Friday, December 18, 2009

Facing The Music: When The Church Has To Discern Itself

The Lausanne Movement is a massive global effort of evangelicals who are dead serious about world evangelization with the Gospel of Jesus Christ who have been working together to reach the world for almost fifty years. It is a massive and global effort involving hundreds of Christian ministries seeking to motivate and spark renewed efforts in obeying Christ's commands to ensure that the "Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world

They are preparing to have only their third congress in that time in Capetown, South Africa in 2010. Lausanne describes itself in the following:

Throughout its history, the Lausanne Movement has intentionally avoided building a large bureaucratic organization. Instead it strives to be a dynamic, catalytic force that propels a movement of like-minded missional Christians who pray, plan and work together on global evangelization.

Since 1974, dozens of Lausanne-related global, regional, and topical conferences have been convened all over the world. Global gatherings include the Consultation on World Evangelization (Pattaya 1980), Conference of Young Leaders (Singapore 1987), Lausanne II (Manila 1989), The Forum for World Evangelisation (Pattaya 2004) and The Younger Leaders Gathering (Malaysia 2006). Lausanne has also inspired a constellation of regional networks and topical conferences such as the Asia Lausanne Committee on Evangelism (ALCOE), Chinese Coordination Center for World Evangelisation (CCCOWE), three Nigerian congresses on world evangelization, and eight international consultations on Jewish evangelism.

The Lausanne Theology Working Group (LTWG) is right now working to prepare for the 2010 congress. Who is the LTWG? They are a steering committee of Christian leaders and theologians who work together before their meetings to hammer out the doctrinal issues that the congresses are meant to consider.

The Lausanne Theology Working Group (TWG) serves the whole Lausanne Movement by ensuring that its passion for mission strategy and activism is grounded in careful theological reflection, and by challenging evangelical theology to have biblical effectiveness for holistic mission in the spirit of the Lausanne Covenant. The TWG has a core steering committee drawn from around the world and convenes small annual international consultations and several regional ones. Currently the TWG is working with the leadership of Lausanne in preparation for Lausanne III, in Cape Town 2010, by engaging in careful theological examination of each phrase in the Lausanne motto, “The Whole Church taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World.”

What is powerfully significant is that Lausanne's TWG found it important enough to have to grapple with the doctrines loved by so many in the Charismatic and Pentecostal worlds, the "prosperity gospel" and release a statement on it to help provide a framework for Lausanne 2010 to discuss it upon.

The importance they assign to it, however, isn't very encouraging to the passengers of the Full Gospel ship. The LTWG's statement can be found here in full. We lament at having to post this below.

We further recognize that there are some dimensions of prosperity teaching that have roots in the Bible, and we affirm such elements of truth below. We do not wish to be exclusively negative, and we recognize the appalling social realities within which this teaching flourishes and the measure of hope it holds out to desperate people. However, while acknowledging such positive features, it is our overall view that the teachings of those who most vigorously promote the 'prosperity gospel' are false and gravely distorting of the Bible, that their practice is often unethical and unChristlike, and that the impact on many churches is pastorally damaging, spiritually unhealthy, and not only offers no lasting hope, but may even deflect people from the message and means of eternal salvation. In such dimensions, it can be soberly described as a false gospel.
We call for further reflection on these matters within the Christian Church, and request the Lausanne movement to be willing to make a very clear statement rejecting the excesses of prosperity teaching as incompatible with evangelical biblical Christianity.

Read it and weep. Thanks to the American church, the Gospel of Christ is being daily perverted and twisted and then neatly packaged as the latest thing from heaven to vast populaces of Christians dwelling everywhere in both Africa and the world. A Christian missionary painfully recounts here how the prosperity gospel cancer is defiling the Body of Christ in Zambia

I highly doubt that men like Rod Parsley, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland or Paul Crouch will give the LTWG the time of day though.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What Would Tommy Do? The Advance of Adventism At The Expense Of Truth

As I've often said here, when the End Time Apostasy comes knocking at your door, truth is usually the first thing brushed aside by the eager gush of friendly, sincere crowds who want to come calling and "share." It's the first casualty in a cheerfully grim war of spiritual attrition in which heretics are no longer identified - they're welcomed as guests at the the table.

Last month, a Seventh Day Adventist publishing house announced the launch of a brand new study Bible using the New King James Version text. The SDA Church, in case you are unaware of it, was born out of the proselytizing efforts of its founder, the alleged "prophetess" Ellen G. White, whose legalism and exclusivism is legendary around the world. Rejecting both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism and assuming themselves to be the only true "remnant" of God's people on the earth (because of their adherence to a Saturday Sabbath and White's free reinterpretation of Jewish dietary laws as binding upon Christians today), the SDA Church's legalistic approach to the Christian faith well known, yet almost universally overlooked by the non discerning church today. The latitude given to White's skewed interpretation of Christianity borders is both illegitimate and unbiblical, and the unbelievable deference given to her teachings has led many of them to hail her as the "Spirit of Prophecy."

For generations, hordes of SDA evangelists have endlessly conducted"Bible prophecy" seminars in efforts to raid members from established Christian churches, as well as penetrate the world with the gospel according to Ellen G. White. The strident and almost cultic exclusivism driving the SDA vision has left many a victim in its wake and far too many people who've honestly questioned and striven against its challenges to ignore the Biblical and logical answers to Adventist errors. What many of these same people are also unaware of is how the Watchtower Society is an offshoot of the SDA movement itself, abandoning the "prophetess" Ellen G. White's alleged prognosticatory power for that of "pastor" Charles Taze Russell, who was as obsessed with Biblical chronologies and Bible prophecy as she was.

So it was no surprise again, with what Jesus has said about these dark times in Matthew 24, that we'd eventually find a major Christian publishing house, no less then the venerable Thomas Nelson Publishing house, creating a study Bible for Seventh Day Adventists. In doing so, they created a brand new marketing tool that will enable them to penetrate more homes then ever with the legalistic deception of White's questionable doctrine and false prophecy. Creatively restated and recrafted for a new generation of Christians conditioned by a backslidden and media-dependent church to read Bible study notes to glean truth and not rely upon God's Word as taught by God's Spirit (John 14:26), it will fly:
Yes, the new Remnant Study Bible (NKJV) has all the study aids serious Bible students have come to expect from their study Bibles — but it goes way beyond that. Way beyond.

For the first time ever, the masterful commentary of E. G. White is now included alongside the Bible text! You’ll also find a complete array of other unique Bible study aids, such as a complete set of Chain Reference Bible Studies and detailed sections on prophetic symbols, the prophecies of Daniel, and the awe-inspiring sanctuary services.
Remnant Publications, the publishing house behind this project, makes abundantly clear where they are coming from, in that they are unashamedly advocating SDA doctrine. Thomas Nelson, says this about their allegedly Christian focus, sounding more like a greeting card company run by Joel Osteen or Kahlil Gibran :
At Thomas Nelson, we believe that we exist to inspire the world. We believe that the world desperately needs inspiration—the right kind of inspiration—and that we are a conduit for change.

To make this personal and memorable, we have reduced this to a slogan: “We inspire the world.” Here’s how we understand each phrase of this statement.

“We”

The pronoun “we” emphasizes our commitment to teamwork. We cannot accomplish God’s purpose for our company on our own. It takes more than a handful of star performers. It takes all of us, collectively working together, each employing our unique gifts, to fulfill our calling.

“Inspire”

According to the dictionary, “inspire” means

1. To affect or guide; 2. To fill with enlivening or exalting emotion; 3. To be the cause or source of; bring about.

All of these meanings are relevant to our purpose as a company:
  • First, we want our products—books, videos, and conferences—to affect people. We are not in the business of merely entertaining our audiences or “tickling their ears.” Instead, we want our products to have a positive impact on consumers. In addition, we live in a day when people are desperate for direction and advice. As a result, we want our products to provide practical guidance.
  • Second, we want our products to have a positive emotional impact. Emotions are not something to disparage or disregard. They can be the very thing that provide the impetus for action. Inspired emotions can lead to noble actions. We want to intentionally stimulate (though not manipulate) those kinds of emotions through the products we produce.
  • Third, we want our products to be a source of real change, both in individuals and in our larger culture. Looking back over our lives, most of us recognize that real change frequently came about as a result of the books we read, the conferences we attended, or both. These types of products provide an opportunity to affect deep and lasting change.
It is interesting to note that the word inspire originally came from the Greek work theopneustos. It literally means “God-breathed” (Theos, God, and pneo, to breathe). This is particularly fitting for our company, since we acknowledge that God is the ultimate Source of inspiration. We want our products to be a means by which God breathes new life into His world.
With that reverent coda, the publishers at Thomas Nelson no doubt want to impress upon us that their core mission - the creation of Christian literature that God uses to "breathe new life" into the world - is one which Christians should trust.

The problem is that Thomas Nelson betrays an obscene naivete, gross negligence, or immoral indifference when agreeing to this project - or is guilty of all three. SDA doctrine is a distortion of Christian doctrine and has created untold amounts of unbiblical legalism that have plagued the SDA Church and all who have come under its orbit. 

It's fascinating to note that Mr. Nelson, who founded the company in London in 1798, was of sturdy Scottish Covenanter stock and that the Covenanters' had rejected the King of England as the head of the Christian Church there and steadfastly asserted that Jesus Christ alone stood in that authority. The Covenanters endured these "Killing Times" as a result, enduring persecution, civil strife and civil war that dragged on as a result of their unbending rejection of human authority over their faith. 

What would Tommy do if he was alive today to see the company he started to now being used to champion another agenda to exalt a purely human authority over the Christian faith? And what might that old Scottish Christian might think in a day in which that same kind of human authority, having no temporal power of state to back it, can easily litigate to shut the voices of dissent off?

What would Tommy do?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Did Christianity Cause The Crash?

Don't laugh.

It probably didn't help as much as it should have.
In a allegedly "Christian" land whose financial foundations were supposedly engineered by a historically rigid and pious Protestant work ethic, the religion supposedly serving the Faith of our Fathers seems to show an awful lot of wear in these recessional days. Especially when the Prosperity Gospel is what's being preached from the pulpits of today.

Yes, you heard me and yes, you can give it some thought yourself by checking out this painfully honest and all too illuminating essay here. Frankly, I'm not just outraged, disturbed and angry. I'm just not surprised. Faking it til you make it has reached a whole new level of cultural delusion among the "children of light," which is why the "children of this world" still possess a level of wealth that is supposed to be possessed by confession of those same well-lit King's Kids.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What Would Jesus Buy? Just In Time For The Holidays!

Well, it's Christmas time again. And while I hate to spit in anyone's figgy pudding, it must be firmly noted this Advent season that America is not a Christian nation, becoming more profane and pagan by the day. On Black Friday and every Shopping Day since, millions of Americans are thinking more about Stuff then the Savior the Christmas season is to herald. I assure you, the only opening prayers at the gates of the Big Boxes uttered were that people got in and didn't get trampled to death by the hordes of materialistic people behind them.

If even a fraction of the estimated 60 to 70 billion dollars
of discretionary income people pump into the chimera's maw of Christmas shopping was diverted to clothe the homeless, improve a widow's shattered house, or feed hungry people, it might truly be more of a holiday season.

