Catholic Apologetics

Many modern fundamentalist Protestants are fascinated by eschatological prophecy.  A healthy interest in such things comes with a realization that, for the vast majority of human beings, judgment will come (fist) upon their death (the particular, as opposed to general, judgment), and keeping one's soul in a state of constant readiness to stand before the Lord is of foremost importance.  Being obsessed with identifying the particular times and characters of Biblical end-times prophecy (and one should keep in mind that the proper interpretation of end times is the entire Church Age) is very often a sign of spiritual immaturity - an unhealthy fascination with sensationalism that has little in common with sanctification of the soul.

 

Further, there are to consider carefully Scripture’s warnings to those who attempt to interpret prophecy on an individual basis (something having no examples within Scripture whatsoever).  Christ’s admonition that “no one knows the day nor the hour” must logically extend to “no one knows the precise identity beforehand of the antichrist” as well, for if one did  know the man of perdition with certainty the time of his rebellion would be in sharp focus as well.

 

Even more explicit is Peter’s flat statement that “no prophecy of Scripture is made by private interpretation”.  Here is the entire passage, as the context is noteworthy:

 

For we have not by following artificial fables, made known to you the power, and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ; but we were eyewitnesses of his greatness. [17] For he received from God the Father, honour and glory: this voice coming down to him from the excellent glory: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. [18] And this voice we heard brought from heaven, when we were with him in the holy mount. [19] And we have the more firm prophetical word: whereunto you do well to attend, as to a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: [20] Understanding this first, that no prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation. [21] For prophecy came not by the will of man at any time: but the holy men of God spoke, inspired by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:16-21)

 

Before speaking of private interpretation, he speaks of the experience and authority of the apostles – he is contrasting rightful authority with that of individuals.

 

Christ told the apostles directly that only they (the leaders of the Church) were given by Him teachings plain and direct; to the multitudes instead were given only parables.

 

With that introduction, let us look at the charge that many fundamentalist Protestants (mainly “Bible Christians”) make against the Catholic Church: that She is the very Whore of Bablyon, and the Pope himself (though they never really say which one!) the antichrist.  We will see if these interpretations hold any water.

 

The Whore of Babylon

 

Here is what Scripture has to say about the Whore:

 

And there came one of the seven angels, who had the seven vials, and spoke with me, saying: Come, I will shew thee the condemnation of the great harlot, who sitteth upon many waters, [2] With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication; and they who inhabit the earth, have been made drunk with the wine of her whoredom. [3] And he took me away in spirit into the desert. And I saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. [4] And the woman was clothed round about with purple and scarlet, and gilt with gold, and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, full of the abomination and filthiness of her fornication. [5] And on her forehead a name was written: A mystery; Babylon the great, the mother of the fornications, and the abominations of the earth.

 

[6] And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And I wondered, when I had seen her, with great admiration. [7] And the angel said to me: Why dost thou wonder? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast which carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. [8] The beast, which thou sawest, was, and is not, and shall come up out of the bottomless pit, and go into destruction: and the inhabitants on the earth (whose names are not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world) shall wonder, seeing the beast that was, and is not. [9] And here is the understanding that hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, upon which the woman sitteth, and they are seven kings: [10] Five are fallen, one is, and the other is not yet come: and when he is come, he must remain a short time. (Rev 17:1-10)

 

[Concerning the use of ‘Babylon’ for this city of evil: Babylon was, of course, the city that tormented God’s people of the Old Covenant.  By the traditional interpretation, the Rome of the Roman Empire became the new Babylon as the horrid persecutor of the early Church.  The early Christians John was writing to initially would immediately understand this typology.  Peter also refers to Rome as ‘Babylon’ in 1 Peter.]

 

And where do we find the Catholic Church herein, according to the accusers?  They say that the “seven hills” are that of Rome – and that is really the entire connection.  Of course, they are correct (according to common and sensible interpretations) that these hills are indeed the hills of Rome, but, unfortunately, no Pope ever had his “seat” on any of these hills.  The Catholic Church historically is seated at the Lateran and the Vatican, on Vatican Hill, where St. Peter was crucified – these locations are not on or near Rome’s seven hills (Capitoline, Palatine, Esquiline, Aventine and three small hills in central Rome).  These are facts that no one denies.

 

What was on those hills John was referring to at the time of his writing was the center of Roman government – the government that was mercilessly persecuting the Christians!  The emperor’s palace and the Capitoline, an important place of Roman government and religion, were both located on these hills.  Thus, it is absolutely without question that John was referring to the Roman Empire’s persecution of the Church in these verses, as a type of the antichrist.  That is, the future antichrist will persecute the Church in a similar fashion but on a much broader and even more terrible scale.

 

No serious exegesis denies what we have covered thus far, so directly do they follow from the text against put against the culture and time it was written in.  Where opinions diverge, of course is concerning the fulfillment of this type of the antichrist and of Babylon.

