In a rather effusive editorial entitled “Listen And Be Glad” Editor De Koster, in The Banner (Oct. 19, 1979, pp. 8, 9), comments in connection with the recent visit of Pope John Paul II to the United States. Writes he:
The Church has found (been given, rather) a new voice! A voice powerful, clear, courageous, passionate and compassionate.
It is the voice of a man. In being the voice of a man, it can speak to and for mankind. Think on it: the family of man has fetid (been given, rather) a new voice.
Moreover, the man whom the voice inhabits is providentially c1othe.d with an office which elevates him to wide hearing. This, too, is gift.
The Church, I say, at this most crucial moment in world history has found, by grace, a new voice.
I mean, of course, the voice of the man Karol Wojtyla, officially Pope John Paul II. On his lips the Church speaks now to the modern world. Lips which stoutly declined to say at Puebla, Mexico, what the revolutionary Bishops of South America wanted to hear. Lips which stubbornly did say in Poland what the ruling dictatorship did not want to hear. Lips unimpressed by the fads of modernity while acutely focused upon its essence.
Let us give solemn thanks for such a voice as the Church has found (been given, rather).
Pope John Paul II, therefore, is in Editor De Koster’s view a gift of grace. He is that, too, in his office as Pope. Further, he is a gift of grace to the church universal, and even to the whole family of man. Still more, De Koster characterizes the pope as a very special voice: new, powerful, clear, courageous, passionate and compassionate, and with a wide hearing. And in the above quotation and throughout the article, De Koster emphasizes strongly that all this is a gift of grace: for repeatedly he states that this voice has not merely been found by the church, but has “been given, rather.”
And what, according to Editor De Koster, is proclaimed by this new voice? Nothing less than the Word of God! Take note of the following:
Not all sounds are words.
But words must take on sound or they are not fully words.
God’s Word is sent to be proclaimed. This is the Great Commission.
And God’s Word is sent to be believed by doing. This too is the Great Commission.
This Word is given international voice at this grave moment in world history on the lips of the man Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II. Let us listen and be glad!
Now no one except a fool would deny that the pope in the course of his world travels spoke some true things and made some statements which were formally in harmony with the Scriptures. But this is not the point. According to De Koster, obviously, the pope proclaimed the Word of God, and that, too, in fulfillment of the Great Commission.
How sad that such sentiments should be voiced in the editorial columns of an official church magazine of a denomination which claims to stand in the tradition of the Reformation!
And how sad that such sentiments should appear inThe Banner at a date near to the time when Reformed people were about to commemorate the four hundred sixty-second anniversary of the Reformation.
For the fact of the matter is that Editor De Koster sings the praises of Antichrist. He strongly recommends and lauds as a gift of grace and urges his readers to listen to and to “be glad and rejoice exceedingly, and with much prayer” about one who represents in the mind of the Reformers and of Reformed confessions Antichrist, the false church, one who is the chief idolater in a church which is notorious for promoting “accursed idolatry.” And do not forget that everywhere Pope John Paul II went in our country, he publicly promoted such idolatry, celebrating the mass in the parks and malls and sports stadiums of our large cities.
Here is what the Westminster Confession of Faith states in Chapter XXV, 6: “There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof: but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God.”
By the way, the Westminster divines were not so foolish as to teach that the pope was personally the final manifestation of the Antichrist of which Scripture speaks, as some have thought and have, accordingly, rejected this statement of the Westminster Confession. Neither was John Calvin so foolish as to teach this, though he uses language similar to that of the Westminster Confession.
Principally, of course, our own Belgic confession speaks the same language when it speaks of the marks of the false church and obviously has in view the Romish Church, Article 29: “As for the false Church, she ascribes more power and authority to herself and her ordinances than to the Word of God, and will not submit herself to the yoke of Christ. Neither does she administer the sacraments as appointed by Christ in his Word, but adds. to and takes from them, as she thinks proper; she relieth more upon men than upon Christ; and persecutes those, who live holily according to the Word of God, and rebuke her for her errors, covetousness, and idolatry.”
Nor should we forget what our Heidelberg Catechism says about the mass, the very mass which John Paul II repeatedly and with great flourish and aplomb publicly celebrated and at which he functioned as chief priest. “. . . but the mass teaches, that the living. and dead have not the pardon of sins through the sufferings of Christ, unless Christ is also daily offered for them by the priests; and further, that Christ is bodily under the form of bread and wine, and therefore is to be worshipped in them; so that the mass, at bottom, is nothing else than a denial of the one sacrifice and sufferings of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry.”
