Interview with Dr. Walter Martin on Cults – Program 3

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. Walter Martin; ©1984
Is Jesus alone the way the truth and the life, or can we find a better way through other religious paths?

Program 3: Interview with Dr. Walter Martin on Cults
The Way the Truth and the Life

Ankerberg: My guest is Dr. Walter Martin and we have some questions from the audience and let’s get our first one.
Audience: Yes, I was wondering if you would give us a summary of the beliefs of the Rajneesh who have invaded Oregon.
Martin: Yes, in our magazine Forward, published by Christian Research Institute, we did a study of Rajneesh from his teaching: his tapes and also his books. It’s a Hindu based cult and his name Baghwan Rajneesh means “Sir God.” They worship him as a god, which is consistent with Hindu theology; there are many gods, 88 million of them that we are able to keep track of currently. And Rajneesh teaches that his views are consistent with the great world religious leaders, particularly Jesus Christ. He quotes Christ pretty regularly to establish his position. But if you really want to find out what Rajneesh is up to you have to go into the tapes and also into the publications of the organization and also see some of the films of the Ashram over in Puna, India. They were shown on national television not long ago. And they showed only about 30 seconds of it before they clipped it off and it showed a sexual orgy on camera, the Rajneesh being completely in favor of any form of sexual liberalism. He definitely is vigorously against the Christian concept of morality and of how God expects us to live. He doesn’t believe in a personal God. He believes that God permeates all things. He believes in reincarnation and he does not believe that Jesus Christ is deity or that Jesus Christ actually rose bodily from the dead, or that His blood has anything to do with salvation. In fact, Rajneesh has gone on record as saying in one of his tapes that an individual may under some circumstances commit murder because actually there is nothing killed because in Hinduism, you see, the physical world is essentially an illusion or maya.
Ankerberg: Okay, where is that going just by your looking at it? Where do you think that little community is headed?
Martin: I think without him in control – and he is an ill man – without him in control it would be very possible to go into another Jonestown syndrome in the future. The same, of course, is true of Sun Myung Moon.
Ankerberg: Okay, another question.
Audience: Yes, I would like to know what your position is on Ellen G. White. Would she be like Mary Baker Eddy, in the same category as her?
Martin: Ellen G. White was a Christian but she got into the idea of being the voice of prophecy to her own denomination. And she claimed that God gave her revelations which we now know God did not give her. She plagiarized them from other people. Shamelessly, I might add. And they are trying to defend her on the grounds that the Bible was put together from various sources, so, therefore, Mrs. White was doing nothing the Bible writers weren’t doing. That’s absolute nonsense. The Bible writers didn’t plagiarize from other people, and publish works and things of that nature and pass it off as divine revelation. Mrs. White did that and to that degree she was uttering false prophecies.
Ankerberg: Walter, many years ago you took a stand and simply said that the Seventh Day Adventists were not a cult and then through the years it seemed like they have taken some harder stands. And I would like to know how you look at that situation right now.
Martin: I am in dialogue now with the General Conference of Seventh Day Adventists over questions I am asking them.
Ankerberg: What are they, in your terms, the crucial points and how they answer them that make the difference?
Martin: Whether or not they consider Ellen G. White to actually be the infallible interpreter of Scripture. I want a statement on that from them. The reason I want it is because if they say “Yes,” then she is above Scripture; if they say “No,” then why all the fuss about the plagiarism and everything else. Why don’t they either fish or cut bait. That I think is an important question.
Ankerberg: Okay, let me ask you a tough one. Many of the critics back then said that some of the friends that you had at the top echelons that gave you the answer last time I think it was questions on doctrine?
Martin: Yes.
Ankerberg: That what they said, the guys down below didn’t hold. Did you feel any of that kind of heat?
Martin: Oh, I got a lot of heat on the subject. But what encouraged me was the fact that I met many Adventists, thousands of them around the world, who came to me personally and thanked me for telling the truth because it was their faith.
Ankerberg: Okay now Des Ford and Walter Rea were our guests on the program, and they talked about the fact that from the Scriptures they could not support the 1844 doctrine. And because of that it seemed like Des Ford had his teaching credentials taken away.
Martin: Oh, yes, definitely there is a purge. I met with Des and I talked to him. He’s a great guy and a very fine Bible student and he has forsaken Adventism and Mrs. White on the grounds that he doesn’t have any choice.
Ankerberg: And Walter Rea also came out in the book on Ellen G. White.
Martin: Well, the book The White Lie is devastating.
Ankerberg: He’s been dismissed. Is that why you’re asking the questions?
Martin: I’m asking the questions because I see the Adventists purging their own numbers of people whose theology is essentially sound and I want to know why.
Ankerberg: On that, there is a question that they bring up that floats in and out many of the cults that goes into this thing of keeping the law and it’s strictly on the Sabbath. I know it’s a real tough question, but give us a few hints on folks, like Garner Ted and his dad, the Seventh Day Adventists and, I can’t think of any others off hand, but right now some of these folks are saying, “You must keep the Sabbath; and Christians, you’ve all been wrong to worship the Lord on Sunday. And, in fact, once you look at this doctrine if you don’t conclude the same way we are then you are going to go to hell someday. This is the day the Lord wants you to worship.” Just a few comments on that.
