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.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

“Emerging Church Is Leading Protestants Back Home to Rome”

I found the above headline on a "independent evangelical" website that was warning people of the dangers of the “Emerging Church” movement. There have recently been some “cyber-rumblings” from folks who are concerned over the increasing number of Protestants returning Home to Rome,
“a reversal of the Reformation” as it was phrased.
The website stated:

“The experiential attractions which are being promoted by the Emerging Church include: statues, prayer stations, incense, liturgy, candles, icons, the sacraments and calling communion the Eucharist.”

That doesn’t sound so sinister to me, and as a matter of fact, I have been encouraged by the Emerging church movement because it tells me that many evangelicals are sensing the void left by the de-sacramentalization of their churches and the iconoclastic revisions of the Reformation. I admire the Emerging church folks because of their willingness to pursue truth, even if it smells and looks like the "practice of the papists." I have blogged on this before but my interest was piqued again when I found that some protestants are fearing this will lead to wholesale Mass conversions. (pun intended) So let's look at this list of “experiential attractions” the Emergents are starting to embrace, one by one:

1.Statues/Icons - I better look up the definition of that just to be sure we are all talking about the same issues here. Definition of Icon : “a sign or representation that stands for its object by virtue of a resemblance or analogy to it.” What could be wrong with icons?
So a statue of Jesus in the early church or a mosaic symbol of the cross was used to bring the worshippers hearts to God, not to worship the object since that is clearly a breaking of God’s commandment. Icons used in the early church and current Catholic and Orthodox Churches are used as a means to draw our hearts heavenwards. The Jews had many icons in their temple worship including seraphim and cherubim decorating the ark of the covenant. Did the Jews worship these images? No for heavensakes! They were used to draw the worshippers hearts heavenward by using their senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch.

2.Prayer Stations - I don’t know about you but any place set aside for us to quiet our hearts and come to the Lord can’t be bad. In the Old Testament, the Jews made “ebenezers”, a pile of rocks to commemorate an event that God performed for them at a certain place of time and history. I suspect that when they came upon an ebenezer, they prayed, kind of like a “prayer station.” Some fundamentalist churches have people come up to the altar and pray in a ritual called an “altar call.” Maybe that's similar to a prayer station, but since non-Catholic churches don't believe in the sacrifice of the Mass, I suspect this is a holdover term not fully rooted out after the Reformation. We Catholics have prayer stations going back many centuries to a practice called the Stations of the Cross. During Lent, all Catholics retrace the steps of Jesus as he was accused,beaten and died for us on the Cross for our redemption. It is a beautiful meditation and prayer as we draw close to Him with repentant hearts. Sometimes my wife and I pray the stations at other times of the year as well because we always come away with a deeper sense of gratitude to our Lord for what He endured for our salvation.

3. Incense- My reading of early church history tells me that plenty of incense was used in early times and its use can probably be traced as early as the fourth century. I suspect, that before then, most of the time Christianity was outlawed so their use of incense would not have been a good idea if they were meeting in secret to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass (and not get caught!)

The Jewish people in the Old Testament used incense to represent the prayers of the people before God and the Revelations of John in the New Testament makes mention of its use in the context of heavenly worship several times. So clearly its use on both heaven and earth found in Scripture would make one realize it’s ok to use it as a part of a worship service, particularly if we take a “Bible Only” approach to these things.

4. Liturgy- The early church used a liturgy very much based on the Jewish temple’s order of service including scripture readings with a homily. The difference of course is that the New Testament service culminated in the sacrifice of the Mass, the Eucharist, the “breaking of the bread” as the early church called it. If you want to read an early liturgy, see how Justin Martyr from the 2nd Century described a gathering of believers. He described a sacrifice, and he wasn’t referring to the blood of bulls or goats! St. Paul's description in 1 Corinthians is also very telling when he describes the Lord's Supper and the dire consequences of wrongly "discerning the Body of Christ."

5.Candles- Yes, there were candles in the early church too! The most likely reason was that there was no electricity for about 1900 years and I suspect quite a few Lutherans and Calvinists used them too! (until Thomas A. Edison had his way.) But truthfully, the fact is Catholics still use candles to help us remember that Jesus is the Light of the World! Not scary, spooky or even Satanic, just using the stuff of earth to remind us of the things of Heaven.

6. The Sacraments and calling communion the Eucharist. As mentioned repeatedly in my blogs and the historical writings of the Church, Christians have always believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the Baptism for the forgiveness of sins as stated in the Nicene Creed (325 AD) . The “symbolization” of communion and baptism was unknown before the Reformation, except for a few short-lived heretical cults.

