There are no new heresies, only old wolves dressed up in new sheep’s clothing. When we view the heresies of the first five centuries of Christianity, we see that all of the modern “cults” which threaten the Christian Church are based on one or more of these ancient heresies.
Heresiology, or the study of heresies, is useful to Christians. The study of false doctrine can give us a fresh and succinct understanding of Truth. A heretic is literally a “divisive man.” The primary level of heresy includes deviations from the essential truths defined by the Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian, and Chalcedonian Creeds. The secondary level of heresy includes other doctrinal errors, which do not necessarily result in eternal damnation. We should not always use the word “heresy” for these secondary disputes over the non-essentials, but should simply say: “I believe this is error.” We must agree on the essentials as defined by creedal orthodoxy; but we may disagree over the non-essentials; and in all things we must act out of love even towards those who are guilty of denying Christ. We should use the following rule: “In essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; and in all things charity.”
During the Apostle Paul’s ministry, the Corinthian church, which he founded, was in danger of being corrupted by heresies and receiving a spirit other than Christ. Paul warned the Corinthians that Satan was able to appear as “an angel of light” (1 Cor. 11:14). In other words, a heresy may contain a partial truth, but be false at its core. Paul taught that heresies, although wicked and of the devil, had a purpose in God’s overall plan.
“For first of all, when you come together in the church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” (1 Cor. 11:18,19).
Wherever there has been the Church, there have always been divisions and heresies. Divisiveness is of the devil, but Paul says, “there must be heresies.” Paul does not mean to say that divisive spirits are good, or that they should be esteemed. He means to teach that heresies serve God’s purpose. God allows Satan to bring a faction or a heresy into a church as the antithesis to the Truth. God’s purpose is to approve in the eyes of men those who hold to the true Gospel.
No individual can claim to know perfect truth, but a Christian may purpose in his heart to persevere through all false accusations or divisive spirits that attack him and stand as “Athanasius against the world,” as one who will never compromise the Gospel. If he maintains a right spirit, then God will use the opposition to approve him.
Three Primary Heresies
After the destruction of the pagan Roman Empire, Satan infested the Church with heresies. In the early centuries A.D., there had been a glorious work of God in delivering the Church from her heathen persecutors, and overthrowing the pagan empire. But the days of the Church’s persecution were not ended. After the time of Constantine, there was a time of peace. But the Church was then attacked from within through the infestation of heresies.
In the first five centuries of the Church, there were three broad categories of primary heresies. These were the Gnostic, Arian, and Pelagian heresies. I will give three brief definitions of these heresies; I will then show how all heresies and errors are related to one of these primary heresies; and finally, I will show how all modern cults and false ideologies reproduce one or more of these ancient heresies.
The Gnostics appeared in the first century and are represented by the numerous mystery religions which came out of the East. According to the Apostle John, these “mysteries” came out of “Babylon” (Rev. 17:5). By the end of the first century, Gnosticism had infected not only the New Testament Church, but also Judaism. Gnosticism adopted many Christian and Jewish elements, and had become a major threat to Christianity. Gnosticism held that spirit is good, matter is evil, salvation consists in deliverance of the spirit from matter, and salvation is achieved by means of a secret or higher “knowledge” (Greek: gnosis). The Gnostics taught that the Supreme God was transcendent and unapproachable, but from Him came a series of progressively more inferior emanations called aeons. The lowest of these aeons was “Jehovah.” Christ is one of the highest aeons. Since all matter is evil, they taught that Christ was a spirit being only and had only an apparent body, or the doctrine of Docetism. Some taught that Christ was a spirit, being temporarily associated with the man Jesus who died, or the doctrine of Cerinthianism. Gnostic views of the Godhead were opposed by John in his writings, by Paul in Colossians, and by the writings of the Church Fathers and apologists.
The Arians arose soon after the Emperor Constantine came to the throne. Arius was a priest at Alexandria in the early fourth century. He denied the doctrine of the Trinity, and the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Arius maintained that Christ and the Holy Spirit were “lesser gods” and creations of the Father. Arianism combines elements of both Gnosticism and Pelagianism. This heresy has been compared to the flood out of the mouth of the serpent, which threatened to carry away the woman (Rev. 12:15). This heresy arose in the Church, and prevailed like a flood, threatening to carry away the Church, so much so that before the fourth century was finished, the greater part of the Christian Church had become Arian. There were even some emperors, successors of Constantine, who were Arians. So the Arians, being the prevailing party, had the civil authority on their side to persecute the true Church. They were opposed by Athanasius and finally defeated in the fifth century.
The Pelagians arose in the beginning of the fifth century. This heresy was begun by Pelagius, who was born somewhere in Britain. His British name was “Morgan.” Pelagius denied original sin and the influence of the Spirit of God in conversion. He taught that the human will had the power to obtain salvation. This heresy greatly infested the church for a time. Pelagius’ principal antagonist was Augustine, the fifth century Bishop of Hippo, who wrote in defense of the orthodox faith. The Council of Orange was convened in 529, which condemned Pelagianism, and essentially confirmed Augustinian doctrine with some modifications as being the true catholic faith.
Babylon, Alexandria and Britain stand as symbols of the Eastern, Middle, and Western worlds. Although it is a great generalization, it is useful for our study of heresies. We may associate man-centered heresies with the West, God-centered heresies with the East, while Arianism combines errors of both Eastern and Western thinking.
Prior to the time of Pelagius, Gnosticism and Arianism were the main threats to the Church. In the early centuries, the schools of theology centered around Antioch, Alexandria and other cities in the East. Most of the heresies during this time dealt with a wrong understanding of the nature of God and Christ — or with theology and Christology. By the fifth century, Rome had become the hub of Western Christianity. After this time, Christian theology began to settle more on answering questions about man and salvation — or anthropology and soteriology. In the East, theology has changed little, because Eastern heresies were answered early by the Church. But in the West, theology has developed more strongly along the lines of soteriology, because of a Pelagian tendency in Western thought. Pelagianism is considered a primary heresy by all Christians. If anyone teaches that man is basically good and we are saved by our own works, then that is a primary heresy, because it denies the atoning work of Christ on the cross. True Christianity does not teach this.
The Seed of the Serpent
From the writings of Paul, John and other Apostles, we see that not only are our 20th century heresies similar to those of the early Church, but that Satan has been a liar from the beginning, and has used the same strategy to turn man’s heart from God.
“As the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).
We are not born into this world divorced from Truth; but Truth is obscured in our minds through the sin of Adam. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, the Apostle writes of the “natural revelation” that is made known to all men.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:18-21).
Original sin is the “unrighteousness of men” spoken of in this passage of Scripture. All of us inherited sin nature from the original sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Original sin is not our individual acts of sin, but the sin nature (or the flesh) that all people are born with. Thus all wrong thinking about God and man is traceable to original sin. In fact, all wrong thinking about everything is due to man being out of right relationship with God. All heresies are a replay of deception that was carefully orchestrated by a subtle enemy.
The pattern of original sin, or “four steps to apostasy,” is found in Genesis 3:1-4: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” … ‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.’”
Likewise, there is a four-stage process by which a culture is emptied of Christian orthodoxy and ethics and is filled with heresies and doctrinal errors which provide a counterfeit spirituality. The following are the four steps to apostasy.
Step #1: Forget about God — “Did God really say …?”
Step # 2: Forget God’s laws — “You must not eat from any tree in the garden?”
Step # 3: Make up new gods — “You will not surely die … your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God …” (the god of SELF).
Step #4: Make up new laws — “… knowing both good and evil.”
God created man for relationship with Him. After the sin of Adam and Eve, God sent His only Son to pay the price for our sins so that fellowship with Him may be restored and maintained. The message of salvation is readily received by a person who sees clearly his need for redemption. A person who is in right relationship with God sees the world around him in correct perspective. Christian orthodoxy and correct opinions on all things come from this right relationship with God and reliance on the Word of God as the standard for all truth.
Because God created man for relationship with Him, there is in all unsaved people a realization of a “God-shaped void.” Those who reject faith in Jesus Christ will always create a heretical theology which either emphasizes the spiritual and perverts the divine aspect of reality, or emphasizes the material and exalts the human side of reality.
We commonly see a paradigm shift, which can move entire culture in just one generation from a tendency to Adoptionism and Pelagianism towards Docetism and Gnosticism. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Adoptionist heresies were more common than they are today. We see in the “higher critics” search for the “historical Jesus” (and in rationalism, naturalism, nihilism and existentialism) a strong tendency toward Pelagian error — the idea that man can perfect himself. This tendency toward man-centered error originated in the 18th century Enlightenment and continued for about 200 years in full force.
Thirty or more years ago in the United States and in other Western nations, we began to see a shift. In one generation, we forgot about God and God’s laws. Christian ethics were scorned and discarded by the younger generation. The end result of the 1960s was symbolized by the “Woodstock Nation” — a drug induced orgy of rock music celebrating rebellion. But the absence of God and His laws created a spiritual vacuum. After the emergence of the “flower child” generation, new religions, such as Transcendental Meditation and a variety of cults, made inroads into our culture. The most popular of these new gods was, of course, SELF. The children of the 1970s became known as the “Me” generation. By the 1980s, the West had made up new laws. A society had been formed without Christian ethics. A mass amnesia had set in and most were unaware that they lived in what was once a Christian culture. By the end of the 1980s, the West had become a post-modern society, free of absolute values and Christian ethics. The revolution had been completed.
