Monday, December 21, 2009

Who Joins Spiritually Abusive Groups?

I regularly check for cult related news at a rather unique website. You can check it too at this link. http://www.cultnews.net/

One of the things I hate to see when I go there is under the title “Clergy Abuse.” Most of the news in this category is sexual abuse but other forms also show up occasionally.

If you have not experienced spiritual abuse personally thank God for it. You probably wonder how people get caught in something so obviously bad for them. Its not easy but it extremely common. Spiritual abuse grows out of a seedbed of legalism, a performance-based relationship with God. This leads to a focus on the external, or what is visible and can be checked by others. This is what Jesus referred to in the Pharisees as “whited sepulchers.” When our relationship with God can be reduced to the external it is probably accompanied with a person or group that reinforces that view.

Anyone who has experienced this abuse needs to know three things. First, recovery can be found. Second, when you have recovered, give from your experience to others who are struggling with abuse and legalism to help them find hope again. And third, thank God for your experience (and the recovery) because you will then be a much stronger, and wiser Christian whom God will use to heal His wounded sheep.

My workbook on Spiritual Abuse Recovery was dedicated “to the ‘Wounded Sheep’ who just wanted to serve God and please Him.” I have excerpted part of Chapter Two below to provide some insight into why this is a growing, and unrecognized, problem.


Chapter Two: Who Joins Abusive Groups?


“Most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities.”
G.K. Chesterton


The question of who joins high control religious groups seems like it would have a simple answer. It does not. Nor is there a simple answer to how it happens.
The starting place should be the question of what disposes a person to spiritual abuse? Why is a person vulnerable? What differences in people make one vulnerable and another not so vulnerable? I would love to know your answers to these questions but here is a list that may help you think it through.

Which of these statements fit you?
1) I had a lack of knowledge of the Bible.
2) I was raised in an abusive family or church so I didn’t know the difference.
3) I was not sufficiently strong in critical thinking skills or will power.
4) I came to Christ through the abusive group’s influence.
5) I was like the frog in the kettle where things changed so gradually I didn’t notice until it was too late.
6) I am easily led, or I want someone to take the lead for me….

…. People who were raised in families where dysfunction was the norm may gravitate toward a church that is like their family of origin. It’s all they know. It’s the familiar rut with an accepted comfort level. The way to break out of such a rut is exposure to a much more gracious culture. Hopefully the contrast will stir a hunger for grace and not performance. This is what the people in the Bible who knew they were sinners saw in Jesus. They contrasted Him to the self-righteous Pharisees and knew instantly that Jesus was someone to listen to.

If you would like to obtain a copy of the Spiritual Abuse Recovery workbook send me an email at the address on this blog. I will tell you how you can receive it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Questions to Ask a Mormon

A scene from a Star Trek episode finds Captain Kirk posing questions to a computer that is determined to exterminate all carbon-based life forms. Kirk poses a question to the computer that the computer cannot resolve. Finally, the computer begins repeating the phrase, “More data please. It does not compute. It does not compute….” Kirk’s questions cause the computer to lock up in a never-ending struggle to resolve the logical conflict.


Mormons are not computers or Star Trek aliens. They are not like the Romulans, Klingons or Ferengi. I have already linked those alien species to other cult groups. :-)


On the other hand the use of a question can highlight a logical fallacy for any cultist. It can send the mind into what is called cognitive dissonance, a state of confusion caused by the perception of two conflicting truths. The resolution is found only in the acceptance of one and the dismissal of the other.


There is a significant problem, however, in using logical arguments with Mormons. They do not decide what is true on the basis of logic. They determine the truth of Mormonism by prayer. In the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:4) an “investigator” is challenged to read the book of Mormon and pray that God will show the truth of it. To a Mormon the proof is in a subjective “burning in the bosom” response to their reading. This is a physical/emotional/spiritual experience. Those Mormons who have experienced it have a stronger resistance to objective evidences. That is not to say that objective evidences, or logic, are worthless because God opens the closed mind. We are simply to present the truth and leave its impact to Him.

The Objective Challenge

Though Mormons test truth by prayer Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth President of the LDS church, gave an objective criteria for determining the truth or fallacy of Mormonism. He said in his book Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1, page 188,

Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who willfully attempted to mislead the people, then he should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false, for the doctrines of an impostor cannot be made to harmonize in all particulars with divine truth. If his claims and declarations were built upon fraud and deceit, there would appear many errors and contradictions, which would be easy to detect. The doctrines of false teachers will not stand the test when tried by the accepted standards of measurement, the scriptures.”

The “accepted standards of measurement” have always been objective. They include the written revelation of God in the Bible, the natural revelation in His creation, and a rational mind that can logically weigh evidences. When the Holy Spirit speaks to the human heart His words will always be in agreement with those objective evidences. Though prayer is good it is not one of the “accepted standards of measurement” because Satan can impersonate the Holy Spirit through what the Bible calls “seducing spirits”. This presents us with the first question to ask a Mormon.


Questions About The Book of Mormon

If you have a “testimony” of the truth of the Book of Mormon how do you know it is not from a “seducing spirit” (see 1 Timothy 4:1)? Would not a “seducing spirit” be seductive, or in other words, feel good?


Why rely on a subjective test when the Biblical test of truth claims were always objective? Isaiah 8:20 “To the law and to the testimony (scripture up to that time) if they speak not according to this word there is no truth in them.”


Aren’t the scriptures “the accepted standards of measurement” according to Joseph Fielding Smith in Doctrines of Salvation (quoted above)?


Do you know that the Muslim scripture, the Koran, is not scripture? How do you know? Have you read it and asked God sincerely whether it is true or not? Or, is it not true because you know it teaches doctrines that are not true? Isn’t that why the Book of Mormon should be tested by the same criteria, the “accepted standards of measurement,” the scriptures?

Next time you have a couple young missionaries at your door thank them for coming and say, “I’m glad you’re here. I’ve had some questions I have wanted to ask. Let me get them (print this out and put it in your Bible).

Friday, November 13, 2009

May The "Force" Be With You?

The Watchtower Society teaches that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force, not having the three attributes of personality intellect, emotion, and will. Nor do they believe the Spirit is deity. They compare the Holy Spirit to a radar beam or electricity, a force, hence the title of this piece.

The Watchtower can accept the eternal existence of the Holy Spirit because “it” is Jehovah’s power. Since Jehovah is eternal and His “power” or “active force” has been His eternally then the Holy Spirit is also eternal. By the way, the Watchtower never says “the” Holy Spirit. They always say Holy Spirit without the definite article.

Since Christians firmly hold to the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit it would be useful to pose a few questions to focus the Witnesses mind on a contradiction their belief presents. According to the Watchtower all “spirits” have the attributes of personality, intellect, emotion and will, except the Holy Spirit. Why? My opinion is that to accept the personality of the Holy Spirit would be to take a step toward the Trinity, which they hate. The Holy Spirit is, according to the Bible, eternal (Hebrews 9:14), and if He is a “person” then He must also be deity for only God is an eternal Person, having no beginning and no end.

First Question:

Is Jehovah a spirit and is He a “personal” being having the three attributes of intellect, emotion, and will?