Instead, we lose ourselves in the minutiae of glittery cultural trapping and forget that for much of the rest of the world, where Christians live daily under threat of death or imprisonment in slave labor, Christmas is just a way to line their pockets from the wealth of the distracted West. The packaging becomes the Reason for the Season. Christ is the kid in the manger hidden behind the gaily wrapped Play Station, power tool or Mudd boots.

video

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Seriously Overdue Update Department

I can't believe it's been that long since I've last blogged. Well, New Year's resolution # 5 .. blog more (resolutions 1-4 are private and will remain so).

One of my other ones is .. Reach out more .. Be even more available. You can email me direct at rafael (at) spiritwatch.org.

I've already been at it the past few months, which is why I haven't been blogging.

It's been an interesting year, between helping spiritually abused people, writing and updating the Spiritwatch article list - primarily in our Strange Fires section - and engaging in counseling sessions as well. It's been also an intriguing year keeping abreast of the rumblings in Remnant Fellowship and fielding media inquiries about them as well as withstanding yet another attempt by Gwen Shamblin and her sycophantic lieutenant Tedd Anger to litigate me into silence over their authoritarian ways (to no effect, we will continue to exercise our First Amendment rights). I haven't yet found Shamblin's lawyer trashing me on blogs yet, so maybe's he's busy buying printer toner or something.

We also were invited to help plan and execute a discernment conference for Spanish speaking Churches of God in South Carolina in Anderson. We laid a foundation for discernment using teaching on sound doctrine, critical thinking and a review of what spiritual deception is which we will build upon in our next trip there (hopefully sometime early next year) on cultism itself. We understand that aside from the LDS and JW heresies, the apostolic Oneness movement as well as assaults by the cultic La Luz Del Mundo movement have been a great problem for Spanish speaking Christians in the area. We want to be ready to address those.

I preached on cultism at our local church, the South Cleveland Church of God as well and hopefully will be preaching a lot more there and in other venues in the future. I wanted to post here on that but was so busy preparing for that and never got a chance. Hopefully, we will be returning soon there.

This next Sunday, December 20, I will be preaching a Christmas message at the Third Street Church of God in Fort Wayne, Indiana . If you're in the area, it would be a pleasure to see you there. Pastor Truman Smith and his wife are dear friends of ours, a mentor in the faith and someone whose ministry has been a great blessing to Fort Wayne for many years.

The Lord willing, we intend to be more visible and more involved here on the blog this next year and everywhere else we can. It's the last days. We need to keep pointing and working for the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6) while we still can ..

agape

rafael

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Never Ending Story: Another Perspective On The Jonestown Tragedy

There isn't much about the absolutely horrific tragedy at Jonestown that hasn't already been said. The deaths of over 900 people in an orgy of religiously stoked suicide and murder in the jungles of Guyana initiated at the demonically warped whim of a cult leader named Jim Jones on November 17, 1978 have long ago become a cautionary epic in our cultural mindset about how twisted human nature can be.

Allusions and references to the utterly mind shattering atrocity of the deeds of that dark day are now just another part of the lore and language we use to describe the indescribable power of spiritual deception. But no matter how familiar the horrors of death by cultism may ever seem to be, one thing that never ceases to profoundly arrest me .. or any other human being with a heart and soul .. is the power of the account of a personal testimony about it. It pulls away the blunted edge of the social cancer it describes and reveals how razor sharp it's foul appendages actually can be. The sting of the scorpion becomes once again a strike into naked, unshielded human flesh and spirit that cannot be defended against.

Such is this long forgotten account of one family's descent into the hell that Jim Jones' deviancy prepared for them. You will not easily be able to read this - but you will learn again how the Pied Pipers of our time dance to their tune.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

News Flash" Most American Christians Are In Serious Confusion, Details At 11:00

One of the more telling releases coming out of the Barna Group's research findings we've seen in a while is hardly surprising to the few discerning American Christians who still make it to their pews in their churches today. The announcement, depending on who you'd speak with, can be chilling to the core or no big deal or anything in between. After all, one man's lie is another one's truth, right? It's just another sign of how adrift the Body of Christ has become in a day and age in which truth has a shelf life and can be distorted at will to fit into one's biases without any regard to whether it is consistent with a stable connectiont to spiritual reality.

The Barna article title pulls no punches:

Most American Christians Do Not Believe that Satan or the Holy Spirit Exist


Click here to read the article.

Pray a bit harder for the increasingly backslidden church of today as it continues to slouch onward to Gomorrah and drift farther into the outer limits of apostasy.


And remember, there's a reason Jesus asked the question

"Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?"

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mea Culpa Or Freudian Slip? We Report You Decide


As seen in the newspaper of Brigham Young University, the Daily Universe, the day after the end of the annual General Conference held by the Church. As many of the 18,000 copies as could be found by the aghast BYU paper staff were pulled and pulped. Here's an LDS perspective on the affair ..

One wonders what happened to the BYU student, a young LDS lady, who allowed their spellchecker to do better discernment then her editorial staff did.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Gospel Tomahawks Not Needed

Whew.

The Ligionier Ministries folks published a while back an exquisitely hard hitting yet painfully surgical dissection of that sadly mistaken mindset of the Christian who wants to cult bust at the expense of ministry to a cult member. It details the thoughts of a Christian minister who agonizedly came to recognize how well versed he was in the school of defending the faith in the manner of an assassin .. not an ambassador.

Ouch.

Click here for an article done so well, you won't know you need to feel for broken bones after reading it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Discussions On Cults and Cult Mind Control in America

From the movie we've previously discussed here, "Join Us", here is a clip of one of the deleted scenes that the filmmaker, Ondi Timoner, did not use in the DVD release of the film. It's a shame because it features some illuminating glimpses into the cult problem as well as cult mind control itself offered by those who deal with the problem every day.

Watch this excellent clip below:

video

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Answering Some More Questions From Lee University's EVA 363 For 2009 3 of 3

Mind Control (part 2 of 3 is here)

What are some methods used for mind control?


I have indicated in my paper on cult evangelism that many in the countercult community, including myself, have adopted Dr. Robert J. Lifton's model of thought reform that is identical to cultic mind control. I have found these observations to be the foundation in understanding the human equation of cultism no matter what shape it assumes. No matter what the theology or practice, it seems that any questionable group (religious or non religious) that seemed "cultic" always seems to follow these directions. In his seminal work drawn from the study of Korean War POW's, Lifton developed 8 criterion that describe what kinds of manipulative influences are marshalled by coercive social dynamics to compel changes of thought and therefore, behavior.

I've briefly described these 8 components of cultic mind control in this article on our website and how they are more readily recognized in cultic settings in another article here. If you really want to dig more into how this is understood - and debated - across a wide variety of academic, pastoral, research and psychological circles, check out this excellent Wiki article here. For the record, I contend that the Liftonian paradigm on thought reform is a compelling and inclusive perspective that provides a clarity of perspective and context other. The methodology is explained in them a little more generically and we'll get into a little of that here in our next questions:

Within the cult realm, does love reign? In other words, do the cult members feel like they are loved unconditionally by their leader and their community or is it more of a fear reigned environment?

Love is a powerful influence that is universally responded to no matter where you go. When it is seemingly found in cultic movements, it can be almost overwhelming in its manifestation and is used to great effect by cults to verify their legitimacy and truth. Sadly and tragically, however, the quality of "love" found in cultic movements is not unconditional but actually quite conditional in nature. This makes all the difference in the worst possible way.

There is a serious and profound difference between the type of conditional love that cults exhibit and the unconditional love which ideally should be manifest by healthy spirituality. It has been well said that the difference between conditional and unconditional love comes down to how it is expressed and experienced - conditional love says "I love you because ..." while unconditional love says "I love you. Period." Note well the contrast! Conditional love is bestowed when a requirement is met, when a task is completed, when a favor is earned, while unconditional love just simply bestows itself upon its object with no strings attached.

Remember that the spirituality/philosophy behind a cultic movement is based upon the fulfillment of legalistic religious busywork or disciplines - upon works and not faith in the grace bestowed by God. As expected, you will find an enormous emphasis on performance and perfectionism within cults that is then rigorously observed and publicly evaluated by cult leadership, with salvation and blessing on the line. Such a posture always engenders fear, apprehension and even paranoia in the lives of cult members. Fear of being found falling short, fear of not being fully in compliance with the moral codes of their group, fear of the world, fear of demons, fear of hell, and fear of the wrath of an angry God underlie the seemingly cheery environments of such groups.

In such a Cultworld, then, unconditional love never has a chance primarily because the human mimickry of conditional love completely dominates the heart and soul of the cult. It instead substitutes this horrible, twisted approximation of love which can be readily and promptly withheld without any conscience whatsoever by cults to induce their members to change their behavior. What a terrible, tragic state of affairs that cult members are told to settle for as the highest and newest of "revelations" around!

How exactly does mind control take place? Cults seem so conditioned to a works based gospel and are not often receptive to a traditional Gospel because of the spiritual and mental bondage they are in .. what is the best way to begin to try and attack and break that spiritual bondage?

Great questions and observations! Let's tackle what mind control is and how it works first of all.

Cult mind control is a manipulative and transforming process that occurs during the recruitment of some one into a cult. It is the control of behavior by the control of thought, a subtle strategy of social control used by cults to impose conformity of belief, thought and practice within their group in an incremental, gradually induced manner. It is an immersive experience which can and often does extend to the complete reordering of the person's view of himself, his past, even his identity, personal memories and priorities in life. When this takes place, profound personality and lifestyle changes can and do occur, all at the behest of the cult's leadership as necesssary for their personal growth and development. It is ethically an involuntary coercion that is imposed upon the cult member and is indeed a hideous mental and spiritual bondage that is disturbing and troubling to behold.

Cult mind control follows, as we have said, a gradual yet undeniably similar pattern, no matter the group's belief system or philosophy. Appeals to felt needs such as the desire for meaning, purpose and community are combined with what has come to be called "love bombing," the smothering of prospects with insincere attention to foster strong social ties to the group's direction and vision. What I've called "isolation through indoctrination" is the gradually intensified social activity, service and study aimed at isolating new members from their past belief system and identity and to create dependence upon the group. This includes the group's free usage of misinformation, implanted cult phobias that compel blind obedience to cult authority, their Scripture twisting and outright falsehoods.

With critical and independent thinking seen as sinful manifestations of demonic and carnal natures that must be shunned, the individual's faculties of free thought are effectively suspended and cultic mind control is inevitable. The cult's authoritarian leadership then makes their enchanted members completely subservient to the cult's demands and readily recast them to there respective places in cult hierarchy they are expected to assume.

So, you are absolutely correct when you state that cultists are "conditioned to a works based gospel," which is an objective statement of truth about their distorted understanding of the Christian Gospel of Jesus Christ. Whatever a cultic movement exalts as the ultimate truth concerning salvation or enlightenment, they will cite the performance of religious works as something the cultist must be constantly engaged in to prove their faith. The cultist must be involved in some kind of spiritual exercise or discipline in which she proves herself deserving of the graces of God that only her cult can bestow upon them. It's a never ending system of self-sanctifying, self-purifying doing that the cult member must commit to which. Faith in Christ alone for salvation is scorned as an easy-believism by cultists who are absorbed in their cult's treadmill of spiritual and social busywork through which they hope to make themselves worthy of God's love, grace and blessing. The freely given grace of God that saves by faith in Christ alone that is not of works, as Ephesians 2:8-9 definitively speaks of, is completely alien to the cultist.

