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3/17/2014

IS ULF EKMAN RIGHT? DOES THE PATH TO UNITY LEAD TO ROME?

This article is derived from Eddie Hyatt's latest book entitled PURSUING POWER: How the Historic Quest for Apostolic Authority & Control Has Divided and Damaged the Church, scheduled for release March 31 but available now in the Kindle format from Amazon.
The March 10, 2014 issue of Charisma News Daily reported that the well-known Word of Faith pastor in Uppsala, Sweden, Ulf Ekman, had converted to Roman Catholicism. This did not come as a complete surprise for Ekman had, for several years, shown an interest in Catholic theology and liturgy. In fact, the November 24, 2008 issue of Charisma News Online reported that Ekman had participated in a conference convened by Catholic and Protestant leaders who advocate uniting all Christians “under the pope.” The conference conveners were unapologetic in their belief that such unity, centered in the pope, is necessary if Europe is to withstand the onslaught of Islam and secularism.
In an interview that was published in the March 9, 2014 issue of Charisma News, Ekman revealed that he has embraced this view that the path to Christian unity does, indeed, lead to Rome and recognition of the authority of the pope. Ekman made this very clear when he was asked about the Catholic doctrine of a teaching magisterium, centered in the pope, that has the final authority and say on doctrine and matters of faith. Ekman agreed that such a teaching authority is necessary if there is to be Christian unity. When asked if he believes the pope to be the utmost expression of such an authority, Ekman replied, “Yes, he definitely is.”
Progress Has Been Made on the Path to Unity
I appreciate the progress that has been made in the Catholic Church as a result of Vatican II (1962-65), which opened the door for dialogue and cooperation with other churches, particularly in regards to social issues such as pro-life and marriage. That council dispensed with the word “heretic” in referring to Protestants and used the softer term “separated brethren.” It also made an important statement about the gifts of the Holy Spirit being “no peripheral or accidental phenomenon in the life of the Church”; but on the contrary are “of vital importance for the building up of the mystical body” (Eddie Hyatt, 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity).
This more open stance of the council toward non-Catholics and toward Spiritual gifts opened the way for the charismatic renewal in the Catholic Church, which erupted shortly after this council closed in 1965. This, in turn, resulted in more dialogue and fellowship between Catholics and Protestants. I have personally found Catholics, who are spiritually hungry, to be some of the most delightful people to be around and the easiest to lead into the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Problems Remain on the Path to Unity
Nonetheless, the path to unity does not lead to Rome as Ekman now believes. What is ironic about what Ekman and others are advocating as a point of unity—the universal authority of the pope--is the fact that this has, historically, been the cause of the major divisions in in the Church. The development of the papal office, which is not found in either Scripture or early Christianity, has been a long and problematic process that encountered much opposition along the way and was never accepted by all of Christendom. In fact, the ancient churches of the East (now known as the Eastern Orthodox) never accepted the authoritative claims of the bishop of Rome in the West.
The split between the churches of the East and West, which culminated in the official division of 1054, was not rooted in doctrine but in the illegitimate power claims of the bishop of Rome, i.e., the pope. Hans Kung, the most widely read Catholic theologian in the world today, makes this point and quotes the Orthodox theologian, John Meyendorff, who says, “All historians today are agreed that East and West separated on the basis of a progressive alienation which coincided with the equally progressive growth of papal authority” (Kung, Christianity: History, Essence, and Future, 244).
In a similar way, the major rift that took place in Christendom at the time of the Reformation was not first and foremost about doctrine, i.e., justification by faith, but about the bishop of Rome’s claim of absolute authority over all of Christendom. As in the former split between the churches of the East and the West, the division that took place at the time of the Reformation concerned the pope’s claim of priority and authority in all the Church. Martin Luther never wanted to leave the Catholic Church but was excommunicated and declared a heretic when he refused to yield to the demands of the pope that he cease teaching justification by faith and the ultimate authority of Scripture. In the end, it was a power struggle over where ultimate authority lies for the church and the individual believer. Luther decided that it lies with Scripture. Ekman, it seems, has decided that it lies with the pope.
