Some of You May Remember the Reformation

What to my wondering eyes appears on my computer screen a few months back but a big advertisement from something called “Paula White Ministries”. It had that sort of “Oprah” vibe to it that many non-denominational “women’s ministries” do. Unlike the martial vibe one gets from male-run Evangelical outfits that are about “Fighting for the Truth!” and “Making an Impact on This Generation for Jesus Christ!” Oprahfied non-denom women’s ministries tend to make you think of The View or “Cawfee Tawk” or Susan Powter—plus Jesus.

So what’s Paula all about? Well, in her email, she was inadvertently illustrating that Catholic teaching is a boomerang. When you throw some of it away, it tends to come back and hit you in the head from unexpected angles. Permit me to explain.

Ms. White was calling the faithful of her 23,000 strong “Without Walls Church” to celebrate “The Day of Atonement” by "Honoring God’s Sacred Covenant". That would be “Yom Kippur”. That’s right, a Protestant minister is urging her flock to place themselves under the Law of Moses. How does this happen?

As non-denomism becomes more and more restless with the simple bromides of pop Evangelical culture and starts probing into the remote past before the founding of Calvary Chapel, what often arises is a misbegotten attempt to delve into the past by leaping over 2000 years of development of Sacred Tradition. No small number of Evangelicals have the notion that to graft something in Hebrew or Latin into a worship service is to magically be “rooted in history”. Indeed, there has been, for a growing number of non-denom Christians, a fascination with things like the "Jewish roots" movement, which often attempts to re-create the New Testament church through the lens of present-day Jewish life and culture.

Now there is much that is praiseworthy about that. Properly understood, Christianity has not only the right but the responsibility to locate itself squarely in the stream of revelation that begins with Abraham and flows through the Old Testament. It was the heretic Marcion who fancied that Jesus was just kidding when he said he had not come to abolish but fulfill the law and the prophets. The New Testament not only must not be, but cannot be understood apart from the revelation to Israel. But the whole point is (or should be) that this stream of revelation flows into the New Testament and finds its fulfillment in Christ and in the Church he established and guides through history. When that fulfillment occurs, the Church is rightly bidden to turn from the shadow to the reality just as the traveler who seeks to see Seattle is bidden to go to Seattle and not park his car at the road sign reading “Seattle – 50 miles”, build a house, and devote his life to the road sign. As Jesus said to his mistaken contemporaries, “You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me” (John 5:39). The Old Testament matters because it is the preparation for Christ. But apart from him, it cannot save. So on the one hand, the Old Testament retains permanent validity for the Church as the inspired word of God which refers us to Christ. But on the other hand, whole letters like Romans, Galatians and Hebrews are written reminding Christians they are not bound by Jewish ceremonial law once the Christ it foreshadows brings the salvation it could only prefigure.

Now, nobody was more alive to this fact than the Protestant Reformers. It was precisely these New Testament texts that formed the basis for lots of Protestant charges of “salvation by works” against the Catholic Church. Protestantism begins with the radical claim to be the authentic force in the world for salvation by grace apart from works of the Law.

And yet now we see the spectacle of quintessentially American Protestant "ministries" urging upon their faithful the celebration of Yom Kippur. And what is more, in a star turn that has caused scientists in Wittenberg to clock the corpse of Martin Luther at more than 2000 RPM, Ms. White tells us:

God's holiest day, the Day of Atonement, is your set time to see 7 specific blessings released in your life:

1. Double Portion (Joel 2:23)
2. Financial Promises (Joel 2:24)
3. Restoration (Joel 2:25)
4. Special Miracles (Joel 2:26)
5. A Divine Presence (Joel 2:27)
6. Blessings for Your Sons and Daughters (Joel 2:28)
7. Deliverance to Whoever Calls on His Name (Joel 2:32)
8. On the Day of Atonement, no one appeared before God empty-handed: "Every man shall give as he is able…" (Deuteronomy 16:16-17).

Don't miss your appointment with God on the Day of Atonement. Stand before the Lord with your very best atonement offering.

Oh, and when you give $60 or more, you get Paula's special Day of Atonement resource package. She even signs her name with a darling little picture of a heart.

Now, I have no problem, as a Catholic, with respecting Jewish celebrations of Yom Kippur. My prayer, of course, is that Jewish folk will see the reality toward which Yom Kippur points: namely the atonement accomplished by Jesus on the cross. However, till that happens, it is better that Jews remain faithful to the light they have than that they become faithless to the covenant. The old covenant can be transcended in Christ but it must not be broken by sin.

But it is loony for Christians–and especially Protestant Christians whose whole raison d'etre is "salvation by grace apart from works of the law"–to now be putting themselves under the Law of Moses again. As Paul hammers home again and again, those who are in Christ are no longer bound by the works of the law. It is one of the great ironies of history that it falls to Catholics to have to remind non-denom Protestants that the Bible says this.

Mark Shea


Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog and regularly blogs for National Catholic Register. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.

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  • Guest

    The point is: We are saved by Jesus' Atonement for our sins on the Cross. In thanks and love we show our love of God by doing His will, (by keeping His Commands to love God and our neighbor). The "works" flow from love of Jesus, not from following the original laws.

