I teach theology and world religions online for Grand Canyon University, now the world’s second largest Christian university. Debate in public opinion is healthy for society. I have noticed in the op-ed section of Pikes Peak Courier a debate similar to 1980 to which I contributed to the English issue of the Korea Times while I was learning to communicate in Korean at the beginning of my 25-year career in Asia as a Southern Baptist missionary.
Op-ed writers to both newspapers showed a misunderstanding of what a cult is. “Occults” are heretical off-shoots of an Eastern religion; e.g. Hare krishna is an occultic off-shoot of Hinduism.
“Sect” is part of mainstream theology that believes all the key doctrines but emphasizes a minor part of theology at the expense of major doctrines. Charis Bible College alumni are mainstream Christians who emphasize physical healing.
“Cult” is an heretical offshoot of a Christian religion; e.g. Mormonism is a cult that branched out of Christianity, not accepting five non-negotiable beliefs about Jesus. LDS doctrine of God states, “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may be.” “The first edition of the Book of Mormon and the present edition are quite different in 3,913 separate instances,” (Walter Martin, “The Kingdom of the cults,” 1985, Bethany House, Minneapolis, p. 29). Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses retranslated John 1:1 from “the Word was God” to “ the Word was a god” to deny that Jesus is truly the God of the Bible. “An abnormal behavior syndrome operating in the mentality of most cultists causes the cultist … to build his theological system upon a preconditioned and artificially induced criterion of evaluation” (“Kingdom of the Cults, p.37).
Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted Christ to return in 1914 to take 144,000 Witnesses to heaven and end 2,520 years of Gentile times. 2,520 years began in October 607 B.C.E., when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians and the Davidic king was taken off his throne. When 1914 passed, the WATCHTOWER REVISED THEIR TEACHING that Christ did return in spirit invisibly, but not physically, and reset their calendar. Cults often predict a date for Christ’s return, after which they lose many followers when the prophecy fails.
Southwestern Seminary theology professor Dr. William Hendricks unforgettably taught, “Christian Science is like Grape Nuts; it is neither.” Christian Science is not science, nor is it Christian, as it denies the five non-negotiable truths about Jesus. Christian Science is an ingenious mix of 1st-century gnostic theology, 18th-century Hegelian philosophy, and 19th-century idealism. … a complete separation between the objective world of physical reality and the spiritual world. Mrs. Eddy taught “man as God’s idea is already saved with an everlasting salvation.” It is a cult that is “A pantheistic abstraction; life, truth, and love constitute the Triune divine principles” (“Kingdom of the Cults,” p.20).
When examining a religion, ask, “What think ye of Christ?” (Matthew 22:42) Christianity has five non-negotiable beliefs about Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, who became man to redeem us; virgin birth free of original sin; sinless life, vicarious death to defeat man’s penultimate enemy of sin; resurrection from the dead to defeat man’s ultimate enemy of death; ascension to heaven to intercede for believers; victorious return to end history and set up His kingdom.
I can work with any who believe these five non-negotiable truths about Jesus, but if one of these five is denied, that is a cult. All who believe these five are theologically Christian, including the Charis Bible College community.
I thank God for Charis influence in Teller County. Their excellent conservative political program “Truth and Liberty” champions biblical worldview and brings excellent speakers to teach that biblical worldview, of which 6% Americans hold presently. Charis students have started more churches in five years than others started in the previous 15 years. Charis’ staff member Richard Harris leads Upstream Ministries, a network of house churches. I lead Neighborhood Bible Fellowship to train leaders of House churches, the wave of the future, as government officials cannot control us so easily.
Dr. Marcus Bachhas (“They Have Found a Faith,” pp.19-21) wrote, “I must become a representative of the average churchgoer whose heart was with me in seeking. If the Jehovah’s Witnesses have some heavenly tip off that the world is coming to an end in 1973, we want to tell our friends about it in plenty of time” … I would content myself with the age old verdict of Gamaliel, “IF this work be of men it will come to naught, but if it be of God we cannot overthrow it” (Acts 5:38f).
Tom Daniel is a resident of Florissant.