“[F]alse christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”
– Matthew 24:24, ESV
A masquerading spirit has invaded the Church.
It first appeared as the Virgin Mary to the Catholic Church, where it opened the door to doctrines through which this spirit assumed the roles of both Holy Spirit and Christ, and then it put itself into a position where it would intercept the Catholics’ prayers by placing itself in the Christ’s rightful place as intercessor in heaven.
It later came as an imitation of the Holy Spirit to the Protestant Church, where it introduced New Age mysticism and experientialism which usurped the centrality and truth of the Gospel.
Now, it has introduced a kind of ecumenicism between the Catholic and Protestant churches in its manifestations of spiritual signs and wonders, and it awaits the Pope’s declaration of the fifth Marian dogma so that it can be fully unleashed upon the earth.
This spirit is uniquely dangerous. It has infiltrated the holiest places and taken on the holiest of names. It has blurred the lines between mysticism, occult practices, and Christianity.
In this article, first, we will uncover this spirit’s ever-increasing pervasion of Christianity throughout the church’s history; second, we will examine and refute the lies through which this spirit has invaded the Christian church; and third, we will discuss the logical conclusions of our findings.
The Great Divide
In the sixteenth century, the Protestant Reformation, led by such men as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and William Tyndale, split the Christian church open from within. Appalled by the greed, idolatry, and corruption running rampant within the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, these men sought to reform the church from within, but their pleas for reform went unanswered, and they were ultimately accused of heresy and then excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. Out of this schism was born the Protestant Church.
Central to the Reformers’ concerns about pagan practices and idolatry within the Roman Catholic Church was the church’s encouragement of the laity’s ongoing practice of the veneration of Mary, Jesus Christ’s mother. Many of these practices, such as saying repetitive prayers to Mary, bowing to statues of her, and pleading for her protection, were derived from instructions provided to the laity via ghostly appearances termed “Marian Apparitions” (source). The Reformers condemned these practices as unbiblical.
Warning Christians not to pray to Mary, John Calvin wrote, “It is not for us to appoint advocates in paradise, but for God, who has ordained Jesus Christ a single one for all” (source).
Martin Luther, battling the Catholic view of Mary as Mediatrix, declared, “[O]nly of Christ is it said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’; not of Mary!” (source, emphasis added).
The first documented Marian apparition was to Gregory the Wonderworker in the year 231 (source). Gregory, raised in a wealthy pagan family, converted to Christianity and donated his riches to the poor. He was well-known for performing miracles, which led to his being given the nickname “Wonderworker.” Gregory became a disciple of the theologian Origen.
Origen, who lived from 185 to 253, studied the Gospel of James (not to be confused with the Epistle of James), an apocryphal work which claimed to be authored by one of Jesus’ brothers. It was marked as inauthentic by church councils, and was later condemned by both Pope Innocent I and the Gelasian Decree due to its fantastic stories and contradictions with the rest of the Gospel accounts (source). The Gospel of James was likely a production of a heretical Gnostic sect called the Encratites, who believed that sexual activity – even within marriage – was sin, as was eating meat (source). They rejected the teachings of the Apostle Paul, likely because it was them that Paul was warning about in his first letter to Timothy when he told Timothy to beware those who “forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods” (1 Timothy 4:3a, NIV).
In the Gospel of James, the writer claimed that Mary had been born without sin, that she had made a vow of chastity before her marriage to Joseph, that the brothers of Jesus referred to in the canonical Gospels were actually children of Joseph from a previous marriage, and that Mary remained a virgin until her death.
Gregory, likely having been exposed by his mentor, Origen, to this material, was inspired to write his “Homily Concerning the Mother of God” after seeing an apparition of Mary, in which she accompanied the Apostle John into Gregory’s room. During this vision John, at Mary’s command, told Gregory the secrets of the doctrine of the Trinity, which the church later excitedly affirmed.
In his “Homily Concerning the Mother of God,” Gregory wrote of Mary’s sinlessness, calling her pure in both body and soul, and he wrote that upon the angel Gabriel’s announcement that Mary would bear a Son, her response to the angel was, “‘I desire to remain a virgin. I wish not to betray the honour of my virginity’” (source), both of which were doctrines taught by the writer of the apocryphal Gospel of James.
Because of the magisterium’s recognition of Gregory’s excellent exposition of complicated Trinitarian doctrine, Gregory’s doctrines of Mary’s sinlessness and perpetual virginity were also incorporated into the Church’s teachings, despite the Church’s condemnation of the original source of those doctrines.
Mary’s appearance to Gregory was not an isolated incident. Throughout church history, thousands of people claim to have seen Mary come to them in various forms. Sometimes, she appears as a glowing woman in the sky; other times, she stands as a lady in white. Some people report seeing her in a blue dress; others, when bowing to a statue of Mary, say that they’ve seen the statue weeping – sometimes tears, sometimes blood. Often, Marian apparitions are reported to bring messages (such as an impending judgement) or commands (such as asking that a shrine be built, or that specific prayers are prayed to her).
Of the many thousands of claims of visions of Mary, the Catholic Church has only officially approved a total of twenty-six apparitions total (source). The Catholic Church’s official position on Marian apparitions is that they are a kind of private revelation; nothing new can be learned from them, and if something is taught by the apparition that goes beyond the teachings of the Scriptures and the Church, it is to be condemned (source). In reality, however, many Catholics have used the words of apparitions to promote teachings that not only exceed Scriptural teachings, but which even contradict them. We will investigate some examples.
