Respect not conversion
“Cradle Catholics often have no idea of the repugnance “Bible Christians” feel for Marian doctrines and devotions.
…For many years I considered Marian doctrine and devotion to be symptomatic of a mortal infection within Catholics; indeed, it represented what was most wrong with Catholicism. Paradoxically, my former anti-Marian views have resulted in an appreciation for the common objections frequently raised against the Church’s teaching about Mary.”
Scott Hahn – ‘Catholic for a Reason II – Scripture and the Mystery of the Mother of God’ 2nd ed.
(Scott Hahn is a former Evangelical Minister who converted to Catholicism)
We shall begin our consideration of Mary on this page with both a caution and an encouragement …!
Any evaluation of Catholic Church teaching presupposes some knowledge of the subject, but apparently such knowledge is not always there. The eminent Protestant scholar, Adolf von Harnack deplored the ignorance of the majority of Protestant theology graduates about Catholicism:
“I am convinced from constant experience of the fact that the students who leave our schools have the most disconnected and absurd ideas about ecclesiastical history. Some of them know something about Gnosticism, or about other curious and for them worthless details. But of the Catholic Church, the greatest religious and political creation known to history, they know absolutely nothing, and they indulge in its regard in wholly trivial, vague, and often directly nonsensical notions. How her greatest institutions originated, what they mean in the life of the Church, how easily they may be misconceived, and why they function so surely and impressively: all this, according to my experience, is for them, apart from a few exceptions, a terra incognita [an unknown land].”
So please allow us to encourage everyone reading this to be curious about what the Catholic Church teaches about Mary, and also to recognise that those beliefs are made with reference to the Holy Scriptures – the inspired Word of God. It was Cardinal Ratzinger – later Pope Benedict XVI – who wrote that “dogma is by definition nothing other than an interpretation of Scripture”
A Loving Caution
There may also, be those who are more closed minded in their opinion of the Catholic Church and will not hear anything that justifies it or undoes confusion about their teachings for whatever reason. To such people we must consider the Scripture:
“Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Proverbs.9:10
And to facilitate such healthy ‘fear of the Lord’, there are two very serious points to be made to all Christians who resist Church Unity:-
1. A False Balance – A Caution
Reformed Protestants hold as one of their distinguishing measures, the right of every Christian believer to read and interpret the Bible, trusting that the Holy Spirit will guide the individual. There are tens of thousands of Christian denominations in the world and the typical Protestant will hold in an attitude of respect and recognition as brothers and sisters, virtually all those diverse “Bible-believing” denominations. The reason for this, is that Protestants respect the fact that the Holy Spirit may well have led ‘x’ and ‘y’ as individuals and Churches in a particular emphasis or interpretation of respective Scripture verses, according to His Sovereign purposes – even if those different interpretations differ from each other. Well, the Catholic Church is a ‘Bible–believing Church’ too; in fact strictly speaking the Bible is a Catholic book.
While the Catholic Church does not formally recognise the right of private interpretation of Scripture, it does when many individual views of Catholics are considered collectively as the Sensus Fidelium (Sense of the Faithful).
However, an observation may be levelled against the Protestant Churches and most Protestants, of using ‘unfair weights’ or a ‘false scales’ to apply one measure of judgement to a Protestant Church (or individual) who may disagree with them …. And a very different measure is applied when considering the Catholic Church, which seems judged to be not allowed to have its own interpretation of Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
This despite the Roman Catholic Church being the original historical Church dating back 2000 years to Jesus and the parent Church of the Reformed Churches, who are, (with the Orthodox Churches, who also separated over Scripture interpretation), virtually its children.
By such double standards – being applied in such a way as to divide the Christian Church - well intentioned Christians are doing the work of the Accuser - and God abhors this (See the Judgement of the Stumbling Blocks below):
Proverbs 11:1 'A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but an accurate weight is his delight.'
Proverbs 20:23 'Diverse and deceitful weights are shamefully vile and abhorrent to the Lord, and false scales are not good'. (AMP)
Matthew 7:1-3 'Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?
A Loving Caution for Catholics Too
Whereas Protestants may have applied the measuring scales of Scripture Interpretation unfairly to compare themselves and the Catholic Church, so also many Catholics appear overly confident in the fact that their Church dates back to the time of Jesus and that our Protestant brothers and sisters do not have the fullness of the revelation in their practice of faith. However, since Catholics realise that they have more opportunity to receive Grace in the Sacraments and other aspects, there is also a price to pay and God will hold us more to account for our actions than others:
Luke 12:47,48 'That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required'
The Catholic Church’s desire for a single and unifying interpretation of the Bible is surely commendable to observers and rather than allowing hurried personal interpretations, their learned and rigorous interpretation of the Bible is strengthened by the meticulous study of such interpretations demonstrated by witnesses and teachers of the Early Church – the ‘Fathers’ of the Church; and also the (not casual but rigorously tested and discerned) guidance of the Holy Spirit in history called Sacred Tradition (capital ‘T’ – different from human tradition). Such historical prudence and academic rigour clearly demonstrates Catholic intellectual integrity for Biblical interpretation.
