Defining a Cult

DictionaryChristians have adopted their own terminology throughout church history especially theological terms to define a multitude of doctrines and concepts found in scripture. One definition that has appeared in recent years  in regards to defining a false group of Christians who teach other than the orthodox doctrines of Scripture is the term cult. The expression is especially used today to warn others of groups who may be a danger to the Christian faith. The general consensus amongst Christians is that a cult is a group or a sect that possesses teachings that are outside the scope of orthodox biblical theology. In short, these are groups who deny one or more fundamental biblical teachings about God, His Christ or salvation. Such groups would include the Watchtower Society, Latter-Day Saints, Seventh-Day Adventists, Christian Scientists, Christadelphians, Oneness Pentecostals and many more.

The term “cult” defined in this manner is perfectly o.k. even though it isn’t its original means.  I wonder if the definition granted to cult today as a religion that is unorthodox or extremist is the most accurate. Could we be a little more particular in our usage of this term? Most people would not label the Roman Catholic Church as “a cult” because they are orthodox in their view of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ however many ignore their false teaching on the doctrine of salvation by their incorporation of a works based salvation through human effort including the mass, indulgences and a multitude of other religious activities. Are Roman Catholics a part of a cult? Well, it depends who you ask.

Continue reading “Defining a Cult”

Mormons & The Watchtower Society Videos and an Update

early_watch_tower_coverI came across a series of videos by James White on the topics of Mormonism and the Watchtower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses) which I found useful for any christians out there who would like to know more about what these two religions believe. I could serve as a good introduction and might be helpful in responding to the claims that these groups make. You can access the videos here.

Also, just as a quick note, I have set up a Facebook page that is available for any who are into the Social Media Frenzy that is Facebook. Please feel free to click on the link on the sidebar and visit this page. Be sure to “like us” while you’re at it and support the Moncton Christian!

The Importance of Good Bible Interpretations, James 1:5 & Mormonism

11 While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of aJames, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack bwisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 12 Never did any passage of ascripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed bwisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects cunderstood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.- Joseph Smith Jr. [1]

On occasion I am visited by some nice young men in Moncton who are a part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who are eager to share with me their faith. This generally comes with the story of their founder Joseph Smith as well as the recommendation that I should read the Book of Mormon.  I stress that I have examined the book in the past and find it’s content unfortunately flawed yet I am then asked to pray to God to receive knowledge on whether or not the book is true. I am told that if I pray only then will God reveal the truth of the Book of Mormon to me. The substantiation that  I am generally pointed to is from the text of scripture found in James 1:5 where we read: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Their approach is essentially the same that we read above in the story of Joseph Smith where when Mr. Smith was searching for the true church of his day, he read James 1:5 which lead him to ask God to know which of these churches was the true church. I would like to draw your attention to this particular text in order to demonstrate something tremendously significant mainly the importance of bible interpretation.

Biblical exegesis is derived from the utmost respect and reverence for the Word of God. It is approaching the bible with the motive to allow the words of scripture to speak in their context and for us to derive our beliefs from the scriptures themselves. The opposite to this is what is called “eisegesis” which is  when we read into the scriptures our preconceived thoughts and make the text say what we want it to say. Here is our primary point of departure and where all else comes together. We must ask when approaching the text whether or not we are allowing the original writers to express their original thoughts. Most who have a teaching authority over them such as an organization (Mormons, Watchtowerites, Roman Catholics) simply allow whatever interpretation their authority figure decides to place on the text.  This authoratative interpreter is considered to be led directly by God and should never be questioned. To question this authority is to reject the truth that is being taught by this group or individual.

As an example that might shed some light regarding the differences between exegesis and eisegesis, let us examine the text of James 1:5 in light of Mormon theology.

 James 1:5

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Before we can begin to tackle the text of James 1:5 we must understand what was the purpose of the letter in addition and to consider to whom it was written. James is quite clear regarding to whom the letter is intended for in v.1 mainly“the twelve tribes, which are scattered abroad”. These brethren who were “scattered” or dispersed were most likely Jewish believers since the nature of the letter has much Jewish vocabulary. Another important observation is that this letter was not addressed to non-believers since we observe that James uses the noun “brethren” signifying their previous conversion to the Lord Jesus and hence their being received into the family of God.

The intention of the letter is of a very practical nature and deals essentially with how a Christian is to live his daily life. It was written as a means to strengthen the brethren and give practical advice in everyday living as well as, most importantly, survival from a world that hated them.

James lays the foundation for the following few verses in v.2. He makes sure that the readers understand that it was intended for his “brethren” and begins with the issue of temptation. The term “temptation” (peirasmos) ould also be translated “tests” hence a testing during trials. James’ main emphasis is that we are to have great joy even during these temptations. It is a joy that is full and whole! We are to enter into these times of trials with a positive attitude and not with an attitude of despair.

The next verse begins in explaining why they should find joy in trials. James begins with the term “knowing’ (ginosko) which Thayer’s lexicon defines as:

to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel

1a) to become known

2) to know, understand, perceive, have knowledge of

2a) to understand

2b) to know

It refers to taking in knowledge or to come to recognize something. My point will be further construed later on in this small exegesis. The question is: What are we to know? Are we to know to pray for the validity of a Church and the inspiration of the book of Mormon? No, we are to know or recognize (not ask for knowledge) that “the trying of your faith worketh patience”. The principle here is that there is a benefit to these trials and that we should joyfully accept these hardships in that they build “patience”. The term “patience” would seem to be a weak translation of the term “hupomone” which could be translated as a “staying power” or a power that is with you always and brings victory. In other words persevering power! It is the ability to withstand pressure and strain from a world that is tormenting them.

James continues with his method of encouragement in stating that we are to “let patience have her perfect work”. The term work is also translated “result” in that we are to allow this endurance to result in the perfection and completeness of our lives. When we joy in our sorrows in knowing that God has a purpose and that we will be victors in our trials, we can truly enjoy our Salvation and “wanting nothing” or “lacking in nothing”.

James continues in His encouragement of these brethren by stating that if they are lacking in wisdom, to ask God and it shall be given to them. The question is: what does James mean by wisdom?  Is James saying that if we are lacking knowledge in whether a particular book or church is true to ask God? I think not! There is a vast difference between the term “knowledge” and the term “wisdom”. They are two completely different greek terms. Knowledge (gnosis) would signify the acquirement of a fact that was formerly unknown while wisdom (Sophia) would be the practical application of knowledge already known. James is not telling these brethren to ask God to reveal knowledge but to grant them wisdom about the sufferings in trials they endure and to be joyful when it happens. When these trials are entering the believer’s life then we are to pray to the Lord to give us the mind to apprehend the good in suffering. We are to search for this wisdom by faith with no doubting involved and we will acquire this wisdom to help us through the difficulties of life.

As we have seen, there is no reason to believe the interpretation put on this verse by Mormon missionaries as well as their founder Joseph Smith Jr. There have been many people converted to the LDS because of this church simply because of a lack of understanding of the original writers intent and message. The importance of biblical exegesis cannot be stressed enough. We must allow the context to drive the meaning of words.