Friday, August 31, 2018

Does Matthew 7:21 Nullify Justification By Faith Alone?

        “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter." (Matthew 7:21)

        Sola Fide ("faith alone") simply means that justification takes place apart from the merit, not the presence, of good works. Good works do accompany faith, in that they are the product of a changed heart.

        The context of Matthew 7 is about differentiating between true and false prophets. Jesus said, "So by their fruits you shall know them" (Matthew 7:20). Genuine believers will produce "good fruits" (works).

        The "will of the Father" is for us to place our trust in Jesus Christ and His work (John 6:40). True people of God will not utter false prophecies and teach a false gospel. Jesus had the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees in mind in uttering these words (Matthew 5:20).

        Notice that in verses 22 and 23, professing Christians pointed to their own alleged works of righteousness and were still condemned by God. The problem for these people is that their hearts had not been changed.

        If anything at all, then this passage only enhances the cause behind the "faith only" argument. Salvation (taken as a whole process) involves moral transformation, but does not comprise the instance of justification itself (the initial aspect of salvation).

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Abandoning Our First Love

"In considering the apostasy, we have seen its root in the loss of the first love, whereby a separation was made between the Lord and the Church,— the Head and the body, — and He was hindered in the exercise of His headship. Through the same loss of love, the Holy Ghost, sent by the Son, was unable to fulfill His mission. After a time the expectation of the Lord's speedy return passed away, and also the hope of it; and the Church made it her work to bring all the world under subjection to Christ before His return.

Thus the history of the Church has not been that of a community of one heart and mind, carrying out the will of its Head under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and steadily growing in love, holiness, wisdom, and power; but of a community divided against itself, forgetful of God's purpose, filled with ambition to rule in this world, and covetous of its pleasures and honours. The Holy Ghost has not been able to do His full work in the Church, and therefore her witness to the world has been partial and feeble. The Head, though nominally honoured, has passed more and more from the thought of the Church as her living and ruling Lord, and from the knowledge of men as the King of kings.

We have seen in the movements and tendencies of the present time the preparation for the final fulfillment of the Scripture predictions. Modern pantheistic philosophy is leavening the public mind with its denials of a personal God, of man's moral freedom, and of immortality. Modern science, particularly in its evolutionary phase, is denying a Creator and a creation, and can find in the Universe no Divine purpose, only an endless evolution, in which man appears for a moment as a shining bubble, then disappears for ever. The Bible is put aside by many as a book outgrown, with its doctrine of sin and its legendary miracles and history. Much of modern literature is imbued with the pantheistic spirit, or is critical and skeptical, and, when not positively irreligious is indifferent to religion."

(Samuel Andrews, Christianity and Anti-Christianity in Their Final Conflict, “Summary and Conclusion,” part IV, originally published in 1898)

Monday, August 27, 2018

Stay Away From The One New Man "Bible"

     The One New Man Bible, translated in 2011 by William J. Morford, is a product of both the Hebrew Roots Movement and the New Apostolic Reformation.

        This translation is essentially an effort to make the New Testament Hebrew. It goes on at length to define the meaning of various Hebrew words, while seemingly ignoring the reality that the New Testament was originally written in Koine Greek. Members of this movement continually render the name of Jesus in the Hebrew "Yeshua." That is not a name which Christians would ordinarily ascribe to Christ (unless they are Arabic). A verified customer on Amazon expressed one concern:

        "I am being asked to trust this Bible above all other versions. If the Greek says THEOS, and this bible says ELOHIM [Gal 3:8], how can I trust this Bible? They have made many such changes to this Bible."

        The underlying problem with the Hebrew Roots Movement is that it poses a direct threat to the gospel by encouraging Christians to observe Mosaic customs. It is claimed by adherents that Jesus Christ did not terminate the Old Covenant, but rather reaffirmed it and expanded upon its message. It is claimed by adherents of the Hebrew Roots Movement that Christianity has apostatized from its original Jewish roots through the incorporation of Greco-Roman philosophy. But these claims do not withstand scrutiny when compared to the New Testament itself.

        Consider, for instance, that the Apostle Paul taught uncircumcised people need not seek fleshly circumcision (1 Corinthians 7:17-19; Galatians 5:6; 6:15). Thus, Gentiles should not seek to become Jews. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ includes both the Jew and the Gentile (Galatians 3:26-29). We are united as one under His divine kingship. Nowhere does Scripture require that Gentiles keep the Law (Romans 7:6; Galatians 2:14). We are not under Law but grace (Romans 6:14; Galatians 3:25; 5:16-18). Christ is the end of the Law to all who believe (Romans 10:3-4). The gospel does not depend on the works of the Law (Romans 3:27-28; Galatians 2:16-21). We are not sanctified by the works of the Law (Galatians 3:1-6). The very reason that Paul sharply rebuked the churches of Galatia in one of his epistles is that they were reverting back to customs, practices, and traditions instituted in the Old Testament. He even called doing such behavior the preaching of "another gospel" (Galatians 1:8-9). The epistle to the Hebrews was written to encourage Jewish Christians to not revert to the Jewish religious system.

        There is nothing wrong with Christians being in support of Israel for political or prophetic reasons, but it is a completely different ballpark for us to be identifying as Israel. Those who wish to keep the Law must also do so perfectly (Romans 3:20; Galatians 5:1-3; James 2:10-11), which is impossible due to us having a sin nature. The Jerusalem Council was convened to address the Judaizers who claimed that one need be circumcised in order to be saved (Acts 15:1-5; 10-11). The Hebrew Roots Movement is spiritually dangerous because its premises are opposed to the foundational ideas of the gospel. The ideology is emphatically condemned by the New Testament. Additionally, this whole "new man" business seems to be influenced by the charismatics, and is in fact commended wholeheartedly by them. See this lengthy article for more details:

        The One New Man Bible is promoted by the false charismatic prophet Sid Roth, who also promotes the works of William Morford.

        It would be interesting to note that the author of the translation being reviewed in this article believes that the Trinity is heresy. In his own words:

        "It is past time to recognize that the Trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is not Scriptural. The Trinity came into Christian thought as former Heathens took over leadership of the Church in the second and third centuries..." (

        In view of the presented information, it would certainly be wise for one to avoid reading the One New Man Bible. It should evoke concern in us for all those who are studying from it.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

"Our Reasoning Capacities Are Highly Unreliable"

"But the real surprise is that Oppy apparently rejects the assumption. He says it’s obvious (!) that our reasoning capacities are “highly unreliable” in the domain of philosophy. Yet he makes this claim as part of a philosophical rebuttal of Plantinga and Reppert, in the course of a philosophical case for naturalism, in a philosophical book written by a professional philosopher. If our reasoning capacities are highly unreliable in the domain of philosophy, what on earth does Oppy think he’s doing? This isn’t so much cutting the branch you’re sitting on as felling the tree and grinding the stump.

...Still, Oppy’s right about one thing: if our cognitive faculties are the product of undirected naturalistic evolution — which is to say, if evolutionary naturalism is true — then it’s highly unlikely that those faculties are reliable when it comes to philosophical matters. That’s a big problem for philosophical naturalists like Oppy."

Professor James Anderson, Adventures in Branch-Cutting

Is The Sinner's Prayer Biblical?

          There is a fairly recent development that has pervaded mainstream evangelical witnessing methods known as the sinner's prayer, which is a recited gospel invitation meant to convict unbelievers of sin and assure new converts of having fellowship with God. We frequently hear zealous pastors during their sermons calling people in their audiences to repeat after them a formulaic prayer with the intention of ensuring the salvation of listeners.

          The first and foremost problem with the notion of a sinner's prayer is that nowhere does the New Testament assure people of salvation on the basis that they recited a prayer. Scripture nowhere guarantees salvation to people who recite a specific sequence of words. Nowhere do we see the apostles in the Book of Acts assuring people of salvation simply because they recited a prayer. There is neither a prescription nor a description of using sinner's prayer evangelism in Scripture.

          Justification in the sight of God is not obtained via formulaic means, but by His grace through faith in the finished work of His Son Jesus Christ. If there exists biblical evidence for reciting a sinner's prayer, then why did the Apostle Paul fail to mention such a concept in his basic presentation of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)? We cannot immediately assure people who have recited a prayer of salvation because we cannot look at their hearts. We do not know their level of commitment.

          Furthermore, the sinner's prayer has given many unsaved individuals a false assurance of salvation. It has given people a false sense of security in regards to their true standing with the Lord. That is certainly a spiritually dangerous state to be entrapped in. At best, the sinner's prayer contains elements of truth mixed with error.

           This is not to communicate the idea that every individual who has recited a sinner's prayer is a false convert. Rather, we ought to cease implementing that witnessing approach because it is unbiblical and deceptive. It was not until the nineteenth century when a lawyer named Charles Finney invented the sinner's prayer. The concept was drastically popularized by evangelists such as Billy Graham.

           It certainly is biblical to guide somebody in prayer or repentance. It is certainly biblical for a sinner to ask God for His forgiveness. The confession of sin is biblical. But assuring a person salvation on the basis of repeating a prayer is wrong. We are saved by the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel (Romans 1:16-17). We receive Christ by faith (John 1:12-13). It would be wise for us all to examine our doctrine to see whether we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). 

Friday, August 24, 2018

Correcting Misunderstandings Regarding 2 John 9-11

"A loving approach to cultists may be thought contradictory to 2 John 9-11: If anyone does not bring the teaching of Christ’s true deity and humanity, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Since itinerate teachers were not given salaries, but hospitality, to put them up was to support them in their non-Christian cause. The principle here is not to share or support their deceptive work (verse 11). Christians ought not to give money or goods to cultists. However, compassionately and patiently seeking to help them understand and receive the gospel in no way aids or abets their cause."

Gordon R. Lewis, Confronting the Cults, p. 12

The Smithsonian Institute Statement On The Bible

"On the other hand, much of the Bible, in particular the historical books of the old testament, are as accurate historical documents as any that we have from antiquity and are in fact more accurate than many of the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, or Greek histories.

