How to Cult Proof Your Mind – Program 1
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©1998|
|Is the Bible an authoritative source for information about Jesus, salvation, or any other religious questions you might have? Where else can you turn for trustworthy information?|
Can the Bible Be Trusted?
With Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. Calvin Beisner, Mr. Bill Cetnar, Mrs. Joan Cetnar, Mr. Ed Decker, Dr. Walter Kaiser, Rabbi Pinchas Lapide, Mrs. Lorri MacGregor, Mr. James Mock, Mrs. Debbie Oakley, Mr. Ken Oakley, Mrs. Helen Ortega, Mrs. Mary Kay Radpour, Dr. Robert Sabin, Dr. Walter Martin, Mr. Nathaniel Urshan
- [Excerpt from Former Jehovah’s Witnesses Testify]
- Mr. Bill Cetnar: The basic reason I changed my mind was that Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to be speaking for God. The Bible says that if you are speaking for God, the prophecies that you make, the statements that you make, have to be absolutely true. They have to happen. Jehovah’s Witnesses announced the end of the world for 1874, 1879, 1881, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1975. And now they display that new disease called “loss of memory.” They can’t remember ever predicting the end of the world.”
- [Excerpt from An Interview with Dr. Walter Martin]
- Dr. John Ankerberg: “Okay, what do you do when they say, “Now, if you really want to know the truth, what you have to do is, you’ve got to go and pray about it”?
- Dr. Walter Martin: Well, you don’t have to go and pray about something God has specifically said. For instance, God said, “Thou shalt not steal.” Now, it’s ludicrous when you have an opportunity to steal something to bow your head and say, “I’ve got to pray about it.” You know automatically God said it. So when Mormons say, “Pray about the Book of Mormon,” you don’t have to pray about the Book of Mormon, all you have to do is take God’s Word, compare it to the Book of Mormon and Mormon theology and God has spoken. You reject it.
Ankerberg: Besides the major religions in our country, there are more than 3,000 cult groups, all claiming different ways to God. But Jesus said He is the only way to God. Who is right? Logically, one leader or one group could be right, but they can’t all be right at the same time if they are saying contradictory things.
If you are a Christian, do you know how to present the evidence about Jesus? Do you know how to answer people’s questions from the Bible? Is your own mind “cult-proofed” or do you have unanswered questions that cause you doubts? The Bible tells Christians, “Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” [1 Pet. 3:15]
On this edition of The John Ankerberg Show, we want to help you by showing you how you can answer the questions of sincere people in the cults and skeptics who are searching for the truth. For your own peace of mind, to learn the information people desperately need to hear, we invite you to join us.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Welcome. Do you know how to answer the questions of those who are truly searching to learn who Jesus is? Do you know how to answer some of the questions of those in the cults? Many times people can ask tricky religious questions that we have to think about. And unfortunately, unanswered questions can sometimes turn people away from Jesus or start Christians doubting their own faith. Well, in today’s program we’re going to try to help you answer, both biblically and logically, different questions that have been raised.
Today, our first question has to do with authority. You know that many different religious groups quote the Bible but teach doctrines the Bible does not teach. The basis for their new ideas and contradictory doctrines is their claim that one of their leaders is a prophet or someone special to whom God has given this new information. Many times they will tell you this person has received the “true” interpretation of the Bible, and they follow it. But think about this: if God is all-loving, would He give us contradictory information about how to get to know Him? Wouldn’t it make more sense that He would just give us one way and mark it clearly? That’s what Jesus said. He said, “I am the way…no man comes to the Father but through me.” [John 14:6] Different ways, contradictory revelations would completely confuse our minds, and we could never know the truth.
Now, of course, some people claim that we can’t know God with our mind, only subjectively, experientially with our heart. But the God of the Bible says, no, that is not true. You can know God both with your mind and your heart, and you can get to the bottom line and know that you know. But how do you go about this?
Well, an example of a large religious group in our country that is following leaders who claim to be speaking for God is the Watchtower Society, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you that if the Watchtower makes a statement, declares any doctrine, that their leaders are speaking directly from God; their organization is the only one declaring the right religion on earth. How would you answer this claim biblically?