Most of the youth of Western culture today are truly rebelling against the God of the Bible. But in their minds, they despise the caricature of God offered by Pelagian and Adoptionist heresies. As C. FitzSimmons Allison has pointed out in The Cruelty of Heresy, most modern nihilistic rage against the Christian faith is in reality a rebellion against a heretical conception of God. This is how this generation’s rebellion came to full fruition.
As we enter the 21st century, astrology, witch covens, paganism, vampire cults, and strange religions practicing bizarre rites are thriving as we have not seen since the 17th century. For 200 years, Adoptionist tendencies were the main threat to Christian orthodoxy in the West. But today, the Christian Church must be prepared to meet an even more dangerous distortion in the Gnostic and Docetic direction.
The following is primer on modern cults. You cannot fight what you do not know. Recognize the signs of the times and educate yourself to Arian cults, Gnosticism and the New Age movement. Educate yourself about Wiccan, Pagan, satanic, and Gothic vampire cults. Educate yourself as to what young people are learning in the public schools and on college campuses. The enemy is gathering his army and even now is on the attack. This is your call to prepare for all out war.
Modern Pelagian Cults
There has always been a strong Pelagian tendency in the West. Man-centered heresies have most often taken the form of the religion of modernism or humanism. Over the centuries, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and many Protestant Churches have succumbed to varying degrees of semi-Pelagianism.
At first glance, humanism does not seem like a religion, because it either denies God or sees God as unimportant to man’s success and happiness in the world. But humanism is a cult, and the culture that springs out of humanism has now dominated the West for the past 200 years. Deism, rationalism, naturalism, Freudianism, Marxism, Darwinism, nihilism, and existentialism are each expressions of humanism. On the base level, they are Pelagian heresies. They each express the idea that man can save himself either through human progress, science, social engineering, evolution, psychology or philosophy. They each teach that man’s efforts can create a better world.
Although humanistic worldviews have been in vogue since the 1700s, humanism is now collapsing upon itself. In the 1990s, we have seen the collapse of Marxist communism in the world. Now we are seeing the beginnings of the death throws of Western humanism. Few people still believe that science has the ability to create a utopian world. According to a 1996 poll by John F. Kennedy Jr.‘s George magazine, fewer Americans believe Darwin’s theory of evolution than when it first became popular. What we are seeing now in the West is a reaction against rationalism, materialism and modernism. Nihilism and existentialism have given way to postmodernism, which is essentially a philosophy which says: “We can’t go any further without starting over. What is left? It’s all been done before and thought of before.”
Today more and more people are willing to grope for a spiritual solution to their problems. Therefore, we have seen a growing fascination with the East and the emergence of many Arian and Gnostic cults as a response to the failure of Western rationalism to provide the answers.
Modern Arian Cults
Many Arian cults reemerged in the late 19th and early 20th century. The root of Arianism can be found in the serpent’s subtle questioning of God’s authority. “Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Gen. 3:1). Arian cults begin by questioning the authority of the Word of God and the most vital doctrines of the orthodox catholic faith. Through skillful Scripture twisting, the devil has promoted the same old lie, telling modern seekers of truth, “You will not die, for God knows that on the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing both good and evil” (Gen. 3:4,5). This is how Satan always contradicts the Word of God, by denying the punishment of eternal hell for unrepentant sinners, and by promising God-like status to those who depart from Truth.
The most successful cults which have promoted Arianism are Mormonism, Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Way, and the Unification Church. Each of these cults claims to be the one true church of Jesus Christ. Each uses the Bible, and calls Jesus “the Son of God.” Yet a brief examination of each will show that they are Arian cults, combining elements of Gnosticism and Adoptionism, yet denying the full deity of Jesus Christ, His atoning work of death on the Cross, and salvation by faith in Christ alone. These cults also have an unorthodox view of the Second Coming of Christ and eternal judgment.
Mormonism (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, founded by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young) — Believes the Bible to be the Word of God as far as it is translated correctly; they also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. They accept the divinity of Jesus, but also the divinity of all “latter day saints” (i.e. Mormons). Jesus was the first of many “sons of God” who can be recognized as “manifestations of the Divine.” The true identity of Jesus Christ is not the Father God, but the father of spirits who have taken bodies upon this earth; He is one of them. He is the Son just as all “latter day saints” are sons or daughters of Elohim.
On the atonement, Joseph Smith taught that there were certain sins so grievous that those who commit them will be beyond the power of the atonement of Christ. If these “grievous offenses” are committed, then the blood of Christ will not cleanse men from their sins even if they repent. Therefore, their only hope is to have their own blood shed to atone, as far as possible, on their own behalf.
On the conditions for salvation, Mormonism teaches that through the Atonement of Christ and by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel, all mankind may be saved. Mormons believe that the ordinances of the Gospel are: (1) Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; (2) Repentance; (3) Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; (4) Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
On the final state of non-believers, the teaching of Mormonism is somewhat complicated. First, all creation will be restored from a mortal state to an immortal state. This transformation comes to all mankind, but also to animals. All creatures are spiritual and are to be redeemed. Second, the “Sons of Perdition” are only human members, and are thought to be a very small portion of the human race. They will be permanently consigned to hell and will suffer the wrath of God for all eternity together with the devil and his angels. Third, the “Celestial Kingdom” is prepared for the righteous, those who have been faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord, and have been cleansed of all their sins. Fourth, the “Terrestrial Kingdom” will be located on some sphere other than the earth (presumably another planet). Into this kingdom the following will go: (1) Accountable persons who die without law; (2) Those who reject the gospel in this life but who repent and accept it in the spirit world; (3) Honorable men of the earth who are blinded by the craftiness of men and who therefore do not accept and live the gospel law; (4) Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are lukewarm in their devotion to the Church and to righteousness.
Christian Science (Church of Christ Scientist, founded by Mary Baker Eddy) — Teaches that the Bible is the only authority, and that the Bible provides “scientific revelation.” Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, is believed to be “the voice of Truth to this age.” They teach that the “spiritual Christ” was infallible, but hold the Adoptionist view that Jesus, was born a mere man, and was not the Christ. In healing the sick and sinners, Jesus demonstrates for us how to follow the “Divine Principle” and the “Christ-spirit.” Christ is the “ideal Truth,” who comes to heal sickness and sin through Christian Science, and who attributes all power to God. Jesus is the name of a mere man who, more than all other men, has imitated Christ, “the true idea of God.” Jesus is the human man, and Christ is the divine idea; hence the duality of Jesus Christ. He is “the spiritual or true idea of God.”
On the atonement, Mary Baker Eddy taught that salvation was a mental assent to truth. The real atonement is understood in the example of Christ’s life. That God’s wrath should be vented upon His beloved Son, or that God required human blood to satisfy His justice and bring His mercy, is viewed as “divinely unnatural.” Christ’s sacrifice, however great, was insufficient to pay the debt of sin. According to Eddy, “The material blood of Jesus was no more efficacious to cleanse from sin when it was shed upon the cross, than when it was flowing in his veins as he went daily about his Father’s business.”
Salvation for Christian Science is to deny that sin has any reality, and never to admit that sin can have any intelligence, power, pain or pleasure. Man conquers sin by denying its existence.
On the Second Coming of Christ, Christian Science teaches that this event is synonymous with the advancement of the idea of God as taught by Christian Science. In the 1800s, one expositor of Daniel chapter 9 fixed the year 1866 or 1867 for the return of Christ. Mary Baker Eddy believed it was fitting that those were the first two years of her “discovery” of Christian Science.
On the final state of non-believers, Christian Science teaches that man enters into a period of probation after death, which is the necessity of his immortality. Therefore evil is mortal and will be destroyed. If man should not progress after death, but should remain in error, then he would be eventually self-annihilated.
Jehovah’s Witnesses (Watchtower Tract and Bible Society) — Teaches that the Bible is the standard by which to judge all religions. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own translation of the Bible, which confirms their Arian doctrines. Some tracts of the Jehovah’s Witnesses refer to Arius as a forefather of the true faith. They teach that Jesus was a “spirit person,” just as God is a Spirit. Jesus was a “mighty one,” although not almighty as Jehovah God; that Jesus was the first “son of God” that Jehovah God brought forth. Jesus is called “the only begotten Son” of God because God had no partner in bringing forth his only begotten Son. Jesus is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Jesus is ranked with God’s creation, the first born, most beloved, and most favored among them. He is not the author of creation; but after God created him as his firstborn Son, God used him as His working partner in creating all the rest of creation.
On the atonement, they teach that the Son of God came to earth to die as a holy sacrifice to Jehovah God in order to cancel the sins of believing men, and to free them from death’s condemnation, that they might gain eternal life in the righteous new world which God has promised to create.
On the conditions of salvation, all who by reason of faith in Jehovah God and in Christ Jesus dedicate themselves to do God’s will and then faithfully carry out their dedication will be rewarded with everlasting life.
