Cult #1: Jehovah’s Witness

The official name for Jehovah’s Witness is, The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. They produce two magazines within their circuit: “Awake” and “The Watchtower.” Their Bible version: The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT).

Everyone who disagrees with Jehovah Witness’s – especially Christians – are not only wrong but are moral enemies and will be destroyed by Jehovah at Armageddon. Jehova’s Witnesses are tightly controlled by Watchtower headquarters and are constantly told they cannot interpret the Bible for themselves in any way; they must avoid individual thinking; they are never to question the counsel provided by the Watchtower.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are tightly controlled by Watchtower headquarters and are constantly told they cannot interpret the Bible for themselves in any way; they must avoid individual thinking; they are never to question the counsel provided by the Watchtower.

Here is a brief history:

Charles Taze Russell: How it all began

Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) rejected many views in his church as a teen. Particularly Hell and the Trinity. Adventist teaching told him there was no eternal punishment, so his faith in Scripture was restored but he remained distrustful of churches. By age 18 he formed his own Bible study empathizing Christ’s coming (predicted in 1874). He and Adventists believed it happened in a “spiritual and invisible way.”

In 1879 he parted was with the Adventist and launched the magazine, The Watchtower. He predicted Armageddon in 1914, but WWI started. He died 2 years later.

Joseph F. Rutheford predicted the end would be in 1925. He adopted the name Jehovah’s Witness (from Isaiah 43:10), and invented door-to-door witnessing. He originally said 144,000 people would go to Heaven. But because of overpopulation Rutheford said that everyone who became a Jehovah’s Witness before 1935 would go to Heaven. If you became one after 1935 you can be among the “great crowd” living on earth in a new Paradise after Armageddon and the Millennium.

“New light” – A favorite Jehovah’s Witness term to explain its many changes in doctrine and teaching. Despite wrong predictions, Jehovah’s Witnesses insist they have never made any false prophesies.

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society still operates on the same foundation laid by Russell and say he was the founder but they distance themselves from his theology and writings (except denying the Trinity, Christ’s deity, and Hell as punishment).

Jehovah’s Witness…

1)    Deny the Trinity – “Who ran the universe when Jesus was dead in the grave?”

2)    Deny Christ’s deity – Jehovah is the Almighty God who created Jesus. Then Jesus, the mighty god, created everything else. Jesus was archangel Michael before coming to Earth. He is still archangel Michael.

3)    Deny Jesus’ bodily resurrection – Christ rose as a s spirit that looked like a body. Jehovah does not resurrect bodies, he “re-creates” them. Because body and soul (which are one) have been annihilated at death, God must re-create the “life pattern” of a person and he can easily do this be retrieving that life pattern from his memory.

4)    Deny the Holy Spirit is God – It is an “invisible act or force” that God uses to inspire His servants to do His will. It’s like electricity.

5)    Deny Christ’s full Atonement – They give Christ credit for giving them the opportunity to work for and obey Jehovah – by doing what the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society teaches.

To be a Jehovah’s Witness means constantly trying to affirm your salvation.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are constantly working for a place in an earthly paradise where they will have everlasting life, but not in the presence of a loving Jehovah God. Instead, they will be ruled by Christ and the 144,000 anointed ones who remain in Heaven throughout eternity to enjoy immortality, as they serve as joint heirs and co-rulers of Jehovah’s glorious theocracy.

The Last Days:

Armageddon will bring about the destruction of 99.9% of mankind. After Armageddon, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, there will be a time when earth will be repopulated by faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses (who survive Armageddon) and billions of people who are resurrected (re-created from Jehovah’s memory bank). They will be taught truth. In the end, Satan and his demons will tempt people. If people fail they will be cast into the lake of fire and wiped forever from existence.

Jehovah’s Witnesses meet five times a week at Kingdom Hall, a term for church. They do not believe in immortal souls. At death their “life force” goes out of them and they no longer exist.

When confronting a Jehovah’s Witness, do so out of love and kindness, bearing in mind that all of their false information has been mercilessly shoved down their throats, but it sounds good to them because they are already “in.” Approach them with the bold truth and let the Spirit of God do the work that is saved for Him to do in that person’s life.

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Roman Catholicism: Faith Alone

I realize that hardly a fraction is covered in this post, so please forgive me that I have only touched on a portion of this controversial topic. I suspect the discussion that follows will be more extensive. Let’s jump into a brief history of Catholicism, and then we’ll discuss one of the key dividing factors between Catholicism and Christianity.

In the first century Christ’s followers, known as apostles, founded the Church. It spread rapidly from Jerusalem into the Mediterranean world. The apostles and preachers were persecuted from unbelieving Jews and the Roman government, who ended up outlawing Christianity because Christians claimed Jesus, not Caesar, was Lord. The martyr’s blood became the seed that spread the Church even more.

