Many are deceived by the fact that contemporary praise musicians sing about the Lord and even the cross in such a seemingly sincere manner. They ask, “Can it be wrong to sing Maher’s ‘Lord, I Need You’?”
I would answer by asking this: Can a man who prays to Mary as the Queen of Heaven and worships a piece of bread and honors the pope as the Vicar of Christ be of the same Spirit as a fundamental Baptist? Can such a man’s “Jesus” be the Jesus of the Bible? Sure, he is using the Bible’s words, but he defines those words entirely differently than a Bible-believing Christian. That is ecumenical duplicity. Do Baptist Bible colleges not understand these simple and very fundamental things? Do they not know anything about ecumenism and Romanism? Do their preacher supporters not understand these things and not care about truth? Maher’s stated goal in ministry is to bring together all denominations and build the “one-world church,” and he has gotten his hooks into many Baptists.
Too many Bible-believing Baptists are following their emotions and their vanity and the crowd and pragmatism (e.g., build bigger churches, sell more books, don’t offend the popular leaders, etc.) rather than God’s Word and the Spirit of Truth.
The Canadian born Matt Maher (b. 1974), who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, is an eight-time GMA Dove Award Nominee. Four of his songs have reached the Top 25 Christian Songs chart.
He has a degree in Jazz Piano from Arizona State University.
Like John Michael Talbot, Matt Maher is a Roman Catholic ecumenical bridge builder.
Raised Catholic, Maher had a “profound awakening” in 1995 through a Catholic group called Life Team at a charismatic Catholic church. The awakening was an emotional experience he had while watching the skit “The Broken Heart” about a girl who gets a new heart from God after giving hers away to a young boy.
“‘I was standing in the back of the room and I burst into tears,’ Maher remembered. Not long after, he started writing worship songs for the group’s prayer sessions and devoted himself to performing Christian music” (“Catholic Rocker Matt Maher,” Religion News Service, May 17, 2013).
The skit did not present the biblical gospel, and Maher’s conversion was not a biblical conversion. It was a religious conversion that did not include repentance from error and rejection of false christs and false gospels.
Life Team is a youth movement that is having a large influence in keeping young people in the Catholic faith and drawing in others from outside, and Maher is on the board of directors. Life Team operates in 1,600 churches worldwide. The program whitewashes Catholic tradition and presents it in a context that emphasizes “a relationship with Jesus.”
“[W]hat they were doing is they were taking sort of the historical traditions and the doctoral teachings of Catholicism and presenting them in a format that helps kids understand that the foundation of it all is having a relationship with Jesus” (“Matt Maher: On Being Christian,” interview with John van der Veen, Apr. 1, 2013, christianfamily.com).
Maher has led worship at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Tempe, Arizona (Catholic Youth Ministry, catholic.org.au; Matt Maher Biography, musictory.com). This church is devoted to Mary as the Queen of Heaven. The sign at the front of the church says, “Mary, Mother of Life, pray for us.”
Maher has also been worship leader at St. Timothy Catholic Church in Mesa, Arizona.
While at St. Timothy, Maher said that each week he led in the “Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament” (“Unity Comes through Dialogue through Relationships,” Matt Maher interview with Kim Jones, About.com, 2005). This refers to the worship of a consecrated wafer as Christ. It is idolatry and communion with devils. The same is true for the “veneration of Mary” through practices such as meditating on statues, lighting candles, and saying the rosary.
During a trip to Canada in November 1998, I had an opportunity to visit a cloistered convent. A pastor friend invited me to meet his great aunt who had been a Catholic nun for 60 years. She was 80 years old and had lived most of her life in this dark monastery. She could converse with us only from behind metal bars. There are even bars across a section of the convent chapel, separating the nuns from the public. The nuns pray in the chapel by shifts around the clock. As you enter the chapel, there is a sign which says, "You are entering to adore the Jesus-host." Note how the nuns make a direct connection between Jesus and the Catholic host. The host, of course, is the consecrated wafer of the mass. According to Catholic theology, the wafer, when blessed by the priest, becomes the literal body and blood of Jesus. After the mass, the host is placed inside a little box called a tabernacle, and the people pray to it as if it were Jesus Christ Himself.
