Who is the Antichrist? (Part II)

Typology is a biblical phenomenon. For instance, Noah and the ark signify baptism. Again, Isaac signifies Christ. Again, the serpent Moses upheld signifies Christ on the Cross. Typology is the reference that one real biblical thing has for another. Abraham and Isaac were historically real, not just symbols. Yet, there were also symbols. This reference from one real biblical thing to another is Typology. Now, we can extend the concept of Typology and recognize that one real predicted future person or event has various partial fulfillments. I like to describe this as Typological Analogy. This is not my idea, however, I arrived at it by reading Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman. In a volume entitled Discussions and Arguments, Newman speaks about the various kinds of fulfillment of the expectation of an Antichrist.

Newman points to several different partial fulfillments. In each of them, he contends, we observe some but not all aspects of the features of the real Antichrist to come.

Even before the time of Christ, there was as it were a precursor of Antichrist. Antiochus IV (215-164BC) emerged to persecute the Jews after many of their rank succumbed to Paganism (1 Macc 1:11f). Apostasy followed by an “Antichrist”. After the coming of Christ, the emperor Julian, also called The Apostate, persecuted the Church violently in his brief reign (361-363). Newman next mentions Mohammed, who followed on the infidelity of heretical Christians denying various truths about Jesus Christ. Newman closes with a consideration of the Reign of Terror and its demolition of the altars and its return to paganism.

The point of Newman’s reflections is to prepare his reader to read the signs of the times. These partial fulfillments might have seemed as genuine fulfillments in their times. However, time kept rolling. One must both take seriously the possibility that the end is at hand now and that the end might be a thousand years away. One must be sober – and alert! For the Devil is prowling around seeking someone to devour.

Let me close on one final observation that turns the situation to our own. Newman puzzled over that line in 2 Thess in which Paul speaks about a force restraining the man of sin. What is this force? It turns out the vast majority of fathers held that the force was none other than The Roman Empire. That the Roman Empire was somehow able to forestall the coming of Antichrist. Now, Newman thinks that we should not disagree with them! But you will laugh – Old Rome has been dead for 1500 years! Not so quick, says Newman. Old Rome might mean a number of things. Perhaps it means rule of law. Perhaps it means order, good, a society ordered to a true common good. Perhaps, we can expand on him, it means a society that conforms to natural law, especially in marriage and sexual ethics! Thus, perhaps its dissolution is the dissolution of the rule of law, of order, of society, of the common good, and of marriage and the family.

In Newman’s day, the seeds for all these terrible aspects of rot that cover our society from within – these seeds were already planted. They were planted with the liberal theses that, e.g., the state has legislative and judicial authority over the marriage bond and that the state need not be interested in religion, that it can be established apart from religion and without regard to ends higher than those that are political. These theses the Church condemned. The only legislative and judicial authority regarding the bond of marriage – natural or sacramental – is that of the Church. All other authorities are null and void in all that they determine about the bond. These authorities may, and indeed must, enact legislation concerning the civil effects of this bond. Let me close with a few citations.

First, Pope Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, art. 6: “As a consequence, the State, constituted as it is, is clearly bound to act up to the manifold and weighty duties linking it to God, by the public profession of religion. Nature and reason, which command every individual devoutly to worship God in holiness, because we belong to Him and must return to Him, since from Him we came, bind also the civil community by a like law. For, men living together in society are under the power of God no less than individuals are, and society, no less than individuals, owes gratitude to God who gave it being and maintains it and whose ever-bounteous goodness enriches it with countless blessings. Since, then, no one is allowed to be remiss in the service due to God, and since the chief duty of all men is to cling to religion in both its reaching and practice—not such religion as they may have a preference for, but the religion which God enjoins, and which certain and most clear marks show to be the only one true religion—it is a public crime to act as though there were no God. So, too, is it a sin for the State not to have care for religion as a something beyond its scope, or as of no practical benefit; or out of many forms of religion to adopt that one which chimes in with the fancy; for we are bound absolutely to worship God in that way which He has shown to be His will.”

Second, Newman. And in reading Newman, we must keep in mind how much more indifferent we are to religion in our society – nay, not indifferent but hostile.

Newman: “And is there no reason to fear that some such Apostasy is gradually preparing, gathering, hastening on in this very day? For is there not at this very time a special effort made almost all over the world, that is, every here and there, more or less in sight or out of sight, in this or that place, but most visibly or formidably in its most civilized and powerful parts, an effort to do without Religion? Is there not an opinion avowed and growing, that a nation has nothing to do with Religion; that it is merely a matter for each man’s own conscience? – which is all one with saying that we many let the Truth fail from the earth without trying to continue it in and on after our time” (p. 59).