 

But, anti-Catholic “Bible Christians” generally prove immediately that they do not even grasp the simple concept of Biblical typology, put into use dozens if not hundreds of times in Scripture, by assuming that because the 1st century Babylon was situated in Rome the latter-day one must be as well!  No, that’s the point of typology – it’s analogy.  As the EWTN article referenced below puts it, the future antichrist’s seat is no more likely to be Rome than the Roman Empire’s was to be ancient Babylon (it was not).

 

http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/whore_of_babylon.htm

 

Furthermore, the Catholic Church is not a military or economic power.  It is quite obviously simply incapable of the kind of persecution envisioned in the prophecy.  (Of course, the nuttier anti-Catholic sects have that figured out too, postulating the Church will “team up” with a world government at some point.)

 

It should be obvious that to connect the Biblical “Whore of Babylon” takes a large leap of logic – it is simply a massive assumption, a great reading-into the text by those with an agenda and animosity towards the Catholic Church (conscious or not).  It’s as simple as that.  The facts don’t add up, at all, to someone with the most basic knowledge of Scripture and the history of Christianity.

 

The Antichrist

 

Scripture is mostly very vague regarding the antichrist (the last antichrist as well as his forerunning types), but Scripture does tell us directly what the spirit of the antichrist teaches; what may be regarded as his defining characteristic:

 

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. (1 John 4:1-3)

 

This doesn’t make it easy to identify the antichrist, but it does make it possible to rule out a great deal of men, as a man who does not teach that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh cannot be the antichrist.  Or else Scripture is simply “wrong” on that critical point.

 

The Catholic Church has taught for almost 2,000 years that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh, that He is God Incarnate, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity – God.  She has never taught anything other than this.  Here are excerpts from the current catechism:

 

457 The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God, who "loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins": "the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world", and "he was revealed to take away sins"

 

463 Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith: "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God."85 Such is the joyous conviction of the Church from her beginning whenever she sings "the mystery of our religion": "He was manifested in the flesh."

 

469 The Church thus confesses that Jesus is inseparably true God and true man. He is truly the Son of God who, without ceasing to be God and Lord, became a man and our brother.

 

See more here: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p122a3p1.htm#470

 

(It was, of course, the Catholic Church that defined the very Christological dogmas that are in question here and that almost all non-Catholics accept.)

 

If a pope ended up being the antichrist, it would mean he had abandoned the root of Catholic teaching.  Is that what the accusers are implying when they identify the antichrist as a pope?  Of course not – because they aren’t thinking that far (or aren’t thinking at all).  They generally are not aware of even the most basic Church teaching and certainly are not actually comparing what Scripture teaches about the nature of the antichrist to actual Catholic teaching.

 

Furthermore, If a pope who was the antichrist taught his false teaching (that Christ, the Son of God, did not come in the flesh) as official Church teaching, it would mean that Christ’s promises that the Church would never be overcome by Hell was false.

 

As with all things Protestant (“Bible Christians” adopt all major Protestant theological and practical positions whether they acknowledge the heritage or not), this rather bizarre teaching knew no existence before the “Reformation”.  The notion that the antichrist would be a pope (or, apparently, all popes according to the confused ramblings of some) was never once mentioned by a single writer in the early Church – the Fathers discussed his identity in general terms in many documents that have survived, but not one of them ever put forth the [ridiculous] proposition that the man of perdition would be a pope.  (If you say that’s because the early Church Fathers were all Catholic, you kind of have a point.)

 

See http://www.catholic.com/library/The_Antichrist.asp

 

I will quote only Irenaeus for posterity; he, being a follower of the Apostle John himself, should be regarded as having an especially good insight into eschatological issues:

 

"By means of the events which shall occur in the time of the Antichrist it is shown that he, being an apostate and a robber, is anxious to be adored as God, and that although a mere slave, he wishes to be proclaimed as king. For he, being endued with all the power of the devil, shall not come as a righteous king nor as a legitimate king in subjection to God, but as an impious, unjust, and lawless one . . . setting aside idols to persuade [men] that he himself is God, raising himself up as the only idol. . . . Moreover [Paul] has also pointed out this which I have shown in many ways: that the temple in Jerusalem was made by the direction of the true God. For the apostle himself, speaking in his own person, distinctly called it the temple of God [2 Thess. 2:4] . . . in which the enemy shall sit, endeavoring to show himself as Christ." (Against Heresies 5:25:1-2 [A.D. 189]).

 

"Moreover, another danger, by no means trifling, shall overtake those who falsely presume that they know the name of the Antichrist. For if these men assume one [number] when this [Antichrist] shall come having another, they will be easily led away by him as supposing him not to be the expected one. . . . It is therefore more certain, and less hazardous, to await the fulfillment of the prophecy than to be making surmises and casting about for any names that may present themselves, inasmuch as many names can be found possessing the number mentioned, and the same question will, after all, remain unsolved." (ibid., 5:30:2-3).

 

"But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months and will sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire." (ibid., 5:30:4).