It was Cardinal Ratzinger – later Pope Benedict XVI – who wrote that “dogma is by definition nothing other than an interpretation of Scripture”
For a Time Such As This - God is Uniting His Church
Evidently the whole Christian Church is weak and under concerted attack at present, and the biggest scandal in World history still remains this division of the Christian Church. Yet Jesus prophesied that all Christians would be united – in such a way that all the world would believe in Him.
John 17:21 ' that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.'
God desires to unite His Church, both according to Scriptures and also several recent prophecies given through credible mouthpieces to this generation.
Prophecy – God speaks
Whether individuals are comfortable with prophecy in these times or not – God is very comfortable with it, and if He can even speak through a donkey (Numbers 22:28), would He remain silent with billions of souls headed for damnation in these times? Really - would He?
Luke 19:39,40 'Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, 'Teacher, order your disciples to stop.' He answered, 'I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.'
Also for those who despise prophecy we must recall the reference in Malachi to the spirit of prophecy, which Elijah represents, returning in the Last Days to convert men’s hearts.
Malachi 4:5,6 'Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.'
Let us consider some prophecies referring to these times, which especially refer to Unity amongst Christians:
The Great Revival - Smith Wigglesworth 1947
The following is an end time “rare” prophecy given by Smith Wigglesworth in 1947, two weeks before his death. Wigglesworth had a profound ministry of signs and wonders.
“Two Distinct Moves
During the next few decades there will be two distinct moves of the Holy Spirit, across the church in Great Britain. The first move will affect every church that is open to receive it and will be characterized by a restoration of the baptism and gifs of the Holy Spirit. [This happened]
The second move of the Holy Spirit will result in people leaving historic churches and planting new churches. [This happened]
In the duration of each of these moves, the people who are involved will say ‘This is the great revival’. But the Lord says ‘No’, neither is this the great revival but both are steps towards it.
Word and Spirit
When the new church phase is on the wane, there will be evidenced in the churches something that has not been seen before: a coming together of those with an emphasis on the Word and those with an emphasis on the Spirit.
When the Word and the Spirit come together, there will be the biggest movement of the Holy Spirit that the nation, and indeed the world, has ever seen. It will mark the beginning of a revival that will eclipse anything that has been witnessed within these shores, even the Wesleyan and the Welsh revivals of former years. The outpouring of God’s Spirit will flow over from the UK to the mainland of Europe, and from there will begin a missionary move to the ends of the earth.”
[This Great Revival of Church Unity is widely anticipated …! ]
A Prophecy for Great Britain - given to the recognised Prophet Wendy Alec, who has borne much fruit (Deuteronomy 17: 18-22, Matthew.7:17) – the co-founder of God TV, which broadcasts Christian teaching to over 200 nations across the World, and which started in Britain.
“And then I saw that some kind of NET was being loosed from the heavenlies down to earth. And I heard the Lord say, "THIS IS THE SNARE OF HEAVEN." And I saw a great angelic host . . . the warring host of Heaven being dispatched across Great Britain and Europe and other Northern-most and Middle-Eastern parts of the earth, with swords that glistened like flaming fires. And the Lord said, "As in the ancient of times, so as My people humble themselves and pray, a great and mighty roar of battle shall be unleashed from the heavenlies, and My mighty warring angels shall go forth, for I shall send them from the North and from the South."
“And the Lord said, "Because of the heartfelt prayers of My saints, I shall send my Angelic Host and the sound of their battle cry shall resound through the four corners of the earth as they prepare to meet the Princes of Darkness.
(Excerpt from: Vision for Great Britain 2005 – Wendy Alec http://www.elijahlist.com/words/display_word/3247 )
The Great Joining and New Power for Evangelism – prophecy
And so it is that there will come in this end season a great joining of My shepherds. For in this day and in this hour there shall occur a great joining of My pastors across the cities of the Earth – a great joining across the denominations of the earth – a great joining across the nations of the Earth.For it is in this day and it is in this hour that the spirit of disunity, the spirit of territorialism, the spirit of competition, the spirit of selfish ambition shall be exposed in the hearts of My Church and so shall rise My true shepherds. They shall come forth with a rod of wisdom and the rod of grace; they shall do all things for my sake and for the sake of My Kingdom. And so shall the witches and the warlocks tremble with the region of the damned. For surely it is the Great Joining they fear – it is the deathblow to the prince of Division himself.”
