A strange antichrist
Throughout the centuries, few Biblical characters have captured the imagination and fostered speculation more than the antichrist. Everybody wants to know who the antichrist is. Some of the most common suspects are the head of the United Nations or the European Union. Lately there’s been a lot of speculation that the antichrist will be an Islamic cleric (go figure). I’ve heard everything from Gorbechav to Ronald Reagan to Oprah Winfrey, but historically the most common suspect is none other than the head of the Catholic Church.
It’s not too difficult to guess why Martin Luther might have thought of the Pope as the antichrist, given the power of the papacy at the time, but even in our modern era where the Papacy no longer holds the position as the head of the Holy Roman Empire,the idea of the Pope as the antichrist still holds resonance with a lot of people. Who knows how many books have been written to prove that the Papacy is the Whore of Babylon. Even Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkin’s Left Behind series portrays a future pope as head of a one world religion during the period known as the Great Tribulation. Or how about the Jack Chick publications that show the Pope with horns and a pitchfork?
I’m about halfway through reading Pope Benedict’s book “Jesus of Nazareth” and all I can say is if the current Pope is the antichrist, or is in someway preparing the world to receive the antichrist, then that would make for a very strange antichrist. The antichrist I learned about in Sunday School is supposed to rise to the top of the political food chain by wooing the world with promises of peace and prosperity. It doesn’t seem like this Pope is all that interested in building a utopia.
Here’s a sample of his writings:
“Moral posturing is part and parcel of temptation. It does not invite us directly to do evil-no, that would be far too blatant. It pretends to show us a better way, where we finally abandon our illusions and throw ourselves into the work of actually making the world a better place. It claims, moreover, to speak for true realism: What’s real is what is right there in front of us-power and bread. By comparison, the things of God fade into unreality, into a secondary world that no one really needs. God is the issue: Is he real, reality itself, or isn’t he? Is he good, or do we have to invent the good ourselves?”
“The Christian Empire or the secular power of the papacy is no longer a temptation today, but the interpretation of Christianity as a recipe for progress and the proclamation of universal prosperity as the real goal of all religions, including Christianity-this is the modern for of the same temptation.”
“No kingdom of this world is the Kingdom of God, the total condition of mankind’s salvation. Earthly kingdoms remain earthly human kingdoms, and anyone who claims to be able to establish the perfect world is the willing dupe of Satan and plays the world right into his hands.”
“The temptation to use power to secure the faith has arisen again and again in varied forms throughout the centuries, and again and again faith has risked being suffocated in the embrace of power. The struggle for freedom of the Church, the struggle to avoid identifying Jesus’ Kingdom with any political structure, is one that has to be fought century after century. For the fusion of faith and political power always comes at a price: faith becomes a servant of power and must bend to its criteria”
Is it possible that the head of the Catholic Church (aka the devil incarnate according to many) might have a thing or two to teach us Protestants about the marriage of the Church and political power?
What is this world coming to?