‘These Biblical records can be and are used as are other ancient documents in archaeological work. For the most part, historical events described took place and the peoples cited really existed."

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Spurious Origin Of Mary's Perpetual Virginity

        The Roman Catholic dogma that Mary remained a virgin throughout her lifetime was most likely a consequence of the early church adopting low views regarding human sexuality and marriage. The rise of asceticism, monasticism, and already existing gnostic beliefs played a foundational role in the development of Mary's perpetual virginity. Many early Christians embraced positions on the issue of marriage verses virginity that we would readily discard as being totally unbiblical, irrational, and even extreme.

        For example, the church father Jerome vigorously argued marriage as being inferior to virginity and celibacy. Others such as Athanasius and John of Damascus taught that the concept of marriage was derived from original sin. Augustine thought that it was impossible to engage in marital relations without also having ungodly lusts. Basil claimed that although he personally rejected the teaching, many in his day believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary.

        After centuries of christological disputes, the Second Council of Constantinople officially declared the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ to be "ever virgin."

        Perhaps another source which sparked the development of Roman Catholic Marian theology was the small Arabian cult known as the Collyridians, which appointed woman to be priests so as to offer sacrifices of bread to Mary. They worshiped her, and also believed her to be a perpetual virgin.

        Additionally, it would be wise for one to consider this excerpt from the late second to mid third century scholar Origen:

        “And depreciating the whole of what appeared to be His nearest kindred, they said, Is not His mother called Mary? And His brethren, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? They thought, then, that He was the son of Joseph and Mary. But some say, basing it on a tradition in the Gospel according to Peter, as it is entitled, or The Book of James, that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honor of Mary in virginity to the end.” (Commentary on Matthew, 17)

        Notice how the catechism of the Roman Catholic Church defends the perpetual virginity of Mary:

        "Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus. The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, "brothers of Jesus", are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls "the other Mary". They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression." (CCC # 500)

        Thus, we see that Roman Catholic apologists have resorted to apocryphal literature in order to substantiate their claims. Even the Roman Catholic New American Bible makes it crystal clear that Mary did not remain a virgin her entire life:

        "He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus" (Matthew 1:25)

Monday, August 20, 2018

Scientology: From Science Fiction to Space-age Religion


The Church of Scientology is a controversial new religion developed by L. Ron Hubbard as an extension of his earlier psychological theories of Dianetics. Drawing on ideas from Buddhist and Hindu religious philosophy, science fiction, and Western concepts in psychology and science, L. Ron Hubbard produced a religion that sees all human beings as immortal spirits (thetans) who have forgotten their identity and become deceived by the very universe they mentally emanated in order to amuse themselves. Scientology claims it can free the thetan to realize his or her true nature and powers through certain controversial procedures that allegedly heal the mind and free the spirit.

Although the church claims its beliefs are not incompatible with Christian faith, an evaluation of what Scientology teaches in the areas of God, man, the creation, salvation, and death proves this is not so. Scientology is a powerful new religion whose teachings are inconsistent with the beliefs of orthodox Christian faith.

Ours is an age of religious cacophony, as was the Roman Empire of Christ's time. From agnosticism to Hegelianism, from devil-worship to scientific rationalism, from theosophical cults to philosophies of process: virtually any world view conceivable is offered to modern man in the pluralistic marketplace of ideas. Our age is indeed in ideological and societal agony, grasping at anything and everything that can conceivably offer the ecstasy of a cosmic relationship or of a comprehensive Weltanschauung [world view]. -- John Warwick Montgomery.[1]

One of the most intriguing and controversial items found in today's religious marketplace is The Church of Scientology. The church was founded by Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (1911-1986) in California in the 1950s as an extension of his earlier nonreligious theory of Dianetics.[2] (Dianetics is believed to deals with mind and body; Scientology with the human spirit, although they necessarily overlap in places. According to the church, technically, "para-Scientology" is that branch of Scientology involving past lives, mysticism, the occult, and so forth.[3] For our purposes, the term Scientology is employed in its broadest sense.)

Today Scientology boasts over 700 centers in 65 countries and is one of the wealthiest of the new religions. Celebrities such as Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, and Sonny Bono are only a few of the Hollywood faithful who actively endorse Scientology. But this new religion also has its critics, as still-circulated issues of Readers Digest (May 1980, September 1981) and Time magazine (May 6, 1991) reveal.


The basic tenets of Scientology result from an eclectic mixture of Eastern philosophy and the personal research of Hubbard into a variety of disciplines, as well as the "data" uncovered from "auditing." Auditing is Scientology's "counseling" or extensive examination of the present life and "past lives" of the "preclear," or initiate. In one of its many definitions, Hubbard has described Scientology as "the Western Anglicized continuance of many earlier forms of wisdom."[4] These include the Vedas, Taoism, Buddhism, Judaism, Gnosticism and early Greek civilization; and the teachings of Jesus, Nietzsche, and Freud. According to Hubbard, "Scientology has accomplished the goal of religion expressed in all Man's written history, the freeing of the soul by wisdom."[5]

Scientology divides the mind into two components -- the analytic and the reactive, roughly parallel to the conscious or rational mind and unconscious or irrational mind. Experiences of extreme shock, pain, or unconsciousness cause "engrams," or sensory impressions, to be recorded in the reactive mind. These mental pictures are, in turn, the cause of our emotional and even many physical problems today.[6] They can be dislodged only through Scientology.[7]

While these memory pictures are perfectly recorded, they lay dormant in the brain until restimulated by a similar incident. When restimulated, they cause conditioned, stimulus-response behavior which is counterproductive to one's well-being. Thus, when the brain sees a similar situation to a past threatening experience -- even though it is not now a threat to survival, it responds as if it were, producing a form of inappropriate and self-defeating behavior. For example, a boy falls out of a tree just as a red car passes by and is knocked unconscious. Later, even as a man, red cars (even red things) may restimulate the episode in various ways and cause irrational reactions. This man may thus refuse to ride in a red car and may even get ill or dizzy when confronted with the possibility.

In this sense, we are all more or less conditioned beings -- "machines" that simply respond to their operator (i.e., the reactive mind). Scientology believes this restimulation is fairly automatic. In other words, we are not free beings: we are slaves of an "aberrated" (reactive) mind. Scientology maintains that through Dianetic and/or Scientology therapy, we can be directly exposed to our engrams, "erase" them, and become "clear," or in control of our behavior ("at cause") rather than at the mercy of a damaged reactive mind ("at effect").

Unfortunately, Scientology informs us, through reincarnation we have all been accumulating engrams for trillions of years. Thus, to resolve hidden engrams, not only must the initiate be mentally whisked back to reexperience the damaging events of this life, but of many past lives as well.

According to Scientology, each person is really a thetan, an immortal spirit who has been so damaged by engrams that he has forgotten he is immortal and even forgotten he is a thetan. Thetans have absolute control over their bodies, but, sadly, they think they are bodies (a terrible fate) and hence are bound by the MEST (matter, energy, space, time) universe. Each time a body dies, the thetan must enter another body, but this brings with it all its trillions of years' accumulation of engrams. Thetans thus are no longer free, but are in bondage to the material universe.[8] Scientology claims it can free the thetan.


In light of the religious claims of Scientology I will emphasize the theological presuppositions of the church in six fundamental categories -- God, man, creation, salvation, death, and the supernatural.


In the Church of Scientology the concept of God would appear to be panentheistic (believing that all finite entities are within, but not identical to, God),[9] although monotheism could also be assumed. What the church refers to as "the Supreme Being" is purposely left undefined and not particularly relevant in Scientology theory or practice. It is variously implied to be, or referred to as, "Nature," "Infinity," "the Eighth Dynamic," "all Theta" (life), and so forth. Usually the individual Scientologist is free to interpret God in whatever manner he or she wishes.[10]


Scientology maintains that in his true nature, man is not the limited and pitiful body and ego he mistakenly imagines himself to be. He is a thetan whose fundamental nature is basically good and divine. He is not morally fallen; rather he is simply ignorant of his own perfection. His only "Fall" was into matter, not sin. How did this Fall come about?

Apparently, trillions of years ago thetans became bored, so they emanated mental universes to play in and amuse themselves. Soon, however, they became more and more entranced in their own creation until they were so conditioned by the manifestations of their own thought processes that they lost all awareness of their true identity and spiritual nature.[11]

They became hypnotized and trapped by MEST. Compounding the problem was the accumulation of endless engrams throughout trillions of years of existence. The final result was a pitiful creature indeed -- a materially enslaved entity existing as a mere stimulus-response machine. Today only slavery to the reactive mind and bondage to the MEST universe (i.e., the physical body and environment) are what remain of once glorious spiritual beings. Thus, the Scientology concept of man is described in Scientology: A World Religion Emerges in the Space Age as follows:

The PERSON in Scientology is (and discovers himself to be) a Thetan (spiritual being) of infinite creative potential who acts in, but is not part of, the physical universe....

The Eternal Indestructible Self (Atman) of the Hindu Upanishads early foreshadowed the Scientology concept of the Thetan....

The Thetan is also considered to be the innate source of his own projected universe, which overlaps the created universes of other Thetans in a great community of souls. Thus is formed the world of the senses, in relation to which, like the Hindu "Lila," or "Divine Play," each Thetan plays the Game of Life in concert with its spiritual partners....

