Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Dealing with Anti-Trinitarian Cults
The recently celebrated festival of the Holy Trinity is always a reminder that we live in a world where the doctrine of God is still questioned widely, even attacked - and by those who claim to be representatives of biblical truth. The Gospel reading this Sunday (LCMS, Three Year Series, C) was from John 8:48-59, where Jesus is confronted by the Jews as demon-possessed for his claims of divinity. Our Lord's patient responses are impressive, yet at the same time his firm and honest rebuttal reminds us that He will not let their lies remain unchallenged. It is clear that he wants them to come to the truth, to receive the life he offers.
One modern day illustration of this John 8 situation seems to be played out when cults such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and LDS (Mormons) send their followers out door-to-door to lure Christians away from the Truth. Although often appearing polite and not intending to attack the Truth, they come as those representing religions that actively condemn the orthodox faith regularly confessed in the church's historic creeds. The JWs indicate that they believe the doctrine of the Trinity to be of pagan origin, and that Jesus, while having divine-like qualities, is nevertheless a created being, often mistook for Michael the Archangel. These attacks on the Trinity are published and distributed widely, and are offered to unsuspecting Christians right at the sanctity of their homes.
Recently I ran a Bible class where one session was devoted to equipping people to answer the challenges of JWs to the doctrine of the Trinity and Christ's divinity. I fear that many Christians are ill-equipped to "give a reason for the hope that is within them," and when questioned may find themselves actively wondering if what they once believed is true.
On the other hand many Christians also take an alternate route and simply shut (or slam) the door and walk the other way. Those unfamiliar with the JWs may not realize that by this gesture they actually encourage the person at their door to leave even more convinced of their role as a martyr for Jehovah. Not to mention the poor witness we give by our rude behavior.
But how should we respond? By all means politeness is a given. Yet that does not mean agreement or willingness to let them be the dominant force in the presentation or discussion. Jesus called the Jews "liars." He revealed their attacks on the very truth of Holy Scripture. We should not be so polite that we are unwilling to show these misguided missionaries that they are attacking the truth of God himself and as such are in danger of being lost for all eternity.
More catechesis must be done today with our lay people regarding the cults. The early church presbyter Arius was deceitfully effective in spreading his denial of the truth of Christ's divinity through the medium of a cleverly devised song. Much of the Roman empire became influenced. And they didn't even have the Internet or TV. The modern day descendants of Arius and other heretics have at their disposal a far greater arsenal of weapons to attack the Truth. We need to be teaching now, not later. Our sheep are exposed to the wolves.