Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Word of Caution

I have had some interesting interactions here and on another blog regarding the need for solid "doctrine" from the scriptures. My conviction is that we do need it. It seems that for a lot of folks who have left the church system, the importance of the Bible and correct doctrine has slipped down the scale a few notches. In their "release" from the constraints of organized religion, they have embraced a freer, less "dogmatic" understanding of who God is, and how He relates to us. There is a move toward letting subjective experience be the guiding rule in what we believe about Him. Put another way, it is a trend toward letting personal experience and interpretation of that experience define our theology.

One thing that always sets off alarm bells for me is reading or hearing people gush over a certain book, stating that it changed their life, or gave them a brand new revelation of God. Whoa.....what's wrong with the "old" revelation of God? The one that Jesus Christ gave us, through the Scriptures? Yes, I know that "church" has done a number on some folks, in that it has emphasized particular doctrines over others, and in some cases given false information about God. But we are only going from the frying pan into the fire when we turn our back on solid biblical truths and listen instead to the personal opinions and interpretation of men instead. God left us the Bible for a reason. It was written by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. It was written by men who had direct contact with Jesus, and men that God chose to pen the revelation of Himself and His Son. The books that are being written now are not God breathed.

It disturbs me to see so many following after authors and teachers, seemingly preferring their "version" of God to what has already been revealed to us. I fear it has the potential to lead many into something that may lose all Scriptural validity.

Here are some examples of what can happen when men begin to veer away from essential truths of Scripture.

Jehovah's Witnesses

Charles Taze Russell (February 16, 1852 – October 31, 1916), or Pastor Russell, was a prominent early 20th century Christian Restorationist minister from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA and founder of what is now known as the Bible Student movement,[1] from which Jehovah's Witnesses and numerous independent Bible Student groups emerged.
Beginning in July, 1879 he began publishing a monthly religious journal Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence. The magazine is now published semi-monthly under the name, The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah's Kingdom. In 1881, he co-founded Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society and in 1884 the corporation was officially registered, with Russell as president. Russell was a prolific writer, producing many articles, books, pamphlets and sermons, totalling 50,000 printed pages, with almost 20 million copies of his books printed and distributed around the world.[2] From 1886 to 1904, he published a six-part series entitled The Millennial Dawn, which later became known as Studies in the Scriptures. (A seventh volume was published in 1917 after Russell's death.)
Russell was a charismatic figure, but claimed no special revelation or vision for his teachings and no special authority on his own behalf.[3] He claimed that he had not sought to found a new denomination, but that he instead intended merely to gather together and teach his Bible Students.[4] He wrote that the "clear unfolding of truth" within his teachings was due to "the simple fact that God's due time has come; and if I did not speak, and no other agent could be found, the very stones would cry out."[5] He viewed himself—and all other Christians anointed with the Holy Spirit—as "God's mouthpiece" and an ambassador of Christ.[5] Later in his career he accepted without protest that many Bible Students viewed him as the "faithful and wise servant" of Matthew 24:45,[6] and was described by the Watch Tower after his death as having been made "ruler of all the Lord's goods".[6]
After Russell's death, a leadership crisis arose surrounding the new president of the Society, Joseph Rutherford, resulting in a schism. As many as three-quarters of the Bible Students who had been associating in 1917 had left by 1931,[7] resulting in the formation of several groups that retained variations on the name Bible Students. Those who maintained fellowship with the Watch Tower Society adopted the name Jehovah's witnesses in July, 1931. Several denominations later formed around, or adopted some style of, Russell's views, among them the Worldwide Church of God, the Concordant Publishing Concern and the Assemblies of Yahweh. Off-shoot groups of the Bible Student movement include the Pastoral Bible Institute, the Free Bible Students and the Layman's Home Missionary Movement.

