Cults and Christianity
Question #1: Hi Bob, How are you? Hope all is well at home and at school (work). I've been browsing a few forums, looking for chums to talk to about prophecy and studying the Bible. Not having a church or any friends who are believers, is sort of, well, lonely. lol.
I've checked out links you have on your site. I looked at the CARM one and that one is huge. They have lots of information on the different religions (some more like cults) and debates and such. I didn't stay too long. I came across another which seemed a bit more personable, (although not linked from your site) not too large or confusing. It consists mainly of the three beliefs of pre-tribbers, pre-wrath, & post-tribbers. This is fine, so far. But, what I've noticed is that no matter where one goes, there is always that one or two people who think they have a direct line with God Himself, in which they feel everything they interpret is the only way and is completely correct. This is also fine, to a point. Actually it is maddening!
So, I joined after spending some time reading their news articles and personal stories. I've piped up a few times here and there, still feeling my way around. Now the point I am making is that I did literally pray to God to help me find an earthly guide, and I truly believe, with all my heart, that He sent me to your web site. And as I read and studied, it was so crystal clear. Everything. There was the odd verse I had to look up to see the whole context, but other than that, everything flowed, I felt peace and at peace, knowing the truth. But, as I keep reading this other site, I am finding so many differing opinions for just one aspect of the Bible. Now this is between Christians and there was even a post where someone pointed it out and questioned whether God would purposely allow some to believe this way or some to believe that way and then questioned who is right when this happens. I was just thinking the same thing, when I found this persons post. Again, not that I question what I believe, but even within this forum, there are more than just two views, i.e., mine or theirs...there are many more than that. So I compare the views of others besides my own and wonder how they themselves figure, "Who is right?" How can obvious Christians have such differing beliefs???
The more I read, the more differences I found, along with one particular member who seems to be quite condescending to others if they don't agree with his view. I find myself starting a post, only to opt out. His attitude sort of gets under my skin. I'm not one for confrontation, but sometimes a subtle post here and there. He blatantly ignores me and that's fine. His views definitely differ from mine. He more or less thinks "everything" is allegory and symbolism. I can see how his view is fanning out to the others. I want to send him immediately to your site, but I don't think linking outside the site is allowed. The gentleman is very tutored in using all the concordances and such. I know he speaks languages, but not any Greek or Hebrew. He just goes on and on like he is the ultimate authority. I have posted the odd comment, including quotes from your site (which haven't been deleted because I don't show the address link, but I do sneak in "ichthys" hoping some may figure it out. ;)
I say to myself, this is not the site for me. Then I also think to myself, well, you know that no matter where you go in the world or on the net, there will always be that one "know-it-all" in the crowd. I can't just run away from the world, but sometimes I want to. I wanted to post that everything I've studied flows with peace, but that the more I read on this other site, the more perplexing they all seem to be making it. It's like they are looking way too closely at each word, verse and seeing things I never would have dreamed after reading it myself. It all sounds so educated and they use scripture to it's fullest, to the point that two differing views use the same verse to back up their views. Does that make sense??? It's almost like when you wrote about the pre-tribbers who, if they had read the Bible themselves, they would never have come to the conclusion of a pre-trib rapture. But, because of indoctrination, they believe it. But, this guy keeps telling everyone else, they are the ones who have been indoctrinated and have it all wrong. He more or less is saying we're all foolish and should smarten up.
How do you deal with a fellow like this? I know I can't. I am not into Strong's and translating. I thought about you and how you are educated in ancient history and the languages of the Bible and think how does this guy thinks he knows everything. He said he speaks many languages, although, Hebrew and Greek weren't included, but that because he knows so many, he knows how languages work, including those of the Bible.
Most of these people believe that the whole Tribulation is only 3.5 years and that Jesus already fulfilled the first 3.5 years. How they account for antichrist gaining momentum to even begin to act in these 3.5 years, is beyond me. Now, I'm not saying they are not Christian, for I believe they are. Some of what they believe, I can agree with. Here is the basics of what they believe:
-I do not believe the scriptures teach a pre-trib rapture.
-I believe scriptures teaches a 3.5 year tribulation.
-I believe Jesus fulfilled the first 3.5 years as the "Messiah the Prince" as "the Prince who is to come" to the "people of the Prince" who entered the holy place and put an end to blood and grains offerings. (I find no anti-Christ in that passage.) (what passage????)
-THE covenant was fulfilled by Christ and He brought a New covenant. (No seven year treaty is a sign of His coming.)
