Calvin on the Papacy

“This calamity was neither to be introduced by one man, nor to terminate in one man….   Second Thessalonians 2:3; Daniel 7:9.   Moreover, when the mark by which he [St. Paul] distinguished Antichrist is that he would rob God of His honour and take it to himself — he gives the leading feature which we ought to follow in searching out Antichrist, especially when pride of this description proceeds to the open devastation of the Church.   Seeing then it is certain that the Roman Pontiff has impudently transferred to himself the most peculiar properties of God and Christ — there cannot be a doubt that he is the leader and standard-bearer of an impious and abominable kingdom.” 

This is true especially of the late-mediaeval popes.   As Dr. Calvin explains: "The See which they occupy…no more makes them the 'vicars of Christ' than it makes an idol to become God when it is placed in the temple of God (Second Thessalonians 2:4)!"3 

It is true that today — as indeed also at the time of the Protestant Reformation — at least something of Christianity can still be seen in the Roman Catholic Church.   For this reason, some wrongly think that this ecclesiastical body should be recognized by Protestants — as being just one of many inconsistent denominations of one and the same Christian Faith.    

The truth, however, is that the Papacy is not a version of Christianity.   It is not a version, but a perversion.   It is not at all fully Christian; but is at best sub-Christian, and at worst anti-Christian. 

Dr. John Calvin on adumbrations of the Romish Papacy in the Pentateuch 

On Genesis, Dr. Calvin comments:4 “It appears what kind of religion is that of the Papacy.   There, instead of the Word of God, the fictions of men alone are the subject of boast…..   At this day [viz. 1563], the Papists proudly exult.   There is no reason why we [Protestants] should be disturbed by their empty and

inflated boasts.   As to their glorying in their long succession — it means just as much as if Ishmael were proclaiming himself the first-born”; in spite of Genesis 21:12f!  

On Genesis 31:30, cf. 30:19, Dr. Calvin comments further:5  “We see that Laban calls his ‘gods’ teraphim [alias ‘images’] — not because he thought the Deity was enclosed within them; but because he reverenced these images in honour of the ‘gods.’   Or rather, because — when he was about to pay homage to God [the Triune God ’Elohiym]– he turned himself to those images! 

“At this day, the Papists think they skilfully effect their escape, because they do not attribute to idols the name of gods.   But the subterfuge is frivolous, since in reality they are altogether alike.   For they pour forth before pictures or statues, whatever honour they acknowledge to be due to the one God.” 

On Exodus, Calvin comments that Pharoah spared the daughters of the Israelites, “so that, being enslaved and allotted to the Egyptians, they might produce slaves for their masters….   Here it may be worth while to meditate on a comparison with our own times.   [The papal Romish] Antichrist, with all his murderous agents, leaves in peace those who by their treacherous silence deny Christ and are prepared to embrace as slaves every kind of impiety.”6    

Indeed, Dr. Calvin also compares the magicians of Pharoah with “the coming of Antichrist…with signs and lying-wonders” — and adds that “the wickedness of Pharaoh blinded his eyes, so that…he was deceived by the juggles of his own magicians….   Many, nowadays, among the Papists — are followers of wicked superstitions….  Second Thessalonians 2:10[f]….  Frivolous is that cavil which the Papists advance, that the serpent is called the rod of Moses — as the bread ‘transubstantiated’ into the body of Christ retains the name of bread….   We may retort…the bread is called the body of Christ although it remains bread, just as the serpent which then appeared, is called the rod!” 

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