What do Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, The Worldwide Church of God, The Way International, the Boston Church of Christ and the Moonies all have in common? What do these organizations offer new converts that even the best of the churches cannot offer? Furthermore, what makes it so hard to leave these organizations and to start going to a Christian Church? The key is UNITY.
No, I am not talking about the type of unity spoken of by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:10:
"Now I exhort you brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and the same judgment."
This passage is often used by the cults to prove to others that they are the one true Christian congregation. New disciples are shown certain "unique" marks of unity among the organization that supposedly demonstrate that God is supernaturally blessing their particular organization. The new disciple is unaware, of course, that many other religious organizations (i.e., the cults) use the same identical argument to prove their organization is the only true church.
Cults do have a form of unity not obtainable in the churches, but the question is, how is this unity achieved, and is it desirable? Also, is it the same type of unity that Paul speaks of?
I am amazed when I hear pastors and Christians in leadership position complement the cults on their unity and ability to accomplish so much in such a short period of time. Many pastors have even embarked on programs to achieve similar results in their own churches. But the truth of the matter is, using the same techniques as the cults will eventually produce many of the same effects on the members of mainstream churches as do the cults on their disciples.
What Paul Is Really Saying
There is no evidence that the Corinthians Paul was speaking to in 1 Cor. 10 ever achieved a complete unity of beliefs and personal viewpoints regarding God and their fellow brothers and sisters. Neither was Paul trying to make them all think exactly alike, as some suppose. In order to do so, Paul would have had to develop a systematic theology for the churches, as well as a code of behavior. Instead, all we find are his letters which admonish unity on the basis of love and putting up with one another much more so than complete doctrinal conformity. He identified the Corinthian problem as spiritual immaturity, being men-pleasers and idolaters, rather than as a doctrinal problem (1 Cor. 3:19).
From a study of Christians in the first three centuries, it becomes obvious that they held various views on minor matters, and their views on the relationship of Christ to the Father as well as the Holy Spirit were in an infancy stage (Though they unanimously saw Jesus as God and the Spirit as a personality). If one considers the seven churches of Asia Minor (addressed by Jesus in Revelation chapters 13) as representative of Christianity at the close of the first century, then the churches were indeed in various stages of succumbing to immorality, favoritism, false doctrines and worldliness, according to their respective culture. The truth of the matter was that Paul had to continually admonish the churches he fathered, much like a parent has to watch over his children, but he did not establish rules, dress codes, etc. Human nature does not change, and the churches 2000 years later face much the same issues as the seven Asian churches. There will always be strife, immortality, false doctrine, etc. in the midst of the body. This is precisely what the cults seek to change by starting their own organizations and separating themselves.
Noble Beginnings, Sad Endings
Most Bible-based cults have their origin in an idealistic leader who sees himself as God's chosen spokesman to bring unity and true worship back into Christianity. The pattern followed by such modern messiahs is quite predictable, generally following this course:
1) Disillusionment with the state of the churches.
2) Receives a "revelation from God" as to how to revitalize true worship in the earth, so that God will once again accept his people and begin to work among the "true" believers.
3) Forms a small group of loyal adherents who are submissive enough to accept his vision, and these become the leaders of the movement. They are invested with power and an elitist mentality, fueling improper motives and an inflated sense of importance as to their mission to the world.
4) New revelations and interpretations of scripture are advanced as part of the "program" that God is instituting among the faithful remnant of believers on the earth. These writings/teachings virtually become scripture themselves, though perhaps not identified as such in order to keep a "humble" profile towards the outside world of skeptics and unbelievers. However, to the "chosen ones" in the organization, they are LAW.
5) Mandatory evangelism is instituted as a sign of being "faithful" to God. New believers are usually recruited through questionable motives (appealing to their desire for a new world, more power and authority over others, or to simply alleviate their insecurities, rather than appealing to the cross of Christ... 1 Cor. 1:17,18) Interestingly, in any cult that fosters strange doctrines that are generally considered unacceptable to the public (i.e., no blood, no medical treatment, setting dates for the end of the world, etc.), a constant stream of new converts is necessary in order to continually reaffirm the truthfulness of their doctrine and practices (see the Bethel Ministries Newsletter, "When Prophecies Fail," May/June 1990).
