POGM comments below BLUE line

 articles posted 12/05/05

 'Antichrist' No More: Evangelicals Praise Pope

Home > Christianity Today Magazine > Weblog
Christianity Today, Week of April 4

Weblog: 'Antichrist' No More: Evangelicals Praise Pope
Most are unreserved in their praise on political, social, and even theological matters, but critique of papacy remains.
Compiled by Ted Olsen | posted 04/05/2005 04:30 p.m.

One of the most surprising tributes paid by a conservative evangelical to the pope came years before the pontiff's death: Left Behind raptured him.

A few decades ago, the pope wouldn't have been among the redeemed in such a book: He would have played the role of the antichrist himself. Such a belief has a longstanding tradition in Protestant teachings, from Martin Luther ("The papacy is the seat of the true and real Antichrist") to the Westminster Confession ("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." Contemporary versions, such as those used by the Presbyterian Church in America, stop at "head thereof").

But no, it's actually Cardinal Peter Matthews, an American critic of the pope, who becomes a villain in the series.

(Tribulation Force, the second Left Behind volume, backtracks quite a bit from the initial suggestion that John Paul II got taken up, saying it was "new pope" John XXIV who was raptured just five months after his installation, and had "stirred up controversy in the church with a new doctrine that seemed to coincide with the 'heresy' of Martin Luther than with the historic orthodoxy they were used to." Old habits die hard, but the books still signal a dramatic reduction in hostility to the office of bishop of Rome.)

The harshest criticism of Pope John Paul II is coming from American Catholics like Andrew Greeley, Thomas Cahill, and John Cornwall. And it's not just liberals: Dallas Morning News columnist Rod Dreher laments that the "holy and humble" pope "was largely a failure" as governor of the church.

Evangelical Protestants, meanwhile, can't say enough nice things about him. This shouldn't come as a big shock. Last year at this time, PBS's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly polled evangelicals, asking them:

Now, I'd like to rate your feelings toward some people and organizations, with one hundred meaning a VERY WARM, FAVORABLE feeling; zero meaning a VERY COLD, UNFAVORABLE feeling; and fifty meaning not particularly warm or cold. You can use any number from zero to one hundred, the higher the number the more favorable your feelings are toward that person or organization. If you have no opinion or never heard of that person or organization, please say so.

Here's how evangelicals rated some names:






George W. Bush





Pope John Paul II





James Dobson





Franklin Graham





Pat Robertson





Jerry Falwell





In other words, those who love James Dobson or Franklin Graham may love him more strongly than they like Pope John Paul II, but more evangelicals like John Paul II than like them. (Note that many more evangelicals didn't like the pope than didn't like Dobson or Graham, but he still did better than Robertson or Falwell.)

Many evangelicals "felt more in harmony with him than with the leaders of their own denomination," says The Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes, an evangelical Episcopalian. Barnes continues:

He was the world's greatest defender of orthodox, Bible-based Christianity. … Important differences remained between Protestants and Catholics, but John Paul II made them seem small. He was pro-life, pro-family, anti-totalitarian, and quite a lot more that conservative evangelicals identified with. … John Paul was bold and unswerving in proclaiming salvation through belief in Jesus Christ. He did this all over the world, despite declining health and personal risk. … Catholics have lost a great and wonderful leader. And so have evangelicals.

Wheaton College's Mark Noll, whose book (with Carolyn Nystrom) Is the Reformation Over? is due out in July, told Associated Press reporter Richard Ostling that evangelicals had doctrinal differences with John Paul II, like the pope's Marian devotion. But the pope's theology as articulated in his encyclicals and pronouncements was deep and biblical, Noll says. "People who've taken the time to read these should come away impressed with his classically orthodox Christian stance."

It's one encyclical in particular that evangelical Protestants are referring to: Evangelium Vitae, "on the value and inviolability of human life." (Veritatis Splendor, on morality, is a somewhat distant second. Surprisingly, few evangelicals are talking about Redemptoris Missio, his call to evangelism and missions.)

"Pope John Paul II, champion of pro-life and pro-family causes, dies at the age of 84," says the headline on the Baptist Press obituary.

"Pope John Paul II's strong voice in confronting issues crucial for our age with courage and conviction for more than a quarter of a century will be missed," Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod president Gerald B. Kieschnick said. "He provided inspiration and leadership, not only to Roman Catholics but also to the greater Christian world and beyond with his uncompromising stances in favor of life and against the culture of death."

The only word so far from National Association of Evangelicals president Ted Haggard is a line in a Focus on the Family news item: "Pope John Paul II has stood with us strongly all over the free world in defending heterosexual, monogamous marriage and defending the fact that a fetus is a human being."