Answer: The Jehovah’s Witnesses will say “yes.”

Second Question:

According to the Watchtower is Jesus a spirit today in heaven? Does He have the three attributes of personality?

Answer: Again, the JW will agree.

Third Question:

Are angels spirits? Do they have the attributes of personality?

Answer: Yes.

Fourth Question: Is Satan a spirit? Is he a being with the attributes of personality?

Answer: Yes.

Fifth Question: Are demons spirits? Do they have the attributes of personality?

Answer: Yes.

Sixth Question:

Is the Holy Spirit a spirit? Does He have the attributes of personality?

Answer: No.

Why not? Why are all spirits personal beings but not the Holy Spirit?

Another objection by the Watchtower to the personality of the Holy Spirit is that they believe a person cannot indwell another person. This objection has no logic to it in my opinion because the Witnesses believe you can be “indwelled” (possessed) by a demon. So if a demon can get inside you why not the Holy Spirit? This belief of the Watchtower is borne out in their mistranslation of many passages of scripture where believers are said to be “in” Christ, or Christ “in” us. They translate these verses as being “in union with” Christ.

Further, if the Holy Spirit is not a personal being how can an “it” carry on a personal conversation as in Acts 8:29; 10:19, 20; 13:2; 21:11; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; and 3:6.

The Holy Spirit has the three attributes of personality.

Intellect:
Romans 8:27 “The MIND of the Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 2:10-12 The Spirit “KNOWS.”

Emotion:
Ephesians 4:30 “GRIEVE not the Spirit.”

Will:
1 Corinthians 12:11 “The Spirit WILLS.”

Conclusion:

“Let him who has an ear hear what the Spirit SAYS…” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Scientology Takes a Licking?

In the past the Church of Scientology (COS) intimidated its foes outside the church to silence their criticism. They threatened Watchman Fellowship a few times to no avail. However, now the COS is facing a new and very high level of criticism from former high-ranking members who have “blown”, i.e., left the church.

In the 1980’s Time magazine published an extensive article describing Scientology as “A Cult of Greed.” They were sued by COS. Now The St. Petersburg Times is publishing extensive print and video testimony of a number of former Scientologists. What they have to say reminds me of the movies Enemy of the State, and The Firm. Interesting stuff to watch.

Go to the www.tampabay.com website and click on the banner “Chased by their church” to find the stories of escape and intrigue. One escapee constructed a tool similar to a rolling pin to slide down a ships hawser to the dock to escape his confinement. Another rolled his motorcycle near the iron gates and waited till a car left the compound. When the gates were open he gunned his cycle and got through the gates before they closed. The videos can’t be uploaded to this blog so go to their site and watch.

Meanwhile a court in France found the COS guilty of fraud. “Wednesday, 28 October 2009 was branded an "organised fraud" by a French court yesterday and fined €600,000 (£545,000) for preying financially on vulnerable believers.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/scientology-fined-163545000-in-first-conviction-for-fraud-1810519.html

Elsewhere in Europe, “The German domestic intelligence service keeps the Church of Scientology under surveillance as a potential threat to democracy. Belgian prosecutors have been building a blackmail case against it for 11 years.”

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/scientology-religious-sect-or-money-making-cult/article1340903/

The Church of Scientology “has taken a licking, can it keep on ticking?”

Friday, October 2, 2009

Characteristics of a Spiritually Abusive Group

(Note: This article is a summary of the latest issue of The News & Views, our monthly Watchman Fellowship newsletter. It will be sent free to any who request it. Click the email link to the left.)

In a high control group the most important control factor is the flow of information. We have all heard the saying that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” but the converse of that is that the lack of knowledge can be even more dangerous. The prophet Hosea said, “My people perish for lack of knowledge.”

If you don’t have the knowledge of how to survive a trek in a rain forest you probably won’t be heard from again. Such an environment is hostile to almost all life forms. Human survival in such an environment is based on knowledge of the dangers and being able to adapt to them.

Interestingly, at least to me, religion can be like a dangerous environment where knowledge and adaptability are the two most important survival skills. For the sake of putting my analogy in a Christian context let me say that some environments are not very dangerous, if at all, while others on the opposite end of the scale are deadly. It should also be stated that the Christian gospel is not dangerous to anyone, but the message of radical Islam is very deadly as witnessed recently in the beheadings of three pastors in Nigeria who refused to recant their faith in Christ.

Http://www.sunnewsonline.com/webpages/news/national/2009/aug/06/national-06-08-2009-01.htm

Having set the scale of measurement between the extremes what are the telltale signs to look for in any group that might be problematic? In my workbook on Spiritual Abuse Recovery I list thirteen characteristics of a high control group. An analysis of the reasons for each of the abuses will help you to understand why they exist.

There are essentially two reasons for high control mechanisms to exist. First, the “truth” of the group is not the truth at all and must be defended with lies. Second, the leader is a narcissist, or a controlling personality, and feels insecure or threatened by anyone around him who does not submit to his will. I think you will see this with each of the abuse symptoms.

A Spiritually Abusive Group Will:

1) Claim a Superior Status With God

2) Focus on the Leaders Position of Authority

3) Provide No Accountability For Leaders

4) Try to Control Your Time and Sources of Information

5) Close You Off From Outsiders

6) Put You on a Performance Treadmill

7) Emphasize Conformity to Legalistic Rules

8) Use Fear and Guilt to Manipulate You to Comply

9) Blame Misfortune on Lack of Faith

10) Wound People Spiritually and Emotionally

11) Shut Off Discussion About Forbidden Subjects

12) Label Those Who Dissent

13) Label Former Members as Unspiritual

Conclusion

According to Jeff vanvonderen, author of The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, the symptoms manifested by a serious spiritual abuse victim are identical to those of a victim of incest. The ability to trust spiritual leaders is lost. Religious jargon can trigger anger for many years afterward. Therefore avoidance of the sources of their trauma is the only recourse left. Evangelical churches are not immune either. Scores of thousands leave evangelical churches every week according to William Hendricks in his book Exit Interviews.

We should be aware of the controlling tendencies of fallen man. We should also stand up for God’s truth while practicing the same grace toward others that He showed to us while we were still sinners.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Bible is Trustworthy

My favorite Christian apologist is Dr. Ravi Zacharias. I urge everyone to go to YouTube and type in his name and watch a few segments.

In the video below Dr. Zacharias briefly describes why the Bible is a trustworthy document and has survived thousands of years against the attacks of skeptics and critics.

It is in reality not one book but sixty-six. So when you quote the Bible to defend the Bible it is not circular reasoning. To quote Isaiah to defend Matthew about the birth of Jesus is to quote two people separated by hundreds of years.

The Bible has an internal unity that is not matched by any other religious scripture. The Quran can be divided into two contradictory parts. Mohammed wanted the favor of Christians and Jews and spoke favorably of them as “people of the book.”

"Not all of them are alike; a party of the people of the Scripture stand for the right, they recite the Verses of God during the hours of the night, prostrating themselves in prayer. They believe in God and the Last Day; they enjoin Al-Ma'rûf and forbid Al-Munkar ; and they hasten in (all) good works; and they are among the righteous. And whatever good they do, nothing will be rejected of them; for God knows well those who are Al-Muttaqûn." (Sura 3:113-115).

