Interview with Dr. Walter Martin on Cults – Program 1

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. Walter Martin; ©1984
As Christians we believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible, inspired word of God. But not everyone agrees. What do other religious groups think about the Bible? Many groups also think the Trinity is a false doctrine.

Program 1: Interview with Dr. Walter Martin on Cults
The Bible and the Trinity

Dr. John Ankerberg: We’re glad that you joined us tonight. Our guest is Dr. Walter Martin. 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 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 they 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: Okay, give me another one.
Martin: There are other illustrations of how they do it. For instance, on biblical prophecy, the Watchtower organization said in 1889 that the world organizations would cease in 1914 and that Armageddon would take place. It didn’t happen in 1914. They moved it to 1918, 1925. 1975 was the last one. Each time they have done it on the authority of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, and each time they’ve been wrong.
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 – 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 me 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.” [Mark 12:29] 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 of 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, says 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 best-selling 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 discussed in another program with the Baha’is.
Ankerberg: Okay, how about Herbert W. Armstrong and his son, Garner Ted? Now, they say that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
Martin: Yes, absolutely, but “as interpreted for their people by Herbert W. Armstrong.” Garner Ted is now in disfavor so you don’t have that problem with him anymore, but you do have it with Herbert W. and he interprets the Bible for you. So if he says, “A passage means this,” you believe it or you’re out of the Worldwide Church of God.
Ankerberg: Transcendental Meditation, some people say, is not a religion. Before we comment on its authoritative teaching, what would you say about that statement?
Martin: That’s not true, because a federal court ascertained that it is a religion and is not subject, therefore, to federal grants which they were getting. They are a Hindu cult, a variation of the Hindu religion. They masqueraded for years as a mind-type therapy and analysis meditation technique. It turned out in court that they weren’t telling the truth.
Ankerberg: Okay, what do they base their teachings on?
Martin: The Vedas, the Upanishads and the interpretations of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and of the Guru Dev, who was his teacher and is also revered as a god.
Ankerberg: Now, they quote the Bible a lot, though.
Martin: Well, sure, because if you were going to another culture, wouldn’t you familiarize yourself with the spiritual authority of that culture? Maharishi is on record as saying that you can’t get to the Americans using Hinduism. So how do you go? Well, you go on a “mind therapy” which is going to get them to meditate and improve their digestion, their sex life, and everything else. That’s what they advertise. So, that’s the way to get to the American.
Ankerberg: Okay. Point number two: 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. Let’s talk about, 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, 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; Mark 12:29] 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: Give me a verse that backs that up.
Martin: Well, if you check the three verses that I gave you before, 2 Peter 1; John 1; add Acts 5, you have the Father, the Son and the Spirit all affirmed as God. Then you go to Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
Ankerberg: Or Matthew 28:19.
Martin: The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit are clearly taught there.
Ankerberg: Unification Church: kind of complicated. First of all, they say, “God cannot exist without him, as man cannot exist without God.” What are they talking about here?
Martin: Well, that’s a good question. I don’t think Mr. Moon knows what he’s talking about most of the time theologically.
Ankerberg: But he calls God “parents,” doesn’t he?
Martin: Yes, the God-family idea. But you have to understand something about Mr. Moon. He came out of a Presbyterian background, had an allegedly Pentecostal experience, and then a personal interview with Jesus Christ, who explained these things to him and then subsequently he talked to Muhammad and Buddha also. His theology reflects all of these backgrounds. So with Mr. Moon you are not dealing with Christian theology at all.
Ankerberg: Okay. Garner Ted and his father, Herbert W. Armstrong, say that there’s only two, not three Gods.
Martin: Yes. The Father is God and Jesus is God. But Garner Ted and his father very carefully omit a discussion of their literature. They say it on television. For instance, Garner Ted will look at you on television and he’ll say, “Jesus Christ is God, now you understand that. That’s what the Bible says.” Well, then you write to the Worldwide Church of God and you say, “Send me some information on Jesus Christ.” You get pamphlets. The pamphlets say, “Jesus is God and you can become God, too, just like Jesus;” well, now there’s three; and keep on adding.
Ankerberg: We’re going to take a break and come back here. We want to talk more about what some of the groups are saying and what a Christian might respond concerning Jesus Christ. Jehovah’s Witnesses have a lot to say that we don’t agree with on that and we need some help. Stick with us. We’ll be right back.

Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking with Dr. Walter Martin on what some of the folks that are of a different persuasion than Evangelical Christians reading their Bible, what they’re saying, and what we might respond back to them on the evidence. It’s not what I think or what you think, but what does God’s Word tell us?
Dr. Martin, we’ve got something here. We look at the Watchtower magazine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Boy, they’re strong on what they think about Jesus. For example, they say in Let God Be True, “Who ran the universe during the three days that Jesus was dead and in the grave? If Jesus was God, then during Jesus’ death God was dead and in the grave. If Jesus was the immortal God, he could not have died.” Then they take up this verse, “My Father is greater than I,” [John 14:28] means greater not only as to office but also as to person. They are saying he is a small god, if you want, but He’s not the Almighty God.
Martin: Well, “Who ran the universe when Jesus was dead?” sounds like a very show-stopping question until you realize that when you talk to a Jehovah’s Witness there’s only one person that’s called God, that’s the Father. The Son and the Spirit are not part of the Trinity. They reject the Trinity as pagan and satanic. So what you have to do is establish Trinitarian theology by showing them that the Bible indeed calls the Father, the Son and the Spirit God and that there is only one God. That can be easily demonstrated.
Ankerberg: Let’s do it.
Martin: Well, if you point to passages of Scripture where the Father, the Son and the Spirit are mentioned, you can’t miss it. Matthew 28:19-20, “Go into all the world and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” Jesus Christ said, “Before Abraham was, I Am.” [John 8:58] He claims to be God. The Holy Spirit is called God in Acts 5:4. The Holy Spirit answers prayer in Acts 13:2. The Holy Spirit is a person. You can grieve Him, vex Him, blaspheme Him. You can’t do that to an invisible force. So the problem with the Jehovah’s Witnesses is that they say, “Jesus is God. Jesus died. God died. Who ran the universe?” Wrong! Jesus is God the Son, second person of the Trinity. God the Son died on the cross. God the Father and God the Holy Spirit were alive and well running the universe.
Ankerberg:< Okay, comment on this, “My Father is greater than I.” [John 14:28] A lot of folks get messed up on that. They say, “You know, that sounds like Jesus has got be a lot less, so He can’t be the same thing as God.”
Martin: Okay, let’s illustrate this in a way we can’t possibly miss. Ronald Reagan is President of the United States. He is greater by his office and position than any American. But if you said to Reagan, “That makes you better than me,” Reagan would say, “No: greater in position but not better in nature.” If you go to Hebrews 1, it says that God recognized His Son as God. He said, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” [Heb. 1:6] To which of the angels did He ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you?” [Heb. 1:5] To none of the angels, the Greek says; none of them. Well, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus is Michael the archangel.
Ankerberg: I can hear my Jehovah’s Witness friends out there saying, “But, you know, He’s the firstborn in Revelation and Colossians. [Rev. 1:5; Col. 1:18] That tells me if He’s firstborn, He was born, he had a start, didn’t He?
Martin: They use that constantly. Also, most Christians don’t know the answer to it. Just simply take them to the gospel of Matthew where Jesus is in the temple answering questions back and forth with the rulers of the temple. His parents miss Him and they come back for Him and they say to Him, “Well, why have you done this to us? We’ve been looking for you.” He said, “I must be about my Father’s business.” Then it says, “He went down to Nazareth and He was subject to them.” [Luke 2:41-52] Well, if subject means inferior, then Jesus was inferior to Mary and Joseph because it is exactly the same word that appears in 1 Corinthians 15 when it says, “Everything is subject to the Father.” [1 Cor. 15:27-28] It’s true. God the Father will be all and in all, but that does not detract from the deity of Christ.
Ankerberg: And “firstborn” means rank. It means not the fact that He was born first.
Martin: Yes, your context in Colossians 1 is authority, who He is. “He is above all thrones, and dominions, and principalities, and powers. All things were created by Him and for Him. He exists before all things.” [Col. 1:16] Your key, John, is the word “things.” What is a thing? A “thing” is something created. God alone is not a thing, he is the Creator. He calls His Son the Creator. Therefore, he is not a “thing.”
Ankerberg: How about Isaiah 9 in commenting about His being not Almighty God, but Mighty God?
Martin: Just turn the page over to Isaiah 10. It says, “Jacob shall return unto the Mighty God.” [Isa. 10:21] Who is the Mighty God? El Gibbor. Who was El Gibbor? Jehovah. There is no way out of it in the Hebrew.
Ankerberg: Let’s jump to the Mormons at this point and we are talking about the Journal of Discourses and what they say about Jesus and the Virgin birth. In there they say, “Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the Garden of Eden and who is our Father in heaven.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, pp. 50-51) Or, “When our father Adam came into the Garden of Eden he came into it with a celestial body and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He is our father and our god and the only god with whom we have to do.” What should Christians say when they hear something like that?