Cult mind control, I believe, is a large part of the "blinding of the mind" referred to in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that is inspired by the "god of this world" that hides the truth of the Gospel of Christ from the cultist. It is one of the main reasons that Christian attempts to evangelize cults often don't have the impact we think they should. I would contend that Paul's usage of the term "god of this world" is a reference not to simply to demonic but warped human influence itself that exists only to control and dominate - note that in 2 Corinthians 4:2 he notes that true ministers are those who have "renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully." Paul was again emphasizing that demonic deception and human manipulation are social dynamics of long standing influence in our fallen world's religious circles and that Biblical truth is largely lost upon those who are prey to it.

As a Christian minister with years of observation of cultic wiles, I am willing to say that while the apostles may never have used the words "mind control" in their epistles to the churches of the New Testament, they certainly very clearly saw how spiritual manipulation that led to spiritual and mental bondage manifested itself (Romans 16:18, 1 Timothy 4:1-2, 2 Peter 2:1-3, Jude 14-16) within the context of spiritual fellowship sought by false teachers and false prophets of the unwary and undiscerning Christian. They sought to combat these false influences and restore those swayed by them, while describing in no uncertain terms how they viewed their aberrant behavior and practice.

Unlike too many Christian churches, cults strongly advance direct connection between their pseudo-orthodoxy (their false teaching claiming to be "the truth") to their approved pseudo-orthopraxy (their false practices, which directly impact their lifestyle). In other words, they demand that their new recruit's actions should line up with what they've been taught and don't hesitate to make them rigorous tests of fellowship and even salvation. With such a complete authority of the group established over them, cult members are then relentlessly conditioned by their leadership to unquestioningly believe by faith the spiritual precepts and worldview their group advances as the ultimate truth: this is readily accomplished after the cult recruit makes their own personal commitment to resigning their spiritual direction, personal autonomy and critical thinking faculties to the group.

This is what the spiritual and mental bondage of cultic mind control looks like.

If you'd like to see some more visual examples, take a break and check out our short YouTube video here (aimed at cult members) and a longer one here (aimed at the general public) for some memorable illustration.

Cult mind control diametrically opposes Christian evangelistic witness to cult members. Scriptural mandates call upon Christians to "know how ye ought to answer every man," and beckon us to urge people to "come now, and let us reason together" (1 Peter 3:15 and Isaiah 1:18). Those whose ability to reason with you has been rechannelled toward contention for their own faith will easily pose perhaps one of the most difficult challenges for the Christian witness in the last days - especially if they turn out to be your grandmother, a friend from school, a business associate who wants to love you into his cult's kingdom, etc.

But fear thou not! We assure you that Bible not only tells to share the Gospel with all men - including cultists - but assures us of the victory! We've seen it happen. We see it happening. We know it will continue to happen!

Apostolic Christianity, empowered by the Holy Spirit and brimming with the Word of God and an understanding of the times has never failed to take on the onslaught of worldly wisdom against the Gospel and the Christ and defeat it by a walk of faith shown by works. None other than our Lord Jesus Himself ordains it: hear his charge to the Apostle Paul, in Acts 26:16-18, the same one that a redeemed believer called to be a witness to the cults assuredly walks in:

But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

Delivered from the world, the sanctified believer is to stand and walk out a life of service to God in Christ to declare His Gospel in such a way that it opens eyes and turns the blind to the light, even from very jaws of Satanic darkness itself.

We are, as DeGarmo and Key so well belted out years ago "destined to win"!

So what is the best way to begin to try and attack and break that spiritual bondage?

To counter cult mind control does indeed require a plan. Here are the basic steps:

First of all, remember that the degree of cult mind control bondage varies from person to person. This is a critical point to bear in mind, vitally important to understand. Cults, while having darkly powerful spirituality and manipulative socializing energizing them (2 Corinthians 11:4) are not all powerful spheres of influence whose demands are irresistible. The thought-stopping persuasions that hold captive an individual cult member's mind can take as many different forms as there are individual minds controlled by them - and no two are alike. What forms of cultic propaganda that can lock down cult member Smith's mind may merely trigger for fellow cult member Jones an outright questioning or even doubting of the cult's authority.

The false authority of the cult has to be challenged and shown to be fallible, contradictory and questionable in the heart and mind of the cultist and this can indeed be done, no matter how intense the mind control. For the human mind never fully completely shuts down: like an anti-virus program running in the background of a computer, the cultist's controlled faculty of reason is processing information quietly, often unconsciously. Part of that includes the challenges that they've encountered which their cultic conditioning cannot shake. In the same way dreaming often is a manifestation of personal trouble and need, the cultist's mind often entertains questions and doubts about their movement that they dare not ever allow their consciousness to become preoccupied with. They often can successfully cover this cognitive dissonance with a straight face and a deceptively placid exterior. It is this judging of a cult's book by it's cover that can seem so discouraging and even frightening - but it is a stone face with all the durability of paper in a windy rain, a personal facade that the Spirit of God will blow completely through.

For example, all Jehovah's Witnesses are kept in a more or less constant fear of an impending Armageddon (this phobia indoctrination is part of all cults' retention efforts to maintain control over their membership) but there really is no way that the Watchtower can force a completely uniform depth of conviction on their members.Therefore, many Witnesses don't fully believe or accept their organization's teachings on the end times for the simple reason that they're aware of past Watchtower false prophecies and doctrinal flip flops that explode their cult's myth of infallibly inspired authority. They grin and bear the apparent contradiction, even at their own personal cost, without any sign of the true inner challenge on the cult's authoritarian control over their mind that it actually makes.

There are many other points of differences that Witnesses can have with the Society that they don't consciously entertain due to the mind control indoctrination they've placed them under - they quickly rationalize it away. But there are many inopportune and troubling thoughts that are indeed present in their hearts and minds which, after intercessory prayer, are the greatest way one can level the playing field in any evangelistic encounter with them.

All of this is true for any and every cult that we are aware of. Natural human doubt can be used by a supernatural God's power to break the bondage of cult mind control - through the visitation of the Spirit of God into the situation.

It is this stubborn tendency for the cultist's mind to mull over unspeakable "random thoughts" is a faculty of human reason that I am convinced the Spirit of God powerfully uses to open the heart. No cultist's pre-cult past, identity, memories and ability to critically think is ever burnt out of existence completely. It will be, sadly, greater in depth with some (1 Timothy 4:2) but not all. This is truly where the grace of God is most powerfully at work in the lives of cultists, in the places we don't easily see .. but He is truly there, doing only what He can do (Romans 12:2)! The faculty of a cult member's human reason can be lulled into a fitful sleep but it is the erosion of the grip of cultic authority over it by it's own never ending introspection that His Spirit will and does use, and you can help facilitate this in a manner that apostolic example establishes (2 Timothy 2:23-26).

To this end, secondly, be familiar with how cultic systems of indoctrination and social control function. You will want a working knowledge of how cults keep people in their thrall based upon sound observation and established fact. Knowing the way in which cults orchestrate their interaction and influence is extremely important in learning about a cult's worldview as well as in anticipating counteractive dialogue with them aimed at evangelism. If you wish to effectively build the bridges to the heart and mind of a cultist, you must familiarize yourself with the culture he's come from - especially with those aspects of it that dominate their thought, choices and behavior.

Ex-member testimonials, books and personal observation are going to be the best first hand sources of information on this slippery reality. Websites, monographs, tracts and books that have this information abound and there simply is no shortage of information in these last days. You can find a good list of these here off our website. A casual Google search will also bring these up with one mouse click. These resources can also provide additional perspective that shows how and where cults will focus their efforts of recruitment, what populaces and audiences they target and how they go about doing so. Studying a cult's own glowing reports of its own progress (from the LDS Church's official newspapers to the Watchtower's own publications) also will help you glean further insight into how they function also.

As you study and research both cult and ex-cult materials, you will note that there are certain themes, terminology and expressions that they all share. which will help you become sensitized to the group-specific vocabulary they use to describe how they interact. This vocabulary is part of the language of mind control: it is a specific collection of unique lingo, buzz words and terms that convey dual meanings and is one of the 8 criterion Lifton described as "loaded language". Such words are used by a specific cult's membership among non-members and means one thing and yet is understood in an entirely different way within the group. These terminology differences can be theological and doctrinal or descriptive shorthand meant to define a situation, or alter and even stop critical thought altogether. Knowing what these terms are can also help you avoid any stumbling over the trigger words for their mind control dynamic which the cult's loaded language uses to short circuit dialogue, thus becoming very big obstacles to communication and understanding.

Knowledge of this has enormous implication for the Christian determined to bring a contextualized and intentional Christian witness for the Gospel. Familiarity with the language of a people group in world missions is a given: therefore, familiarity with the group-specific language of a cult group you want to see the Gospel proclaimed to is no less important.

Note: It can be and is routinely argued (by cults and their apologists) that ex-members are in the position to misrepresent and distort any objectivity one can have about understanding a cult. This can be true and there are many angry and hurt people with axes to grind and personal agendas afoot who can certainly mislead and misinform. Such people, however, can be identified by the tone and focus of their testimony and the fact that they exist doesn't invalidate the inestimable worth of the sharing that ex-members who function from a far more stable position can bring.

Ultimately, it's time spent with cult members - as well as with ex-members - which will help you become sensitized to the uniquely personal idiosyncracies of each group. There's nothing quite like hearing a Jehovah's Witness speak of "not running ahead of Mother" (not thinking or acting independently of the Watchtower's authority) and the Mormon advise you that you should first digest "milk before meat" (listen to their version of LDS "truth" that doesn't involve anything controversial, like asking them if they expect to be gods throughout eternity) to bring this point home. Be observers, listen and keep an objective and open mind on anything a cult member may tell you as you take mental/literal notes. You will not only get a grip on their doctrinal distinctives but how they respond when you raise the issue and what to expect if you bring up a Gospel presentation. This is undeniably a vital insight that is worth the pursuit.

For we must never forget to look on the fields. Certainly, we believe and must act upon the conviction that the Gospel of Christ must be preached and shared with cult members, too. But when witnessing to them, we simply have to bear in mind that in order for our sharing to be effective and for our witness to Christ's grace bear fruit that impacts and transforms, we have to understand who we labor among, to do as Christ commanded in John 4:35 and truly "look on the fields." In other words, we must come to truly understand the people we are trying to reach, not just personally but coming to know what they value, how they think, what they fear, how they hurt, what they hate, and what they love. We should stand ready to share how the Gospel speaks to those needs and not allow our evangelical shortsightedness (as well as pride) lull us into the belief that a memorized witnessing technique mastering a set of Bible verses and polished presentation alone will do the job. Life just isn't that cut and dried.

Believe you me, you'd better have this settled in your heart and mind long before a Mormon uncle or neighbor begins to grill you over how central their "burning of the bosom" is to their belief Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and how this settled the issue for them of the truth of the "restored Gospel" that the LDS Church now eagerly wants everyone to turn to.

Thirdly, plan lines of discussion that directly address the authority issue.

