More and more Protestants are testifying they are being drawn to the Catholic Church, especially through the Eucharist. Some say they have encountered the presence of Christ in a new and exciting way. One such person is Presbyterian pastor Steven Muse. Muse is one of the contributing authors of Mary the Mother of All: Protestant Perspectives and Experiences of Medjugorje.
According to Muse, his visit to Medjugorje was life changing, especially after he encountered the Eucharistic Christ. He states:
The fact remains that never before or since in my life have I had such an encounter with Christ in the Eucharist. I believe this is because I never received the bread and the wine as the Body and Blood of Christ, so what I loved in my heart and believed with my mind were never experienced as real in the here and now of my bodily presence as I encountered him again and again for the entire week. Sometimes this happened twice a day as I received Communion both in the morning at English Mass, and again in the evening at the Croatian Mass, where I did not even understand what they were saying or singing but only prayed the rosary in my own language with the others as if I had been saying “Hail Marys” all my life. What was true was that Father, Son and Holy Spirit were real. And Mary was real.1
While Muse testifies of a real encounter with Christ and then Mary while visiting Medjugorje, Protestant evangelist Benny Hinn made a prediction that Christ will be showing up on stage at his crusades. On March 29, 2000, Hinn made the following statement on his television program:
The Holy Spirit has spoken, He told me He is about to show up. Oh, I gotta tell you this just before we go. I had a word of prophecy from Ruth Heflin, you know who Ruth Heflin is? Ruth prophesied over me back in the seventies. Everything she said has happened. She just sent me a word through my wife and said: The Lord spoke to her audibly and said, that He is going to appear physically in one of our crusades in the next few months. Yeah, She … I’m telling ya she said, the Lord spoke to her audibly and said, tell Benny I’m going to appear physically on the platform in his meetings. Lord, do it in Phoenix, Arizona in the name of Jesus! And in Kenya too, Lord, please, Lord, in fact, do it in every crusade in Jesus’ name.2
For those who have followed the ministry of Benny Hinn, the previous statement should come as no great surprise. Hinn had previously claimed that Jesus materialized to him during a Catholic Mass while he was participating in Communion at a Catholic Church in Amarillo, Texas. Speaking with Paul Crouch on a Trinity Broadcasting Network “Praise the Lord Program” on December 24, 1997, Hinn described this experience:
The next thing I was feeling was actually the form of a body, the shape of a body. And my body … went totally numb.… And God really gave me a revelation that night, that when we partake communion, it’s not just communion, Paul [Crouch]. We are partaking Christ Jesus himself. He did not say, “Take, eat, this represents my body.” He said, “This is my body, broken for you…” When you partake communion, you’re partaking Christ, and that heals your body. When you partake Jesus how can you stay weak? … sick? … And so tonight, as we partake communion, we’re not partaking bread. We’re partaking what He said we would be partaking of: “This is my body.”3
While Benny Hinn would not be considered a Catholic by his followers, the previous statement indicates he has been influenced by the Catholic teaching of the Eucharistic Christ. Hinn’s ministry has had a powerful influence on people all over the world. It will be interesting to see if his acceptance of transubstantiation and the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist will become more and more apparent.
It should be noted, however, that the Catholic Church does not teach that transubstantiation occurs when a Protestant minister does a communion service. On the contrary, the official teaching is that only a Catholic priest has the power to perform this transformation of the bread and wine. So, in Benny Hinn’s case, he cannot perform the sacrament of the Eucharist even if he believes he is doing so. This places Hinn in an incredibly stalemated position, because if our position is correct, then he is in error to believe in transubstantiation; but if he is right about transubstantiation, then he is wrong according to Catholic teaching to think he can perform it. And even if he were to become Catholic, he still could not perform the Eucharist because only the celibate can become priests.