Bowing to Stones
In the Bible, God gave ten commandments to Moses. The second of these commandments, which is found in both Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, says, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Deuteronomy 5:8, NRSV). Why, then, did Pope Pius XI say that “families […] must […] gather after the day’s work, within the domestic walls, and recite the Holy Rosary on bended knees before the image of the Virgin” (source)?
When Catholic apologists are asked about this blatant contradiction, they are quick to explain, “God clearly didn’t mean that we should never make images of anything; after all, he decreed that statues of cherubim should adorn the Ark of the Covenant, and he told Moses to put the likeness of a serpent on a pole! And anyway, we don’t worship statues of Mary; we just bow to her as a sign of respect. Saying that we can’t make statues of holy things is taking the Scripture out of context” (example).
There’s just one problem. They’ve conveniently forgotten to address the second part of the second commandment. God’s second commandment to us is, in its entirety, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (Deuteronomy 5:8-9a, NRSV, emphasis added). So yes, we can make beautiful artwork in the likenesses of things in heaven, or on earth, or under the earth – but we may not bow to them.
God the Father appointed His Son, Jesus Christ, to be incarnated and to die on behalf of those whom God called to salvation (John 6:44) so that they could share in eternal life with Him. On the third day after His death, Jesus Christ was raised from the dead; He appeared to many of His followers, and then ascended to Heaven, where He sits at the Father’s right hand and intercedes for Christians. After His ascension to heaven, the Holy Spirit was given to Christians (Acts 2) as Christ promised during His earthly ministry (John 15:26).
According to the Scriptures, we have one advocate in Heaven, and one advocate on Earth. The Apostle John wrote that “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1b, ESV), and that Jesus promised to ask God to “give [us] another advocate to help [us] and be with [us] forever” (John 14:15-16, ESV), the Holy Spirit. Further clarifying Christ’s role as our only mediator, the author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25, NET); Paul wrote that “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5, ESV).
Interestingly, the Marian hymn “Hail Holy Queen,” which is recited at the end of the Rosary prayers (source), includes the following lines addressed to Mary, Jesus’ mother: “O, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, / […] To thee do we send up our sighs, / Mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. / Turn then, most gracious advocate, / Thine eyes of mercy toward us” (source).
If we have one advocate in Heaven, Jesus; and we have one advocate here with us on earth, the Holy Spirit; why would this title be bestowed upon Mary? Unfortunately, this usurpation of titles is neither an accident nor an exception.
Before addressing the next Marian violation of Scriptural teaching, we must establish three facts: First, that only God is to be worshipped; second, that only God is sovereign; third, that only God is sinless.
When Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness, Jesus said, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10, ESV). The Prophet Samuel commanded that his listeners “direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only” (1 Samuel 7:3, ESV). And in John’s apocalyptic book of Revelation, John said that he “fell down to worship at the feet of [an] angel, […] but [the angel] said to [him], ‘You must not do that! […] Worship God’” (Revelation 22:8-9, ESV).
It is plain, then, that our worship is only to be directed to the Lord God.
We know that in heaven, only God is sovereign. Throughout the Scriptures, the word is used both as God’s title and as an adjective. In John’s book of Revelation, the martyrs cried out to God, calling Him “Sovereign Lord, holy and true” (Revelation 6:10, NRSV); the Apostle Paul calls God “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15, ESV, emphasis added); after the apostles were released from prison, the believers prayed to God, calling Him the “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them” (Acts 4:24b, NRSV); King David’s Psalm 8, sung throughout the ages by Jew and Christian alike, begins by addressing God as “O Lord, our Sovereign” (Psalm 8:1, NRSV); and the Prophet Isaiah repeatedly referred to God as “the Sovereign” or “your Sovereign, the Lord” (Isaiah 1:24, 3:1, 10:16, 10:33, 19:4, and 51:22, NRSV).
By definition, if anything were more powerful than God in any way, we could not call God sovereign; since God is sovereign, nobody else can be.
Finally, let us establish from Scripture that only God is without sin. The Prophet Isaiah tells us that “[w]e all, like sheep, have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6, NIV). King David sang that “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3, NASB), and Paul references this psalm in his epistle to the Romans church when he affirms that “[n]one is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10, ESV). King Solomon tells us that “there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20, ESV).
We’ve thus established that only God is worthy of our worship; we see that only God is sovereign; we are told that no man is sinless.
In their morning prayers, called Lauds, Catholics pray the “Star of the Morning” to Mary. In it, they say, “Sinners, we worship thy sinless perfection; / Fallen and weak, for thy pity we plead: / Grant us the shield of thy sov’reign protection, / Measure thine aid by the depth of our need ” (source). The hymn, in and of itself, is beautiful. Were it directed to God, it would be truly wonderful. But it is directed not at God, but at one created by Him.
What is happening here? In officially-sanctioned hymns and prayers, Catholics are putting Mary into the place of the three persons of the Blessed Trinity: they call Mary their “advocate,” ask her to shield them with her “sov’reign protection,” and give her “worship” her for her “sinless perfection” – and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
There are many Catholics who hold conservative Marian views. They accept the Catholic Church’s teachings about the four Marian dogmas, and their focus is truly on God. But there are other Catholics whose devotion to Mary supersedes all else.
