|Mail Box||Catholic Mysticism|
|Itinerary||Roman Catholicism Today|
|Ruth's Diary||Testimony: Roberto-Jose Livioco|
The Catholic mystics of the Reformation period were decidedly anti-Reformation. At the time of the European Reformation a vast number of individuals and groups claimed some sort of mystical inspiration from the Spirit. These ‘spiritualists’ as they were known (mystical charismatics) simply abounded.
It is interesting that one often finds mysticism and mystical notions coming in like a flood when a society is going through big changes. As Philip Schaff puts it: “Protestantism had reached a very critical juncture. Reformation or revolution, the written Word or illusive inspirations, order or confusion? That was the question.”
The Reformers rested on Biblical authority, while many who opposed them rested on mystical promptings of the Spirit through direct revelations.
All the while that the Reformers worked to bring about Biblical restoration, they were plagued by various sects and characters who claimed they had received ‘words from the Lord’ about this, that, and the other matter. Martin Luther called them schwarmer, or fanatics or enthusiasts. This continued right through into the Puritan period in the seventeenth century and beyond.
These enthusiasts made subjective inner light their authority, rather than the objective, external Word of God. This was one of the principal controversies at the time of the Reformation, and it is epitomized in Luther’s dealings with the revolutionary Thomas Muntzer. Muntzer believed that justification by faith alone was an invented doctrine. He was violently opposed to the notion of Sola Scriptura, saying that ‘they poison the Holy Spirit with the Holy Scripture.’
Carter Lindberg said: “The key to Muntzer’s theology is a mystical spiritualism. . .mystical theology of an experiential self-disclosure of God to the person.”
Another of the confrontations between the Word and mystical inspiration involved three men who were friends of Muntzer, known as the Awickau prophets. They claimed to be prophets from God and to have had intimate conversations with Him. They had no need of the Bible but relied on the promptings of the Spirit. Melancthon was utterly taken in by them.
Luther rejected the teachings of the mystics on spiritual union, and so did Calvin. Luther, in Article 13 of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession we read: “It is good to extol the ministry of the Word with every possible kind of praise in opposition to the fanatics who dream that the Holy Spirit does not come through the Word but because of their own preparations. They sit in a dark corner doing and saying nothing, but only waiting for illumination.”
The Reformation was a gigantic NO! to Catholic mysticism. But that did not stop it working vigorously, as we know.
Any consideration of how mysticism has influenced Protestantism in history must take into account the pietist movement. Pietism was the reaction of the spirit against the letter. It laid stress on the subjective rather than the objective aspect of faith.
It is highly significant that one of the principal reforms demanded by the German pietists was “that the theological schools should be reformed by the abolition of all systematic theology, and that morals and not doctrine should form the staple of all preaching.” What would we suspect to be the result of that reform? In their eagerness to eschew systematic theology, the mystics and pietists embraced a systematised devotionalism. systematic theology devoid of heart religion is bad enough, but a heart religion which is devoid of systematic theology is a scourge. Remember that mysticism not only involves seeking union with the divine, it also involves making one’s subjective experience the sole arbiter of religious Truth. Which is it easier to do? To melt a scholastic heart or to bring a mystic down to Earth?
It is interesting to read the largely sympathetic treatment of Protestant pietism in the New Catholic Encyclopedia: “The pietist emphasis upon a quality of life rather than orthodoxy of beliefs tended to produce a softening of religious divisions. Contact with like-minded Roman Catholics developed late in the eighteenth century.” That phrase, “a softening of religious divisions”, is highly significant. It is tragic if this softening happens without any discernment.
It is an interesting fact that Wesley’s childhood was steeped in the mystics. Charles and John grew up in a home surrounded by their works. These made a deep impression on John during the formative years of his life. In his preface to the Collection of Hymns and Sacred Poems in 1734, John Wesley wrote: “Some verses, it may be observed, in the following collection, were written upon the scheme of the mystic divines. And these, it is owned, we had once in great veneration, as the best explainers of the Gospel of Christ. But we are now convinced that we therein greatly erred, not knowing the Scriptures neither the power of God.
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I was raised in a strong Roman Catholic family in Manila. From the time I can remember, we religiously followed much of the church’s traditions. Every year, without exception, at the evening of Holy Thursday, our family would practice what is known as “bisita iglesia” (visiting churches). We would go from one Roman Catholic church to another, visiting as many as possible, making the stations of the cross, and reciting the rosary (one per church). As we did this we followed others wiping and kissing the hands and feet of huge images of Jesus and Mary. We would also watch those wounded and weary flagellants. In my youth I admired their sincerity in inflicting such pain in order to “pay off their debts to God.”
From sixth grade to high school I served the mass as an altar boy. Because I was an honor student and my parents very highly regarded in the community, I was privileged to attend high school at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University. Until my second year, it never entered my mind to question my beliefs in God, Jesus Christ, or the traditions of the Roman Catholic church.