Frequently during his tenure as Editor of The BannerDr. De Koster has represented himself to be a pupil of John Calvin. I assure you that if he had sat at the feet of Calvin for an hour or so before he penned his editorial, Editor De Koster would never have had the sad courage to write it. Everyone who has the least acquaintance with Calvin knows that he never misses an opportunity to excoriate the papacy and its doctrines; in fact, there are occasions when he even seems to go out of his way to do so and when in his commentaries his applications to Rome seem a bit far-fetched. But permit me to furnish just a few passages from Calvin’s Institutes on the subjects of the pope and the mass. These quotations are from the Allen Translation, and all of them are from Book Four.
The first is from Chapter VII/xxiv:
The case of a bishop is different from that of a king, who still retains the honour and title of a king, though he execute none of the royal functions. But in judging of a bishop, regard is to be paid to the commission of Christ, which ought always to continue in force in the Church. Let the Romanists, therefore, furnish me with a solution of this difficulty. I deny that their pontiffis the chief of bishops, because he is not a bishop himself. Now, they must prove this second member of my position to be false, if they will obtain the victory in the first. But what must be the conclusion, if he not only has no characteristic of a bishop, but every thing contrary to it? But here where shall I begin? with his doctrine, or his conduct? What shall I say? What shall I omit? Where shall I stop? I will make this assertion—that as the world is at present filled with so many corrupt and impious doctrines, loaded with such various kinds of superstitions, blinded with such numerous errors, and immerged in such profound idolatry,—there is not one of these evils which has not originated from the see of Rome, or at least been confirmed by it. Nor is there any other cause for the violent rage of the pontiffs against the revived doctrine of the gospel, and for their exertion of all their power to crush it, and their instigation of all kings and princes to persecute it, but that they see that their whole kingdom will decline and fall to the ground, where the primitive gospel of Christ shall be received. Leo was cruel; Clement was sanguinary; Paul is ferocious. But it is not so much that nature has impelled them to impugn the truth, as that this was the only way to defend their power. As they cannot be safe, therefore, without ruining Christ, they labour in this cause as if it. were in the defence of their religion, their habitations, their lives. What, then, shall we consider that as the apostolic see, where we behold nothing but a horrible apostasy? Shall he be regarded as the vicar of Christ, who, by his furious exertions in persecuting the gospel, unequivocally declares himself to be Antichrist? Shall he be deemed Peter’s successor, who rages with fire and sword to demolish all that Peter built? Shall we acknowledge him to be head of the Church, who, after severing the Church from Christ, its only true Head, divides and tears it in pieces? Though it be admitted that Rome was once the mother of all Churches, yet from the, time when it began to be the seat of Antichrist, it has ceased to be what it was before.
Calvin goes on to explain his position in Chapter VII/xxv, as follows:
Some persons think us too severe and censorious, when we call the Roman pontiff Antichrist. (Judging from his editorial, I would guess that De Koster must be among these. HCH.) But those who are of this opinion do not consider that they bring the same charge of presumption against Paul himself, after whom we speak, and whose language we adopt. And lest any one should object, that we improperly pervert to the Roman pontiff those words of Paul, which belong to a different subject, I shall briefly show that they are not capable of any other interpretation than that which applies them to the Papacy. Paul says, that Antichrist “sitteth in the temple of God.”
In another place, also, the Holy Spirit, describing his image in the person of Antiochus, declares that his kingdom will consist in “speaking great words,” or blasphemies, “against the Most High.”
Hence we conclude, that it is rather a tyranny over the souls of men, than’ over their bodies, which is erected in opposition to the spiritual kingdom of Christ. And in the next place, that this tyranny is one which does not abolish the name of Christ or of his Church, but rather abuses the authority of Christ, and conceals itself under the character of the Church, as under a mask. Now, though all the heresies and schisms which have existed from the beginning belong to the kingdom of Antichrist, yet when Paul predicts an approaching apostasy, he signifies by this description that that seat of abomination shall then be erected, when a universal defection shall have seized the Church, notwithstanding many members, dispersed in different places, persevere in the unity of the faith. But when he adds, that even in his days “the mystery of iniquity” did “already work”
in secret what it was afterwards to effect in a more. public manner, he gives us to understand that this calamity was neither to be introduced by one man, nor to terminate with one man. Now, when he designates Antichrist by this character,—that he would rob God of his honour in order to assume it to himself,—this is the principal indication which we ought to follow in our inquiries after Antichrist, especially where such pride proceeds to a public desolation of the Church. As it is evident therefore that the Roman pontiff has impudently transferred to himself some of the peculiar and exclusive prerogatives of God and Christ, it cannot be doubted that he is the captain and leader of his impious and abominable kingdom. (italics added)
Calvin writes at length about the Lord’s Supper, and, as might be expected, about its corruption in the mass. Here are a few snatches of his evaluation of the mass—the same mass which was so very much on the foreground in John Paul II’s appearances in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Des Moines, Chicago, and Washington.
