Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"God Told Me".... The Potential Dangers of Charismatic Renewal


I am thankful for the devotion and fervor for God found in the charismatic movement but Christians need to be made aware of the potential for abuse and heresy that can occur.


I would never deny the role of the Holy Spirit in the Church today regarding gifts, miracles and other manifestations but have become keenly aware of the abuses that can occur when the "spirit" is given "free" reign outside of any boundaries. (I mean after all, Catholics have 2000 years of documented eucharistic miracles, incorruptible saints, levitation, bilocation and other completely outrageous charismatic goings on) Poor St. Joseph of Cupertino having to wear heavy chains around his ankles to keep from levitating while at prayer! I hate when that happens.

The following 6 "potential dangers of charismatic renewal" are taken from the blog Per Christum. I had personally experienced and/or witnessed all of the following "Dangers" and have touched on many of them in my post "My personal conversion story."

1. Illuminism - i.e. folks believe God is telling them something unique that nobody else knows. There is a need to feel "special" and if God isn't telling you something unique or even mildly provocative, your credibility as a leader/follower is called into question. In my parents Sunday school class when I was in college, there were about 5 people who always said "God told me to..." whether it was which car to buy or even to get up in the morning. Not only does this destroy the free will God created us with, but how can you argue with "God told me..."??

2. Paraclericalism - a downplaying of the role of clergy, or even suggesting there is no need for the Church hierarchy. I have seen this attitude even among charismatic clergy! There is such an emphasis on the experience of the individual, that any kind of formality or hierarchy is looked down upon. The result for some Catholics is to downplay the role of the Holy Spirit acting in the Church, because the Church and her rules seem too "formal," and the hierarchy too "stifling." This leads some charismatic Catholics to become cafeteria Catholics, believing only in what gets them spiritually "excited."

3. Charismania - attributing excessive significance to the charisms while downplaying other spiritual acts. I have seen this, not so much firsthand, but from the testimony of others. Speaking in tongues or prophecy become the litmus tests for true spirituality, while feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc, are downplayed or even ignored. In some churches, the more outrageous the "charismatic" event, the more the Holy Spirit is deemed present. Unfortunately, this means the Holy Spirit is never allowed to work in a dignified and quiet manner.

4. Neglect of Traditional Spirituality - i.e. past spiritual experiences are downplayed or not even studied because it is all about what "I" am experiencing "now." This can also be seen when the traditional liturgy is "suspended" when the Spirit leads to be replaced by often questionable pet projects of the pastor. There is also a hostility to formality, and to suggest that something should be done a proper way (such as clerical dress or properly executing an essential part of the liturgy) is viewed suspiciously.

5. Tyranny of the Prophetic - This means that the prophetic, in this case referring to the illuminism mentioned above, can trump anything. In other words, if there is an objection to what the pastor is doing, the pastor just reminds the objectors that he talked to Jesus and "God told him..." and that settles it. 2000 years of Tradition is forced to submit to the private revelation of one pastor.

6. Cult of Personality - I have to add this after reading the comments to the post. One commenter makes a good point in that in some charismatic churches, and even charismatic movements, a cult of personality can develop around the pastor or leader. Despite a general suspicion of traditional hierarchy and church order among some charismatics, the pastor, who has been given special prophetic knowledge, is often viewed idealistically. The result is that he can do whatever he wants without discipline or question, including taking huge sums of money from the congregation. Why? Well it goes back to number 5 above. He has spoken with God. That settles it!

For my non-Catholic readers, I need to make certain it is understood that I do not discount the move of the Holy Spirit in our Church or non-Catholic fellowships. But to sum up "The Holy Spirit operating in the individual will not contradict the Holy Spirit operating in Christ's Church."(from David B. on Per Christum)

2 Comments:

Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Stephen Francis has left a new comment on your post ""God Told Me".... The Potential Dangers of Charismatic Renewal":

As a cradle Catholic until age 15, then spending the next 20 years in charismatic circles, including 12 as an Assemblies of God minister, all I can say is AMEN BROTHER!!! I returned to the Church just over a year ago, and was determined when I came back that I would never give up the charismatic side of myself--and I haven't. BUT...

What I have found, however, in the miraculous liturgy of the true New Testament liturgy of the Mass, is something far more charismatic than anything I experienced in those years outside of the Church. Shortly after I returned to the Church I visited a "charismatic Mass", during which the priest actually stopped the liturgy just after the Consecration and, as he held up the Body and Blood of our risen Lord in the appearances of bread and wine, he and the entire congregation stopped and "prayed in tongues" over it! I am sure the intent was good, but I don't think Jesus needs us to pray over Him! A silent awe and holy bow before the true miracle of His Real Presence in the Eucharist would have been so much better, in my opinion. But it was missed that day.

I also have a sister, a Catholic charismatic for many years, and recently I visited her prayer group as well. There was no priest present, no mention of Mary or the saints, and at the end the leader exhorted all of us to "go and prophesy to everyone we met that week"--whether at work, home, or church--talk about the "God told me" syndrome! That scared me.

I still believe in speaking in tongues and use my "prayer language" in my private devotional times, but have no desire to join a charismatic prayer group, Catholic or otherwise. Give me a Rosary, and let me pray the Hail Mary as a background "prayer language" as I meditate on the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord. Even if I have no other words to pray, those will do just fine by me.

And give me the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist--nothing is more miraculous and "charismatic" than they are! I wonder how I ever missed that all these years.

November 12, 2006 12:15 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Stephen: Welcome Home Brother!!You and I are such kindred spirits!! (I didn't become a pastor though) but spent most of my time in charismatic circles.

Your comment:
"And give me the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist--nothing is more miraculous and "charismatic" than they are! I wonder how I ever missed that all these years." is so true, I feel that way exactly.
I am so encouraged to find other Catholics like yourself.
Folks need to hear stories like yours God bless !!

November 12, 2006 12:16 AM  

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