-The body of Christ is the temple of God, and so I am not looking for a rebuilt temple before Christ's return since the above passage refers to Christ, not the anti-Christ.
According to scripture therefore, I am watching the apostasy that must come first. I am watching Jerusalem to be surrounded by armies. I am watching for the man of lawlessness to demand to be worshiped, for the unbelievers to be marked, and all hell to break loose . Though many will claim to be the Christ, all who remain will see Him coming on the clouds at the sound of the trumpet. Scoffers will ignore the tribulation on account of not seeing a seven year treaty, a rebuilt temple, or pre-trib rapture of the church. People can be looking for the anti-Christ to proclaim he is god without those things.
I know I am in minority on this, but I am finding more and more people coming to these same conclusions. LORD, do not let me be deceived! Please pray for steadfast leadership to emerge with truth untainted to produce much good fruit in these times of persecution.
Bottom line, do not allow yourself to become disqualified. Preach the gospel. Love the Lord's appearing. Care for others."
As you can see this gentleman is clearly a Christian and has a good heart and truly believes it is correct. Anyway, just wanted your thoughts on this. I had written you about the book of Daniel, and there is a lot of squabbling about it on the forum too, re: the 70th week, etc. Also about Ezekiel and the Gog/Magog ordeal...is it Armageddon or the Millennium. The White Horse and who is it?? I've been reading up on your site about these issues. I guess, once again, words of encouragement are needed and your thoughts on their belief system. If your interested, the site is www.fulfilledprophecy.com.
Just one other thing. When we come across other Christians, who may have one part of the Bible in confusion, but get the gist of most of it, is it bad to continue hanging around? I just feel the need to throw out another view, just as they feel the need to throw out theirs. Is it futile or worth the effort to keep posting my views? Most of my posts go unanswered, I chalk it up to be the new kid who has to earn their respect. I've gotten a couple of people who have acknowledged me. It's not that I don't feel welcome, I know it's a matter of trust and earning respect; it's just that it's more than obvious that my views stick out there a bit. I know the verse "Pearls before swine", but I don't really consider them swine. I am definitely not as tutored on the Word as half these people. They seem to know the whole Bible by heart. They know their stuff when it comes to scriptures; it is just how they are interpreting some of them. Sometimes I do feel a bit under-achieved in comparison, not that that matters, for I feel that the Lord opens even my eyes and heart just as equally! I guess in the end, I wonder if some of these "supposed" Christians can also be planted to sway people away from the truth. I feel bad, but I've thought it about certain members. Not that it is them per se, but as it goes...the devil will use many people in our lives against us, including those we love...so I wouldn't put it past him to use these people who I don't even know. I guess...should I even bother?
Thanks for your time in this!
In Christ, our Savior,
Always good to hear from you. Paul says in his attempt to straighten out the Corinthians who were squabbling over almost everything in a somewhat similar way, "In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval" (1Cor.11:18-19 NIV).
As I have often said, I am not much into apologetics personally – that is not my particular gift – but I do appreciate the value of it in the work of the Church. Everyone of us needs to determine for ourselves through prayer, growth, and the guidance of the Spirit, what our particular spiritual gift or gifts is or are; then, eventually and after proper preparation and personal growth, ministry should follow. So while this is something that only you can sort out, I do have the general observation to make that for most believers, while exposure to other points of view is salutary, once a good source of teaching is discovered, these other discordant fonts should be imbibed only in moderation. It's all about faith. In my teaching, I try to show where in scripture what I teach occurs, and just how and why I believe what I believe, so that all who read these materials can follow the argument and, if convinced of the veracity of it, put their faith in scripture itself as opposed to me personally.
All of what you say here rings true. I don't believe there is a person alive whose faith is so invulnerable that they do not feel it pressured when confronted by alternative views. Personally, I am only interested in the truth, whatever that may be. I have spent a life-time trying to get to the truth, and I do believe that through God's gracious help I have made some progress. I have changed my views on things from what I was taught by others when the scriptures led me in that direction. And I think that one telling characteristic of those who are more interested in asserting their own views than in really finding out the truth is the "tone" with which they argue. I do on occasion, it is true, post e-mail conversations with those who have disagreed with me. I do so for a number of reasons, one of which is to try and help those who find value in this ministry see that there will always be opposition, even when the truth may seem crystal clear. Part of this is Satan; part of it is ego; and it may be that the person on the other side of the argument really does have a point. I always try to bend over backwards in the investigation of that possibility, but once the truth has been established to my satisfaction from scripture, to admit of no compromise on that truth.