From the website Catholic Tradition (source), here are a several quotes which reflect the theological bent of these Marian devotees:
“We had closed Paradise; you, O Mary, opened the entryway to the tree of life again . . . You are the bridge to life, the staircase to Heaven!” – St. John Damascene
“Mary is our salvation, our life, our hope, our counsel, our refuge, our help.” – Ven. Bernadine de Bustis
“All men: past, present, and to come, should look upon Mary as the means and negotiator of the salvation of all ages.” – St. Bernard
“[D]evotion to Our Most Blessed Virgin is necessary for salvation[.]” – St. Louis Marie de Montfort
“O Mary, we poor sinners know no other refuge but thee, for thou art our only hope, and on thee do we rely for our salvation.” – St. Thomas of Villanova
“Sinners receive pardon by the intercession of Mary alone.” – St. John Chrysostom
“Mary desired, sought, and obtained the salvation of everyone; nay, she even effected the salvation of everyone!” – St. Alphonsus Maria Luguori
“[Mary] is the mediator between us and Christ, just as Christ is the mediator between us and God.” – St. Bonaventure
“God will not save us without the intercession of Mary.” – St. Bonaventure
“[T]he Holy Virgin is the doorkeeper of Heaven.” – St. John Mary Vianney
“Our salvation rests in thy hands, O Mary!” – St. Bernadine of Siena
“No one comes to the knowledge of Jesus Christ and embraces His holy law except through [Mary]; no one obtains the saving gift of faith except by her prayers.” – St. Peter Julian Eymard
“[Mary] infallibly saves the one who honors her.” – St. Sharbel Makhlouf
“Holy Scripture was written for Mary, about Mary, and on account of Mary.” – St. Bernard
It is beyond the scope of this paper to systematically refute all of the heresies contained within those quotes; however, I hope that it is clear by this point that there is a society within the Catholic church which attributes the deeds and titles of God – especially those of the God the Son and God the Holy Spirit – to Mary.
Of course, it isn’t only Protestants who recognize the problems with the above quotes.
On the user forums at Catholic Answers (www.catholic.com), user curlycool89 started a thread about one of these quotes, saying, “I saw this quote on Facebook earlier today. ‘No one can enter Heaven unless by Mary, as through a door.’ – St. Bonaventure […] “I’d like to hear what people’s thoughts are on that quote” (source).
The first person to respond said, “It makes me cringe a little. I love our Blessed Mother, but this quote doesn’t seem right” (source).
Others agreed, saying that the quote contradicted Christ’s claim in John 14:6: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (NIV).
But then, something disturbing began to happen. New people joined in on the conversation. They actually began to defend the original quote. hoop0826 said, “A book entitled True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort, which explains the necessity of devotion to Mary, is widely available. […I]n answer to the topic of this thread – […] it is [true] that the graces needed to get to Heaven are only available to us by Mary” (source).
Anna_Gregorach declared, “[T]he only way to get to the Son is through His beloved Mother. You cannot come to fully know Our Lord Jesus but through Mary” (source).
User JM3 simply asked, “Why are you so opposed to Our Lady?” (source).
Eventually, the thread filled with users defending the original quote. Those few who tried to explain why it is wrong to call Mary the only door to heaven were accused of “watering down our faith and traditions” (source), being influenced by “‘Jesus and me’ Protestantism” (source), and not “fully accepting Jesus” (source).
A similar sequence of events unfolded in another thread titled, “Only You, O Mary” (source), in which user GeorgeSword wrote that he’d seen a quote from Pope Leo XIII which said, “[N]o one goes to Christ except through His mother. […N]o one, O Mother of God, attains salvation except through thee!” (source). He was concerned about the content of the quote and questioned its legitimacy.
The first user to respond echoed GeorgeSword’s concern, saying, “It certainly is not dogma. […I]t is the opinion of a pope but not to be believed or accepted by the Church” (source).
But other users quickly jumped online and began defending the quote. User Eucharisted said, “Yes it is dogma” (source).
Marian_Devotee recommended reading St. Louis De Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary, then quoted Alan de Rupe, saying that “’negligence in saying the Hail Mary […] is a probable and proximate sign of eternal damnation’” (source).
Apparitions at Lipa and Fatima
It is not only social media sites and online message boards that the Marian devotees have infiltrated. Some have even found their way to power within the Catholic Church. In the Philippines, Archbishop Ramon Arguelles defied Pope Pius XII, the Bishops’ Conference, and the Holy See by officially approving a series of Marian apparitions in which she identified herself as “Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces” at Lipa City that had already been condemned as being not of God (source 1, source 2). He was later forced to retract this approval (source).
In 1925, the Marian apparition at Fatima, which was one of those approved by the Catholic Church (source), commanded Lucia de Fatima, “Look My daughter, at My Heart, surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce Me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You at least try to console Me and announce in My name that I promise to assist at the moment of death, with all the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep Me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making Reparation to Me” (source, reverential capitalization in original).
Note that in this short speech, this spirit claiming to be Mary claims that Mary can give grace necessary for salvation, commands that Catholics recite the Rosary, and expects men to make reparations to her. But King David sang to God, “Against You, You only, I have sinned / And done what is evil in Your sight, / So that You are justified when You speak / And blameless when You judge” (Psalm 51:4, NASB).
No man sins against Mary; man sins against only one in heaven: the Lord God.