Martin: Well, after they get over the shock of what they have heard I think they should point out that the Mormon Church taught that doctrine for over 100 years, the doctrine of Adam-god. A few years ago it got so obnoxious to the average Mormon that they had to change it. The Mormon god changes his mind. He changed his mind about polygamy. He changed his mind about the Blacks and he changed his mind about Adam being their father and their god.
Ankerberg: What you are saying is they get new revelation along the way.
Martin: Oh yes, you always get a new revelation to cover it. But this is very important, John. The Mormon Church teaches that Jesus Christ, and I am quoting now, Brigham Young, “Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost.” Alright now, how was He begotten? Brigham said, “After the same manner as the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve.” Jesus Christ according to classic Mormon theology came into existence by sexual relations between a resurrected God and the Virgin Mary, and that has not been repudiated by the church to today. This is not Christianity, this is pornography. Matthew 1 says, “That which is conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit.” [Matt. 1:20]
Ankerberg: Yes, if they want to check that out that’s in Brigham Young’s Journal of Discourses, page 473, edition 1974, I believe. Now, right along this line, can I jump with the fact of Garner Ted, when we were having a conversation with him, commented on the fact he didn’t like the Holy Ghost coming upon Mary and Jesus was conceived. And the reason was, as I pointed out, first of all if the Holy Ghost was really a person, he was saying that would make Him the Son of the Holy Ghost. And he says it should be of the Father. Now, to both Mormons that think this way as well as to Garner Ted who is a little mixed up at that point, let’s talk about what that really means.
Martin: The Bible says the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God. The three persons are the one God. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin Mary He was the active agent and power of God for the conception of the body of Jesus of Nazareth in her womb and it was by a direct command of God the Father. So the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit were all involved in the immaculate conception of Christ and in the virgin birth of our Lord.
Ankerberg: Okay, let’s jump to something else. Unification Church, Sun Myung Moon, has the Holy Spirit as being female. Why?
Martin: You would have to ask Mr. Moon that. I have always maintained that he has been overtly preoccupied with sex anyhow and there is quite a bit of literature that documents why this was true. But the fact remains that the Holy Spirit is not female and the Holy Spirit is not male. The Holy Spirit is the divine ego, God, I. He is spoken of as in the male gender, primarily for communication purposes. And if that’s the way God chose to express Himself, well let’s leave it there. But Mr. Moon, of course, really doesn’t care if God expressed Himself absolutely because he doesn’t believe in the infallibility of Scripture nor in the deity of Christ.
Ankerberg: Yes, and you can’t get around the use of ekeinos, the personal pronoun in John 14 and 16 there. It’s not anything but masculine. You just can’t get away from it.
Martin: Well, it goes even further than that, because you have very definite personality attributes of the Holy Spirit. For instance, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit in Mark 3: how do you blaspheme an “It”? You have to blaspheme a person, and you can’t blaspheme anybody but God, so you have blasphemy of God.
Ankerberg: The Way International, in conclusion here, simply does not believe in the Trinity. Again, it outlaws the Holy Spirit. Why?
Martin: Well, Mr. Wierwille says that Trinitarianism is pagan, that it came into existence at the Council of Nicaea, and that it was a man-pronounced and defined doctrine. Again, his lack of historical knowledge betrays him as it does the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Council of Nicea in 325 was not called to discuss the Trinity. What it was called to do was to deal with the Arian heresy, which Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, that Jesus Christ was a god. They excommunicated everybody that taught that doctrine as heretical. They also dealt with some other problems that were going on in the church, but nothing to do with Trinitarian theology.
Ankerberg: All those that want to, in The Way International, to get into a good history of the first 400 years of Christianity, what would you recommend?
Martin: I would recommend Phillip Shaft’s History of the Christian Church, Kenneth Scott Latourette’s Church History; any one of the good church history books will clearly tell you the Council of Nicaea wasn’t deciding Trinitarian theology.
Ankerberg: Okay, we sure appreciate this information and we are just getting started. We want to talk about, what do these groups say about how a man has salvation with God, how he clears up the problem? What is the problem? What is man’s nature and what is the solution? And they are saying, again, things that are different and we are going to continue this with you next week so please join us then.

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