My two older sisters had been “converted” through the gospel witness of a close family friend. When she shared the gospel with me, I thought to my self-righteous self, “I have my religion, I am an Atenean, I am already serving God as an altar boy. I don’t need any more religion, especially from a Protestant.” I posed my smart-alecky, philosophical questions to incite debates with her. These discussions took place quite often. When she could not answer me, I considered myself victorious. But, when I was alone, I thought deeply about many of her answers. I felt my faith crumbling as I had only the words of my parents, priests, and professors to support it. She always quoted from the Bible. The Bible took me off guard. I believed it to be the Word of God and I could not question it. My only course was to question her interpretation. There were three key passages that had my attention:
John 1:12 was the first verse that rocked my beliefs. I had been taught the “general Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man” doctrine. Now, I was convinced that only those who trusted Christ became God’s children.
John 14:6 had always been explained in such a way as to include all who lived sincerely, whatever their faith. Now I understood that Jesus meant exactly what He said, that He is the exclusive Way to the Father! That was exactly the opposite of what I had been led to believe.
Ephesians 2:8-9 was the verse that brought down all my defenses. Like most people, I could not imagine highly respected and revered Roman Catholics like Mother Theresa or the Pope, with all their religious accomplishments, being barred from entering heaven. The words are clear, “not of works.” What was clear to me was that I was a sinner and needed Jesus Christ to save me. He is the One who died for my sins. He was my sin-bearer and sin-substitute. No mediator, no sacrament, nothing else could save me. It was terribly humbling to be striped of all my self-righteousness. But by then I realized that there is no substitute to being clothed with Christ’s perfect righteousness. After trusting in the completed sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the remission of my sin, I experienced great joy. It was as if a heavy weight had been lifted. I was born again!
The years since then have never been the same. Soon, I met new friends, Bible students, and Fundamentalist pastors. I heard many of their testimonies of conversion and the price that they were paying for taking a stand for their Biblical faith. I remember the flagellants that I had considered as ultimate examples of sincerity and devotion and compare them to this other kind of sincerity and conviction being demonstrated. These are ridiculed for studying and preaching the Word of God.
I started reading my Bible daily, the Book that had once been sealed to my understanding. Before long I was discovering errors in Roman Catholic teaching. At first, I questioned my own understanding of the Scriptures. Then I discovered many verses that I compared with what the priests had said. I began to take my stand with the Bible.
My parents wanted me to pursue a degree in business management. They had expressed hostility against my conversion because they were concerned that reading the Bible might sidetrack me from finishing college. They had also heard that people who interpret the Bible on their own may go insane. So, I continued my undergraduate training at the Ateneo de Manila. We were required to take philosophy and theology classes. My new-found faith was certainly challenged! But, after comparing their human explanations with the plain text of Scripture, I always could see the errors of the priests. All this challenged me to study the Bible more seriously in order to be equipped and ready to give an answer concerning my faith when challenged by these learned priests and professors at the University. I found great strength in the Word of God and all the answers that I needed to deal with subjects such as human merit vs. faith alone; one mediator vs. many mediators; repetitious prayers, graven images and idolatry, the fact that Jesus had real brothers, etc.
After graduating from college, I turned my diploma over to my parents and told them of my desire to enter the Gospel ministry. I was baptized in Gospel Light Baptist Church in Quezon City and served as an assistant to the pastor. Two years later, the Lord gave me Imee, my wife, who has been a great help-meet in the ministry. We have three daughters and a son. The Lord provided for me to further extend my education through an extension program from Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary. The pastorate is definitely a challenge these days. The very enemies of the Gospel are often found inside the church and we are required to take strong stands that are not always popular. It is always our fervent prayer that by God’s grace, we may “finish (our) course with joy, and the ministry which (we) have received of the Lord Jesus Christ, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24
In This Issue
Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput has endorsed Roman Catholic participation in the Promise Keepers evangelical movement provided it reinforces men’s Catholic faith.
A Muslim religious leader in Surabaya, Indonesia, preached 20 minutes at a Roman Catholic parish church before mass. He said that Christians and Muslims need to join hands to face common challenges.
The Los Angeles archdiocese has announced that the final budget for construction, fees, and other costs for its downtown cathedral is topping $l63 million. The archdiocese also announced that the Walt Disney Co. had become a major doner to the construction effort.
Sixty parishes in the Boston archdiocese may have to be closed in the next ten years, according to Cardinal Bernard Law. By 2005, active priests are expected to shrink from 738 to 573. Another factor is a 2 percent decline in Sunday mass attendance over the past five years.
