What Do They Think About the Bible?
What do they think about the Bible?
Dr. John Ankerberg: 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.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Okay, give me another one.
Dr. Walter 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.
Dr. John 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?
Dr. Walter 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.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Do those books ever contradict outright a statement in Scripture? Give me an example.
Dr. Walter 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.
Dr. John Ankerberg: 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”?
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.” [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.
Dr. John 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.
Dr. Walter 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.
Dr. John 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?
Dr. Walter 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.
Dr. John 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?
Dr. Walter 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.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Okay, how about Herbert W. Armstrong and his son, Garner Ted? Now, they say that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
Dr. Walter 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.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Transcendental Meditation, some people say, is not a religion. Before we comment on its authoritative teaching, what would you say about that statement?
Dr. Walter 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.
Dr. John Ankerberg: What do they base their teachings on?
Dr. Walter 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.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Now, they quote the Bible a lot, though. Dr. Walter 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.
Editor’s note: In 1983 we asked Dr. Walter Martin, author of The Kingdom of the Cults, to comment on what various groups believe about The Bible, God, Jesus, Salvation, and a number of other topics. This article is excerpted from that interview. Some groups mentioned may have changed names, disbanded, or modified their beliefs since this interview took place.