Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Reformers Ride The Beast

Pictured: CALVINISM TEARING DOWN THE ROMAN EMPIRE. Roman Catholic burlesque of the seventeenth century

You know how some Protestants find the Roman Catholic Church in the book of Revelation? You know, the pope is the antichrist, the woman rides the beast, etc…all that Jack Chick / Dave Hunt claptrap…What if a Roman Catholic read Revelation and interpreted it as the events of the Reformation? I found just that.

Take a minute to reread Revelation 9. Now, take a look at Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary (1859 edition) on Revelation 9. Here are some highlights:

Verse 1: “And the fifth angel sounded the trumpet, and I saw a star fall from heaven upon the earth, and there was given to him the key of the bottomless pit.”

Interpretation: “Here is a description of the rise and progress of the reformation. This trumpet begins with announcing to us the fall of a star from heaven; a very just emblem of the apostacy of Luther, who in quality of a priest and religious man is styled a star, but renouncing the faith and vows, may truly be said to have fallen from heaven upon the earth.”

Verse 2: “And he opened the bottomless pit: and the smoke of the pit arose, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke of the pit.”

Interpretation:Luther and his followers propagated and defended their new doctrines with such heat and violence, as to occasion every where seditions and insurrections, which they seemed to glory in. Luther openly boasted of it. ‘You complain,’ said he, ‘that by our gospel the world is become more tumultuous; I answer, God be thanked for it; these things I would have so to be, and woe to me if such things were not.’ ….By the sun, therefore, and air being darkened, we are to understand faith and morality obscured and perverted by the novel doctrines of the reformers."

Verse 3: “And from the smoke of the pit there came out locusts upon the earth. And power was given to them, as the scorpions of the earth have power:”

Interpretation:Heretics are compared to locusts, says St. Jerome, because they are a species of insects extremely hurtful to mankind, as they occasion famine, eat up the harvest, and even strip the trees and the vines. With very great propriety then may the locusts here mentioned be understood of the first reformers, not only on account of their rapacity, but also for their number. Luther was their leader, by allowing every one to be his own interpreter of Scripture, the effects of which we have described by Dudithius, a learned Protestant divine, in his epistle to Beza. "What sort of people are our Protestants, straggling to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, sometimes to this side, and sometimes to that? You may, perhaps, know what their sentiments in matters of religion are to-day; but you can never certainly tell what they will be to-morrow. In what article of religion do these churches agree, which have cast off the bishop of Rome? Examine all of them from top to bottom, and you will scarce find one thing affirmed by one, which is not immediately condemned by another for wicked doctrine."

Verse 4: “And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree: but only the men who have not the sign of God on their foreheads.”

Interpretation: “…that though the locusts, or the sects of Protestants, are allowed by the Almighty to seduce some of all sorts from the Church, yet that the generality of the faithful will be preserved unhurt.”

Verse 7: “And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle: and on their heads were, as it were, crowns like gold: and their faces were as the faces of men.”

Interpretation:We now come to the description of these locusts, which expresses the spirit of sedition and rebellion that animated the reformers and their proselytes. Luther proclaimed himself the leader in this as well as in other articles of the new discipline: see his works, particularly Contra statem ecclesiæ et falso nominatum ordinem Episcoporum, lib. contra Sylvest. Prieras, De Seculari potestate et Contra Rusticos, &c. Erasmus thus describes the effects of the inflammatory doctrine of these ministers of evangelical liberty: ‘I saw them (the people) come forth from their sermons with fierce looks and threatening countenances,’ like men ‘that just come from hearing bloody invectives and seditious speeches." Accordingly, we found "these evangelical people always ready to rise up in arms, and equally as good at fighting as at disputing.’

Verse 8: “And they had hair as the hair of women; and their teeth were as lions:”

Interpretation:This latter allusion, unhappily for the sectaries, betrays too plainly their sensual disposition towards that sex, their shameful doctrine on that score, and the scandalous example of their practice. Luther, in despite of a vow he had solemnly made to God of observing continence, married; and married a nun, equally bound as himself to that sacred religious promise! But, as St. Jerome says, ‘it is rare to find a heretic that loves chastity.’ Luther's example had indeed been anticipated by Carlostadius, a priest and ringleader of the Sacramentarians, who had married a little before; and it was followed by most of the heads of the reformation. Zuinglius, a priest and chief of that sect which bore his name, took a wife. Bucer, a religious man of the order of St. Dominic, became a Lutheran, left his cloister, and married a nun. Œcolampadius, a Brigittin monk, became a Zuinglian, and also married. Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, had also his wife. Peter Martyr, a canon regular, embraced the doctrine of Calvin; but followed the example of Luther, and married a nun. Ochin, general of the Capuchins, became a Lutheran, and also married. Beza, the most celebrated minister in the Calvinistic party, being asked in his old age, by an intimate acquaintance of his, (Deshayes, governor of Montargis) what was the leading reason which connected him so closely with the Calvinists? Beza called in his mistress, a beautiful young girl who lived with him, and said: "That is the principle reason which convinces me of the excellence of my religion."
…Thus the principal leaders in the reformation went forth preaching the new gospel, with two marks upon them---apostacy from the faith, and open violation of the most sacred vows. The passion of lust, it is well known, hurried Henry VIII. of England, into a separation from the Catholic Church, and ranked him amongst the reformers


Iohannes said...

