Bearing False Witness?: An Introduction to the Christian Countercult

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The Christian countercult movement or the Christian anti-cult movement is a social movement among certain Protestant evangelical and fundamentalist [1] and other Christian ministries "discernment ministries" [2] and individual activists who oppose religious sects which they consider " cults ". Christian countercult- activism mainly stems from evangelicalism or fundamentalism.

The countercult movement asserts that particular Christian sects are erroneous because their beliefs are not in accordance with the teachings of the Bible. It also states that a religious sect can be considered a cult if its beliefs involve a denial of any of the essential Christian teachings such as salvation , the Trinity , Jesus himself as a person, the ministry and miracles of Jesus , his crucifixion , his resurrection , the Second Coming and the Rapture.

Countercult ministries often concern themselves with religious sects which consider themselves Christian but hold beliefs which are thought to contradict the teachings of the Bible. Anti-Catholicism has led some Protestants to classify the Catholic Church as a cult. John Highham described anti-Catholicism as "the most luxuriant, tenacious tradition of paranoiac agitation in American history". Countercult literature usually expresses specific doctrinal or theological concerns and it also has a missionary or apologetic purpose.

Christian countercult activist writers also emphasize the need for Christians to evangelize to followers of cults. The movement publishes its views through a variety of media, including books, magazines, and newsletters, radio broadcasting; audio and video cassette production, direct-mail appeals, proactive evangelistic encounters, professional and avocational websites, as well as lecture series, training workshops and counter-cult conferences. Christians have applied theological criteria to assess the teachings of non-orthodox movements throughout church history.

The Apostle Paul wrote an entire epistle, Galatians , antagonistic to the teachings of a Jewish sect that claimed adherence to the teachings of both Jesus and Moses cf. The Apostle John devoted his first Epistle to countering early proto-gnostic cults that had arisen in the first century, all claiming to be "Christian" 1 Jn.

In the Protestant traditions some of the earliest writings opposing unorthodox groups like Swedenborg's teachings, can be traced back to John Wesley , Alexander Campbell and Princeton Theological Seminary theologians like Charles Hodge and B. Barrington, published in Quite a few of the pioneering apologists were Baptist pastors, like I. Haldeman, or participants in the Plymouth Brethren , like William C. Irvine and Sydney Watson. Watson's use of fiction to counter the cults has been repeated by later novelists like Frank E. The early twentieth century apologists generally applied the words " heresy " and " sects " to groups like the Christadelphians , Mormons , Jehovah's Witnesses , Spiritualists, and Theosophists.

This was reflected in several chapters contributed to the multi-volume work released in The Fundamentals, where apologists criticised the teachings of Charles Taze Russell , Mary Baker Eddy , the Mormons and Spiritualists. Since the s, the approach of traditional Christians was to apply the meaning of cult such that it included those religious groups who use other scriptures beside the Bible or have teachings and practices deviating from traditional Christian teachings and practices.

Some examples of sources with published dates where known that documented this approach are:. One of the first prominent counter-cult apologists was Jan Karel van Baalen — , an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church in North America. His book, The Chaos of Cults, which was first published in , became a classic in the field as it was repeatedly revised and updated until He became well known in conservative Christian circles through a radio program, "The Bible Answer Man", currently hosted by Hank Hanegraaff.

By cultism we mean the adherence to doctrines which are pointedly contradictory to orthodox Christianity and which yet claim the distinction of either tracing their origin to orthodox sources or of being in essential harmony with those sources. Cultism, in short, is any major deviation from orthodox Christianity relative to the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith.

As Martin's definition suggests, the countercult ministries concentrate on non-traditional groups that claim to be Christian, so chief targets have been The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints i. Various other conservative Christian leaders—among them John Ankerberg and Norman Geisler —have emphasized themes similar to Martin's. Dave Breese [40] summed up this kind of definition [41] in these words:. A cult is a religious perversion.

It is a belief and practice in the world of religion which calls for devotion to a religious view or leader centered in false doctrine. It is an organized heresy. A cult may take many forms but it is basically a religious movement which distorts or warps orthodox faith to the point where truth becomes perverted into a lie.

