Monday, December 03, 2007

Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue #5: "Antichrist": Is He the Pope or Office of the Papacy? (Johnny Montalvo)

Johnny Montalvo, as you may recall if you have been following this, is the Lutheran who decided to become a Catholic. His former pastor is participant Rev. Larry Nichols.

See previous installments:

Lutheran-Catholic Group Dialogue Commences: Introductions (+ Discussion)

Lutheran-Catholic Group Dialogue #2: The Nature of the True Church and Authoritative Christian Tradition / Questions on Institutional Separation (+ Discussion)

Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue #3: Comparative Ecclesiology / Grace & Merit / Lutheran View of the Mass Compared to the Catholic View of Lutheran Worship
(+ Discussion)

Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue #4: "Tragic Necessity" of Reform / Indulgences / Nominalism / Causes of Schism / Luther on "Papists" / Fathers' Authority (+ Discussion)

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[a few typos were corrected]

I would like to thank Larry and Ben for taking the time out of your busy schedules to engage David and I in this dialogue. I appreciate it and I know the readers of this exchange will also agree.

There are a couple of points you both mention that I need to reply to. One is the issue regarding the Church Fathers. I never said nor [did] the thought ever cross my mind that any of “the Church Fathers should be regarded with equal weight as the Apostles” or that they were infallible. However, I believe that the Church by the guidance of the Holy Spirit teaches infallibly on the matters concerning “faith and morals”. (John 16:13)

Regarding your interpretation of II Thessalonians 2:4, I think you overlook an important point: audience relevance. I believe it is a stretch to say that the “temple” Paul is speaking about is the Church and that the lawless one or the antichrist was the office of the Papacy, for the following reasons:

First, we must see how the “antichrist” is defined in the Bible. The word “antichrist appears only in John’s epistles (I John 2:18,22; 4:3; 2 John 7). What is taught in these verses represents the whole New Testament doctrine of Antichrist. John’s description of antichrist is altogether different from your image. John’s antichrist is:

-Anyone “who denies that Jesus is the Christ” (1 John 2:22).

-Anyone who “denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:23).

-“Every spirit that does not confess Jesus” (1John 4:3).

-“Those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist (2 John 7).

I don’t recall the Pope ever holding to or teaching any of these beliefs; [do] you?

Second, Paul wrote during the time of a literal, standing, second Temple. He gave no hint that this event would occur centuries later in some other "rebuilt" temple. His first readers apparently expected this fulfillment in their lifetime. That's why some feared that that "day of the Lord" had already occurred. Also, note how Paul's prophetic words here match up with Jesus' Olivet Discourse (Mat. 24 and Luke 21). Both speak of the same set of events, use similar language, and convey a strong sense of imminence. Jesus said, that generation (1st century) will see the “abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (The Temple)" before the destruction of the Temple. This is also recorded in the book of Daniel chapter 9. The 70 weeks, which ends in the 1st century, unless, you believe there a gap between the 69th and 70th week.

History records that the Jewish rebellion against Rome and apostasy from the faith was already underway in the early 60s, and reached its climax in the Jewish-Roman War of A.D. 66 - 70. I propose that Paul's "man of sin" was, most likely, a specific person who set himself up in the Temple that was standing when Paul was writing. He could have been (take your pick) Nero, Titus, a Zealot leader, the corrupt chief high priest, or a Christian Zealot. All except Nero physically entered the Temple. Keep in mind that Jews refused Christ as their King and proclaimed, "We have no king but Caesar!" John 19: 15

Though Paul never calls him "antichrist;' the Apostle John tells us that there were many "antichrists" at work at that time (1 John. 2:18; 4:3). No doubt this "man of sin" was one of them. But he was also a special person who had to come on the scene prior to A.D. 70 before the Temple was destroyed. It was "already at work," there and then, but something and/or someone was holding the "man of sin" back at the time Paul wrote this letter (circa A.D. 51 - 52). Whatever that was, Paul reminded his first readers that they already knew its/his identity. So Paul didn't have to tell them, and he didn't. Since they knew who or what it was, it could not possibly have been something or someone that would not exist for some four hundred or more [years].

You said that “Lutherans regard the Fathers of the Church very highly” and “all had marvelous and gifted insights and should be read voraciously.” Why didn’t the Church Fathers have the insight to make the connection between the antichrist and the office of the Papacy? Instead we see them recognizing the office of the Papacy. Even Luther believed in and didn’t view the office of the Papacy as the antichrist before he was excommunicated.

"‘But,’ you [Jovinian] will say, ‘it was on Peter that the Church was founded’ [Matt. 16:18]. Well . . . one among the twelve is chosen to be their head in order to remove any occasion for division" (Against Jovinian 1:26 [A.D. 393]). Jerome

"For though you think that heaven is still shut up, remember that the Lord left the keys of it to Peter here, and through him to the Church, which keys everyone will carry with him if he has been questioned and made a confession [of faith]" (Antidote Against the Scorpion 10 [A.D. 211]). Tertullian

"The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.’ . . . On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all [the apostles] are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?" (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition [A.D. 251]). Cyprian of Carthage

"I think it my duty to consult the chair of Peter, and to turn to a church whose faith has been praised by Paul...My words are spoken to the successor of the fisherman, to the disciple of the cross." Jerome, To Pope Damasus, Epistle 15 (A.D. 377).

"For the good of unity Blessed Peter deserved to be preferred before the rest, and alone received the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, that he might communicate them to the rest." Optatus of Mileve, The Schism of Donatists, 7:3 (c.A.D. 367).

"Number the bishops from the See of Peter itself. And in that order of Fathers see who has succeeded whom. That is the rock against which the gates of hell do not prevail" Augustine, Psalm against the Party of Donatus, 18 (A.D. 393).

“Carthage was also near the countries over the sea, and distinguished by illustrious renown, so that it had a bishop of more than ordinary influence, who could afford to disregard a number of conspiring enemies because he saw himself joined by letters of communion to the Roman Church, in which the supremacy of an apostolic chair has always flourished.” Augustine, To Glorius, Epistle 43:7 (A.D. 397).

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