As a Being descends...into Materiality, the manifestations of his communication become heavier and more dense, and his experience of reality deteriorates.[12]


The universe was not created by a single supreme being ex nihilo (out of nothing), thus having a separate existence of its own. Instead, the Scientology universe constitutes a subjective, mental emanation or "projection" of the thetans, having merely an agreed-upon (and not actual) reality. Thus, the entire physical universe is a Game, a product of thetan ingenuity (designed for escaping boredom) which apparently emanates from an original thetan consensus to "create" in pre-history.[13]

As a product of thetan minds, the universe is capable of endless manipulation by an aware or spiritually enlightened thetan. Thus, Scientologists may view psychic powers developed through their church practices as a confirmation of this teaching. But for a densely ignorant thetan (principally, all non-Scientologists) the universe is a deceptive and deadly spiritual trap. Ignorant thetans are bound by engrams and think they are only physical bodies. As a result, they are weak, impotent creatures enslaved to a material universe that inhibits self-realization of their nature as an immortal spirit.[14] In essence, the material creation as we know it is not only an illusion but also a positive evil -- that is, a powerfully destructive barrier one must overcome in order to advance spiritually.[15]


This pitiful thetan slavery to MEST and his own conditioned ignorance continued for millennia until L. Ron Hubbard discovered the secret nature of humankind and pioneered a solution to the thetan's misery by developing a universal plan of salvation. Through Scientology auditing, engrams may be neutralized and the thetan made increasingly self-aware or "enlightened." By various techniques a practical methodology was developed to enable the initiate to recognize his (or her) spiritual existence, to separate from the MEST body, and to begin to exert mental control over the MEST universe. In other words, the initiate may eventually achieve a state of "clear" and then, by progressing through numerous levels of "Operating Thetan" ("OT"), increasingly achieve self-realization. (An "Operating Thetan" is one who is more and more aware of and "operating" according to his true thetan abilities.)


Death for Scientology is sometimes a blessing, for it may permit the release of the soul from the prison of the body (i.e., the evolution of the thetan [soul] into a higher state of awareness). Nevertheless, in another sense death is an event so appallingly ordinary (indeed, one which each person has passed through trillions of times) that it is, in effect, an irrelevant incident, almost inconsequential in the larger scheme of things.[16]

The Occult

The employment of psychic powers and out-of-body episodes (e.g., as a means for the thetan to re-realize his or her true powers) is indicative of the church's acceptance of the realm of the occult. Further, Hubbard's own son goes so far as to affirm that "black magic is the inner core of Scientology."[17] Hubbard himself allegedly confessed that a spirit entity guided him throughout his life[18] and a number of scholarly researchers have verified the occult nature of Scientology.[19]


Despite many successful attempts by the Church of Scientology to inhibit criticism,[20] there remains a sizable literature available to the researcher. Particularly helpful are: (1) government investigations and reports, (2) transcripts of innumerable court proceedings (whether Scientology functions as plaintiff or defendant), (3) scholarly review in any number of fields related to Scientology theory (e.g., philosophy, medicine, psychology, sociology, theology, ethics), (4) analysis by the popular press and investigative reporting, in both printed and visual media, and (5) the published literature of current and former members.[21]

Scientology and/or Dianetics are certainly not without testable claims, even though the church alleges Hubbard has at no time made any claims for them.[22] Still, Hubbard believed -- among many other things -- that his philosophy and methodology (1) are superior in mental health expertise, (2) (Dianetics) can be 100 percent successful and increase one's I.Q., (3) can solve humankind's major problems, and (4) are a rational and proven science (except where they impinge on the study of the spirit).[23] But before Dianetics had evolved into Scientology, it had been examined and critiqued by a variety of investigators and invalidated as to its basic claims.[24]

Neither are most of the claims of Scientology established. For example, one of the great legal minds of our century is Oxford educated Lord Chancellor Hailsham. He has twice held the highest office open to lawyers in England, that of Lord Chancellor, as well as being the Minister of Education and Minister of Science and Technology. He comments, "I do not find [Scientology's] philosophical conceptions adequate to support [its] theories...the factual basis on which they claim to have produced good results on individuals do not seem to me to be fully substantiated."[25]

As to its mental health claims, the application of Scientology techniques has allegedly harmed some people. Problems can arise from occult activity, Scientology processes, and auditor inexperience.[26] They include hallucinations and irrational behavior, severe disorientation, strange bodily sensations, physical and mental illness, unconsciousness, and suicide.[27] (As the notes will reveal, most of the above hazards were admitted by Hubbard himself, although he maintained they only occurred through misapplication of the "technology" of Scientology.)

Hubbard also claimed that Scientology is a proven science that is rational and utilizes scientific principles. However, Hubbard's methods contradict this assertion and reveal that scientifically his research methodology is questionable or unreliable.[28] Even his own son claims that for the multimillion bestseller Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health he did no research at all....what he did, really, was take bits and pieces from other people and put them together in a blender and stir them all up -- and out came Dianetics! All the examples in the book -- some 200 "real-life experiences" -- were just the result of his obsessions with abortions and unconscious states....In fact, the vast majority of those incidents were invented off the top of his head. The rest stem from his own secret life, which was deeply involved in the occult and black magic. That involvement goes back to when he was sixteen.[29]

Further, researchers who have examined the only "scientific" instrument in Scientology allegedly capable of producing "data" have concluded it is useless as to its claimed abilities. This instrument is the "E-meter," an electric meter which is used to "locate" engrams. The E-meter accurately measures variations in the electrical resistance of the human body, like a galvanometer. But "none of the Scientology theories associated with, or claims made for, the E-meter is justified. They are contrary to expert evidence...."[30]

Scientology Ethics

Scientology maintains a strong position outwardly on ethical issues:

The practice of Scientology results in a higher level of ethics and integrity....[31]

Millions already believe the Ethics of Scientology carry more weight and honesty than the traditional and confused laws of nations.[32]

The Church of Scientology International memberships -- your link to other honest ethical people.[33]

Unfortunately, Scientology does not always live up well to its own ethical confessions, partly because its ethics seem to be valid only for those it deems worthy of them. For example, critics of the church may be treated as enemies.[34]

We should also note that Scientology has its own unique definitions for terms. Thus words used in the above quotations -- such as ethics -- carry not only accepted meanings but also Scientological ones.[35]

Truth Is Stranger than Fiction

This brings us to a related problem in Scientology: its subjective use of terms so that data is manipulated to conform to the alleged discoveries and truths of Scientology. Perhaps the most fruitful area to begin with is by noting Hubbard's expertise as a science fiction writer. In fact, many of the themes one finds in Scientology can also be found in his science fiction works.[36]

For Hubbard "life is a game," and this is about the only thing that gives it any real meaning.[37] The various exploits of thetans in the past trillions of years are their lila (or sport) -- the games they play to keep eternal boredom at bay. Certainly many critics would contend that the adventures of thetans -- as chronicled in, for example, Hubbard's A History of Man and Have You Lived Before This Life? -- should be ranked among his science fiction work. From the latter book consider one alleged "past life" incident of a Scientology counselee as uncovered by a Scientology auditor using his E-meter:

The preclear was on Mars without a body 469,476,600 years ago, creating havoc, destroying a bridge and buildings. The people were called by an alarm to temple. PC [preclear] went and broke the back pew, and the Temple tower. He wandered in town and saw a doll in a window, and got entrapped [inside the doll] trying to move its limbs. People seized it, beat it up, and threw the doll out of the window (30 ft. drop). The doll was taken roughly to the Temple, and was zapped by a bishop's gun while the congregation chanted "God is Love." When the people left, the doll, out of control, staggered out and was run over by a large car and a steamroller. It was then taken back to the Bishop, who ordered it to be taken (in a lorry with others) to dig trenches or ditches for 2,000 years. (The whole incident took nearly 2,000,000 years.) Then it was taken and the body was removed and the PC was promised a robot body. The thetan (PC) went up to an implant station and was put into an ice-cube and went by flying saucer and was dropped at Planet ZX 432.[38]

Hubbard himself confesses that truth is so strange one cannot actually distinguish between science fiction and science fact (a revelation he also found useful for rejecting or manipulating the "illusions" of conventional knowledge). For example, Hubbard once noted, "One of the closest pieces of work to a thetan is Alice in Wonderland....He can mock up [invent, make] white rabbits and caterpillars and Mad Hatters. He'd find himself right in his element."[39] And, "When you look at man's location in the MEST Universe and what he has or has not been through the picture is just incredibly's just too fantastic for words, so of course, nobody would believe it."[40]

If we recall Hubbard's teaching on the material creation we remember it is an illusion: "The MEST universe can be established easily to be an illusion...."[41] It is not that the universe does not exist, rather, it has no objective, independent reality. It is a frivolous mental game created and played by thetans. Conventional reality simply results from the primordial thetan agreement ("mock-up") and no more.[42] Thus, "objective" reality is simply a temporary subjective manifestation of the mind of thetans.

Such a universe, of course, cannot give true objective knowledge about things, for things per se have no independent existence and are capable of endless manipulation by an aware thetan. For Hubbard, only an unaberrated thetan (i.e., one who by means of Scientology is truly enlightened) knows things as they really are and, apparently, Hubbard was the most enlightened thetan of all. Thus, for Scientologists who agree, that which Hubbard says is true is that which really is true, no matter how fantastic or disharmonious with currently accepted knowledge.[43]


Despite the fact that as late as 1971 (close to 20 years after the Church of Scientology was founded) at least one book by Hubbard carried the straightforward claim that " not a religion,"[44] it has become a religion and one in competition with the Christian church. Consider a survey conducted by the Church of Scientology itself. This poll, which involved over 3,000 members, determined that the background of Scientologists is predominantly Christian (roughly 40 percent Protestant and 26 percent Catholic). A full 70 percent of those with Christian backgrounds affirmed that they still considered themselves practicing members of their Christian faith, which means that almost half (47 percent) of those polled still consider themselves Christian.[45]

These findings combined with the additional facts that 37 percent of those surveyed had received college degrees and 80 percent were from the middle class indicate that Scientology constitutes an appealing and powerful organization with an educated class of people, most of whom have been recruited from Christian churches. And yet the response of Christianity to this situation has been almost nonexistent. Just as the Scientologist who considers him or herself a Christian does not recognize the inconsistency of that position, the Christian church has not yet recognized the risk Scientology poses to its own fold.

In a rational universe two contrary religions might be false, but both cannot be true. Thus, if the Christian world view is true (and I have shown elsewhere how this may be reasonably established on revelational-empirical grounds -- using the strict measure of legal criteria[46]), then that which contradicts it cannot be true.

In the area of theology, there are several key issues that people have pondered most consistently -- and most personally. They concern the area of theology proper (the existence and nature of God) as well as the questions of revealed theology (does God exist for me?), anthropology (who or what am I?), soteriology (how can I be saved?), and thanatology (what happens when I die?).

