The Christian Research Institute, producers of radio's "Bible Answer Man" program, is still distributing offprints of Loraine Boettner's Roman Catholicism, the book that launched a thousand blunders. Several of our readers have sent us letters they've received from CRI staffers. CRI research assistant Michael Harris, for instance, answered one of our readers, who inquired about Marian apparitions, this way:
"The appearances of Mary in such places as Fatima, Lourdes, Guadalupe, Medjugorje, etc., may indeed have been actually miraculous in some instances, but they could not have been genuine appearances of the mother of Jesus. The fact is that the Bible forbids communication with the dead. . . . If any of the reported visions were real, then, they must have been produced by deceiving spirits."
(Question: How would Harris handle, say, the Transfiguration?)
More than a year ago CRI's staffers told us they wouldn't recommend Boettner's book. Maybe they don't "recommend" it any longer, but they do send inquirers photocopies of pages from it.
Franky Schaeffer, son of the late Francis Schaeffer, noted Evangelical writer, has joined the Antiochene Orthodox Church. He was asked about his interest in Catholicism and replied:
"I have a great interest in Catholicism, which did not begin theologically but practically. Being involved in the prolife movement and feeling embattled, you look for allies, and every time you turn around you're tripping over a nun or a priest. My interest in Catholicism came through contact in the prolife movement and through the arts. You can't walk into one magnificent church after another without starting to wonder what produced all this."
"The evangelizer is a servant of the truth about God, about man and his mysterious destiny, and about the world," said Pope John Paul II to Philippine bishops making their ad limina visits.
"He should not neglect to study this truth; he should serve it generously, without making it serve him. Above all, the evangelizer should be filled with love for those to whom he is sent: a love that consists in transmitting the genuine truth of the gospel and not doubts and uncertainties born of an erudition poorly assimilated."
Barbara White Stack, who writes for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, devoted a recent column to her status as an agnostic Sunday school teacher. She noted that she's "not too worried about my own kid joining a cult, though, because he's already begun to question God's judgment. . . ."
"There was a holiday pageant and the kids that I help teach [at her Unitarian Universalist church], called the primary class, sung not about the savior, but about saving your trash for recycling. To the tune of 'Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,' the song began: 'Hark, the primary children sing; Glory to the birds on wing. Peace on Earth, good will toward plants; Let's all save the elephants' . . .
"That's why I started taking my son to church, so someone could give him faith. Having lost mine, I had none to give."
"I was shocked, angered, saddened, and disillusioned to hear recently that two friends of mine--one a minister and the other an elder in the Presbyterian Church in America--had joined the Roman Catholic Church," wrote Joe Morecraft to his congregation in Dunwoody, Georgia.
"It grieved me to hear that they had abandoned the Bride of Christ and committed adultery with the 'whore of Babylon,' that they had left Christ and joined themselves with an Antichrist. You can imagine what this did to their congregation."
Morecraft continued with the usual confusions. We bring his missive to your attention not to refute his arguments--there's nothing new in them, and they've been handled more than once in these pages--but to point out that conversions to Catholicism are frequent enough to cause some folks to become irate, which may mean things are going the right way.
If someone from the Worldwide Church of God complains to you about "Catholic inventions," point out to him the changes his church is undergoing.
Some of the works of founder Herbert W. Armstrong are slowly being withdrawn from circulation. This includes his United States and Britain in Prophecy, which promotes his notion of British Israelism, the idea that the lost tribes of Israel landed in Great Britain. Also being withdrawn is Mystery of the Ages, which Armstrong considered his masterwork and which argues that there is no Trinity, but only two Persons in the Godhead.
The church Armstrong established is revising other beliefs. Women may now wear make-up, birthdays may be celebrated, and seeing a physician is no longer a sin.
Book sales in the U.S. totaled about $14.2 billion last year, with $1.7 billion of that being religious books and 15% of that figure being made up of New Age books, compared to 23% for Bibles, 20% for inspiration works, 11% for motivational books, and the rest for biographical, reference, scholarly, and miscellaneous titles.
Conclusion: Yes, the New Age movement is worth worrying about.
Tired of those new sins which now seem outmoded--you know, sexism, patriarchalism, ageism, and so on? Matthew Fox, O.P., has a replacement: "I call it Jesus-olatry. They concentrate so much on Jesus that they miss the cosmic Christ and the divinity within creation. And, what is even stranger, they even miss the message of the gospel." In other words, "Jesus-olatry" is the sin of worshiping the Creator instead of the creature.
"Was Jesus a Pagan?" asks Diana Haronis in New Moon Rising, a "Journal of Magick and Wicca." She claims "the life of Jesus personifies the very essence of pagan beliefs." How so? Here's how:
"In his teachings and his life, Jesus expressed the very highest principles of the Old Religion. He taught the oneness of all life, equality, and the fruitfulness of the spirit. His teachings and parables centered on nature and agriculture, as did pagan religions.
"As pagans saw it, Jesus practiced magick. His actions showed him to be a god of fertility and nature. He changed water into wine, healed the sick, manifested bread and wine from the ethers to feed the multitudes, brought forth the bounty of the sea, and exerted power over the elements. . .
