Magazine January 04, 2010
Letting Off the Hook
Posted January 4th, 2010 by Loren Seibold
Editor's Note: This is a preview article that appears on page 22 of our brand-new winter 2010 print issue being delivered to our subscribers this month.
For over a century, even before the publication of The Great Controversy, we Adventists have regarded the Roman Catholic Church leadership, typified in the first beast of Revelation 13, as our arch-nemesis, our bête noire, the enemy that takes the evil part in the apocalyptic scenario against God's remnant.
Here are seven reasons why it may be time to question them in that role.
1. More than a hundred years have passed since our prophet approved these prophetic applications. Ellen White expected Jesus to return long before this.1We're not sure why that hasn't happened. But isn't it possible that some details of the apocalyptic scenario set out in the 1890s may have changed by the 2010s? It happened to Israel. Not all of the original Old Testament prophecies about them and their role came to pass. We call it "conditional prophecy."
2. Principles might be more diagnostic than players. That we oppose those who would legislate matters that should be left to an individual's conscience is a principle I value, and I'm proud of Seventh-day Adventist efforts to protect religious liberty. But if it should happen that someone other than the begins to act like the beast of Revelation 13, we will be more ready to respond if we are watching for a violation of the principle than if waiting for one specific group to offend.
3. Ellen White fingered Catholicism in a very different world. Historians have shown that 19th-century American anti-Catholicism grew out of a general anti-immigrant nativism.2 In an era when we have had and could again have a liberty-loving Roman Catholic president, when Catholic immigrants have become our young work force, why can't we preach the gospel without identifying as Satan's exclusive tool?
4. The Roman Catholic Church of today is a much different institution than it was during Ellen White's time.The Second Ecumenical Council of the (1962-1965) radically altered that denomination's theology and practices. Vatican II declared the gospel central to church theology, made worship accessible, denied that Roman Catholics only can be saved, encouraged lay Bible study, and affirmed religious liberty. While not quite a , today's Catholic Church is not the same Catholic Church referenced in our 19th-century eschatological studies. Among other things, the Second Ecumenical Council weakened Vatican authority over world Catholics-as evidenced by the 78 percent of American Catholics who oppose their church's ban on contraception.3
5. By focusing on Roman Catholicism, we may miss more dangerous anti-Christian opponents. Far more Christians have been killed, persecuted, or denied their religious liberty by Communism, military Fascism, and Islamist extremism in the past century than by Roman Catholics; we've let these pass with minimal comment (in the case of Naziism, even offering some pusillanimous cooperation) as we continued to warn against the pope. Today religious liberty still has more dangerous enemies than Catholicism–in the United States, perhaps even some of our fellow conservative Protestants.
6. God has given us time to become a world church, and that changes the cast of characters in our eschatology. The "antichrists"-opposers of Christ–to many of today's world Christians are radical imams or cruel dictators. One site of Christian persecution right now is northern Nigeria, where Muslims burn churches and killChristians.4 An eschatology that expects only Roman Catholics to initiate religious oppression, only in the United States, and only around the Sabbath question, may fail to speak prophetically should apocalyptic markers appear elsewhere.
7. Religious liberty has arguably improved in countries where Catholicism has influence. During my lifetime, the papacy has frequently been a force for peace and freedom. Pope John Paul II opened the first breach in the Iron Curtain, and Catholics have been more forthright in speaking against violence and oppression than many of our fellow conservative Protestants. Consider the irony that our evangelists are employing anti-Catholic teachings for soul winning in countries where the papacy helped win them that freedom! (And the even greater irony that some of us still think that calling the Pope the Antichrist is necessary to win souls to Christ.)
Of course, we don't give the Roman Catholic church a free pass; we subject it to the same Biblical scrutiny we would any other influential world power. (And while we're at it, we'd do well always to scrutinize ourselves by the same metrics we use on others–which is Jesus' advice, not mine.5)
But perhaps we needn't single out Roman Catholicism any longer. Ellen White, who was often more flexible than her followers, wrote: "God wants us all to have common sense, and He wants us to reason from common sense. Circumstances alter conditions. Circumstances change the relation of things."6
Roman Catholicism has served us well as an enemy: provocative enough to keep us energized, yet doing minimal actual damage to us. Such an important enemy made us feel significant, "in the know," and in control, while not really disturbing our lives.
Opposing current enemies might thrust us into prophetic roles that take more commitment and action. My friend Bert B. Beach, speaking of Adventist eschatology, once said to me: "I'm suspicious when people are constantly focused on what's going to happen in the future. I think they're trying to avoid dealing with what's going on right now."
I think Bert is on to something. Could we become as enthusiastic in taking on the right now, in places like that's happening to Christians Nigeria, as we've been in accusing Roman Catholicism of planning to someday persecute us here? -Adventist today magazine Jan. 04, 2010
1 She wasn't alone; the apostles expected Jesus in their lifetimes, too (see Matt. 24:34, Heb. 1:1-2, 2 Thess. 1:6-10).
2 See Ernest Tuveson's Redeemer Nation and John Higham's Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925.
4 And sometimes, sadly, vice versa.
5 "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Matt. 7:2, NIV).
6 Selected Messages, Vol. 3, p. 217.
True, it is like disarming a volatile bomb when you have a situation like that. You want to share, but not alienate or drive a wedge. My friend is deep in. He is a Knight of Columbus, and even took his mother to visit the Vatican. I don't want to offend him, but I do want to share with him. It is a Catch-22. I did give him a Steps to Christ in honor of Easter one year. He took it, and politely.
There are many erroneous assertions in the article. I'll just point out two of the most obvious. Time-based prophecies relating to the sequence of worldly kingdoms shown to Daniel and John the revelator are not conditional. For example, Babylon followed by Medo-Persia, Greece, pagan Rome and papal Rome (Little Horn power removing three horns and coming up amidst the ten toes of divided Rome) are not conditional like the blessings and curses in Deut 28. The obedience of God's people or lack thereof does not change the prophesied sequence and character of the kingldoms spoken about. Hence it is erroneous to use EGW's comment on circumstnces and conditionsto let RC off the hook.
Secondly, the RC 'church' has not changed in its core. Its opposition to God's word, His law and His people in the time of reformation is still the same today despite the cosmetic changes done for public relations purposes. Indeed, most of its spiritually obnoxious practices and traditions have been reemphasized in our time contrary to claims that it has changed.
Which covenant are you referring to? The New Covenant is in effect since the Day of Pentecost as detailed by the Apostle Paul by his communicating the sacred secrets (musterion) hidden in God since the foundations of the world. One can not make assumptions as many Catholics are born again of God's spirit even if they believe and practice false doctrines ignorantly as they were taught.
There are many leaders including Popes who were totally wicked, but God judges on a case by case basis, not by association. Many Catholics are our brothers and sisters in Christ despite everything.
I certainly do not like much of what the Catholic church does but that is the system. For a long time they were the only so called church in the world. God was not totally out of business, as he worked with people were they were at, some followed God's spirit to some extent. The monks preserved a lot of history and science and what scriptures they had, art etc. That is good, we can't know where we are going unless we know where we came from.
James you have it wrong again and no surprises here because you get most things wrong. You will find that the New Covenant is older than the Old Covenant. Because Abraham was walking with God in faith and Obedience (for the most part). Sara is the mother of the spiritual Israel who like Abraham walks in Faith and obedience to His Commandments.
Gal 4:22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
Gal 4:23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
Gal 4:24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
Gal 4:25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
Gal 4:26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
Gal 4:27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.
Gal 4:28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
Gal 4:29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
Gal 4:30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
Gal 4:31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.