Even today's modern anti-Catholic books, videos and audio series draw heavily upon Luther and Hislop -- mostly on Hislop.
I want to go back to a commandment for a moment here. It's the eighth commandment according to the Catholic way of counting them, and ninth according to the common Protestant way of counting them. It says this: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour." For about five-hundred years now, Protestant leaders have been bearing false witness against Catholics and the Catholic Church, all in the name of religion. I think after half a millennium it really needs to stop. They bear false witness about what we believe. They bear false witness about what we practise. They bear false witness about our leaders. They bear false witness about what we did in history. The bear false witness about the origin of our beliefs and leaders. It goes on, and on, and on, and on... for five-hundred years! One would think the lies would start to get old. Granted, most people don't know they're lies. Because of their ignorance of religion and history, they've simply swallowed false propaganda and regurgitated it. Yet with each new generation these fables are revived with new vigour and told to people who think it's all brand-spanking-new revelation. Seriously, if your pastor is basing your religious teachings on bald-faced lies about another religion, it might be time to find a new pastor. Since when is bearing false witness part of the Christian gospel?
Now don't get me wrong. The Catholic Church is not totally innocent here. We Catholics have our share of naughty history in dealing with Protestants. However, for the most part, Rome has owned up to this. In the Second Vatican Council, the bishops of the Catholic Church plainly stated that men on both sides were to blame for the division between Catholics and Protestants. The Vatican has condemned anti-Protestantism, and commanded that Protestants be respected as Christians, and that ecumenical relations be opened with them. Yes, we Catholics haven't been perfect little angels, but at the same time, we've also owned up to our mistakes. John Hagee has likewise repented of, and renounced, some of the above video recorded statements he's made about the Catholic Church as demonstrated in this signed letter here. I would hope the majority of Evangelicals would follow this example and do the same.
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