Now, let the Romanists deny, if they can, that they are guilty of idolatry in exhibiting bread in their masses, to be worshipped instead of Christ. In vain do they boast of those promises of the presence of Christ; for however they may be understood, they: certainly were not given in order that impure and profane men, whenever they please, and for whatever improper use, may transmute bread into the body of Christ; but in order that believers, religiously observing the command of Christ, in celebrating the supper, may enjoy a true participation of him in it. (Chapter XVIII, viii)
. . . And they (speaking of the church fathers, HCH) ascribe the honour of the priesthood so exclusively to Christ, that Augustine declares, that if any one should set up a bishop as an intercessor between God and man, it would be the language of Antichrist. (Chapter XVIII, x)
Wherefore I conclude, that it is a most criminal insult and intolerable blasphemy, both against Christ himself, and against the sacrifice which he completed on our behalf by his death upon the cross, for any man to repeat any oblation with a view to procure the pardon of sins, propitiate God, and obtain righteousness. But what is the object of the mass, except it be that by the merit of a new oblation we may be made partakers of the passion of Christ? (Chapter XVIII, xiv)
. . . I only point out, and that in few and plain words, the true nature of the most sanctimonious sanctity of the mass, on account of which it has attracted so much admiration and veneration for so many ages. For an illustration of such great mysteries proportioned to their dignity, would require a larger treatise; and I am unwilling to introduce those disgusting corruptions which were universally notorious; that all men may understand that the mass, considered in its choicest and most estimable purity, without any of its appendages, from the beginning to the end, is full of every species of impiety, blasphemy, idolatry, and sacrilege. (Chapter XVIII, xviii)
The question may be asked whether Editor De Koster did not consider the question how the pope could be spokesman for the church universal. The answer is that he apparently did, and he even considered, seemingly, the possibility that his position involved compromise. For he writes:
But how can the head of the Roman Catholic Church—a Church—be spokesman for us all—the Church? Is this not sentimentalism?
Do we not compromise our convictions, ignore our Confessions, and dilute our own Reformed heritage to “hear” the Word from a Pope’s lips?
How simple the whole matter would have been if De Koster had phrased his question concretely: “But how can Antichrist, the head of a false church, be spokesman for us all, the church?” Then his next question would not have been concerning “sentimentalism,” but about abominable blasphemy! Antichrist spokesman for the Bride of Christ? How dreadful! And then De Koster would never have had to ask about compromise of convictions, etc.
But instead he goes through a long bit of philosophy about a supposedly true ecumenicity which is really summed up in the following paragraph:
No, the words of John Paul II betoken quite another form of unity—that of corporate response to Truth. We sacrifice no convictions to hear them.
De Koster goes on to suggest that “We hear John Paul II, not as would-be
Catholics, but as Protestant and Reformed believers! And his voice is ours precisely to the extent that it proclaims Biblical Truth we hold in common, not by stepping outside what we believe, but from deep within what we confess.”
Now, in the first place, Editor De Koster assumes the very thing which he ought to demonstrate. He is guilty of the error of begging the question. For he assumesthat John Paul II proclaimed the Word. And this assumption is utterly false. Personally, I made it a point to follow the activities of the pope rather closely. I was not satisfied to read accounts of his speeches and activities in the daily newspaper or in news magazines; I wanted to hear for myself. Hence, I heard the pope’s address to the United Nations General Assembly almost in its entirety. And when he was in Chicago, I followed his activities via a radio station which gave almost full coverage of his visit there. Two notes I detected in his various addresses: 1) A note of humanism—especially in his address to the United Nations. 2) A strong emphasis upon Roman Catholic doctrines and the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, if one listened with any degree of discernment, he could not escape the impression, “Rome has not changed.”
In the second place, therefore, when anyone truly listened to the Pope, as a Protestant and a Reformed believer, his reaction would have to be negative. Essentially, there was nothing on which to agree. There was no common ground. And there were countless instances of blatantly Roman Catholic teachings and practices which could only be an offence to Protestant and Reformed ears. When I listened, I could not hear the Word of God. I heard no gospel of sin and grace. I heard no gospel, of the atoning blood of Christ. Not the gospel according to the Scriptures and as defined in our Reformed confessions, but another gospel, which is not the gospel!
Incidentally, if anyone has been fooled by Editor De Koster’s recent attempts to represent himself as a conservative, an editorial such as the one here criticized should put an end to that delusion.