Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Charismatic Reversal of the Reformation: 7 An Ecumenical Spirit

Previous posts in this series:

It would be wrong to say that everyone within the Charismatic Movement desires union with the Roman Catholic Church. There are preachers within charismatic and Pentecostal churches who are opposed to any form of ecumenical unity with Rome, as are many believers within those churches. Indeed many of the early Pentecostals were vigorously opposed to the teaching and doctrines of Roman Catholicism. Yet today there are a large number of prominent charismatic teachers who consider the Roman Catholic Church to be another equally valid branch of Christianity. And once again we find that it is the most prominent figures within the Charismatic Movement who are guilty, it is those preachers who are followed by millions and who are the most influential, who indeed are the true mainstream of the Charismatic Movement. It is those whom we find are most keen to promote an ecumenical agenda. The spirit of ecumenism in the Charismatic Movement is extremely clear to see and indeed we find that the very nature and focus of the Charismatic Movement makes the ecumenical goal more attainable than it ever was before.

1. Experience before doctrine

Every ecumenical effort to unite Protestantism and Romanism has fallen short for the same reason; the focus has been on uniting their doctrines. All attempts to change confessions of faith and to come to some form of doctrinal agreement which will satisfy all parties have failed and simply resulted in further splits. However with the Charismatic Movement this is not so much of a problem, for the importance of doctrine is secondary to that of experience. Where doctrines and theological beliefs may differ between charismatic Presbyterians, Anglicans, Baptists, Pentecostals and Roman Catholics, so long as they can all speak of having had the same experience of the Holy Spirit then they can worship together and regard one another as fellow believers in Christ. The biblical mandate of worshipping God ‘in spirit and in truth’ is abandoned in favour of fellowshipping with anyone who has had the same experience, regardless of whether that experience is supported by scripture.Truth is no longer determined by scripture, but by experience, therefore if the experience is the same then they can easily come together.

It is this unbiblical approach of placing experience before doctrine which results in a complete lack of separation from error within the Charismatic Movement. Those at the theologically conservative end of the Charismatic Movement can (and do) fellowship with and preach alongside those who are at the theologically absurd end of the scale. Steve Furtick can describe T.D. Jakes as ‘the greatest preacher of our time’a despite his unscriptural view of the trinity. Louie Giglio can preach for prosperity gospel proponent Joel Osteenb and share a pulpit with Joyce Meyer and Judah Smithc. John Piper can preach with Hillsong’s Christine Cained and Kenneth Copeland can invite Jesse Duplantis and Creflo Dollar to speak at the his conferencee. The list of charismatics who disagree on doctrines, and often major fundamental doctrines, yet who can share the same pulpit, is an extensive one far beyond those whom we have mentioned. Their coming together is made possible through the theological ignorance of many of those involved, through their rejection of biblical separation, and also through the charismatic emphasis on experience rather than doctrine. One of the clearest evidences that the Charismatic Movement is not of God is the fact that it has transcended the bounds of Protestantism and is also found within the Roman Catholic Church.

2. The Charismatic Movement within the Church of Rome
An important question to ask is what effect the Charismatic Movement has had within the Roman Catholic Church. Has it resulted in conversions, in Roman Catholics coming out of that church and having their eyes opened to its blasphemy? The answer to that question is no. The Charismatic Movement has not resulted in Roman Catholics being converted to true biblical Christianity, but rather has resulted in them becoming more devout Catholics. Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan, in their book ‘Catholic Pentecostals’, say that ‘for Catholics the experience is an important element in the life of worship sacramental celebration, rich dogmatic tradition and apostolic work ... the Pentecostal movement has not separated or excluded Catholics from their church, rather it has renewed their love of the church and has built up a lively faith in the Catholic community’f. The testimony of Roman Catholic charismatics is that their charismatic experience causes them to love Mary more and to love the Mass more. The Holy Spirit will never lead us into error, but ‘will guide you into all truth’ therefore we can be certain that a movement which helps to bridge the divide between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, and which leads people into a deeper appreciation of Roman Catholic dogma, cannot be of God. From the late 1960s until the present day the influence of the Charismatic Movement has grown within the Roman Catholic Church to a point where it now numbers almost 120 million people. Often referred to as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is has had the support of the very highest authorities within the Church of Rome. In 1998 Pope John Paul II said that ‘It is from this providential rediscovery of the Church’s charismatic dimension that, before and after the Council, a remarkable pattern of growth has been established for ecclesial movements and new communities.’g The current Pope has also shown his support for the Charismatic Movement within the Roman Catholic having addressed the 37th National Convention of Renewal in the Holy Spirit, held in Rome at the beginning of June 2014.h

When the Charismatic Movement within the Roman Catholic church is compared with the Charismatic Movement within Protestant Churches very little difference can be found. There may be differences in liturgy and in doctrine, but as with doctrinal differences between various groups of charismatic Protestants, these differences are secondary to the shared experience of the Holy Spirit which they claim to have had. Charismatic Roman Catholics make the same claims to a continuation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit as do all other branches of the Charismatic movement; they speak in tongues, they perform healing miracles, they have the gift of prophecy, they cast out demons. If they have had the same experience, and experience is the standard by which truth is to be judged, how then can they be rejected as fellow believers in Christ? Sadly that is the view taken by many charismatic leaders, and the Roman Catholic Church is accepted as simply being another branch of Christianity.

3. The Charismatic view of Rome
In February of this year a video message was broadcast at a meeting of Kenneth Copeland Ministries, featuring a message from Pope Francisi. The message was introduced by a charismatic Episcopal bishop, Antony Palmer. In that video message the pope spoke of the ‘misunderstandings’ which had separated Protestants and Catholics throughout history and of his desire that the separation between the two would come to an end. Kenneth Copeland’s response to the Pope’s video message was to pray for him, to agree with him in this desire for unity amongst Christians, and to thank God for him. Copeland followed on from this by meeting with the Pope in Junej. Similarly Joel Osteen also met the Pope in June of this year as part of a visit to Italy to promote ecumenical understanding. Osteen described the meeting as honouring and humbling and spoke in glowing terms of how it felt to see the Pope give the Mass to thousands of peoplek. It would seem that the new pope is the darling of almost every popular charismatic teacher; at the time of his election Twitter was full of favourable tweets from men such as Rick Warren and John Piper requesting prayer for the new pope. How vastly different from the reformed confessions of faith which rightly describe the pope as antichrist and the man of sin.

All across the spectrum we find that charismatics are more and more accepting of the Church of Rome as a Christian church and of the pope as a reputable Christian leader. Even by today’s ecumenical standards the extent of this view within popular charismaticism is epidemic, facilitated by the charismatic appeal to experience before doctrine. The view propagated by David DuPlessis is widely evident within the Charismatic Movement today, that to be truly charismatic you must be ecumenical and to be truly ecumenical you must be charismatic. It does not take much effort to find this ecumenical spirit in the Charismatic Movement today. Name any popular charismatic teacher and they can be found to hold sympathetic views of the Roman Catholic Church, from Beth Moore and T.D. Jakes, to Pat Robertson and Bill Hybels, and many more. Such is the ecumenical mess of the charismatic movement that no discerning believer can contemplate looking to these teachers for instruction. The question we find ourselves asking it, why do so many still do so?

Next: Responding to the Charismatic Movement

b osteens-lakewood-church-in-houston/#comments
f Catholic Pentecostals, Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan, Paulist Press Deus Books 1969
g Pope John Paul II, World Congress for Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, Pentecost Address 1998

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