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.

4 comments:

Carl Vehse said...

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.

It is not necessarily "rude behavior" to shut the door on JW heretics. In some cases, I think Christians should best follow the instructions from John (2 John 1:9-11). There is no command in God's word that requires Christians to subject their home and family members to the propaganda of Satan's prophets; just as there is no command from God that we allow pimps and drug dealers into our homes to give a sales pitch for their wares, even out of our "Christian love". As the (many) opportunities arise for us to share the Gospel with friends, acquaintances, and even strangers in our everyday lives, there is no command in Scripture that we must let ourselves be willingly tempted by the devil's wiles.

D. Engebretson said...

My point was not that we should "subject [our] homes and families" to JW propaganda, especially by inviting them in, but rather that we should not be deliberately rude in turning these people away, for example, by forcely 'slamming' the door in their face, which some do. We do not know if even the simplest act of politeness may leave open an opportunity for future contact and work. Some years ago I took a young JW lady through adult instruction (she was engaged to a Lutheran boy) who was turned off of the JW because of the heavy-handedness of the elders (cults are by nature very controling and manipulative). By patiently answering her questions and working with her unique issues, the groundwork was laid for her eventual entry into the Lutheran church after I left the area (I was doing a vacancy just prior to accepting a call elsewhere.)

I have debated with JWs on my own porch and know firsthand that such experiences are often fruitless. They are highly indoctrinated and trained to defend their false teachings, and convincing them otherwise is about as difficult as witnessing to a Muslim. However, there are some stories of instances where an effective witness was made with a JW which helped to lead them away from the cult. Nevertheless, such a task is not for everyone. Most lay people would probably be best served by politely turning the JWs away, breifly explaining in the process that they believe in the divine Savior Jesus Christ in whom they have salvation from sin and death, and that they know that JWs do not believe this.

Again, my definition of "rude behavior" is not turning the JW away, as such, but in doing so by such actions that try to verbally assault or hurt the person. Since all people, by definition, are our "neighbor," we owe them at least the common decency of treating them as we would want to be treated ourselves.

Carl Vehse said...

During a Bible Class, my pastor (jokingly?) said that when Jehovah's Witnesses come to his door, he rolls his eyes in mock exasperation and says, "What? You guys don't have 144,000 yet?!?

Anonymous said...

REAL LIFE JW INFO:


SUMMARIES OF NEARLY 500 JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES LAWSUITS & COURT CASES


The following website summarizes over 175 lawsuits filed by Jehovah's Witnesses against their Employers, and/or incidents involving problem JW Employees:

EMPLOYMENT ISSUES UNIQUE TO JEHOVAH'S WITNESS EMPLOYEES

http://jwemployees.bravehost.com


The following website summarizes 300 U.S. court cases and lawsuits affecting children of Jehovah's Witness Parents, including 100+ cases where the JW Parents refused to consent to life-saving blood transfusions for their dying children:

DIVORCE, BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS, AND OTHER LEGAL ISSUES AFFECTING CHILDREN OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES

http://jwdivorces.bravehost.com