However, when the Jews and Christians rejected Mohammed as a true prophet he in turn rejected them. Afterward his attitude toward them was hostility and aggression. For example, the Quran says that Allah has cursed the Jews and turned them into swine and apes (Sura 5:60-64). This is an example of internal disunity, a conflict or contradiction, within the Muslim scripture.

The Book of Mormon has horses on the North American continent many centuries before they were first brought here by the Spanish Conquistadors. It lists places, events, tribes, religious beliefs and practices, and coinage that have absolutely no evidence in history. This is an example of an external disunity, or conflict with the evidence outside the Book of Mormon.

The Quran is a book of sayings similar in style to Proverbs.

The Book of Mormon claims to be a history similar in style to 1st and 2nd Chronicles.

The Bible, however, is a variety of literary forms. It contains history, poetry, apocalyptic, legal, biographical, letters, and the prophetic.

It was written in widely separated locations including Babylon, Rome, Asia Minor, and of course Israel.

It was written by forty authors from the whole spectrum of Jewish society. They included kings, shepherds, prophets, priests, and even a tax collector.

It was written over a period of 1500 years and despite this diversity of time, place, and authors, it is a unified message that is non-contradictory either internally or externally.

Most of all the Bible has changed lives. But it has also changed cultures, nations, and the world. The Bible’s central character, Jesus, is the dividing point in history, the years being BC (Before Christ), or AD (anno domini, year of our Lord). Western civilization is based upon the heritage of the Judeo-Christian Bible.

Watch Ravi and I think you will find yourself watching his other clips on YouTube.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Spiritual Abuse Testimony

A couple months ago I published the testimony of “Jennifer” in the News & Views. I had heard from Jennifer months before about her struggle to find peace with her past experience of spiritual abuse. I sent her five copies of my Spiritual Abuse Recovery workbook and suggested she write down her story as a form of therapy in her spiritual and emotional recovery.

The workbook is set up with thought provoking questions to facilitate reflection. Later Jennifer sent me her story in print. With her permission I published it in our newsletter. If you want a copy email me at the address on this blog site and I will send it to you.

What I find repeatedly in cases of spiritual abuse is the gradual twisting of one’s perspective on reality. It is seldom a sudden change. Some basic assumptions about the group, its leader, or worldview usually precede the twisting of one’s thinking. To illustrate I have clipped several paragraphs from Jennifer’s testimony and pasted them below.

At this point the leader of this cult told me to quit my job, sell everything I owned, put my house up for sale and leave everyone behind. I was to ex-communicate myself from everyone who was not involved in the cult. He used scripture to back up everything he told me to do – such as “let the dead bury their dead” “ anyone who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of me” etc,…

So I sold everything I had, clothes and all, put my house up for sale, moved to another town and quit my job.

I know as you are reading this you might think how could I have not seen the red flags but all I can tell you was that it was so subtle so gradual and he used the Word to back up everything he did and because I was a baby in the Word I could not discern the half truths. Not to mention the fact that he told us if we left we would go to hell.



Now watch Jennifer tell her story as broadcast on CBN's The 700 Club.





video



This video illustrates the nature of spiritual abuse. It is a problem in our society that goes far beyond the cults which are by nature legalistic and controlling. Anywhere you have people in a religious setting this kind of abuse can happen. Knowing the way it manifests itself is your first defense against it. In the next issue of the News & Views I will be discussing the characteristics of abusive religion. These characteristics are listed on the back cover of the Spiritual Abuse Recovery workbook. In the next newsletter I describe one of those characteristics. It is that they,...


Provide No Accountability For Leaders

This commonly occurs as a “cult of personality” where the leader allows his adoring followers to elevate him to a pedestal where it is considered rude to question him. Some groups have their leader on such a pedestal as a matter of doctrine, i.e., a prophet of God, or the above described “chain of command”. In either case the leader can impose his will with little resistance because it is considered as coming from God. Frequently he will surround himself with a Board of “Yes men” who will provide him cover from genuine accountability.


If you wish to receive my newsletter you can click on my email address in the upper left of this blog. The subscription is free.


You can also obtain a copy of the Spiritual Abuse Recovery workbook. Send $20 to Watchman Fellowship, PO Box 7681, Columbus, GA 31908 with a written request for the workbook and I will send it to you. I will also send you Jennifer's testimony as printed in the News & Views.



Friday, August 21, 2009

A Mormon Absurdity?

Mormons believe we all existed before this life as ‘spirit children’ of a heavenly father and one of his goddess wives. In Mormon doctrine they expect to progress on to one of the three levels of heaven, for Mormons that is the highest level, the Celestial Kingdom, after this earthly life. But between the pre-existence as ‘spirit children’ and the afterlife comes being born into ‘mortality’ or this earthly existence.

Mormons believe all of humanity pre-existed this life on earth. At this point you are probably wondering why you don’t remember it. Orson Pratt can explain it.

Orson Pratt was one of the original Mormon Twelve Apostles ordained by Joseph Smith in 1835. Though he apostatized in 1842 he was re-baptized in 1843 and reinstated to the Council of the Twelve Apostles. He died in 1881. He made the following Statement that has not been changed in Mormon understanding since 1854.

“When Jesus was born into our world, his previous knowledge was taken from him; this was occasioned by His spiritual body being compressed into a smaller volume than it originally occupied, … when this spirit was compressed, so as to be wholly enclosed in an infant tabernacle, it had a tendency to suspend memory; …So it is with man. When he enters a body of flesh, his spirit is so compressed and contracted in infancy that he forgets his former existence…” (The Seer, February 1853, 1854, p. 21).

When you are in the business of inventing a religion absurdities such as the above will inevitably occur.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jehovah's Witnesses and Blood

Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for their refusal of blood transfusions. But they also will refuse to eat meat that has not been properly bled, or even to use any product, food or otherwise, that contains blood.

What they fail to understand is that blood as used in the Bible is a symbol; it is not sacred, in and of itself. That which it symbolizes, life and redemption, specifically the life and redeeming blood of Christ, are what are sacred.

God saw to it that Israel gave high respect to blood because it was an essential part of His redemptive work, i.e., the shed blood of Jesus. But when the pharisee types get their hands on what God has said there are some strange “rules” that can result.

An example is the Watchtower Society answer to a question I asked in 1979, back when they sent their answers on their letterhead. I asked about the blood seepage into the mouth when a tooth has been pulled. Their answer was that “…a Christian, while he is conscious, would be able to spit out what blood has accumulated in his mouth…” (letter to me dated January 12, 1979).

Another question I asked them regarded the storage of one’s own blood for use in a future operation. This is called an autologous transfusion. Their reply was that it “would be a violation of the Scriptural principles that govern the handling of blood) (letter to me dated September 5, 1977).

This lead to questions regarding the use of kidney dialysis machines which take the blood out of the body, clean it, and put it back into the body. What is the essential difference between this process and an autologous transfusion? The difference, as I understand it, is that the dialysis machine maintains an unbroken flow of blood from the body to the machine and back into the body again. However, what would they say if a nurse pinched the tube?