You know how some Protestants find the Roman Catholic Church in the book of Revelation? You know, the pope is the antichrist, the woman rides the beast, etc…all that Jack Chick / Dave Hunt claptrap…

I don't mean to be a pest, but wasn't this the nearly universal belief of the Reformed until the 19th century? The PCUSA didn't drop the identification of the papacy with the antichrist from the Confession until 1903.

Charles Hodge defended the traditional identification of the papacy with the antichrist. You can read his reasoning here. The following is one of the most interesting parts of his argument:

Dr. John Henry Newman says, that if Protestants insist on making the Church of Rome Antichrist, they thereby make over all Roman Catholics, past and present, “to utter and hopeless perdition.” This does not follow. The Church of Rome is to be viewed under different aspects; as the papacy, an external organized hierarchy, with the pope, with all his arrogant claims, at its head; and also as a body of men professing certain religious doctrines. Much may be said of it in the one aspect, which is not true of it in the other. Much may be said of Russia as an empire that cannot be said of all Russians. At one time the first Napoleon was regarded by many as Antichrist; that did not involve the belief that all Frenchmen who acknowledged him as emperor, or all soldiers who followed him as their leader, were the sons of perdition. That many Roman Catholics, past and present, are true Christians, is a palpable fact. It is a fact which no man can deny without committing a great sin. It is a sin against Christ not to acknowledge as true Christians those who bear his image, and whom He recognizes as his brethren. It is a sin also against ourselves. We are not born of God unless we love the children of God. If we hate and denounce those whom Christ loves as members of his own body, what are we? It is best to be found on the side of Christ, let what will happen. It is perfectly consistent, then, for a man to denounce the papacy as the man of sin, and yet rejoice in believing, and in openly acknowledging, that there are, and ever have been, many Romanists who are the true children of God.

The language about a "twofold aspect" comes almost verbatim from Turretin (Loc. 18, q. 14, 3).

It is a curious fact that many conservative Reformed folk today have reversed Hodge's position. On the one hand, they dismiss the identification of the papacy with the antichrist as absurd and even bigoted; but on the other, they count the Church of Rome and her faithful as outside the bounds of the visible church.

Iohannes said...

The language about "different aspects" is what I was referring to in the passage from Hodge. Turretin says "twofold aspect." Sorry.

Gojira said...

That is very true, Iohannes.

James Swan said...

I don't mean to be a pest, but wasn't this the nearly universal belief of the Reformed until the 19th century? The PCUSA didn't drop the identification of the papacy with the antichrist from the Confession until 1903.

Good point. I had the current trend of Dispensational sensationalists in mind.

For Luther it was also the end of the world in the 16th Century. The entirety of his Reformation career embraced an impending consummation of history.

When Luther rewrote his introduction to Revelation, it was also ha a "Papacy is the antichrist" thrust.

Iohannes said...

That's a neat post on Luther. Do you know how long the post-Reformation Lutherans continued to associate the papacy with the antichrist?

BTW, the topic reminds me of how Hahn introduces Matatics in Rome Sweet Home:

I met a fellow seminarian name Gerry Matatics, who quickly became a close friend. (He figures large in the story later.) Among the Presbyterian students, we were the only ones stalwart enough in our anti-Catholicism to believe the Westminster Confession ought to retain a line most reformed people were willing to drop: the Pope is the Antichrist. (p. 25)

I wonder whether Hahn at the time was closer to Dave Hunt or Charles Hodge when it comes to attitudes toward the RCC.

L P Cruz said...


Presently the confessing Lutherans regard the office of the papacy as the anti-Christ. The pope may not be but his office is. The BoC is still the standard for a Lutheran and the Power and Primacy of the Pope by Dr. Luther is included in that confession.

Some Lutherans have re-interpreted that position, some synod (LC in Australia) have written a paper retracting (in effect) the ant-Christ connection with the papacy. I of course disagree. Well I guess there is always some crypto-papist amongst us.


James Swan said...

Rome Sweet Home is an ironic read. Matatics is put forth as the brilliant knight in shining armor, helping Hahn swim the Tiber. Now though, Matatics is not taken seriously by his peers because of his recent Catholic positions. I would guess Hahn now never mentions him, and if he does, it is not to direct people to a Matatics seminar.