Thursday, 18 December 2008

Equipping the Cults to Deal With the Church - 12

What Good is it if a Man Claims to Have Faith?

The bottom line is that it takes joined up church and grown up Christianity to reach out to cults and to make it possible for a former JW/Mormon to find a home amongst Christians and too many Christians, leaders included, seem to just play at it. We ‘believe’ in the doctrine and sing with gusto the songs but need to realise that ‘faith without works is dead’ (James.2:20) With James, I say, ‘show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do’ (James 2:18)

Sometimes, in our evangelistic efforts, we can lay such great store on correcting people that we can forget to value them. It is as though the person to whom we are speaking has no value until they come around to our way of thinking. It is well to remember that God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Ro.5:8). God’s response to our sinfulness and rebellion is a demonstration of love. Setting apart Christ in your heart means more than telling the woman at the well that she is wrong in her beliefs and lifestyle. It means demonstrating that she is valued by speaking to her with gentleness and respect for the Christ who died for her too.

In “witnessing to the cults” it is very easy to become combative when we mean to be challenging, condemnatory when we should be caring, judgmental when we should be gentle and respectful.

Our witnessing isn’t to make us look clever, but to make the message clear and more convincing. Remember that Jesus could have commanded angelic legions and looked mighty and triumphant if that had been God’s purpose (Matt.26:52-54). How often have I heard tales of Christians sending off a Jehovah’s Witness “with their tail between their legs”, the argument won but the Witness lost? As we marshal our legion of arguments we must ask whether we are serving the purpose of God in winning souls or serving ourselves in gaining a reputation for winning arguments. Are we sharing the good news that Christ died for sinners, the just for the unjust, or are we just breaking the bad news that our visitor is in a cult and doomed unless they get out? There is a world of difference.

We don’t witness primarily to pull down the Mormon Church or the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society but to win the Mormon or Witness at your door. Long after Jesus had returned to glory both the temple and the establishment that crucified him still stood – for a time. But already, during his ministry and following Pentecost, people were responding to the call to repent and be baptised. Individuals were being saved into the kingdom even as the machinations of Satan seemed indestructible.

Apologetics is an essential tool in our armoury, but we should remember that we do not struggle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm (Eph.6:12). This is particularly difficult for those who have been victims of deception but it is well to remember that the Mormon at your door is not the Mormon Church; the Witness is not the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. You are not tearing down strongholds but building a bridge. If we have put on Christ then, though we may burn with anger at the injustice and deception perpetrated by these organisations, we will look with love and compassion on those who are deceived.

Apologetics isn’t enough and no one can be reasoned into becoming a Christian. Apologetics can, however, remove obstacles to faith by showing that the Christian faith is not irrational. We can, with God’s help, “convince” people of so much, but more important than being convinced is being convicted. Conviction of sin is something brought by the Holy Spirit. That is why we need to pray for those to whom we witness. If we do not value them we will be less inclined to pray for them. If we value them we will speak the truth with gentleness and respect and pray that they may come to know him even as we have. Because they, like sheep, have gone astray, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of them all - if someone would but tell them the truth, in love.

If you truly believe in victory don’t go to the door in fear.

If you believe in grace don’t go to the door in judgement.

If you truly trust God then go to the door trusting that he has given you an opportunity to demonstrate assurance and share grace.

Otherwise don’t open the door because you will only make things worse.

Previous posts:
If These are Christians
The problem with the Church
The Problem with Anti-Cult Ministry
The Fear is Irrational
The Prejudice is Petulant
The ignorance is Inexcusable
The Indifference is Frightening
Christians and the Magical World-View
Ambiguity Tolerance
When They Look at the Church
What the Former Cultist Needs
What Good is it if a Man Claims to Have Faith?


Clean Cut said...

Now that the holidays are over, I'd love to hear back from you!

Clean Cut said...

Mike, I have to ask under what basis you describe Mormonism as a "cult"?

Mike's 4 Tea said...

Hello Clean Cut

Sorry for not getting back to you earlier but what with one thing and another...I have every intention of getting back to your own blog, which I have found most interesting and engaging.

I confess that I do struggle with the word "cult". As I am sure you know, it comes from the Latin "cultus" and has the basic meaning of those who follow a "cult figure". This can have positive connotations of course as in, for instance, the Catholic cult of Mary. Those of that faith have no quarrel with this use of the word cult" in this context.

There is no doubt that it can be used in this way to describe Mormons who may be defined as cult followers of Joseph Smith. However, the way it is commonly used and understood in reference to Mormons describes a movement that does not adhere to the accepted orthodoxy of the faith of which it is a cultic expression.

Dr Martin Lloyd Jones makes a helpful distinction between apostasy, heresy and cults.

"A heretic is a man who is a professed Christian but who goes wrong with regard to some particular doctrine.

A cult is not Christian at all, but a counterfeit of Christianity.

Apostasy is when the general body of Christian doctrine was held but there were certain things which rendered it null and void.

In the cults this general body of doctrine is not held at all.

This is the "other gospel" of Gal.1:6,9."

The reason I say I struggle with the word is because it is such a loaded one, as you well know. Yet I cannot find any other that so readily strikes the right note of warning and, much as you might protest otherwise, and as civilised as we might be to each other in good Christian charity, I am convinced that a warning is appropriate, indeed urgently needed. Forgive me if this offends you.

All that said, I would point out that the Mormon Church has not been diffident in describing traditional and orthodox Christianity in similar terms (and worse). Cult was a favourite word of McConkie. I know Mormons don't like to see him quoted but he was an apostle and spoke with a good deal more authority than those Mormons who insist on dismissing him. I recall from Joseph Smith's testimony the words, "abomination" and "corrupt", and the accusation of being far from God and denying his power and being lip servers. Generations of Mormon leaders have followed suit.

I do wonder if the new conciliatory tone coming from Salt Lake Mormonism is entirely in keeping with the teachings of previous generations and of Joseph Smith himself.