John Paul II has called on U.S. Catholics to stop what he regards as politicizing the church, saying the tendency to do so has undermined the church’s “unique nature and mission.” “It was surely not the [Second Vatican] Council’s intention to politicize the church so that every issue became susceptible to a political label,” he said at a meeting with nine U.S. bishops. He also said that theologians who question the teaching authority of the pope are mistaken, calling such notions “inadequate ecclesiologies, radically different from what the council. . .presented.”
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"It continues to be a source of amazement to me and grief that so many who love the Lord Jesus Christ seem to be willing to compromise with the Catholic system. May you continue to experience great strength and grace for the ministry He has given you." (ENGLAND)
"I am 34 years old, a teacher. I was baptized Roman Catholic. I gave up church teaching because I was a little lazy and reluctant. When I was 25 I accidentally came across a street Bible-seller. I bought a Bible and read it overnight. It was my first contact with the Bible as a book to read! I began seeking for more. The Roman Catholic Church was magnificent, but there was nothing for me, a simple, lost man. Though my religious knowledge was very limited, I could see inconsistencies between some of the Bible and what they call Holy Tradition. I couldn’t stand it. The man who sold me the Bible happened to be Seventh-Day Adventist. What they have to offer is something like the illusion of having the truth. I knew too little of the Scripture to defend effectively, but I felt there was something wrong with them. I read Pilgrimage From Rome by Bartholomew Brewer, translated and issued here in Poland. The author has much courage and great faith. I do share his opinion on almost everything. I would feel very much obliged for further information about your activities. Perhaps, I could do something useful to contribute." (POLAND)
"Ex-Priest Franco Maggiotto called me recently with a serious request for prayer. He recently appeared on a national Milan-based radio station reaching much of Italy and all of northern Italy. It was a one-hour talk show. A few days after the program he received a call from the radio station indicating that thousand’s of faxes had been received wanting more information. They invited him to come back again on the radio program with anticipation of a much larger audience. He said, ‘I need you to pray for me. I am a little bit scared. . .This is very important for Italy.’ He knows this is a real threat to the Roman Catholic hierarchy and has been warned by friends within that hierarchy who have told him, ‘Franco, they have killed for less." (E-mail)
In This Issue
Job 37:14 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” We quote it a lot, but in our busy society, we seldom allow oursleves the time to be still, to meditate on the things of God. Even our prayers are streamlined. When serious things occur, we are reminded of the real priorities in life and how little time we put into them. We do something about it for a few days or a few weeks, but then we slip back into old routines. It is so easy to be squeezed into the world’s mold of priorities instead of God’s. It is a continual battle to set our affections on things above and seek to conform to the things of God. The mind-set to always be producing is difficult to break, especially when there are so many souls that need to be reached. But, we must remind ourselves that even the Lord took time apart. We must always be on the watch so the enemy does not get us off balance. The enemy would keep us so busy working for the Lord that we do not take the time to fellowship with the Lord, so busy praying for souls that we do not take the time to praise and count our spiritual blessings, so busy reading religious books that we fail to spend enough time in the Book of Books. We need fellowship with other believers, but not at the expense of fellowship with our God! Let us admonish one another not to neglect the weighter things!
The religious world is degenerating more quickly than ever. Believers everywhere seem frustrated over things going on in their churches. There are more and more folks writing to us about compromises being made in their families and in their churches–especially regarding fellowship with Roman Catholics who claim to be born-again Christians. Oh, how we need discernment! There is a fine line between love and tolerance. We must be ever on guard to be true to the Word and true to our families and friends.
It was a blessing for us to fellowship with friends from Arizona recently. Betty (ex-nun) and Rick always have a lot of information to share about political trends that will effect Christians and Bible-based ministries. It looks like much of our religious freedom in America is quickly erroding away. True Bible Christians are seen by most to be religious wackos. We must be certain that our boldness is with wisdom so that we do not bring reproach upon the cause of Jesus Christ. What a tragedy when folks reject the Gospel along with the bad manners of some who present it. They can’t see the love of Jesus for the lack of love in the way He is presented. Let us take care not to be guilty of this, but be wise in the Holy Spirit.
In This Issue
|Apr 18A 1998||Southside Baptist Church||Monclova OH|
|Apr 19A 1998||Bethany Baptist Church||Grand Rapids OH|
|Apr 19P 1998||First Baptist of Stryker||Stryker OH|
|Apr 20 1998||Emmanuel Baptist Christian School||Toledo OH|
|Apr 22 1998||Dillon Road Baptist Church||Fostoria OH|
|Apr 23A 1998||Toledo Christian School||Toledo OH|
|Apr 23P 1998||Toledo Bible Institute (Southside)||Toledo OH|
|Apr 24 1998||Southside Baptist Church||Toledo OH|
|Apr 26 1998||Southside Baptist Church||Toledo OH|
|May 13||Hosting Beth Eden Youth from||Denver CO|
In This Issue