It wasn’t long before Christianity was compromised by people within, and Gnosticism threatened to corrupt and twist the Gospel into another pagan religion or philosophy. Enter the Apologists, who valiantly fought off this threat by writing and speaking truth. (Take courage, Christians, that many fought the battle before us.)

By the second century, the Catholic Church was born, also known as the universal Church. Two hundred years later, the emperor Constantine ended persecution of the Christians, and, you guessed it, Christianity became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire.

After the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church split in 1054 (because the Roman Catholic Church insisted on supreme power and authority over all of Christendom), the Roman Catholics gained the upper hand, thus they became corrupt. They added doctrines not found in Scripture, and were taking money that did not belong to them.

Enter one of my all time heroes, Martin Luther. Luther started the Protestant Reformation. His goal was to make God’s Word the only authority (and that meant that the Pope had to submit to it). So the Pope kicked him out of the church.

“Sola Scripture” became the battle cry throughout all of Europe as the Reformation spread throughout the land. It means, “Scripture alone.” This was a direct violation to the Roman Catholic Church who believed in Scripture plus sacred tradition, which they held to be equal sources of Spiritual authority.

For those who are visual learners like myself, this should help you to remember how it all breaks down:

                       CHURCH                               

                        /             \

      Rom. Cath.            Orthodox

                /

  Protestant

There are many differences between Catholicism and Christianity, and we will not be able to hit them all in this post. But arguably the greatest divider is that while Christians believe that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone, Catholics believe in faith plus good works, as well as regular practice of the seven sacraments.

So what’s the big deal, you ask.

Imagine you and a little kid, your child maybe, are at opposite ends of a board game he has never played before. You start playing without explaining the rules. If it’s a game that is not too dumbed down, he might not know exactly what he’s doing. So naturally, you help him and read the rules to him, and you guide him through the next few moves. But he continues to play the way he was before, fully thinking that he is going to win the game. You know that if he keeps playing that way, he will officially loose. God has set the pieces in place in His universe and He set the rules. If we don’t live by the rules, as much as we think we are, we will loose.

This is not to make it sound like life and eternity is some big game to God. But I hope you get the idea here. There are many of us who think we’re playing by the right set of rules simply because it’s what we’ve been told. This is why it’s so important that we make Scripture the ultimate authority over our lives, not the Pope’s decrees, or added doctrines.

It is God’s infallible, unchangeable Word that must be obeyed, therefore God Himself must be the one we confess our sins to, knowing that He is the only one who can offer forgiveness. We cannot earn forgiveness. We can ask for it. But we cannot earn it. I’ve had to apologize and ask for forgiveness for a lot of terrible things I’ve done to a lot of people in my life. Not one of them made me offer penance, or hand me a task list for me to complete in order to earn my forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t work that way. It’s offered freely, often sacrificially, as a gift from the offended party to the humbled offender. Thanks Joyce Meyer, but forgiveness isn’t about doing yourself a favor, it’s releasing someone from a debt they owe. It’s a picture of the Gospel. And each one of us owes an eternity of suffering in Hell for what we’ve done to God. Not a few years in purgatory.

This idea of purgatory lessens the seriousness of sin and cheapens the price Christ paid on the cross for our sins. If purgatory were God’s form of punishment, He would never have had to send His Son down to die for our sins – and since He did, then His death was in vain.

The seriousness of sin is that it earns us an eternity in Hell, separated from God. And the price Christ paid was monumental, as He did not have to die, did not deserve to die, should not have died, but He chose to do so anyway. To give people the option of asking for His forgiveness for what we’ve done to Him, so He can offer those repentant souls an eternity of Life the way we have always longed for it to be.

Those are the rules of the game. Any amount of pretending it away or ignoring it will not change the fact. The pieces are set. God has made His move. Now it’s your turn.

Next week: Eastern Orthodoxy

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Edit (added 6/16): Here is an added note that I addressed in the comments below to those who think I’m anti-Catholic:

I do not consider myself anti-catholic. It is the only other religion I can safely say that God judges the heart. Just as there are “Christians” (people who call themselves so) who will not be admitted into Heaven, I believe there will be many people of the Catholic background who find favor with God and will enter into His presence. I realize I am treading a very fine line with this post, but I do think that it is a step in the right direction if someone were to give up another religion or belief system to take up Catholicism. There are many men and women of the Christian faith who uphold Catholicism in very high esteem. The bottom line, for all of us, is that we read Scripture for what it says, not interpret it through the eyes of others. Nor is it ever acceptable to adhere to added doctrine – that’s where I draw the line. I will break bread with anyone who truly believes that the only way he has found favor with God is through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. All other things can be discussed over dinner as brothers and sisters in Christ.

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