Well, a Christian’s answer starts with Deuteronomy 18:20-22. We will hear this verse explained in a moment by a man who was a Jehovah’s Witness for 25 years and became one of their top leaders who worked at their headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. He was responsible for answering all of the questions submitted by people in the southern part of the United States for the Watchtower. Mr. Bill Cetnar was a very sincere man and studied his Bible regularly. But one day, while reading Deuteronomy 18 about how you can tell the difference between a true prophet of God and a false prophet, he came to the shocking realization that the leaders at the Watchtower Society were false prophets. Why? I’d like you to listen to Mr. Bill Cetnar as he explains the facts that he came to understand that led him away from the Watchtower Society. Listen.
[Excerpt from Former Jehovah’s Witnesses Testify]
- Ankerberg: Alright, first of all, would you tell me and tell our audience, what are the claims of the Jehovah’s Witnesses? What do they claim, first of all? Could you just give me some statements about that?
- Bill Cetnar: John, I believe the most important thing that Jehovah’s Witnesses claim is that they are God’s prophet. They are God’s spokesman. They are speaking for God.
- Ankerberg: Are they the only one?
- Bill Cetnar: And that they are the only right religion on earth.
- Ankerberg: Alright, what else are they saying?
- Helen Ortega: They also claim they are the “faithful and discreet slave” that dispenses spiritual food in due season and you can only get it through their channel or through them.
- Debbie Oakley: They also claim they are the “place of safety;” the only place where you can be when God’s wrath comes upon the world.
- Joan Cetnar: The “sole channel of truth” on the earth today, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
- Ken Oakley: That’s what I get for being last, I was thinking the same thing: that they claim to know more about the accuracy of the Bible than any organization today.
- Joan Cetnar: The only ones with an accurate knowledge.
- Ankerberg: Alright, if you were to say that theirs is the only translation of the Bible, do they point people to the Bible only?
- Bill Cetnar: Every Jehovah’s Witness carries a Bible with him. If he is working in the Catholic neighborhood it will be a Douay translation, or an American translation. However, eventually they will switch you to their perversion of the Bible which I call the “Green Phantom.” It is a phantom because nobody knows who translated it and it is green.
- Ankerberg: Alright, is their authority only the Scripture then?
- Bill Cetnar: They claim that the Bible is the only authority, and then when you come in because of that Bible principle, they exchange it for the authority of their president or organization.
- Ankerberg: Okay, that is what they are claiming. And if we said there was more than 120 years that you have actually participated as a Jehovah’s Witness in that, may I ask you this question: Do you folks still believe that now?
- Bill Cetnar: Absolutely not. Not anymore.
- Joan Cetnar: No.
- Ankerberg: Alright, let me ask you folks this. If you are saying that the Watchtower Society, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, are the only way to God, that is what they were saying, and you participated in that most of your adult life, why is it that you changed your mind?
- Bill Cetnar: The basic reason that I changed my mind was that Jehovah’s Witnesses claimed to be speaking for God. The Bible says that if you are speaking for God, the prophecies that you make, the statements that you make, have to be absolutely true. They have to happen. Jehovah’s Witnesses announced the end of the world for 1874, 1879, 1881, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1975. And now they display that new disease called “loss of memory.” They can’t remember ever predicting the end of the world.
- Ankerberg: Give me an example that documented it.
- Bill Cetnar: I have with me a copy of the Watchtower magazine, August 15, 1968. It says, “Why are you looking forward to 1975?”
- Ankerberg: And why were they?
- Bill Cetnar: Because they said that the world would end prior to October 1, 1975 because the 6,000 years of man’s existence will end in October, and Armageddon has to come before the last 1,000 year period.
- Ankerberg: Are you talking about a spiritual ending or a real solid everybody disappear?
- Bill Cetnar: No. I am talking about fumigation of the earth, of everybody but Jehovah’s Witnesses.
- Ankerberg: They actually said that?
- Bill Cetnar: Absolutely!