Maher has led worship in the presence of three popes: John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis.
Maher led worship for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the Rally for Youth in April 2008.
In the following video clip, Maher performs at the 2013 Catholic World Youth Day before Pope Francis, a great venerator of Mary as the Queen of Heaven, singing his popular praise song “Lord I Need You.”
Referring to the papacy, Maher says, “The arms of St. Peter’s are really big” (“Catholic Rocker Matt Maher,” Religion News Service, May 17, 2013).
Maher and the One-World Church
Maher calls himself a “musical missionary,” a missionary for Rome, that is. Christianity Today says “Maher is bringing his music--and a dream of unity into the Protestant church” (“Common Bonds,” CT, Oct. 27, 2009).
He says, “I’ve had co-writing sessions with Protestants where we had that common denominator, and I’ve seen in a very radical way the real possibility of unity.”
He says, “I look at it like the Catholic church is my immediate family, and all my friends from different denominations are extended family.”
David Wang says Maher is “one of the most successful Catholic artists to cross over into mainstream Christian rock and find an audience among evangelicals” (“Catholic Rocker Matt Maher,” Religion News Service, May 17, 2013).
Maher, who tours with non-Catholics, comments:
“What’s fantastic about it is we’re all Christians from different denominations and we’re learning to understand each other. It just means that we’re writing about mysteries that we don’t fully understand” (“Charismatic Catholic Rocker Finds Crossover Appeal with Evangelicals,” Charisma, May 20, 2013).
Maher is happy that other Catholic musicians are coming into the forefront of the contemporary praise movement, such as Audrey Assad, who signed with Sparrow Records, and producer Robbie Seay.
Leaving the Catholic Church is not an option for Maher, because he says, “I love my faith and the expression of it.”
He intends, rather, for his music to be “a bridge.” He says that contemporary worship music is a way to “build relationships with people and link arms with them for the Kingdom.”
He says that touring with people like Michael W. Smith is producing ecumenical unity because people come to the concerts and find themselves standing beside a priest or nun, and they learn that “we’re all in this family together.”
What kingdom, though? There is the kingdom truth and light, and the kingdom of heresy and darkness. The New Testament frequently warns of a great apostasy. These warnings were first given by Christ Himself (Mat. 7:15-23; 24:4-5, 11, 24) and were completed through the ministries of the apostles and prophets (e.g., 1 Timothy 4:1-6; 2 Timothy 3:13; 4:3-4; 2 Peter 2; Jude).
The apostles warned that there will be false christs, false gospels, and false spirits, and taught the churches to be perpetually on guard, testing everything by the absolute standard of God’s Word (Acts 17:11; 20:28-31; 2 Corinthians 11:4; 1 Thess. 5:21; Heb. 5:12-14). They warned that false teachers would be deceptive, appearing as wolves in sheep’s clothing and as ministers of righteousness (Mat. 7:15; 2 Cor. 11:13-15). They warned about the cunning craftiness of false teachers (Eph. 4:14) and their ability to deceive through “good words and fair speeches” (Rom. 16:17-18).
These warnings are typically ignored throughout the world of Contemporary Christian Music, and those who take the warnings seriously are dismissed as unloving, judgmental Pharisees and divisive troublemakers who are hindering God’s work.
Maher hosts the ecumenical WorshipTogether.com’s New Song Cafe.
He performs with a wide variety of “evangelical” Contemporary Christian musicians.
He is in the Provident Label Group with Michael W. Smith, Third Day, Jars of Clay, and others.
He has written songs with and for “evangelical artists” such as Chris Tomlin (“Your Grace Is Enough”), Bethany Dillon, Matt Redman, Jars of Clay, Passion (“Here For You”), and Phillips, Craig and Dean.
In the fall of 2009, Maher traveled with Michael W. Smith on the New Hallelujah Tour.
