Word A-Cry


I attended a session on 'intimacy with God through His word' this week. The speaker, a well-educated man who claims to have been taught by well-known, sound men, and who had evidently passed the Word Alive vetting, caused me some disquiet. He referred to several Roman Catholic saints as those whose relationships with God were somehow worth modelling. He cited Juan de Yepes y Álvarez, also known as St John of the Cross and, more briefly, St Theresa of Avilla. It made me wonder: to what extent can we draw inspiration from less-than-sound sources? The session ended with a prayer which had been ‘inspired’ by this character. This I refused to read out with all the others, for I felt this ‘saint’s’ adherence to Romanism, despite living at the time of the Reformation, was grossly inappropriate. I have no doubt that many Catholic saints were saved people, St Bernard of Clairvaux, for instance, being deemed a genuine Christian by John Calvin, despite some theological error. Those who lived after the Reformation, unlike Bernard, are more questionable candidates. By definition, they rejected the evangelical theology of Luther and Calvin, sticking with the foul gunk of popery. Many of these people were very serious, sincere and spiritual people, but this does not equate to salvation. Paul never doubted the Athenians’ sincerity when they erected their mysterious altar, but he did feel the need to proclaim the truth to them, to which their sincerely held superstitions were opposed. The speaker’s Twitter page has quotes from other Roman Catholic celebrities, such as St John Bosco, St Vincent de Paul and Thérèse of Lisieux, whose words cannot always be faulted (any more than St John’s could during the original session). Yet take a look at the following quotes, and tell me you don’t agree with them:

Just think: The Creator has arranged “to give you a future and a hope”—a peaceful life under God’s perfect rulership. (Jeremiah 29:11) Can having knowledge of this truth help make your life worth living? Sally, quoted in the opening article, states, “Reminding yourself of all the wonderful things that God’s Kingdom is going to do for us in the future can help you let go of the past and get through the present.” (Jehovah's Witnesses)

Jesus Christ is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. He gave His life two millennia ago, to atone for the sins of all mankind—including each of us. (Mormonism)

We believe in One, Unique, Incomparable God; in the Angels created by Him; in the prophets through whom His revelations were brought to mankind; in the Day of Judgement and individual accountability for actions; in God's complete authority over human destiny and in life after death. Muslims believe in a chain of prophets starting with Adam and including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Elias, Jonah, John the Baptist, and Jesus, peace be upon them. (Islam)

We recognise the worth and dignity of all people, and one of our objectives as a movement is “the service of humanity”. We support human equality and oppose racism. We stand for the values of tolerance and inclusivity. (Unitarianism)

They are all from theologically disreputable sources, ones we would never deign to quote (unless you are a speaker at Word Alive, perhaps). Even if Ss John and Theresa were born-again people, truly saved by God’s grace and Christ’s blood, are they really worthy of quoting and admiring to fellow Christians? No. Much as I am grateful that my place in heaven and membership of Christ’s people is not dependant upon the soundness of my thinking and accuracy of my theology, we must not be seen to endorse polluted wells. Believing the gospel, even in its simplest form, is enough to secure our place in God’s kingdom. Being saved and being sound, however, are clean different measurements. There will be no apostates in heaven, but some heretics will make the grade. So be it- but I shall not be disseminating their teachings in the meantime  

There is such a great a cloud of faithful witnesses to the truth, that we need not draw upon the vapours and smokes of spurious versions of Christianity. When I complained to that particular speaker, he was perfectly civil while defending his position by saying that the quotes he offered were not objectionable. While I have access to the writings of Luther, Calvin, Wiersbe, Wesley and Bunyan, I’ll not be promoting the sayings of a man who said this:

To love is to be transformed into what we love. To love God is therefore to be transformed into God.


If my conference-speaking friend really had a penchant for sixteenth-century Spaniards of daunting theological principle, he might have better shared Francisco de Enzinas.