A cult is impossible to define except against the absolute standard of the teaching of Holy Scripture. Kenne "Ken" Silva is said by other discernment bloggers to have pioneered online discernment ministry. He started his blog in and wrote there until his death in Since the s the term "new religions" or " new religious movements " has slowly entered into Evangelical usage alongside the word "cult".

Some book titles use both terms. The acceptance of these alternatives to the word "cult" in Evangelicalism reflects, in part, the wider usage of such language in the sociology of religion.

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The term "countercult apologetics " first appeared in Protestant Evangelical literature as a self-designation in the late s and early s in articles by Ronald Enroth and David Fetcho, and by Walter Martin in Martin Speaks Out on the Cults. Gordon Melton, led the latter to place more emphasis in his publications on differentiating the Christian countercult from the secular anti-cult.

The only existing umbrella organization within the countercult movement in the USA is the EMNR Evangelical Ministries to New Religions founded in which has the evangelical Lausanne Covenant as governing document and which stresses mission, scholarship, accountability and networking.

A comparison between the methods employed in the USA and other nations discloses some similarities in emphasis, but also other nuances in emphasis. The similarities are that globally these ministries share a common concern about the evangelization of people in cults and new religions. There is also often a common thread of comparing orthodox doctrines and biblical passages with the teachings of the groups under examination. However, in some of the European and southern hemisphere contexts, confrontational methods of engagement are not always relied on, and dialogical approaches are sometimes advocated.

A group of organizations which originated within the context of established religion is working in more general fields of cult-awareness, especially in Europe.

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Their leaders are theologians, and they are often social ministries affiliated to big churches. The phenomena of "cults" has also entered into the discourses of Christian missions and theology of religions. An initial step in this direction occurred in when the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization convened a mini-consultation in Thailand. From that consultation a position paper was produced. In the s discussions in academic missions and theological journals indicate that another trajectory is emerging which reflects the influence of contextual missions theory.

Advocates of this approach maintain that apologetics as a tool needs to be retained, but do not favour a confrontational style of engagement. Countercult apologetics has several variations and methods employed in analysing and responding to cults. The different nuances in countercult apologetics have been discussed by John A. Saliba and Philip Johnson. The dominant method is the emphasis on detecting unorthodox or heretical doctrines and contrasting those with orthodox interpretations of the Bible and early creedal documents.

Some apologists, such as Francis J. Beckwith , have emphasised a philosophical approach, pointing out logical, epistemological and metaphysical problems within the teachings of a particular group. Apologists like Dave Hunt in Peace, Prosperity and the Coming Holocaust and Hal Lindsey in The Terminal Generation have tended to interpret the phenomena of cults as part of the burgeoning evidence of signs that Christ's Second Advent is close at hand.

From 'Cults' to Cultures: Bridges as a Case Study in a New Evangelical Paradigm on New Religions

The Christian countercult movement or the Christian anti-cult movement is a social movement among certain Protestant evangelical and fundamentalist[1] and other Christian ministries "discernment ministries"[2] and individual activists who oppose religious sects which they consider "cults". It also states that a religious sect can be considered a cult if its beliefs involve a denial of any of the essential Christian teachings such as salvation, the Trinity, Jesus himself as a person, the ministry and miracles of Jesus, his crucifixion, his resurrection, the Second Coming and the Rapture.

The anti-cult movement abbreviated ACM; sometimes called the countercult movement [1] is a social group which opposes any new religious movement NRM that they characterize as a cult. Sociologists David Bromley and Anson Shupe initially defined the ACM in as a collection of groups embracing brainwashing-theory,[2] but later observed a significant shift in ideology towards pathologizing membership in NRMs.

This countermovement has reportedly recruited participants from family members of "cultists", former group members or apostates , religious groups including Jewish groups [5] and associations. Howard P. Becker's church—sect typology, based on Ernst Troeltsch's original theory and providing the basis for the modern concepts of cults, sects, and new religious movements In modern English, the term cult has usually been used in reference to a social group that is defined by its unusual religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or by its common interest in a particular personality, object or goal.

This sense of the term is controversial and it has divergent definitions both in popular culture and academia and it has also been an ongoing source of contention among scholars across several fields of study. In the sociological classifications of religious movements, a cult is a social group with socially deviant or novel beliefs and practices,[3] although this is often unclear. A member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness proselytising on the streets of Moscow, Russia A new religious movement NRM , also known as a new religion or alternative spirituality, is a religious or spiritual group that has modern origins and is peripheral to its society's dominant religious culture.

