Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Taking Cults Seriously

Have you noticed that folk involved in cult ministry tend to learn on the job? Not many “qualified” Christians turn their minds too much to the world of the cults, although there are some notable exceptions. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries, for instance. In the main, people in this ministry might be termed by the world, “enthusiasts,” although they would see themselves as faithfully answering the call of God to a difficult ministry that has captured their hearts. We do what we can.

We are all familiar with the appalling argument that insists, “don’t touch, don’t engage,” based on an erroneous reading of 2 John 10; “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.”

Of course, the fact is that anyone who isn’t a born-again believer doesn’t bring correct teaching, and then there are those inside the church whose teaching is questionable. So are these people insisting we separate ourselves entirely from the very ones to whom Jesus sent us to declare the good news? I don’t see that.

The text is simply telling us not to entertain false teaching in our homes, where early Christians routinely met. The modern equivalent would be allowing false teachers to enter the pulpit, to teach and preach in your church gatherings, home groups, prayer meetings. Nevertheless, it is trotted out regularly to excuse this lack of engagement with the world of discernment and apologetics on the part of more “respectable” Christians.

One of the reasons, indeed the main reason, I think, for this coolness is the fiction that it is too hard, too dangerous, too challenging, which becomes, not required. The truth is that the churches are too ready to adopt a siege mentality when it comes to the cults, too disinclined to disciple Christians, preparing them properly to face whatever is ‘out there.’

But if we are not engaged daily in the fight for truth then we are being unfaithful to the Lord who saved us and in danger of accommodating ourselves to the world. If we are not preparing Christian believers for engagement with “hollow and deceptive philosoph[ies],” (Col.2:8) then we are sending them into the world as lambs among wolves and nothing to help them other than keeping the door to the world firmly shut, and we all remember what Doug Harris thought about that.

One pastor I knew insisted that ministries such as ours needn’t exist if the church did its job properly. Amen to that! Sadly, and ironically, until churches like his wake up to the need, and step up to the challenge, its left to us to press on with the work. So we continue to send out the message; the error must be met, the truth is worth defending, the lost our purpose and reward, the cults to be taken seriously.

There is another side to this question of taking the cults seriously. Increasingly, we find some churches and church leaders ready to meet the cults on the cults’ own terms, to take them seriously in terms of treating them as worthy of equal consideration. When the cults insist they have something to say and are as deserving of a hearing as other churches some in the Christian Church accept this argument and think it reasonable to give them a platform. This is the familiar philosophy of the liberal world, in which, “you have your truth, and I have mine.” To this the same answer comes back; you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own truth.

Some applaud the cult’s missionary endeavours, comparing unfavourably the apparent lack of determined outreach in their own Christian community. They might admire the clean-living image of the cult, its youth programme, or some such thing. I am reminded of the words of John above, “Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.” This is what John had in mind, the approving, on any level, of a false work.Book of Mormon

New World TranslationIn demanding to be taken seriously the cults are insisting on us approaching the issues under discussion on their terms. But their terms are, de facto, incapable of being understood as legitimate. When the JW presents his, or her translation of the Bible, how can we possibly take it seriously when it contrives to deny the divinity of Jesus by adding to Scripture? When the Mormon comes along with his, or her Book of Mormon, how can we take Mormon claims seriously when this pale imitation adds to the living Word of God?

We cannot, as Christians, risk lending credence to the cult by conceding terms, even as we might respect individual cult members, and even though we surely must engage with the hollow and deceptive philosophies that surround us, striving to save some as though snatching them from the fire (Jude 23)

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