The Leaven of the Pharisees
By J.R. Ensey
Reading recent Charismatic publications causes one to be amazed at the blatant hypocrisy spilling off the presses and dripping from the lips of compromising clergy. They are willing to lay aside virtually every doctrine wrested from the Roman Catholicism from the time of Martin Luther to Azusa Street. We are in a reformation in reverse. Their sell-out makes me declare that I have never been more confident as a Oneness believer, or more sure that our apostolic doctrine is on target.
Not long ago Charisma magazine ran a feature article by Keith Fournier, the Executive Director of the American Center For Law and Justice, entitled: “What Protestants Should Know About Catholics.” The article followed a report by Joe Maxwell on the reaction to a very controversial document entitled Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium (ECT), which was signed in the spring of 1994 by twenty evangelicals and twenty Catholic leaders. ECT was the brainchild of Chuck Colson and theologian R. J. Neuhaus, who envision it as a way to rally Catholics and Protestants around common beliefs and socio-moral concerns for the “common defense of the truth.” Others saw it as the same ol’ gal in a different dress: Catholicism’s siren call to the Protestant daughters to come “back home.” Both of the articles appeal to all evangelicals to “focus on what unites us as Christians, not what divides us”—a hackneyed cliché coined to circumvent biblical doctrines in favor of unity at all costs.
It has long been known that the Charismatic revival has been viewed as the bridge over the gap that separates Catholics and Protestants. If unity cannot be achieved by a common doctrine, then rally around an experience, say the ecumenists. Whatever it takes, some will not rest until there is either a re-unification or at least an acknowledgment that Catholics are true Christians and are not to be proselytized or evangelized. ECT bluntly says that it is not “theologically legitimate” to evangelize “active” Catholics. What justification is there to deny the full gospel to any who are yet without it?
Fournier stretches himself to defend Catholic doctrine and polity. He appeals to Protestants to believe that “the Catholic church is Christian.” He uses his lawyeresque language to persuade us to agree that “Catholicism does not embrace a false gospel,” that they “believe the Bible,” that they “do not worship Mary or the saints,” and that they “believe in the church’s unity.” Former Catholics know that such language is merely smoke and mirrors.
In a subsequent issue, ex-Catholic Omer F. Kuebel Jr. responded: “Keith Fournier...does not belong to the same Roman Catholic Church I belonged to for 50 years; or he does not hold to its teachings. His article was full of half-truths and distortions. Catholics do, in fact, worship Mary. Here in New Orleans we are now in what’s called “The Age of Mary,” and she is proclaimed as the “co-redeemer of the world. You cannot mix Christianity with Roman Catholicism: the Queen of Heaven and Mother of All Mankind stands between us. Until Mr. Fournier faces this reality, there is no chance of “unity” in Christ.” M. R. Marshall of LaGrand, OR agreed: “I too accepted the denial that Catholics worshiped Mary and the saints. But we knew that Mary was the “mediatrix of all grace,” contrary to “one mediator, the man Christ Jesus.”
But others, like John Hampsch of Los Angeles, denounced anyone who would point out errors of doctrine or practice, or take issues with the article’s assertions, as “bigots.” Jonathan Russell of Jackson, MS implores everyone to “stop fighting each other and fight the devil and his minions.” (Is opposing false doctrine and blatant heresy not fighting the devil? Jesus said the devil was the “father of lies.”) Russell points out that his Separatist forefathers “believed it was hopeless to try to purge Anglicanism of what they considered Roman Catholic heresy. But the Lord told me, ‘If I pour out my Holy Spirit on Roman Catholics the same as I have on you, then...where you vary on splitting doctrinal hairs is Pharisaism.’ I was severely repentant for my own prejudices against Roman Catholics and all other legitimate Christian denominations.” Earl Jackson agreed: “The baptism of the Holy Spirit is God’s seal of approval on his children. When I see Catholics receiving the Holy Spirit even as I received, I agree with Peter: Who am I to stand in God’s way?” Well, Mr. Jackson, when did contending for the faith amount to standing “in God’s way”? Perhaps you had better counsel with Jude and Jesus and see if you can get that commandment taken out of the Bible.
But neither sweet philosophy nor reports of subjective “voices from God” swayed Fred Kerr of West Columbia, SC: “Fournier’s article is fiction coated with idealistic, wishful thinking. I have been to Ireland as a summer missionary and have seen the depth of error personified—Mariology lives! I saw a large cross in front of a church in Dublin. Jesus hangs on one side, and on the other side is Mary.” Charles P. Schmitt of Silver Spring, MD adds: “The activities of the Catholic Church that I witnessed firsthand in Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, India and Germany were very far removed from the convictions that Fournier described. Mary and the saints are worshiped and adored—in some instances even above Jesus. And the Scriptures are not honored as the authoritative Word of God. Many of the practices that I saw were not only unscriptural but also pagan.”
An interesting comment was provided by former Catholic priest Marvin Sprouse: “My order broke with Rome in 1945. In I Timothy we are taught that a bishop should have ‘one wife,’ and that forbidding to marry is a perversion of God’s Word. After more than 1,000 years in which priests were allowed to marry, the pope not only demanded vows of celibacy, but also required married priests to divorce. The healing of the Roman Catholic Church will begin the day the pope proclaims papal infallibility was a bad idea and is no longer an official doctrine. Without a papacy to define doctrine, Roman Catholics could practice what Peter proclaimed in Acts: ‘We obey God and not man.’”
