by Roger Oakland
For John Henry Cardinal Newman, his conversion to the Catholic Church took place after he began “meditating and reflecting” on the writings of the Catholic Church fathers. This same story can be repeated thousands and thousands of times now that we are in the 21st century.
Journeys Home edited by Marcus C. Grodi is a book that documents many of these conversions. In the introduction of the book, we read the following:
Many of these men and women came from Protestant faiths.… From an early age they had been taught all kinds of things about Catholics and their beliefs, sometimes horrifying, repulsive things, that made them wonder whether Catholics could be saved. Yet in each case, and in uniquely different ways, the Holy Spirit opened their hearts to realize that much of what they had been taught about the Catholic Church was never true.1
Sharon M. Mann, in a section of Journeys Home, provides personal testimony as one of many who have made the journey home to Rome. She testified that the church fathers played an important role in starting her on her journey to Catholicism. In her own words:
I started reading the early Church Fathers and realized that whatever they believed, they surely were not Protestant. Catholic themes peppered the landscape of Church history. I couldn’t deny it—nor could I accept it. Surely they were misguided! The Church was floundering in the first centuries and tons of crazy ideas were floating around—so I thought! When I began reading St. Augustine, however, I was stunned how Catholic he was.2
Like many others who have read the writings of Augustine and other Catholic Church fathers, Sharon wanted to know more about the Catholic tradition. She went to a chapel where Eucharistic adoration was under way, and like many others, she had an experience that changed her life. This is how Sharon described her encounter:
Finally, Saturday night, at the Eucharistic adoration, I saw 1000+ people kneeling on a hard, concrete floor giving adoration to the Sacrament. I found tears streaming down my face. I knelt, too, not knowing if this was real or whether the people were just crazy! But every time the Sacrament came near me, my throat tightened and I couldn’t swallow. I was being torn apart by my convictions. If the Lord was truly passing by, then I wanted to adore and worship Him, but if He wasn’t, I was afraid to be idolatrous. The weekend left a very powerful imprint on my heart, and I found myself running out of good arguments to stay Protestant. My heart was longing to be Catholic and be restored to the unity with all Christendom.3
The Eucharistic experience drew Sharon to Catholicism. Her journey began with an interest in the Catholic Church fathers and led her right into a Catholic conversion. The emerging church, through its emphasis on the teachings of the church fathers, based upon a foundation that ancient-future faith is the answer to reaching the postmodern generation, has the potential to open the same door that Sharon walked through. This ancient-future path of worship is leading possibly millions into the arms of Rome.
Do you recall what Paul prophesied would happen to the early Christian church? He stated:
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:28-30)
Paul actually warned the church that after he was gone, “grievous wolves” would enter the church and hurt believers. A look at church history validates Paul’s prophetic warning. He said it would happen, and then it happened. Numerous church leaders emerged during the first to the third centuries. Scriptural principles were ignored, and many followed the experiential teachings of men who claimed they had discovered new and innovative methods to get in touch with God.
The reason why this happened is simple. We know God’s Word is light. When we replace the Word of God with the words of man, which are considered to bring enlightenment, we have a perfect formula for returning to darkness. The early mystics added ideas to Christianity that cannot be found in the Bible—a recipe for spiritual detriment. Jude also warned about the coming apostasy in the early church:
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 4)
Many emerging church leaders are suggesting the need to study the ideas and beliefs of church leaders of the post-disciple era. They say if pastors and church leaders reintroduce these teachings from the past, we will have spiritual transformation and successful churches in the 21st century.
But wait a minute! If the church that emerged from the New Testament church was based on ideas and beliefs foreign to Scripture, why would we want to emulate a previous error? When doctrines of men replace the doctrine of Scripture, many are led astray. It has happened in the past, and it is happening now. Following doctrine not based on the Word of God always results in the undoing of faith. (from Faith Undone, ch. 5, pp. 77-80).
1. Marcus Grodi, Journeys Home (Goleta, CA: Queenship Publishing Company, 1997), p. xvi.
2. Ibid., p. 88.
3. Ibid. p. 89.
The related article below is also written by Roger Oakland:
How to Tell if Your Church is Becoming Emergent . . . Even If They Say It’s Not
by Roger Oakland
There are specific warning signs that are symptomatic that a church may be headed down the emergent/contemplative road. In some cases a pastor may not be aware that he is on this road nor understand where the road ends up.
Here are some of the warning signs:
Scripture is no longer the ultimate authority as the basis for the Christian faith.
The centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ is being replaced by humanistic methods promoting church growth and a social gospel.
More and more emphasis is being placed on building the kingdom of God now and less and less on the warnings of Scripture about the imminent return of Jesus Christ and a coming judgment in the future.
The teaching that Jesus Christ will rule and reign in a literal millennial period is considered unbiblical and heretical.
The teaching that the church has taken the place of Israel and Israel has no prophetic significance is often embraced.
The teaching that the Book of Revelation does not refer to the future, but instead has been already fulfilled in the past.
An experiential mystical form of Christianity begins to be promoted as a method to reach the postmodern generation.
Ideas are promoted teaching that Christianity needs to be reinvented in order to provide meaning for this generation.
The pastor may implement an idea called “ancient-future” or “vintage Christianity” claiming that in order to take the church forward, we need to go back in church history and find out what experiences were effective to get people to embrace Christianity.
While the authority of the Word of God is undermined, images and sensual experiences are promoted as the key to experiencing and knowing God.
These experiences include icons, candles, incense, liturgy, labyrinths, prayer stations, contemplative prayer, experiencing the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of the Eucharist.
There seems to be a strong emphasis on ecumenism indicating that a bridge is being established that leads in the direction of unity with the Roman Catholic Church.
Some evangelical Protestant leaders are saying that the Reformation went too far. They are reexamining the claims of the “church fathers” saying that communion is more than a symbol and that Jesus actually becomes present in the wafer at communion.
There will be a growing trend towards an ecumenical unity for the cause of world peace claiming the validity of other religions and that there are many ways to God.
Members of churches who question or resist the new changes that the pastor is implementing are reprimanded and usually asked to leave. Click here to read the remainder of article.
LTRP Note: In addition to the signs above, and as Roger points out in his book Faith Undone, if a church is incorporating the materials of Purpose Driven or/and Willow Creek, then they are putting themselves at risk of becoming emerging. Willow Creek and Rick Warren are two of the strongest advocates for emerging/contemplative spirituality.