These questions raise the issues of the nature of God, man, salvation, and death. No issues are more fundamental or important -- for to answer these questions in error will, like a philosophical leaven, spread corruption throughout one's world view. Below we will briefly compare and contrast Scientology's answers to the questions with the answers provided in the Bible.


As noted, Scientology is fundamentally panentheistic. It teaches that there are a multitude of thetans who, "collectively" with all life, could be said to comprise the Supreme Being (see note 9). This contradicts the biblical teaching that there is only one sovereign and perfect Creator God from all eternity -- without beginning or end, immutable, who exists in three Persons, and is infinitely holy, just, and loving (e.g., Gen. 1:1; Isa. 43:10-11; Acts 5:3-4; Isa. 61:8; Mal. 3:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; Titus 2:13; 1 John 4:8-10).


Scientology teaches that man is an immortal spirit like the atman in Hinduism. As in Hinduism, man may be considered a deity of sorts who has forgotten he is divine.

The Bible rejects the idea that man is an ignorant god who needs only enlightenment or self-realization. Man is a creation of God, made in God's image. His problems do not result from engrams or boredom, but from sin and self-centeredness (Rom. 3:10-18; Eph. 2:1-3).

If there is one supporting pillar of Scientology upon which everything rests, it is the concept of thetans. Nearly everything of importance in Scientology is predicated on the existence of thetans and their conforming to the status Hubbard has given them. Obviously, if there is no thetan as Hubbard defines it, the practices of Scientology are without justification.

Consider the biblical view. There is only one eternal God in the universe (Isa. 43:10-11). He created man (body and spirit) as a finite creature at a point in time (Gen. 2:7). Hence it is impossible that divine beings such as Scientology's thetans can exist. Biblically then, Scientology's philosophy, techniques, solutions to problems, and final goals are based upon underlying presuppositions that are inherently incorrect.

Put more simply, if no thetan exists, then most of Scientology is based on error. For "almost the entirety of Scientology consists of discovery and refinements of methods whereby the Thetan can be persuaded to relinquish his self-imposed limitations."[47]

Nevertheless, because Scientology deals with the mind and certain practical considerations (e.g., communication skills) it may also use or discover relevant information about human psychology. Unfortunately, if such data is placed into an overall world view that is false or questionable, even though the data may be true, it may be misused in support of an errant philosophy.

For example, during Scientology counseling, the auditor (counselor) may extract certain feelings or information from the initiate that indicate an irrational fear of falling and a problem with vertigo. This observation may be true. But because the more enlightened auditor has already interpreted the initiate as a thetan ignorant of its many lifetimes, and because his E-meter has supposedly "located" an engram (the incident related to experiencing dizziness) from ten trillion years ago, the auditor may interpret such information wrongly -- as a past-life incident where the person is falling out of a spaceship.

If we realize that the entire purpose of Scientology is to help a (biblically) nonexistent thetan realize its true nature, we must conclude that it does not deal in the realm of reality. If no thetan exists, what else may a Christian inquirer into Scientology conclude?


Salvation in Scientology progresses from personal ignorance and bondage to matter into gnostic enlightenment and freedom from the MEST body and universe. At an ultimate cost of tens of thousands of dollars, one is progressively "saved" from engrams by knowledge (Scientology beliefs) through good works (Scientology auditing and practice, etc.) to arrive at the highest state of "operating thetan."

The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that salvation is a free gift. One is redeemed from sin on the principle of grace, simply through faith in Christ's atonement (Eph. 2:8-9; John 6:47; Heb. 11:1; 1 John 2:2).


Scientology claims that death is endlessly repeatable through reincarnation and is hence almost inconsequential. Death, however, is at least potentially beneficial in that it may permit the release of the soul from the prison of the body.

Biblically, death is a one-time event that carries either the most sublime of blessings (eternal heaven) or the most horrible of consequences (eternal hell). Death leads to an irreversible fate for both the saved and the lost and thus human beings have one lifetime only to make their peace with God (Heb. 9:27; Matt. 25:46; Luke 26:19-31; Rev. 20:10-15).

In conclusion, Scientology does not conform in basic world view or particular teaching with Judeo-Christian revelation in any sense; indeed, examined as a whole, it fundamentally rejects Christian faith. Hubbard rejected Christ's deity and mission as figments of unenlightened minds and therefore Hubbard's philosophy "is not interested in saving man, but it can do much to prevent him from being 'saved.'"[48]

We may observe that Scientology does entertain a fine goal in attempting to improve the world and man's lot within it, whether materially or spiritually. Many practitioners are dedicated and selfless in seeking such ends. Nevertheless, each Scientologist must weigh the scales of his or her own conscience to determine the best manner in which to achieve such goals. If man is not a thetan as Scientology claims, but a fallen being in need of redemption as Christianity teaches, what will have been the fruit of a lifetime of work?

It would be wise for Scientologists with a Christian background (indeed, for all Scientologists) to listen to the words of Jesus afresh:"For what will a man be profited if he gain the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26) And, "This is eternal life, to know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom Thou has sent." (John 17:3)


1 John Warwick Montgomery, Faith Founded on Fact (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1978), 152-53.
2 L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics Today (Los Angeles: Church of Scientology of California, 1975), III; and LRH Personal Secretary Office, ed., What Is Scientology? (Los Angeles: Church of Scientology of California, 1978) 209; cf. Christopher Evans, Cults of Unreason (New York: Dell, 1975), 17-134 for early problems and controversies.
3 L. Ron Hubbard, The Creation of Human Ability (Los Angeles: The Publications Organization Worldwide, 1968), 189.
4 Ibid., 177.
5 Ibid., 180; cf. Church of Scientology Information Service, Department of Archives, Scientology: A World Religion Emerges in the Space Age (1974), 3-17.
6 Impact or injury must be involved for an engram to register. "The engram is the single and sole source of aberration and psychosomatic illness." (Hubbard, Dianetics Today, 43, 47; cf. 37-106 and especially 38-59.)
7 E.g., Hubbard, Dianetics Today, 947-51; L. Ron Hubbard, The Volunteer Minister's Handbook (Los Angeles: Church of Scientology of California, 1976), 551-52; cf. the comments of former 14-year member Cyril Vosper in The Mind Benders (London: Neville Spearman, 1971), 164-66, and member Peter Gillham in Telling It Like It Is: A Course in Scientology Dissemination (Phoenix: Institute of Applied Philosophy, 1972), 26.
8 See L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology: A History of Man (Sussex, England: L. Ron Hubbard Communications office, 1961), 12-76, especially 53-60 for a discussion of alleged evolutionary dynamics and their impact on one's current life. Cf. the discussion in Evans, 38-47 and Roy Wallis, The Road to Total Freedom: A Sociological Analysis of Scientology (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977), 103-4.
9 On panentheism see Scientology: A World Religion Emerges, 21-24; L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics and Scientology Technical Dictionary (Los Angeles: Church of Scientology of California, 1975), 429; L. Ron Hubbard, Ceremonies of the Founding of the Church of Scientology (Los Angeles: The American St. Hill Organization, 1971), 41; Reality magazine, no. 121, 3; Hubbard, The Creation of Human Ability, 277; Advance, no. 35, 14-15; no. 36, 6.
10 Hubbard, What Is Scientology? 200. Wallis (112n.) observes that God "does not figure greatly in either theory or practice."
11 See notes 8 and 9.
12 Scientology: A World Religion Emerges in the Space Age, 21-24.
13 Ibid. Cf. Hubbard, The Creation of Human Ability, 9-21; Hubbard, Technical Dictionary, 432; and L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology 8-8008 (Los Angeles: The American St. Hill Organization, 1967), 106-8.
14 Ibid.
15 Ibid. and L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought (Los Angeles: American St. Hill Organization, 1971), 91, 98; Edward Lefson and Ruth Minshull, comps. When in Doubt Communicate: Quotations from the Works of L. Ron Hubbard (Ann Arbor, MI: Scientology Ann Arbor, 1969), 73, 123; Advance, no. 19, 114.
16 E.g., cf. L. Ron Hubbard, "Death," Advance, no. 24, 9, 22 and L. Ron Hubbard, Have You Lived Before This Life? (Los Angeles: The Church of Scientology of California, Department of Publications Worldwide, 1968), passim.
17 "Penthouse Interview: L. Ron Hubbard, Jr.," Penthouse, June 1983, 113 (CRI files). Cf. Brent Corydon and L. Ron Hubbard, Jr., L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman? (Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stuart, 1987), 307, 333.
18 Corydon and Hubbard, Jr., 256.
19 E.g., Wallis, 122; Harriet Whitehead, "Reasonably Fantastic: Some Perspectives on Scientology, Science Fiction and Occultism," in Irving Zaretsky and Mark P. Leon, Religious Movements in Contemporary America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974), 582.
20 See Reader's Digest, May 1980, September 1981; Newsweek, 20 November 1978; Christianity Today, 20 February 1975.
21 Among the official government reports are those by Australia (1965), Britain (1971), South Africa (1972), and New Zealand (1969). Popular press reports include Today's Health, December 1968; Life, 15 November 1968; Parents magazine, June 1969; Christianity Today, 21 November 1969; The Nation, 22 May 1972; Reader's Digest, May 1980, September 1981; as well as The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, London Sunday Times, Los Angeles Times, St. Petersburg Times, etc. Among critical books are Corydon and Hubbard, Jr., L. Ron Hubbard, Messiah or Madman? Vosper, The Mind Benders; George Malko, Scientology: The Now Religion; Robert Kaufman, Inside Scientology; and Evans, Cults of Unreason. Among television investigations are ABC News Close-Up, New Religions: Holiness or Heresy? 2 September 1976, and NBC Primetime Saturday, 14 June 1980. Scholarly treatments include Wallis, The Road to Total Freedom.
22 What Is Scientology? 5.
23 The tremendous extent of Hubbard's claims can be found in ibid. and L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics Today, VIII, 94, 108-15, 618, 962; Handbook for Preclears (Los Angeles: The American St. Hill Organization, 1971), 5-6; L. Ron Hubbard, Self-Analysis (Los Angeles: The Church of Scientology of California, 1968), 178; Evans, 78-79; L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought(Los Angeles: American St. Hill Organization, 1971), 119; L. Ron Hubbard, Science of Survival (Sussex, England: L. Ron Hubbard College of Scientology, 1951), 3; Advance, no. 25, 4, 16; Hubbard,Dianetics Today, 115; Advance, no. 43, back cover; no. 25, 4-5, 16; no. 55, 18; What Is Scientology? 199; Evans, 78-79; L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology 8-80, 7; L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology 8-8008 (Los Angeles: The American St. Hill Organization, 1952), 47.
24 See "Book Review," Journal of the American Medical Association, 29 July 1950, 1220-2; Post-Graduate Medicine, October 1950; Newsweek, 16 October 1950; "Dianetics," Consumer Reports, August 1951; "Questions and Answers," Today's Health, November 1950; Robert Lee Smith, "Scientology," Today's Health, December 1968; Anderson, 94-97.
25 Lord Chancellor Hailsham, "The Door Wherein I Went," The Simon Greenleaf Law Review 4, 1984-85, 51.
26 E.g., John Ankerberg and John Weldon, The Facts on the Occult (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1992); L. Ron Hubbard, The Book of Case Remedies, Clearing Series 2, expanded ed. (Los Angeles: American St. Hill Organization, 1971), insert A3 (after p. 24); L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics 55! (Los Angeles: The American St. Hill Organization, 1973 edition), 157-59; Hubbard, Scientology: A History of Man, 50; Hubbard, The Creation of Human Ability, 1, 134, 171; Hubbard, Dianetics Today, 466, 933; Vosper, 98.
27 Anderson, 12, 83, 92, 126, 133; Hubbard, The Creation of Human Ability, 149, 175-76, 241, 267; Hubbard, Scientology 8-80, 52-53; Hubbard, Dianetics 55! 167-69; cf. Hubbard, Scientology: A History of Man, 75; Hubbard, Dianetics Today, 535, 623; Robert Kaufman, Inside Scientology: How I Joined Scientology and Became Superhuman (New York: Olympia Press, 1972), 153, 160, 164, 200-201, 219-24, 241; Book of Case Remedies, Second Series, expanded ed., 29; Technical Dictionary, 209-10, 365; Hubbard, Have You Lived Before This Life? 170; Reader's Digest, May 1980, 89; September 1981, 28; Willamette Week (Portland, OR), 3 September 1979, 15.
28 E.g., Vosper, 78-79; Anderson, 95-97, passim.
29 Penthouse, 113; cf. Corydon and Hubbard, Jr., 270-71.
30 Kevin Anderson, Report of the Board of Inquiry into Scientology (Melbourne: AC Brooks Government Printer, 1965), no. 9, 95-97. This report is difficult to locate but contains invaluable information. Cf. Evans, 63-66; Wallis, 197.
31 What Is Scientology? 77.
32 Vosper, 132.
33 Source magazine, no. 22, 1.
34 See Hubbard, Introduction to Scientology Ethics (Los Angeles: American St. Hill Organization, 1973), 49; Richard Behar, "The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power," Time, 6 May 1991, 50-57; Eugene H. Methvin, "Scientology: Anatomy of a Frightening Cult," Readers Digest, May 1980, 86-91 (part 2: Sept. 1981, 75-80).
35 For illustrations see the definitions in the Scientology Technical Dictionary.
36 Compare Scientology theory with Hubbard's science fiction works, e.g., Ole Doc Methuselah, Slaves of Sleep, Death's Deputy, The Final Blackout, The Dangerous Dimension, The Tramp, Fear, King Slayer, and Typewriter in the Sky.
37 E.g., L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology: A New Slant on Life (Los Angeles: The American St. Hill organization, 1971), 38-39; Lefson and Minshull, 40.
38 Hubbard, Have You Lived Before This Life? 63-64.
39 L. Ron Hubbard, "Making an O.T. -- Part Two," Advance, no. 33, 6.
40 L. Ron Hubbard, "What's Wrong with This Universe?" Advance, no. 45, 4.
41 Hubbard, Scientology 8-8008, 133.
42 Ibid., 106-8; Hubbard, The Creation of Human Ability, 249.
43 See e.g., Vosper, 28-42; Wallis, 249-50.
44 Hubbard, The Creation of Human Ability, 1971 printing or earlier, 251.
45 What Is Scientology? 246-47; cf. Wallis, 72.
46 E.g., see John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Do the Resurrection Accounts Conflict and What Proof Is There That Jesus Rose from the Dead? (Chattanooga, TN: Ankerberg Theological Research Institute, 1990, esp. section III).
47 Vosper, 31.
48 Hubbard, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (Sussex, England: Publications Organization Worldwide, 1968), 105. Cf. 408; Hubbard, The Volunteer Minister's Handbook, 348-49; Wallis, 104.