I appreciate the current pope’s expressions of humility, his identification with the poor and his reaching out to those outside the Catholic Church. But make no mistake about it! Until we hear a clear and official pronouncement otherwise, the view of Pope Francis and the Roman Church is that unity will only be realized when the “separated brethren” return to the Catholic fold. Although Vatican II recognized that God is at work in other Christian groups, it stated clearly that the Church of Christ "subsists" in the Roman Catholic Church. This is the thinking behind the popular program on the EWTN Catholic Network entitled “Journey Home” in which interviews are conducted with Protestants who have converted to Catholicism. 
The pope could strike a powerful blow for true Christian unity if he would relinquish the traditional Catholic dogma that the pope holds authority over all Christendom, and then recognize leaders of the Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant churches as “brothers” (or “sisters” as it may be) and equals in Christ. Even Catholic theologians today are realizing that the traditional view of the universal authority of the pope is a major barrier on the path to unity. Kung writes,
No one can overlook the fact that with time the absolutist papacy has become the ecumenical problem number one. Paul VI was the first to concede this himself with ecumenical openness; instead of being a rock of unity, the papacy is a block on the way to ecumenical understanding” (Hyatt, Pursuing Power, 59).
The Path to Christian Unity Leads to Jesus Christ
In Ephesians 2:14 Paul writes, For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation. I will never forget an incident that occurred many years ago when two young women from the Anglican Church asked to talk to my wife, Sue, and me about water baptism. They were a part of the evangelical Anglican Church Army and had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. In the meantime, they had begun to question the adequacy of their infant baptism. Our first meeting centered on doctrine and we made no progress as each argued his/her traditional view of baptism. We finally concluded the meeting and they agreed to return the next day for further discussion.
Before their arrival the following day, I was praying and asking God for wisdom in relating to them. Suddenly I saw a vision of a target with a bull’s eye in the center. Immediately I knew that the target represented a person and the bull’s eye represented whatever was central in that person’s life. The circles represented their doctrinal beliefs with the inner circle representing that which they considered of utmost importance and each ring representing doctrines of lesser importance as they moved outward.
I saw immediately that if Jesus is truly Lord then He will occupy that place of centrality--the bull’s eye—in the target. I also saw that two different individuals who hold different doctrinal beliefs can have a basis for fellowship if Jesus is truly central in both their lives. Their common ground is the Lordship of Jesus. If, however, a doctrine becomes central, then there is no basis for true fellowship with others unless they hold to the same doctrine with the same tenacity. But in that case, Jesus is no longer Lord, but has been replaced by a doctrine.
As I reflected on this vision, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “The issue is not baptism, but the Lordship of Jesus in their lives.” Based on this word from the Lord, when the two women returned, we did not discuss the doctrine of water baptism with them. I merely asked, “Is Jesus the Lord of your life?” They both answered “yes.” I then replied, “Then if you believe He is telling you to be immersed in water, do it. If you do not believe He is telling you to be immersed, don’t worry about it.” There was a lake nearby and one asked me to immerse her and the other did not; and that was the end of our discussion.
Summation
The path to Christian unity does not lead to Rome, Constantinople, Jerusalem, Springfield, Cleveland or any other city; but to Jesus Christ Himself. Christian unity will never happen organizationally. The Roman Church’s approach to unity, that unity will occur when all the “separated brethren” return to the Catholic fold, is not compatible with Scripture, history or reason. But so as not to point the finger solely at the Roman Church in this regard, many Protestant churches and Pentecostal-Charismatic churches are just as prideful in their sense of ecclesial importance and superiority. Kung, himself a Roman Catholic, went right to the heart of the matter when he wrote, “The road to unity is not the return of one Church to another, or the exodus of one Church to join another, but a common crossroads, the conversion of all Churches to Christ and thus to one another” (Hyatt, Pursuing Power, 57).