Martin: The fastest answer to it is found in Romans 14: “One man esteems one day above another [that’s a Sabbatarian], one man establishes or esteems another day all the same. Let everyone be fully persuaded in their own mind.” [Rom. 14:5] Then Paul goes on to lay the dictum that we shouldn’t be fighting among ourselves on days of worship, feast days and the law and diet and things of that nature. All this has been consummated in Jesus Christ. That’s why in Colossians he says, “Let no one, therefore, bring you into judgment on what you eat or drink or concerning holy days or Sabbaths,” actually it’s a singular, because this is all the shadow, the substance is the Lord Jesus Christ. [Col. 2:16-17]
Ankerberg: It’s a plural translated as a singular.
Martin: Yes, that’s right. It’s a plural translated as a singular.
Audience: Dr. Martin, a lot of groups emphasize the matter of baptism with reference to salvation, that it has a part in it. And they use Acts 2:37-38. I personally believe that baptism has no part in salvation, but I have been hard pressed to give an answer from those passages. Could you give us some help on that?
Martin:Well, the people who argue from Acts 2 that you have to repent and be baptized and then receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in order to be saved are the Church of Christ, and other groups do this too. The best answer is found in Acts 10. In the household of Cornelius when the Gospel was preached there was a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the people spoke in tongues and glorified God. [Acts 10:45-46] Well, now how does one have genuine manifestation of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, let us say in a manifestation such as tongues – which obviously is a saved person – how do you have that if you haven’t been baptized? And they had not been baptized. [Acts 10:47] So if you put Acts 2 and Acts 10 together, Peter’s not talking about a divine order. He’s simply talking about things that indicate that you are truly saved.
Audience: Just one other thought if I may. When it said, “Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?”
Martin: That’s Acts 19:2.
Audience: Yes. Does this all fit in somehow? Could you comment on that?
Martin: Yes, if you read the passage in context you will notice that he is talking to John’s disciples. And when he’s talking to them about the Gospel they don’t know what he’s talking about. So he turns to them and he says, “Wait a minute. Unto what were you baptized?” And they said, “Oh, John !” He says, “What about the Holy Spirit?” “We don’t even know if there’s a Holy Spirit.” “Oh,” says Paul, “that’s different. Now you are supposed to believe in Jesus Christ. He’s the fulfillment of what John said.” [Acts 19:2-4] He preaches the Gospel to them, they believe and then they speak in tongues, which was an indication of the same thing as the day of Pentecost.
Ankerberg: I’m going to jump topics again on you. Transcendental Meditation is very strong in many, many places, and again they say that it is not religion. Would you comment on that and also why Christians looking at it would say we need to apply the Scriptures to that topic and why it might be dangerous.
Martin: Transcendental Meditation [TM] is a non-Christian cult. It’s a cult of Hinduism. Maharishi says he doesn’t think that Christ ever suffered at all in the crucifixion, he believes that TM and “the reading of Hindu scriptures puts you in contact with higher beings or gods.” That’s a direct quote from the Meditations of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He doesn’t believe that Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead. He doesn’t believe that the blood atonement paid for our sins. And TM tries to pass itself off as a deep meditational technique for relaxation and dealing with our emotional and physical problems. In reality it’s been declared a Hindu religion by the courts of our land, the Federal Courts, so I think the charade is over. They are a Hindu cult and we might just as well recognize it despite the fact that they have a university.
Ankerberg: Another question that comes up time and time again is the denial of eternal punishing. Garner Ted Armstrong would say it’s eternal punishment which is an extinction. Seventh-day Adventists, I think, go along with that. They might use a verse, and let’s jump off on it, Malachi, the last chapter where the righteous will be standing on the ashes of the ungodly and they say the ashes there which show that the ungodly have been annihilated. [Mal. 4:3] I’ve heard you comment on that some others places. Let’s jump off of that verse into this thing of annihilation. What is the future of those that die with Christ and those that die without Christ? What does the Bible say, and let’s back it up here.
Martin: There is no Greek or Hebrew word that can be properly translated in context “annihilated,” and that will be very simply established by reading a lexicon on both Greek and Hebrew. That’s point number one. Number two, you can destroy something material but something immaterial cannot be reduced to ashes. And, therefore, what Malachi is talking about is the physical properties of the wicked are reduced to ashes. But if I take a light bulb and I smash it on the ground. I have destroyed the function of the light bulb, which is to give light, but nowhere can it be said that I annihilated the light bulb.
What happens to man is the body can be destroyed, reduced to ashes. But man was created in the spiritual image of God according to the book of Genesis [Gen. 1:26], which means if we are spiritual as well as physical, and the Bible says we are, then there is an immaterial nature which goes beyond the life of the body. That’s what Garner Ted denies; that’s what the conditional immortalists deny; that’s what the Adventists deny. That’s the only way that they can escape it. But there is no real escape because the Scripture talked about it.