In the fall of 2010, he was a guest singer at the David Crowder Band’s Fantastical Church Music Conference at Baylor University.
In early 2011, Maher toured on the Rock and Worship Roadshow headlined by MercyMe.
In July 2012, Maher sang “Hold Us Together,” an ecumenical theme song, for Mormon Glenn Beck’s Restoring Love conference in Dallas, Texas.
That same month, Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend joined Maher on NewsongCafe. They played and discussed “The Power of the Cross,” which was co-written by Getty-Townend. The 10-minute program promoted ecumenical unity, with Maher/Townend/Getty entirely one in the spirit through the music. In a context like this, major doctrinal differences are so meaningless that they are not even mentioned. Spiritual abominations such as papal supremacy, the mass, infant baptism, baptismal regeneration, and Mariolatry were ignored. Jude 3 is despised and Romans 16:17 is disobeyed for the sake of building unity through contemporary Christian music.
Maher told Christianity Today that those who criticize his relationship with the Catholic Church are misinformed and “mis-taught” and they “have a bad understanding of Catholic teaching,” but that is not true for me. I have studied the writings and history of the Catholic Church extensively. If Maher truly thinks that the Roman Church teaches salvation by grace alone through the blood of Christ alone without works, he is deceived by the ecumenical program which was launched at the Second Vatican Council, as we will see shortly.
Maher’s wife is Methodist, and they are raising their son “in the Catholic Church,” while also taking him to Methodist services “so he can experience both traditions” (“Charismatic Catholic Rocker Finds Crossover Appeal with Evangelicals,” Charisma, May 20, 2013)
This is the perfect recipe for the building of a one-world “church.”
Major Elements of the Ecumenical Movement
Matt Maher is a case study in the building of the one-world church. All of the elements can be seen in Maher and in Life Team and in the “evangelicals” that accept Maher’s ministry.
These elements are a shared love for rock music, charismatic experiences, the redefinition of terms, theological carelessness, and illicit spiritual relationships.
First, a shared love for rock music is at the heart of the ecumenical movement.
When we say “rock music,” we are not talking about 50s rock or 60s rock or any particular narrow definition of rock. We are referring to all forms of pop music since the 1950s with a backbeat and an anticipated beat and a thousand other forms of dance syncopation, everything from Be Bop to Rap. Society is addicted to this type of music, and the shared love for sensual dance music is a major factor in breaking down denominational barriers.
For research purposes, I have visited dozens of conferences and churches, from Saddleback to Calvary Chapel to Bethlehem Baptist (Piper’s church) to Thomas Road Baptist (Jerry Falwell) to Mars Hill (Mark Driscoll) to the International House of Prayer, and you find the same passion for rock music at every place.
Contemporary music definitely lies at the heart and soul of the end-time ecumenical “church,” and the heart of contemporary music is a shared love for rock music.
Second, charismatic experiences are a major element in ecumenism.
Matt Maher represents the “charismatic renewal” in the Roman Catholic Church.
I first witnessed this movement personally in 1987 at the North American Conference on the Holy Spirit & World Evangelization, which I attended with media credentials. The conference brought together 40 denominations, including fifteen to twenty thousand Roman Catholics. A Catholic mass was conducted every morning. A Catholic priest from Rome brought the concluding message. At the heart of the impressive ecumenical unity was not only shared love for contemporary music, but also the shared acceptance of charismatic experiences: gibberish “tongues,” “prophecies,” “healings,” laying on of hands, spirit slaying.
Since the days of John Wimber, a rapidly growing number of “evangelicals” have accepted the charismatic movement. And those who don’t yet accept it are foolish enough to use the sensual charismatic music and by this means are moving toward an experience orientation of worship and Christian living and thus are being drawn ever nearer to the charismatic movement itself.
Third, the redefinition of terms is a major element in ecumenism.
Matt Maher is a major player in this phenomenon.
To emphasize salvation “by grace” and salvation as “a relationship with Jesus” in a Catholic context, as Life Team and Matt Maher do, is ecumenical deception. It is a redefinition of terms.