Cultists target spiritual seekers lost in the post-Christian wilderness and move on them wherever the opportunity arises in a predictible pattern. It is significant to note that first comes a seduction by false cult authority that occurs when the cult offers love, significance, meaning, purpose, mission, and the "answers" to life's questions as mediated only through their teaching, their leaders, their exclusive revelation (Book Of Mormon, Divine Principle, Weigh Down Workshop, the Urantia book, etc.). Once a recruit's attention is achieved, cults use an application of well qualified subjectivism (feelings) and objectivism (reason). The cultic authority compels prospects to entertain their truth claims (reason) and then to go to extraordinary lengths to validate them with positive experiences they stage (called "love bombing" by some, involving yet another Liftonian thought reform principle called "mystical manipulation") which then short-circuit more sober judgment and create emotional and social dependence upon the group for more of what is an intoxicating and pleasurable experience.

When this happens, the cult authority exalts their worldview, moving from the known to the unknown and urging recruits onward in their "search for truth." They relentlessly advance a total reformation, redefinition or wholesale abandonment of whatever pre-existing belief system they had to conform it to the cult's worldview. To accomplish this, pseudointellectualism is then applied by the cult's authority figures to reinforce their claims with hyper-rationale and slick argumentation: their false authority system anticipates and "answers" all questions to conclusively prove it's superiority over any other claim to authority. Such "new light" then is enjoined as the only truly righteous way to live and act. The seeming benign, yet ultimately bitter fruit of this high stakes ploy by cultic authority always results in the shutdown of independent thinking by the controlling dynamics just discussed, which results in full blown cultic mind control as well as unethical manipulation and coercion.

There is no one "Gordian Knot" to tackle that will deliver a cult member instantly from this kind of culturally impinged cult mind control. If there was, believe you me, we'd be using it. But certainly, the cult authority issue is a big one to grapple with when witnessing to cultists, and their mind control dynamics are the thorniest challenge to deal with.

Actual dialogue direction that addresses the mind control issue in a cultist should have two underlying goals:

1) it will encourage a cult member to engage in independent thought and re-assessment of a truth claim that foundational to the cult's authority, thus evoking legitimate doubt and a desire for further investigation. The discusson should be phrased in a way that lets the cult member "connect the dots" and draw their own inferences that will stimulate additional personal examination.

Example: When sharing with a cult member, ask questions and discuss how a completely different cult operates and engages in mind control. Make a time of sharing and questions like "did you hear about this? What do you think about it?" When talking with a Family member, tell them how the Sun Myung Moon started the Unification Church, how he depends on revelation from the spirit world for his inspiration, and how his organization uses front groups, retreats and days of indoctrination to break down the freedom of thought recruits with his dogma, leaving them no time to think and demanding instant and complete belief with their system. Go on and on as briefly as you can (hint: you can see why study of cult specifics is so important). What you've done is effectively and subversively penetrated the cult member's mind control defenses by side stepping them. You never mentioned their cult, you shared a fascinating story about something they've likely not quite heard of, and they will eventually start recognizing that their group's claims and operation aren't unique, because they've gone through the same general kind of process when they were recruited by their cult.

2) it will evoke within the member memories of what their pre-cult life and identity was like outside the cult that are positive, thus reconnecting them with the concept that truth and reality can and do exist outside the group. This serves to further undermine the radical redefinition of personality, identity and even memory that the cult authority forced upon them at the time of their recruitment, giving them an opportunity to unshackle their frozen faculty of independent thinking.

Example: During sharing with a cult member, it turns out that the person was at one time a very active church member who had been deeply involved in congregational life and community service and who at one seemed quite fulfilled in what they did. While this past life is usually going to be characterized by the cultist as an empty time of ignorance and darkness, gentle questioning can help encourage some momentary reflection on those positive aspects of their life that they lived. Try to help them remember when their pre-cult spirituality and self-determination made an uplifting difference in their lives and that of others. By seeking their personal expansion upon this past, the details and memories of how it affected them can profoundly stir them on several personal levels simultaneously, stimulating a keen awareness that their group's claims of being the only meaningful source for fulfillment are hardly unique, despite what they've been led to believe.

Remember 2 Timothy 2:23-26? It bears repeating here:
But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth
When witnessing to cultists who are caught up under cult mind control, Christians are to avoid being caught up in grappling with the questions that can come from anywhere but clearly go nowhere, that stir up trouble and not thought. In a humble spirit that offers light without being seen as preachy, Christians will view themselves as servants offering up strong medicine with all of the winsome appeal we can muster as God gives us the ability.

Fourth, be convinced this is a doable task and a winnable war. To remove these kinds of cultic coercive blinders which the "god of this world" has placed over the hearts and minds of those under cultic mind control, you have to incorporate this inner hope into a personal commitment to reach out and share the Gospel with cult members. Witnessing to cult members requires deliberate research, serious prayer and earnest effort. It's hard. It's spiritual warfare. It's taking on Satan's territory in the name of the One Who has defeated Him.

But you've seen testimonies of ex-cultists whose very presence plainly declares that they are trophies of God's grace - and that some witnessing, praying Christians were part of His plan to call them into the light. You are certainly going to be a part of that all .. walk worthily and above all in faith!

Perhaps you're beginning to see that evangelizing cultists is going to take more than running the Four Spiritual Laws by them and expecting them to fall down before you to repent. There are times that this CAN happen, but it's largely going to be the exceedingly rare exception rather than the rule, so hope for the best and plan for the worst as you make ready to witness to a cultist.

Does the person have to be in a weak state of mind in order to be part of mind control? What are some of the best pieces of literature you have come across specifically for counteracting cultic conversation and mind control techniques?

It is an understandable but erroneous assumption to believe that one's "weak-mindedness" makes them more susceptible to mind control. I will quote from my article on myths about cults that address this:

Myth #1 – People in cults are mindless fanatics.

Untrue. Virtually every member of every cultic group existing on in our world today began their entry into the group as generally balanced, thinking people who have great potential, skills and giftings they want to offer to a cause "larger than themselves." Cult members are both CEO's and dishwashers, white-collar and blue-collar, scientists as well as grade-school dropouts. While it is undeniably true that some of them have plunged into extremist forms of behavior, and that all labor under some form of cultic mind control that compels them onward into an apparently zealous activism or passion, all of them retain the capacity for critical thought (their ability to responsibly function in society proves this), but have been taught to suspend their faculties of independent and objective thought when focusing on their involvement with the group.

Myth #7 – Members of cults stay in them because they're weak and unable to cope with life.

The membership of cultic groups maintain their attachments to their groups for a variety of reason, but certainly NOT because they are too fragile and incapable of dealing with life outside it. Remember, these are people who are integrated into society who deal with life on the same level non-members do, albeit with their cultic worldview guiding and shaping their responses to it. It actually takes enormous amounts of personal courage and self-determination to remain committed to a group that often puts them at odds and even opposition to their own non-cult family members and friends. They stay because they are persuaded and conditioned to believe that there are no other meaningful alternative places to go outside the cultic fold. Most cult members have family, friends, business associates and other personal attachments with the group that they won't break from easily. But they also remain due to the systematically implanted misinformation, controlled behavior and blind trust in their group they've been taught to express – but not because they are weak and spineless.

One of the most helpful articles we've ever read on dialoguing with a cult member can be read by going here. Written by an ex-Jehovah's Witness, the article provides a list of outstanding questions you can use to share with cultists of all stripes, when properly rephrased for their situation, that will help them become aware of the kind of mental and spiritual bondages that their cults have put them in.

We've recommended those books authored by Robert J. Lifton, Steve Martin and Steven Hassan as great sources for understanding and dealing with cultic mind control and encourage you to obtain and study them.

After a conversion what is the most common thing that makes them return to the cult and how should we better disciple them?

There are many factors involved when a new convert to a cult feels compelled to return - please ensure you study this link's section entitled difficulties of former sect members.

If there is one thing that I have personally heard and witnessed over the years that seems to especially stands out most starkly, it would be the abject failure of the church to stand with and walk alongside the new convert in actual follow up. People rededicating their lives to Christ after having been in a cult usually return because the Church that He ordained should be His living extension fails to reach out, bear up their unique burden with them and teach them how to walk out the Christian life.

A cult member who has come to Christ also has engaged in an extraordinary act of personal self-evaluation with profound consequences for how they now are trying to live. The ex-cult member's time of transition from the Cultworld to the Kingdom of God is fraught with new perils, confusions, and fears that the Church has to simply address. For those leaving such immersive, totalist environments like cults, these kinds of struggles always come for Christian conversion doesn't wipe away consequences of cult involvement. After months or even years of being conformed to a cult's personality mold, getting clear of the cult's indoctrination and social mores won't happen overnight.

Sadly, churches love the "Kodak moment" and the thrill of seeing cultists embrace Christ and be baptized in their nice clean baptismals, but utterly fail to realize just how much critically acute the level of pastoral care and admonition they will need to stabilize spiritually. In short, they love the birth of the baby, but dont' seem to understand that such infants in the faith need to be clothed, fed, protected from rolling off their beds, and to have their diapers changed. It's when things get dirty and real effort is needed that Christian servants that sweat the nurturing load suddenly are found to be in short supply.

Equally tragic is the fact that this is a common failure of the church for all converts.

Implicit in the task of Christian discipleship is the plain fact that ongoing, interactive and personal fellowship and sharing underlies all truly transformative Christian formation. Christians simply have to rise up and be what the Bible says they should be - those who are called to not just preach but teach the Gospel to all nations, meaning that one stops and takes time to ensure that those who are taught understand and are enabled to practice it. That is what Christian discipleship requires and it gets walked out in real life when Christians start taking the time to listen to the needs, to pray with the struggling, to hear out the questions, to
speak into the fears, to walk the fearful hours right along side the lives of new converts.

Ex-cultists who come to Christ will have many unique challenges themselves that should be directly tackled by those who care for them in the church. The outstanding book "Out Of The Cults Into The Church" is one of the few books available written from an explicit Christian perspective that addresses these issues. Another one entitled "Recovery From Churches That Abuse" can be viewed online.

I hope that these three blog entries have been of help to you and may God use you mightily to pierce the darkness of the Cultworld where ever you go. Rest assured that He is desiring to use you in a great way to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.

Godspeed to you when the cultists whom God will now send your way come asking the questions that you now can answer so as to give to them the best hearing of the Gospel "in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth." as 2 Timothy 2 has said so poignantly.

Remember Four Final Things As You Witness As You Are Going ...

Thing 1 - Remember who you're going to represent - the Almighty Lord of All, Jesus Christ. Dress, act, speak and minister accordingly. You have authority and power - and you are to walk with the humility of a servant.

Thing 2 - Use your testimony - testify what Jesus means to YOU; how He has blessed you, how He speaks to you and walks with you and helps you day by day. No argument stands unshaken before a man with an experience.


Thing 3 - Keep the faith - Smile, love, stay calm, rejoice when everything goes wrong (and sometimes it does). HE is in charge. This is His work. Look to Him and don't look at the situation. He makes the rough way smooth.

Thing 4 - Never allow discouragement to crush you or success to puff you up - God is in His heaven, and He knows our hearts and keeps the books.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Slouching Toward Gommorrah: Not Religious OR Spiritual, One Nation Under Gods

Jesus said things would be spiritually dark when He started intimating when He would return.

He said nothing about a great end time revival, not some Christian utopia in which the Church was dominating everything. He said something quite different.

Read Matthew 24 and understand the times.


Then, click on this link to an eye opening USA Today article and decide if your theology needs a little adjustment.