  • Guest

    Praise the Lord, halleluiah! brothe'.

    I think H.W. Armstrong's Worldwide church of God celebrated more Jewish holidays than any of the denom's. They were big on the feast of tabernacles.

  • Guest

    I like how all this celebration of "God's holiest day" is really a ruse to *get stuff* via the eight enumerated blessings, rather than a pure expression of love and worship.  Oh and these eight blessings can be bought for a price: one's "very best atonement offering."

    And they say Catholics prey on guilt … but then anyone who locates God's holiest day outside of the Triduum is obviously not a Christian, or grossly ignorant of the Passion and Resurrection's significance in Christian theology …

    When one blind man (whoops I mean, ahem, non-gender specific human being) leads another, they both fall into a ditch and rot …

  • Guest

    And don't forget the 60 bucks – AndyP/Doria2  Yonkers,  NY  HOSEA 4:6

  • Guest

    A similar ministry is conducted by Joyce Meyer.  One of my friends is a big fan of Joyce, and I sometimes watch the TV show.  Joyce isn't shy about asking for money either.  I enjoy her down-home common sense most of the time, but her "Enjoying Everyday Life" seems to posit that by following her Bible-based program, we can eliminate any problems that might come along (I wish!).  She doesn't say much about suffering of any  kind, and I find that puzzling.  Sometimes she has witty comments, but that's about it.  She's quite the personality though!

  • Guest

    So what do you think about celebrating a Seder meal?  That has become part of our Holy Week tradition for many years—are we off the track?  

     I guess I should mention that we fully participate in the Triduum.


    Jesus, I Trust in You!

  • Guest

    I hate to tell you this (being you are a good Catholic, albeit from the daffy state of Washington) but there are plenty of Catholics with wacky ideas as well. To identify every Catholic with their lowest denominator just doesn't hold sway. Nor does it work for Protestants.  

    This may shock and surprise you, but not every Protestant is focusing on the ruminations of the Catholic Church. Many are simply looking to Christ and trying to do the right thing. It seems to me that criticizing that by lumping every lcd into it is criticizing the work of the Holy Spirit.

    I traveled to Colorado this past week, and the girl I know from there happens to be in the category you describe. Having heard so much about the church recently, we attended "New Life" in Colorado Springs who have a vibrant new pastor. It seemed to me the people there are very sincere, and the types who are needed sorely in today's culture.


    Here's a link to the service if you like: Grace Week 6


  • Guest

    Uh, so what was "served" at this "service"?

  • Guest

    Did anyone else notice how Ms. White's Day of Atonement promises resemble the abuses of indulgences that Martin Luther protested? Money mouth

    Non-denom Protestantism needs to learn a sense of irony along with historicity.

  • Guest

    Gee, I work so hard at writing the entire "Our Jewish Roots" articles…may I suggest a quick read on the Day of Atonement… and may I also respond to the question of a seder celebration in a parish?  Meredith Gould writes a beautiful book showing how to do just that and honor our Jewish roots while embracing Christ as the fulfillment of all.  That review is also under my column area and I highly recommend her book.

  • Guest

    Thank you Cheryl!  I did find your article about the seder–thanks for pointing it out to me.  We have shared a seder meal in our family for several years.  The format we follow is from Women for Faith and Family.  They have a very nice booklet for celebrations of Lent and Advent.  They are based in St. Louis and publish Voices magazine–check them out.

     Our seder has become a holy week tradition.   We have moved our meal to Palm Sunday afternoon as it's easier for all involved and our priest can join us too.  This year we will have three families–22 total which is about as many as we can comfortably sit with fest tables and benches in the living room.  I have thought many times about inviting more families and moving to a larger space, (parish cafeteria, etc)….maybe next year! 

     Thanks again!


    Jesus, I Trust in You!

  • Guest

    I have heard Joyce Meyer making disparaging comments against Catholics.  Once she implied that Catholics are pharisees.

  • Guest


    What a beautiful celebration!  And thank you for the recommendation, I will check it out. 

    My sincerest best wishes for your Seder celebration!  I spent many years celebrating Passover within a rich Jewish tradition and knowing that Christ is the fulfillment of all these celebrations is truly a gift from God. 


  • Guest

    I have always wanted to partake of a Seder. 

    I also remember a friend of mine asking, "So why don't we Catholics still have a Passover Seder to remember the original event?"  I said we do….every day…we just call it the Mass.

  • Guest

    A Jewish person wrote a letter of complaint about the seder meal in our area–I realize it's not to be a historical re-enactment or entertainment or a history lesson– it is a prayer that identifies the people that still live under the Old Law- and should be done very respectfully–  The Christian Seder would probably be something very different I imagine– anyway someone read the letter in th epaper and commented  "how we we like it if a protestant minstry held a "prayer service" of an old Mass from the 1500's to get back in touch with their roots–"  we would hope they understood that it is a prayerful liturgy

  • Guest

    Continuing Angllicans do this all the time and we don't complain.

    There's nothing wrong with Catholics celebrating a seder — it is a terrific object lesson for us in prophetic fullfillment and helps us understand what was going on at the Last Supper. But it is completely optional for us and all the promises of God attendant upon it are fulfilled by the Mass as Loretta pointed out.