Jesse Johnson writes at The Cripplegate:
Our age is an ecumenical one, and thus it is likely that many are ignorant of the fact that until about 50 years ago, most Protestant leaders viewed the Pope as the Antichrist.
Johnson provides quotes from Martin Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and Knox to show how early Protestant Reformers viewed the Pope. Even more recent American religious leaders Jonathan Edwards and Cotton Mather during early American history held the view of Pope as Antichrist.
In one of the stranger periods of Catholic history there was a rivalry when two different men claimed to be the Pope and used the antichrist label to criticize each other. Johnson notes, "In fact, for the 40 years where two rival Popes both called each other antichrist (1378-1417), John Wycliffe humorously pointed out that they were each half right."
In recent years the Pope as Antichrist view has become unpopular in the western evangelical world. I know only a few evangelicals that hold this view. I think there are 6 reasons for these changes in the evangelical world.
- In the culture wars Catholics and Protestants have worked together in opposition to abortion, gay marriage and other causes.
- During the Jesus Movement in the late 1960s and 70s a Charismatic Catholic movement emerged. Since these Catholics spoke in tongues, they were readily accepted by other Pentecostals.
- Ecumenical outreach through groups like the National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches brought Catholic and Protestants together to discuss issues.
- Hollywood made movies featuring Catholic characters. The Sound of Music allowed large audiences to see nuns in an entertaining, non-threatening role.
- When John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960, he appeared before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association and defended separation of church and state. When Kennedy was President, the American public did not witness a presidential administration pursuing a Catholic agenda.
- Prophecy teachers suggesting the Antichrist will come from the United Nations or the European Union. In recent years a growing number of Christians have accepted the idea that the Antichrist will come from Islam.
- A friendly reminder: the Pope is (probably) the antichrist - The Cripplegate
- Transcript: JFK's Speech on His Religion - NPR
P.S. Some people are probably curious and wonder where I stand on this issue. Although I am critical of some Catholic teaching, it just doesn't make sense to me that the Antichrist from the Book of Revelation will be the Pope. I doubt the Catholic Church can obtain political power over the entire world in the 21st century.