May the Lord hasten that day!

Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an ordained minister with over 40 years of ministerial experience as a pastor, Bible teacher and professor of theology. He holds the Doctor of Ministry from the School of Divinity at Regent University and the M.Div. and M.A. in Historical Theology from the Advanced School of Theology and Missions at Oral Roberts University. He also did one year of post-graduate studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. His passion is to see genuine Spiritual awakening in the church, and at the same time, see minds renewed to think biblically in a world that that is increasingly hostile to biblical truth.

3/10/2014

LISTEN CAREFULLY

Why Listening Carefully to God’s Voice Could Save Your Life
An elderly saint who was a student of mine in Bible school shared how “listening carefully” to the voice of the Lord saved her life one day. As she was dressing one particular morning and preparing to go out, she put on a pair of high heels. Immediately she experienced a strong sense inside that she should wear flat shoes, not high heels. She tried to ignore it but that strong inner urge would not go away so she relented and changed into a pair of flat loafers.
Later in the day as she stood at the checkout in a department store, a bank robbery ensued across the street with shots being fired. One bullet came through the store and grazed the top of her head, leaving a slight scratch as it whizzed through her hair. If she had been wearing high heels the bullet would have penetrated her skull and probably killed her. Her life was saved because she “listened carefully” to the voice of the Lord that day.
Listening with Both Ears
Exodus 15:26 is a wonderful promise of healing with the condition attached, If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God. The words “listen carefully” are translated from Hebrew words that literally say “listening listen.” A Hebrew scholar told of being in the hospital and reading this verse to build his faith. Noting the unique wording, He asked the Lord, “Why did you say ‘listening listen?’” He said the Holy Spirit spoke in his heart, saying, “Because I want you to listen to Me with both ears.” In other words, God wants our undivided attention. He wants us to “listen carefully.”
Our God, who is both infinitely wise and infinitely good, wants the very best for us His children, and that is why it is necessary that we listen carefully to Him. Listen to His lament in Isaiah 48:18 over the fact that His people had not listened to Him. Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
Blessings Come as We “Carefully Listen”
How God’s blessings will come when we carefully listen to Him was borne out to me many years ago in an experience with a co-worker in ministry. Shortly after our marriage, Sue and I planted a new congregation and Bible school in eastern Canada. In the midst of our busy activities, I had a conflict with a member of the congregation who was also part of the leadership team. She felt that I had wronged her, but it was clear to me that she was the one at fault; and I had my case ready to lay out to her and show her where she was wrong.
But during prayer before meeting with her, Paul’s words in I Cor. 4:12-13 were strongly impressed on my heart. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. I knew God was speaking to my heart that I was to treat this woman the very opposite of how I felt she had treated me. When we met, therefore, I did not lay out my argument against her. Instead, I reached out to her in humility and entreated her to forgive my weaknesses and shortcomings in the relationship. All animosity melted and the relationship was healed and restored.
Interestingly, she became the most faithful supporter of our ministry and continued to support us for many years, even after we departed that area. When we did depart a few years later and returned to the U.S., she bought our home, which had some equity in it. She then went a step further and gave us the money she had left over from the sale of her mobile home after she made the down payment on the purchase of our home. This amounted to around $5,000.00 and was very helpful for us in getting settled in a new home in a new country. And years later when I needed money to publish my first book, she sent a $5,000.00 gift. She is still a dear friend today and I am glad that I listened closely to the voice of the LORD in my heart that day.
We Suffer Loss When We Don’t “Carefully Listen”
I recall an incident where I did not “carefully listen” and suffered loss. Sue and I were travelling from Texas to Canada and we stopped late at night at a hotel near St. Louis, MO. We obtained the last room and proceeded to look for a parking place. The parking area was full and I finally found a place away from the normal parking and shrouded in darkness. As I pulled into that spot it was like flashing red lights going off in my spirit. The Holy Spirit was warning me that there was danger in parking there. Because it was late and we were tired, I did not “listen carefully.” In fact I ignored that inner warning. The next morning when we came out, our vehicle had been broken into and my prized Fender Telecaster guitar and case were gone along with some valuable electronics. I could have avoided that loss if I had “carefully listened.”
Our God is Infinitely Wise & Knows How to Bring You Through

Yes, our God is infinitely good and He desires to bless you and help you. He is also infinitely wise and He knows how to bring you into that place of blessing, healing and peace. He is limitless in knowledge and wisdom and He knows how to bring you through whatever challenges you are facing today. Our part is to “listen carefully” to His voice in both Scripture and those promptings of His Holy Spirit in our hearts.