A Jagged Contention: The Pope


“Therefore, even though the bishop of Rome had the primacy by divine right, yet since he defends godless services and doctrine conflicting with the Gospel, obedience is not due him; yea, it is necessary to resist him as Antichrist. The errors of the Pope are manifest and not trifling.

Manifest also is the cruelty [against godly Christians] which he exercises. And it is clear that it is God’s command that we flee idolatry, godless doctrine, and unjust cruelty. On this account all the godly have great, compelling, and manifest reasons for not obeying the Pope. And these compelling reasons comfort the godly against all the reproaches which are usually cast against them concerning offenses, schism, and discord [which they are said to cause].

But those who agree with the Pope, and defend his doctrine and [false] services, defile themselves with idolatry and blasphemous opinions, become guilty of the blood of the godly, whom the Pope [and his adherents] persecutes, detract from the glory of God, and hinder the welfare of the Church, because they strengthen errors and crimes to all posterity [in the sight of all the world and to the injury of all descendants].”

– Philip Melancthon, A Treatise On the Power and Primacy of the Pope


In light of what the Lutheran Confessions say about the Pope, how might the Reformers have responded to Pope Francis’ recent trip to the United States?  Is the stance taken by Melancthon and the Reformers too extreme for our day?  Should we still “resist [the Pope] as Antichrist” and judge his adherents as idolatrous and blasphemous?