When committed Roman Catholics like Matt Maher and John Michael Talbot sing of Christ’s grace, they don’t mean what the Bible means. They are using “evangelical” terms, but they are defining them by a Roman Catholic dictionary.
Because of the widespread ignorance that exists in “evangelical” and even “fundamentalist” churches, many are deceived by the language.
Maher sings of Christ, the cross, resurrection, and grace, but these terms must be interpreted in light of Rome’s heresies. Salvation by grace, according to Rome, is salvation through the sacraments. Christ’s atonement and resurrection did not complete the believer’s salvation; it provided a storehouse of grace for the Catholic Church to distribute through its sacraments. As for Christ, He is the consecrated wafer of the eucharist.
The Roman Catholic Council of Trent pronounced a curse on those who teach that salvation is by grace alone, and that curse has never been rescinded. If Matt Maher actually believes that salvation is by grace alone without sacraments or works, he is under the curse of his own church!
We have documented this extensively in the free eBook Is the Roman Catholic Church Changing?
This is what the Roman Catholic Church said at Trent:
“If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ's sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Sixth Session, Canons Concerning Justification, Canon 12).
“If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA” (Sixth Session, Canons Concerning Justification, Canon 24).
The New Catholic Catechism cites Trent no less than 99 times, by my own count (from the printed book pre-eBook days). There is not the slightest hint that the proclamations of the Council of Trent have been abrogated by Rome.
Salvation through the sacraments was taught by the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s and by the New Catholic Catechism of the 1990s.
“For it is the liturgy through which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, 'the work of our redemption is accomplished’...” (Vatican Council II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Introduction, para. 2).
“The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation” (New Catholic Catechism, 1129).
“By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin” (New Catholic Catechism, 1263).
Someone who believes in the Catholic sacraments, the “treasury of the saints,” purgatory, and Mary’s mediatrixship (a term used by Vatican II and the New Catholic Catechism to refer to Mary as an advocate and mediator) absolutely does NOT believe what the Bible teaches about salvation by grace alone through faith alone by the blood of Christ alone.
We are living in a time of great deception. Since the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic Church has launched a massive program to put on a more evangelical face. This program includes ecumenical endeavors, the charismatic “renewal,” Catholic apologists such as Scott Hahn, Keith Fournier, and Peter Kreeft, who have presented Catholic doctrine as more evangelical, and Catholic musical missionaries such as John Michael Talbot and Matt Maher. The program has been very successful because of the spiritual lukewarmness and ignorance of “evangelicals.”
At the heart of the program is the clever redefinition of terms. The Catholic Church now uses evangelical terms but has retained its own heretical definitions.
At Indianapolis ’90, another large ecumenical conference I attended with media credentials, Roman Catholics taught a seminar on how to deal with lapsed Catholics in door-to-door “witnessing.” They used terms such as “saved by grace,” “receive Jesus,” and “a personal relationship with Jesus.” They even taught how to lead an individual in a “salvation prayer.” But everything was defined in terms of Catholic theology. It wasn’t what it seemed to be from a Bible-believing perspective. It was not a matter of receiving Christ once-for-all in a born again experience that gives you a know-so salvation that requires no perfecting through sacraments. It was basically a matter of receiving Christ repeatedly (e.g., through baptism, through the mass, through confession, through spiritual renewals, through spiritual experiences).
I fear that most members of Bible-believing churches are not educated enough, either in the Bible or in current issues, to refute the subtle errors of our day. They cannot see through the redefinition of terms. They don’t know enough about heresies such as charismaticism and Catholicism to understand the background to the redefinition of terms. If they were to encounter someone like Matt Maher, they wouldn’t be able to refute his error.
Here are some questions that should be asked of Matt Maher and other “evangelical Catholics.”
- Do you believe the New Catholic Catechism (1263) when it says that “by baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin”? Before you had your transformative charismatic experience, were you lost and on your way to hell, or were you already saved through baptism?