On the Second Coming of Christ, the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach a general “parousia” which does not mean Jesus is on the way or has promised to come physically to earth, but that He has already arrived and is here. Jesus Christ has already returned, not again as a human being, but as a glorious “spirit person.” Some Jehovah’s Witnesses taught that Christ returned to the earth spiritually in 1914, during the outbreak of World War One. They saw the symbolism of Revelation chapter six as speaking of this event.
On the final state on unbelievers after death, the Jehovah’s Witness do not believe in the doctrine of an eternal hell where the wicked are tortured eternally after death. They teach that hell is wholly unscriptural, unreasonable, contrary to God’s love, and repugnant to justice.
The Way International — Teaches the integrity and accuracy of the Word; that the Word must speak; members must accordingly harmonize their beliefs, actions and living according to the Word of God. They teach that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, not “God the Son” or “God Himself.” They teach that Jesus Christ was a man conceived by the Holy Spirit, God, whose life was without sin. He was the perfect sacrifice and became the redeemer.
On the atonement, they teach that Christ’s death on the cross indicates He was not one with God the Father. “Separating the Father from the Son does not at all discredit the Son. Rather, Trinitarian dogma degrades God from His elevated, unparalleled position; besides, it leaves man unredeemed. If Jesus Christ is God and not the Son of God, we have not yet been redeemed.”
The Way teaches that salvation comes when a person changes lordships when he confesses with his mouth a new Lord — Jesus Christ.
The Way teaches that the only visible and audible proof that a man has been born again and filled with the gift of salvation from the Holy Spirit is always that he speaks in a tongue or tongues.
The Unification Church (founded by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon) — Also known as the “Moonies,” the Unification Church teaches that until their “mission with the Christian church” is over, they must use the Bible to explain the “Divine Principle.” They believe that after they “receive the inheritance of the Christian church,” then they will be free to teach without the Bible. They believe that the Bible will be eclipsed by a greater revelation to come. They teach that historically, Jesus the Messiah came in Adam’s place to restore mankind; that He was not God himself; but that Jesus on earth was a man no different from us except for the fact that He was born without original sin.
On the atonement, they teach that Jesus failed in His mission, because He was crucified before He could marry. It was never God’s predetermined purpose that He die. The cross has been unable to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth by removing our original sin.
On salvation, the Unification Church teaches that after Jesus’ death on the cross, God could claim the souls of men, but could not give redemption to the body. Jesus failed to redeem man physically. Therefore, physical restoration is still to be accomplished by another Messiah at the Second Advent.
On the Second Coming of Christ, the Unification Church teaches that the Lord of the Second Advent is to be born on the earth as the King of Kings. They do not expect the return of Jesus himself, but another Messiah — a man to be born in Korea. He will be confirmed as the Messiah throughout the world.
On the final state of unbelievers after death, the Unification Church believes that the life spirits of those who have lived before will join the followers of Rev. Moon and will develop into divine spirits. Evil people will go through a similar reincarnation procedure. The law of “karma” is operative in this procedure. If any arrive in the spirit world with unpaid debts, they will have to work to pay what they owe to those they have sinned against.
Some Guidelines for Witnessing to Arian Cultists
In dealing with Arian cultists, it is not enough for the Christian to able to discern heresy and defend orthodoxy. It is also necessary to be able to discuss these issues in a way that helps the other person to come to the Truth. The following guidelines have been found to be important considerations.
1. Treat the other person with love and respect. One of the most common mistakes in dealing with cult-members is to regard them as the enemy to be defeated. It is important to remember that it is the heresy itself, not the adherent to it, that is to be defeated (2 Cor. 10:3-5). The person involved in the cult is to be rescued from heresy as one “snatched from the fire” (Jude 22,23). A sincere attitude of love and respect for the person is necessary in order for this to happen. Avoid heated argumentation and any form of abusive speech.
2. Stay focused on essential doctrines. The focus should stay on the essential doctrines of scripture and how the teaching of the cult denies them. Avoid getting into many of the particulars of the cult. They may be interesting, but tend to move the focus of the discussion away from essential scriptural doctrine. Also avoid attacking the founder or history of the cult. This kind of argumentation is fallacious: the behavior of the followers can neither verify nor falsify the cult’s doctrines. Christianity would fall prey to the same kind of attack, as any experienced cult member will be quick to point out!
3. Be prepared to ask specific and repeated questions about the cult’s stand on essential doctrines. Some cults school their people to avoid discussing concrete areas of doctrine. When this is the case, the Christian should insist that a clear answer be given to the doctrine in question.
4. Be prepared to discuss methods of biblical interpretation. Cult members are usually aware of the biblical passages which contradict their doctrines as well as the ones which supposedly support them. Because of this fact, the discussion will often center around the interpretation of the given texts. The Christian should be able to defend his interpretation of texts which support essential doctrines, and refute the wrong interpretation of the texts used by the cult member.
5. Respond to people according their degree of openness. It is unwise to have the same immediate goals for all people involved in a cult. Several factors should be considered in forming a realistic goal for the discussion.
— If the person is a highly committed member, one engaged in evangelism, then it is less probable that any significant change of mind will be seen in one discussion. It is usually best in this situation to give a clear and strong defense of the Christian position, coupled with an exposure of the key weak areas of the cult’s doctrine. If there is no willingness to deal honestly with the passages brought up, it is best to politely end the discussion on a friendly note.
— If the person is a “second-generation” member of the cult, then a greater degree of openness may be present. Stress the grace of God with this person.
— If the person is not a cult member, or if he is a new member, a high degree of openness is often present. The person is usually interested in spiritual things and the Bible, but has perhaps had exposure only to heretical doctrine or orthodox doctrine without proper defense. Stress the deity of Christ and the grace of God with this person, and show how the cult has misinterpreted passages to support its position.
Modern Gnostic Cults
Gnosticism has its roots in Eastern Monist religions that teach “All is God.” This deception can be found in the serpent’s false promise to the woman in the Garden, “Your eyes will be opened and you will be like God” (Gen. 3:5). Eastern Mysticism promises enlightenment and the attainment of God-like consciousness in the after life.
There are literally thousands of sects of Eastern religions teaching some form of Monism, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, Shamanism and Animism. There is not the space here to cover all these religions, which are not properly termed “cults,” but “world religions” with millions of adherents in the East. Instead, here is a brief listing of some of the modern Monist cults which have become popular the West during the 20th century.
Baha’i Faith — The Baha’i World Faith developed out of monotheistic Islam, but soon gravitated toward a Monistic religious philosophy of unity. Baha’i is named for a 19th century Persian follower of the Shi’ite sect of Islam, Baha’u‘llah, who claimed to be an “emanation” from God. Baha’u‘llah’s mission was to bring about the oneness of humanity. He believed in equality of all people, and the setting aside of the barriers of race, religion, and nationality which have been the principle causes of war. Baha’i is a religion of unity teaching that all the religions of the world are evolving into one world religion.
Baha’u‘llah wrote a series of books which he claimed replaced the Koran as the ultimate divine authority, just as the Muslims believe the Koran superseded the Christian Bible. This and his claim to be the “Manifestation of God” brought him into conflict with Muslim authorities in Persia. He spent most of his life in exile. He called upon all religions to unite, for every religion contains some truth because all prophets are witnesses to the one Truth that Baha’i represents. Because of their view of the evolutionary aspect of religion, Baha’is believe that every founder of a world religion was an emanation from God, Baha’u‘llah being the most recent one. Therefore, Baha’is believe that every conceivable worldview is true — Monotheism through Moses and Jesus, polytheism through Krishna, Monism through Buddha, and dualism through Zoroaster — and they insist that they are actually united in purpose and teaching. In this way, Baha’i is similar to Eastern religions which teach that “All Is One.”
Yet unlike Eastern Monism, the Baha’i Faith is essentially rationalistic rather than mystical. To accept doctrines which are difficult to human reason is seen as superstitious and not true religion. Baha’is interpret allegorically the biblical doctrines of the Trinity, the Resurrection of Christ, and the doctrines of heaven and hell. They hold that God is impersonal and unknowable. Baha’is fail to recognize that man fell from his original position with God. As a result, they believe that unregenerate man is capable of keeping the commandments of God. Not realizing that man’s problems stem from his heart, instead of the intellect, they think that education is the ultimate answer. There are approximately five million members worldwide.
Eckankar — Also known as the “Religion of Light and Sound,” Eckankar was founded in 1965 by Paul Twitchell of Paducah, Kentucky USA. Eckankar is essentially a sect of Hinduism. Twitchell studied Eckankar under masters in the Himalayas and India. With his self-proclamation as Eck master, Twitchell was considered to be God incarnate and the sole authority of Eckankar doctrine. The official scripture is Shariyal-Ki-Sugmad, but primary writings concerning Eckankar doctrine were authored by the current Eck master Harold Klemp, The Spiritual Exercises of Eck and The Dream Master. Other important books include those authored by founder Paul Twitchell, The Key to Secret Worlds of Eckankar and An Introduction to Eckankar.
Eckankar, means “co-worker” with God, believes in a God named Sugmad who is perceived as neither male or female. All disciples of Eckankar are connected to the heart of Sugmad through an Eck current. This current expresses itself in one of two ways, “Inner Light” or “Inner Sound.” Eckists believe that the body is separate from the more sacred and immortal inner soul, which has no beginning or end. Through a process called “Soul Travel,” a person can explore other planes of existence. There are Twelve planes in which the soul must travel through in order to get to the god, Sugmad.