On Monday's Focus on the Family radio program, James Dobson he promised to devote some airtime later to discussing John Paul II's legacy. In the meantime he issued a statement unequivocally praising the pope, focusing almost completely on pro-life issues:

Today's passing of Pope John Paul II is an immeasurable loss — not only to our friends of the Roman Catholic faith, but to the entire world. We found common cause with him and with the 'culture of life' he espoused so eloquently; the legacy he left us is to be cherished.

While we grieve the profound loss of this remarkable man, we celebrate his life, his ministry, and his undeniable impact on the world. During his time as leader of the Catholic Church, he embodied the belief that freedom is a gift from God that should not be infringed by any government; that all life is precious and should be protected; and that dying is part of living and should not be feared nor hastened artificially.

Pope John Paul was an uncompromising voice on the sanctity of life—in fact, his was one of the greatest contributions of the 20th century to that cause. The 'culture of life' will forever be indebted to the man who championed the value of all human life, even to his last breath."

Charles Colson, who organized the evangelical side of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together meetings, recounts in his Breakpoint radio program how he and Dobson "were invited as the first evangelicals to speak in the Synod Hall in the Vatican. I was struck by the intensity of his blue eyes [the pope's, not Dobson's] and the glow he seemed to have about him. He was an extraordinary human being—and I say that as a devout Southern Baptist."

The rest of Colson's commentary focuses on another political aspect of John Paul II's life: his opposition to communism.

But when you focus on his social and political stances, you miss the point, says Anglican blogger Christopher S. Johnson. He notes a recent Associated Press poll that says Americans "want the next pope to allow priests to marry and women to join the priesthood … do more about predatory clergy … [grant] a larger church role for laypeople … ." Johnson adds, "The new pope should also come up with an anti-steroid plan for major league baseball with some teeth. And Social Security. The new pope should have a plan to fix Social Security. A solid majority of Americans also felt that the new pope should pick a vice-pope from the South in order to balance the ticket."

In a separate post, Johnson notes that perhaps John Paul II's most unfinished goal: strengthening the ties between Christian churches, went unfinished. "But I think John Paul II achieved far more Christian unity than he realized. Leaving out those in the fever swamps, rare indeed is the prominent Protestant who doesn't boast of his connection to him. At the start of all his television programs, Benny Hinn, of all people, shows a picture of his meeting with the pope."

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, says such meetings are important and give real insight into the pope's beliefs and attitudes. Patterson met with John Paul II twice, and told Baptist Press the pontiff was "affable on both occasions" and "sufficiently understanding of our evangelical position":

He did not ask or expect the kind of obeisance which would normally be accorded to him. I remember thinking when I left his presence, "Here is a pope who knows how to pope." [After we discussed 1 Peter], I gave him a Criswell Study Bible and he gave me a rosary. I am not sure who won the exchange. While it would be difficult to imagine two people talking together with a theological divide as wide as the ocean and still finding much in common, this is exactly what transpired.

"One of the truly great men of the 20th century has passed into eternity," write Presbyterian Church in America pastor-brothers David and Tim Bayly. "We need not consider theological differences at this point to mourn the passing of a man who stood courageously for God's Word in defense of the poor, the sick, the helpless." The Baylys also remark how their time protesting outside Terri Schiavo's hospice gave them respect for Roman Catholicism's shared liturgy, clear leadership, and understanding of the limits of politics. We hope, they conclude, "despite our opposition to the gospel-denying teaching of Roman Catholicism, to gather before the throne of the Lamb with John Paul II in glory."

"Apparently the military have a saying, about the need for junior ranks to show respect even to obnoxious or incompetent superiors: 'salute the rank, not the man,'" writes blogger John H., a convert from Anglicanism to Lutheranism. "This distinction between office and office-holder is a very important one, though one that applies in reverse in this case: salute the man, not the rank." He argues that the Lutheran designation of "antichrist" still stands for the papacy, but "that doesn't prevent us from having considerable admiration for many aspects of Roman Catholicism, and for this great pope in particular — whose errors have, largely, been no more than one would expect of someone in that office, but whose greatness has been all his own."

"We should be unembarrassed and unhesitant to declare our admiration for John Paul II's courageous stand against communism, his bold defense of human dignity and human life, and his robust and substantial defense of truth in the face of postmodernism," says Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Al Mohler. "In many of the great battles of our day, evangelicals found John Paul II to be a key ally. … Evangelicals should be thankful for the personal virtues Pope John Paul II demonstrated, and for his advocacy on behalf of life, liberty, and human dignity, Yet we cannot ignore the institution of the papacy itself, nor the complex of doctrines, truth claims and false doctrines that John Paul II taught, defended, and promulgated."

Mohler says those doctrines include "the most troubling aspects of Roman Catholicism. He defended and continued the theological directions set loose at the Second Vatican Council."