I would be reluctant to break fellowship over a difference in a point of view (unless it were of critical importance) with someone whom I knew was definitely a Christian genuinely trying to find out the truth. That is different from someone who is attempting to advance their "pet view" regardless of the truth of it and in complete disregard for the feelings and beliefs of others. Generally speaking, the sort of people one runs into doing apologetics have one or two "hobby horse" theories that, since they "thought of it" (though in truth it is rare that these pet theories are truly original) become to them the "most important thing in theology". And they have become so emotionally invested in these (inevitably false) theories that they will continue to hold to them even in the face of incontrovertible proof to the contrary. That is a debate; that is not "searching for the truth".
Whenever I bump into one of these things, like the "3.5 year tribulation", for example, it is generally pretty easy to test the mettle of a person's theory by seeing how they deal with objections. In eschatology in particular, we are dealing with a well-known and discrete set of material, so that it is easy enough to test whether a system of interpretation comports with everything scripture says. Since we are trying to establish a system that "flows", as you nicely put it, that is, which is more than the sum of its parts because its parts actually do mesh, it is generally easy to tell when this is not, in fact, the case.
For example, on the 3.5 year tribulation theory and the supposed non-existence of the temple, how such persons explain Moses and Elijah and Revelation chapter eleven (and the comment in 2nd Thes.2:4 which says that the beast will take his seat "in the temple of God") is, as I think I mentioned in an earlier e-mail, often revealing. I think that you have some aptitude in this respect because of your rhetorical questions along these lines. For instance, when you say "How they account for antichrist gaining momentum to even begin to act in these 3.5 years, is beyond me", I think you have hit upon precisely the sort of thing I was mentioning above. Most incorrect theories tend to be completely superficial. When pushed on practical objections such as this, they usually have no answer or else have to manufacture some hogwash. The correct response of a believer seeking the truth should be something like, "well, that's a good question; I'll look into it". Vehement responses which are instantaneous and negative tell you quickly the sort of person you are dealing with. Ego is a funny thing.
So to answer your question, only you can discern whether or not this exercise is worthwhile. To the extent that it helps you nail down just what you believe and why, that is certainly all to the good. To the extent that it may erode your faith, that is to be avoided. To the extent that you can genuinely help lead others to the truth, that is certainly worthwhile. To the extent that you are running into a brick wall, that is not profitable. I think your e-mail title, "Debating and Witnessing", frames the issue perfectly. There is witnessing to the truth, and there is debating. Apologetics involves elements of both, but it takes firm conviction and faith in the truth on the one hand, and a very steady and cool presence under fire on the other, to keep the goal of witnessing in mind so as to rise above the debate. Above all, one has to keep one's true and proper motivation squarely in view, namely, serving Jesus and His Church (and that is good advice for all ministry). Those who are involved in such activities need to be able to continue to be impersonal for the sake of the truth in regard to those whom they are trying to convince, and on the other hand must also be courageous in the expression of their own beliefs, so as not to be led to stumble when the opposing fire gets too hot and heavy.
I will certainly say a prayer for your guidance in this matter. Thank you in any case for your excellent intentions to stand up for the truth (and also for your very kind words about this ministry as always).
In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is the truth and whose very mind we are meant to understand through the ministry of the Spirit.
As to Paul's writings to the church in Corinthians, "to show which of you have God's approval", well, everyone believes they are the ones who have His approval. How do you know whom to trust? Do I just go by what seems to "flow" with me? Because you are right in that I can and have learned a lot from reading others views on scripture. They bring a lot of scripture to my attention, which gets me running to read, read, read. So, yes, I feel it is still worth while hanging around there. And yes, I feel grounded enough so that no one will lead me from the truth I have in my heart. That grounding is what makes the differences between them and me so obvious. I guess, I feel strong enough to continue. And eventually I may feel a part of the community.
Thank you for always being there to respond in my simple distresses. I appreciate it so much. I hope all is well with you and that it continues that way. May God continue to bless you and protect you in all that you do.
In Christ's' precious name,
Well put! Some people may never be persuaded by genuine truth, but God knows who are truly His, and He is the only One who needs to know. If we pursue Him and His Word persistently and in the right way, all of our questions will be answered. Patience, perseverance, and righteousness are mighty weapons which always conquer in the end.