Based on the Hindu tradition, Eckankar teaches a similar idea of karma. It is through attachment to any of the five passions (anger, greed, lust, undue attachment to the physical world, and vanity) that one develops bad karma. Their whole idea of reincarnation is based on this “debt” of karma which accumulates in your current life, but can only be paid off in your next life. Eckankar is seen by its followers as the best, but not the only path to salvation or God-enlightenment. Because Christianity is simply alternative path, Christians and others can join Eckankar without renouncing their own beliefs. There are 164 Eckankar centers in the United States and 367 worldwide, with 50,000 members in more than 130 countries.
Hare Krishna — The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) was founded by Srila Prabhupada of Calcutta, India in July 1966. Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual master convinced him to dedicate his life to the study of the Hindu Scriptures. After years of study and teaching in India. He came to the United States. He gathered followers and through his lectures and outdoor chanting sessions, and founded ISKCON on July 1966. He wanted his teachings to circle the globe, so he traveled extensively to spread his religion.
The sacred texts of Hare Krishna include the Hindu Vedas, the Bhagavad-gita, and all of the books that Srila Prabhupada wrote, including Bhagavad-gita As It Is. The key belief of Hare Krisha is that the Hindu god, Krishna, is the supreme Rama or “all-attractive” or “the highest eternal pleasure.” When the Krishna chant, or mantra, is recited, it is a way of putting oneself in harmony with Krishna. The mantra is the repetition of God’s names: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.”
Another core belief of Hare Krishnas is reincarnation. They believe in the dualism of the body and spirit. They view death as a transition not an end. How one acts in a current life will determine whether one moves up or down or out of the cycle completely. The goal is to break away from the endless repetitive reincarnations, called samsara, and return to the kingdom of God. This can only be accomplished by sankirtana, congressional singing of God’s names, leading to “Krishna Consciousness.” Hell is a temporary destination for people who have sinned greatly on earth. Sins include meat-eating, intoxication by drugs and alcohol, illicit sex, and gambling. They practice a strict vegetarian lifestyle.
There are several distinguishing features of Hare Krishna that differentiate it from traditional Hinduism. Hare Krishnas believe that Krishna is the supreme lord, whereas Hinduism teaches that Krishna is the 8th reincarnation of Vishnu. Jesus Christ is viewed as a direct representative of Krishna. For Hare Krishnas, a spiritual master is needed for a devotee to follow Krishna. This master must be in succession from the guru Caitanya. There are 3,000 core members; 250,000 lay constituents in United States; and 8,000 members worldwide
New Age Movement — When we speak of the New Age movement, we are not talking about one organization. The New Age movement is a network of many different popular religions, teachers, authors and meditators, who share some common beliefs based on Eastern mysticism and Monism. The name comes from the common belief that the “New Age” is dawning upon us: an age of peace and enlightenment. New Agers often use astrology to suggest that the Age of Pisces is passing (i.e., the Christian age symbolized by the fish) and that the New Age of Aquarius has begun (i.e., the age of Universalism symbolized by the woman who carries water).
On the popular culture level, New Age has become quite visible in recent years, especially since its “chief evangelist,” Hollywood actress Shirley MacLaine, aired her prime time TV specials in the West in the 1980s. Through her influence, we received a quick education through objects, such as “crystals,” which are purported to be “energy devices,” and “channeling,” which is the supposed practice of learning truth and ethics from spiritual beings who speak through human beings.
But New Age is not “new” in any sense of the word. All its core beliefs are taken from Hinduism and other occult or pagan religions and traditions common to other ancient cultures: Egyptian mythology, American Indian paganism, medieval magic and witchcraft. Since New Age is a Western phenomenon, there is also the strong scientific and practical flavor.
In New Age philosophy, “God” is not considered to be a personal and loving Being, but rather an impersonal “force.” All people are gods, having already attained their divine nature, if only they would become aware of it. But this means that we, as gods, create our own realities, moralities and beliefs. There is no absolute Truth, because each person is his own absolute truth. Communication with “God” is a meditation upon your own divine Self.
Morality becomes subjective and determined by each person according to what his inner self desires. Reincarnation, or the notion that human souls are locked into an endless cycle of life and death in the world, comes directly from Buddhism and is universally accepted within the New Age movement. Ironically, within Eastern religions, reincarnation has always been seen as a horrible thing, a bondage or punishment that one should try to escape by meditating into the state of Nirvana (nothingness).
New Age “channeling” is another old phenomenon in world religions, known as spiritism: communicating with spirits via human mediums. But the question is: “When you channel a spirit, is it assuredly good or deceptively evil?” Although spiritualist and animist religions would question whether the spirits speaking are good or evil, New Age ignores this question entirely and supposes all spiritual forces to be good.
In the popularity of the New Age movement, we are seeing a dramatic cultural shift taking place, a movement which has successfully influenced every area or field of culture — education, psychology, economics, physics, medicine, art, sports, entertainment, politics, and business. In liberal Christian churches, New Age philosophies are making inroads, with many supposed “Christians” participating in channeling and professing belief in reincarnation. New Age offers a spiritual basis for life, filling the void created in our hearts and culture by materialism and humanism. It purports to be on the leading edge science in physics and psychology. It tolerates sex outside of marriage, adultery, homosexuality, and the recreational use of drugs. If New Age philosophy speaks of sin at all, rather than the eternal punishment of hell, reincarnation is presented in a positive light as a second chance with no judgment, punishment or reward from an eternal and holy God.
Rosicrucianism — The Rosicrucian Order, AMORC; Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis came about through the work of a number of people around the globe, especially the French Rosicrucian societies which have existed for centuries and strongly resemble Masonic societies. The American founder is H. Spencer Lewis who started the current movement in 1915 in San Jose, California. Lewis traveled extensively in the years preceding the group’s founding to meet with scholars about introducing “the true Rosicrucian work” to America. This work was based on the “advanced learning” and “secret mysteries” of the ancient Egyptians.
There are many texts of the Rosicrucian Order. The Rosicrucian Digest is published monthly. Spencer Lewis wrote 19 volumes including the Rosicrucian Manual and The Symbolic Prophecy of the Great Pyramid.
Followers of the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC learn weekly lessons called “monographs” from the ancients and modern knowledge to lead to enlightenment (broadening of the five senses and awakening one’s deeper psychic sense). The lessons are arranged in nine level, called “Degrees,” and take five years to complete. They learn from an eclectic blend of the teachings of all existing religions covering Europe, Egypt, and the Orient. The studies stress personal betterment through a broad survey of human knowledge in science, mysticism, philosophy, and metaphysics.
Membership is hard to pinpoint, but they claim to have approximately 250,000 dues paying Rosicrucian students worldwide. There are also a number of other Rosicrucian groups, which include The Ancient Rosae Crucis, ARC and The Rosicrucian Fellowship.
Scientology — Also known as the Church of Scientology; Scientology means “knowing about knowing,” from the Latin, scio, and the Greek, logos. The religion was founded in 1954 by Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (L. Ron Hubbard) a famous science fiction writer from Tilden, Nebraska USA. L. Ron Hubbard synthesized what he had learned of Eastern philosophy and his understanding of nuclear physics. In 1950, he published an article on “Dianetics” in Astounding Science Fiction magazine, followed by Hubbard’s book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. He set up the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation in late 1950, in part to cash in on the popularity of his self-help philosophy. Dianetics centers opened in major cities across the country. In 1954 the First Church of Scientology was opened in Los Angeles. Subsequently, the Church spread throughout the world as it evolved its highly-organized structure. Throughout its many stages, L. Ron Hubbard guided Scientology’s development.
Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, authored in 1950 by L. Ron Hubbard, is the fundamental sacred text of Scientology, but the entire corpus of Hubbard’s writings and recorded spoken words are considered by Church members to be sacred scriptures. The Church of Scientology is an innovative religious system which combines elements of Eastern mysticism, Freudian psychoanalysis, the occult, and L. Ron Hubbard’s views on the universe.
Individuals can become Scientology “members” at vastly different levels of the organization. Membership can involve attendance at a free Dianetics lecture, enrollment in course work, even the pledging of eternal service to the Church as a member of the elite organization. It is difficult to establish a concrete size estimate for the Church of Scientology. The Church of Scientology’s official current public size estimate is around eight million active members. This number is undoubtedly rather inflated, but the total would almost certainly be in the millions.
Without a doubt, Scientology is one of the most notorious new religious movements in the modern world. Few other groups have received as much negative publicity as Scientology. Much of this negative publicity has come from mainstream media outlets. Few other groups have been investigated and accused of wrongdoing at various times by so many government agencies (including the Internal Revenue Service, the Food and Drug Administration, and the FBI). Few other movements have as many vocal and angry ex-members and critics who seek to warn the world of the evils of the Church of Scientology.
Much of the bad publicity has resulted from Scientology’s policy to fight when the group thinks that it is being threatened. L. Ron Hubbard taught an aggressive survival philosophy. Scientologists believe that any actions or publicity against them are a threat to their existence and take appropriate steps to counter attacks.