As for the “graces necessary for salvation” – in Ephesians, Paul writes that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8, NIV), showing us that the grace for salvation comes not from Mary, but from God.
In this spirit’s command that Catholics recite the Rosary is, of course, the requirement that the Hail Holy Queen be prayed in closing, in which Mary is called the “Most Holy Advocate” (source), which is the title not of Mary, but of the Holy Spirit. Despite the theological ramifications, this apparition’s messages were approved by the local bishop (source).
The Lady of All Nations
“Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”
– 2 Corinthians 11:14b, CSB
Another sequence of apparitions was reported by Ida Peerdeman of the Netherlands. Peerdeman says that Mary came to her 56 times, bringing messages and requests. These messages became ever more bizarre as time went on: ultimately, this spirit asked that people no longer call her Mary, but rather that she be called “The Lady of All Nations;” she commissioned a painting of herself standing in front of the cross with wounds on her hands to show that she was “crucified spiritually” (source) and requested that copies of this painting be distributed; and she requested that Catholics pray to her these words: “May the Lady of All Nations, who once was Mary, be our Advocate” (source). The Catholic Church said that they would share the prayer if the phrase “who once was Mary” was removed from the prayer, but Peerdeman warned that the spirit would “not [be] happy with this change” (source), so the local bishop agreed to approve it without modification.
As in Lipa, the approval of these apparitions and the related messages caused no little controversy. The Bishop of the Netherlands investigated Peerdeman’s claims, and the Vatican ruled that these apparitions were not supernatural (that is, that they were not of God), and suggested instead that both priests and laity should “express their devotion to the Most Holy Virgin, Queen of the Universe” (source). But six years later, Bishop Jozef Marianus Punt defied his predecessor’s ruling, declaring that the apparitions were of supernatural origin. The greatest source of controversy surrounding this “Lady of All Nations” was its demand for the Pope: “See to the final dogma, the crowning of Mary, the proclamation of the dogma of Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate” (source)!
It is in the push for this, the “fifth dogma of Mary” (source) in which this spirit wishes to usurp Christ’s role as Redeemer and the roles of both Christ and the Holy Spirit as our Advocates and Mediators on earth and in heaven, that the culmination of the efforts of the spirit behind other apparitions can be traced. From the first Marian apparition to Gregory Wonderworker in which the spirits gave information as a kind of Trojan Horse which would allow the false doctrines of the Gospel of James to be promulgated within the Catholic Church, to the spirit which appearing to St. Dominic and asking that he preach the importance of praying to Mary via the Rosary (source), to the spirit at Lipa who sowed the seeds of dissent within the Catholic leadership, to the appearance at Fatima in which it was revealed that this spirit wished to be given reparations, to this – the appearance of a spirit who no longer wants to be identified as Mary, who wishes to be seen taking the place of Christ on the cross, who wishes to make her own name great and to be officially given titles that belong only to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
This movement of devotees to Mary, once relatively obscure, now believes that the world is in the “Age of Mary” (source), saying that we have reached the “climax of love and devotion to the Mother of Jesus throughout the world” (source).
Up until his death in the year 2005, Pope John Paul II greatly encouraged this revival of Marian devotion within the Catholic Church; after all, his ministry and life were totally devoted to Mary (source). After his death, the depth of his mystical connection to Mary was revealed (against his wishes) through the publication of his private notes (source). Six times during his ministry, Pope John Paul II even “used the phrase ‘co-redemptrix’ […] to describe Mary” (source), giving Marian devotees hope that the Catholic Church might soon officially declare the blasphemous “fifth Marian dogma” as doctrine.
Since Pope John Paul II’s death, however, his second successor, Pope Francis, has focused on ecumenicism between the Protestant and Catholic Churches (source). Recognizing that many Protestants disagree with the Catholic Church’s Marian dogmas, he has largely left Mariology alone; however, this hasn’t deterred Marian devotees from continuing to petition the Pope to dogmatize Mary as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate (source). In fact, “over 8 million priests, religious and lay faithful and over 800 Cardinals and Bishops from more than 180 countries have sent petitions” (source) requesting that this dogma be declared.
In April of 2020, the “Bishops of the Catholic Church [declared that they were] collegially calling upon Pope Francis to […] dogmatically declare and define Mary as Co-Redemptrix with Christ, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate for the People of God” (source). These bishops from nations across the world believe that God is waiting for the Pope to “dogmatically proclaim Mary as the ‘Spiritual Mother of All Peoples,’ in a solemn declaration of her unique cooperation with Jesus in the Redemption, and her consequential roles in the distribution of grace and intercession for humanity, for which he will respond with a historic new outpouring of his Holy Spirit and the eventual grace of world peace” (source, emphasis in original). Note the sickening similarity of titles: “Spiritual Mother of All Peoples” and “The Lady of All Nations.”
Good thing the Protestants got out of the Catholic Church and avoided all of this, right?
Scripture and Tradition
The Catholic Church’s reliance on its own tradition to determine orthodoxy not only logically begs the question, it was also responsible for the divide between the doctrines that they taught and the doctrines taught in Scripture, which widened ever more throughout their history. Jesus warned His followers about the teachings of such people, saying, “[T]hey teach man-made ideas as commands from God” (Matthew 15:9, NLT).