6) The leader now interprets all opposition to his teachings and practices as "persecution," and effectively vetoes any valid criticism of himself or his group. His cause is a "righteous" cause, and God is viewed as carrying the banner of spiritual warfare against all opposition. This is the stage in which the ego of the cult leader is in full bloom and egotistic tendencies are readily observable. Lifton's eight points of minds control (see insert on p. 8) now become manifest, such as the special language developed by the group, the use of confession or purging, control over the environment and flow of information, etc. Dissenters are now deemed unworthy of existence and shunned or even physically mistreated.
Unity is relatively easy to achieve in a totalitarian system. An authority is established as absolute and beyond criticism, and any who dissent are labeled as apostates or heretics. Since dissenters are immediately cast out, the organization will always only consist of those who verbally assent to the doctrines; thus, the cult appears to be in total unity! Yet it is a forced unity, since to question or criticize or voice one's own opinion is to "fight against God." Cults achieve this unity through:
The Watchtower Claim to Unity
Under the heading, "Do You Appreciate Jehovah's Earthly Organization?" The Watchtower of November 1, 1991 makes the following statements:
"Fitly United in the Same Mind"
One outstanding feature of a diamond is its close-knit, strongly bonded atomic structure. Similarly, Jehovah's earthly organization manifests an unmatched unity in doctrine and brotherhood...
Clearly, those who desire to serve God can only turn to the one organization that enjoys Jehovah's spirit and blessing. (p. 30, 31)
Witnesses are often fond of telling people that they all believe the same thing all over the world, and that their assemblies are models of good behavior. What they won't say is that if anyone WAS to question the Watchtower publicly, they would be thrown out immediately! Hardly a desirable unity. Good behavior is extracted through fear and intimidation as well. Is it any wonder that JWs are well-behaved and that they are all clones of their leaders?
Note the following comments and research taken from A Concise Dictionary of Cults and Religions:
What [Jehovah's Witnesses] define as unity is actually, in effect, a rigid organizational structure and policy. Unity, as the Bible teaches it, is a oneness of spirit and humility under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. (Romans 12:15-16; 14:19; 15:5-7; 1 Peter 3:8)
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has had many splinter groups over the years, Some of these groups are:
Bible Student's Fellowship (San Diego, CA)
Bible Way Publications (Fort Lauderdale, FL) B. S. C. (British)
Chicago Bible Students (PO Box 6016, Chicago, IL 60680)
Christian Millennial Fellowship (Hanford, CT)
Christian Renewal Ministry (Saratoga, CA)
Church of God, Faith of Abraham (Wenatchee, WA)
Dawn Bible Students Assn. (East Rutherford, NJ)
Eagle Society (Address Unknown) Haviland Davis (Albany, NY)
Hirsho-Kittenger Movement (Now Defunct)
Layman's Home Missionary Movement (Chester Springs, PA)
Olson Movement (Now Defunct)
Pastoral Bible Institute of Brooklyn (Brooklyn, NY)
Ritchie Movement (Now Defunct, Led by A. I. Ritchie, WTBTS vice-president)
Standfast Movement (Portland, OR & Seattle, WA)
Sturgeon Movement (Now Defunct)
In addition, several of the above groups have splinter groups of their own. For example, the Chicago Bible Students has the following branches and splinter groups around the country:
Fort Worth Bible Students (Fort Worth, TX)
Phoenixville Bible Students (Kimberton, PA)
Portland Bible Students (PO Box 23232, Tigard, OR 97223)
Seattle Bible Students Church (PO Box 334, Bellevue, WA 98009)
Warren Bible Students (Address Unknown)
As is by now obvious, the Watchtower is not as "pure" from an organizational perspective as they would like you to believe. The primary cause of the splits has been the strong authoritarian stance of the leadership and their failure to consider views or interpretations of scripture other than their own (most of the splinter groups formed after changes in doctrine or policy). This is the situation to this day. (Source: A Concise Dictionary of Cults and Religions, Published by Moody Bible Institute, 1991)
The issue of whether unity is always a good thing should be directly addressed when talking to a Witness. It is not necessary to apologize for the state of the churches, as their schisms and differences were apparent even in Bible times. Rather, focus on WT claims regarding unity. It is not your job to apologize for the churches, as they do not individually make the claim to be the only true church. This approach will also provide a good opportunity to point out the marks of mind control, and how absolute unity and conformity are not as desirable as supposed.
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