Theosophy — Theosophy; which is Greek for “Divine Wisdom” was founded by Helen Petrovna Blavatsky in Russia on November 17, 1875. Madame Blavatsky claimed to be the messenger of highly evolved “Adepts and Masters,” who knew the Ancient Wisdom. This Ancient Wisdom is said to be the answer to the most basic questions of being, such as “Why are we born?” “What’s life all about?” and “Is there some kind of life after death?” In other words, it attempted to offer a philosophically consistent worldview to the people of Eastern Europe who were, at that time, experiencing social upheavals.
The purpose of the Theosophical Movement was “to form a nucleus of universal brotherhood, regardless of race, creed, sex, caste or color.” The sacred text of Theosophy is: The Secret Doctrine. Theosophy includes the idea of Monism, the belief that “All is One, and One is God, thus All is God.” God is an all encompassing, impersonal principle of force, similar to the gods of Eastern traditions. Theosophy also includes the ideas of reincarnation and karma. The most unfamiliar aspect of this religion is the occult philosophy presented in The Secret Doctrine and Madame Blavatsky’s other novels. The fundamental principles in her teachings include “the unity of life, the law of cycles, and the progressive unfolding of consciousness in all kingdoms of nature.”
There are many Theosophical organizations around the world. The Theosophical Society of America reported 5,200 members in the USA and 34,000 members worldwide. Another branch called the Theosophical Society, with headquarters in Pasadena, California, has not reported membership size.
Madame Blavatsky’s “truths” and her psychic abilities have been challenged over the years. In the 19th century many of her teachings were incomprehensible; however, today some of them have been confirmed by scholars and scientists. Recent developments in the field psychology suggest that some of Blavatsky’s “supernatural powers” are natural powers and abilities of the human psyche.
Transcendental Meditation — Transcendental Meditation ™ was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of Utter Kashi, India in 1956. Maharishi was originally named Mehesh Prasad Varma. His spiritual life developed under the guidance of Swami Krishanand Saraswati, the Guru Dev. Guru Dev taught Maharishi Mehesh Yogi the meditation he had discovered from the Hindu holy books. In 1956, (three years after Guru Dev’s death) Maharishi felt a calling to experience the temples of South India. While on his journey home, he was persuaded to give a talk on Transcendental Meditation which turned into a lecture series. Next, he toured across India spreading his message eventually through Southeast Asia to the West.
A wave of Indian teachings came to America after World War II. TM is a highly simplified form of Hinduism adapted for Westerners who would lack the cultural background to accept Hindu beliefs, symbols, and practices. TM was distilled from the traditional Hindu practices in order to appeal to a wider base. This was accomplished via grounding the practice in science rather than religion. Maharishi argues that TM is not a religious practice, but is founded on a unification of the objective method of modern science and the subjective method of Vedic science. Maharishi’s background in physics is used to verify this statement.
In India, TM is considered a sect of Hinduism; in America, it is considered to be a cult. Membership is not reported, but is likely in the tens of thousands. TM grew slowly until the mid-1960s at which time celebrity followers such as the Beatles, Mia Farrow, and Joe Namath caused the movement to grow dramatically in the early 1970s. The college circuit also provided a large base for TM. By 1984, more than one million people had taken basic TM courses, however, only a few of these people are currently believed to be practicing the TM techniques. TM was a fad for a time, and continues to be taught today by a movement that seeks to confirm the effectiveness of it’s techniques by “scientific measures.”
In one sense, there are no sacred texts because the group claims not to be a religion Nevertheless, several texts are highly valued including the Vedic Scriptures and the Bhagavad Gita. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s book, The Science of Being and Art of Living and Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Meditation consists of sitting in a comfortable position with the eyes closed for a period of 15 to 20 minutes a day (once in the morning and again in the evening). It can be achieved through participation in daily meditation using a mantra. A mantra is a word, usually the names of deities or brief verses from Hindu scriptures. Each person is given their own gender and age appropriate mantra which suits their way of life at the initiation service, or puja (a Hindu devotional service), by their teacher. The practice is directed at attaining the Absolute or Divine.
TM has made many claims regarding the value of meditation. Through meditation, group members hope to attain a developed consciousness and human potential so that their lives may be lived in an enlightened state. It is claimed that the process leads to life changes, increased intelligence, rehabilitation of criminals, curbing drug and alcohol addiction, higher levels of resistance to disease, better psychological health, and better job performance.
Zen Buddhism — Also known as “the mystical school of Buddhism,” Zen in Chinese, ch’an-na, transliterates the Sanskrit term dhyana, which means “meditation.” The founder is considered to be Siddhartha Gautama, the original founder of the school of Buddhism in 500 BC. At the age of 29, Siddhartha was deeply troubled by the suffering he saw around him, and he renounced his privileged life to seek understanding. After 6 years of struggling as an ascetic, he finally “achieved Enlightenment” at age 35. After this, he was known as the Buddha, “One who is awake.” After all of these experiences, Guatama realized that everything is subject to change and that suffering and discontentment are the result of the attachment to circumstances and things which, by their nature, are not permanent.
From that point on, the teachings of Buddhism have been passed down from teacher to students. Buddhism has evolved into many different forms. One of these sects is Zen Buddhism. Around 475 AD, a teacher named Bodhidharma traveled from India to China and introduced Buddhism there. Therefore, some references cite Bodhidharma as the father of Zen Buddhism.
No approximation of the size of this particular group exists is because so many schools of Buddhism exist, which are similar to Zen Buddhism.
There are no sacred texts of Zen Buddhism. Beliefs are passed orally from teacher to student. The beliefs of the group focus primarily on “The Four Noble Truths” and “The Noble Eightfold Path.”
Zen is not a religion in the sense that religion is generally understood. Zen has no God to worship, no ceremonial rites, no afterlife, no system of eternal reward and punishment. Zen has no set of doctrines. Zen teachings come out of one’s own mind and heart. The emphasis is on experience and the “creative impulse.”
The different types of Buddhism all may seem very different, but at the center of all of them are the Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path. All major world religions, Buddhism included, have split into schools and sects. Zen Buddhism is very different among Chinese, Americans, and Japanese. Since Zen Buddhism originated in the T’ang dynasty of China, it is difficult for Americans and Japanese to absorb anything quite so Chinese as Zen. The Chinese practices involves the achievement and respect for a vision of a universal way of nature, where in good and evil are both considered as parts of existence. Japanese Zen promotes rigid self-discipline and was popular among the Samurai class. Meanwhile, American Zen is self-conscious and subjective and is used to justify life and one’s desires.
Modern Pagan Cults
Polytheism is the belief in more than one god (Greek: poly + theos, “many gods”). The Bible strongly condemns polytheism. The Apostle John writes that mystery religions had their origin in Babylon (Rev. 17). This same region of the world was also the site of the Tower of Babel, where ancient man built a tower reaching towards the heavens. This was either an attempt to worship a false god or to attain god-like status for a man. According to the Bible, the Lord confused the languages of man at the Tower of Babel and “scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth” (Gen. 11:8). The result of this judgment was paganism or polytheism — the worship of many gods.
Paganism is a broad term for religions which worship more than one god. After the time of the Tower of Babel, most ancient religions were polytheistic, including those of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Canaan, Greece, Rome, Northern Europe, and aboriginal peoples throughout the world. Together with the spread of Eastern Monism, we have seen a revival of ancient pagan religions.
Druidism — A known as Celtic Pagans and Neo-Pagans, Druidism is not really a movement with a single founder, but a modern collection of the beliefs of various ancient European religions. Druidism can be traced as far back as 4000 BC, but the religion did not come into the Celtic tribal nations until around 200 BC.
The altered and more modern form of Druidic practice dates to that of the “first” ceremony performed in 1792. Edward Williams changed his name to the Welsh “Tolo Morganwg” and wrote an entire literature based on some old manuscripts on the history, beliefs and practices of the Druids. On September 23, 1792, he led a ceremony in London which is still performed each year in a Welsh Festival by some neo-Druidic types. A 20th century version of Druidism, “A Druid Fellowship” or ADF, was started by P.E.I. (Isaac) Bonewits. No date is given for the founding of ADF, but Bonewits has been a Neo-Pagan Druid for nearly twenty years. Another group, The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, claims to trace its origins to 1717, but gives little specifics about the surrounding circumstances.
Morganwg’s ceremony was conducted on the day of the autumnal equinox on Primrose Hill in London. Morganwg made a circle of stones described as a maen gorsedd or altar. The group then performed a ceremony of “placing.” The ceremony became an “immense success.” The ADF describes it as an attempt to revive the best aspects of the Pagan faith of the Celtic peoples within a modern scientific, artistic, and ecological context.
Although the Celts (pronounced: Kelts) had a written language, their religious and philosophical beliefs were preserved in oral form because written records were distrusted and undermined the power of memory which the Druids cherished. There was, however, some myth preserved by Christian monks, though this was probably modified. These “Celtic Myth cycles” included the Ulster Cycle, the Fenian Cycle, the Cycle of Kings, the Invasion Cycle, and the Mabinogion (also called The Red Book of Hergest). The British legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table has its origin in Celtic mythology. The figure “Merlyn” was undoubtedly a Druidic person that survived the legend’s retelling. These myths and legends are the closest equivalent of “sacred texts.” The Druids believed in establishing and cultivating a close relationship with nature. They believed in the immortal soul, which could survive either through reincarnation or transportation to the underworld.