In the Name of our dear Lord Jesus,
I have visited sooo many churches in the past few months looking for a biblical one that teaches on sin, repentance, and the fear of the Lord which leads to godliness and a holy life. Most of the churches I have visited teach health, wealth, prosperity...the other day the topic of the sermons was titled "gold rush" and how to prosper financially - then they had altar calls. They teach that the fear is simply "reverence" and not terror or dread that leads to holiness. Is this unchangeable? is this what the Bible prophesied would happen in the last days? Where is the faith? Where is the teaching on holiness, and telling others about sin because not everyone who sits in the pew are saved? Why aren't pastors teaching what the apostles taught?
I can certainly commiserate with you. As you know, the paucity of accurate, detailed Bible teaching of all sorts is one of my major concerns about the current state of contemporary U.S. Christianity. This is something of a two-way street however. By that I mean that there is a supply side, but there is also a demand side. God never lets genuine desire for the Word of truth go unsatisfied. The fact that there is very little substantive Bible teaching (and very little that is even true) emanating from churches and pulpits in our day has a lot to do with the sad fact that few Christians in the country today are interested in receiving it. Were there a genuine ground-swell of desire for the truth, God would certainly provide.
Ultimately, we can only be responsible for ourselves and our own decisions. We cannot really affect the hearts and volitions of even the most near and dear to us, no matter how desperately we would wish to do so – beyond demonstrating love, patience, prayer, and setting a good example, there is little else we can do. That is also true in terms of the local church scene and what passes for teaching. All a believer who really thirsts for the pure water of the Word can do is what you are doing: "vote with their feet" and leave places of parched ground behind.
Those of us on the supply side who have dedicated our lives to the study and teaching of the Word of God have a similar dilemma. We are by and large not welcome in the churches of this country, not by the denominational organizations, not by the local boards, not by the congregations as a whole generally speaking. That explains why this ministry is on the net and not behind a brick and mortar facade. So I do empathize with your plight. I was blessed to be able to find a way with God's help to offer this ministry to all and sundry in spite of the generally negative attitude to substantive Bible teaching abroad in the world and in our country today. Believers who are looking for good face-to-face teaching that fills this bill have my sympathy because that is very, very hard to come by these days. Just like me as a teacher, all you can do as an individual believer is your duty to Jesus Christ. If my assessment of our current position on the biblical time-line is anywhere close to being correct, things are likely to get much worse. Blessedly, however, God deals with us as individuals, and He is faithful and just to supply your every need, especially in this most critical area of spiritual growth. If you seek faithfully, He will not fail to provide just what you need.
For the proper Christian perspective on godly fear, please see the following links:
In the Name of the One we love, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is mighty to deliver us through whatever may betide.
Thanks for your excellent site. Can you offer any guidance for my about-to-go-to-college daughter who, for the past 8 months has been less and less willing to spend time at home and more and more willing to spend all of her time with her boyfriend and his family? I know. It's normal. Yet... he is a guy who resists her spending time with us and has told her that he will not visit her in our home. At the same time he has gotten her to join his non-denominational church and, as time has gone forward this past 8 months, she's become and angrier and angrier person who is more withdrawn from me (her mother, to whom she was formerly quite close) and less willing to spend time with her friends. Her boyfriend doesn't like me and also doesn't like her wonderful life-long friends. The friends have tried to step in (as have I) to no avail. She is about to be baptized via full immersion and was told that her baptism represents her OBEDIENCE to God. When I asked her for scriptural references to the information she was getting from her pastor, she had none and told me that she believed every thing he said and also believes everything that her boyfriend's dad says (including that dragons once lived on earth). She has decided that the Bible should be interpreted literally. She has now decided that she is a creationist / supporter of intelligent design. Her new church has offered to connect her with a group of similar thinking people near her college. The whole thing smells of spiritual abuse and or thought manipulation and control to me. In our most recent discussion she shut down and stopped talking and then walked out of the house saying that she finds me very scary (what??) and then wouldn't tell me what was scary about me. Am I wrong to be worried?
Thanks for your feedback - I love your awesome, informative site!
Very good to make your acquaintance, and thank you so much for your positive comments. I am only sorry to hear that you are having this trouble. As a parent, I can certainly identify with your angst in this regard. On the one hand, it is true what you say that it is anything but unusual for late teenage / pre-college men and women to begin to strut their independence. We live in a very sheltered society; that has many advantages, but one of the disadvantages is the postponement of rebellion in our children until they are old enough to do some real damage to themselves. My grandfather, a New England farmer, once remarked that young people "often had to go over fool hill for themselves" just to see that there was nothing worthwhile over there. To apply this in biblical terms, Proverbs says that if we train our children right when they are younger, instilling them above all with the correct spiritual values, later on in life they will come around, even if there are some patches of "rough road" in between (see the link: "Train up a Child in the Way he should Go").
