Messages from Heaven
Directed by Jim Tetlow
Eternal Productions, 2000, 1 hour, 20 minutes
Messages from Heaven is an Evangelical assessment of the Roman Catholic church’s worship of Mary and of the many alleged Marian apparitions in comparison with Holy Scripture. This is a well-produced documentary that every Evangelical should see at a time when some Evangelical leaders are dismissing doctrinal distinctives and embracing Rome as a Christian church. Many Evangelicals are not aware of the extremism of Rome’s Marian heresy. Several Roman Catholic priests are interviewed to present their church’s perspective.
But what happened in the years following the release of Message from Heaven in 2000 is a story in itself. While watching this film for the first time several months ago I thought it was quite odd that many of the Evangelical interviewees who spoke out against Mariolatry were charismatics linked to the Calvary Chapel movement including founder, Chuck Smith, apologist Chuck Missler, Ray Viola (pastor of Koinonia Fellowship in East Rochester, NY where director Jim Tetlow was a member), and former Calvary Chapel staff member, apologist Roger Oakland. Don’t charismatics generally accept Roman Catholicism as Christian since charismatic Catholics also demonstrate the “gifts of the Spirit”? I did a little research and discovered that in the early 2000s Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel began to increasingly embrace Roman Catholicism and the ecumenical “emerging church”/”seeker-friendly” church movement (see Rick Warren and Bill Hybels) much to the displeasure of Oakland who continued with his strong stand against Catholicism and its gospel of works-righteousness. In 2010, Calvary Chapel and Oakland parted ways.
It’s interesting that only a few short years after “Messages from Heaven” was released Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel, to a great degree, embraced Catholicism (“Catholics are basically Christians too.” – Chuck Smith, November 2011). But that should not be a surprise to anyone. Charismatics often prioritize experientialism and emotionalism over orthodoxy. Since many Catholics “speak in tongues” and are “slain in the Spirit” the rationale among many charismatics is that Catholics MUST also be Christians even though they believe in sacramental grace and salvation by merit. It’s difficult for charismatics to criticize Catholics who “experience” the presence and advocacy of Mary in their lives when so much of charismatic practice and belief is based on subjectivism and emotionalism.
The director of this documentary, Jim Tetlow, was a former Roman Catholic who worshipped not far from me, at Koinonia Fellowship in East Rochester, NY. Tetlow passed on to glory on May 12, 2014 at the age of 49. Oakland partnered with Tetlow on several projects which critiqued Roman Catholicism.
Tetlow published a book, Messages from Heaven, covering the same material presented in this documentary in much greater detail. Both DVD and book are available from Amazon.com.
Below is a link to Roger Oakland’s interesting article, The Facts Behind My Departure from Calvary Chapel.