Modern Druids consider themselves “polytheistic nature worshipers” who preserve the beliefs and gods of their Celtic ancestors. Modern Druidism is a loosely and ill-defined movement in which one can participate without ever coming into contact with another Druid. The modern movement is founded on a belief in the supremacy and power of nature and spirituality. The philosophy of Druidism is found in role playing games, Pagan Societies, and “The Society for Creative Anachronism,” which are popular on college campuses.
The group definition seems to be very broad and inclusive. It would be very difficult to estimate an accurate number. There are likely hundreds of thousands of people with some connection to Druidic or Neo-Pagan practices. Druids are highly romanticized in our culture. Much of what we think we know is simply conjecture, or has been derived from works of fantasy and fiction.
Kabbalah — Variously known as Qabalah (the modern “cultic” spelling), also known as Hermetic Qabalah, Kabbalah (traditional Jewish spelling), and Cabala (Christian spelling). All of these spellings are transliterations of the word in Hebrew. Isaac the Blind, born in 12th century Provence (which is now southern France), is considered the Father of Kabbalah. Aspects of Kabbalah can be traced back to the first century A.D. It was formed as a scholarly group sometime during Isaac the Blind’s lifetime (c. 1160-1236), but the exact year is unknown. The first Kabbalistic ideas emerged in ancient times as an attempt by the Merkabah mystics to reach what they called the “higher throne” of God. Isaac the Blind was the first to name the Jewish mysticism: Kabbalah. He formed a scholarly group based on the tradition.
Sacred texts include the Torah, Sepher Yetzirah, or the “Book of Formation” (c. first century A.D.), Bahir (12th Century), Sepher ha Zohar, or the “Book of Splendour” by Moses de Leon of Spain (late 13th century), and the Key of Solomon.
Kabbalah is often seen as an ancient sect of Judaism, however, it should be noted that Orthodox Jewish Rabbis consider the group to be a cult, which marries Gnosticism and paganism to esoteric strains of Jewish theology. Kabbalah means “to receive” or “to accept.” It is believed that when Moses brought the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai he also brought with him the oral law, or Kabbalah. People who know this secret oral tradition claim to know the true meaning of the Torah, which has hidden messages. Therefore, the main principles of Kabbalah are a belief in the divinity of the Torah and that by studying the Torah you can understand the creation of the world. Kabbalists also believe that a prophet was someone “chosen by God as a mouth-piece.”
Qabalah is the religion as practiced from the time of the Renaissance, virtually all occult philosophers and magicians of note had a working knowledge of some aspect of Qabalah. Groups that have practiced Qabalah are the Hermetics, the Gnostics, the Neoplatists, the Pythagoreanists, the Rosicrucianists, Tantra, the English Order of the Golden Dawn, and the French magician Eliphas Levi. Some Qabalists practice ritual magic, names of power, evocation of spirits, etc.
Cabala is the Christian sect which see Cabala as a way to reveal hidden meaning in Scripture and others see it as a mechanism to be used to convert Jews to Christianity. The main Christian Cabalist leader was Giovanni Pico, Count of Mirandola. He claimed, “No science can better convince us of the divinity of Jesus Christ than magic and the Kabbalah.”
Kabbalists of all kinds believe in hidden meanings in the Torah. Kabbalists believe that every letter of the Hebrew Aleph Beth (alphabet) has a hidden meaning. Qabalists expand that idea and give each letter a tarot key and an affiliation with a constellation. The Cabalists say that they know Jesus is the son of God because the Hebrew name for God is spelled Yod Heh Vav Heh. By adding a fifth letter, Shin, the name of Jesus in Hebrew is formed (Yod Heh Shin Vav Heh). To the Cabalists, Yod is fire, Heh is Water, Vav is air, the final Heh is Earth, and the Shin is spirit.
The belief in the Torah as divine, the practice of conjuring spirits, and belief in alchemy and astrology are just three of the deviations from Judaism that put Kabbalah in the category of Paganism. One of the best known Kabbalists of the 20th century is Aleister Crowley, who is popularly considered to be a Satanist. Kabbalah has also made it into popular culture through the Jewish legend of the Golem, the story of an evil spirit summoned by a Rabbi to save a Jewish ghetto in Eastern Europe from a pogrom. Elements of the Golem legend can be seen in the popularity of monster films, such as Frankenstein.
Santeria — Also known as La Regla Lucmi, Santeria has no known founder, but is a syncretism of West African religion and European Catholicism. There is no exact year for the formation of this religion. The closest date available for the founding of Santeria is the years that the slave trade occurred. Cuba, the “birthplace” of Santeria, imported African slaves from the late 1700’s until roughly 1870.
Santeria is a blend of the West African religion primarily the religion practiced by the Yoruba people and Roman Catholicism. When the African slaves arrived to the New World, they continued to practice their religion, despite the attempts of European plantation owners and missionaries to convert the slaves to Roman Catholicism. As the consequences (i.e. harsh beatings, etc.) of openly practicing Santeria increased, the slaves incorporated Catholic elements into their religion. One factor that aided in this syncretism was the fact that quite a few Santerian gods and Catholic saints possess similar qualities. Consequently, the slaves would appear to be practicing Catholicism when they were actually worshipping their African gods and goddesses. Santeria utilizes an oral tradition and has no sacred books. Their myths are called patakis.
Santerians believe in orishas or “spirits.” The orishas are not as powerful or as omnipotent as their more remote God Almighty, called Olodumare. Instead, the orishas are the spirits or gods that interact with humans by controlling nature and the attending to the daily needs of humanity. In other words, they are the emissaries of God. Each orisha possesses a distinct personality. Their personality differences are prominently displayed during ritual ceremonies. Depending on the particular orisha that they want to please, Santerians use certain colors and certain animals and play particular drum beats during their rituals. The music played is of great importance because it helps to coax the orisha into “mounting” or possessing the priest. As the orisha mounts the priest, the priest’s body dances the particular dance of that orisha. Later in the ceremony, people’s questions are answered, the orisha decrees that a particular command will be obeyed, or animal sacrifice occurs. All of the formerly mentioned ceremonial actions often depend on the type of ceremony being performed and the attitude of the orisha towards its worshippers.
The size of Santeria is difficult to determine but the number of people who practice Santeria is believed to be growing globally. Roughly 300,000 Santerians are in New York. Some other places where people practice Santeria are Cuba, Florida, Puerto Rico, New Jersey, Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela, Argentina, France, and the Netherlands. In the early 1990s, Fidel Castro, perhaps trying to counter the Christian revival in Cuba among Catholics and Protestants, made Santeria the official religion of Cuba. Santeria is easily the largest religion in Cuba.
Much controversy has surrounded Santeria and the practice of animal sacrifice. Opposing groups contend that animal sacrifice is inhumane and should be stopped. However, Santerians regard animal sacrifice to be an essential part of their religion. Generally, small animals are sacrificed during times of sickness and during initiation ceremonies for the priests. This controversy escalated into a United States Supreme Court case, Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah. The Santerians, Cuban immigrants to the city of Hialeah, Florida USA, won the case with the Supreme Court’s decree that they should be free to practice their religion as they see fit, including engaging in animal sacrifice.
Another confusion about Santeria is its connection to Voodoo. Although both religions evolved in the New World from African faith traditions, Santeria and Voodoo are not the same religion. The fundamental difference between the two religions is that a person practicing Santeria sees no division between Santeria and Roman Catholicism. To a Santerian, the Catholic saints and the orishas are interchangeable. When they worship a Catholic saint, they are worshipping the compatible orisha. Orthodox Christians view both Santeria and Voodoo as a form of Paganism, which can lead to demonic possession.
Wicca — Modern Wiccans draw their religious ideology from the Mother Earth cults of the Celtic and Nordic peoples of pre-Christian Europe. The word “Wiccan” first appears in an early manuscript of an Anglo-Saxon scribe in the alliterative phrase: wyccan and wælcyrian, “witches and valkyries.” The word in Old English has masculine and feminine endings and denotes both men and women using magic arts.
The religion is traced to ancient Celtic and Northern German people. Modern witches make reference to the pagan rituals of pre-Christian Europe in describing their religion. In a paper submitted to the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, Michael Thorn writes: “Modern Witchcraft (or Wicca) is the most common expression of the religious movement known as Neo-paganism…. Its practitioners are reviving ancient Pagan practices and beliefs of pre-Christian Europe and adapting them to contemporary American life…. Wiccans focus their liturgy and worship around a Goddess and a God. Rituals and services are timed to the phases of the moon and to the Wheel of the Year (i.e., the solstices, equinoxes, and the days falling midway between these such as May Day and Halloween). Most witches treat their practice as a priesthood, somewhat akin to the mystery cults of classical Greece and Rome, involving years of training and passage through life transforming initiatory rituals. All witches agree on the ethical code, ‘If it harms none, do what you will’; in other words, ‘Do what you believe is right, but let no one be harmed by your actions.’”