It is amazing that the Charismatic movement has raced to embrace Catholicism rather than wait for Catholicism to depart its heretical and pagan doctrines and practices. The late David du Plessis, who spearheaded the ecumenical effort for Pentecostals and Charismatics, was known worldwide as “Mr. Pentecost.” He accepted as truth the doctrine of papal infallibility. He was quoted by Moody Monthly: “God still honors the Pope as the head of the Church. Papal infallibility is exactly what God used to bring about renewal in the Catholic Church and that renewal is now shaking the world. If the Pope were not infallible, the curia would have vetoed his plans for Vatican II.” How can we even be tempted to align ourselves with men who embrace surch heresy?
If the argument flies back that we are not aligning ourselves with them, only “negotiating,” then the questions follow—“Is anyone giving ground? Them? Us? Is there interest being shown in movement toward apostolic truth?” As long as we demonstrate interest in bridging the gap between us and Catholicism, or us and the Charismatics, they are going to want us at the table. Someone will blink. Can you guess who it will be? Is history no teacher? Have we come to believe our own hype? Have we convinced ourselves that we are invincible?
Even if the Catholic church showed signs of relinquishing some of its outlandish and heretical practices in some parts of the world, would that signal to us that we should begin moving toward them by giving ground on some our doctrinal positions? Is it too difficult to realize what the goals of the charismatic and evangelical leaders really are? The more we play footsie with them, the more we are drawn toward their mission and involved in their affairs. Who is ever truly won to God through compromise? Who is winning whom? Evangelism, yes; fellowship and interaction, no. If we ignore history we are bound to repeat it!
Kenneth Kantzer, senior editor of Christianity Today, suggests that “we close ranks with our Catholic neighbors. And with Mormons, conservative Jews, and secularists who share our values.” Can you imagine Paul or Barnabas becoming entangled is such a diverse web? Kantzer goes on to say that “attempts to win ‘converts’ from Catholics undermines the Christian mission.” Such statements scream that the speaker does not truly believe his own message, certainly not in the sense of its absoluteness and essentiality. By contrast, the motto of the UPCI states the Christian’s mission in the simplest yet most profound manner: The Whole Gospel To The Whole World.
Charismatic leaders Stephen Strang and Vinson Synan have stated that the Holy Spirit is emphasizing reconciliation today. “The Holy Spirit is talking to the church about breaking down the walls and bringing warring groups together, such as Catholics and Protestants,” says Synan. Strang dismisses the great gap between Catholic and Protestant theology as merely “different styles, different subcultures and different paradigms.” They were pushing a great ecumenical congress held in Orlando, Florida where the “different streams” of Christianity were to meet to discuss ways of setting aside whatever comes between them so they may flow together. In an effort to reach out to and appease the Catholics, Charismatic J. Rodman Williams announced that “Protestants affirm their belief in the Catholic Church...Protestants affirm the importance of creeds and confessions... Protestants recognize the importance of priesthood...Protestants recognize Christ’s real presence in the Lord’s Supper...Protestants do not wish to proselytize Catholics...may God grant us grace to lay down hostility and prejudice.” Lay down hostility and prejudice, Dr. Williams, but not doctrine. A line in an old black-backed book reads, “Buy the truth and sell it not.”
All of this may be expected from those who are so deeply involved. But what is particularly burdensome is the hypocrisy of it all. While they are suggesting that doctrinal deviations be deemphasized in order to move toward reunification (the Reformation was “a big mistake”—Franky Schaeffer), they insist on writing us off as a “cult” because of a doctrinal difference. They block our efforts to accredit our colleges, keep us out of membership of certain organizations, and many refuse even to print our paid ads in their magazines. How can they stomach papal infallibility, Mariolatry, purgatory, and a hundred other heresies and refuse to sit at the same table with the true apostolics? Catholics, yes; Pentecostals, no! Where is the consistency in that? It reeks of discrimination, compromise, and the “leaven of the Pharisees.”
The contemporary Pharisees are not those who “hold fast to the form of sound words...sound doctrine...in faith and love” (II Timothy 1:13; Titus 1:9) but those who want to claim Christianity while embracing heresy and paganism with impunity. They look down from their ivory “holier than thou” towers upon the lowly Pentecostal army who are bloodied but unbowed, who still have the banner of truth unfurled, whose eyes are still fixed on the objective, and who still march to the beat of apostolic drums.
But those are unloving words. Oh? Did Jesus hate the Jews because He told them the truth about themselves, even calling them names like “vipers, wolves, or whited sepulchres”? Was He unloving because He exposed their hypocrisy and revealed their true motivations? Paul said some very straightforward things to the Galatians, then asked them: “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”
I personally know some of those whose names are mentioned above. I have acquaintances in many denominations. They are loved. They are deserving of certain respect, but when it comes to matters of faith and theology, we have to admit that they are deceived and are deceiving. They are not in truth but in error. That is not merely a subjective judgment or a personal opinion, but a plain statement based on the Word of God. If Acts 2:38 is not essential, then no verse in the Bible is essential. Either we believe it or we don’t. That someone does not believe it takes nothing away from their character, their morals or their ethics. Good men can be wrong theologically, and some bad men have been known to be correct doctrinally.
Whatever your position, don’t tag the faithful apostolic Pentecostals with the “Pharisee” handle! It doesn’t fit. It belongs to those who feel that they can take any course of action they so desire, as long as it seems like the “loving” thing to do (talk about subjective!). It best defines those who place themselves above reproof, who set aside the Word of God to keep their own traditions, who wrap themselves in robes of self-righteousness (“see how much we love”), and who are quick to condemn the true apostolics for being “too narrow, too rigid, too unrelenting.”
Truth is not to be bartered, bargained, or betrayed. It is not for sale. It is not negotiable. It is to be preached and practiced, loved and lived.
And held...with hands and hearts that never tire.