By John Weldon, Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Passion Translation Exposed

Another new custom Bible is The Passion Translation by NAR [New Apostolic Reformation] Apostle Brian Simmons. In [commentator] Holly Pivec’s "Important facts about The Passion Translation" she points out that Brian claims Jesus appeared to him and blew on him to commission Brian to write this new translation. She continues:

He says: “he breathed on me so that I would do the project, and I felt downloads coming, instantly. I received downloads. It was like, I got a chip put inside of me. I got a connection inside of me to hear him better, to understand the scriptures better and hopefully to translate.”

On this same TV program, Simmons claimed Jesus revealed to him a new chapter of the Bible. This happened when he was translated to the library of heaven where he saw more books than you can imagine. One stood out called John 22. It told about the greatest revival the world is yet to see. God promised Simmons that one day He’ll bring Simmons back to heaven and give him this book.

Alisa Childers points out in “Here’s Why Christians Should Be Concerned About The Passion Translation of the Bible” “…the sole translator of TPT, Brian Simmons, is not trained in the biblical languages, and lacks the credentials necessary to produce an accurate translation of the Bible.”

Another thing that sets TPT apart from these other single-author translations is that Simmons claims that Jesus visited him personally, took him to the library of heaven, and asked him to write the translation. He claims to have received “downloads,” and “secrets of the Hebrew language” from Jesus Himself. Simmons even admitted that he has minimal background in biblical languages and needed the Lord’s help to translate.

That is the advantage of producing a custom Bible. You don’t need to be bothered with such mundane things as knowing the original languages, and in fact, knowing the original languages would almost certainly be an impediment to your imagination, or whatever entity is downloading information to your mind. It frees you up to add new bible chapters – or at least teach others that there are unrevealed chapters which will be added as an update later. Who can deny your experience? Who can argue with your own custom Bible? It’s a very convenient new tool to let NAR Apostles and prophets off the hook for being false prophets by simply rewording the warning Jesus gave in Matthew 7:15 and following:

Constantly be on your guard against phony prophets. They come disguised as lambs, appearing to be genuine, but on the inside, they are like wild, ravenous wolves! You can spot them by their actions, for the fruits of their character will be obvious. (TPB)

The passage in the real bible is actually a warning to be on guard for FALSE PROPHETS – which of course the NAR prophets are! The definitions of false prophets are given by Moses in Deuteronomy 13 and 18. The hearers of Jesus’ warning would have had these passages memorized. The warning has nothing to do with the so-called “fruits of one’s character.” One cannot judge a false prophet by his ungodly or bad “character,” since, as Jesus points out, they will look just like sheep!! Sheep are true believers. These false prophets would seem outwardly like Godly men, doing good works while hiding their true characters! The false prophets that Jesus warned would come would probably be carrying Bibles, claiming to do miracles, utilizing Christian lingo, acting nice and Christian-y, and maybe even casting out demons in Jesus’ name. In fact, that is what Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23:

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Historicity of Pontius Pilate

During the trial of Jesus, the gospel accounts focus a great deal on a “larger-than-life” character named Pontius Pilate. Luke referred to him as the Roman governor of Judea during the reign of Tiberius Caesar (Luke 3:1).

Do we have evidence for Pontius Pilate outside the biblical texts?

In 1961, archaeologists discovered a plaque fragment at Caesarea Maritima, an ancient Roman city along the Mediterranean coast of Israel. The plaque was written in Latin and imbedded in a section of steps leading to Caesarea’s Amphitheatre. The inscription includes the following: “Pontius Pilatus, Prefect of Judea, has dedicated to the people of Caesarea a temple in honor of Tiberius.”

Emperor Tiberius reigned from 14 to 37 AD. This matches the biblical timeline that records Pontius Pilate ruling as governor of Judea from 26 to 36 AD.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Mormonism Rejects The Sufficiency Of Jesus Christ's Atonement

  • Discussion:
           -One blasphemous aspect of Mormonism is the idea that there are sins so heinous that not even the shed blood of Jesus Christ has sufficient power to make atonement for the people who commit them. Consider this excerpt from Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, page n82:

           "But man may commit certain grievous sins — according to his light and knowledge - that will place him beyond the reach of the atoning blood of Christ. If then he would be saved he must make sacrifice of his own life to atone — so far as in his power lies — for that sin, for the blood of Christ alone under certain circumstances will not avail.

           MURDERERS AND THE ATONEMENT. Do you believe this doctrine? If not, then I do say you do not believe in the true doctrine of the atonement of Christ. This is the doctrine you are pleased to call the "blood atonement of Brighamism." This is the doctrine of Christ our Redeemer, who died for us. This is the doctrine of Joseph Smith, and I accept it."

Mormonism And Abortion

"There is also evidence that some of Smith’s plural wives had abortions performed by John C. Bennett (a physician), a Mormon, and a close friend and confidant of Smith’s for almost two years, from July 1840 to mid-May 1842. Mrs. Orson (Sarah) Pratt, a Mormon resident in Nauvoo, said one reason nobody really heard about some of Smith’s impregnated women was because his friend Dr. Bennett performed abortions for him. She reported that Bennett once showed her and her husband the instruments which he used to “operate for Joseph.” Not surprisingly, she branded Bennett “the evil genius of Joseph.” Her abortion testimony was later corroborated by William Wyl (von Wymetal), a German newspaper reporter. He also learned that Bennett performed abortions for the founder of the Mormon church. Sarah Pratt stated that there was a house about a mile and a half from Nauvoo that functioned as “a kind of hospital.” She explained, “They sent women there when they showed signs of celestial consequences.” This house, according to Harry M. Beardsley, was a large brick mansion “fitted up by Bennett as an abortion hospital."

