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  1. The Apostles' Creed I believe in God, the Father Almighty,the Creator of heaven and earth,and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,born of the Virgin Mary,suffered under Pontius Pilate,was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead.

  2. He ascended into heavenand sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,the communion of saints,the forgiveness of sins,the resurrection of the body,and life everlasting.

  3. What is a Cult? Problems of Definition

  4. What the course is NOT • Three Primary Forms of Religions • Indigenous • Modern • World • South Asian: Hinduism / Jainism / Buddhism / Sikhism • Far Eastern: Daoism / Confucianism / Shinto • Middle Eastern: Zoroastrianism / Christianity / Islam / Shī`ah/ Judaism

  5. Etymology of Illusive Terms • Origins • Cult (cultus): honoring/reverencing/veneration • Sect (sequi): to follow / devotion / fan • Distinctions – Ernst Troeltsch • A religious group which is gathered or called out of some natural organic group or state church on positively anticonformist grounds, sometimes by a charismatic leader, but as often by some principle of greater strictness, more single-minded dedication, or more intense abnegation of the world and its attractions. Often, the sect has as its main principle some aspect of the orthodox faith which is being lost or neglected. • Technical Relationship

  6. Etymology of Illusive Terms • Current Trends – Term Modifications • Capture phenomena w/o stigmatization • New Religious Movements (NRM) • Alternative Religions • Unconventional Religions • Emergent Religions • Non-normative Religions • Marginal Religious Movements

  7. Meaning in Eyes of Beholder • Perspective Factor in Cult Identification • Cult = “Non-normative” by some standard • Three Norming Standards • Sociological (not culturally normative) • Marks and challenges • Psychological (not emotionally normative) • Freedom / victimization / deprogramming • Theological (not doctrinally normative) • Challenges / apologetics / pluralism

  8. Meaning in Eyes of Beholder • Challenges & Dangers of Term “Cult” • Relative Term (perspective / time) • Labeling w/o universal objective basis • Term “cult” is applied to a “disparate collection of groups and movements and consequently has become unsuitable as a precise legal or social scientific category…in effect, a cult is any group stigmatized as a cult.” T. Robbins (sociologist) • Risk of neutralizing legitimate threats

  9. Meaning in Eyes of Beholder • Christian Response: Holistic Approach • Glean from secular perspectives • Academic Recommendation (Hexham) • The academic practice of calling such groups “new religious movements” should be followed. An alternative to this neutral terminology available for Christians who oppose such groups would be to revive the usage of “heretic” or simply call such groups “spiritual counterfeits.” • Stuck with a Term • We should [drop the term] if we could, but we can’t; I think we’re stuck with it. [J. Sire]

  10. Interpretations viaProximity Spectrums • Spectrum on Socio-Religious Scale • World Religions • Denominations • Sects • Fundamentalist-Fringe Movements • Cults • Eastern-mystical (Hare Krishna, TM) • Aberrational-Christian (Children of God, The Way International) • Psychospiritual / Self-improvement (Scientology, Silva Mind Control) • Eclectic-syncretistic (Unification Church) • Psychic-occult-astral (New Age, Eckankar) • Institutionalized/established (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science)

  11. Interpretations viaProximity Spectrums • Spectrum Migration Over Time • External re-interpretations • Internal re-structurings • Patterns of Migration • Toward Conformity (cult to non-cultic) • Social Perspective • Theological Perspective • Away from Conformity (non-cultic to cult) • Social Perspective • Theological Perspective

  12. CultInstitutionalized/Established Fundamentalist Fringe Movement CultPsychicOccultAstral Sect CultEastern=Mystical Denomination Denomination Denomination Normative“Orthodox” Center Sect Denomination Denomination CultEclecticSyncretistic Denomination CultAberationalChristian Fundamentalist Fringe Movement CultPsycho-Spiritual / Self-Improvement Visualizing Proximity Analysis • Theological Perspective • Normative Standard = Orthodoxy • Key Question = What is a cult?

  13. Cultic World Religion Cultic Cultic Denomination New Religious Movement Normative Center Sect Fundamentalist Fringe Movement Cultic Cultic Visualizing Proximity Analysis • Sociological Perspective • Normative Standard = Cultural Affinity • Key Question = How cultic is it?