But by what standard should Christians test the teachings of men? The Apostle Paul, anticipating such questions, wrote that “[a]ll Scripture is inspired by God and [is] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NASB). Note that Paul does not say that only Scripture is profitable for teaching theological truths; rather, he is saying that Scripture is the standard by which believers should determine the truth of men’s teachings.
When Paul and Silas visited Berea, they were happy to see that the Jews there applied this teaching. “[The Berean Jews] received [Paul’s teachings] with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so,” (Acts 17:11b, NASB), wrote Luke. Again, this is not saying that there are no writings except for Scripture which are of benefit to the education of believers. Jesus told the Jewish leaders, “[T]he Scriptures point to me!” (John 5:39, NKJV).
All Scripture is profitable because all Scripture points us to Christ. Many teachings of men also point us to Christ – and these, too, are profitable to us. It is those teachings which turn our gaze away from Christ which we must reject.
The Reformers identified the importance of using Scripture as the litmus test for theological teaching, rallying around the Latin phrase Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone). Almost immediately after the Reformation began upon Luther’s posting of his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517 (source), the Reformers began to produce confessions of faith and catechisms.
The first was Ulrich Zwingli’s “Sixty-Seven Articles” (source), which he defended before the council of Zurich in 1523. The thesis of these articles was this: “The sum and substance of the gospel is that our Lord Jesus Christ, the true son of God, has made known to us the will of his heavenly Father, and has with his sinlessness released us from death and reconciled us to God” (source).
Over the remainder of the sixteenth century, a total of twenty-four Protestant confessions of faith were published, showing their importance to the Reformers.
In the centuries following the Reformation, the Protestant church began to fracture. Some new Protestant teachers reinvented the Reformers’ motto of Sola Scriptura, rejecting the early church’s creeds and the Reformers’ confessions, since these new teachers believed that the Bible was the only source of theological teachings, though – ironically enough – that claim is nowhere made in Scripture.
Dr. Keith Mathison, Professor of Systematic Theology, notes that according to dispensationalist Charles Ryrie’s teachings, “the Bible is said to be the ‘sole basis of authority,’ [and t]radition is not allowed in any sense” (source).
Coincidentally, those who misinterpreted the meaning of Sola Scriptura and claimed to only follow the teachings of the Bible, in fact adhered only to their own misinterpretations of cherry-picked passages of the Bible. People with little standard education (and no religious learning) bought Bibles, ordained themselves preachers, and started their own churches without any denominational oversight. In this fertile field of unbridled doctrinal invention, the weeds of Pentecostalism began to grow.
Pentecost, Parameters, Gifts, and Fruit
“Innovation is often the first indication of heresy.”
– Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick (Ancient Faith)
Before we move on, we must take a step back in time to circa A.D. 30, the year in which the events of the Day of Pentecost are estimated to have unfolded (source). After Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the Holy Spirit, the true Advocate, came to His disciples as Christ had promised in John 14:15. As described by Luke in Acts 2: 4, the disciples began to speak in other languages (or other tongues, as the popular Bible translations of the day rendered the word).
Luke describes what happened next thus: “At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers” (Acts 2:5-6, NLT).
People from all over the known world heard the disciples speaking, not in their own language, but in the listener’s language – whether the listeners were “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs” (Acts 2:9-11a, NLT), they “all [heard the disciples] speaking in [their] own languages about the wonderful things God [had] done” (Acts 2:11b, NLT)!
Later, the Apostle Paul rebuked the members of the church in Corinth, who desired to have this gift of the Holy Spirit – the ability to speak in unknown tongues. It was not for their desire that Paul rebuked them; rather, it was because they were becoming disorderly in their meetings, with multiple people trying to speak in tongues at once, and nobody there able to interpret the words being spoken.
“When you come together, [… i]f anyone speaks in a tongue, two–or at the most three–should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret” (1 Corinthians 14:26-27, NIV), wrote Paul.
There are many different gifts of the Spirit; Paul did not want the Corinthians to waste their time wishing they had been granted spiritual gifts which had been given to others.
He continued, “The Holy Spirit is given to each of us in a special way. That is for the good of all. To some people the Spirit gives a message of wisdom. To others the same Spirit gives a message of knowledge. To others the same Spirit gives faith. To others that one Spirit gives gifts of healing. To others he gives the power to do miracles. To others he gives the ability to prophesy. To others he gives the ability to tell the spirits apart. To others he gives the ability to speak in different kinds of languages they had not known before. And to still others he gives the ability to explain what was said in those languages” (1 Corinthians 7-10, NIRV).
Paul hammered the point home by asking rhetorically, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:29-30, NKJV).
But he wasn’t done. “[You should] eagerly desire the greater [spiritual] gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31, NIV), he wrote. “[For] where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. [Only] three [gifts will] remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10, 13, NIV).
The Reformers, safeguarding the Protestant church against the unbiblical doctrines that accompanied strange supernatural events condoned by the Catholic Church, taught that these words were fulfilled at the end of the Apostles’ ministries: the spiritual gifts were given to establish the Apostles’ authority; once they had written the letters under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that became the Scriptures and thus fulfilled their ministries, these gifts ceased (source).
So what evidence was there of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life? Anticipating this cessation of the gifts of the Spirit, Paul taught that we must look, not for gifts, but for fruit. Jesus said that “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7:17b, NIV).
Thus, in Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia, he told them that those who live in the Spirit will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Galatians 5:22b-23a).
