Does the ELCA Still Teach That the Pope Is the Antichrist?

As we all know, the official Lutheran Confessions state that “the Pope is the very Antichrist” (Smalcald Articles 2.4.10). The LCMS and WELS still forcefully uphold this teaching. Has the ELCA ever officially repudiated this doctrine?

Gosh, I don’t know how one can say we teach it forcefully. I’ve been in the LCMS for 14 years, and heard it mentioned once, not in worship, but in a conversation of how the meaning seems to have changed from what the Reformers meant.

Unless the ELCA’s publishing house, Augsburg-Fortress, has altered the Book of Concord to expunge those references (I personally wouldn’t mind it being replaced with “heterodox”), I’d say they probably still hold to it. But let’s be sure its clear what we hold to. The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope outlines the three charges against the papacy:

The Roman Pontiff claims for himself [in the first place] that by divine right he is [supreme] above all bishops and pastors [in all Christendom].

2] Secondly, he adds also that by divine right he has both swords, i.e., the authority also of bestowing kingdoms [enthroning and deposing kings, regulating secular dominions etc.].

3] And thirdly, he says that to believe this is necessary for salvation. And for these reasons the Roman bishop calls himself [and boasts that he is] the vicar of Christ on earth.

We hold that these three teachings are against, or anti, the teachings of Christ, understanding that the second one is moot. Note that while the term pope is used, it is in the generic, and not referring to any one particular pope. It is the office (these beliefs about it) that we consider to be against the teachings of Christ.
Pope John Paul II was not THE anti-Christ. Neither is Pope Francis. These and many other pope are good Christian men, and the problem is that term anti-Christ has taken on a different meaning in the last 100 - 150 years.
Because of this, I frankly don’t like the term, because it is misunderstood and drives edges where they need not be. That doesn’t mean I am comfortable with articles 1 and 3 above. I’m not, and the first article is my primary disagreement with the Catholic Church.


I couldn’t help but notice you skip from Pope John Paul II to Pope Francis. Are you inferring that Pope Benedict XVI was an Anti-Pope? Also, shouldn’t the ones who “make” Popes (the Roman Catholic College of Cardinals) be the only ones to decide what qualifies as true Anti-Pope? Right equipment/people for the job.




Oh, good grief, he specifically said: “Note that while the term pope is used,** it is in the generic**, and not referring to any one particular pope. It is the office (these beliefs about it) that we consider to be against the teachings of Christ.”

I live in what is basically the Lutheran Vatican. Surrounded by Lutherans and their doctrine constantly. I have never heard that the ELCA teaches that the Pope is the Antichrist nor have I ever heard it from them.

I don’t know where you get it from, OP.

It’s in the Concord book as LCMS Jon noted. Perhaps the ELCA no longer holds the Concord book to be the right teachings of Lutheranism.

As a 50+ year active member of the LCMS before becoming a RC, I never heard such an utterance. It may be in a book, but to be frank my former fellow Lutheran read and studied doctrinal books of their faith about as seldom as most Catholics read the C C C (CAF members excluded).

So if it’s in a book but a person doesn’t read it, it’s not doctrine? The CCC holds the doctrine for the Catholic Faith. The Concord book holds the doctrine of the Lutheran Faith and it’s in there and hasn’t been removed. I visited the LCMS as a friend was the Pastor and heard it at least 4x in a year. Twice at Bible study. It is indeed part of their doctrine.

Do not LCMS Pastors swear to uphold the teachings of the Concord Book when they are ordained? If so part of those teachings are that our Pope is in the office of the Anti Christ
If it no longer is believed it should be updated.
It makes it difficult to dialogue with the LCMS when they believe our Pope is in the office of the Anti Christ. That individuals in the LCMS don’t either know that or believe that doesn’t change the fact.

Is this anything like the Westminster confession? Assume they are different but cut from the same cloth.

(I am going off memory so may have the word wrong)


Are the Lutheran Confessions “doctrinal” (cannot be revised/changed)?

As has been said thousands of times here; as well as other forums as well; this seems to be the biggest sticking point between many Protestants and the Church.

Most of us would agree that every Church/church should have a pastor, be it the Universal Church, or Bruno’s Bible Chapel on Maple Street. However, I think that the IDEA that caretaker of the Church Militant on earth be the CATHOLIC (ugh!) Bishop of Rome is so repugnant to many Protestants, that it may be impossible to move beyond this issue.