According to a Ms. magazine article: “Witchcraft is about wholeness, about celebrating one’s intimacy with the Goddess and the earth, who are one and the same…. [T]here are 200,000 women and men practicing the Old Religion in the United States. The Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara, California, claims that Witchcraft and Paganism are the fastest growing religions in the country, countering the rise of Christian fundamentalism.”
Modern witches deny that they are followers of Satan and claim that their pagan concept of gods and goddesses does not match the Christian concept of the devil. Although Wiccans deny their association with the devil, they readily admit that they worship “a Horned God named Pan.” The ancient cult of Pan involved rites of passage. In the rites of Pan, music and sometimes drugs were used to entice spirits to possess the ritual’s participants. Possession by Pan, from which we get the word “panic,” often results in an obsession with sex and a need for immediate gratification.
It is an inescapable fact that Pan is the universal symbol for Satan. Half-human and half-goat, Pan remains one of the most enduring and compelling symbols for the anti-Christ. Instead of God incarnate in man, as with Jesus, we see man joined to animal — one that is historically representative of the basest of animal and sexual passions. We see the sociological manifestations of this anti-Christ spirit everywhere in today’s society.
The Church of Satan and the Temple of Set make up an organized religion distinct from medieval Satanism, and modern popular superstitions about Satanism. The two Satanic religions hold very similar beliefs. For example both stress the path to individual self-improvement, and worship themselves as the highest being.
Church of Satan — Founded by Anton Szandor LaVey, High Priest of Satan, on April 30, 1966 in San Francisco California. LaVey blamed the senseless violence that he witnessed every day on organized religions’ suppression of natural behavior: indulgence in carnal pleasure. He began studying and lecturing on occult teachings and ceremonial magic. A weekly class held by LaVey, known as the Magic Circle, began as a group of people who opposed the ideas of Christianity. Later LaVey wrote The Satanic Bible which contained the Nine Satanic Statements. It was around these teachings that LaVey transformed this group into the present day cult known as The Church of Satan.
Religious texts include: The Satanic Bible, The Satanic Witch, The Satanic Rituals, The Devil’s Notebook and Satan Speaks. The Church of Satan does not release their membership numbers, but there are estimated to be ten to twenty thousand members.
The Satanic Bible begins with the Nine Satanic Statements which summarize the entire belief system of the cult. The Nine Statements: (1) Satan represents indulgence, instead of abstinence! (2) Satan represents vital existence, instead of spiritual pipe dreams! (3) Satan represents undefiled wisdom, instead of hypocritical self-deceit! (4) Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it, instead of love wasted on ingrates! (5) Satan represents vengeance, instead of turning the other cheek! (6) Satan represents responsibility to the responsible, instead of concern for psychic vampires! (7) Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse then those that walk on all fours, who because of his divine spiritual and intellectual development has become the most vicious of all! (8) Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they lead to physical or mental gratification! (9) Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as he has kept it in business all these years!
Most Satanists claim that they do not believe in the devil. Satanists deny the characterization of the Christian devil, but instead see Satan as a force of nature. Satan is recognized as the bearer of light, the spirit of the air, and the personification of enlightenment. It must also be noted that Satanists do not engage in the worship of Satan. Instead, they emulate him as a symbol because he was unwilling to worship God. Members imitate Satan in his refusal to worship any gods and recognize themselves as the highest embodiment of human life. For this reason, self-gratification and selfish virtues are encouraged and the Satanist’s own birthday is celebrated as the highest holiday.
Satanists deny the existence of external gods, heaven, and hell. They believe that there is no afterlife. This belief is the root of their stress on indulgence in carnal pleasure in the present rather than hope for rewards after death. The Church of Satan believes that man is an animal and a being of carnality. It is through acceptance of human nature and embrace of self-gratification that happiness is achieved. It is also important to note that Satanists believe in the survival of the fittest and the idea that the weaker elements of society should serve the stronger.
The Church of Satan believes that man needs ritual, dogma, fantasy and enchantment. Rituals are a major focus of the religion. Practices such as the black mass and satanic magic are used to vent emotional frustration for a need that is unfulfilled. There exist three forms of rituals: sexual, compassionate and destructive. Sexual rituals are performed to fulfill a desire, compassionate rituals pose to help another, and destructive rituals are used for anger, annoyance and hate.
All of these beliefs and practices were invented by Anton LaVey. He based the beliefs of the Church on his own personal experiences, his opposition to Christianity, and his study of occult magic and teachings. LaVey describes Satanism as the affirmation of indulgence over abstinence, vengeance over turning the other cheek, and this life over the next.
The Temple of Set — Founded by Michael A. Aquino in 1975, the Temple of Set developed as a schism from the Church of Satan founded by LaVey. Michael A. Aquino, a former member of the Church of Satan, left the organized religion claiming that LaVey was exploiting the religion for personal gain. Aquino and a group of his followers, The Council of Nine, left the Church of Satan in order to keep the religion “pure.” Similar to LaVey, Aquino wrote a book, The Book Coming Forth by Night, and it was around the specific teachings of this book that he based the belief system of his new sectarian movement. The Temple was incorporated in California as a non-profit church in 1975, receiving both state and federal recognition.
Texts include The Book Coming Forth by Night, The Crystal Tablet of Set, The Jeweled Tablets of Set, The Scroll of Set. Membership in the Temple of Set is estimated to be around 2000.
The roots of the beliefs of the Temple are prehistoric originating from the first sense of “self-consciousness” that sets humanity apart from all other known life forms. The original Priesthood of Set survived in ancient Egypt through twenty-five recorded dynasties. However, the religion eventually died out and Set, the pre-satanic deity was later recast as an evil principle. The present day sect, the Temple of Set, revives the ancient ideals represented in Set. This entity which stands separate and apart from the forces of the natural universe is often portrayed as a man with the head of an animal, typically a hyena.
The Temple of Set stresses the role of the individual. Members of the Temple desire the psyche to live, to experience and to continue. They believe that consciousness can evolve towards its own divinity through deliberate exercise of the intelligence and Will, a process through which one may find their own roots. For these reasons the Temple is against any actions that serve only to numb the mind such as drugs, masses, and entertainment.
However, while the Church of Satan interpreted the worship of ones self as the engagement in indulgence, the Temple stresses the worship of individualism. The goal of each member is to recognize, appreciate and actualize their own entire self or soul. This process is called Xeper. Setians pursue Xeper through many different means but especially communication with one another. Setians are also strongly advised to pursue a wide variety of secular interests outside of the Church in order to fully develop themselves as an individual.
Although Satanism disclaims the existence of the devil, Christians must recognize that the supreme law of Satanism, to worship yourself and be your own god, is synonymous with original sin and is the biblical essence of Satanism, whether the practitioner believes that Satan literally exists or not. All false religions, including humanism, are anti-Christ and satanic in origin.
“Do what you will” may seem right to those who have “been made spiritually blind by the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4). Yet this blinding deception obscures one of life’s most elementary truths — that ultimately there are two kingdoms and two types of people; those in God’s kingdom who have been redeemed by God and those in Satan’s who are trying to redeem themselves. In the same way that the Kingdom of God holds to one supreme commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength” (Deut. 6:5; Mark 12:30), so Satanism can also be reduced to one essential law, “Do what you will.”
Contrary to the stereotype, no black masses or wild sex rituals are necessary to be a follower of Satan — simply deny the love and the authority of God by living your life the way you want to. You can even be religious, attend church regularly, tithe, perform good works. If it’s a religion based upon your own terms, you are still comfortably fulfilling the dictates of Satan’s most primary law: “Do what you will.”
How ironic that Satanists should understand better than most people the true root of sin and the essential truth that divides the whole of mankind. Each of us is ultimately given a choice upon which hangs the weight of eternity. We can go our own way and remain forever lost — or we can yield to the One who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
More Ancient Heresies Revived
Other ancient heresies are discernible in modern movements within the Christian Church. The following heresies are serious problems in that they have spread to a large degree in Protestant churches throughout the world.
Dynamic Monarchianism — Also known as Unitarianism, this is the belief in only one person in the Godhead. In particular, this term usually describes a movement that emphasizes the unity of the Godhead, but does so by denying the deity of Jesus Christ. It arose as an anti-Trinitarian movement in Protestantism, and organized as a denomination now called the Unitarian-Universalist Association. In addition to denying the deity of Jesus Christ, Unitarianism denies a number of other orthodox beliefs including the virgin birth of Jesus and the substitutionary atonement.
Modalistic Monarchianism — Also known as the “Oneness” doctrine, taught by the United Pentecostal Church, also known as the “Apostolic” church, modalism reappeared shortly after the Pentecostal movement began in 1906. This is not a Unitarian sect, however, in that Oneness believers affirm the full deity of Jesus, His virgin birth, and the substitutionary atonement, unlike the modern Unitarian-Universalist denomination. Modalism has also resurfaced among some independent charismatic churches, founded after the 1950s. This is also known as the “Jesus Only” doctrine. Healing evangelist William Branham and his followers also promoted an extremely heretical version of Oneness doctrine.
Marcionism — Also known as the “two gods heresy,” Marcionism has appeared repeatedly throughout history. A Marcionite is a dualist, one who believes in two opposing gods or principles: generally, good vs. evil (or spirit vs. matter). Under this category is Manicheanism, the medieval Bogomils and their Western off-shoots the Paulicians and Cathars. In our day, this ancient heresy has appeared in the forms of dispensationalism and antinomianism.