If these "experiential attractions," as our independent evangelical brother calls them, can bring the “Emerging church” folks closer to Jesus, God bless them and I encourage them to "stay the course." Since the use of candles, incense, icons, and a liturgy have been used for 2000 years continuously in Christ's Church, the "Emergents" are not in bad company when they start using them again. Catholics have been using the “stuff of earth” such as water, wine, and wheat given to them in the Sacraments of the Church to bring them to a fuller and more complete knowledge and experience of Jesus Christ. Actually, the Emerging church folks are not pioneers of a new phenomenon nor inventors and practitioners of new age philosophies. They are re-discovering the ancient practices that God has always used to bring His people closer to Him. We humans need to relate to God the way Jesus showed us: water of life (baptism) and bread from heaven (The Eucharist) I am sorry if it offends the sensibilities, but it’s the ancient way of the Creator who knows what’s best for His creation.

Now if only they could see the need for a Magisterium......


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too have been following the EC movement and thought that it was leading to Catholicism. The folks at Slice of Laodecia also believe and are attacking the EC movement as apostate and basically treating the EC movement like they treat Catholics.

Coupled with the dwindling Reformation churches, it seems the Christian world is on a path to rendvous with Rome in 100-200 years (5-6 generations).

It would be interesting to be here at that time to see what happens with Islam, the ancient Catholic heresy (source: Hillaire Belloc, The Great Heresies).

- Timothy

September 20, 2006 9:37 PM  
Blogger Joyful Catholics said...

Amen! God became flesh. Jesus humbled himself, stripped himself of his glory, and was knit together in the womb of a woman HE had created! HE became the "stuff of life!" He became one of us! I for one, am overwhelmed and completely elated that the Catholic Church uses the "stuff of life" wine, wheat, candles, icons, statues, art, incense to signify the greater Graces that are invisible to our eyes. Using these things, we can be united in our total humanity, our senses can enjoy the "unseen" grace that's being lavished on us during Mass and Adoration and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. I loved Keith Green, Phil Keaggy and Honeytree. Saw them all in person, except Keith, but went to his Memorial concert at our Assembly of God fellowship in Grand Island, NE. in 1982. I do pray for his soul. I belive he did love the Lord very much, but unfortunately, his Anti-Catholic tracts were what really got me to veer off our Catholic path at a more accelerated speed. That "crazy missing part" indeed! "Late have I loved Thee." St Augustine. Me too, St Augustine. Pray for us, for our family, and for all who've left Holy Mother Church for "fast food" and "great tunes"..... all the while, grieving their Mother, and the Holy Spirit. Thank you for your blog, T.J.
May the Emerging Church RISE AND EMERGE FULLY and let your light SHINE among us! May all who seek other paths take a glance back and find the Light burning bright in the WINDOW of St Peter's and COME BACK HOME!

September 22, 2006 4:56 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

This is very encouraging. I didn't know about this movement...

October 25, 2007 11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

whooooaaa! settle down there 'Joyful Catholics'. You seem to be promoting your own 'Catholic' agenda. Please, we must promote Christ before we promote ourselves. Do not forget that. I am also Catholic but I am more excited that the post-modern generation finally is being offered something by Protestants that Catholics, while having many of the emerging elements, just are not offering (very well at least). So before you praise God for that 'light in the window of Saint Peter's', remember that it is only through CHRIST and His Love that we are bound together as Christians not by an institution. I believe if one has found Christ... would he or she not be home already? Throw your agenda in the back seat and let Christ take over. If you cannot experience Church in the broadest and truest sense then you will find it difficult to have a true and lasting experience of God. As a former member in the assembly, I would hope you of all people could understand that.
-a priest-

June 14, 2008 4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see that the Eastern Orthodox church is rarely mentioned in this topic. Roman Catholicism and Ortodoxy are not the same although those of Protestant tradition often make that mistake. Orthodoxy and RC often interpret the Early church fathers differently, have a different view of the priesthood, the sacraments, the nature of sin,and the use of icons among many other things.

January 16, 2009 9:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This discussion would benefit from a look at the Eastern Orthodox Church which may look like the RCs on the surface but in fact is very different in it's understanding of the early church fathers, the sacraments, the role of the priest, icons, the nature of sin, the incarnation, redemption and much more.

January 16, 2009 9:38 PM  

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