This page is also available in: Português
Written by Ángel Manuel Rodríguez
Recent developments in the religious world point to the resurgence of Catholicism.
The world in which we live is changing so rapidly that it is difficult for us to clearly identify the significance of the constant flow of that change. Not long ago we used to interpret changes in nature, society, and religion as “signs of the times,” that is to say as evidence that the coming of the Lord was near. It may be good to stop and reflect for a moment about events that have occurred that appear to be harbingers of the soon return of Christ. I am referring particularly to recent and significant changes that have taken place in the Christian world.
Christianity is increasing its presence and influence in the world. This is certainly of great prophetic significance for us as Adventists. The secular mind-set of the Western world, tensions between Christianity and the non-Christian religions, and to some extent terrorist acts motivated by political and religious concerns, have contributed to make the Christian church more globally visible; its influence is increasing. In America, conservative evangelicals are making their presence felt in the political arena and in the debate over important social issues. In some of those cases Catholics have joined them in a common cause. In the United States it is said that the re-election of President George Bush was influenced by the work and involvement of the Protestant churches in politics. Allegedly, a large number of Catholics joined them in their efforts. This tendency toward the union of religion and state is viewed in biblical prophecy as extremely dangerous and as playing a significant role at the close of the cosmic conflict.
But perhaps what is more significant for the Christian world is what has happened in the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II placed the church in a noteworthy position in global leadership. His tremendous influence gained him the designation of the moral leader of humanity. His long sickness contributed in a significant way to attract the eyes of the whole world to Vatican City and to the Catholic Church. Unquestionably, his influence transcended religious and cultural boundaries. But it was his death that placed the spotlight on the magnitude of his influence and the tremendous respect the world has for the head of the Catholic Church. Religious and political leaders from around the world went to Rome to participate in a Roman Catholic religious service. The President of the United States and two former presidents participated in the religious ceremony and bowed their knees before the coffin of the pope showing respect and honor to him and to what he stood for.
Never before in the history of Christianity had the world seen and the church experienced something as impressive and massive as the funeral of the pope. It was more than a funeral; it was a display of the tremendous global influence of Catholicism. It has been estimated that more than two billion persons from around the world watched on TV the pope’s funeral service. This was indeed a phenomenon of global dimensions that placed this church in a position of great influence in the eyes of political and religious world leaders.
The election of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI may have been a surprise to some. Only those who elected him know why he was chosen. He is unquestionably a very capable and intelligent man, characterized by an undeniable commitment to Catholic dogma and tradition. Before his election as pope he represented Catholic dogma and the unwillingness of the church to change it. There have been some changes in the Catholic Church, but when it comes to Catholic dogma and tradition, the church remains the same. Cardinal Ratzinger was a living symbol of that mentality.
As Adventists we should not speculate concerning the future of the new pope and his role in the religious and political arena. It is important for us to understand that we live in a world in which our voice can also be heard, and that we should continue to speak up. The global religious market place is available to us in new ways through different means of communication, and we should go there and display the message the Lord entrusted to us for the world. God is increasing the influence of the Remnant, and He will increase it even more. We should make clear that although the press may have given the impression that the pope is the leading voice of Christianity, he is not our spokesman. He does not speak for us. He is one voice, certainly a very influential voice, but he is not the only voice. Let our voice continue to be heard in truth, kindness and love.
It is unquestionable that the Catholic Church has relocated itself at a central place on the stage of modern history. Prophecy anticipated this amazing event. Its sphere of influence has significantly increased throughout the world. We carefully observe the phenomenon, and wait for new developments. Meanwhile, we should not forget the tragic events that took place during the Middle Ages, and occasionally since then, as a result of the union of the secular and religious powers. To forget them could very easily result in an attempt to repeat them in a global dimension. We should not let the human race forget the dangers of religious intolerance and the use of civil power to promote and enforce religious dogmas. In the performance of this task we are doing a service to Catholics, Protestants, and to the whole world.
We as Adventists are very much concerned with Catholicism as an institution and not as a community of believers. The system promotes not only a religious agenda, but also a political one. We are interested in the main goals and teachings of the institution, but refrain from condemning individuals. Adventists who have attacked a particular person within the Catholic Church, identifying him with the apocalyptic beast of the book of Revelation, have gone beyond what we as a church stand for. We do acknowledge that many of those who committed themselves to the Catholic faith have done much good for humankind throughout history. But we affirm that in the light of Scripture we find the doctrinal and theological system promoted by the Roman Catholic Church to be seriously deficient. We point to those deficiencies in good faith, hoping that the call for reformation raised by God’s instruments during the 16th century may continue to be heard today.