Note the overlap between the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit! Paul closes his teachings on the gifts of the Spirit by saying that they will all end, but love – the greatest of all gifts – will not, and in his teaching on the fruit of the Spirit, he lists first – in the place of most prominence – love, which is both a the most important ongoing gift of the Spirit and the foremost fruit of the Spirit. Love is both a gift and a fruit of the Spirit.
We have so far established five facts:
– First, when the disciples spoke in tongues on the day of Pentecost, the words they spoke were understood by all around them;
– Second, those who spoke in tongues later were speaking words that could be interpreted;
– Third, the gift of speaking in tongues was not given unto all who were filled with the Holy Spirit,
– Fourth, the gifts of the Spirit ceased upon the fulfillment of the Apostles’ ministries,
– Fifth, the evidence of the Spirit in a believer’s life is the fruit of the spirit.
Innovative Preachers and Evidential Tongues
In the year 1900, Charles Parham, then a 27-year-old unordained preacher who rejected any religious education or oversight except “direct inspiration” (source), began to teach a new doctrine which is now known as “evidential tongues” (source). He taught that “speaking in tongues was the Bible evidence of Spirit baptism” (source).
This teaching spread quickly. Followers of Parham’s teachings became known as Pentecostals, so named for their claim to be experiencing the same spiritual effects as did Jesus’ followers on the day of Pentecost. Today, “[m]ost Pentecostal denominations teach that speaking in tongues is an immediate or initial physical evidence that one has received [the baptism of the Holy Spirit]” (source).
Troublingly, the act of “speaking in tongues” as seen in Pentecostal churches is very different from what was described happening in the Bible. They practice not the xenolalia (speaking in a real language unknown to the speaker but known to the listener) described in the Bible, but glossolalia (which is defined as “the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables that lack any readily comprehended meaning” [source]).
The practice of glossolalic speech is found in “Paganism, Shamanism, and other mediumistic religious practices” (source). Pentecostals do not try to hide this distinction; when counselling new converts who are having trouble speaking in tongues, Pentecostal pastor (and self-proclaimed prophet) Russell Walden says that if you want “the gift of tongues […] properly activated your life [you should first ask] the Father to give you utterance. Then speak that utterance as forthrightly and boldly as you can. Speak it out loud so it can be heard across the room. Put it together with other phrases or words that come to you. String the words together until they begin to flow freely. If it is difficult then just repeat the same syllables again and again till it begins to be more fluent in you” (source).
It is not uncommon for Christians who are new to the Pentecostal movement to have difficulty speaking in tongues. Those who were raised in other denominations and join a Pentecostal church are often pestered to keep trying, and eventually ostracized if they can’t do it.
In his book God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel, Pastor Costi Hinn, formerly a part of the Pentecostal movement, recounts his then-girlfriend’s description of her experience:
“[T]he tears started to stream down [Chrystine’s] face. ‘I tried, Costi. I really did. I lifted up my hands like I was supposed to. I opened up my lips and said the syllables like she said to. I mumbled the words and did everything I was told. It didn’t work’” (Chapter 7).
Christyne was literally trying to perform under duress; Costi’s family, leaders of a Prosperity Gospel Pentecostal church, would not approve of their relationship unless she was “filled with the Spirit,” and if she couldn’t speak in tongues, then they refused to believe that she did have the Holy Spirit.
Note that in these circles, professing Christians do not look for the fruits of the Spirit; they look for one very specific gift: one which Paul clearly said was not given to everyone, which is very arguably demonstrable as having theological basis for its cessation, and which obviously is no longer manifesting as it did during the ministries of the Apostles.
From its inception in 1900 up until the 1960s, the Pentecostalism movement continued to spread, but its doctrines were not accepted by other denominations. In 1960, that changed: it became trendy for pastors of mainline Protestant churches to share with their congregations details of “their Pentecostal experiences” (source), and by 1985, the Charismatic Movement had begun in earnest.
One of the notable characteristics of this movement was their method of evangelising: Such self-proclaimed power evangelists as John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard Movement, rejected the traditional Protestant Gospel-centred means of sharing one’s faith (source), basing their ministries instead upon the teaching that “supernatural events such as faith healings, prophetic revelation, words of knowledge and glossolalia (speaking in tongues) are a demonstration of the power, and therefore the reality, of God” (source).
The Toronto Blessing
The Charismatic movement continued to spread for approximately a decade, then reached its climax in the 1994 Toronto Airport Vineyard Church, when the revival that is now known as the Toronto Blessing began.
The pastors of the church, John and Carol Arnott, inspired by reports of healing revivals in developing countries, had started a journey in November of 1993 in which they flew to various nations around the world to possible revival hotspots, asking famous revivalist preachers to impart to them a revivalist anointing (source). When they got back to their church, they asked Randy Clark, a Charismatic Vineyard pastor who had ten years before received a prophecy from John Wimber that he would “go around the world and lay [his] hands upon pastors and leaders for impartation of the Holy Spirit, and to stir up and impart the gifts of the Spirit” (source), to come and preach at their church.
Clark had already been inspired by the revival ministry of Rodney Howard-Brown, and was excited to have this opportunity. On the first day of Clark’s meetings at Toronto Airport Church, manifestations of spiritual activity immediately transpired: the pastors reported that “most [in attendance] fell on the floor ‘laughing, rolling, and carrying on’” (source).