The Watchtower (2/15/64, pages 127, 128 and 6/15/82, page 31) said that Christians should not knowingly feed, or allow, blood to be fed to animals over which they have control. If this reasoning is followed does a Jehovah’s Witness allow himself to enjoy his back yard in the summer knowing that mosquitoes are going to drink his blood? And what about Jehovah creating such creatures who don’t drain the blood before they eat the flesh? Or, why did He create bloodsucking critters?

But Jehovah’s Witnesses will be glad to know that now there is a kosher sausage they can eat. An enterprising Spaniard came up with a bloodless sausage according to this report…

http://www.thinkspain.com/news-spain/16813/bloodless-black-sausage-created-for-jehovahs-witnesses

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

An Attitude Adjustment

When I was in Bible college I heard students talk about coming up with “spiritual gems” to discuss in their class. The professor made that a regular part of her class. It was a practical way of getting students to focus on wisdom and understanding that they would have to draw on when they were in day-to-day ministry later in life. In the mid-1990’s I read Randall Arthur’s book Wisdom Hunter and I found a treasure trove of insights into the dark side of Christianity, legalism and spiritual abuse, the opposite of grace.

Randall Arthur (his real name is Randy Dodd) was sent as a missionary to Norway by a legalistic mission agency. He said his attitude when he arrived was that he and his wife were probably the only Bible believing witness in the whole country. Thirteen years later he returned home a very changed man. He had found Christianity alive and gracious in Norway. His book is fiction but the lessons learned by the leading character, Jason Faircloth, are very real. Randy has written two other books. His second book, Jordan’s Crossing, focuses on the problems with liberal Christianity. His third book, Betrayal, returns to the legalism and abuse theme. I have strongly recommended Randy’s books for people who are exiting legalistic and abusive religion because of their teaching and therapy value.


In all high control religious groups the authority of the leader is emphasized. It is the first characteristic of any high control system. This authority is not the moral authority exemplified by Jesus but is that of controlling authority. To disagree with, or worse, confront such 'authority' is to bring down wrath upon oneself. This is not the kind of spiritual authority described in the New Testament.

In the telling of Jason Faircloth’s story you learn important and practical lessons in wisdom. Wisdom is what Jason is hunting for as a way to make sense of his terrible experiences. His first lesson is that of a Student Attitude vs. Authoritarian Attitude.

He says, “All my Christian life I was taught both directly and indirectly, both professionally and nonprofessionally, that a preacher should be an authority, and that he should clearly, and forcefully if necessary, display the attitude of an authority. ‘No one’, I was told, ‘should ever develop the idea that the preacher is weak or doesn’t know the answers’.

“After having succumbed to that philosophy and being driven by it for fifteen years, I am now convinced that there are few things more counterproductive, self-defeating, and utterly destructive than a mortal preacher with an authoritarian attitude.”

“I realize now that my attitude was the cause of countless and uncalled-for offenses. The number of people who left my ministry because of it was almost equal to the number of people who joined it for other reasons. For the first time I now understand that those who could not tolerate my attitude, and thus decided to leave, were people who had more potential for dynamic Christian growth than those who stayed. The ones who stayed were the simple-minded ‘yes’ people. The ones who left were the ‘thinkers’, the people whose active, creative, and hungry minds were being suffocated by my style of leadership.”

“Never again will I be characterized as one who has an authoritarian attitude. For as long as need be, I will purposely work at suppressing that kind of flagrant attitude and will work at cultivating a student attitude in its place.”

“It’s now clear that I actually know very little. Therefore I’ve resolved to open my mind and let the world be my classroom. So that I don’t swing to the other extreme and become a philosophical anarchist, I’ll let the Bible, objectively interpreted, be the filter that governs what I soak up in my quest for true wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and insight.”

“Though I am no longer in the ministry, and have no desire to be, I am somehow convinced that God takes sides with me and is maybe even the one who helped me learn this lesson. After all, the only group of people whom Jesus could not and would not tolerate were the self-righteous and know-it-all Pharisees. Even Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, could not enlighten them and expose to them their extreme and distorted beliefs. Their authoritarian attitude prevented him from penetrating their minds with the facts. Fed up with their foolish know-it-all attitude, Jesus told them outright that they had discarded knowledge. They had locked up the room where real learning takes place, and thrown away the key. And both they and their followers were on the outside of that room. They had closed their minds to learning because they already ‘knew it all’.”

“Never again will I be pharisaical and lock myself and those I influence out of that room. From this day forward, I will have an open mind and a student attitude”
(Wisdom Hunter, pages 130 and 131).

If you have experienced the damaging effects of legalism or spiritual abuse you are probably seeking ways to understand what happened and to sort out your emotions. Seek wisdom from God. Don’t let anger turn to bitterness and cynicism. You will only injure yourself further by it. Because of your injury you may be that one lost sheep that Jesus leaves the ninety and nine to find and return to His safe fold. Think of Him as the Good Shepherd Who is looking for you. Let Him find you by seeking His wisdom as a way to understand your experience and find healing.

My Spiritual Abuse Recovery Workbook is a resource I can offer to you. If you, or someone you know, needs it send me an email (dhenke@watchman.org).

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson and Jehovah's Witnesses

Paul Blizard has been a longtime friend of Watchman Fellowship. He is a former third generation ex-Jehovah’s Witness who today preaches the gospel as the pastor of one of West Virginia’s largest churches. His comments on the recent death of Michael Jackson are not only very interesting but also will give you insights into life as a Jehovah’s Witness.


"There but for the Grace of God go I”

This past week a great talent and a giant in the music industry died at fifty years old. What a tragic loss! Yes, I’m talking about Michael Jackson. Like many of you, I grew up with his music that spanned almost forty years. I realize that cable news is giving his death wall-to-wall coverage. But I also have some things to say about him. You may not know this, but those of us who are former Jehovah’s Witnesses have some insight into his life and know why he was so strange. The Jackson children were all taken to the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall when they were young. As far as I know, only his sisters, Latoya, Janet and Michael became official Jehovah’s Witnesses. If it hadn’t been for their mother Catherine they would not have been exposed to the religion. Their father, Joseph, was not a Jehovah’s Witness and was the driving force who pushed them into the music industry. They were torn between two worlds. Imagine the life. Jehovah’s Witnesses prohibit any kind of lifestyle or career in the arts, yet here they were, totally involved in the music industry. Their lives caused quite a stir in the Jehovah’s Witness religion. In fact, as teenagers we would always point to Michael and the contradictions of his life. On one hand, he claimed to be a Jehovah’s Witness on the other he was doing what we could not do. It was not only hard on the Jehovah’s Witness leaders; it was difficult for every family within the community. Parents were always trying to explain why we could not be recording artists and performers. Yet, Michael was the problem they could not escape from.