- Do you accept the Council of Trent’s curse on those who say that “confidence in Christ’s mercy alone” saves?
- Do you believe the New Catholic Catechism (1129) that “the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation”?
- Do you believe the New Catholic Catechism (1414) that the mass is a sacrifice that “is offered in reparation for the sins of the living and the dead”?
- Do you believe the New Catholic Catechism (1367) when it says that in the mass “the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner”?
- Do you believe the New Catholic Catechism (1418) when it says that “because Christ himself is present in the sacrament of the altar he is to be honoured with the worship of adoration”?
- Do you believe the New Catholic Catechism (1471, 1478, 1479) when it says that through indulgences come “the remission of the punishments due for sins”?
- Do you believe the New Catholic Catechism (491, 494, 495, 508, 964, 966, 968, 969) when it says that Mary was totally preserved from the stain of original sin, that she joined herself with Christ’s sacrifice, that she was taken up body and soul into glory, exalted as “Queen over all things,” and “by her manifold intercession continues to bring us gifts of eternal salvation”?
- Do you believe the Vatican II Council and the New Catholic Catechism (834) when it says that all churches must be “in accord with” the Roman Catholic Church?
- Do you believe the New Catholic Catechism (841) when it says that salvation includes Muslims and that they “adore the one, merciful God”?
- Do you believe the New Catholic Catechism (882) when it says that the pope “has full, supreme and universal power over the whole church”?
- Do you believe the New Catholic Catechism (982) when it says that “there is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive?”
- Do you believe the New Catholic Catechism (1030) when it says that purgatory is required “to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven”?
Fourth, theological carelessness and impreciseness is a major element in ecumenism.
Maher talks about this and believes that it is a great thing. He uses the hymn “Amazing Grace” as an example of a song that all denominations can sing because it is theologically imprecise. Maher says:
“... those songs weren’t necessarily written about doctrines of faith as much as they were written from doctrines of faith; the difference of that being that I realize that early on in my writing I was writing songs about my Christian faith from a Catholic perspective. I think over time as my faith became more and more integrated just to know who I was, I realized that I didn’t need to do that. I just needed to write songs from my faith, and so I think when you do that, there’s a timeless element of core Christian truth that shines through regardless of disagreements. ... I mean, ‘Amazing Grace’ -- THAT SONG ISN’T ABOUT JUSTIFICATION. IT ISN’T ABOUT SUBSIDIARY ATONEMENT OR SENSATIONALISM. IT’S A SONG ABOUT GRACE! It’s a song that comes from a deep personal perspective, and in a way from the gospel. It’s not about the gospel.
“I think that’s the difference. I think writers more and more are realizing that. [Consider the song] ‘10,000 Reasons’ [by Matt Redman]. Some people could say it was a theological speculation about the multitude of reasons that a redeemed sinner would have to bless God, or you could just simply say that it’s an amazing prayer that comes from a heart of somebody who knows Jesus. Do you understand what I’m saying? ...
“Like Matt Redman and I wrote a song about communion together. He comes from an Anglican or Evangelical background and I came from a Catholic background. We have completely different doctoral teachings about communion and about the Eucharist. Does that mean that we can’t write a song together about the importance of communion. ... What we can say is let’s try to serve the Church with a song that somehow reflects truth and leaves a little bit of room for the mystery of faith.
“I think that’s what I’ve tried to do with my music. Particularly I think the corporate songs … the songs specifically for churches to sing on Sunday. I have definitely tried to do that in those songs” (“Matt Maher: On Being Christian,” interview with John van der Veen, Apr. 1, 2013, familychristian.com).
Maher is saying that he is purposefully imprecise in his songs. He wants to leave room for a wide variety of theology to be read into the lyrics. This is the characteristic of a vast majority of contemporary worship songs, and it is a major element in creating ecumenical unity.
He sings about grace, but it can refer to the grace that was purchased once-for-all at Calvary and offered directly to the believing sinner in a born again experience that produces a know-so salvation stance, or it can refer to a treasury of grace distributed through Catholic sacraments.