- Ankerberg: And the Kingdom Halls, do they actually, you know, were they expecting that? Had it up on the wall, mark this date, this is going to happen?
- Ken Oakley: Well, I remember back that far, too, when we were at the Kingdom Hall in California. During that time there was a thermometer on the back door of the Kingdom Hall. And it was marking the months till October 1, 1975, when, like Bill had said, 6,000 years of human existence would come to an end, marking the beginning of the millennial reign of Christ and, in fact, the Battle of Armageddon when all wickedness would be done away with. So, it was continually in front of us at every meeting, at every gathering. It was always right there, it was always preached from the platform: 1975 is the date. Be faithful to the Society.
- Ankerberg: Alright, in Deuteronomy 18, everybody that looks at their Bible realizes there is a definition of a true and a false prophet that is given there. Refresh our memories on what it actually says.
- Bill Cetnar: You always need two witnesses to establish a matter. One is Deuteronomy 18:22, John, that you mentioned. This is a clear definition: if you want to know the answer to this question, if you are sincere, how may I know a word that does not come from YHWH? If a prophet speaks in the authority, the name of YHWH and if a word does not come true or come to pass, the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you need not be afraid of him. Jesus also said that in Matthew 7:15-16, you will recognize the false prophets by their fruit. The fruit of a false prophet has to be false prophecy.
Ankerberg: So let’s summarize. How do you know that someone is a true prophet, giving true information from God, or nothing more than a false prophet? It is not by how good they look or how nice they are. Deuteronomy 18:21-22 says, “You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.”
The God of the Bible doesn’t want us listening to false prophets. He has given us evidence and reasons why we shouldn’t. And He has clearly pointed us to His Son whom He sent, and Jesus proved He was God Incarnate through His perfect life, His teachings and His resurrection from the dead.
Now, in a moment we’re going to turn to the second question, which is, “How can so many religious groups quote the Bible but end up teaching different doctrines that contradict the Bible?”
Ankerberg: Alright, now we want to turn to the question, “How can so many religious groups quote the Bible but end up teaching doctrines contrary to the Bible?” The answer is, they’re not telling you the whole truth. Their doctrines do not come solely from the Bible. It’s always the Bible and some other book or books that take priority over the Bible. To prove this, I want you to listen to one of my best friends who was also one of our most popular guests on this television program, the late Dr. Walter Martin. He was the author and scholar who wrote the classic book, The Kingdom of the Cults.
One night we had a debate scheduled and the other side didn’t show up. So on the spur of the moment I said, “Walter, let me take as many different religious groups and cults in our country as I can get in to the time-frame and let me ask you the very questions they ask Christians.” Only Dr. Walter Martin with his photographic memory could have done this program. Here is how he answered the question: “How can so many religious groups claim they are quoting the Bible but end up teaching doctrines completely contrary to it?”
- [Excerpt from An Interview with Dr. Walter Martin]
- Ankerberg: And, Dr. Martin, we’re so glad that you’re with us tonight because many Christians are having folks from different religious persuasions knock on our door, talk to us at work, send us mail, they’re even on television and on radio, that are telling us things that contradict what we are hearing in our Bible. Many times they make it sound so good that many of our Christian friends across the country, as well as many folks that do not know the Lord, need some help in straightening out what to say. And I would like to give some of the quotes from these different groups and I’d like you to respond.
- First, the basic things of the Bible. You know, I’d like to talk to you from the writings from the Kingdom Halls from across the country, from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is a statement that you find in their writings. I’m quoting verbatim here, “The Bible is the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God as it was originally given and has been preserved by Him as the revealer of His purposes.” Now we hear that, and yet when they come to our door, they’ve got this little magazine with them. Would you comment on what is the authority for the Jehovah’s Witnesses?
- Dr. Walter Martin: Well, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is the authority for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They interpret the Bible for them, and the best illustration of this, John, is the concept of blood transfusion. They have told their people they may not under any circumstances take human blood, not because the Bible forbids but because the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society says the Bible prohibits it. Take a few verses out of context and deny blood transfusions to people. That’s a classic illustration of what they do.