The Watchtower officially took no stand because of the notoriety of Michael and of course his money. I remember in the late 1970’s when Michael was a becoming a superstar. I was at the Watchtower headquarters in New York. He and his family came through the headquarters on a tour of the facilities. It was all the buzz. We were ordered not to ask for autographs, but many did. I only saw him from a distance as his group passed through our building. Years later, when I was a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show, she asked me during the commercial break about some of the things I was saying about the restrictions in the Jehovah’s Witness religion. Oprah asked me, “Paul, I know Michael Jackson, he is a Jehovah’s Witness, he gives birthday gifts and celebrates Christmas. What about that?” I said, “Well, Oprah, I wouldn’t say this on the air, but it has to do with his millions and what he gives to the organization. He lives by a different standard. That’s the hypocrisy of the religion.” As soon as we came back from the break, in front of millions, Oprah put me on the spot by asking me the same question. I framed my answer carefully and made a hand gesture about money rather than directly making that claim. I certainly didn’t want to be sued by the Jacksons. A few months later, Catherine Jackson, Michael’s mother, wrote a book, My Life With The Jacksons, where she made reference to my comments as being false.

The weirdness of Jackson came later. He never did have a childhood because of the religion and his contradictory life in the music business. Not many know this, but being a good Jehovah’s Witness, he would put on disguises and go from door-to-door selling Watchtower magazines and books. He had several outfits he would wear. On the set of “Thriller” he had a Watchtower elder present who would approve of every move. Of course the occult themes were certainly over the top and we protested. The original “Thriller” album had printed warnings stating, “I do not endorse or promote the occult. “ Again, the contradiction. Finally, because of the tremendous pressure, Michael resigned from the Jehovah’s Witness religion. I prayed for him often to find Jesus Christ as Savior, yet it did not happen. Contrary to the rules, he kept in touch with his mother and other family who were Jehovah’s Witnesses, again the hypocrisy. If any of us who have left the religion had contact with our families they would be disfellowshipped (shunned).

I have observed his life and have prayed for him often. Again, the weirdness was due to his involvement with the religion and the constant guilt he lived with. Without Jesus Christ we are empty. He is the only One who gives us fulfillment and peace. Michael did not have it. He gave millions to causes, probably trying to relieve the guilt of trying to please the God of his mother, yet could not. Last year, for whatever reason, he finally converted to Islam.

What would his life been like if he knew Jesus? We can only say he would be in heaven today. He also would not have had to live through the torment of trying to serve a god and a religion, which demands so much. He would have been able to live life knowing that God loved him just the way he was. Jesus makes all the difference.

Yet, we dare not judge…”There but for the Grace of God go I”


Paul’s is the senior pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Beckley, West Virginia.

http://www.memorialbaptistbeckley.com/

Paul’s testimony and many resources on the subject of Jehovah’s Witnesses can be read at his website. I highly recommend you read his testimony.

http://www.paulblizard.org/

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Scientology Getting Bad Press

In the early to mid 90’s Watchman Fellowship ventured into the subject of Scientology and caught the attention of that “church.” Reprinted below is an article outlining the resulting legal skirmishes with them.

Scientology Threatens Watchman with "OT" Lawsuit

In a letter dated 9 February 1996, Helena Kobrin, an attorney representing Scientology's "Religious Technology Center" renewed legal threats against Watchman Fellowship. Kobrin alleges that Watchman is in possession of, and thereby could theoretically distribute copies of, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's top-secret Operating Thetan (OT) literature. Thus, Kobrin claims, Watchman is in violation of the US Copyright laws, as well as "trade secret and unfair competition laws."

In her original threat dated 13 June 1995, Kobrin warned of immediate legal action including "damages, an injunction, and impounding of materials and equipment used in perpetrating the infringing acts."

Kobrin's February 9th letter is the latest of six letters written to Watchman Fellowship or attorneys representing our ministry concerning this issue. In one letter dated 29 June 1995, Kobrin gave a detailed description making it appear that Scientologists or agents of the church may have gained access to Watchman Fellowship's Texas office without our knowledge.

Watchman Fellowship has not violated any copyright or trade secret laws - nor do we have any plans to violate such laws. We are not engaged in "unfair competition" with the Church of Scientology or any of its corporate entities. This attack, we believe, is one more example of Scientology's long history of using the legal system to persecute those who disagree with their theology.

Perhaps Scientologists are trying to use this issue as a pretense to search and seize Watchman's files, computers, and confidential counseling correspondence. Or perhaps their motive is found in the words of their founder, L. Ron Hubbard, who said, "...beware of attorneys who tell you not to sue...the purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win." (Time, 6 May 1991, p. 38)

Earlier Lawsuits

Scientologists have already sued Watchman Fellowship on two earlier occasions. In 1992, Watchman Fellowship's Southeastern director Craig Branch, the Cult Awareness Network, and several others were named in a $9.5 million lawsuit filed by Sterling Management Systems (SMS). Sterling was named by Time magazine as one of Scientology's "front groups and financial scams." (Ibid., p. 54) Watchman's portion of the suit was quashed by a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge. Last year, Sterling Management System lost the whole suit. (Cult Awareness Network News, September 1995, p. 1)

Again in 1992 the Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology filed another lawsuit against Watchman Fellowship. Among other claims, the suit accused Watchman Fellowship of involvement in a conspiracy of illegal activities including detaining a client of the Church of Scientology, Glover Rowe, against his will and forcing him to breach his contract with Scientology. Of course, no one at Watchman Fellowship endorses or engages in any form of kidnapping or involuntary "deprogramming." Ironically, Glover Rowe claimed that it was Scientologists, not Watchman Fellowship, that were guilty of falsely imprisoning him and his wife and intentionally inflicting emotional stress on his family. (Cherokee County Herald, 12 December 1990, pp. 1A, 5A)

As far as we know, the two lawsuits in 1992 represent the first time the Church of Scientology or its related businesses have sued a Christian organization.

Scientology's 1992 legal attacks against Watchman Fellowship were reported in Christianity Today. In their article, an attorney defending Watchman, Eric Johnston of the Rutherford Institute, stated, "this kind of case carries significant implications of censorship on the freedom of religion and freedom of speech guaranteed for religious organizations." He explained, "One of the questions is whether Christian organizations have the right...to publicly speak out against groups that are in conflict with their faith and/or who fraudulently represent themselves as compatible with Christianity." (Christianity Today, 24 February 1992, p. 60)

Speaking of lawsuits, here is a link to a segment from Boston Legal that will give you an entertaining explanation of Scientology beliefs.

http://www.wfial.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=resources.scientology

The St. Petersburg Times has published a multi-faceted report of the recent exit of four high-ranking Scientologists. This is perhaps the biggest story to come out on Scientology since Time magazine ran their expose’ in the 90’s. You can read, or view, their stories at this link;

http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2009/reports/project/

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Deliverance? Ministries, Not The Movie.

I was asked, “do you believe in deliverance/healing ministry?”

My reply was…

I think 90% of deliverance ministries are fear based, and devil-centered. Let me explain. Once we become Christians our focus thereafter is always on Christ. We are not given a spirit of fear of the devil, demons, curses, etc. We are to keep our eyes on Christ and keep our life moving toward Him. If we take our eyes off Jesus and start looking for demons and curses we become like Peter when he walked on the water. He took his eyes off Christ and sank.

Christ is our Protector. If we have any sin problem (curse, demonic oppression, etc.) He will address it in our heart through His Spirit and His Word.