Alvin J. Schmidt, The American Muhammad: Joseph Smith, Founder of Mormonism, p.178

Monday, August 13, 2018

Dispelling The Myths: The Psychological Consequences Of Cultic Involvement

                                                       By Paul R. Martin

From the Christian Research Journal, Winter/Spring 1989, page 8. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller.

For over seven years Jennifer was a successful missionary with a well-respected mission organization. Still a faithful servant of God's Word she returned to the States and joined what seemed to be a good evangelical church. Gradually she and the rest of the church were drawn under the spell of their dynamic pastor. Over time she began to believe and practice things that previously would have been morally unthinkable to her. Although she claimed to be happy, inwardly she was filled with anxiety, guilt, and fear. And yet, no amount of persuasion could convince her that her group was in error.

It literally took a miracle for Jennifer to see the errors of her church's distorted teaching on relationships and spiritual growth. Although much better, she is now into her second year of therapy with a Christian counselor. It will likely take some time still to sort through what this so-called "church" did to her and other members of that congregation.

Randy, a sophomore at a major midwestern university, and a truly converted Christian, sought a fellowship that was "on fire for the Lord." After finding the "perfect church" Randy was quite happy and content for a time. Then he fell in love with one of the women in the church. There was only one problem -- his church forbade dating. Before Randy knew it, his casual and circumspect encounters with this girl -- viewed by the elders as disobedience and faction -- resulted in his excommunication. The experience so stunned him that his life was never the same. Randy respected the elders and so he accepted as true the charges of faction and of having a wicked heart. Although he tried to make amends with the church, he never seemed able to satisfy the elders.

For some ten years Randy remained an outcast, even believing he was an outcast from God. Any attempt to work or return to school was short-lived. He was haunted by feelings of rejection. In desperation, his parents sought many forms of help. Even some of the finest psychiatrists in the country found it difficult to reverse the damage done. As a middle-aged man, Randy still struggles with confusion, despair, occupational uncertainty, and dating difficulties.

Surprisingly, Jennifer and Randy displayed the same symptoms of disillusionment, depression, confusion, and despair as many of the young people who had once been captive to the well-known cults such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Unification Church ("Moonies"), and The Way International.

Yet how could this be? These two people were professing Christians, involved in so-called Christian groups. Unfortunately, there are so many cases like these that pastors and counselors (including myself, a licensed psychologist) have seen that the problem simply cannot be ignored. In my own case, I was slow to face and recognize the problem because -- like many others -- I accepted some erroneous assumptions concerning cultic phenomena. These assumptions effectively created a sense of denial in me concerning these hurting people. In this article I shall elaborate on these widely accepted myths concerning cultic involvement.


Ex-cult members do not have psychological problems. Their problems are wholly spiritual.

Although often believed by both Christians and ex-cultists, myth #1 has no basis in reality. As a result of extensive research with some 3,000 ex-cultists, Dr. Margaret Singer observed significant instances of depression, loneliness, anxiety, low self-esteem, overdependence, confusion, inability to concentrate, somatic complaints, and, at times, psychosis.[1] In addition to Singer's authoritative research, there are many articles and books that describe the psychological distress of ex-cultists. (Many of these findings will be referred to in the body of this article.)

My own experience verifies the findings of Dr. Singer. Lori (a girl I treated after she left an aberrational church group) presents a typical example of the overdependence and insecurity of a former cultist. She asked me: "Is it okay to have cold cereal for breakfast?" "Can I listen to the radio?" It was as though Lori was a little child needing approval and guidance for her every move.

Mental health professionals also propagate the first part of myth #1. While not endorsing cult membership, Dr. Saul Levine, department head of psychiatry at Sunnybrook Medical Center in Toronto, asserts that the experience can be "therapeutic" and that "a reassuring majority have not been damaged."[2]

Though I do not totally doubt the accuracy of Levine's findings, I am troubled that he wrote his material after (and in spite of) the horrors of Jonestown. He makes no reference to the countless tales of woe related by thousands of former cult members.

A large part of the difference between Levine's findings and those of researchers who recognize problems among ex-cultists could be due to the populations sampled. Levine studied people who were generally in cultic groups for short periods and who volunteered to be interviewed. As opposed to this, it is doubtful whether some members of "utopian" or separatist cults would volunteer to talk to a psychiatrist if they were having real doubts about the group. The members' fear and guilt -- as well as distrust of the psychiatric profession -- would perhaps be too great an obstacle. Additionally, Levine admitted that even his sample of cultists experienced "severe emotional upheaval in the first few months" after returning home.[3]

Researchers who report problems usually have dealt with people who have left on their own, were counseled to leave, or have been deprogrammed, and want help. In such cases the problems were real and the hurt very apparent. Researchers, however, have not settled the issue of what percentage of people in these groups suffer psychological harm. Nor have they shown what personality types will be detrimentally affected by cultic involvement.

Concerning the spiritual problems experienced by cultists, it is true that these are often present in addition to the emotional distress. These spiritual problems, however, generally originate with the group's unbiblical teachings rather than having their source in the individual's own relationship with God. It has been my experience that almost all former members of religious cults or extremist sects (including those which claim to be evangelical) are confused about such things as the grace of God, the nature of God, submission to authority, and self-denial. It is noteworthy that groups with widely varying doctrinal stances -- from the Hare Krishnas to Jehovah's Witnesses -- uniformly distort God's grace and character.


Ex-cult members do have psychological disorders. But these people have come from clearly non-Christian cults.

Myth #2 is really assuming one of two things. First it may assume that genuine Christians never have psychological problems. However, many well-known Christian theologians and psychologists are on record as stating that true Christians do suffer psychologically. The late Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, for example, wrote:

All men since the fall have had some psychological problems. It is utter nonsense, a romanticism that has nothing to do with biblical Christianity, to say that a Christian never has psychological problems. All men have psychological problems. They differ in degree and they differ in kind, but since the fall all men have more or less a problem psychologically. And dealing with this, too, is part of the present aspect of the gospel and of the finished work of Christ on Calvary's cross.[4]

Second, Myth #2 may presume that there are only non-Christian cults. And yet my personal experience (which has been verified by the considerable research of others) has been that some Christian groups are cultic in practice. This being the case, abusive Christian groups can and frequently do exacerbate previously existing psychological disorders relating to the individual's personality, family, occupation, etc., and can even produce such disorders where they were not already present.[5]

A number of recent studies have shown that psychological distresses are experienced by members in both Bible-based (and even doctrinally orthodox) groups and non-Bible-based groups. In fact, the psychological problems are similar. Flavil R. Yeakley, Jr., reports that a certain type of group-induced personality distortion has contributed to guilt, low self-esteem, frustration, depression, serious emotional problems, overdependence, and irrational behaviors in a number of well-known religious organizations.[6] Of the groups he studied, the following indicated objectively measured signs of personality distortion: the Boston Church of Christ, the Church of Scientology, the Hare Krishnas, Maranatha Campus Ministries, the Children of God (now called the Family of Love), the Unification Church, and The Way International.

Now, Maranatha and the Boston Church of Christ are seemingly Bible-based ministries. Maranatha is a fundamental, charismatic sect (advocating "dominion" or "kingdom theology") that has been criticized at times for authoritarian excesses, among other things. Likewise, the Boston Church of Christ and its many sister campus churches all over the U.S. have been roundly criticized for authoritarianism and coercive persuasion techniques. Both of these groups would contain "born again" members.

What is alarming about these findings is that groups which are at least marginally Christian are producing psychological harm quite similar to that produced by non-Bible-based cults. All of these groups were found to be molding their members into a composite personality that included judging (i.e., relating to the world in terms of value judgments) and extroversion. But not all people are by nature extroverts or judger-type personalities. Some people are by nature introverts and perceiver-types (i.e., those who view the world in a more descriptive manner without needing to draw conclusions based on their observations). To attempt an alteration of personality types is to invite disaster in the form of neurosis and other emotional difficulties.

Yeakley also tested members of the mainline churches of Christ denomination (not associated with the shepherding/discipling movement, as is the Boston church), as well as members of the Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches. In these groups, he did not find any evidence of group-induced personality distortion that would lead to psychological distress.

Unfortunately, orthodoxy per se is no guarantee that harm will not occur. My own research (with several hundred ex-cultists and about 50 on an intensive basis totalling about 2,000 hours) indicates that the severity of problems suffered by those in the extremist evangelical sects may be equal to or greater than that experienced by members of the better-known cults such as ISKCON, the Church of Scientology, the "Moonies", The Divine Light Mission, and The Way.[7]


Both Christian and non-Christian groups can produce problems, but all of the people involved in the groups must have had prior psychological hang-ups that would have surfaced regardless of what group they joined.

I encounter this myth regularly among both Christian and secular psychologists. I suspect that it will achieve a status of near immortality. It seems that no amount of contradictory evidence can persuade some that "normal" people can get involved in such groups. Sometimes reminding my colleagues about Nazi Germany helps to dispel this myth from their thinking. I ask, "Were all those Germans suffering from individual pathology that made them vulnerable to the Nazi religion?" Or I ask, "How about Iran and the Ayatollah? Are all of his followers fanatical, sick people, or were they fairly normal people who got fanatical and sick because of following him?" There are more than a few illustrations from history which underscore the falsity of myth #3.

My own clinical research, along with a number of other studies, shows that not all cult members had prior psychological problems. In fact, the proportion of those with prior problems (about 1/3) to those without is only slightly above the general population (about 1/4).

Levine, Singer, Maron, Clark, and Goldberg and Goldberg have all shown in separate studies that family or otherwise pre-existing psychological factors do not necessarily predict who will end up in a cult.[8] And, of course, their findings concerning who joins cults would be consistent with the dynamics of large social movements such as the Nazis, the fanatical Muslims, or Communism. Simply put, individual psychopathology does not adequately explain the phenomena of large fanatical mass movements.