It's just another sign of the end time apostasy. Have a nice day.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

When Cults Go Looking To Shove In All The Wrong Places: The Watchtower & The Closing Of The Russian Nation

We quoted this in full from the links, sent to us by good brother Paul Carden at the Centers For Apologetics Research. It shows how religious persecution of cults is just the latest advance of a new wave of sectarianism championed by Russian cultural evolution in the post-Soviet world.

13 March 2009

RUSSIA: NATIONWIDE STRIKE AT JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1267


By Geraldine Fagan, Moscow Correspondent, Forum 18 News Service

In the space of just three weeks, Jehovah's Witness communities across Russia have undergone 500 state check-ups. "That's a conservative estimate - we're definitely talking the whole country," Yaroslav Sivulsky remarked to Forum 18 News Service from the Jehovah's Witnesses' St Petersburg headquarters on 10 March. "Our telephones here are red hot from people calling to report incidents and ask why it's happening."

The nationwide sweep, ordered by First Assistant General Public Prosecutor Aleksandr Bastrykin, is linked to an investigation into the Jehovah'sWitnesses' St Petersburg headquarters, the Moscow Regional Public Prosecutor's Office explains in its order for check-ups sent to district subdivisions on 13 February. Having failed to find grounds for prosecution since the St Petersburg investigation began in 2004, the authorities are now "trawling" for information to shut down the Jehovah's Witnesses' Russian headquarters and over 400 dependent organisations, Sivulsky believes: "Nothing else makes sense."

Jehovah's Witnesses' "missionary activity, social isolation, refusal to perform military service, accept blood transfusions and other religiously motivated restrictions required of members of this organisation provoke a negative attitude towards its activity from the population and traditional Russian confessions," the Moscow Regional Public Prosecutor's Office order notes.

Forum 18 has also viewed similar recent instructions for urgent check-ups on Jehovah's Witnesses issued by Sakhalin Regional, Udmurtia's Sarapul Municipal and Khabarovsk's Industrial District Public Prosecutor's Offices. On 12 March Forum 18 asked the General Public Prosecutor's Office by fax when and why Bastrykin's order was issued, as well as for a copy of the document. A Press Department spokesperson promised a reply on 13 March after 3pm Moscow time. However, no response was received by the end of the working day. As of 13 March, the website of the General Public Prosecutor's Office made no mention of the order either. "They are checking anything and everything that can be checked," Sivulsky told Forum 18. Moscow and Sakhalin Regional Public Prosecutor's Offices recommend co-ordinated check-ups involving the police, FSB security police and Justice Ministry departments in their orders. Education departments appear to be following a particular line of investigation.

A 9 February Mostovskoi (Krasnodar Region) District Education Department letter to local head teachers requests information by 5 March on "interference by religious - including Jehovah's Witness - organisations in the teaching process at educational institutions, enticement of minors into the activity of religious organisations without the knowledge of parents or guardians, cases of refusing blood transfusions or other treatment to minors, other violations of pupils' rights by members of and participants in religious organisations."

A 17 February letter from Kholmsk (Sakhalin Region) Municipal Education Department asks head teachers to respond to three questions by the following day: Does the Kholmsk Jehovah's Witness organisation conduct activity in educational institutions? Do any teachers belong to this organisation? What work is being done in institutions to prevent employees from being drawn into this organisation? An 18 February telegram from Stavropol Municipal Education Department asks head teachers for information by the following day on cases of "social isolation of followers of Jehovah's Witness teachings and refusal to study in connection with any bans or restrictions by this religious organisation." Also in Stavropol Region, a 17-year-old Jehovah's Witness pupil in the town of Izobilny reports on 24 February that his teacher was asked to compile a report about him for the local Education Department, including whether he has suicidal tendencies. None of the check-up orders refer to extremism, Sivulsky of the Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18.

Parallel attempts to prosecute individual Jehovah's Witness communities for distribution of allegedly extremist literature continue apace, however. Religious literature from other confessions has also been accused of extremism. Translations of the works of Turkish Islamic theologian Said Nursi have been banned in Russia following such claims by the authorities.

(see F18News 29 May 2008: http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1136)

On 25 February North Ossetia Public Prosecutor's Office filed suit with the local Supreme Court for the liquidation of the republic's four Jehovah's Witness organisations in Alagir, Beslan, Mozdok and Vladikavkaz. As well as distribution of allegedly extremist religious literature, the suit cites a number of grounds for the organisations' closure, including Jehovah's Witnesses' allegedly anti-constitutional refusal of blood transfusions and religious activity outside the geographical location where they are registered. It also notes that four Vladikavkaz Jehovah's Witnesses have refused to perform alternative military service - in one case resulting in a Soviet District Court sentence of 180 hours' forced labour - and that the husband of a member of the Beslan organisation has filed for divorce because she is a Jehovah's Witness.

A hearing at North Ossetia Supreme Court was slated for 12 March, but the Jehovah's Witnesses requested an alternative date because their lawyers were already due to appear in a similar extremism case in Salsk (Rostov-on-Don Region) on that day. After participating in the 12 March Salsk hearing, New York-based Jehovah's Witness lawyer James Andrik told Forum 18 that the court is so far relying solely on the expert literary analysis of Jehovah's Witness literature by Rostov Centre for Court Studies as evidence. (see F18News 14 July 2008 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1159)

In a statement to Salsk Municipal Court, Andrik pointed out that in the Soviet Union "thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses were imprisoned or subject to other hardships and restrictions of their rights as a result of their religious activity, literature, and beliefs." While exonerated as victims of "unfounded repression" in 1996, however, Russian government representatives are now "poised to repeat the victimization of Jehovah's Witnesses," he maintains. Thousands of kilometres apart, municipal courts in Salsk and Gorno-Altaisk (Altai Republic) both began determining whether Jehovah's Witness literature is extremist on 19 January (see F18News 16 January 2009 ;http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1241).

The Gorno-Altaisk court has commissioned an expert literary analysis by linguists at Kemerovo State University. Court expert analyses of Jehovah's Witness literature in similar cases in Rostov-on-Don and Yekaterinburg are still ongoing, Sivulsky told Forum 18 (see F18News 14 July 2008 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1159). Under the 2002 Extremism Law, even a low-level court may rule literature extremist. It is then automatically added to the Federal List of Extremist Materials and banned throughout Russia. The List's 325 titles as of 13 March typically suggest extreme nationalist or anti-Semitic content. Most theological entries - the inclusion of which is also disputed - are Islamic (see most recently F18News 16 January 2009; http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1241).

While it succeeded in banning the Jehovah's Witnesses' Moscow local religious organisation on other grounds in 2004, the Russian capital's Golovinsky District Court failed to find it guilty of extremism (see F18News 25 May 2004 ;http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=327). Officials in dozens of cities across Russia moved to block Jehovah's Witnesses' regional congresses last summer (see F18News 22 July 2008;http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1161).

For a personal commentary by Irina Budkina, editor of the http://www.samstar.ru Old Believer website, about continuing denial of equality to Russia's religious minorities, see F18News 26 May 2005; http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=570.

For more background, see Forum 18's Russia religious freedom survey at http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1196,

Reports on freedom of thought, conscience and belief in Russia can be found at

http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?query=&religion=all&country=10.

A printer-friendly map of Russia is available at http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/atlas/index.html?Parent=europe&Rootmap=russi&gt.

© Forum 18 News Service. All rights reserved. ISSN 1504-2855 You may reproduce or quote this article provided that credit is given to F18News http://www.forum18.org/

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Answering Some More Questions From Lee University's EVA 363 For 2009 2 of 3

Approaches (Part 1 of 3 is here)

How do cults recruit and how can we go about to prevent it?

Cults successfully recruit new members by appealing to their felt needs with a compelling presentation of truth claims that go unchallenged by objective examination. In short, the recruited, in seeking an "itch for their scratch", are people struggling with various issues and questions which the cult seems to provide all the answers for. Their astonishingly effective means of personal recruitment is based upon meeting those needs, thereby gaining significant means of leverage and control over them.

And their recruitment is usually as successful as their group's ability to foster that instant sense of rapport and community with those they seek to convert.

This kind of cultic recruitment has been a major source for their success and even resurgence. The picture illustrates the fruit of their labor: you see here a Spiritwatch Ministry worker in 2001 seeking to provide a hapless Christian an informational flyer about the cultic Unification Church rally she was going to, thinking she was going to a Christian meeting. The UC is a cultic movement run by the antichrist called "Reverend" Sun Myung Moon and the Korean woman was a Unificationist (Moonie) who actually physically tried to snatch the flyers out of the hands of the largely minority believers being bused in for the meetings. They were being brought there by their unscrupulous and/or undiscerning Christian pastors who represented the Unification front group that organized these rallies as an interfaith agency's moral crusade. Draping itself with concern for the spiritual and moral decline of America, the Moon organization has long sought to establish a "common cause" with evangelical Christian minorities (which you can read about more here) and hundreds of minority pastors and church leaders across America have been duped, seduced or financially persuaded into becoming allies with their antichristian agenda. This was just one example in a string of spiritual duplicity that shows how cults will use any means they can to deceive their recruits.

Using discerned common spiritual and social values that the prospect and they seem to have in common, the cult member is then able to establish deeper connection with a recruit. From that point on, cult recruiters will also interact with them on purely interpersonal issues that most powerfully influence the seeker. Their payoff to the prospect - facilitated by the recruiter's personal contact - is a carefully controlled outpouring of positive regard bestowed by the collective group on them as they first attend their meetings and discussion groups that are aimed to impress upon them how valued and cared for they are: this is done in three ways (these were taken from our article on how cults recruit)

Immediate Importance - the prospect is affirmed to the extent that they are made to feel essential and important to the success of cause they are confronted with - since it is how those needs and their fulfillment will be met .

Instant Intimacy - the prospect is provided with a high degree of almost instantaneous caring and sharing with other group members who unhesitatingly make themselves available for the development of deep, close relationships ..

Interactive Introduction - the prospect is brought into (and caught up with) a community of people who have a vibrant social life totally centered around their collective involvement with the revelation or philosophy that the group holds is the "truth" that will save the world ..

Such recruitment, expressed in love, sweetened with acceptance and starry eyed recruiters avowing the divine/ultimate nature of their message and group, is probably one of the most powerful and compelling forces of charisma that cultic human nature can muster. It wins converts when those within the recruit's circle of friends and family, for any of a number of reasons, fail to respond with alternative perspectives that counter the cult's claim and love-bombing culture.

In some extremely rare cases, demonic compulsion may actually be involved, but most of the time, it's a purely human transaction between a person motivated by longing for positive change in their lives and a cult recruiter ready to lure them into transformative relationships they believe this change will come with.

So how do you counter such a thing?

Remember the words of Messala, from the old classic movie Ben Hur ..

"you ask how to fight an idea. Well, I'll tell you how... with another idea!"

Preventing cults from successfully recruiting unwary people can take two forms, one being proactive, one being reactive. The first involves a comprehensive strategy engaging cult awareness and educational initiatives advocated, funded and publicized by concerned Christian believers or non-religious individuals as part of ongoing service to their local communities. Using the media, advertising, public meetings and church educational systems, generic discussions of cultism can be held that can alert people to the dangers of cult recruitment, their vulnerability to it and provide resources for self-education and assistance, as well as channels for assistance to those who've been already affected by it. Such initiatives, unfortunately, have little to no priority whatsoever in most communities, a sad and tragic thing when you consider that other public service activities concerning the awareness of child abduction, domestic violence, debt reduction and identity theft issues seem far more attractive to the average member of the species of Joe. Q. Public.

