Popery had become the world’s despot. Kings and emperors bowed to the decrees of the Roman pontiff. The destinies of men, both for time and for eternity, seemed under his control. For hundreds of years the doctrines of Rome had been extensively and implicitly received, its rites reverently performed, its festivals generally observed. Its clergy were honored and liberally sustained. Never since has the Roman Church attained to greater dignity, magnificence, or power.
But “the noon of the papacy was the midnight of the world.”—J. A. Wylie, The History of Protestantism, b. 1, ch. 4. The Holy Scriptures were almost unknown, not only to the people, but to the priests. Like the Pharisees of old, the papal leaders hated the light which would reveal their sins. God’s law, the standard of righteousness, having been removed, they exercised power without limit, and practiced vice without restraint. Fraud, avarice, and profligacy prevailed. Men shrank from no crime by which they could gain wealth or position. The palaces of popes and prelates were scenes of the vilest debauchery. Some of the reigning pontiffs were guilty of crimes so revolting that secular rulers endeavored to depose these dignitaries of the church as monsters too vile to be tolerated. For centuries Europe had made no progress in learning, arts, or civilization. A moral and intellectual paralysis had fallen upon Christendom.
The condition of the world under the Romish power presented a fearful and striking fulfillment of the words of the prophet Hosea: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee: … seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” “There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.” Hosea 4:6, 1, 2. Such were the results of banishing the word of God. GC 60.1 – GC 60.3
FEBRUARY 14, 2022
Obery M. Hendricks Jr., a religion professor at Columbia University, said last week that Christians who refuse to wear masks are possessed by “the spirit of antichrist.”
“These folk are not fulfilling their gospel responsibility. They’re violating it. They’re spitting in the face of it,” Hendricks said. “It’s anti-biblical. It’s anti-Christian. And I’ll go farther … what we see reflected in their attitudes and their actions and their pronouncements is what 1 John calls the spirit of antichrist.”
In Christian theology, the term “antichrist” can refer to a particular human adversary who will appear shortly before Christ’s return, but it can also refer to any person or force that opposes Christ and his teachings.
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Hendricks made these comments on the Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley’s YouTube show Can I Push It? Wesley pastors the 8,000-member Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia.
“[W]hen we look again at these conservatives, these right-wingers that talk about ‘You’re infringing on my freedom by having me wear a mask’ … they don’t understand that they are violating the biblical principle of responsibility for our brothers and sisters,” Hendricks told Wesley.
He went on to claim that Franklin Graham, Paula White, and Robert Jeffress — all prominent evangelical supporters of former President Donald Trump — also have the spirit of antichrist.
This is not the first time Hendricks has attributed this spirit to right-wing Christians. A 2020 profile quoted him as saying “the spirit of antichrist is being unleashed by right wing evangelicals’ embrace of the discourse of evil personified in and articulated by Trump.”
Hendricks is an elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a self-described democratic socialist, and the author of Christians Against Christianity: How Right-Wing Evangelicals are Destroying Our Nation and Our Faith.
According to his bio, he served on a State Department working group under then-Secretary Hillary Clinton and delivered a closing benediction at the 2008 Democratic Convention.
The accession of the Roman Church to power marked the beginning of the Dark Ages. As her power increased, the darkness deepened. Faith was transferred from Christ, the true foundation, to the pope of Rome. Instead of trusting in the Son of God for forgiveness of sins and for eternal salvation, the people looked to the pope, and to the priests and prelates to whom he delegated authority. They were taught that the pope was their earthly mediator and that none could approach God except through him; and, further, that he stood in the place of God to them and was therefore to be implicitly obeyed. A deviation from his requirements was sufficient cause for the severest punishment to be visited upon the bodies and souls of the offenders. Thus the minds of the people were turned away from God to fallible, erring, and cruel men, nay, more, to the prince of darkness himself, who exercised his power through them. Sin was disguised in a garb of sanctity. When the Scriptures are suppressed, and man comes to regard himself as supreme, we need look only for fraud, deception, and debasing iniquity. With the elevation of human laws and traditions was manifest the corruption that ever results from setting aside the law of God.
Those were days of peril for the church of Christ. The faithful standard-bearers were few indeed. Though the truth was not left without witnesses, yet at times it seemed that error and superstition would wholly prevail, and true religion would be banished from the earth. The gospel was lost sight of, but the forms of religion were multiplied, and the people were burdened with rigorous exactions.
They were taught not only to look to the pope as their mediator, but to trust to works of their own to atone for sin. Long pilgrimages, acts of penance, the worship of relics, the erection of churches, shrines, and altars, the payment of large sums to the church—these and many similar acts were enjoined to appease the wrath of God or to secure His favor; as if God were like men, to be angered at trifles, or pacified by gifts or acts of penance!
Notwithstanding that vice prevailed, even among the leaders of the Roman Church, her influence seemed steadily to increase. About the close of the eighth century, papists put forth the claim that in the first ages of the church the bishops of Rome had possessed the same spiritual power which they now assumed. To establish this claim, some means must be employed to give it a show of authority; and this was readily suggested by the father of lies. Ancient writings were forged by monks. Decrees of councils before unheard of were discovered, establishing the universal supremacy of the pope from the earliest times. And a church that had rejected the truth greedily accepted these deceptions. (See Appendix.) GC 55.1 – GC 56.1