- Ankerberg: Alright, let’s jump to another group and that is the Latter-day Saints, the Mormons in Salt Lake City. Now, I’ve talked with them here on the program as well as on airplanes and in airports and at universities and so on. They will start out and say, “Well, yes, we agree with the Bible.” But then they have a few other books that they throw in, too. Would you comment on that?
- Martin: Well, Mormonism says, “The Bible is the Word of God insofar as it is correctly translated.” Now, that means that wherever the Bible contradicts Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, or the Book of Mormon, their three sacred books, that the Bible is no longer the authority. They and their general authorities are the authority. So when you are dealing with Mormonism, that’s exactly what you’re going to run up against.
- Ankerberg: Okay. Do those books ever contradict outright a statement in Scripture? Give an example.
- Martin: Oh, yes. For instance, the Bible says, “There is only one God.” In fact, Jesus Christ said the greatest of all commandments is there is only one God: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” [Deut. 6:4] And the Mormons say, “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become,” which means that you can become a god through the priesthood of the Mormon Church, just as much a god as Jesus or His Father. So they are polytheists.
- Ankerberg: Okay, what do you do when they say, “Now, if you really want to know the truth, what you have to do is you’ve got to go pray about it”?
- Martin: Well, you don’t have to go and pray about something God has specifically said. For instance, God said, “Thou shalt not steal.” [Ex. 20:15] Now, it’s ludicrous when you have an opportunity to steal something to bow your head and say, “I’ve got to pray about it.” You know automatically God said it. So when the Mormons say, “Pray about the Book of Mormon,” you don’t have to pray about the Book of Mormon. All you have to do is take God’s Word, compare it to the Book of Mormon and Mormon theology, and God has spoken. You reject it.
- Ankerberg: Alright. Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science, talking about the Bible, say this: “The manifest mistakes in the ancient versions, the 30,000 different readings in the Old Testament and the 300,000 in the New, these facts show how immortal and material sense stole into the Divine record, darkening to some extent the inspired pages with its own hue.” This comes from Science and Health, page 33.
- Martin: Well, Mrs. Eddy didn’t believe in the absolute authority of the Bible, and she cited manuscript studies about which she knew nothing as if this in some way impugned the doctrines of the Scripture. First of all, there aren’t 300,000 at all. The science of textual criticism is very exacting and we do have, according to Dr. Bruce Metzger, 97% of the New Testament text as originally given, and it is very, very accurate. Mrs. Eddy suffered from the fact that she didn’t understand biblical theology or biblical criticism.
- Ankerberg: The Way International says that they believe that the Bible is the Word of God. But then how come we disagree with them on some key things?
- Martin: Well, they believe the Bible is the Word of God but it is subject to the translation and interpretation of Victor Paul Wierwille who is the founder of The Way International. And his bestselling book is entitled, Jesus Christ Is Not God, which will give you a rough idea of where you are going with Mr. Wierwille.
- Ankerberg: Okay, how about the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon? He’s got the Divine Principle. He talks about the Bible and he’s saying that the Divine Principle, which is 536 pages, is based on that. Would you comment?
- Martin: It’s not based on it at all. The Divine Principle contradicts the Bible. Mr. Moon denies the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and he denies that Jesus Christ is literally God in human flesh, though he believes that he is the second advent of Christ, which we were discussing a while ago with the Baha’is.
Ankerberg: So let’s summarize question number two: How can so many religious groups quote the Bible but end up teaching different doctrines? It’s primarily because they have another authority, another sacred book that takes priority over the Bible. But Jesus, the apostles and the prophets all teach that only the Bible is God’s Word. By the way, how do we know that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God?
Well, that’s another whole program and if you would like to learn all of the answers, let me suggest you read this book, Ready with an Answer for the Tough Questions About God. Dr. John Weldon and I put it together. We have chapters on the archaeological confirmations of the Bible; on what scholars have said about the accuracy of the Bible; chapters about science and history; we have another chapter on the absolute uniqueness of the Bible and why Jesus and the apostles claimed that only the books we have in the Bible are the inspired, inerrant Word of God.