The second arises when the friends and family of a prospective convert to some cultic ideology seek some kind of intervention to head off their involvement. It is the latter course, unfortunately, that becomes the encounter of choice for most people when cults shatter their world after the fact and is always the far more difficult direction to take. Entering into positive and fruitful discussion with people already being persuaded by a cult to make life-changing decisions and lifestyle choices that they've come to believe are necessary for personal transformation is perhaps one of the most difficult things you will ever seek to do. Cult awareness initiatives could have prevented it, but - as I've observed - they are virtually non-existent in society today.

Countering cult recruitment involves fighting the ideas of the cult being spun before a inquisitive seeker with another ones without actually fighting the idealist of the cult - even though, inevitably, one must realize that this is indeed a struggle for hearts and minds and conversation will get intense. The ideas and concepts being used to entice and seduce the recruit have to be respectfully identified, understood and directly challenged in the same way the cult introduced them. You will be engaging the heart and mind of the recruited with a line of equally cheery, confident and yet Holy Spirit-timed seasons of questioning and inquiry that accomplish this.

When doing personal work in this area with a recruit of a cult, there are several issues that have be simultaneously tackled by the countercult worker that have to be kept in mind. First, the whole attempt to counter cult recruitment must be viewed as process and not just an event. They must be willing and able to devote at least the same amount of personal time and effort in dialogue and relationship with the recruit that the cult has put in to entice them. Secondly, the positive regard, interest and concern shown in their prospect must be drawn from genuine concern - not out of some rush to crusade or "cult bust."

Learning how to ask open ended questions that objectively explore the truth claims made by the recruiter is the next vital step. The recruit's suspension of critical thought may have already started, which is only a few steps away from cult mind control and can easily result in their ability to divert concerns and appear "o.k." to those wanting to understand the draw of the cult upon them. These truth claims can range from common ones focusing on moral, philosophical and spiritual absolutes to more personally meaningful ones that engage an individual's unique questioning of his life and the world around him. Collection of documented information about the cult's deceptive representations about itself and the world around it, their bogus scientific claims, and "insider doctrines" the group hides from the public that reveal its true agenda are vital to providing objective truth about the cult's claims.

Another important dynamic to counter is the very appeal itself that cult recruiters use to draw prospects into investigation of their group. The recruit's attempt to find answers to their questions and to seek truth should and must be affirmed but it is the conclusions they are making that should be gently called into question with the documented research about their claims by concerned family, friends and countercult workers. They should be encouraged to remain open to self-study and examination of your evidences before committing to the kinds of radical lifestyle reordering the cult will ultimately demand of them.

This is at the core of countering a cult's "loving on" a new recruit, delivered in equally caring concern. The cult's appeal should be respectfully re-explored with alternate perspectives when they begin to entertain unbiblical, illogical and/or aberrant directions that will lead to religious abuse, coercion and unethical psychological manipulation. Since the cult recruiter uses gentle encouragement or even bold challenge to persuade them, countercult workers must not be any less forthright in bringing this to the attention of the prospect they seek to ensnare.

This is because timing is of the highest importance and often the one critical factor that too many family and friends of those being drawn into a cult fail to recognize. Generally, the longer a recruit has been interacting with the cult, especially when going to cult social gatherings are involved, the more and more deeper the social, spiritual and emotional ties are going to be rooted - and the more powerful the deceptive reasoning of "good words and fair speeches" that cult recruiters engage in to "deceive the hearts of the simple." (Romans 16:18). Assuming a loved one's interactions with a cult recruiter over time is a "phase they're going through" is a dangerous mistake. They should be calmly and carefully asked about their new friends and what they've been learning and their literature should be read and studied - and discerned.

It is best, of course, that all of this be done away from the influences of the cult recruiter who will do all they can to , but sometimes this isn't possible, and the new recruit with starry eyed enthusiasm, will bring you into a place where you're going to have to engage in dialogue the cult recruiter themselves. That then becomes an actual witnessing session that involves many of the same practices we've just discussed but takes a different direction, which we'll discuss shortly. Needless to say, the recruit will be listening very intently as you share with their new found friend and that this level of conversation will indeed be life changing.

How does one come across finding a cult? I don't know any cultists, where can I find them? What do you consider the best place or types of places to meet people in cults and what are the best places to try to build relationships and evangelize them?

It's not hard to find cults or cultists: they can be quite easily found. They are friends of friends, neighbors of your uncle, members of the company softball team, or your own grandchild. At times you may need to go to where they are, but don't be surprised if God's economy leads them into divine intersection with your own lives. Be ready for this - if you're serious about witnessing to cult members, be prepared for "coincidences" orchestrated by the Spirit. It will happen!

But don't be afraid to go to where cultists live their lives and try to practice their faith, either. Jesus said we are to go into "all the world," and that world is where the cultists go also. They deserve Spirit-led and discerning admonition that will reach their minds as well as their souls - and the best way to share this to best impact is through the building of intentionally sought and nutured relationships. They deserve our reaching out to them as we encounter them.

The settings where these relationships can be started with cult members are many and are where Christians should be nurturing them. That means meeting them on street corners when they distribute their magazines and tracts. That means going to their open houses and weekly study groups they advertise for those interested in hearing their perspectives. That means devoting time to spend it in their company. It means calling that toll free number and asking for a visit from a representative to visit your home. And it especially means taking the time out to have a lunch visit with a friend or co-worker who has something "special" to share with you in a far more informal and personal way, or lingering in an aisle in a bookstore or on a doorstep in engaging discussion.

These latter examples are usually the best opportunities in which building a personal relationship with a cultist can be best done. Relationships you build with a cultist will become the load bearing bridge over which the dialogue that explores their faith is best supported. In this vein, I'd say the "best" place you can hope to find yourself in relationship building with a cultist is if you can successfully get yourself alone them, especially if it can be done on a regular basis. Apart from their cult peers, it gives him/her the opportunity to be more authentic, less guarded, and more open to hearing you out. It also affords you time to directly address the cultic mind control they're likely laboring under with lines of inquiry that you can make more personal.

It is important to listen to them in order to gain and establish a relationship.

At what point to we gain or regain conversation in order that there is a control of conversation while still maintaining a healthy respect for their belief but yet still trying to win them for Christ?

Anyone, including cult members, deserves to be shown respect in any conversation held with them. Truly meaningful communication of truth depends upon it. Conversation should be a two way street in which two people freely exchange ideas through questioning, answering, listening and challenging in a spirit of inquiry.

However, while cultists are people always ready for a good discussion, they don't let on that their chat is driven by the cult's missionary desire to make converts.

Never forget this!

As friendly, transparent and sincere as they may seem, the goal is always the same - they will see you as a sheep in need of their shepherd. This is a chilling effect on their ability to actually dialogue with you - it's also been seriously compromised as a result of the mind controlling indoctrination that they have been conditioned with which all but shuts down their ability to critically think through an issue you may raise. Questions raised and subjects tackled are quickly determined to be "safe" or "off-limits" to the cult member on the basis of what they've been taught. This is because the group usually has trained them to speak with outsiders as if they were all potential converts, as those in need of enlightenment, and therefore, who are wallowing in spiritual deficiency and ignorance. Their arguments and passion are going to be reserved for self-expression that serves the cult's agenda of winning them to their belief system.

This is the kind of personal connection, challenge and rapport that they want to establish with you so as to lead you into an amenable frame of mind that will more easily entertain their movement's propaganda. The scripted presentations, invitations and testimonial that laud the cult are meant to evoke in you a desire to explore the ways of such an upright group. They are seamlessly woven into the conversation and become an undeniably alluring song which cultism sings so sweetly and seductively as it calls to you to join their ranks and come to the light. If you allow the conversation's time to be dominated by their singing of the cult's praises, the kind of communication you are trying to foster simply will not occur - indeed, you'll end up find the going get frustrating and even confusing. You will walk away wondering what happened and the cultist more convinced then ever that they've found the truth.

Bearing in mind, then, that you will be approached with a sales pitch hidden in "sharing," you must purpose in both heart and mind that you have to keep some measure of control over the conversation within the common bonds of civility. To encourage openness to the cult member, as well as signal respect for his belief system, hearing them out is certainly necessary as well as polite but when seeking to continue fruitful discussion with a cult member, establishing boundaries for the flow of the discussion is of critical importance. If not carefully watched for, the cult member will go on to seek control over your time of interaction with an indoctrinating presence. Inevitably, then, after a season of listening to the cultist, you must seek to guide the conversations you have with cult members and keep the focus on the topics that you determine are going to be most helpful in addressing the truth claims and testimonial they will offer to you.

Remember that if you're going to be of any real help to the cult member, you are going to have studied up on what they believe and be familiar with why they believe it is true. Before you can share the Gospel of Christ with a cultist, you must be familiar with the false gospel of the cult he's trying to represent to you and then learn why the individual embraces its' truth claims. You should have some working knowledge about crucial terminology differences they have when using religious and non-religious language that can foster misunderstanding and even deception.

It is only during and after a careful hearing out of what a cultist shares that you'll start seeing where your discussion should proceed if you're determined to bring Christian witness in your personal response, witness to the Gospel of Christ as well as witness that helps lead them back from the blinding of the mind that the cult has inflicted them with so they might be free once more to make their own choices for truth and not merely become mechanized robots reciting a cultic creed (2 Corinthians 4:4).

So the usage of focusing questions that help turn the conversation back to the direction you feel it should go should be used. Just one good question added to your conversational flow can have this effect and get the cultist out of his pre-programmed response track and out of his comfort zone toward critical thought without his actually knowing it. Focusing questions asked in sincere intent should zero in on an issue the cult member is aware of but which encourages their interaction on a line of inquiry that draws them toward a real grappling with truth. The question can take any form attempting to address the cult mind control they labor under, their own misunderstanding of a historical event the cult makes much over, a reexamination of sound doctrine they've been taught is Satanically inspired, etc.

Discussing these and other issues can make an already long answer into a book. We'll suggest some resources shortly to read, and invite you to discuss these with us locally here in Cleveland. We're always available!

How do you get someone in a cult to be receptive to you, because most are secretive and closed off to their group or cult?

Show honest concern, curiosity, and openness to hearing them out. It's that simple.

Everyone wants to feel that they are being heard, being heeded, being paid attention to. Inviting a hearing of the cult's beliefs and personal story is a dinner bell for them for which their reserve will fall. The important thing to keep in mind is that as you show this genuine concern that you don't become a sponge that uncritically accepts whatever you're told at face value. Be a very active listener who employs listening skills informed by information about cultism and the cult in general to hear them out as way of giving them their civil due and hearing them out - while simultaneously analyzing their dogma and protecting yourself with an objective inner viewpoint which should intentionally informs your understanding.

While the social isolation through indoctrination that we've mentioned which cults impose on their recruits as they consolidate their manipulative control over their members is a real problem, your willingness to seek to hear them out does wonders to bring those barriers down. The propaganda of the cult that had led them into insulating themselves from external perspectives and influences at the expense of their critical thought can be short circuited by the most simple of human responses - your honest body language that conveys to them that you are indeed listening and seeking to understand them where they are.

If you can successfully cultivate this kind of mindset and manner each time you want to share with a cultists, you are in an excellent position to bring to bear sensitive, relevant and yet uncompromising sharing of the Gospel with them.