Ah, but it would have been better had he been a bit stronger on Vatican II, says Dallas Theological Seminary president Mark Bailey in an interview with Crosswalk.com. "Even with Vatican II, there has never been a repudiation or backing off of the Council of Trent that called all evangelicals 'devils' and really denied that evangelicals and Protestants can have a place in eternity. There's a bit of contradiction between Vatican II and the Council of Trent that still has to be wrestled with."

But what about the pope, Crosswalk asked. Does he have a place in eternity? Bailey responds:

Some people can find themselves part of a tradition that holds to certain doctrine, but they themselves have come to a personal faith in Christ and are dependent only on Christ for their salvation through what he did on the Cross. Our prayer, obviously, is that this pope had come to that conclusion. And the next pope, we would hope, will place the authority in Scripture and will see the exclusivity of Jesus as the only possibility of salvation, and that the death of Christ and not our works is the absolute provision given by a gracious God for our sin.

I have known Roman Catholics who are believers. My personal preference would be that they then distinguish themselves from those who hold to a different doctrine. But there are Baptists in bad Baptist churches. There are Presbyterians in bad Presbyterian churches, who have lost the message of the gospel. But that doesn't mean there can't be people who—because of family or because they want to have an impact—stay within that system for the purpose of evangelism and, hopefully, renewal.

Credenda Agenda editor Douglas Wilson agrees, saying that one can be "grateful for the good he did within his generation" without succumbing to "the grip of an ecumenical fuzziness, in a sentimentalist blur, that wants to pass over every difference, however important, in order to get to the eulogy. We are mindful of the many idols that remain in our day, and we want to be faithful in resisting them, whether they are Roman or Protestant idols. And yes, this would include the idols that John Paul did not topple."

Still, on issues of how we relate to each other as humans—issues of politics, social justices, life ethics peace, ecology, governmental structures, forgiveness, evangelization—evangelicals and Pope John Paul II stood united, says the Evangelical Alliance, the United Kingdom's version of the stateside National Association of Evangelicals. And we're united on much more than that, the group says:

Despite differences between Catholics and evangelicals, the Evangelical Alliance recognizes that John Paul was committed, as we are, to creedal Christianity. As such, in many instances he offered a welcome corrective to the forces of skepticism, secularism, and theological liberalism, which threaten to undermine both the integrity of the church and the effectiveness of its mission in the world.

The Evangelical Alliance is on to something here. You can (and, if you're an evangelical Protestant, should) separate your feelings about the pope from your feelings about the papacy. But it's far more problematic to separate his social and political teachings from his theology. You don't have to believe in papal infallibility, the perpetual virginity of Mary, or transubstantiation to share the pope's commitment to the poor, the unborn, and human freedom. But conservatives who want to treat him primarily as a political ally and disregard him as a theological and spiritual giant may find themselves siding rhetorically with secularists and liberals who argue that his teachings were based on personal biases. The pope was not a lobbyist. He was, for better and worse, the pope.


The article quotes many so called "religious" leaders. One such leader stated that "People who've taken the time to read these should come away impressed with his classically orthodox Christian stance" Yet if people truly investigated they would find this pope like all popes before him do the exact opposite of Christianity. For example... Pope John Paul II proclaims Mary worthy of worship and Jesus not needed for Salvation...



By Bruce Johnston in Rome
THE Pope has amended a Vatican pronouncement that the Roman Catholic Church was the "only way to salvation", saying that Heaven is open to all as long as they are good.  He said at an audience that "all of the just on Earth,
including those who ignore Christ and his Church" were "called upon to build the kingdom of God". -Electronic Telegraph (Posted on www.telegraph.co.uk) ISSUE 2023 Friday 8 December 2000 

On May 7 Pope John Paul II dedicated his general audience to "the Virgin Mary" and urged all Christians to accept Mary as their mother. He noted the words spoken by Jesus on the cross to Mary and to John--"Woman, behold thy son!" and "Behold thy mother!" (John 19:26,27), and he claimed that in this statement "IT IS POSSIBLE TO UNDERSTAND THE AUTHENTIC MEANING OF MARIAN WORSHIP in the ecclesial community ... which furthermore is based on the will of Christ" (Vatican Information Service, May 7, 1997).




Pope John Paul II actually 'dedicated himself and his Pontificate to what Rome calls, "Our Lady." This pope had the letter "M" for Mary in his coat of arms. And his personal motto, which is embroidered on the side of his robes in Latin is the following: "TOTUS TUUS SUM MARIA", which in English translates to: "MARY, I'M ALL YOURS." So I ask, how can this pope or any pope be a Christian at all? They are Marian's or as the Pagan's of old, they worship the "Queen of Heaven."

The above article is laden with quotes that were posted worldwide in all sorts of media outlets so as to bolster the "ecumenical charge" of the Protestant churches. This was prophecied to occur and it is most assuredly happening in our day. The three frogs are on the same lily pad ready to pounce upon the Remnant church on earth in the Armageddon rush!

Discuss this article and more...

 The Presents of God ministry