  14. What is a Cult? Nature of Cults Heresy in an Age of Pluralism

  15. Who Joins a Cult? • Profile: Neighbors / Colleagues / Friends • Psychological Perspective (Singer) • 2/3 from “normal” families with age-appropriate behaviors • 1/3 with diagnosable depressions (95%) or major psychological problem (5%) • Sociological Perspective (Ellwood & Enroth) • Most are young (under 30) Caucasians • Middle and Upper Middle classes • Nominal religious background • Relatively well-educated • Isolated / unattached • Experienced disaffection • Religious seeker-ship

  16. Why Join a Cult? • Common Fallacy Dismissed • Doctrinal Affinity • Social Compensators Model [Rodney/Stark] • Access to rewards replaced by Compensators • Primary Conditions: • Depression • Unaffiliated • Cult as Substitute Family • This is “your father’s world”

  17. Why Join a Cult? • Why cults appeal – Josh McDowell • Provide clear/certain answers • Meet human needs • Make favorable impressions

  18. How Do Cults Recruit? • Direct & Indirect Appeals • Evangelism • Marketing • Disguise & Deception • Disguising as legitimate enterprises • Slick solicitation techniques • Targeting Most Responsive: Young/Naïve • Children / Adolescents / Youth • Vulnerable populations • Abusive retention methods

  19. What Characterizes Most Cults? • Three General Characteristics • Abrupt break with historic Christianity • Tendency to major in minors • Tendency to perfectionism • Five Distinct Traits • Extra-biblical source of authority • Denial of justification by grace alone • Devaluation of Christ • Views itself as exclusive community of saved • Self-referential role in eschatology

  20. McDowell’s 11 Characteristics of Cults • New Truth • New Interpretation of Scripture • Non-biblical Source of Authority • Another Jesus • Rejection of Orthodox Christianity • Double-talk (equivocal doctrinal language) • Non-biblical Teaching on Nature of God • Shifting Theology • Strong Leadership • Salvation by Works • False Prophecy

  21. Enroth’s 9 Characteristics of Cults • Authoritarian Leadership • Oppositional • Exclusivity • Legalistic • Subjective • Persecution-conscious • Sanction-Oriented • Esoteric • Antisacerdotal

  22. How Should We Respond? • Empathy vs. Embracing • Conflicted religious attitudes in pluralistic society • Why and What, before effective communication • Seeing cultists as persons • Cross-cultural courtesies extended • Keeping Christian balance • Answering w/o attacking • Defending w/o destroying

  23. What Can We Learn From Cults? • Identifies “Unpaid Bill” of the Church • Life transitions • Doctrinal sophistication • Doctrinal neglect • Humanitarian void • Hyper-dispensationalism • Sharpens skills of rhetoric • Reminds of dangers in public forum • Confession of non-objectivity

  24. What Can We Learn From Cults? • Strengthens Church Solidarity • Provokes Church to Mission • Hones Apologetics • Most “legitimate” response??? • The problem is essentially theological where the cults are concerned. The answer of the church must be theological and doctrinal. No sociological or cultural evaluation will do. Such works may be helpful, but they will not answer the Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon who is seeking biblical authority for either the acceptance of rejection of his beliefs. [L. Belford] • Conclusions: Identify and Intervene

  25. Questions?

  26. What is a Cult? Methodologies of Misreading

  27. A Twisted MethodologyJohn 8:31-32 • What is Happening? • Violations of literary interpretation • Methodology of misreading • A “general defense” against perversions • The authority of Scripture • A true and unique revelation • To all humanity • Ultimate authority • Understandable by ordinary people

  28. A Twisted MethodologyJohn 8:31-32 • A Problem of World-View Confusion • What is a worldview? • A set of propositions (or assumptions) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously) about the basic makeup of our world. • Addresses the following central issues of life: • What is prime reality (really real) • Who is man? • What happens to man at death? • What is the basis of morality? • What is the meaning of time/history

  29. A Twisted MethodologyJohn 8:31-32 • What is “worldview confusion”? • Phenomena which occurs whenever a reader of Scripture fails to interpret the Bible within the intellectual and broadly cultural framework of the Bible itself and uses instead, a foreign frame of reference. [Sire, p. 26] • An ethno- or ego- centric reading of scripture • Reading from our own cultural, or own personal perspective without regard to its original setting or intention

  30. Twenty Reading Errors • The Text of Scripture • #1 Inaccurate Quotation • Misquoting scripture passages, or wrongly attributing text source • #2 Twisted Translation • Text retranslated, not in accordance with sound scholarship, but to fit cultic perspective • Cautions/Lessons from this class of errors • Must utilize accurate text • test cultic translations for reasonable accuracy