Deliverance ministries lead to fear because they are not focused on Jesus. They are focused on the enemy and his ways. That is why Romans 16:19 tells us regarding evil “be simple." We should not be overly interested in the devil or his activities because we are not equipped to fight him. Only Jesus can fight that battle for us and that is why we must stay focused on Him.

I hope I answered your question.”

The emailer wrote back and said,…

This makes all the sense in the world. I have never heard this before. After I was saved 10 years ago, I felt freedom, peace, and joy I had never known. When I got involved in ministry at (church name withheld), my relationship with the Lord subtly changed into one of fear because of this very thing. We were constantly having prayer meetings... binding, rebuking, "casting out", yelling at the devil. I never had a pure feeling about this but was taught it was our "responsibility" and if you were being oppressed it was because you weren't "warfaring" as you should. This brought in a lot of fear and strife. You are right, now I see how much the devil was being glorified over the Lord. My eyes turned to the power of Satan and away from the power of the Christ.

Thanks again for your answer. The Lord has been so good to use your ministry to get me back on track and like Peter, when the Lord restores me, I will turn back and help restore my brother (and sister).

In my reading on the subject I found an article by Bob DeWaay describing the problems with deliverance ministries. Bob was one of them in the past, a deliverance counselor. He had “cast out” many demons from Christians but came to realize that he was addressing the wrong problem. He describes the problem as being one of worldviews. Is your view of spiritual realities one of warfare with evil spirits, or is it that God is sovereign and evil can’t touch you unless it is in God’s sovereign purpose? It makes a world of difference.

DeWaay described his work in deliverance counseling as being knowledgeable and proficient in the "rules" of spiritual warfare. As I read the article I had images in my mind of deliverance counselors being analogous to shamans and witchdoctors. In animist religions the shaman and witchdoctor knows the special rules, incantations, and potions that will fight off the evil spirits. Just as the Liberian children whose parents put the Juju strings around them to protect them, so the deliverance counselor prescribes practices, rules, and prayers that will protect the Christian from evil spirits.

Deliverance ministries teach that we open the door to demonic possession/oppression by our willing contact with evil things. Well, if that is the case what can I say about my library? I have hundreds of books from cultic, occult, and New Age sources. Also, our family brought back lots of souvenirs from Liberia. Among them are African masks which were probably used in animist religion. I saw those masks in my Dad’s back yard years ago and asked him about them. He said he put them out there because he was going to burn them. He said they represented an open door for Satan to attack. I told my Dad what Paul said about idols in 1 Corinthians 8:4, that “As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.” My Dad said, “Well you take them then.” I’ve been fine ever since.

Here is the link to Bob DeWaay’s article. It is a bit long but worth every minute.

http://www.cicministry.org/commentary/issue78.htm

Friday, June 12, 2009

Doctrine Quiz

A test very similar to this was given to a class on Christian apologetics at a Christian high school. The results revealed serious misunderstandings at the most basic levels. Research in recent years by the Barna Research Group has shown many Christians hold views discordant with historic Christian orthodoxy. For example, they recently asked whether absolute moral truths change according to the circumstances. Only 22% believed in the existence of absolute moral truth. That is a significant drop from 38% at the beginning of 2000.



DOCTRINE QUIZ

1. Is the word “Trinity” in the Bible? ___ Yes ___ No

2. Is the Father alone God? ___ Yes ___ No

3. Is Jesus Christ God equally with the Father? ___ Yes ___ No

4. Is the Holy Spirit God equally with the Father? ___ Yes ___ No

5. How many Gods are there? ______

6. Jesus today is…, ___ A man only ___ Divine only ___ Divine and human

7. Are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit the same Person? ___Yes ___ No

8. Is the Holy Spirit a personage like the Father? ___ Yes ___ No

9. Which of the following is a correct statement?
The Trinity is defined as,
___ Three Gods in one?
___ Three Persons in one God?
___ Three Persons in one Person?

10. Which of the following are omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent?
___ Father ___ Son ___ Holy Spirit (Mark all that are correct)

11. Is the Father “greater” than the Son? ___ Yes ___ No

12. Is the Father “better” than the Son? ___ Yes ___ No

13. Did the Father create the Son? ___ Yes ___ No

14. Is Jesus Almighty? ___ Yes ___ No

15. When Jesus became man He…
___ Set aside His divinity ___ Added humanity to His divinity

16. How did Jesus rise from the grave?
___ In the same crucified body ___ A spirit ___ A different body

17. Who raised Jesus from the dead? (Mark all that are correct)
___ Father ___ Jesus ___ Holy Spirit

18. How important is the doctrine of the Trinity?
___ Most ___ Very ___ Somewhat ___ Not very ___ Not

19. Do you believe the Trinity can be proven from the Bible? ___ Yes ___ No

20. Can you show the Trinity from the Bible? ___ Yes ___ No

Bonus Question. Would you like to know more about the Trinity? ___ Yes ___ No


Answers and Discussion

1. Answer: No. However, it’s absence is irrelevant because the doctrine of the Trinity is there. The word was coined to express the concept of three within one. Many other words that express biblical doctrines do not occur within the text of scripture such as theocracy, millennium, and rapture.

2. Answer: No. See Isaiah 48:12-16 where Jehovah (speaking) says He is being sent by Jehovah (the Father) and His (Holy) Spirit.

3. Answer: Yes. If Jesus were not fully divine, or equal in His nature with the Father, then His sacrifice for us on Calvary would be insufficient. Also, Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). No finite, or created, being could ever compare themselves with the infinite God.

3 and 4. Answer: Yes. All three Persons of the Trinity are equal in their nature and attributes. Each is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. The Holy Spirit is a personal being, having the attributes of personality, and is also eternal (Hebrews 9:14). Example; If the Spirit is an eternal Person then He necessarily must be divine and equal with the Father for only God is eternal.

5. Answer: One. The ‘threeness’ of the Trinity refers to the Persons. The unity of the Trinity refers to the essence, nature, or, that which makes God be God. The essence or nature of God is not divisible into three parts which many of the analogies to the Trinity imply (i.e., egg, water, etc.).

6. Answer: Divine and human. Philippians 2:6 and 7 says of Jesus that He was, “…in the form of God…. But…took upon himself the form of a servant.” The word “upon” is a word indicating addition to what He already was. Also, I Timothy 2:5 says there is “one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” So, today in heaven our mediator is a man who is also eternal deity.

7. Answer: No. The three Persons of the Trinity exist simultaneously. This is illustrated in the baptism of Jesus described by Matthew 3:16,17 which says, “…and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: and lo a voice from heaven saying, This is my beloved Son….” All three Persons are in this event proving they are not the same Person. Also, refer again to Isaiah 48:12-16 where all three Persons of the Trinity are represented in an Old Testament passage.

8. Answer: Yes. The Holy Spirit has the attributes of personality, intellect (I Corinthians 12:8), emotion (I Thessalonians 1:6) and will (I Corinthians 12:11) just as does the Father.

9. Answer: Three Persons in one God. Heretical groups teach three persons in one person (United Pentecostals teach modalism and Jesus Only), and three gods in one god (Mormonism).

10. Answer: All Three. Each Person of the Godhead is all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere present.