The movement exploded in popularity and scope: locally, not only did the church’s attendance grow from 360 to 1000 members, with services being performed six days a week, but globally, this charismatic spirit was being imparted to those who visited the services; they would “carry the influence of the revival back to their home congregations where the revival would then continue within their own churches” (source).
Such big-name Pentecostal preachers as Rodney Howard-Browne and Kenneth Copeland came to Toronto Airport Vineyard Church as guest speakers (source). Manifestations of spiritual activity among attendees of these revivals included “religious ecstasy, […] ecstatic worship, being slain in the Spirit, uncontrollable laughter, […] euphoria, crying, […] electric waves of the spirit[, …‘h]oly laughter’[, and] making […] animal noises” (source).
Denominationally, these revivals brought further fragmentation to the Protestant church. The Toronto Airport Vineyard Church split from the Association of Vineyard Churches due to AVC’s concerns about Toronto Airport Church’s “emphasis on extraordinary manifestations of the Holy Spirit” (source).
Bill Johnson, whose father was the pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California, had a similar desire for healing revival as that which inspired Randy Clark and the Arnotts. He attended a John Wimber conference in 1987 in the hopes of receiving an impartation of the gift of healing and revival, and he attended the several Toronto Blessing revival meetings in 1995 (source), where he decided that his ministry would be focused on “the outpouring of the Holy Spirit” (source).
In 1996, Johnson was appointed pastor of Bethel Church; before he accepted, though, he required that the leaders accept his vision for the church: “that the message would always be about revival, with an emphasis on God’s supernatural presence” (source). The leaders accepted. Bethel Church then left their denomination so that they would not be restricted by outside guidelines, and two years later, in 1998, they started the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, where students are trained “in the supernatural and miracles, such as faith healing, in order that they may become revivalists” (source).
Members of both Bethel Church and Bethel School of Supernatural Healing call Bill Johnson an apostle, a nod to his apparent spiritual authority and supernatural power (source). Both the church and the school have reported very similar supernatural manifestations to those of the Toronto Blessing, including people “laughing uncontrollably, lying on the floor, shaking, staggering, [and] screaming” (source). Some have seen “angels appearing[, …] ‘balls of electricity’ that throw people into the air[, and] gold dust […] falling from the roof[, which they call] a ‘glory cloud’” (source).
Bill Johnson is still close with Randy Clark; the two co-authored The Essential Guide to Healing in 2011 (source).
The River Church
Rodney Howard-Browne, Randy Clark’s inspirations and one of the speakers at the Toronto Blessing movement, calls himself the “Holy Ghost bartender” (source). Howard-Browne is now a pastor of The River Church, where he hosts his own revival meetings which often include manifestations of “worshipers giggling in apparent spiritual drunkenness, speaking in tongues, emitting animal noises, breaking into uncontrollable holy laughter, shaking, dancing in the aisles, or falling to the ground” (source). As with the Toronto Blessing movement, Bethel Church, and the Bethel School of Supernatural Healing, the focus at The River Church is clearly on “the outpouring of the Holy Spirit” (source).
This focus on experiences and spiritual manifestations has normalized the teachings of New Age concepts and practices within the church. The Physics of Heaven, one of the texts taught from at Bethel’s School of Supernatural Healing and contributed to by Bill Johnson, teaches students how to “[u]nlock Heaven’s healing energy [and] tap into the frequency of God’s Kingdom [through] Angelic Encounters [and] Quantum Mysticism” (source, emphasis in original).
One of the authors, Ellyn Davis, says that even though she is a Christian, she began dabbling in New Age teachings because she “wanted to find out if maybe they had uncovered some truths the church hadn’t” (source).
Through their explorations of New Age teachings, the authors say that they found “at least 75 examples of things that the New Age has counterfeited, such as having a spirit guide, trances, meditation, auras, power objects, clairvoyance, clairaudience, and more [which] actually belong to the church” (source).
John and Carol Arnott, the aforementioned pastors of Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, promote a practice called “soaking prayer” (source), in which people put on quiet music and try to empty their minds for at least 15 minutes at a time, often working their way up to full two hour sessions (source). Through this practice, people hope to “receive impressions, pictures, angelic visitations, and other supernatural revelations” (source).
In addition to meditation, Christians have even tried to adopt yoga as a Christian practice (source), ignoring critics’ warnings that “relabeling yoga as Christian fails to make it so because ‘authorship implies ownership,’ and ‘ownership implies right of possession and control[. …] Yoga is ‘not just a human invention’ but [was] ‘coauthored’ with the ‘spirit realm'” (source), and some forms of it were specifically created as a way to awaken demonic spirits (source).
It is not just surface-level New Age practices which have made their way into the church through the Charismatic movement. Something darker lies at its core.
The Kundalini Spirit
“While it is agreed that the Toronto Blessing can be seen as an expression of spirituality in a broad sense, nevertheless it cannot be viewed as an expression of Christian spirituality.”
– Stephanus Petrus Pretorius (The Toronto Blessing)
In December of 2002, Stephanus Petrus Pretorius published a paper entitled “The Toronto Blessing: An Expression of Christian Spirituality in the Charismatic Movement?” (source). Pretorius was horrified by the descriptions of the experiences and manifestations that were occurring in the Toronto Blessing revival.