On the other hand, there are some very disturbing things about the particular situation you report because this particular attempt to carve out an individual identity is being hitched to what sounds like a very dangerous wagon. I certainly don't want you to become unnecessarily concerned, because I have seen worse (and been involved in worse myself in my youth) and watched things turn out fine in the end through God's grace and His answering of prayer. Nevertheless, many of the practices you relate which are being engendered by this group smack of cult behavior. It is a classic cult tactic to isolate the victim from friends and family, to cut him/her off from their "old life" entirely. That way, the victim becomes putty in their hands if for no other reason than that they have burnt all their bridges and now have nowhere else to turn. Please see the following link for this and other danger signs: "Cult Characteristics". As I say there, the majority of cults "accept the Bible"; it is just that they claim to be the only ones who "know the truth" about what it "really means", and, strangely, this "truth" is very hard to come by independently or verify in the Bible itself. Generally speaking, these groups discourage independent Bible reading and Bible study for that very reason. There is always a "leader who knows" and must be obeyed. So they may say "we believe the literal Bible", but they are generally not going to be interested in showing you from the Bible how it was that they got from "point A to point B" – you have to take that on "blind faith". I have unlimited faith . . . in God. He gave us the Bible to read for ourselves. We can certainly read it ourselves and find out that there aren't any "dragons" (please see the link: "Are there Dragons in the Bible?"). We do need help from sound, orthodox teachers to assist us in understanding the deeper truths of scripture for the benefit of our spiritual growth, but merely claiming to be such a person does not make it so. We know a tree by its fruit.
I have always had a big problem with creationism and intelligent design, not because I have any reverence for science, but because there is something about the people who hawk these things that is "off". In any case, they are wrong on principle because the Bible teaches that the seven days are a re-creation after the initial devastation of the universe in the wake of Satan's rebellion. To me, this is plain to see in any serious comparison of Genesis 1:1 versus Genesis 1:2 (please see the link if you have not already done so: "The Genesis Gap"). Over the years, creationists have been some of my most vociferous and downright nastiest critics. I think that is because they are divorced from scripture generally and are banging away at a favorite hobby-horse subject in self-righteousness rather than truly seeking the edification of the people of God.
Water-baptism is another subject to which I have devoted much time and effort over the years. I firmly believe that scripture teaches that it is not only unnecessary for salvation, but not required today at all. There is only "one baptism" (as Eph.4:5 tells us), and that baptism must surely be the baptism of the Spirit which all believers receive at the point of faith in Christ (Rom.8:9). As our Lord Himself said just before His ascension, "For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:5). I have written much on this and you will find many links at the site on water-baptism (see especially "Baptism: Water and Spirit" and "One Baptism"). The main thing I would like say here is that I find the continued use of water baptism in the church-visible highly devise and extremely manipulative. Intimating or proclaiming outright that a person has to make such a public display to be a good Christian or to be saved works up tremendous guilt to participate (not exactly a biblical recommendation) and creates a "stake" in the system of abuse after it has been entered into. I have never seen or heard of a water baptism, especially the full-immersion type, where there was not this aspect of manipulation and an aura of malevolence. It just doesn't pass the spiritual "sniff test", and there are very good biblical reasons for this. That is a very long conversation; the links above will lead you to most of the other extensive material already posted on the site.
Anger, isolation, meanness, lack of love, appreciation and respect for one's parents – you said it best: "smells of spiritual abuse and or thought manipulation and control". I am afraid I would have to agree entirely.
I will certainly keep you and your daughter in my prayers. May God deliver her from all un-Christian influence. You might also have a look at the following links:
In the Name of our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Thanks, Bob, for the thoughtful and sensitive reply.
I tried, again, to talk to my daughter this morning as she was announcing her intention to leave to go to her boyfriend's house and then to the pool. Without transcribing the entire conversation, let me try to be brief in synopsis.
I asked her to spend some time sitting and chatting with me about some things that concerned me. As per usual I watched as her face set itself in stone and her ears shut. I persisted - asking just that she listen to me. I said that I simply wanted to share my concerns about some of the things she had been sharing with me lately (the full-immersion stuff, the creationism, etc.). I also said that her spiritual quest was very, very important in her development as a full person and that I support her effort to become fully Christian and understand how to live IN Christ. She gave me a sarcastic nod and told me that her faith was HER FAITH and that I not only know NOTHING about it but that I was in no position to say ANYTHING about it. She said she would not talk and got up to walk out.