  31. Twenty Reading Errors • Scripture as Rhetoric • #3 The Bible Hook (Conceptual bait & switch) • Scripture quoted primarily as device to grasp attention, followed by dubious teachings not logically flowing from original text • Scripture as pretext for own theological agendas • Cautions/Lessons from this class of errors • Examine scriptures to see if message drawn from them is in accordance with their meaning

  32. Twenty Reading Errors • Scripture as Literature • #4 Ignoring the Immediate Context • Text quoted but isolated from context that constrains its meaning • Text with context is pretext! • #5 Collapsing Contexts • Two or more texts joined in argument, without legitimate literary association of ideas • #6 Over-specification • Drawing a more detailed/specific conclusion than warranted by text

  33. Twenty Reading Errors • Scripture as Literature • #7 Word Play • Word/phrase from a biblical translation, interpreted as if revelation came in that language or form • #8 The Figurative Fallacy • Mistaking literal for figurative language or vice-versa • #9 Speculative Readings of Predictive Prophecy • Predictive prophecy explained as specified events in time (current/future), despite literary uncertainty and non-consensus among bible scholars/theologians

  34. Twenty Reading Errors • Scripture as Evidence (Inductive Errors) • #10 Saying but Not Citing • Claiming a biblical proposition, without marshalling biblical evidence to make that claim or draw a subsequent conclusion from such claims • #11 Selective Citing [cf. #4] • Limiting scriptural evidence to edited portions of texts relating to the proposition • #12 Inadequate Evidence [cf. #6] • Hasty generalization drawn from too little evidence • Cautions/Lessons from this class of errors • Ask: Is the evidence really there at all, and is all the evidence presented?

  35. Twenty Reading Errors • Reasoning from Scripture (Deductive Errors) • #13 Confused Definition • Biblical term so misunderstood, that essential doctrine is distorted or rejected • Consequence of invalid argument due to improper definition of terms in premises [equivocation] • #14 Ignoring Alternative Explanations [cf. #9, 12] • Assigning particular interpretation to text or set of texts, which could more easily be explained by a more reasonable or historically accepted interpretation • Ignoring “Okham’s Razor”-- Economy of explanation theory

  36. Twenty Reading Errors • Reasoning from Scripture (Deductive Errors) • #15 The Obvious Fallacy • Words like obviously, undoubtedly, certainly, all reasonable people hold that… are substituted for logical reasons behind conclusions • #16 Virtue by Association • Linking writings/ideas with accepted authorities, and/or the Bible, or imitating biblical forms to gain sense of biblical authority • Cautions/Lessons from this class of errors • Make certain the terms are defined, the arguments draw valid conclusions from the premises, and are supported by actual scriptures, taken in context

  37. Twenty Reading Errors • The Authority of the Bible • #17 Esoteric Interpretation • Subjective (private) interpretation based on assumption of hidden, esoteric meanings within the text available only to those initiated into its mysteries • Dangerous precedent past down since earliest Christianity • Alexandrian School of Allegorical Interpretation • 3-fold sense in text based on body, soul, spirit of human nature • Scripture was historical (literal) / moral / spiritual • #18 Supplementing Biblical Authority • New revelations from post-biblical prophets either replacing, or adding to authority of biblical revelations

  38. Twenty Reading Errors • The Authority of the Bible • #19 Rejecting Biblical Authority • Bible as a whole, or texts, are examined and rejected because they do not square with other authorities—such as reason and other revelation—which does not appear to agree with them. • Cautions/Lessons from this class of errors • We must stand intentionally on three touchstones of Protestant Christianity • Scripture alone as our final authority for life/practice • Plain reason as our guide to what scripture means • Personal conscious as controller over what we coherently embrace • Maintain critical mind regarding religious beliefs and their sources • Key questions: • Unreflective life not worth living…unreflective faith not worth embracing

  39. Twenty Reading Errors • World-View Confusion • #20 World-view Confusion • Reading with improper ideological lens, imposing personal or cultural perspective on the text, thus discoloring its truth from its original intention • Setting up own frame of reference as arbitrary absolute into which any sentence composed by anybody, anytime, anywhere, must now fit • Cautions/Lessons from this class of error • Proof-texting our personal worldview’s perspective

  40. Properly Abiding in the Word John 8:31-32 • Maintain the proper attitude toward scriptural study • An open heart and open mind • Maintain a proper methodology toward scriptural study – five principles • Recognize the systematic nature of all claims to truth • Base all scriptural study on a good text • Consider the literary context of revelation • Gather as much evidence as reasonably possible before drawing conclusions • Consult the community of Faith for affirmation of conclusions

  41. Questions?