He noted that there were striking similarities between the manifestations of the spirit working in Toronto and the manifestations exhibited by members of the Hindu religion who are undergoing a “Kundalini awakening” (source), and the dissimilarity between the manifestations of the spirit at work in Toronto and the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12. It is beyond the scope of this paper to detail all of these similarities, but consider this statement from Pretorius:
“[T]he Kundalini experience and the Toronto Blessing are almost identical in […] the following aspects:
– both involve the very same bodily manifestations;
– both are distributed in the very same way, namely by a touch or by some other method from one already ‘in fire’. The phenomenon is very contagious; […]
– the same initial mental and bodily condition is needed to receive the experience;
– [and] both consider the transfer of the power to be a central issue.”
– Stephanus Petrus Pretorius, from “The Toronto Blessing…” p. 188 (source)
Interestingly, the initial departure of the Reformers from the Catholic Church and the subsequent departure of the Pentecostalist movement from the teachings of the Reformers ultimately brought about a strange kind of ecumenism between some Protestants and Catholics. In 1901, the year after Parham began to teach the doctrine of evidential tongues, the Pope dedicated the twentieth century to the Holy Spirit, opening the door for the Church to expect a new spiritual movement (source). When the Charismatic revivals in the 1960s began, Catholics who were intrigued by the tales of spiritual manifestations in the Charismatic meetings came to see what all the fuss was about. When they returned to their own churches with news of their experiences, others began to have similar experiences. In 1975, the Pope “officially welcomed Catholic charismatics” (source) as an approved Catholic movement. As of 2013, “the Catholic Charismatic Renewal [had] over 160 million members” (source).
Out of the Charismatic ecumenism between Protestants and Catholics, a new movement has been born which is still in its infancy, but seems to be gaining traction. In it, spiritual seekers are, under the banner of the New Age teachings within the Charismatic church, publicly declaring the oneness of the Kundalini spirit which masquerades as the Holy Spirit within the Charismatic movement, and the Lady of All Nations, who masquerades as the Virgin Mary.
The Summit Lighthouse, an outreach of the Church Universal and Triumphant, says that their followers should live in “adoration of the Mother force, which is known as the Goddess Kundalini” (source). They say that “Mother Mary [is] one who has realized and released the Mother force[, and] if we accept in Mary the Motherhood of God, we are also accepting our own potential to realize that Motherhood[, which gives us] her reward, which is the gift of Christ consciousness” (source).
Medium Mercedes Kirkel, who says that she channels “Mary Magdalene (and other beings of light)” (source), said that she received a message from Mary Magdelene which said, “[T]he kundalini is for carrying you into higher dimensions and opening up higher centers within yourself that are going to be required as you move into those higher dimensions” (source).
Sarah Sourial describes how, during her personal Kundalini awakening in Nepal, she “saw a massive white light surround [her] and then the realization dawned that [she] was the Virgin Mary” (source). She says that “Kundalini is really a beautiful love story and something that is integral to all our lives” (source).
Finally, Master Ruzbeh Bharucha of Speaking Tree explains that “Who so ever (sic) wants to reach Jesus can only go through The Mother. The Mother […] is […] Shakti that Shiv came through[; …] Jesus [is] the Shiv energy. [T]he divine Mother [comes] in the form of Kundalini Shatki” (source).
If this spirit masquerading as the Holy Spirit is the Kundalini, and the spirit masquerading as Mary (the Lady of All Nations, the Spiritual Mother of All Peoples) is the Kundalini, then logically, it is a single spirit. This evil spirit has permeated both the Protestant and Catholic Church.
We have been invaded by an imitating spirit. This spirit first came to the Catholic Church, pretending to be Mary. As Mary, it took upon itself roles of both Christ and of the Holy Spirit so that the glory due to God alone would be diminished. It convinced the faithful that their prayers must go through Mary to reach Christ, giving itself the unique position of being able to intercept their prayers.
This spirit later came masquerading as the Holy Spirit to the Protestant Church, where it began by introducing experientialism, which compromised the prior centrality and truth of Scripture and the Gospel. Ultimately, the spirit’s actions led to occult practices and New Age teachings within the Protestant Church.
More recently, through its manifestations of signs and wonders, this spirit has introduced a strange kind of ecumenicism between the Catholic and Protestant churches, where it now awaits the Pope’s dogmatization of Mary as Spiritual Mother of All Nations, Mediatrix, Coredemptrix, and Advocate so that it can be fully unleashed upon the earth.
This spirit is uniquely dangerous. It has infiltrated the holiest places and taken on the holiest of names. It has blurred the lines between mysticism, occult practices, and Christianity. The only way to fight this spirit is through prayer and through an intimate knowledge of the Word of God so that we can recognize this imposter and its lies.
Epilogue: The Only Truth That Matters
Jesus Christ is not an ethereal spiritual concept to be somehow attained. The Holy Spirit is not a kind of force or power to be harnessed. And God is not found by looking inward, but by reading His Word. Nothing in the world could possibly matter more than this consideration of eternity.
We all have sinned and are unworthy of forgiveness. On our own, nothing we could ever do would be enough to warrant salvation and a relationship with God. But God in His mercy sent His Son, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, to take the punishment that was due to us. The Creator became a part of His own creation; after fulfilling His ministry on earth, He was raised to heaven and now sits at the Father’s right hand, where He lives to intercede on our behalf. Proceeding from the Father is the Holy Spirit, the Advocate here with us on earth. One day, Jesus will return, bringing judgement to all. Repent of your sins and follow Him. Search for Him in the Scriptures; all of them point to Him.