I gently reminded her that we would not be talking about her faith - that her faith was a good thing. I said that I needed to share my concerns about some of the thought paths she had begun to choose recently that I hoped she'd share with me how she arrived at those new beliefs and that she had not been raised to think these kinds of things. I mentioned the foray into creationism and the new development regarding her full-immersion, which is set for Sunday (which I have no intention to prevent - it doesn't actually matter to me that she does this but I'd like to be ABLE to TALK about it). She again was very angry and asked what the heck I was doing questioning HER about HER FAITH and that she wouldn't talk to me at all. She also expressed intense distress that I would DARE to share my thoughts about HER FAITH with the likes of you. Try to separate her crafty shifting of the discussion away from the real topic and into something as personal as her relationship with God resulted in my pointing out that this was what she was doing.
I said let's not talk about faith at all then. Let's talk about you and your boyfriend.
And then she walked out the door, angry. There's more, of course, and I did ask her as she was leaving to promise to text me about a time when we could talk. She hedged and hedged and eventually agreed to set up a time with me today or tomorrow.
But I know she won't hear me. So I don't know what to do. Maybe I can't do anything - but this business of adamantly refusing to discuss anything important with me (a fairly recent thing with her) is deeply troubling. One thing she mentioned somewhere in there is that the REASON her boyfriend refuses to spend time in our home, at dinner with us, even refuses nice vacation offers is that he HATES hearing about her arguments with me (I have no idea how she retells our arguments - they rarely include yelling - except from her). That stance doesn't seem very supportive to me. It also doesn't seem like a real reason to reject your girlfriend's parents (as all families have arguments).
Your take on this?
In terms of the situation itself, I don't see anything here to make me change my initial evaluation. I would like to add emphatically what I often say at times like this, namely, that it is impossible for a person who is not privy to the situation and all its details, who does not know the people involved personally, and who is looking on from afar, to give anything like a definitive answer. I know from personal experience that there are plenty of times in life when the person him/herself is not clear on what to do in matters that are entirely of one's own choosing – how much less then could a third party be expected to give perfect advice in the case of others?
I will venture one further thing. It does seem from your descriptions that the matter has gotten beyond the issues and has gotten entirely down to personalities. I doubt that at the moment you could change your daughter's mind about any of this if you brought the twelve apostles along with you to do an intervention. The best thing at this point – and again it is only my necessarily imperfect read on the situation – is to preserve your relationship with your daughter. If you are able to do that, that can still be a life-line for her when she wakes up and smells the coffee. The worst thing at this point would be to push things and risk alienating her further. My guess is that this is a carefully constructed self-fulfilling prophecy of this group; they are probably telling her right now "See, see, we told you so!" From your description of the situation, it seems that reason has failed. Your two weapons now are love and prayer.
You have certainly made your own position on these matters very clear, and you have clearly expressed your worry and concern. At this point, if it were me, I would resist playing into the hands of those who want a clean break between you and her. I would give her (them) no reason for it from my side. I would let it go until she is willing to talk about it. If things get to a point where there is an angry separation, in the future it will be just that much more difficult for her to swallow her pride and admit she made a mistake. That's my advice, for what little it is worth: listen out of love, keep the life-line open, and keep praying that her realization of the truth of things comes sooner rather than later. I have seen this approach work in the past, and it may be best in this situation as well.
I will keep you and her in my prayers.
In Jesus for whom nothing is impossible.
A member my church has invited me to participate in an education for ministry program. I told her that I'm interested in a way to share your work in study with interested Christians. I have recently evolved to a level of understanding, appreciating, and desiring to spread the teaching of the Bible, especially as I know this from your work.
What do you know are think about such a program as a local opportunity to talk about ICHTHYS? Or, would I likely find myself involved in more controversy that is necessary at this stage of my own study and growth? This might be useful, but also perhaps a distraction given the many nuances of understanding and misunderstanding about the life and teachings of Jesus.
You will be able to discern in a glance the focus of the program from their published vocabulary included at the link.
Bob, if there were no program like this I would and will continue to study ICHTHYS on my own and continue relating these teachings to my work.
I'd appreciate your words of wisdom about this option.
Keep the faith, with love and gratitude, grace and peace to you,
Thanks for asking about this. My general guidance for such issues can be found on the site, but since it is "short and sweet", let me past that in here before expatiating a bit:
1) These materials may not be offered to others for a fee or otherwise sold under any circumstances. This is a grace ministry.
