This is an installment of a series of replies (see the Introduction and Master List) to much of Book IV (Of the Holy Catholic Church) of Institutes of the Christian Religion, by early Protestant leader John Calvin (1509-1564). I utilize the public domain translation of Henry Beveridge, dated 1845, from the 1559 edition in Latin; available online. Calvin’s words will be in blue. All biblical citations (in my portions) will be from RSV unless otherwise noted.
Related reading from yours truly:
Biblical Catholic Answers for John Calvin (2010 book: 388 pages)
A Biblical Critique of Calvinism (2012 book: 178 pages)
Biblical Catholic Salvation: “Faith Working Through Love” (2010 book: 187 pages; includes biblical critiques of all five points of “TULIP”)
To some we seem slanderous and petulant, when we call the Roman Pontiff Antichrist.
Why would anyone ever get that impression?
But those who think so perceive not that they are bringing a charge of intemperance against Paul, after whom we speak, nay, in whose very words we speak.
Paul speaks of the Antichrist, but never argues that the Church will be completely overtaken by him.
But lest any one object that Paul’s words have a different meaning, and are wrested by us against the Roman Pontiff, I will briefly show that they can only be understood of the Papacy. Paul says that Antichrist would sit in the temple of God (2 Thess. 2:4).
He also says in the same passage that he will be “proclaiming himself to be God.” No pope has ever claimed that. If Calvin thinks otherwise, surely it is easy enough to document this. But he doesn’t, for some odd reason. If all that “proof” means is bare assertion with no documentation, then anyone could prove anything. Everything we claimed would be established simply in proclaiming it.
In another passage, the Spirit, portraying him in the person of Antiochus, says that his reign would be with great swelling words of vanity (Dan. 7:25). Hence we infer that his tyranny is more over souls than bodies, a tyranny set up in opposition to the spiritual kingdom of Christ.
Then his nature is such, that he abolishes not the name either of Christ or the Church, but rather uses the name of Christ as a pretext, and lurks under the name of Church as under a mask. But though all the heresies and schisms which have existed from the beginning belong to the kingdom of Antichrist, yet when Paul foretells that defection will come, he by the description intimates that that seat of abomination will be erected, when a kind of universal defection comes upon the Church, though many members of the Church scattered up and down should continue in the true unity of the faith. But when he adds, that in his own time, the mystery of iniquity, which was afterwards to be openly manifested, had begun to work in secret, we thereby understand that this calamity was neither to be introduced by one man, nor to terminate in one man (see Calv. in 2 Thess. 2:3; Dan. 7:9). Moreover, when the mark by which he distinguishes Antichrist is, that he would rob God of his honour and take it to himself, he gives the leading feature which we ought to follow in searching out Antichrist; especially when pride of this description proceeds to the open devastation of the Church. Seeing then it is certain that the Roman Pontiff has impudently transferred to himself the most peculiar properties of God and Christ,
Really? How so? Have popes claimed to be eternal or omniscient or omnipotent or omnipresent or outside of time? Did they claim to have created the world? Etc., etc. Those are the “most peculiar properties of God and Christ” and so anyone claiming to be God would have to make some allusion to them. They would talk, in other words, as Jesus did. But this has never happened. Thus, Calvin is flailing away, saying words that have no content or application to the matter at hand.
there cannot be a doubt that he is the leader and standard-bearer of an impious and abominable kingdom.
That is undeniably true of Antichrist. Calvin has not shown in the slightest degree that the Antichrist will be a pope or collection of popes.
Photo credit: Historical mixed media figure of John Calvin produced by artist/historian George S. Stuart and photographed by Peter d’Aprix: from the George S. Stuart Gallery of Historical Figures archive [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]