Sometime around Easter, a couple of years ago; back when my wife belonged to a Congregational church, the pastor suggested they congregation read the Apostles’ Creed. It was in their prayer books, and you would think that if it were in the prayer book in the pew, it would be fair game, right?

Well… a couple of elderly gentlemen were VERY upset that the word “catholic” was in the Apostles’ Creed, and needed that particular meaning of ‘catholic’ to be explained to them.

The same United Church of Christ congregation has a council responsible for choosing a pastor, they take the vote, and then present their choice to the congregation. Sounds alot like a conclave, eh? The only difference is that the pastor does not choose the council, and the council can oust the pastor if they feel like it.

Protestant churches the world over use the CURRENT model that the Church uses; or a variation of it.

The Lutheran Confessions, by MY understanding, seem to imply that a Bishop of Rome at some point seized his authority, and consolidated power some time after the Apostolic Era. I would like to know how the Church was governed prior to this power grab, if such a power grab ever took place.

As always… Interpretation of the Bible is the issue here, and an argument over authority. I freely admit that I steadfastly defend the Catholic position on this because I am Catholic. If I were raised in another tradition, I might feel very differently about it. :shrug:

Most Lutherans I know LOVE pope Benedict XVI. As do I.

I’m sure Jon does too!

Before Benedict XVI was pope, as a theologian, he was seriously pondering if our Lutheran Augsburg Confessions could indeed be a Catholic document.

In my experiences in the ELCA, I have found your prognosis to be sadly true. It’s not an outright rebellion against the book of Concord, but an uncomfortable forgetting - as the Book of Concord stands directly opposite of many modern ELCA teachings and practices.

It’s not universal - though many of the more confessional ELCA churches have left the synod, there are still ones left to carry on.

We view them as a reflection of scripture, and while we admit they could be incorrect, we view them as correct and hence there is no need for ‘change’.

If we were shown by scripture that they were incorrect, it probably wouldn’t upset us too much and frankly we should be happy for the correction.

Strange that you worship in an ELCA parish but claim to be LCMS. :shrug:

The Evanglical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA] is a member of the larger Lutheran Communion [Lutheran World Federation] that 70 million out of 74 million Lutherans worldwide belong to. The LWF is the primary voice of the Lutheran Church in dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church. The Commission on Unity between Lutherans and Catholics acknowledges the papacy as the first among equals; essentially the spiritual head of Christendom.

Lutherans, with exception of the LCMS/ WELC “subscribe to the Book of Concord as an exposition of faith, in so far as (quatenus) it agrees with the Bible.”

Mary, I think it’s important to keep in mind what, exactly, Lutherans mean when they use the word “Antichrist.” As Jon noted in post #2, this is not the mythological being from “Left Behind” rubbish, it is anyone who boasts for himself powers that we believe belong only to Christ - in this, whenever an individual acts anti-to-Christ, they can be said to be Antichrist.

It’s the definition that Roman Catholics seem to get hung up on, and that’s understandable given today’s common usage of the word in pop culture. But look at what Lutherans actually mean by the word, and the three reasons the Confessions give for doing so.

I’m not sure there are truly 74 million Lutherans worldwide; few in Europe can truly be considered Lutheran, as they hold membership in the state churches for purely cultural reasons (further inflating those numbers is the fact that many of these “Lutheran” churches are, in actuality, union churches that accept Reformed or generic Protestant belief) - so there’s more than 30 million that can be discounted. Likewise, some in America are ‘Lutheran’ as a means to accomplish socio-political goals (Herchurch, etc…). No, there are certainly not 74 million Lutherans on this planet.

I think the pulse of Lutheranism can only seriously be taken in the developing world, where faith is strong. And when we look at the recent happenings there, I’m also not sure how much longer the quatenus camp will be able to appeal to the “we have a larger population” argument. Two of the largest Lutheran church bodies in the world, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (~6 million) and the Malagasy Lutheran Church (~3 million), have both terminated their relations with the ELCA, the Church of Sweden, etc. and are slowly distancing themselves from the LWF. They are now openly seeking fellowship with the LCMS and other, more orthodox Lutheran bodies. We are witnessing a tremendous shift in the Lutheran world - a return to a quia subscription to the Confessions. This has not gone unnoticed by Rome, which has established dialogue directly with more Confessional bodies - most recently, the Lutheran Church-Canada.

In either case, the ‘Antichrist’ lingo will be better explained by the quia camp, or deemed no longer relevant by the quatenus camp.

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