"Since the days of this great master, churches have twisted much of what he taught to fit their various doctrines--or, worse, to justify bloody religious wars and persecutions. However, the pure teachings of Jesus Christ live on in the hearts of the enlightened, and many of the Old Religion continue to honor him in their own way."
Note the appeal to private enlightenment, the appeal to gnosticism (an ancient heresy to which most New Agers subscribe): Join us and learn the secret truth. No one else has it--we have the techniques to get it. If you stay outside of our group, you'll wallow in Christian misconceptions.
Lots of people are moving to Sedona, Arizona, once a quiet town, now the center of things avant garde. There you will find, among much else, Alphametrics, a company which produces the Genesis Crystal.
Ads in New Age magazines say the Genesis Crystal is "a vehicle for inner-plane transformation to activate your soul's desire. Sacred geometry, psychotronic engineering and quartz crystal are integrated in balanced beauty and power. This is evolutionary techology, with ancient roots, handcrafted for you."
A free subscription to This Rock goes to anyone who can translate that into English.
"My heart was burdened with several serious concerns about the future of Poland. The first and most serious is the threat of Catholic oppression. Poland is over 95% Catholic. There is a saying in Poland that 'to be Polish is to be Catholic.' . . . The Catholicism of Poland is a very pagan type. It focuses almost exclusively on the veneration of Mary. The average Pole knows nothing about the Bible. The danger is that Communist tyranny will be replaced by Catholic despotism."
So writes evangelist David R. Reagan in the newsletter of Lamb & Lion Ministries of McKinney, Texas. Surprisingly enough, there's a little truth in his screed. One line is entirely true: "The average Pole knows nothing about the Bible." The same can be said about the average Catholic anywhere, of course.
We think of Poland as a Catholic country, but our contacts there tell us it could easily become a secular one, indistinguishable from any Western European country, except poorer. Protestant evangelists such as Reagan (no relation to Ronnie) are making headway already. Will Poland end up like, say, Honduras, which is now one-third "Bible Christian"? Quite possibly--if something isn't done soon about teaching the faith.
We're in the early stages of making arrangements to have some of our tracts translated into Polish. Please pray we'll find a way to underwrite the distribution of hundreds of thousands of them in the Pope's country.
Work in this apostolate long enough and you too will gather a motley collection of, well, motleys--clippings, newsletters, brochures, ads, books, each stating a more bizarre position than the last.
Example No. 637: An "urgent news bulletin" from Dennis D'Amico of Prescott, Arizona, who complains that Pope John Paul II is agitating for an "army-supported world power."
After three pages of text demonstrating the Pope's plot, D'Amico comes to his conclusion: "John Paul II cannot possibly be a true pope. He is an imposter and a pretender to the Throne, as were the three 'popes' before him. We have not had a true pope in the Catholic Church since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958. . . . 'Sedevacantism' is the only logical position any true Catholic can hold in these days of the Great Apostasy."
D'Amico suggests the reader send away for his essays, especially "The Great Apostasy," which is "57 pages long. Hutton Gibson of Australia (editor of The War is Now! and father of Mel Gibson, the movie actor) liked the article, so he made up 1,000 copies in a condensed version and mailed it all over the world."
We've never met D'Amico (or either of the Gibsons, for that matter, though we've heard Gibson fils is sympathetic to his father's religious notions--if so, a curious position for a successful actor, since success in Hollywood seems often to require an outright rejection of all things traditional, not an embracing of an arch-traditionalist stance). If we do ever meet D'Amico and like-minded folks, we're not really sure what to say.
How do you deal with, well, fanatics? Some people are convinced there are Commies or capitalists under every bed. Others say everything's run by the Jews. And some say all Catholics, except for a tiny remnant (to which they happen to belong) have been hoodwinked.
D'Amico goes so far, for example, as to suggest the late Cardinal Siri was the real pope, but that authorities from B'nai B'rith were upset at his election and so forced the 1963 conclave to choose Giovanni Montini (Paul VI) instead.
How do you handle such notions? How do you handle people at the other end of the spectrum who think the Vatican aims "to keep women subservient," as though there is some gigantic plan to do in half the human race? What do you say to fanatics of the right or the left? Yes, you pray for them, but how can you get through to them? We're open to suggestions.
One more from Arizona: "The Believer's and Overcomer's Church Report publishes the documented facts about religious and political organizations that claim to be `Christian' such as the Religion of the Papacy. . . . Our publications are mainly directed at exposing the Papacy as it continues to spread propaganda around the globe that they are the one true religion from the Bible, thus deceiving many people."
Obituaries in Circle Network News, a New Age paper: "Edam, dearest black feline friend of his human companions, left for the Summerland and was received into the arms of Bast at dawn, December 1. The home he had lived in for 20 years burned down 10 days later. Edam's family, Donald, Annie, and Morgan Lindsay, are fine, rebuilding, and very impressed with the Goddess's exquisite timing."
"Shasta Moon, beautiful and full of courage, guardian, healer and spirit warrior, passed into the Shining Land November 29. Blessed and beloved, she sits, wise and powerful, at the right hand of the Goddess." [The obituary editor gives no clue regarding Shasta Moon's species.]