In building a relationship with a cult member, how many times should you meet with them and how much time is safe in order that we maintain the relationship without risking our own faith?

In discussing our faith to them and trying to breakdown the errors in their doctrine and theology, what is an appropriate way of correcting their doctrine in such a way that shows a spirit of humility and yet still one of Christ's authority?

How do you keep yourself from getting into long debates? When do you know it's time to end the conversation?

Building any kind of relationship always takes time and effort. Connecting a member of the Cultworld with that of your own will require this kind of work. Whatever comes up, however, rest assured that every encounter can be a divine appointment in which you can deliver truth in the fashion we've just outlined. Each meeting can be a golden opportunity to plant not only the seeds of the Word of God but thistles of irrefutable doubt in their cult's worldview, belief system and relationships that will challenge the mind control and indoctrination they labor under. Such doors are those that I am convinced God desires the church to walk through, if they will but be willing to go. He can and will open them before us.

So therefore, if God grants you the opportunity to maintain ongoing contact with a cultist, try to meet with the cult member as often as you possibly can. If you can do so, we'd recommend keeping the dialogue limited to an hour or so on a regular weekly or biweekly basis and focused upon a specific topic or subject. These are efforts worthy of pursuit and should be understood as if they were long distance runs rather than sprints. Pacing the flow of discussion by limiting it's scope to specific and agreed upon issues at hand is going to be of crucial importance for yourself and your cult member friend.

You should be aware that how and what you will address in your dialogues will be determined by the kind of relationship you have. Is the cult member a friend, co-worker or even family member with whom there's a high probability that you'll be able to see them more or less on a regular basis? Is the cult member a Jehovah's Witness at a bus stop or an LDS missionary knocking on your door that you may not see again?

Most of the time it's more likely that you will find that the kind of encounters with cultists you'll have will indeed be transitory, one-time visitations in which you're going to have only one opportunity to share with a cultist. But that's not always the case. Sometimes the cult member is a loved one who wandered away from the church into the open arms of a cult. You're going to usually be a lot more direct with a one time meeting then one in which your aunt is being recruited by a cult. If you're going to outright engage in evangelistic discussion, then a direct focus on the doctrines of salvation that the cult has indoctrinated them is going to be the best approach, aware that the cult mind control issue should be directly tackled. If you're going to be seeing them regularly, you can and should be more careful in choosing the direction of the sharing.

This is a vital point because those meetings should involve interaction that proceeds only at a pace you are comfortable with in which you are keenly aware of your own interpersonal limits as well as how you intend to tackle the discussion. Never forget the old Greek dictum "Know thyself" - that is to say, be fully aware of your personal boundaries in handling the levels of challenge that your dialogue will present to you. The question above very wisely and intuitively recognizes that witnessing to a cultist - as in any evangelistic encounter - can be a spiritually dangerous enterprise. Keep in mind that the cult member is quietly taking your measure also and is going to be doing what they can to convince and convert you over to their cause. Every moment of presence in a cultist's life is a moment in which deception and confusion is a real hazard that shouldn't be easily dismissed. The hazard can and should be countered by the working knowledge about the cult and its teachings as well as an understanding of the social dynamics behind the cult's appeal that gives you the objective point of view necessary to keep their claims in a balanced perspective.

There can be moments, however, in which the cultist's objections and questions linger when you cannot answer them. Don't worry. It's not at all wrong to admit that you don't have an answer to a question and to advise them you're going to be thinking about it and would like to get back with them on it. Walk away if you need to but don't fail to get some help in tackling the question with other mature believers and countercult ministries and workers. There always is an answer to a cultist's objections - and no matter how personal it may strike you or affecting, it is a challenge that can and must be directly addressed.

In this regard, then, proceed no faster in your sharing on concepts under discussion that you can safely follow. It is infinitely better to tackle one issue only in an encounter then jump from subject to subject willy-nilly with no sense of focus. This is why conversational control is so important. stay on the subject and only detour from it when it is absolutely necessary to do so (such as defining terms or explaining concepts vital to the subject at hand). Keep the initiative and direction of the discussion or you may find yourself being bombarded with a torrent of tangents that will waste your time addressing.

Long debates over truth claims are indeed the very things you want to avoid at all costs. Debates break out when both the countercult worker and the cultist are unwilling or unable to yield a point of contention that will rapidly escalate into a defensive battle where claims, Bible verses, counterclaims, tempers fly hot and fast - so fast that communication breaks down and things get unnecessarily personal and polarizing. Listen to the dry observation of the church father Tertullian about such a debate he encountered in his second century African community:

It happened very recently a dispute was held between a Christian and a Jewish proselyte. Alternately with contentious cable they each spun out the day until evening. By the opposing din, moreover, of some partisans of the individuals, truth began to be overcast by a sort of cloud.

Although this incident took place almost two millenia ago, as you can see, some things never change. Tertullian shrewdly observed that long drawn out argumentation in a group of Christians and false teachers of two opinions can easily lead to the obscuring of the most important point of all – the truth itself! When this happens, the situation has gotten out of hand and has to be reigned in.

Disagreement is inevitable in the dialogue you'll have with a cultist, but avoidance of full blown debate is a top priority. Avoid debates by refusing to argue a point that the cult member seems to want to keep dealing with, even after you've offered your opinions on it. They're trying to pull you off topic to a subject they want to keep pressing home with. Agree to disagree and politely move the conversation along. Offer to study the issue at a later date and keep the conversation guided in the direction you want it in.

At this point, you simply must let the fruit of the Spirit be seen in you (Gal. 5:22-23)! Cultists will indeed argue as forcefully for their religion with their manifold arguments and be quite trying as they disagree with you in an effort to refute your speech. Be calm and cheerful, and don't blow your top at stubbornness! They may reject your message, but they cannot escape the witness of a peaceful, longsuffering Christian. It should be remembered that D.L. Moody, the 19th century American evangelist, once said that of 100 people, one would read the Bible, and the other 99 would "read the Christian." What an indictment of the power of the moderate, Spirit-led temperament of the Christian countercult worker when dealing with what is certainly one of the most potentially toxic and defiling challenges to one's faith that you can face.

You should end the conversation with a cultist if:

1) the cult member shows that they've come to the point where they cannot entertain your conversation with anything else except baiting accusation aimed at inflammatory exchanges (Acts 6:9-13) ; in otherwords, they've just decided to dump on you to watch your reaction ..

2) by God's grace you've made a couple of good, sound observations that have led a cult member to recognize a truth claim they've never considered before so as to give them time to think about it(Acts 17:32) ; and

3) if you begin to feel overwhelmed by the questions the cult presents and feel that you can't keep track of the conversation.

How can you talk to a cultist about the Gospel when they are not a bit receptive to it and even against it? If they are not receptive at all and want nothing to do with you, do you give up?

Keep the counsel of our Lord comes to mind when encountering a cult member - or anyone else - who is intent on simply acting out their spiritually proud mockery of Christian truth. He commanded in Matthew 7:6 to his disciples that they were to "give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." The offering of spiritual truth to those who would mock it is a pointless and fruitless exercise that only heaps further divine condemnation upon the mocker as they insult and blaspheme it (Romans 1:18-22).

The apostle Paul's mandate in Titus 3:10 is that "a man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself." This suggests that the Christian countercult worker, in what may be a final exercise of God's grace being extended to them, should endeavor to supply to even the mocking cult member at least two exhortations to hear out the truth you've come to discuss with them. Beyond this, Paul says, we are to "reject" the person firmly. The Greek verb paraiteomai is an imperative one that can be translated as decline, shun, avoid, refuse, reject. It can't be any plainer then this ..

At this point, the Bible seems clear: we're called to be witnesses of the Gospel of Christ and not providers of holy doormats for false teachers like cultists to tread upon. We should take our apostolic authority as Christians and politely withdraw from further discussion with them, consigning them to God's judgment and rebuking them for their rejection of the truth. I've had LDS missionaries go so far as to take their Buster Browns off and shake the dust off of them in response when a conversation ended in this way, in their own arrogant mimickry of the apostolic anathemas seen in Mark 6:11 and Acts 13:51. Sadly, they bring the witness of judgment only upon their own heads since they have utterly failed to realize that you were the servant of God sent into their own lives by divine visitation (Job 10:12, Luke 19;22 and 1 Peter 2:12).

You have fulfilled your ministry by making the prayerful attempt to admonish them - if they reject you, they effectively reject the One who indeed sent you (Matthew 10:40). It is a sad and sobering thing to behold, but that's part of what it is to be a witness for Jesus Christ. We are simply obeying His commands by the power and leading of the Spirit of God and act accordingly to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). The rest is between the cult member and God. Pray that God have mercy upon them and yet work to enlighten them and commend them to His convicting ministry (John 16:7-11).

How do you follow up on an encounter with a cult when they don't have a number, address, etc. and when would you ever see them again?

As I've shared, there will be occasions in which you're going to encounter an itinerant and traveling cult missionary who only wants to "hit and run," but with whom you've established contact.

Be in the habit of carrying a personal calling card with your name, address, phone number and e-mail address before you leave. Calling cards still are a great way to provide a tangible source of contact with someone even in this day and age of digitized, cellular and Web based social networking. Encourage them to stay in touch with you.

We have created and used small card printing runs using our computer and word processing programs, but we'd recommend using for more professional results the inexpensive and yet amazingly well done work you can find at Vistaprint.com.

How do you go about studying the different cults and witchcraft without being drawn to it yourself?

Since we need to have sufficient homework done before we try to evangelize to a cult what are some reading materials that you would consider essential to our success in evangelizing to cults?

Are there books out there that give a Christian perspective on Jehovah's Witness and Mormon perspectives? I found that when placed in the middle of Salt Lake City surrounded by Mormon material I ended up feeling drowned in it and had an overwhelming confusion .. are there any books that highlight the Christian truths while walking through their beliefs?

Studying cults and the occult is an enterprise that involves dedicated search and acquisition of the individual culture behind the cult.

To get an objective and balanced understanding of the unique claims and worldview they advocate, you have to become a student of the cult's publications and media that presents their doctrine and practice in a more or less systematic fashion. It's not just comparative theological research you're looking for alone: you are also learning the vocabulary, social concerns, passions and interests that the cult intends its' members to fellowship with. This is of enormous importance in developing a working knowledge of a cult's inner private life and how it relates it to their outer public image. These cult produced books, CD's, videos, websites, magazines, tracts, etc. will be the kinds of resources that the cult itself uses to indoctrinate members and are usually not readily available, although with effort, time and money, they can be obtained readily enough.

The building of a personal library of these publications should be a top priority for the study process of each cult. Much information on various groups can be downloaded off the internet that they have prepared themselves, including DVD's and CD's full of scans of such publications. However, finding this literature often requires specialized searches as diverse as online collectors to garage sales, from used book bins to library book sales. My wife Joy actually found the entire 26 volume set of the Mormon Church's Journal Of Discourses (an absolutely mind boggling find) in a couple of dusty boxes at a backwoods flea market. I found the first two volumes of the Children of God's Mo Letters (another equally amazing discovery that the books were never to be circulated outside the cult) at a used book store in an airport the last time I flew almost 8 years ago. It's amazing what you can find.