Again, the problem is that so few of the members (and even pastors) in Bible-believing churches are equipped to understand this and to protect themselves from the subtle wiles of the contemporary song writers.
I have warned about this many times.
Consider the example of “Word of God Speak” by MercyMe, which has been performed at Lancaster Baptist Church in Lancaster, California, and other independent Baptist churches.
The song is written by charismatics and teaches charismatic theology, but the lyrics are worded in such a way that an unknowing person could think that the “Word of God” refers to the Bible. Consider the lyrics:
“Word of God speak, would you pour down like rain, washing my eyes to see your majesty. To be still and know that you’re in this place, please let me stay and rest in your holiness. ... Finding myself in the midst of you, beyond the music, beyond the noise. All that I need is to be with you and in the quiet I hear your voice.”
The “Word of God” here is not the Bible; it is a mystical feeling, a direct revelation. It is found in the “quiet,” “beyond the noise.” It is an experience of the “presence” of God. It is the same thing that is taught by the contemplative prayer movement and that was borrowed from Rome’s dark monastic past and that is currently sweeping through evangelicalism.
This “open yourself to the flow of the Spirit” has led to all sorts of unscriptural doctrines and practices. It is this type of mysticism that led CCM song writer Jack Hayford, author of the popular song “Majesty,” to say that while he was driving past a Catholic church God told him not to criticize it and he has heeded that “voice.” That is the “word of God” that MercyMe is singing about.
It is the same mysticism that convinces charismatics that they are communing with God through “tongues” even though it is nothing but ecstatic gibberish. It’s the same mysticism that convinces them that they are “basking in the Spirit of God” when they are “slain in the spirit.”
This type of theological looseness and impreciseness permeates the field of contemporary worship music, though there are exceptions, and it is a major element of ecumenical unity.
The only protection is to be grounded in God’s Word, well-versed in sound theology, and educated about false theology.
Fifth, illicit spiritual relationships is a major element in ecumenism.
Human relationships are very powerful. This was why Israel was commanded to separate from the neighboring pagans by not intermarrying, forming business partnerships, and such things.
And this is a reason why God’s people today are commanded to separate from those who are committed to false doctrine.
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
The Bible warns that “evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33). Wrong associations bring a negative influence into one’s life, and that is true whether the associations are worldly or whether they are heretical.
The non-judgmental climate that permeates everything today encourages people to ignore these warnings by forming close associations with other Christians regardless of doctrinal differences. “We all love Jesus, don’t we?”
This results in the breaking down of “denominational” or doctrinal walls and is a key element of the ecumenical movement.
Matt Maher understands this and is using it to break down resistance to Rome.
“You know, I think it’s a move that God is doing. It’s not about me, it’s about unity ... There’s a guy that I’ve been developing a friendship with whose name is J. D. Walt. He’s the Dean of Chapel at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky. He’s just a phenomenal preacher, a great man, a great husband and loving father. He and I have just been dialoging, and he said something really profound. He said that unity comes through dialog through relationships” (Matt Maher, “Unity Comes through Dialogue through Relationships,” an interview with Kim Jones, about.com, 2005).
The Catholic Matt Maher and the Methodist John David Walt are building unity through relationships. (Both men are heavily involved in contemporary worship music. Walt is involved with Worship Central with Tim Hughes and worked with Chris Tomlin in “The Harvest” in Houston.)
If this is not the one-world “church,” what is it?
Separation is almost a dirty word in Christianity today, but it is a clearly-taught doctrine of God’s Word, and it is a matter of spiritual protection. Those who renounce it and ignore it do so to their own spiritual detriment and to the detriment of those who are under their spiritual watchcare and who follow their example.
For more about Roman Catholic contemporary Christian artists see Audrey Assad, CCM and Rome, Dion Dimucci, Ray Repp, Peter Scholtes, John Michael Talbot, and Kathy Troccoli in the Directory of Contemporary Worship Musicians.
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