Were the Reformers Right?

I appreciate that I have written on this topic previously, however subsequent to this I will be submitting a number of articles in order to establish the following:

1. That the reformers did indeed make that accusation against Rome and….

2. That the basis for their collective charges against the papacy was not founded on personal prejudice nor was it influenced by current cultural considerations, but were founded firmly on the word of God, the Bible. Thus it is the inspired word of God that makes case against the Roman church. It is God Himself that warns the readers of His word against Romanism; it is God Himself that calls His people out of that system (yes, He does have people in the RCC, and He does love them every bit as much as He loves anyone else); and it is God Himself who offers an alternative. It is not just a matter of calling people out of one church, but it also involves calling them into another.

The articles I will be submitting are part of an ongoing forum conversation and where appropriate will be also showing some of the responses. Your comments and submissions are welcome.

Every reformer, from the 12th to the 18th century, from Wycliffe to Luther, from Calvin to Cranmer, and dozens in between, pointed their collective fingers at Rome and proclaimed the Roman papacy as the Antichrist of prophetic scripture. Were they right? If one was to give any credence to modern Christianitys view, the reformation was a major mistake, and the reformers all religious radicals deceived and influenced by the times in which they lived. If however they were right, and the Roman Catholic Church is indeed the Antichrist as they claimed, then why do so few proclaim it today? If however they were wrong which it seems the majority of Christendom now contend, then why don’t we all forsake the title “protestant” (who’s protesting today anyway?) and return to Rome?

In response to the above a moderator asked:

Do you have some historical writings to support your statement that all these people “proclaimed the Roman papacy as the Antichrist of prophetic scripture”?

I am not an advocate of Protestantism, Catholicism or any other religious institution anymore but if you have any historical evidence to support your post than I’m your huckleberry.



One thought on “Were the Reformers Right?

  1. I mentioned in my post that right from the time of Wycliffe (known as the morning star of the reformation) there were some who held the view that the papacy was the antichrist of prophetic scripture. A follower of Wycliffe, John Purvey, wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation, this being nearly 150 years before Luther. In 1528 Luther reprinted or republished this commentary, and inserted the following preface.

    “This preface, noble reader, you may understand was written by us for this reason–that we might make known to the world that we are not the first to interpret the Papacy as the kingdom of the Antichrist. For many years prior to us, so many and so great men (whose number is large, and their memory eternal) have attempted this so clearly and openly, and that with great spirit and force, that [those] who were driven by the fury of the papal tyranny into the farthest boundaries of the earth, and suffering the most atrocious tortures, nevertheless bravely and faithfully persisted in the confession of the truth.”

    In a statement from the Westminster Confession of Faith, ratified by the British parliament in 1647:
    “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.”
    (Phillip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom–With a History and Critical Notes, vol. 3, pp 658, 659)

    In his book, All Roads Lead to Rome, (pp205,206) Michael de Semlyen says:
    “Wycliffe, Tyndale, Luther, Calvin, Cranmer; in the seventeenth century, Bunyan, the translators of the King James Bible and the men who published the Westminster and Baptist Confessions of Faith; Sir Isaac Newton, John Wesley, Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards; and more recently, Spurgeon, Bishop J. C. Ryle and Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones; these men among countless others, all saw the office of the Papacy as the antichrist.”

    The vast majority of these courageous men died at the hands of the very system they were denouncing, so there can be little surprise that the power that had most to gain by their silence was that power that destroyed them, along with whatever writings they could find. There are however many examples available of such denunciations, particularly of those more eminent scholars like Newton, Calvin, Luther, Wesley and Whitfield.

    The question we must ask ourselves is why? On what basis did these men make their bold claims, and why were they willing to lay down their lives rather than compromise? Also, if they were correct in their assertions, and the papacy is indeed the Antichrist, what of modern interpretations, theories and teachings (such as in the very popular Left Behind series) that proclaim a future individual yet to appear?

    Aforementioned moderator asked:

    Do you have any historical writings other than The Westminster Confessions Of Faith?

    My response:

    Martin Luther (1483-1546) (Lutheran): “Luther … proved, by the revelations of Daniel and St. John,by the epistles of St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. Jude, that the reign of Antichrist, predicted and described in the Bible, was the Papacy … And all the people did say, Amen! A holy terror seized their souls. It was Antichrist whom they beheld seated on the pontifical throne. This new idea, which derived greater strength from the prophetic descriptions launched forth by Luther into the midst of his contemporaries, inflicted the most terrible blow on Rome.” Taken from J. H. Merle D’Aubigne’s History of the
    Reformation of the Sixteen Century, book vi, chapter xii, p. 215.

    John Calvin (1509-1564) (Presbyterian): “Some persons think us too severe and censorious when we call the Roman pontiff Antichrist. But those who are of this opinion do not consider that they bring the same charge of presumption against Paul himself, after whom we speak and whose language we adopt… I shall briefly show that (Paul’s words in II Thess. 2) are not capable of any other interpretation than that which applies them to the Papacy.” Taken from Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin.

    John Knox (1505-1572) (Scotch Presbyterian): John Knox sought to counteract “that tyranny which the pope himself has for so many ages exercised over the church.” As with Luther, he finally concluded that the Papacy was “the very antichrist, and son of perdition, of whom Paul speaks.”
    The Zurich Letters, by John Knox, pg. 199.

    Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) (Anglican): “Whereof it followeth Rome to be the seat of antichrist, and the pope to be very antichrist himself. I could prove the same by many other scriptures, old writers, and strong reasons.” (Referring to prophecies in Revelation and Daniel.) Works by Cranmer, Vol. 1,
    pp. 6-7.

    John Wesley (1703-1791) (Methodist): Speaking of the Papacy, John Wesley wrote, “He is in an emphatical sense, the Man of Sin, as he increases all manner of sin above measure. And he is, too, properly styled the Son of Perdition, as he has caused the death of numberless multitudes, both of his opposers and followers… He it is…that exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped…claiming the highest power, and highest honour…claiming the prerogatives which belong to God alone.” Antichrist and His Ten Kingdoms, by John Wesley, pg. 110.
    Related articles

    Calvin: An Observation on the Papacy (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)

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