Another vital angle of study is to become a student of the literature and testimonials offered by ex-members of cult groups. Ex-members can be your guides, translators, and mentors when coming to grips with an understanding of how the cult they were involved with actually functions and what to expect when you deal with them. Every cult has a host of people who disassociated themselves or were disfellowshipped from the group for a variety of reasons and who have much objective insight in the group's teaching and practice that simply cannot be ignored. In our work with cults over the years, we've come to realize that - contrary to the warped views of some self-styled academics and Christian figures who castigate countercult work as biased and judgmental - the views of ex-members are quite compassionate, balanced and factually-based.

While there are also ex-cult members whose writings, persona and approach to their cult are seriously imbalanced and indicate anger and integrity issues they struggle with in their post-cult life, there are far more who have been instrumental in helping provide for countercult workers balanced presentations of information and insight that would not have been achievable any other way.

You can find on our website the testimonies of many former members of Remnant Fellowship, for example, and a good friend of ours named Eric Kettunen left the LDS Church in the mid 1990's with his family and was among the first ex-Mormons to publish their testimonies through his website Recovery From Mormonism, which was devoted exclusively to providing the testimonies of other ex-LDS members. It routinely gets hundreds of thousands of visits each day. The testimonials of other people in other groups can be found in our Great Links page.

Become a student of the process of cult mind control itself. Cult mind control effectively shuts down how a cult member thinks and responds to your questioning to the point of altering personal identity so knowing how to tackle and deal with it simply demands that you also have a working knowledge of the thought reforming social dynamic that it actually is. The best books that detail how it works, how it can be recognized in cultic communal settings and how to tackle it are Steve Hassan's seminal "Combatting Cult Mind Control" and "Releasing The Bonds", Ronald Enroth's "Churches That Abuse" and Paul Martin's "Cult Proofing Your Kids". All of these books are available in either new or used forms on Amazon.com - the links above will help you get access to other sources for them. A Google video featuring a discussion by Hassan about how to deal with cultic mind control can be seen here amd how cult mind control is applied in cultic situations.

And become a student of the new generation of countercult books and resources that are now widely available. Such books, outside of a few books like the late and great Dr. Walter Martin's "Kingdom Of The Cults" simply didn't exist when I started to get involved in countercult work in the mid 1980's. Still, to quote the old newspaper editor, yes, Virginia, there ARE such books that compare cult doctrine and practice with Christian ones! They will need to share shelf space with your cult publications in your study and are absolutely essential ones to also help you navigate through the tangled reasoning and cunning misinformation that cult publications are laden with. We particularly recommend Ron Rhodes' excellent "Reasoning From The Scriptures" series written to refute LDS and Jehovah's Witness doctrine, as well as Bill McKeever's "Mormonism 101" and ex-Witness David Reed's outstanding series of books on the Watchtower and his seminal book on the mind controlling language of the cult. In our article on evangelizing cults, which you can download here as a PDF file, you will find a complete list of these and the other kinds of books you are asking about here.

And in the Great Links page on our website, you'll also find a mighty host of websites that provide countercult resources for research and study that simply cannot be ignored either. We particularily recommend the FactNet site and that of the International Cultic Studies Association. The Internet has revolutionized the way human beings communicate with one another and for that, we can truly thank God that we can now use this Net based blog to share all of this with you. You can even download to your MP3 players whole MP3 recordings of countercult teachings with just a few mouse clicks .. what a day we live in!

Finally, let's look at the excellent questions raised here on the seductiveness of cult dogma which should be squarely dealt with.

There is no denying that studying cult doctrine is not only difficult but can spiritually perilous. False, imbalanced and deceptive doctrine and practice has a lure all of its own because it is always mingled with elements of truth that fit into our own worldview and commend it to us. The presence of that which we can accept as true in false teaching makes it seem not only plausible and even Biblical. From a Christian perspective, people who are spiritually hungry but Biblically illiterate are prone to accepting a slickly polished and confidently delivered exposition of false doctrinal and practical teaching if 1) Scripture is cited heavily, 2) it seems to "hit us where we are" and 3) if it is presented in a way that leaves little to no room to test or question it. Reading false teaching and false doctrine will definitely become a challenge for those who study it if these any or all of these three trap doors unlatch beneath us as we examine it.

So the question can ultimately come down to how firm your grip is upon your own unresolved personal issues, for they can become the spiritual chink in your inner armor. Thinking that your grasp on sound and balanced doctrine is a sufficient hedge against cultic deception is a serious mistake. Underestimate this issue at your spiritual peril!

If you are grappling with unsettled problems and dissatisfactions with the church, deficiencies in your personal relationships, unfulfilled desires and frustrated idealism (and really, who doesn't?), then you must come to grips with the plain truth: you may unwittingly find yourself starting to second guess long established boundaries of discernment when you see how happy, centered and fulfilled a cultist seems to be in his cultic community. This is a subtlety of human nature we often don't like to admit ourselves, but it is perfectly natural to wonder how much greener the grass might be on the other side of the proverbial fence. Given the fact that cults can appear to be more "together" then the church itself, any personal knowledge of their manipulative and heretical nature of cultism can slowly cease to matter to you.

If this happens, you are entering exceedingly dangerous territory because you're cutting free the faculties of critical thought - only the convicting powerand grace of the Spirit of God can keep you at this point. When a deeply felt personal need becomes the self-motivation that entices you to re-examine the perspective again, your objectivity can easily become a casualty. This is the main reason why intelligent, sharp Christian people who "knew better" and should have been "smarter than that" now fill cult groups around the world - and why some countercult workers themselves can sometimes be recruited into the very Cultworld they had explored. There's a reason why seasoned Christian countercult workers see their labor as the front lines of the real kinds of spiritual warfare that are waged today and you are perhaps now seeing that.

That is where, however, you have the edge on the seductiveness of false teaching. The Bible makes clear that spiritual warfare is not something to be done by the religious Lone Ranger but in the context of a shared struggle alongside fellowsoldiers in Christ - remember that Paul wrote to the Ephesian church as a group in his classic exhortation of Ephesians 6:10 and verse 18 to fight spiritual battles with the full armor of God. Keeping in mind our discussion on knowing your limits, you've already been tipped that there's an underlying imbalance to the approach of studying cults that has to be carefully watched for. The Body of Christ is still "the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" for a reason, as Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:15 - we must hold fast to this apostolic truth.

Stay in touch with mature believers as you study, consider your limits and remember one simple principle: never stop asking questions of what ever cultic claim confronts you and seek the safety that counsel with fellow believers will bring (Proverbs 11:14). The media resources we've discussed will provide that for you as well, but there is nothing quite as stabilizing as frank discussion with countercult workers and mature believers. Seek their input as needed. Don't let the "canker" of false teaching become a toxin that poisons your walk with God - put it in its' place with sound study and discernment (2 Timothy 2:15-17).

As always, we stand ready to help in this regard. Stay in touch with us!

How is evangelism different between satanic cults and Christian cults?

I think you are asking for a discussion on the difference in evangelizing adherents to occultic movements and cults that assume a Christian and Bible-based identity (what some countercult researchers and organizations can call "Bible cults"). But this is a question I didn't understand. If you're out there reading this and would like to clarify it, please feel free to email us at rafael at spiritwatch.org and do so!

What is the greatest testimony you have personally heard of when a cultist came to know Christ?

It's hard to know how you would call one redeemed ex-cultist's testimony greater than another, even though there are those that are sodden with ghastly and horrific subtexts that simply have to be heard to be believed. The amount of de-humanizing degradation and objectification that cults inflict their followers with is truly, profoundly stunning .. that any cultist somehow cherishes and nurtures a heart flame of faith to commit it once again to the unknown God they've been searching for in a cultic wilderness is perhaps the most touching, troubling and soul-shattering gesture of the human spirit you can ever see.

So much is made today about "deliverance" today in certain Christian circles that I wonder if the plain sense of the word as used in Scripture is being lost by the church. Personally, I believe that true Biblical deliverance is a glorious rescue that anyone - including any cultist - can cry out to God's mercy and receive. The cultist who turns to Christ truly is one Paul alludes to who is among the great multitude of believers who eternally should be "giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:12) Thanks be to God for His mercy that calls out from all the darkest places of human wickedness a people unto Himself ... may God make of you apostles to the Cultworld where such victories yet await the battles to win them as He would have them waged!

Here's a few testimonies you can read that certainly fill the bill: that of Dennis and Rauni Higley, Paul Blizard, Carolyn Poole, and Karen Pressley.

Have you personally had a relationship with a cult member and actually led them out of their cult to Christianity? if so, could please share that experience?

I have my time with a gathering of ex-cultists who turned to Christ to thank for changing my life - it was my vicarious relationship with them that forever altered the course of my ministry.

It was at the Blue Mountain Christian Retreat, October of 1993 and this would turn out to be one of the most life-changing moments I've ever had. This was one of those times you remember where you were.

After 2 days of worshipping with and talking to and hearing the testimonies of ex-Jehovah's Witnesses who turned to Christ, I knew God had led me into a world of desperate human need that the church doesn't even know really exists but which needs the Gospel as badly as any other mission field .. that being the sea of humanity deceived, traumatized and in bondage to false religion.

I remember leaving the service that night, preached by an ex-Witness elder who'd come to Christ and became a Pentecostal minister, my head filled with the memories of the tears, the sorrows, the laughter, the hope and the despair of that group of two hundred people from all over the United States who gather there yearly. My heart and mind were completely blown away from what really, truly was that uncommonly amazing grace they'd found in the arms of the Savior and what to a man and woman they testified to.

It was a completely black, still autumn night with a cold starfield burning down above that hilltop resort. I listened to the wind sighing through the trees, felt the cold bite through my light jacket and realized I could not look at the world the same any longer. I know now that I was changing the direction of my ministry completely. I might never church plant nor pastor. But I barely knew then somehow that I'd turned a corner .. and today, I am now beginning to really get a grasp on that ..

I can't walk away from this.

I remember the Macedonian Call .. I can't stop taking the phone calls and talking to anxious people who've lost their loved ones to some cultic mind trap.

I can't stop from rising up to oppose the blasphemy and lies that cults generate to confuse and destroy.

I can't walk away from those who have called to us to help, fine choice brothers and sisters around the world who labor where no one else cares to go, especially when most of the church ignores the mission field that not only knocks at their door but slips in and then out of their church's revolving door

With preachers and ministries and well worn paths in church work extending everywhere else and with the memories of this and other instances in helping those ripped off by false religion and left for dead, I cannot walk away from this countercult work which few, if anyone else, really labors in to pursue pastoral work.

Our work continued fervently since that cold night on that Pennsylvanian mountain. Since then, we have had many relationships with cult members as well as ex-members. We've actually had connections with Remnant Fellowship members who were still in the group but who requested dialogue with us. We also actually helped a family narrowly escape the mind controlling snare of Remnant Fellowship several years ago. They were related to some friends of ours here in Cleveland and we spent almost four to five hours working with them to reconsider their decision to affiliate with Remnant after leaving one of Remnant's summer camps in Franklin, Tennessee only 2 hours drive of here. That truly was a memorable evening.

Perhaps the video below will show one of the most personally fulfilling and satisfying kinds of ministry we've ever had in this regard in terms of helping some one out of a cult .. enjoy it! Perhaps the video below will show one of the most personally fulfilling and satisfying kinds of ministry we've ever had in this regard in terms of helping some one out of a cult .. enjoy it!




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