Ankerberg: Many times they will look at the word nephesh, but they won’t check out their Brown, Driver and Briggs Lexicon and check out ruach.
Martin: Yes, they don’t look at language, and they’re not really too sharp on dealing with many passages which indicate that there is such a thing as conscious existence after the death of the body.
Ankerberg: Yes, Matthew 10:28 is one of their favorites which they say, “Do not fear him that kills the body, but fear him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” And first of all, they won’t tell you that’s “Gehenna,” they want to say that’s annihilation. But they are saying both soul and body. I always say, why is it that you’ve got both soul and body there if it stands for the same thing? Why did Jesus have to be redundant on the thing? But that word “destroy” there doesn’t mean destroy in annihilation.
Martin: No, it means to destroy the function of the thing, just as I gave the illustration of the light bulb. Now, there’s no possibility of escaping the fact that Satan is a spirit. And the Bible says that Satan and his demons are going to be tormented day and night which is the symbol for no cessation, day and night into the endless ages of eternity. Well, it defeats their whole argument. If Satan is a spirit and angels are spirits, fallen angels, and they can be tormented into eternity, why are you fighting so hard about man who is also a spirit?
Ankerberg: Also comment on 1 Thessalonians where Jesus says He will come back with them, sun auto, those who have died in Christ. In other words let’s talk about what happens to those that have died believing in Christ.
Martin: Well, that’s 1 Thessalonians 4:16 where he says, “When the Lord descends from heaven with the voice of the archangel, the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” he also says that He will bring back with Him, side by side with him, those that have died. It’s obviously a reference to their spiritual natures. And they always back off on Philippians 1, John. Every Christian should memorize that passage. Paul says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is to sleep for 2,000 years”? No, “For me to live is Christ and to die is profit.” Then he says, “But I am torn between two things. Whether to depart and be with Christ which is far better or to stay here with you.” [Phil. 1:21-24] Now the word translated depart, analuoo is a military term. Anybody can understand it. It means, “Break camp, move out.” Or weigh anchor if you’re in the navy. Well, he used the illustration deliberately. What’s going to happen to me, says Paul, when I die? I am going to drop the anchor of my carcass and I am going to sail away with Jesus. It’s a participial construction, the going and the being can’t be separated in the Greek. None of them ever addresses that passage; none of them.
Ankerberg: Okay, and let’s talk about this thing. A lot of folks say Gehenna is temporary because it was just the garbage heaps there and, of course, that all went out, we know that. What would you say to that?
Martin: Well, Jesus qualified Gehenna. To give the context, the Jews thought that you could go to Gehenna for any period of time, 42 months was the general period of time, but you can go for a long time to purge you of your sins to enter into life. And Jesus said, “You misunderstand. Gehenna is everlasting. And if you reject me that’s where you’re going. Everlasting Gehenna, everlasting punishment.” [Matt. 10:28; Mark 9:43] They didn’t want to talk about that.
Ankerberg: Yes, aronion, He put the word “eternal” with a simple little illustration.
Martin: Absolutely. He certainly did.
Ankerberg: A lot of times the question comes up, “If there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved,” [Acts 4:12] but Christ and Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life and no man will come to the Father but by me.” [John 14:6] Boy, people just back up on the fact of it being so narrow, and, of course, then they jump to those that haven’t heard and what would you say about that?
Martin: The Bible nowhere teaches that men are sent to hell because they haven’t heard the name of Jesus. If they go, they go because they have turned their back on the lesser light which would have led them to the greater light. You find this in Romans 1, “The invisible things of Him from the creation of the universe are clearly seen.” [Rom. 1:20] Acts 17 where he says, “In Him we live and move and have our being.” We may grope for Him and find Him. [Acts 17:28, 27]
Ankerberg: Do you know that very few people I have ever read in a commentary have ever said anything on that verse where the words are strictly that if God has made the nations in such a way, talking about the heathen, and Paul’s talking to the people at Mars Hill there….
Martin: If they can reach out.
Ankerberg: …in their darkness, they can grope and possibly find Him.
Martin: They don’t discuss Acts 10 either, where Cornelius is not a believer, he is simply a worshipper of God in the sense that he has heard what the Jews said and he believes. He’s seeking God. But he’s a Gentile, he’s not a member of the Israeli saints.
Ankerberg: And at the same time we don’t want to get away from the fact that we are denying that there is only one way to the Father and that’s through Jesus.
Martin: No, no. We are saying Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. [John 14:6] What we are saying is that God reveals Himself to man in different ways in terms of nature, in terms of conscience, in terms of the law written on our hearts. If we respond to that, that lesser light will lead us to the Lord Jesus Christ. But you have to respond to it. If you take the Methodists, the Lutherans, Episcopalians, Baptists, start studying their theological seminaries, the products of those seminaries, the books they publish, their official statements that are coming out, you will find that they tolerate the denial of every doctrine the cults deny. Anybody that doesn’t know that the church is in apostasy today has been asleep for 50 years.
Ankerberg: Thank you. We sure appreciate you being with us. This has been great and I am sure it has helped a lot of folks.

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