NRMs can be novel in origin or part of a wider religion, in which case they are distinct from pre-existing denominations. Some NRMs deal with the challenges posed by the modernizing world by embracing individualism, whereas others seek tightly knit collective means. Most have only a few members, some have thousands, and a few have more than a million members. In Western nations, a secular anti-cult movement and a Christian counte. The Kingdom of the Cults, first published in , is a reference book of the Christian countercult movement in the United States, written by Baptist minister and counter-cultist Walter Ralston Martin.

The beliefs of other world religions such as Islam and Buddhism are also discussed. He covers each group's history and teachings, and contrasts them with those of mainstream Christianity, from a decidedly critical, evangelical perspective. He is also an apologist on doctrinal and cultural issues. Career Prior to becoming a leading figure in the Christian countercult movement, Hanegraaff was closely affiliated with the ministry of D.

During his association with Kennedy in the s, he applied memory-based techniques such as acrostic mnemonics to summarise strategies, methods and techniques in Christian evangelism. His work bears resemblances to memory dynamics techniques developed in speed-reading courses and in memory training programs used in. The CRI logo. In the organization moved to its present location in Charlotte, North Carolina. It represents one of the pioneering organizations in what is called the Christian countercult movement, but also relates to the wider history of Evangelical Christian apologetics in the mid-Twentieth century.

Michael the Archangel defeating Satan's army: a common image of spiritual warfare. Painting by Luca Giordano Spiritual warfare is the Christian concept of fighting against the work of preternatural evil forces. It is based on the biblical belief in evil spirits, or demons, that are said to intervene in human affairs in various ways.

Prayer is a common form of spiritual warfare among Christians. Doctrines of demonology Jewish demonology escalated with the rise of Jewish pseudepigraphic writings of the 1st Century BCE, in particular with Enochic apocrypha. Jewish apocrypha initially influenced post-New Testament writings of the early fathers, which further defined Christian demonology. Walter Ralston Martin September 10, — June 26, , was an American Baptist Christian minister and author who founded the Christian Research Institute in as a para-church ministry specializing as a clearing-house of information in both general Christian apologetics and in countercult apologetics.

His father was a prominent figure in the legal profession who served as an assistant District attorney, before working as a criminal trial lawyer. In George Martin became a county court judge and presided over cases involving some of the notorious Murder Inc criminals. She was one of several children born of that marriage, but was put up. Slick is the president, and over thirty writers contribute to the CARM website. This Was Your Life! Since his death, his company Chick Publications has continued to print new tracts using other authors working for the company.

Although many of Chick's tracts express views that are generally accepted within Christian theology, several tracts have expressed controversial viewpoints. Most notably, Chick tracts were known for expressing strongly anti-Catholic views, as well as his criticisms of other faiths including Islam and Mormonism. Chick Publications Chick Publications produces and markets the Chick tracts, along with other comic books, books, and posters. The company estimates it has printed over mi. Paul R. Martin was a psychotherapist, licensed clinical psychologist, author, pastor, and director of the Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center in Ohio.

He also worked in private practice in Athens, Ohio. Martin taught psychology, psychopharmacology, and the Biblical basis of behavior for five years at Geneva College, where he was a member of the department of psychology.

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In , he dropped out of graduate school to join the group, when it was known as "The Blitz". He later explained that he left the group when he did not receive an adequate response, after questioning its more controversial methods and tactics. Martin served as an expert witness in court cases including the Lee Boyd Malvo sniper trial and the trial of Zacharias Moussaoui.

Having neither interviewed the defendants nor studied. Robert "Bob" Passantino 11 August — 17 November , was an Italian American Christian author and journalist who wrote on subjects related to Christian apologetics, philosophy, and the Christian countercult movement. He emerged as an apologist for faith in Evangelical Christianity during the s.

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He and his soon-to-be wife, Gretchen, had already begun to collaborate in a ministry of Christian evangelism toward adherents of the Jehovah's Witnesses when they became acquainted with the Baptist pastor and countercult writer Walter Martin. Purpose and activities The organization brings together groups and individuals who evangelize to members of new religious movements NRMs and seeks legitimacy and accountability for the countercult movement.