Dispensationalism is derived from the idea that God has worked in different ways throughout history through different economies or dispensations. A dispensationalist makes a severe division between the Old and New Covenants, God acting with wrath and vengeance in the Old Testament and with love and grace in the New Testament. Dispensationalism teaches the imminent “secret” rapture of the Church, divides the end times into several dispensations, and teaches a conspiratorial view of history with evil forces rivaling the forces of God.
John Nelson Darby, founder of a group called the Plymouth Brethren in the 1830s, is the father of modern dispensationalism. Darby taught that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent. He rejected the creeds of the early Church and believed social reform to be useless. C.I. Scofield, a Texas pastor, popularized the teachings of J.N. Darby in a systematic theology known as dispensational premillennialism. C.I. Scofield first compiled his reference Bible as a teaching aid for missionaries. It soon became one of the most widely used tools for Bible study among entire denominations such as Southern Baptists and Disciples of Christ.
Despite the fact that many of the early dispensationalists were orthodox Christians, this shift in theology paved the way for an much greater heresy, antinomianism, which means literally “anti-law.” Antinomianism states that since man is saved by faith alone, and since faith frees the Christian from the law, he no longer bound to obey the law. Antinomianism creates a false theological system in which the laws of the Bible cannot apply to governing the individual or society. Dispensationalism promoted antinomian thinking by de-emphasizing the relationship of the Old Testament law to the individual under the New Testament. In turn this led to a waning influence of Christians in society, since most of the laws pertaining to civil government are found in the Old Testament. To the orthodox Christian, the unity of the covenants of Scripture and the moral law of God are obvious foundations of Christian social order. The orthodox ideas of God’s unchanging eternal covenant and a corresponding high view the moral law of God, stand in stark contrast to dispensationalism and antinomianism.
Chiliasm — Also known as millennarianism or “millennium madness,” Chiliasm is derived from Greek word for “thousand,” chilias. Chiliasm is an unscriptural preoccupation with date-setting for the Second Coming of Christ. This error first appeared in the first century in the Church of Thessanonica. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians deal in part with this church’s obsessive speculations and false teachings about the imminent return of Christ. Chiliasm was also condemned by the Church Fathers.
A Chiliast is a person who teaches that the “thousand year” reign of Christ depicted by John in Revelation 20, is an earthly kingdom. Chiliasts like to make predictions as to the exact date of the premillennial return of Jesus Christ. Chiliasts believe in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and are orthodox in this sense, but they overemphasize the return of Christ and hold to unbiblical doctrines relating to Christ’s kingdom. The Bible teaches that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36); nor does it consist of earthly things (Rom. 14:17). Jesus said to His disciples concerning His Second Coming: “It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His authority” (Acts 1:7).
The dispensational theory of premillennialism, advanced in 1830 by John Nelson Darby, has gained popularity among modern evangelicals. Most Roman Catholics and Protestants of past centuries have been either amillennial or postmillennial in their end-times viewpoint, with a fair representation of historical premillennialists. Although not a primary heresy, the dispensational view of premillennialism, with its elaborate conspiracy theories, time tables, charts and graphic scenarios, is essentially a Chiliastic error.
The fascination with the exact date of the Second Coming always appears as history approaches years with big round numbers. Chiliasm reappeared shortly before 500, 1000 and 1500 AD. Not surprisingly, we saw a reemergence of this error in full force just prior to the year 2000. Financially profitable publications advancing theories and speculations on the Second Coming are appearing. In contrast to Christ’s biblical admonition against predicting the time of the Second Coming (Matthew 25:13), many evangelical authors in recent years have predicted the exact time of the Second Advent, such as Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth, Edgar Whisenant’s, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be In 1988, and Harold Camping’s, 1994, which was a best seller in 1993.
Critics of dispensationalism note a problem with the theory’s proponents. Dispensationalists seem to ascribe biblical significance to almost every new development in current world events. The locust plagues of Revelation 9 become Cobra helicopters and the northern invader of Israel described in Ezekiel 38 becomes the Soviet Union’s army. As we have noted, bizarre eschatological theories are the hallmarks of many cults. Aside from concerns about faulty interpretation, critics also worry that some Christians may be getting so wrapped up in deciphering prophecy and awaiting divine deliverance that they ignore other missions.
Hymenaeism — This heresy is named for the first century heretic, Hymanaeus, who is named in Paul’s writings as one of those “who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past” (1 Tim. 2:17,18). Hymanaeism is known as “hyper-preterism” or “consistent preterism.” Preterism means literally, “before.” Preterism is a method of biblical interpretation which places the fulfillment of many biblical prophecies in the context of biblical times, instead of placing every biblical prophecy in the near future. Consistent preterism places every biblical prophecy, including Christ’s Second Coming, during the time of the Bible, hence the term: hyper-preterism.
This is the opposite of the Chiliastic heresy. Instead of being overly preoccupied with the Second Coming of Christ, the hyper-preterist denies that Christ is yet to return. Instead he spiritualizes the Second Coming and claims that this event already occurred with the coming of the Kingdom of God sometime in the first century. Hyper-preterists teach that Christ’s Second Coming occurred soon after Christ’s resurrection, either at Pentecost or at the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Although not a large group, Hymanaeism is a grave threat to biblical orthodoxy. Hymenaeism is a primary heresy, far more serious than Chiliasm or dispensationalism, as it completely denies one of the essential tenets of the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, that Christ will come again, physically to the earth, to judge the living and the dead.
A brief note on eschatology
Eschatology is theology and doctrine relating to the “last things” (Greek: eskaton) or the end of human history and the Second Coming of Christ. The study of eschatology is divided into three major belief systems: premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism. These differing views of eschatology do not determine biblical orthodoxy. All Christians believe in the literal, physical return of Jesus Christ. Christians may differ in their opinions as to the nature of the millennium and the exact sequence of end times events. However, Chiliasm and Hymanaeism are clearly unbiblical errors, which must be avoided. The following are brief definitions of the three major eschatological positions, all of which fall into the realm of biblical orthodoxy.
— Premillennialism: Literally, “before the thousand years,” the belief that the actual, physical Second Coming of Christ must occur prior to the beginning of the millennium, or a literal thousand year period. Premillennialism places the Church in a position of an “evangelism-only” role in the end times and tends to view the end of history with wickedness on the increase and only a remnant of the Church surviving or escaping tribulation.
— Amillennialism: Literally, “no thousand years,” the belief that the “thousand years” of Revelation chapter 20 is simply a metaphor for the Church age; an amillennialist believes that history will continue until the Second Coming of Christ with no major victories for either good or evil in society, but sees equally both upward and downward movements of righteousness and evil in the world throughout history.
— Postmillennialism: Literally, “after the thousand years,” the belief that Christ will physically return to the earth only after a non-literal millennium is completed. Postmillennialism is optimistic about the end times. Christ’s reign over the earth from heaven increases during the millennium, which is though to be “a very long period of time.” Postmillennialism places the Church in a role of transforming whole social structures before the Second Coming and endeavoring to bring about a “Golden Age” of peace and prosperity with great advances in education, the arts, sciences and medicine.
Orthodox, creedal Christianity is the basis for human freedom. In the Christian faith, the idea of the Trinity — one God, three persons — is ultimately important. Each person of the Trinity is of equal importance, but submission to the Father is always maintained and unity in the Godhead is always preserved. Likewise, when the Christian is freed from sin, he bows his knee to the Lord Jesus Christ. The old man dies, but a new free man emerges. When both unity and individuality are in their proper God-given roles, man transcends himself. He is in communion with God, free from his own sinful state, free from the tyranny of the flesh, the devil and the world.
Man’s freedom from sin is only realizable by faith in Christ alone. Pelagianism, legalism and man’s effort to save himself result only in frustration and the ultimate form of rebellion against God: apostasy, or “the sin that leads to death” (1 John 5:16). Heretical notions of the nature of God and the nature of man have been basic to the decline of the Church in our century. What is true salvation? Is it by man’s effort or God’s grace? Man needs a savior, and he will choose one or the other: Christ or man. No man can choose the one without denying the other. All attempts at compromise are a symptom of the delusional self.
Christianity made possible Western liberty. And now the absence of this revelation form western culture has led us to the oppressive presence of the state as the social order. Western liberty began when “No king but Christ!” became the church’s battle cry. Blood was spilt as a result of the early Church’s defiance of Caesar’s claim to be Lord. Whenever Christ ceases to be fully both Savior and Lord, liberty perishes and fascism — as a fully articulated pagan philosophy — arises promising a false messiah. History is replete with man’s attempt to be his own savior. The Roman Caesars, the medieval popes, Napoleon, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Adolf Hitler have each sought to destroy Christianity and replace it with an Antichrist religion. Man’s idea of the individual becoming his own god, or a superman able to save himself, ultimately leads to the absolute of totalitarianism.
Cults threaten more than salvation of individuals and the success of the Church. The emergence of cults are a sign that Western liberty is eroding. The battle against cults and heresy within the Church must be taken seriously. It is as serious as if a Hitler or a Napoleon invaded your country. The call to arms and our obedient response is a matter of life and death — both in time and eternity.