I thought I had a pretty good grasp of church history and of the antichrist nature of the Catholic Church, but what I've been learning recently shows me that not only my own education in this area but what the Protestant churches in general know is sadly deficient. And I've heard some very good teaching on church history so this is saying something.
I'm talking about what I've been learning recently through Chris Pinto and Brannon Howse at their websites, and now this morning from Mike Gendron (pro-gospel.org), an ex-Catholic who seeks to educate Catholics to the truth, who was Howse's guest on today's radio show.
Much of the confusion comes from the fact that there are two different streams of church history, the Catholic and the Protestant, and it is possible to read a Catholic history without being aware that you are absorbing false propaganda. I'm sure that's happened to me many times. Getting the true history straight is not easy for the average reader.
A caller from the UK on Howse's program this morning referred to a book about the history of Christianity in England by Charles Bullock, titled The Story of England's Church written in the 19th century, which is online at Google Books. Wish I could copy out some of it. It's the sort of information that all Protestant churches should have been making a major effort to teach their people all along, so that no Protestant could ever be deluded that Roman Catholicism is a Christian church which so often happens.
Broader knowledge of this kind of information would have protected many individuals and even denominations from their own leanings in the direction of that apostasy that unfortunately seems to be growing these days, and it would have made a much stronger base for helping Catholics escape. It's certainly true that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, but of course we cannot remember it unless we are taught it if it is a past before our time.
What I've been learning from these ministries is that the Roman Church was recognized very early on as the seat of the Antichrist, at least back to the first Waldensians, who fled to the mountains upon recognizing the Pope as the Abomination of Desolation sitting in the temple making himself out to be God, as scripture warns us is to occur. I'd otherwise had the notion that it was the Reformers who first identified the papacy as the Antichrist system. I also hadn't digested the fact before that the Pope by receiving the sort of worship he receives does make himself out to be God, if the title "Vicar of Christ" weren't enough of a clue [and the Roman numerals in that title as written in Latin -- VICARIVUS FILII DEI -- add up to 666, by the way (The phrase means "In the place of, or substitute for, the Son of God")]. I've also learned that the Great Apostasy or falling away was attributed to the doctrines of the Roman Church all the way back to the early church as well, and that the apostasy was a thing that grew over the centuries so that it is hard to identify the exact point at which it was fullblown. Perhaps by the time of the first official Pope at least, which was in the late 6th century. I've also learned beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Emperor Constantine was not a true Christian convert since he continued to affirm the pagan religions that a true Christian would have abandoned completely, and that it's even possible he may have confused Christ with the pagan god Sol Invictus.
From this fuller view of history it's easier to see how some would not necessarily be expecting a final individual to be the Antichrist, as he's been in the world all these centuries. It certainly makes clear that Nero was NOT the Antichrist as some argue -- was THAT familiar idea a Roman concoction perhaps?
There's plenty of reading on this subject on the internet. Just following out the entries on this Google page should keep you busy for a while. I see that Michele Bachmann's church rightly says that the Pope is the Antichrist but of course the entry on that has the usual politically correct spin, which in this case is the Roman Catholic slant. I particularly appreciate Ian Paisley on this subject. He's a fire-and-brimstone Irish preacher whose style of preaching can be rather offputting, but I became a fan when he was shown in one of Chris Pinto's films confronting the Pope as the Antichrist when he was speaking in British Parliament [correction: that's the European Parliament, and Dr. Paisley is more than just a preacher, he's also a high-ranking government leader in Ireland with a chair in the European Parliament]. THAT's the spirit of Protestantism we need more of.
One recent comment by Chris Pinto on a radio show caught my attention as he took to task Marshall Foster who said something to the effect that after Constantine legalized Christianity the Roman Empire furthered the spread of the gospel. Chris Pinto objected that all the Roman Empire did was spread the apostate Christianity of the Roman Church. I need this sorted out better. I hadn't heard of Marshall Foster before, but I have heard teaching along the lines that the Roman Empire was one of God's means for spreading the gospel. This goes along with other teaching I've heard that God chose to send the Lord Jesus into the world when Koine Greek was the universal language so that the gospel writings could be easily disseminated, AND when the Roman Empire with its wide reach made travel easy. God of course disposes all things, and the gospel did spread throughout Europe, but did the legalization of it through Constantine aid that or not? The idea is that after the persecutions of Christians by the Roman Emperors were lifted it was easier for the evangelists to do their work, along with the idea that the fact that Roman institutions were established all over Europe, even just the Roman roads, facilitated the spread of the gospel as well. This may be something along the lines of what Marshall Foster had in mind, but of course I don't know. And even if so, Chris Pinto may be right that the legalization of Christianity didn't aid anything but the spread of apostasy and Marshall Foster simply has the usual Catholicized version of history that we are all so easily made prey to. Or perhaps there's some truth in both views.
That reminded me of a book I read a few years ago about the effect of Christianity in changing the world for the better, Alvin J. Schmidt's Under the Influence. As I recall, the book presents the effect of the spread of Christianity (and I believe he attributes this effect partly to Constantine's legalization of the religion) as specifically fostering humane treatment of the sick and suffering, including rescuing newborn infants left to die and the aged who were also put out on the street to die, by first taking such victims in and caring for them but then by establishing hospitals and orphanages. He also credits Christianity with liberalizing society's attitude toward women through the model of Christ, also with paving the way for true empirical science because of Christianity's view of God as a God of law and order, unlike the gods of the pagans.
But now after seeing Chris Pinto's films I recognize that Schmidt misrepresented Francis Bacon as a Christian, who was an occultist. He also wrote a reference book about secret societies in America, which clearly presents them as benign positive influences, quite the opposite of what Chris Pinto's films reveal.
The plot thickens.