Gordon Lewis, one of the group's founders, defines a cult as a "religious group which claims authorization by Christ and the Bible, but neglects or distorts the gospel". EMNR holds conferences about pertinent issues, publishes relevant materials, encourages networking between member groups, and makes recommendations of helpful agencies and materials that meet its standards. Located in Berlin, it professes to function as a centralized research, documentation and information center on new religious movements. Hummel is also the author of many books about new religious movements.

Hummel studied Protestant theology and received his Ph. Subsequently, he worked as a pastor in Schleswig Holstein. From until he led the Lutheranian theological college in Orissa, India. Back in Germany he received a request to research Indian guru movements at the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg.

In response we try to remove the threat by various means, including the derogation of the competing worldview and their adherents. With these insights in mind, prejudice against adherents of other worldviews like Islam can be understood in part as a way to protect our meaning system. Strategies that seek to address Islamophobia must account for these psychological realities.

But what about apologetics and the need to "give to everyone an answer" 1 Pet. I am not saying that these social psychological insights mean that all forms of apologetics and worldview defense are out of bounds. But it depends upon why and how we go about it. Are we doing so with "gentleness and respect" to commend the best of what following Jesus has to offer, or is it out of fear and disrespect as a form of worldview annihilation that functions as a means to alleviate our insecurities? Follow Us. Bob Roberts. Bob Robinson. Burning Man. Carrie Graham. Christian Nationalism.

Craig Blomberg. Cultural Encounters journal. Dispensational Premillennialism. Jewish dialogue. Judeo-Christian nation. New Testament. Pew Forum. Phil Wyman. Righteous Mind. We will see how his book is received. Of course Dr. Melton is no stranger to those of us in ministry to new religions. Can we really learn anything from those who have so readily shared criticisms of the ministry near and dear to our hearts and made positive, perhaps even supportive comments about new religions? They have been invited because they have some criticisms that we need to hear. No one has a corner on truth, including evangelicals in the discernment community. It just may be that after giving Melton and Cowan a hearing and engaging in a moment of self-reflection and self-criticism that we may find that we have made some mistakes in what we do and how we do it. In the interests of truth and integrity we should be willing to at least give them a hearing and to consider the concerns that they bring.

To dismiss them with derogatory labels is inappropriate for open-minded evangelicals. By listening to their criticisms, and making changes in our ministries in light of any valid criticisms they may bring will only serve to make us more credible and more effective. You represent an intelligent and discerning membership. Can we not come together, listen respectfully and attentively, and consider the possible merits of their presentations? Another facet of this marginalization may revolve around our primary model for responding to new religions. You may find some or many of the ideas presented in this paper objectionable.

Hopefully you will also find a few things to think and pray about… I firmly believe that after twenty years of ministry Evangelical Ministries to New Religions [] …we can move beyond the fringes. Note: The best examples of the new fringe direction Morehead and EMNR will be taking with fellow-member ministries goes beyond the pale. Melton is the director of the American chapter of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula ; Introvigne directs the Italian chapter of this blood-worshiping cult.

See: Photos of J. See more on Introvigne and Melton:. The Compromised Ties of the Discernment Ministries. Coming Soon! Our online Sacred Tribes Journal will explore outreach to these groups and will feature an unusual blending of the theological with the sociological , a blend often found in current missiological research but rarely in so-called 'counter-cult' research and presentation. We encourage you to bookmark our site. Our first issue is planned for late Spring Check back! Phil Johnson [Philip S. This site is designed and sponsored by Cornerstone magazine , but its contents are controlled wholly by Sacred Tribes journal.

Well worth monitoring.

This would be interesting background information for us all. Web-space has been donated by the Cornerstone Community to enable this e-journal to appear. There are no salaries for the editors and no remuneration for contributors. She lived in their communal setting and traveled with their theater group which presented the play Lonesome Stone. The group even took their production to the UK and Europe. A few resources on the Internet:. Moving on to EMNR …. Posted on the EMNR website announcing upcoming conference:.

The conference will be held Feb. Speakers to include among others :. Irving Hexham. Terry Muck ——"Academics, Apologetics, Apostolics".

Christian countercult movement

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