The Antichrist in Scripture – The Popes According to Luther and Calvin

"Let these ‘worthy’ defenders of the Roman See tell me with what face they can defend the title of ‘Universal Bishop’ — while they see it so often anathematized by Gregory [the Great]! If effect is to be given to his testimony, then they –by making their Pontiff ‘universal’ — declare him to be Antichrist!"  

Indeed, as for the late-mediaeval Popes:  "The existing state of the Papacy," insisted Calvin in 1536f,120 "is clearly a hundred times more corrupt than in the days of Gregory and Bernard — though even then these holy men were so much displeased with it….   Julius and Leo, and Clement and Paul [A.D. 1503 to 1550]…knew nothing more about Christ than they had learned in the School of Lucian [A.D. 120 to 180f] ….   The first head of the secret theology which is in vogue among them — is that there is no God.   Another, that whatever things have been written and are taught concerning Christ — are lies and imposture.   A third, that the doctrine of a fulture life and final resurrection — is a mere fable.  

"I confess that all do not think thus, and that few speak thus.   Yet…John XXII [A.D. 1316 to 1334] publically maintained that the soul is mortal and perishes with the body till the day of resurrection….   None of the Cardinals opposed his madness….  

"For a long period, the Roman Pontiffs have either been altogether devoid of religion, or been its greatest enemies.   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)!"120

Once again, Calvin does not claim all Popes are equally evil.   He does not even claim all Popes are evil in varying degrees.   Indeed, he claims that the very first so-called ‘Pope’ — Gregory the Great [A.D. 590 to 604], and Bernard — were "holy men."   But Calvin certainly claims ‘the Pope of Rome’ — alias the Papacy as an institution — was and is Antichrist.

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Calvin further insists:121 "Protestants complain that…the Pope…is Antichrist….   Is not the Pope superior to laws [cf. Daniel 7:25]?   Nay, what are laws to him?…

"Of this we have a signal proof in the case of John Huss, whom the Romans — after alluring him to Constance by a safe-conduct — cruelly murdered….   The decree was framed by the ‘holy fathers’ that [one’s word or good] faith is not to be kept with ‘heretics’….   In the minds of the Germans, there still resides a remembrance of the foul act — warning them to beware of ever again joining themselves as associates in Roman perfidy!"

Still, he says,122 "in ancient times there remained among the Jews certain special privileges of a Church.   So in the present day [1559] we deny not to Papists those vestiges of a Church which the Lord has allowed to remain among them, amid the dissipation."   Yet, "ecclesiastical government as now existing in the Papacy," is "opposed to Christ’s institution."  

For the Papacy has "so degenerated from the ancient customs and practices of the Church…, that a greater injury cannot be done to Christ than to use His Name in defending this disorderly rule….   We maintain that their kingdom is the tyranny of Antichrist."123

On the other hand, Calvin also warns:124 "We may not be imposed upon by the name of ‘Church’….   If the True Church is ‘the pillar and ground of the truth’ (First Timothy 3:15) — it is certain that there is no Church — where lying and falsehood have usurped the ascendancy. Since this is the state of matters under the Papacy, we can understand how much of the ‘Church’ there survives!

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