11. Answer: Yes. However, the term ‘greater’ must be understood in their positional relation to one another. The Father is the “first” Person of the Trinity, the Son is the “second” and the Spirit the “third.” However, each is equal in every attribute of deity. Just as a President is ‘greater’ than a Vice President so the Father is “greater” than the Son.

12. Answer: No. The term ‘better’ implies superior in some fundamental way as in a superior being. Jesus is “better” than the angels (Hebrews 1:4) because is a superior being to them.

13. Answer: No. The Father “begat” the Son which is an eternal relationship but He did not create the Son in any sense of the word.

14. Answer: Yes. Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”

15. Answer: Jesus added humanity to His divinity. Many Christians incorrectly assume that when Jesus left heaven to be born of Mary He set aside His deity for the time He was here. That is not the case. He “Made himself of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7) which means that He set aside the shekinah glory and His prerogatives as deity to relate to us on a human level. In that way we can follow His example because He relied upon the Holy Spirit as we are supposed to.

16. Answer: In the same crucified body. Jesus said at John 2:19-21, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up…. But he spake of the temple of his body.” When Jesus said these words the body He was referring to was the one He lived His life in, the one the disciples knew. Therefore, the term “it” in the above verse must refer to that same body. To interpret it otherwise would mean Jesus was lying to His disciples.

17. Answer: All Three Persons in the Trinity raised Jesus from the dead. In the verse cited above Jesus said He would raise His own body from the grave. Acts 2:24 says, “Whom God hath raised up….” Romans 8:11 says, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”

18. Answer: Most. The doctrine of God is the foundational doctrine in any religion. In Christian doctrine everything flows from the nature of God. Understanding any doctrine of the Christian faith begins with understanding the Trinity and the attributes of God. It is the foundation of our faith and Christ is the Chief Cornerstone.

19. Answer: Yes. The method to use to demonstrate the Trinity is fourfold. First, to show there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). Second, to show that the Father is called God (1 Peter 1:17). Third, to show that Jesus is called God (John 1:1). And finally, to show that the Holy Spirit is called God (Acts 5:3,4). The conclusions possible are 1) That the Bible is hopelessly contradictory, or 2) That the three Persons are the One God.

20: Answer: You can now!

Bonus Question: Answer: YES.

Conclusion

Without a solid understanding of our doctrinal basics our ability to discern truth from error is severely limited. This is why so many “winds of doctrine” blow through the church and lead people into error and bondage.

Your comments on this quiz are very welcome. We believe such a quiz as this can be an instructive tool. First to learn about our foundational doctrines, and second to show us where we need to grow.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Motivating Power of Fear

When dealing with anyone from a cult it is important to understand that they are not as free as other people. They are under the bondage of fear. Their minds have been captured by techniques of mind control that allows them to declare black to be white apparently without seeing a problem. Dr. Robert J. Lifton described eight mind control techniques used by the communists against our Korean War POWs. Each of the eight criteria is based on some element of fear.

One might ask, “What is it that would cause a person to remain in an organization that produces so much tension, so many struggles, and frequent doubts? Why don’t they just get out?” Well, for many the answer is FEAR. The fear of losing everything that they hold dear to them, including their friends, family, and salvation.

For Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Watchtower organization acts as the “voice of Jehovah” for them. The fear of being “disfellowshipped” threatens them with losing everything they have come to know as a way of life, and the thought of being ostracized by friends and family is simply too much for many of them to risk getting out.

The thought of turning one’s back on God and receiving His judgment for it because of some temporary struggles is too great a price to pay. They will resort to a form of equity rescuing to avoid that decision.

In his book Behind the Watchtower Curtain, David Reed, an ex-Jehovah's Witness, explains the effects of this fear. “There are also broken homes, youngsters deprived of a higher education, families separated by mistrust, and millions of people living lives of guilt and fear. There is a whole ‘nation’ of people living under a totalitarian ‘kingdom’ government that denies them freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of conscience."

Jehovah’s Witnesses, like all other cultists, will vigorously deny these allegations. Their reasoning is much like the 'doublethink' in George Orwell's book, 1984. The chains that bind them are fastened on the mind, instead of on the wrists. Mind control can function like the person put under a spell by a hypnotist, when they open their eyes they will be ‘wide awake, happy, and refreshed,’ not realizing that a mind controlling 'post-hypnotic suggestion' planted in their minds must remain there to control their conduct.”

Psychologists really are on target in pointing out fear as a motivator. Dr. Jay Adams in his pamphlet, “What Do You Do When Fear Overcomes You?”, says “…fear may get such a tight grip upon you that at times it may seem to be some powerful force from the outside that takes you captive. Because of fear, people have changed jobs, moved from one city to another, sealed themselves in houses, killed, and fled to mental institutions. Because of the fear of cats or bridges or elevators or other people, people have developed styles of life that are weird and unfruitful. Fear of this sort, fear out of control (or would it be better said, fear in complete control), is the fear that you have come to fear.”

It is necessary for Christians who witness to Jehovah’s Witnesses, or anyone in such a high control group, to remember that they are under such bondage. Unconditional love and a non-judgmental attitude will help to soften their heart to you as a person who is interested in them personally. Sharing information with a respectful attitude may give them reason to begin thinking for themselves again. But in the final analysis it is the Holy Spirit Who will open their eyes and heart. So pray for them as you “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Patterns In The Cults

In every religious group there are certain doctrines or practices that define the public’s knowledge of them. However, when discerning whether any group is orthodox or heterodox there are certain criteria that must be considered because they touch on the very definition of Christianity. Such issues as the Person and work of Christ, the authority of the Bible, and the place of grace in our relationship to God and man are determinative to our definition.

To address these foundational issues Watchman Fellowship associates the four basic functions of math, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, to the most common characteristics of the sect in question. This association will make recall at a later date far easier thus giving the definition a practical value when it comes time to discern or teach.

The association is that cultic groups will…

Add to the Word of God

Subtract from the Person of Christ

Multiply works for salvation, and

Divide their followers loyalties between God and man.

Before addressing these cultic errors Christian orthodoxy on these topics should be defined.

The Bible is the complete Word of God. It is sufficient for all knowledge of God as well as man’s sinful condition and must not be added to by man’s words (Proverbs 30:5-6, Revelation 22:18).

Jesus is the Son of God, and like His Father, He is eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. He shares the same nature of deity with the Father and Holy Spirit.

Salvation is a free gift. As such it cannot be earned, merited, or received or kept based upon any qualification in man. Our works are performed as a response of love for the gift of God already received.

Our first, and foremost, loyalty belongs to God. There are lesser loyalties to family, friends, country, church, etc., but all must bow to the first. This loyalty must be given freely by the individual Christian and not demanded by outsiders for it to be genuine.

How Cults Add To The Word of God

There are three methods of adding to the Word of God found among cults. The first is by additional scriptures. The Mormons are the easiest example of this with their Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants, and official statements by the General Authorities of the LDS Church.

Another group is the Moonies with their Divine Principle.

The second way in which cults add to the Word of God is by adding words to the Bible to change its meaning. The Watchtower Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses are the best example. At John 1:1 they add the word “a” before “God” in clause C to make Jesus “a god” instead of simply “God.” Also, in Colossians 1 they have added the word “other” five times to change the message that Jesus is the Creator of “all things” to being the creator of “all other things,” hence implying He is one of the things created.