(Wendy Alec – ‘Journal of the Unknown Prophet – A visitation of Jesus Christ’ 2005)
John 13:34,35 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.'
Those who claim to be Christian but in practice, resist God’s moves towards uniting His Mystical Body at this time - firstly by removing the barriers between His people and then uniting our hearts despite our diversity (See the page ‘A Call for Unity’ on this website) - are placing themselves in a very dangerous place as you will read below about Stumbling Blocks.
John 13:34,35 'I give you a new Commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.'
The Judgement of the Stumbling Blocks.
Let none of us be found to be Stumbling Blocks for other Christians who also love Jesus, since the penalty is severe:
Mark 9:38-43 “John said to Him, Teacher, we saw a man who does not follow along with us driving out demons in Your name, and we forbade him to do it, because he is not one of our band [of Your disciples]. But Jesus said, Do not restrain or hinder or forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in My name will soon afterward be able to speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is for us. [Num. 11:27-29.] For I tell you truly, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to and bear the name of Christ will by no means fail to get his reward. And whoever causes one of these little ones (these believers) who acknowledge and cleave to Me to stumble and sin, it would be better (more profitable and wholesome) for him if a [huge] millstone were hung about his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand puts a stumbling block before you and causes you to sin, cut it off! It is more profitable and wholesome for you to go into life [that is really worthwhile] maimed than with two hands to go to hell (Gehenna), into the fire that cannot be put out.” (AMP)
Attacking God’s Children – Judgement of the Stumbling Blocks
Rick Joyner is an evangelical pastor, with a highly respected prophetic ministry in the Body of Christ and he experienced a profound vision during which he observed a recently deceased contemporary who was in the lowest rank of Heaven:
[Contemporary] “I became the worst thing a man can become on the earth – a stumbling block who produced other stumbling blocks. We sowed fear and division throughout the church, all in the name of protecting the truth. In my self-righteousness I was headed for perdition. In his great mercy the Lord allowed me to be struck by a disease that would bring about a slow and humiliating death. Just before my death I came to my senses and repented. I am just thankful to be here at all.”
[Joyner] I recalled how I had allowed disgruntled former members of a church to spread their poison about that church without stopping them. I knew that by allowing them to do this without correcting them I had encouraged them to continue. I remember thinking that this was justified because of the errors of that church. I then began to remember how I had even repeated many of their stories, justifying it under the guise of enlisting prayers for them. Soon a great flood of other such incidents began to arise in my heart. Again, I was starting to be overwhelmed by the evil and darkness of my own soul.
[Contemporary] “And we always comforted ourselves by actually thinking that we were doing God a favour when we attacked His own children….It is good for you to see this here, because you can go back. Please warn my disciples of their impending doom if they do not repent. Many of them are called to be kings here, but if they do not repent they will face the worse judgement of all – the judgement of the stumbling blocks. My humbling disease was grace from God. When I stood before the throne I asked the Lord to send such grace to my disciples. I cannot cross back over to them, but He has allowed me this time with you. Please forgive and release those who have attacked you. They really do not understand that they are doing the work of the Accuser.”
Rick Joyner – ‘The Final Quest’ p.108-9
A Word for Catholics
It is an unquestioned historical fact, that at the time of the Reformation (1517 >) there was widespread call for reform across the Laity, abuse of popular devotions and worldliness in the Catholic Church, indeed surely many of today’s Catholics would also have ‘protested’ and become ‘Protestants’ at that time. Those who actually ‘protested’ and eventually found themselves outside of the Catholic Church were left with few historical foundations to rely upon to find the ‘truth’ of the gospel, except ironically, the Catholic doctrine of the Divine inspiration of Scripture. This doctrine from 2 Timothy 3:16 stated that every word of ‘the Bible’ (which had been composed by the Catholic Church) is deliberate and inspired by God.
Without a central interpreting authority that they felt they could trust, Protestants were obliged to rely on ‘private interpretation’ of the Scriptures, even allowing themselves the liberty to leave out some books from the long established Bible canon. Obviously, this caused subsequent division amongst the Protestant Christians as one person disagreed with the interpretation of another and set up a yet another Church.
Recognising the 500 year faithful journey of integrity and division that the Protestant Christians have experienced in their pursuit of ‘truth’, Catholics must be loving and respectful of the different viewpoints of our separated brothers and sisters. God seems to have been working in the different fruit and development of different talents in the Christian Church in subtle ways as a result.
“15. The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian…. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them…. In all of Christ's disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ … Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may come about.”
(Lumen Gentium – Second Vatican Council 1964)
Timothy (2 Timothy 3:16) says that Scripture is good for correcting error and therefore the Protestant Churches through history have applied a critical protection of sorts to the Catholic Church from further corruption or excesses, at considerable cost to themselves.