But let’s move on to our third question which everyone at one time or another has asked. It is: “How can Christians claim there is only one God if Jesus is God, the Holy Spirit is God, and the Father is God?” Let’s go back to Dr. Walter Martin. I asked him to answer this question in light of the groups we just mentioned. Here’s how he answered. Listen:
- [Excerpt from An Interview with Dr. Walter Martin]
- Ankerberg: Every one of these folks that we’ve talked about disagrees on one specific thing, among others, and that is the Trinity.
- Martin: Yes.
- Ankerberg: They do not want to hold to the concept of the Trinity. Let me start off with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and read from the Watchtower Society’s own booklet. They say, “Such doctrine is not of God.” They say that it is of Satan. “Satan is the originator of the Trinity doctrine. Sincere persons who want to know the true God and serve Him find it a bit difficult to love and worship a complicated, freakish looking three-headed god.” Now, others would say the same thing. How would you handle these folks? What is the proof scripturally that there is a Triune God?
- Martin: When you’re talking to a Jehovah’s Witness, or for that matter, a cultist, about the Trinity, the simplest thing to do is to say, “Look, the nature of God is beyond our understanding. Everybody knows that.” I’ve said it many times. It’s true. If you could understand how God was God, you’d be God. He doesn’t ask us to do that. He simply says, “This is my Word and in there I have revealed myself.”
- So in the Word of God you have the Father declared to be God; in 2 Peter 1:17, God the Father. You have the Son declared to be God in John 1:1. You have the Holy Spirit declared to be God in Acts 5:3-4. Then the Bible says, “And these three persons are the One God.” Why? Because there’s only one God. [Deut. 6:4] So you don’t have to be a great logician to figure out that if the Father is called God, the Son is called God, the Spirit is called God, and there’s only one God, then the Father, the Son and the Spirit are the One God, whether you understand it or not. That’s where they break down. They will not take the leap of faith that if God says it, that’s sufficient.
- Ankerberg: Okay, and specifically, let’s take an example of the Mormons here. I’m quoting from Journal of Discourses: “In the beginning the head of the gods [plural] called a counsel of the gods and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world.” Or, “God Himself was once as we are now and is an exalted man.” Or, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s, the Son also, but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones but is a personage of spirit.” Or, “God exists and we had better strive to be prepared to be one with them.” Tell me what’s going on here.
- Martin: Joseph Smith is a supreme interpreter of Mormonism, obviously, historically. Joseph Smith said he would always preach on the plurality of gods, and then he said, “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three gods.” Now that’s the difference between Mormonism and Christianity. Mormonism is tri-theistic. It believes in three separate gods. The Bible says there is only one God who manifests Himself to us as three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There is a complete difference. And Mormonism adds to that the doctrine that you can become a god. So in Mormon theology there is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which are three gods; then you become one, that’s four; Brigham is one, that’s five; and keep adding and by the time you get finished, you’ve got 5.2 million Mormons, so you can probably figure on at least a million or so gods coming out of that.
- Ankerberg: Alright, let’s jump to Mary Baker Eddy. This is what she says. “The theory of three persons in one God, that is a personal trinity or tri-unity, suggests heathen gods rather than the one ever-present I AM” from Science and Health, page 152.
- Martin: Yes, Mrs. Eddy took the Hindu trinity and other pagan ideas and said, “Well, it’s all the same thing. The Christian Trinity is the same thing. Therefore, it suggests pagan gods.” Again, it’s the ignorance of Mrs. Eddy, because she was not a scholar in comparative religions and she didn’t understand historic Christian theology. Christian theology never said that there was more than one God. It always affirmed that there was one God and simply said He manifests Himself as these three persons. Now, God never anywhere explained to us how He did it. All He said was, “This is how it is.” Mrs. Eddy refused that.
- Ankerberg: I sure appreciate your being with me today. Next week we will continue to answer some of the most-asked questions you need to know to talk to your friends or those in the cults. Goodbye; God bless you. We’ll see you next week.