2) These materials may not be fundamentally changed or edited. I don't mind honest excerption, but alteration of meaning is not allowed.
3) These materials may not be represented as the work of others. You don't have to cite me; you may use these lessons anonymously, but please don't pass them off as you own materials.
In sum, this site is meant for the glory of God through the edification and growth of His children. Any use of its materials for personal profit, aggrandizement or other personal agendas is not authorized.
While I am genuinely thrilled to hear about your enthusiasm to share this material, I would be less than honest if I were to say that I didn't have a few misgivings, mostly out of concern for you. First of all, let me start by saying that what you believe about a certain biblical topic belongs to you and, assuming it is the truth, to God. So, for example, if you wanted to teach about Christian rewards and the doctrine of crowns bestowed at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and if you were to use what I have posted at the site as your model or even as your entire content (assuming that you agree with everything), it would not be necessary to attribute that to this ministry. The guidelines above anticipate even reading the studies verbatim (although that is not the best teaching methodology in any case, to say the least).
It was my experience not as a new Christian but as someone who, like yourself, became very enthusiastic about detailed biblical teaching later in life (so much so that I resigned my regular commission in the USMC and went back to school to pursue it), that my anticipation of other people automatically recognizing gold as gold and sharing my enthusiasm was completely unfounded. In fact, this has been a near universal experience among my coterie of fellow seminarians who have kept in touch over the years. Generally speaking, Christians today are not interested in substantive Bible teaching. Let me be clear. It is not that there is a dearth of such teaching (although there patently is) that is the heart of the problem – the dearth is a result by and large of a singular lack of desire for the truth among most of this generation's believers.
You asked about controversy. I think that there is no question but that most of the teachings of this ministry are indeed controversial in that they take positions about what is true and what is not based upon biblical evidence. That approach by its very nature bumps into preconceived ideas that are different. Moreover, it is usually not even a case of strongly held beliefs colliding with other strongly held beliefs, but rather of strongly held beliefs upsetting those who are very comfortable with a squishy relativism that allows them to think whatever they wish according as it fits their circumstances. This current runs far deeper and far stronger than may be obvious from the smiling faces and polite conversation at church coffee hours (trust me on this). So I worry about you – not about your ability to handle the flak or teach the truth (of these two things I have no doubt). No, I am concerned that you may be calling down fire on your own position to no particular purpose. We have to pick our battles ("economy of force", I believe it is called). Jesus told us to be wary of casting our pearls of wisdom before swine, first and foremost out of a real danger that they might not only reject the truth we have tried to share with them but also "lest they turn and tear you to pieces" (Matt.7:6).
Here is what I would suggest. You mentioned the life and work of Christ as an area where there is much misunderstanding and much room for teaching and growth, and I would heartily agree. I would suggest starting with something fairly non-controversial yet poorly understood (like the hypostatic union: the humanity and deity Christ in one Person), and see how that is received. Theologically speaking, all major denominations accept this truth – officially; and all communicants in our collective creeds ascribe to it – theoretically. In reality, there are many lay Christians and clergy too who have serious doubts or have rejected outright some or many of the aspects of this truth. Such an approach would give you a good opportunity to "take the temperature" of the audience before, during and after, without at the same time setting yourself up for unnecessary hostility wherein what you share could even conceivably be called "heretical ". Because many of the things I teach – principles I fully believe the Bible teaches or I wouldn't put them out there – are not accepted in principle by all groups (to say the least).
I would imagine that if what you teach strikes a chord with anyone, you will have ample opportunity to share more after the fact. It doesn't matter a bit to me whether or not Ichthys is attributed in a public setting. It might be better for you if it were not. Also, given that there is a fee for the conference, that would be my preference too.
I really appreciate your attitude and your desire to do the Lord's work, and I am deeply humbled that you feel these materials are a valuable part of that effort. Please do let me know how all this turns out.
I will be keeping you in my prayers.
In our dear Lord Jesus,
It is with such great respect and thanks to the intent and content of your work that I decided to send you this mail. I have been doing some research work and found your work helpful. Then I had to log on the net to see other stuffs - to be surprised with the great work you've done this far. May our Lord God bless you and reserve you a great reward in His eternal throne. I have downloaded all the files and will give myself the study of these materials to gain wisdom and knowledge. I also found that some series are incomplete - there are no pdf for them. I wish to request the lacking books in the series.
I am working with the Full Gospel Mission Cameroon, at the Akwa Assembly - Douala.