Nonetheless, there are a few variables that do help predict who will join a cult or cultlike group. Singer, Maron, and a number of other researchers have spelled out several of these factors, some of which are: 1) a stressful event within the past year; 2) a transition phase in life (between family and independence, between school and career, or between dating relationships); 3) a longing for community and caring friends; and 4) a desire to serve a great cause and be part of a movement that will change society.

Now, for those who do have pre-existing problems, cultic life can be extremely dangerous. At least on this point most researchers seem to be in substantial agreement. For those with pre-existing emotional problems cultic involvement may produce dissociation, inability to think or concentrate, psychosis, hallucinations, or extreme suggestibility.[9]


While normal unbelievers may get involved with cults, born-again believers will not. And even if they did, their involvement would not affect them so negatively.

Myth #4 is perhaps the most dangerous of all because it prevents the provision of help to those who are really hurting. It is also an old myth, and was challenged as early as Old Testament times. Ezekiel warned that God's sheep could be abused by wicked shepherds (Ezek. 34:1-7). Regarding this, St. Augustine said: "The defects of the sheep are widespread. There are very few healthy and sound sheep....But the wicked shepherds do not spare such sheep. It is not enough that they neglect those that are ill and weak, those that go astray and are lost. They even try, so far as it is in their power, to kill the strong and healthy...."[10]

So it is obvious that God's sheep can be damaged by bad shepherds, and no more obvious examples of "wicked shepherds" could be given than the leaders of destructive cults and aberrational religious movements.

Myth #4 is particularly dangerous to the Christian community because it ignores the fact, pointed out by several Christian cult watchers, that a sizeable proportion of those involved in cults or extremist groups come from some type of evangelical church base.[11] Of the cultists I have personally worked with, approximately 25% came from evangelical or fundamental churches and over 40% had backgrounds in the large, more liberal Protestant denominations.


Christians can and do get involved in these aberrational groups and they can get hurt emotionally. But all they really need is some good Bible teaching and a warm, caring Christian fellowship and they will be fine.

There is certainly a lot of truth to this statement. Unfortunately, half-truths are often the worst form of error. Myth #5 is false for the following reasons: First, many persons who have left cults do not want Bible teaching or Christian fellowship. They are "once burned, twice shy."

Second, according to a recently published survey of about 300 ex-cultists by Conway and Siegelman, the following essentially nonreligious activities proved to be very important for rehabilitation:

love and support of parents and family members -- 64%
insight and support of former cult members -- 59%
professional mental health counseling -- 14%
acting to recover lost money, possessions, etc. -- 9%
going back to school or college -- 25%
finding a job and establishing a new career -- 36%
helping others emerge or recover from cults -- 39%
establishing new friends unrelated to cults -- 50%
getting as far away from cults as possible -- 29%[12]

Although many members of the extremist Christian groups return to evangelical churches, they often continue to suffer. These members will typically seek a church that is very similar to the one they left. Such people have left their former group because they were incapable of submitting to its demands, but they still believe many of its tenets.

For these people life can be a nightmare -- they feel they have left "the apple of God's eye" because they were, in their own terms, "too fleshly" or "too worldly" to keep up the pace. The rigor of cultic life had produced in them all the symptoms of burnout -- a state of spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion. Yet in their own minds the world is explained so totally in theological terms that they cannot even conceive any such term as burnout. Instead they wrongly conclude that they were not spiritual enough, that they failed and God has somehow rejected them.

Unfortunately, I don't often see these people; usually friends tell me about them. These ex-cultists are too ashamed to return to the cultic group, fearing they would only fail again. They continue to believe the cultic world view and involve themselves in a local church in the hopes of replacing what they lost in leaving the group. These people need help and, I suspect, there are several hundred thousand of them.

Still others who have left often find it hard to tie in with another group. They want to be involved with new groups, friends, and a new religious organization. Yet they often complain, "I fear being controlled, being told what to do all the time"; or "I don't know if I can trust church leaders again"; or "I'm afraid that if I open up about myself I'll be rejected again."

Perhaps the majority of these ex-members of extremist groups want to go on with their Christian lives but they are unable to read parts of the Bible anymore without eliciting negative associations. Verses such as "He who comes after me must first of all deny himself..." now bring strong reactions from the ex-member. Scriptural exhortations to "forget...what lies behind," or "be teachable," all produce confusion and resentment. Former members of shepherding groups have asked, "Where do you draw the line? Where is the balance in all these commands?" Sometimes when a former member hears someone say, "The Lord would have so and so...," he or she may respond with strong feelings of disgust, incredulity, anger, and sometimes even fear. Too many negative memories or flashbacks of group events and conflicts are triggered by these phrases. For these people evangelical fellowship is not a panacea or perfect healing balm. Clearly, something more is needed.

Another problem concerning myth #5 is that some pastors and Christian counselors are largely unaware of the fact that former members of cults or fringe churches have been conditioned to stop or cancel certain biblical thoughts that contradict the dogmas of their particular group. For those who engage in thought-stopping processes, a Bible study may likely be ignored or dismissed by some cliche they learned while in their group. These people would require a professionally supervised and non-coercive form of "deprogramming" before Bible study per se would be beneficial.

Similarly, verses dealing with faction and slander -- as well as the conditioned fear of even mentally entertaining such thoughts -- can have a thought-stopping effect. This prevents the hurting Christian from hearing Bible teaching and counsel that would free his or her mind from the guilt-inducing teachings of the group. It is clear that Christian helpers often overlook or misunderstand the erroneous teachings which serve as subtle control mechanisms. In certain fringe Christian groups, control mechanisms are frequently contained in their teaching on faction, slander, submission, or confession.[13]

It is necessary, then, for the helper to be able to systematically refute a particular group's teaching on, for instance, faction, slander, submission, or confession. This will allow the ex-member an opportunity to open up his or her mind and entertain thoughts that may have been hitherto viewed as "slander" but now can be viewed as "sound doctrine" or even "reproof." I cannot underscore enough the importance of getting these ex-members to think, and to think critically.


Perhaps the best way for these ex-members to receive help is to see a professional therapist such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or mental health counselor.

As with Myth #5, Myth #6 is only half true and therefore also particularly dangerous. Being a professional therapist does not automatically confer expertise regarding cultic phenomena. Some therapists may be prone to subscribe to Myth #3. Therapists who operate according to Myth #3 may inadvertently play the "blame the victim" game; or they may commit what social psychologists call the "attribution error"[14] (i.e., the problem lies within the person and not within the group). Such therapy can make the ex-member even worse.

There is sufficient literature and research showing the deleterious effects of cultic or extremist group experience to forewarn those seeking counsel to be cautious when choosing a therapist who subscribes to the "benign" view of cultic involvement.[15]

A small percentage of professional therapists, on the other hand, not only consider cultic involvement but also religious interest per se to be unhealthy, and will seek to help the ex-cultists look at life more "realistically." Others are explicitly hostile toward Christianity. For example, N. Brandon declares that the Christian beliefs of sin and self-sacrifice are "as monstrous an injustice, as profound a perversion of morality as the human mind can conceive."[16] He encourages counselors to help their clients get free of such destructive doctrines.[17] A. Ellis views the concept of sin as the direct and indirect cause of virtually all neurotic disturbances.[18] Little comment is needed to point out the potentially disastrous effect of sending an ex-cultist to a therapist subscribing to such views. Counseling from such therapists could create a double sense of loss: 1) from the cultic group, and 2) from religious beliefs per se. The resulting confusion and spiritual disillusionment could last for years (not to mention the potentially eternal consequences of such counseling for the ex-cultist's soul).


What then is needed to help former members of these extremist groups? I recommend the following seven steps be taken.

Step one: Most importantly, find a helper that does not subscribe to these six myths and who knows how to counter them properly.

Step two: Understand that cultic involvement is an intensely personal experience. Correspondingly, therapy must be intense and personal. The therapist, counselor, or pastor must be able to relate to the ex-member's emotional needs for acceptance, belonging, friendship, and love.[19]

Harold Bussell notes that he never saw an evangelical who entered a cultic group for doctrinal reasons. Among the things he describes as factors which make a group attractive is the cult's emphasis on "group and caring...."[20] In this connection a few notes of caution should be sounded when working with the ex-member.

To begin with, the time-honored and effective method of doing a sound intellectual and theological refutation of the group's teachings is only one of several crucial elements in the former member's recovery. In addition to theological and intellectual exposes, the group's ethics (e.g., its use of money, methods of thought reform, and practice of deception) need to be thoroughly examined (2 Cor. 4:2; Eph. 5:11; Ps. 24:3-4).

Furthermore, the ethics and theology of the group need to be viewed in the context of the person's psychological needs (i.e., what was it about the group's teaching that drew him or her into it?). In recovering from cultic life, the issue that takes longest to resolve is typically the gnawing search for the love, fellowship, and caring experienced while in the group.

It is extremely important that a trusting relationship be established. The helper must work hard to accomplish this. One study showed that only one-half of cult members who sought help were able to engage in a successful relationship with a counselor.[21]

Although the counselor, pastor, and church must provide warmth and care to the former member, they should not try to become a substitute or imitation of the intense "social high" experienced in the group. The tremendous fellowship and warmth that the ex-member longs for is often an "artificial high." Yes, the group experience felt great, but was it grounded in truth? Was it always produced by the Holy Spirit, or might it have been more on the order of a drug-induced euphoria? True, the addict maintains there is no better feeling in the world. But look at the result -- a most pitiable addiction that wrecks lives, health, careers, and often kills.

While the group member was on a "high," he/she may have -- at the same time -- unknowingly repressed or dissociated emotional pain, doubts, and the tell-tale signs that his/her health was being neglected. Such "highs" (which are not unique to professedly Christian groups) are psychologically and spiritually unhealthy.[22] The experience for the most part produces in the cults a strong sense of dependence on the group and its leaders. Consequently, the counselor must be very careful not to foster dependency towards him or herself. Dependency conflicts are typically a major concern for the ex-member. Good rehabilitation will seek to avoid unhealthy dependency while providing healthy group support.