 

(These quotes are available in multiple, un-copyrighted sources – not just the article linked above.)

 

The ‘Little Horn’ of Daniel 7

 

The ‘Little Horn’ spoken of in the seventh chapter of Daniel is another description of the antichrist.  Daniel has these things to say:

 

After this I beheld in the vision of the night, and lo, a fourth beast, terrible and wonderful, and exceeding strong, it had great iron teeth, eating and breaking in pieces, and treading down the rest with its feet: and it was unlike to the other beasts which I had seen before it, and had ten horns. [8] I considered the horns, and behold another little horn sprung out of the midst of them: and three of the first horns were plucked up at the presence thereof: and behold eyes like the eyes of a man were in this horn, and a mouth speaking great things. (Daniel 7: 7-9)

 

And

 

After this I would diligently learn concerning the fourth beast, which was very different from all, and exceeding terrible: his teeth and claws were of iron: he devoured and broke in pieces, and the rest he stamped upon with his feet: [20] And concerning the ten horns that he had on his head: and concerning the other that came up, before which three horns fell: and of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth speaking great things, and was greater than the rest.

 

[21] I beheld, and lo, that horn made war against the saints, and prevailed over them, [22] Till the Ancient of days came and gave judgment to the saints of the most High, and the time came, and the saints obtained the kingdom. [23] And thus he said: The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be greater than all the kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. [24] And the ten horns of the same kingdom, shall be ten kings: and another shall rise up after them, and he shall be mightier than the former, and he shall bring down three kings. [25] And he shall speak words against the High One, and shall crush the saints of the most High: and he shall think himself able to change times and laws, and they shall be delivered into his hand until a time, and times, and half a time. (Daniel 7:19-25)

 

From the text we learn these things about the “little horn”:

 

  • It had “eyes like a man” and a “mouth speaking great things”
  • It was “greater than the rest” (of the horns)
  • It made war against the saints, and prevailed over them
  • He (it) shall bring down three kings
  • He will speak words against the “High One”, and crush the saints
  • He will “think himself able to change times and laws”
  • He will rule/persecute/persevere for “a time, and times, and half a time”

 

Certainly, this horn is the antichrist; that is a nearly universal interpretation.  (The Douay-Rheims Bible has this note: “’Another little horn’... This is commonly understood of Antichrist. It may also be applied to that great persecutor Antiochus Epiphanes, as a figure of Antichrist.”)

 

The intelligent reader would note at this point that the number of individuals that could meet the above criteria, both in the general sense and in terms of particular persons, is very large.  In other words, it would take a truly great leap of logic to identify the pope conclusively as this man.  In fact, it takes illogical twisting of reality to even propose the pope as this man.

 

A key here is that many Protestants see the Church as a “persecutor of saints” (rather than the producer of them that she is).  The root of such sadly confused thinking lies, of course, with the Inquisition – or rather, the falsehoods surrounding it.

 

How many modern Protestants know that the Spanish Inquisition, by definition, targeted only self-professed Catholics, that its courts were so benign that criminals would often fake heresy in order to be sent there over the state’s courts, and that far fewer were executed in its entire history than were burned as “witches” by Protestants in Germany, America, and elsewhere?  (Try, for once, reading some Catholic instead of anti-Catholic sources on the subject, just for a little balance.)

 

How many know that the main target of the original, 13th century Inquisition were the Catharists, who taught, among other things, that the God of the New Testament was entirely different from the God of the Old Testament, who was called “evil”?  And that they condemned marriage but praised fornication?!  And praised and practiced ritual suicide as well?!  Do modern “Bible Christians” really identify with such heretics so readily?  Is that perhaps because they actually don’t have any idea what was really going on, and why?

 

In fact, since the “Reformation”, incidences of Protestant persecution of Catholics

 

The persecutions of Catholics by the English were particularly brutal and disgusting.  Priests were considered ‘enemies of the state’ and so were not just executed, but tortured to death by hanging, drawing, and quartering.

 

The story of St. Thomas More, martyred for refusing to bless the king’s invalid divorce publicly, is well-known (perhaps even among Bible Christians), but the suffering of sanctified souls such as St. Margaret Clitherow much less so.  St. Margaret was a mother who was tortured to death by the English authorities for refusing to deny her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church:

 

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04059b.htm

http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/MARCLITH.HTM

 

Conclusion

 

Here, I think, are the broad conclusions to be drawn from those who teach (especially when they teach it is not a mere hypothesis but as fact!) that the Catholic Church is the ‘Whore’ of Revelation, and/or that the pope is or will be the antichrist (or an antichrist):

 

Only by making reading their overt biases into the text and ignoring the actual history and teachings of the Catholic Church can such conclusions be drawn.  Thus, people who draw & teach such conclusions are ruled by some combination of ignorance and prejudice.  No other conclusion can be drawn.

 

Such people would not really be fit to serve on a jury, much less make public interpretations of Scriptural prophecy.