Waiting to hear from you,
Accept my warmest thanks
Thank you for your interest in this ministry. Unless there is an oversight or broken link, all the available major studies do have PDF files which may be accessed directly or downloaded (there is also an archive of all available PDF files; see the Download Page).
Perhaps you are referring to the Coming Tribulation or the Bible Basics series? At present, both series are incomplete. I am currently working on Bible Basics 4B: Soteriology and hope to have that out later this year (see the link for currently available excerpts). When this is complete, I will tackle the final installment, part 7, of the Coming Tribulation series. I am afraid it will be some time before the Bible Basics series is completed in full. Until then, the basic information for most of the not-yet-available installments can be found at various places at Ichthys (you might check the E-mail Response page as well as the Subject Index page for many of these issues).
Thank you so much for you encouraging and gracious words – they mean a lot. Also, please do write me back in case there is a broken link or in case I have not fully answered your concern, or in case you have any specific questions not covered in what is presently available.
Yours in the Master we serve whose return we so eagerly await, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
One of my friends are christiadelphian and believes that only the Father is God and uses these verses to stump me.
1 Corinthians 8:6 - But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
She says that the verse clearly states that the one God is the Father and if the Son was God then it wouldn't have made the distinction between Lord and God. I told her that the Son is also God and she replied that if the Son was also God, then the verse would read, "But to us there is but one God, the Father and the Son." I know that she's incorrect, but I don't know how to prove it with this verse she uses in an attempt to disprove the deity of Jesus.
Revelation 3:12 - Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
She also argues that if Jesus was God, then how could God have a God? I told her that as both man and God, Jesus as a man can call His Father God.. She then said, "so Jesus is only a man in that verse, and not God? why not speak as God and not a man?" She said that I am picking and choosing and making suppositions based on my belief. How do I answer her regarding these verses because I am concerned that her belief is not even Christian. I don't believe that anyone who denies Jesus' deity can be saved. Please help. Thanks in advance!
Judging from the run-ins I have had with christadelphians, I would be very careful. They are, generally speaking, a fractious bunch. They are not interested in learning anything; as a group they are only interested in disputation (the very sort of thing which calls for separation; see the link: "Procedures for separating from false teaching"). And if any of their number are saved, it is only because in their heart of hearts they do not believe what their group teaches – you are absolutely correct: belief in the entire Person of Christ (who is true humanity and undiminished deity in One unique Person), and in the work of Christ are the essentials of the gospel. Please see the links:
As to 1st Corinthians 8:6, whenever someone says about the Bible "if it meant X, it would say Y", that is a completely logical fallacy because in any language there are innumerable ways to say Y (people who make this argument obviously either know very little about linguistics or else are being completely disingenuous). The argument also assumes that the person in question completely understands the theology behind the passage correctly based upon the precise meaning of its language, but since we are talking about an English translation, this is prima facie impossible.
As it is, the passage actually proves the opposite of what this person claims. The phrase "One God, the Father" means, as it says, "One God who is the Father"; only the Father is the Father; the Father is not the Son; the Son is not the Father. God is three in Person – and the Persons are completely distinct. Yet God is one in essence, and all three members of the Trinity share the same essence (see the Trinity link above). But that Jesus is God is very clear even from this passage, since He is here called LORD, Greek kyrios, the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew tetragrammaton YHVH, "Jehovah". Compare Jesus' words to the Pharisees: "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him (i.e., the Messiah) 'Lord' [kyrios]? Jesus was demonstrating to them that "David's Son" was also David's LORD, and that therefore the Messiah was God as well as man, something they neither understood nor were willing to accept (much like the christadelphians).
As to Revelation 3:12, you gave a fine answer. I would add that even if Jesus had not become a human being in addition to being God, that is, even if He were addressing John as One who was God alone and not a man as well, He could certainly still call the Father "my God". The Son was the Son before the incarnation, just as the Spirit was the Spirit and the Father was the Father. These are the personae which express their voluntarily and mutually accepted relationships. We call the Father "my God", but, along with Thomas, we also call Jesus "my LORD and my God" (Jn.20:28). Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for this address – something He surely would have done if Thomas had been wrong to call Him "LORD" and "God". No one disputes that a Son is responsive to a Father – all these sorts of arguments are merely rehashing this same essential failure to understand that the Son can adopt a responsive role in the plan of God without being any less truly divine than the Father. That is a basic tenet of the doctrine of the Trinity, an essential Christian doctrine that the christadelphians like many other cults reject out of hand, "twisting scripture to their own destruction" (2Pet.3:16).
I am very proud of your good defense of the Word of Truth.
Stay safe in Jesus Christ.