The third way cults add to the Word of God is by what could be called inspired commentary. Though not considered scripture this commentary on what the Bible says is considered binding upon everyone in the cult.

Individuals interpreting scripture according to their own knowledge and conscience as directed by the Holy Spirit is forbidden. To permit it would ultimately lead to the cult being challenged from within on doctrinal issues.

This inspired commentary is frequently the written work of the cult founder. Because the founders are held by the membership in great esteem their writings are also revered as a “message from God.” They frequently take on greater weight as time goes by because they gain the aura of tradition in the cult. However, sometimes these writings are dismissed or removed from circulation because a second-generation leader wants the reverence of the followers for himself. This happened when Judge Rutherford succeeded Watchtower founder Charles Taze Russell. Russell’s Studies in the Scriptures were eventually replaced with Rutherford’s writings.

The writings of Seventh-day Adventist founder Ellen G. White are considered to be inspired commentary. They are binding on Adventist doctrine. Among the SDA this belief is called “the spirit of prophecy” that allegedly resided upon White as she wrote.

It is interesting that Jesus found Himself frequently at odds with the “tradition of the elders” of Israel. Those “traditions” were the legalistic extensions of the Law developed by the Pharisees and others. Even though truth is just that, truth, it is intended by God to be constantly examined. By the process of objective examination and open discussion the inroads of untruth can be discerned and dealt with. Also, by continual application of scripture to ever-changing cultural conditions the trap of legalistic tradition can be avoided. It is we who become legalists, not the scripture. Such a process as this is anathema in all cults. The control of information and open discussion is therefore central to the way they operate.

How Cults Subtract From Christ

In the war between God and Satan the identity of the Person of Christ is one of the two most frequent battlegrounds.

The other battleground is His work on Calvary and how that works out for our salvation.

If Jesus is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal and infinitely perfect then nothing can be added to exalt Him greater than He deserves. Therefore, it is to be expected that the tactic of Satan will be to diminish Him in the eyes of potential believers. By that means their faith will be falsely based in someone other than the biblical Christ.

They will place their faith in “another Jesus” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4) who cannot save.
Various cults teach a “Jesus” who is a god, a prophet, an angel sent from God, even the “Son of God” if the term “Son” is defined by them as less than God in His nature.

The deity of Christ and the Trinity are fully affirmed in scripture. The cults are unfamiliar with the large volume of scripture that teaches on the subject. That is because the cult leaders have effectively controlled the information available to their members, or, they have provided guided tours through the Bible so as to avoid its clear teaching.

This practice is clearly seen in the Watchtower’s booklet The Trinity: Should You Believe It? The booklet is filled with scholastic dishonesty as illustrated in our witnessing manual, The Watchtower Strikes Again (available through our catalog).

Some doctrinally dangerous teachings have even crept into orthodox circles. One says that Jesus ceased to be God for the three days His body was in the grave. Another error by those who have not been taught assumes He laid aside His deity while on earth.

How The Cults Multiply Works For Salvation

The logical effect of subtracting from Christ’s deity is that the death on Calvary of this “other” Jesus is insufficient to save completely. Therefore, some works must be added to it.

The “works righteousness” mindset is consistent with the way man functions in almost every other area of life. “You don’t get something for nothing” is a cliché, but true, most of the time. However, it ruins the gospel when they are mixed (Galatians 3:1-6).

Cults are all about power and control of their members. They severely restrict what their followers are permitted to do. They leave little to conscience or personal conviction. To violate the restrictions is to risk salvation according to the teachings of most cults.

But the things the followers are required to do almost always involves money. Such things as going door to door with their literature (unpaid salesmen), selling flowers and trinkets on the streets, triple tithing, selling all you have and giving the money to the cult, and many more. Having a doctrine of salvation that requires works fits in nicely with the fleshly appetites of leaders.

Cult leaders are frequently people with psychological profiles that make them dangerous when they have significant control over other people. The more dramatic examples have been seen prominently in the news coverage of suicide cults in recent years. Jim Jones seemed to feed on the submission of the People’s Temple followers. To satisfy his need for control he required ever greater acts of submission until the ultimate act of suicide. Unaccountable power over others is ultimately self destructive both for the leader and the group.

How Cults Divide Their Followers Loyalty

Our highest loyalty can only, and must always, be to God. That does not eliminate lesser loyalties but it does qualify them. The result of such qualifying is a hierarchy of loyalties that can come into conflict with each other. Such conflict arose when the High Priest and Council commanded the Apostles to not teach about Jesus. Peter answered by saying “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

The authoritarians in cults will say that God has set up this religion, its system, and its leaders; therefore, you disobey God by disobeying the leaders.

The power of this argument is that it has an element of truth (Hebrews 13:17). The fallacy in the argument, however, is that it is not absolute. The duly constituted spiritual authority, the Council in Jerusalem, had ordered Peter and the Apostles to keep quiet. The Apostles, because of that hierarchy of loyalties, disobeyed.

During World War II should a German Christian have obeyed his legal authority and helped in genocide? Certainly not. However, the Nazi war criminals used this “legal authority” in their defense at the Nuremberg trials. It didn’t work for them at Nuremberg. Do we think it will work before God? We are all equally responsible before God for our obedience to the Truth.

The Apostle Paul not only condoned, but also encouraged, Christians to question, to challenge, his teaching. Paul was secure in the truth so he didn’t fear such an examination. It is the insecure that fear it and construct man-made doctrines to prevent examination.

Insecurity comes from many quarters. First, it comes from false doctrine and questioning will reveal it as such. Second, it comes from personal insecurity based upon ignorance of the truth and questioning will reveal that too.

Third, it comes from an attitude of authoritarianism where questioning is considered, ‘a priori’, as disobedience and disloyalty.
In the cults this authoritarianism is promoted by the use of subtle techniques which we now call mind control. It begins in the individual with the acceptance of a premise. That premise can say, “This is God’s organization, our doctrine is true, and God speaks to us through the organization.”

Once this is accepted the next step is to train the individual in the top down method of control. God controls the organization and its top leaders; the top leaders control the information and lower level leaders. The lower level leaders then impose the organizational and doctrinal system they received on the local congregation. The leaders at the lower levels become the enforcers for the top leaders.

In such a system the individual has no authority. He is at the bottom of the ladder and on the receiving end of the high control authority. He is periodically tested for his loyalty, not necessarily by design, but because the system is based upon falsehoods and issues of loyalty will necessarily arise. His only relief is to submit and adjust, get out, or go up the ladder and become one of the enforcers. Most submit and adjust and their loyalty to God is thus compromised, divided, and their conscience is seared and even more resistant to truth.

Conclusion

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).

People believe the false doctrines they are taught by false teachers because they don’t know enough about the truth to spot the error. They submit to abusive authority because they don’t know the grace and freedom for believers as taught in the Bible. Once in the mind-controlling milieu of a cult they are in a bondage from which they see no relief, and worse, like the frog in the kettle they don’t even know they are dying. Someone must help them. Watchman Fellowship exists for that purpose. Will you join us in holding out the Good News to those who are captive to the influence of False Spirituality?