Even a cursory look at Martin Luther’s writings, such as the one titled,
Against the RomanPapacy As An Institution of the Devil,
proves how basic this belief was.
For Luther,according to historians Iserloh, Glazik, and Jedin, “the papal church is the demoniacal powerdescribed in Scripture as antichrist, which lasts to the end of days and is to be fought, notwith weapons, but with the word and the Spirit.”
Most other of the early Reformers, whileagreeing on little else, agreed on this point regarding the identity of Rome.For centuries after Luther, Protestants of all stripes, whatever their doctrinal differences,saw in Rome the antichrist power depicted—and blatantly condemned—in Scripture. Almostall nascent Protestant movements (usually formed by breaking away from other ones),when looking at Rome, its teaching, its official statements, and its practices and decrees,came to the same conclusion. Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, Puritans,Presbyterians, Anabaptists, Congregationalists, you name it, all saw Rome as antichrist.Anti-Catholicism was so basic and fundamental that it often formed part of the Protestantcreeds. For instance, the Second Scotch Confession of Faith (A.D. 1580) reads in part: “Andtheirfoir we abhorre and detest all contrare Religion and Doctrine; but chiefly all kynde of Papistrie in generall and particular head is, even as they are now damned and confronted bythe word of God and Scotland. But in special, we detest and refuse the usurped authoritiesof the Romane Antichrist upon the Scriptures of God. . . .”
This belief regarding the “Romane Antichrist” was as fundamental to Protestantism as was justification by faith alone,and remained so well into the twentieth century.But times have changed, even dramatically. Rome is no longer the antichrist, or even anapostate church that has perverted or lost the essential truths of salvation by faith alone.On the contrary, when many Protestants look at Roman Catholics, they see those with a “common understanding of salvation,” who are “brothers and sisters in Christ.” They see a “common faith” held by those with whom Protestants can “together bear witness to the giftof salvation.” They see those who are “disciples together of the Lord Jesus Christ,” thosewith whom they have “unity in the gospel.” Some even now view the pope, whose mereexistence was once an affront to biblical Christianity, as “the universal primate . . . to bereceived by all churches.” Even in Adventism, the historical—and biblical—understanding of Papal Rome has been questioned, which proves just how infectious this new perception hasbecome.
Quantum or classic?
What’s happened here? Has Roman Catholicism become like light, and Protestants likescientists viewing it in the sub-atomic realm? Are people seeing merely what they want tosee? Are Protestants choosing the means by which they look at Rome in order to “change” itinto a reality that they want?Rome has, it is true, changed in some dramatic ways. For example, since Vatican Council IIthe papacy has been bridging the gap between itself and other denominations, a radicalshift from her previous antipathy to all those who were outside the “Mother Church.” This isthe age of pluralism, of nonjudgmentalism, of ecumenism, and tolerance and religiousfreedom, and Rome certainly is imbibing of this
. Instead of openly attacking anddenouncing Protestants and Protestant theology as (according to one pope) “the nefariousenterprises of wicked men, who, like raging waves of the sea foaming out their ownconfusion, and promising liberty whereas they are the slaves of corruption, have striven bytheir deceptive opinions and most pernicious writings to raze the foundations of the Catholicreligion and of civil society, to remove from among men all virtue and justice, to depravepersons, and especially inexperienced youth, to lead it into the snares of error, and at lengthto tear it from the bosom of the Catholic Church”
—Rome is actively seeking reunion and