Step three: Most people who join cults have a powerful and highly commendable desire to serve God and their fellow man. Sadly, it has been my experience that the cults often get the "best" of our youth. The recovery process must enable these individuals to see the possibility of a life of dedication to God free of cultic confines. Churches need to show these people there are challenging, exciting, and fulfilling opportunities to serve God in a valid, noncultic setting. At the appropriate time in his or her recovery process, summer team mission programs offered by several different church groups may be "just the ticket" for the ex-member.

Some ex-cultists, however, are fairly "gun-shy" and can react adversely to any program in the church that reminds them of their groups. Often these people make valiant attempts to rejoin a church but drop out because the painful memories are too strong. Here churches could establish support groups ftic experience often results in a "cris is of faith": "How could God allow this to happen to me?" "I must be horrible since I failed God and His plan for my life." The ex-cultist's belief in a "just world" is shattered. He or she can no longer say "It won't happen to me." A need for meaning among these people is paramount. The victim must be helped to regain a belief in self and the world that allows room for "bad things happening to good people."

He or she may also need to talk out and relive the trauma again and again, as do the victims of other types of crises.[26] Unfortunately, the process of talking about the trauma is sometimes "short-circuited" by well-intended helpers who view such rumination as "unedifying" or "focusing too much on the past." Effective therapy must be very supportive and reaffirming, as self-esteem needs to be rebuilt.

Victims need to be freed from the view that they were somehow solely responsible for their plight. This task is especially problematic for those who had strongly believed in a version of "prosperity" teaching. Thus, theological reconstruction is often most helpful. For a sense of meaning to be restored victims must be helped to see their cultic experience in view of a benevolent God who truly loves them.[27]

Although it has been my experience that the majority of persons join and remain in cults for sincere reasons, my recommendation of the victim model is not to deny that for others the motives of power, pride, greed, and sex may have enticed and sustained their cultic involvement. In these cases effective rehabilitation must include an honest acknowledgement and forsaking of such sinful inclinations.

Behavior change is also very helpful. Pastors who work with ex-cultists should know that the chances for (and speed of) the ex-members recovery may in part depend on how similar the church's and pastor's style is to that of the extremist group. If there is a marked similarity between the former group and the present church, there will be a great probability that the church setting will trigger traumatic memories. Consequently, the ex-member should seriously consider buying a new Bible translation and finding a pastor unlike his or her past leader in personality or teaching style. Along these lines, he or she would do well to seek out a church or fellowship providing a welcome contrast to the cultic milieu. Far too often ex-cult members drop out of good churches because they remind them too much of their group. It is tragic that these people are sometimes viewed more as "backsliders" than as victims.

A support group or professional counseling can go a long way in helping by giving the ex-member strategies that will enable him or her to avoid future victimization by manipulative people. This allows the victim to regain some sense of his or her own strength and self-esteem. As with other victims, finding and talking with other former members (preferably from the same cultic group) is an essential step to recovery. Often through this process former members become close friends. This is a process similar to the "war buddies" phenomenon or the plethora of support groups that have arisen in recent years to help those who are victims of drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, cancer, or the like.

Step six: Education and support groups are essential. The recovery process inevitably takes time. But, although many will eventually recover on their own, it is unwise to prolong the recovery process. I believe that one hour per week with a pastor or counselor is not the best approach. There are simply too many issues facing the ex-member than can be dealt with effectively on such a basis. What has been spelled out in this article hopefully underscores the need for special programs designed to aid the recovering member.

Dr. Ronald Enroth has emphasized the need for half-way houses or rehabilitation centers to treat ex-cultists.[28] After scores of successful rehabilitations at our Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center, I can certainly attest to the need for and effectiveness of such programs. But for various reasons some individuals find them either inconvenient or unworkable. For those not entering a rehabilitation center, then, a local program consisting of education, group support, and counseling would be most desirable.

Step seven: It is essential to help those coming from aberrational Christian groups to rediscover the gospel. It is my experience that all cultic or aberrant groups distort the gospel. This includes those that call themselves orthodox Christian as well. What is particularly disturbing is that many of these groups could, with a clear conscience, subscribe to the most orthodox, fundamental, and evangelical statement of faith. But practically they are living a subtle but deadly religion of works righteousness, at least in regard to sanctification, if not justification. For this reason it is very liberating for former members to study the letter to the Galatians in a step-by-step fashion and contrast St. Paul's message with their group's practices.

Through the gospel, meaning to life is restored and self-esteem is regained. Ex-cultists can see, as Joseph did, that "God meant it for good" (Gen. 50:20). It has also been Harold Bussell's experience that a clear understanding of the gospel is the single most important issue in a cultist's recovery and future immunity from further cultic involvement.[29]

In conclusion, cultic involvement certainly entails more than theological aberrations. The existing published research demonstrates that psychological harm also occurs and that Christians are not immune. It is likely that there are several hundred thousand people in churches today who were once members of cults or other extremist organizations. This may be one of the largest unrecognized problems in the church today. It is recommended that specialized programs be established that can more effectively identify and help these individuals.


1 Margaret Thaler Singer, Ph.D., "Coming Out of the Cults," Psychology Today, January 1979, 72-82.

2 Saul V. Levine, "Radical Departures," Psychology Today, August 1984, 27.

3 Ibid, 27.

4 Francis A. Schaeffer, True Spirituality (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1971), 132. See all of chapter 10, "Substantial Healing of Psychological Problems."

5 Ronald M. Enroth, "The Power Abusers," Eternity, October 1979; Enroth, The Lure of the Cults and New Religions (Downers Grove, IL: 1987); Enroth, "Churches on the Fringe," Eternity, October 1986.

6 Flavil R. Yeakley, Jr., The Discipling Dilemma (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Co., 1987), 23-28.

7 See also Flo Conway, James H. Siegelman, Carl W. Carmichael, and John Coggins, "Information Disease: Effects of Covert Induction and Deprogramming (parts one and two)," Update 10 (June 1986): 45-57, and Update 10 (September 1986): 63-65.

8 Levine; Singer; Neil Maron, "Family Environment as a Factor in Vulnerability to Cult Involvement," Cultic Studies Journal 5, 1 (1988): 23-43; John G. Clark, M.D., "Cults," Journal of the American Medical Association 242, 3: 279-80; Lorna Goldberg and William Goldberg, "Group Work with Former Cultists," Social Work 27 (March 1982).

9 Singer; John G. Clark, M.D., Testimony to Vermont Senate on Cults (Pittsburgh: FAIF, 1979); Goldberg and Goldberg.

10 Augustine of Hippo, Sermons on the Old Testament, no. 46, "On Pastors," excerpt entitled "Shepherds Who Kill Their Sheep" reprinted in Pastoral Renewal, January/February 1989, 23-24.

11 See, for example, Dave Breese, "How to Spot a Religious Quack," Moody Monthly, June 1975, 57-60; J. L. Williams, Identifying and Dealing with the Cults (Burlington, NC: New Directions Evangelistic Association), 2; Harold Bussell, "Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Cults," Moody Monthly, March 1985, 111-13.

12 Conway, Siegelman, Carmichael, and Coggins, 64.

13 See Jerry Paul MacDonald, "Reject the Wicked Man -- Coercive Persuasion and Deviance Production: A Study of Conflict Management," Cultic Studies Journal 5 (1988): 59-121.

14 See K. Shaver, An Introduction to Attribution Processes (Cambridge, MA: Winthrop, 1975).

15 An excellent discussion of these issues can be found in Stephen M. Ash, Psy. D., "A Response to Robbins' Critique of My Extremist Cult Definition and View of Cult Induced Impairment," Cultic Studies Journal 1 (Fall/Winter 1984): 127-35. See also Steven Hassan, Combatting Cult Mind Control (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1988).

16 N. Brandon, Honoring the Self (New York: Bantam Books, 1983), cited in P. J. Watson, Ronald J. Morris, and Ralph W.. Hood, Jr., "Sin and Self-functioning, Part 2: Grace, Guilt, and Psychological Adjustment," Journal of Psychology and Theology (Fall 1988): 270.

17 Brandon, The Psychology of Self-esteem (New York: Bantam Books, 1969), cited in Watson, et al, 1988.

18 A. Ellis, Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy (Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stuart, 1962), cited in Watson, et al, "Sin and Self-functioning, Part 1: Grace, Guilt, and Self-Consciousness," Journal of Psychology and Theology 16 (Fall 1988): 255.

19 Cultic involvement can produce serious psychological problems, though the problems of ex-cultists may not all be cult-related. Pastors are well-advised to seek mental health consultation if they desire to treat these people.

20 Bussell.

21 Lawrence Bennett Sullivan, Ph.D., "Counseling and Involvement in New Religious Groups," Cultic Studies Journal 1 (Fall/Winter 1984): 178-95.

22 See Ash.

23 Sullivan.

24 Ronnie Janoff-Bulman, "The Aftermath of Victimization: Rebuilding Shattered Assumptions," in Trauma and Its Wake: The Study and Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, ed. Charles R. Figley, Ph.D. (New York: Brunner/Mazel Publishers, 1985).

25 Ibid.

26 M. J. Horowitz, "Psychological Response to Serious Life Events," in Human Stress and Cognition, ed. V. Hamilton and D. Warburton (New York: Wiley, 1980), cited in Janoff-Bulman, 23.

27 Research shows that non-teleological explanations (i.e., those which do not invoke some divine purpose) can also be helpful. See Janoff-Bulman, 26.

28 Ronald M. Enroth and J. Gordon Melton, Why Cults Succeed Where the Church Fails (Elgin, IL: Brethren Press, 1985), 98-99.

29 Harold Bussell, A Study on Justification, Christian Fullness, and Super Believers, unpublished paper; see also Walter Martin, Essential Christianity (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1980), 71-81.

End of document, CRJ0048A.TXT (original CRI file name),

"Dispelling the Myths: The Psychological Consequences of Cultic Involvement"
release A, March 25, 1994

R. Poll, CRI

A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.