Peter Kreeft’s Catholic Conversion
Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., a professor of philosophy at Boston College and a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences and is the author of over forty books dealing with spirituality, apologetics and philosophy.4 Kreeft, once a Dutch Reformed Protestant, converted to Catholicism and is considered by many to be a leader in the area of Christian apologetics, even by Protestants. One of Kreeft’s books is Ecumenical Jihad. The back cover of this book lists a number of endorsements by well-known evangelical leaders. For example:
Peter Kreeft is one of the premier apologists in America today, witty, incisive and powerful. On the front lines in today’s culture war, Kreeft is one of our most valiant intellectual warriors.5
This racy little book opens up a far-reaching theme. With entertaining insight Kreeft looks into the attitudes, alliances and strategies that today’s state of affairs requires of believers. Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox alike need to ponder Peter Kreeft’s vision of things—preferably in discussion together. What if he is right?6—J. I. Packer
To understand Kreeft’s spiritual journey, it is helpful to examine a number of testimonial statements he made in Ecumenical Jihad. Regarding the role that the Eucharist played in his conversion to Catholicism, he writes:
In my pilgrimage from Dutch Reformed Calvinism to Roman Catholicism, the one Catholic dogma that most drew me in was the Eucharist.7
Now, as a strong promoter of the Catholic Church, Kreeft believes the teaching of transubstantiation and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist has potential for winning other Protestants back to the Mother of All Churches. Although he recognizes the Catholic Church’s view on the Sacrament of the Eucharist was instrumental in bringing about division between Protestants and Catholics in the past, he believes the Eucharist has the potential to now be an evangelistic tool in bringing back the separated brethren to Catholicism. As he states in his book:
No Catholic dogma is so distinctive and so apparently anti-ecumenical as the dogma of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Yet this dogma may be the greatest cause of ecumenism and eventual reunion.7
Predicting that future ecumenism will be fostered by the very factors that once brought about division, Kreeft continues:
I found that this doctrine, which seemed to repel and divide, at the same time attracted and united. The same with Mary: she—who is a point of division between Catholics and Protestants—she may bring the churches together again and heal the tears in her Son’s visible body on earth, she, the very one who seems to divide Catholics from Protestants. The most distinctive Catholic doctrines, especially those concerning the Eucharist and Mary, may prove to be the most unifying and attracting ones.9
Kreeft expresses his heartfelt concern for those Protestants who still refuse to accept the Catholic teaching of the Real Presence of Christ in a wafer. He writes:
When I think how much my Protestant brothers and sisters are missing in not having Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist; when I kneel before the Eucharist and realize I am as truly in Christ’s presence as the apostles were but that my Protestant brothers and sisters don’t know that, don’t believe that—I at first feel a terrible gap between myself and them. What a tremendous thing they are missing!10
As there is even now a move by many Protestant/evangelicals toward Catholicism and the Eucharistic adoration, Kreeft’s longing to see them enter in may be fulfilled.
There are countless other testimonies like Kreeft’s who have had an encounter with the Eucharistic Christ. The New Evangelization program presently underway is definitely showing signs of success. Numerous other testimonies could be presented that confirm a mystical addictive spiritual power that seems to be drawing people to the Eucharistic Christ.
In almost every recorded conversion account, there exists a common denominator. Each person who has converted to the Catholic Church has done so based on profound, powerful, and often gratifying experiences. These people were first drawn by a feeling that they were missing some deeper spiritual encounter, while the Eucharistic experience brought a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.
An experience-based Christianity focused on signs and wonders associated with the Eucharistic Christ is clearly influencing many Protestants and evangelicals.
1. Sharon E. Cheston, Mary the Mother of All: Protestant Perspectives and Experiences of Medjugorje (Chicago, IL: Loyola University Press, 1994), section written by Steven Muse, p. 57, emphasis in the original.
2. Benny Hinn with Steve Brock, This is Your Day (700 Club Studios, Virginia Beach, VA, March 29, 2000), television broadcast.
3. Praise The Lord Show (Trinity Broadcasting Network, December 27, 1994).
4. See http://www.peterkreeft.com/about.htm.
5. Peter Kreeft, Ecumenical Jihad ( San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1996), back cover, endorsement by Chuck Colson
6. Ibid., endorsement by J. I. Packer.
7. Ibid., p. 145.
9. Ibid., p. 158.
10. Ibid., p. 159.
To read about more Protestant conversions to Catholicism, read Another Jesus by Roger Oakland.