In its "Brief Statement" of 1932, the Missouri Synod repudiated the teaching that the identification of the Papacy as the Antichrist is only a historical judgment.
It declared, "The prophecies of the Holy Scriptures concerning the Antichrist . . . have been fulfilled in the Pope of Rome and his dominion." It subscribed "to the statement of our Confessions that the Pope is 'the very Antichrist.'" It declared that the doctrine of Antichrist is "not to be included in the number of open questions" (43, 44).
As time went on, however, the LCMS began to retreat from its previous position. In 1951, the Report of the Advisory Committee on Doctrine and Practice of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod (LCMS) stated...
"Scripture does not teach that the Pope is the Antichrist. It teaches that there will be an Antichrist (prophecy). We identify the Antichrist as the Papacy. This is an historical judgment based on Scripture. The early Christians could not have identified the Antichrist as we do. If there were a clearly expressed teaching of Scripture, they must have been able to do so. Therefore the quotation from Lehre und Wehre [in 1904 by Dr. Stoeckhardt which identifies the Papacy as Antichrist] goes too far."
This view was endorsed by the LCMS Synod Convention in Houston, TX in 1953.
Confusing, right? I mean, which is it then? Why the sudden change too? Political correctness run amok?
As a Confessional Lutheran, my views on this subject must be defined by the very Word of God itself, and not by the interpretation of men that can apparently change from Convention to Convention.
Besides, if we took our cues from the Synodical Conventions throughout the years, then how would we be any different from Catholicism and their various Councils that we rightly criticize?
Thankfully, our Lutheran Confessions have a lot to say about this subject in plain english too. There's just no way you can read what the Smalcald Articles have to say about it and then come away thinking that we Lutherans are wrong to identify the Papacy as the seat of the Antichrist.
Plus, I came across a piece published at Steadfast Lutherans back in mid-January 2013 by Pastor Tim Rossow that seeks to summarize the Lutheran/LCMS position on the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican, and the Pope.
This email that I got the other day from a member illustrates a lot of things. It illustrates life in a confessional parish, the challenge to called workers of the LCMS to subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions and in light of recent discussions on BJS, the error of unionism.
It’s not a typical title for the emails I get, especially from a member. This member has a daughter marrying a catholic and he wants to talk about it. He frequents our Confessions Reading Group so he has a decent handle on the Symbols and knows the right questions to ask. He and I had talked on the phone about setting a time to get together and thus the title of the email.
In this day and age in the LCMS when many are queasy about standing firm on matters of unionism and syncretism, it is a healthy challenge for not only called workers, but all Lutherans to come to grips with the Confessions’ assertion about the office of the papacy.
I won’t go into a lengthy explanation of the Confessions on this matter because they speak clearly enough on thier own except for the following three brief points.
1) The first step toward understanding this truth that the pope is the antichrist is to realize that the Scriptures speak both of a single anthichrist (the lawless one of II Thess. 2) and of multiple antichrists (as in I John 2). The Biblical notion of antichrist is wider and far more subtle than what Hollywood and the chiliasts portray.
2) Antichrist means exactly what it says. It is someone who opposes Christ. The Roman Catholic rejection of salvation by grace through faith apart from works is clearly anti Christ.
3) As mentioned in point 1 above, the antichrist is not some little boy with 666 branded into his scalp, a political figure like Michael Gorbachev, or any other ghostly or beastly figure. Because we have been catechized by Hollywood and the local Christian bookstore instead of doing a careful study to understand the Revelation to St. John and its figurative nature (Jesus is not going to look like a lamb in heaven), we have a tendency to find it absurd that Luther and the Reformers rightly taught that the office of the papacy fits the Biblical description of the antichrist.
It is sad that so many LCMS pastors are willing to join in worship with the servants of the antichrist and also with other denominations who deny the real presence of Christ in the sacrament, baptismal regeneration and divine monergism among a myriad of other errors.
Joint worship with heterodox Christians, like those whose ecclesiastical head fills the office of the antichrist, is obviously wrong based on the Lutheran Confessions. Any LCMS pastor who holds a contrary view is not genuinely Lutheran.
This is a good time (kairos) for the LCMS to renew its commitment to the faith of the Lutheran fathers as given to us in Scripture and taught by the Lutheran Confessions. The teaching of the Smalcald Articles on the papacy/antichrist is a good test of our confessional mettle.
True, orthodox, confessional Christianity is not for the faint-hearted. The church is not a populist gang of church-growing, coffee-drinking, pop-culture comfortable, Jesus-rockers learning how to better manage their money, raise their kids and have better sex. The Church is a little flock. True, orthodox, confessional Christianity is not joining together with false teachers and believers with love overlooking error. It is recognizing and calling out error wherever it appears and fleeing from it.
I definitely didn't plan for this, but there seems to be a common theme running through many of the posts I've published this week and I'm wondering why that is. Hmmm... (sorry, I got a little sidetracked there).
Regardless, while I know that being this blunt about our views toward the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope will naturally offend the sensibilities of some readers (even some of you who are also Lutherans), it's important to understand that it's nonetheless Biblically accurate.
While it's certainly true, by extension, that the Antichrist is "against" Christ, it's important for us to also remember that the Greek "anti" has as its basic meaning "in place of" which is key to any discussion about this.
See, I've found this to be a very helpful point when trying to explain to others why we can and why we do identify the Papacy with the Antichrist, because -- just as in the 2 Thessalonians passage and as we see in the Book of Revelation too -- it's not too hard to show people how "the Vicar of Christ" (the Pope's self-chosen title) presumes to sit in Christ's place, and then briefly explain what that means and why it's a major problem.
Without going that route, it can often be a lot more work to try to convince certain people that a "nice" Pope like Pope John Paul II or the current Pope Francis is actively and intentionally working against Jesus Christ and His Church, but that point about "the Vicar of Christ" can help you get them to reach the same conclusion without having to battle through all the emotional defenses.
Bottom line, nothing presented here is un-Biblical. You just gotta be willing to confess the truth if ever put in the situation to do so. That's why I'd like to remind you of what Pastor Rossow wrote: "True, orthodox, confessional Christianity is not for the faint-hearted."
In a Lutheran layman's terms, we need to go read what the Smalcald Articles, from the Book of Concord, say about the matter in "Part II, Article IV: Of The Papacy" because it cites Scripture to make the case and it is crystal clear that Luther and the Reformers were absolutely right to teach that the Office of the Papacy and its Pope fits the Biblical description of the Antichrist.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism almost 2 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha!). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm experiencing and/or studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!