Some of his teachings:

Following his analytical examination of the Bible, Russell and other Bible Students came to believe that Christian creeds and traditions were harmful errors, believing they had restored Christianity to the purity held in the first century. Such views and conclusions were viewed as heresy by many Church leaders and scholars in his day. Russell agreed with other Protestants on the primacy of the Bible, and justification by faith alone, but thought that errors had been introduced in interpretation. Russell agreed with many 19th century Protestants, including Millerites, in the concept of a Great Apostasy that began in the first century AD. He also agreed with many other contemporary Protestants in belief in the imminent Second Coming of Christ, and Armageddon. Some of the areas in which his Scriptural interpretations differed from those of Catholics, and many Protestants, include the following:

The Chart of the Ages
Hell. He maintained that there was a heavenly resurrection of 144,000 righteous, as well as a "great multitude", but believed that the remainder of mankind slept in death, awaiting an earthly resurrection.
The Trinity. Russell believed in the divinity of Christ, but differed from orthodoxy by teaching Jesus had received that divinity as a gift from the Father, after dying on the cross. He also taught that the Holy Spirit is not a person, but the manifestation of God's power.
Christ's Second Coming. Russell believe that Christ had returned invisibly in 1874, and that he had been ruling from the heavens since that date. He predicted that a period known as the "Gentile Times" would end in 1914, and that Christ would take power of Earth's affairs at that time. He interpreted the outbreak of World War I as the beginning of Armageddon, which he viewed to be both a gradual deterioration of civilized society, and a climactic multi-national attack on a restored Israel accompanied by worldwide anarchy.
From Wikipedia:


Joseph Smith, Jr. (December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844) was the founder and prophet of the Latter Day Saint movement. In the late 1820s, Smith announced that an angel had given him a book of golden plates engraved with a religious chronicle of ancient American peoples in an unknown language. He also said he had received a pair of seer stones in which he could see the translation, which he published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon. On the basis of this book and other revelations, he founded a church in western New York, claiming it to be a restoration of primitive Christianity.
Moving the church in 1831 to Kirtland, Ohio, Smith attracted hundreds of converts, who came to be called Latter Day Saints. Some of these he sent to establish a holy city of "Zion" in Jackson County, Missouri. In 1833, Missouri settlers expelled the Saints from Zion, and a paramilitary expedition Smith led to recover the land was unsuccessful. Fleeing an arrest warrant in the aftermath of a Kirtland financial crisis, Smith joined the remaining Saints in Far West, Missouri. However, tensions escalated into a violent conflict in 1838 with the old Missouri settlers. Believing the Saints to be in insurrection, the governor ordered their expulsion from Missouri, and Smith was imprisoned on capital charges.
After escaping state custody in 1839, Smith led the Saints to build the city of Nauvoo, Illinois on Mississippi River swampland, where he became mayor and commanded a large militia. In early 1844, he announced his candidacy for President of the United States. That summer, after the Nauvoo Expositor criticized his power and new doctrines, such as plural marriage, Smith and the Nauvoo city council ordered the destruction of the newspaper as a nuisance. In a futile attempt to check public outrage, Smith first declared martial law, then surrendered to the governor of Illinois. He was killed by a mob while awaiting trial in Carthage, Illinois.
Smith's followers believe he was a great prophet who saw God and angels, and they regard his revelations as scripture. His teachings include unique views on the nature of godhood, cosmology, family structures, political organization, and religious collectivism. His legacy includes several religious denominations, which collectively claim a growing membership of nearly 14 million worldwide.[1]
Some of His Teachings:

Smith taught that all existence was material,[310] including a world of "spirit matter" so fine that it was invisible to all but the purest mortal eyes.[311] Matter, in Smith's view, could neither be created nor destroyed;[312] the creation involved only the reorganization of existing matter.[313] Like matter, "intelligence" was co-eternal with God, and human spirits had been drawn from a pre-existent pool of eternal intelligences.[314] Nevertheless, spirits were incapable of experiencing a "fulness of joy" unless joined with corporeal bodies.[315] Embodiment, therefore, was the purpose of earth life.[231] The work and glory of God, the supreme intelligence,[316] was to create worlds across the cosmos where inferior intelligences could be embodied.[317]
Though Smith at first taught that God the Father was a spirit,[318] he eventually viewed God as an advanced and glorified man,[319] embodied within time and space[320] with a throne situated near a star or planet named Kolob, and measuring time at the rate of a thousand years per Kolob day.[321] Both God the Father and Jesus were distinct beings with physical bodies, but the Holy Spirit was a "personage of Spirit."[322] Through the gradual acquisition of knowledge,[323] those who were sealed to their exaltation could eventually become coequal with God.[324] The ability of humans to progress to godhood implied a vast hierarchy of gods.[325] Each of these gods, in turn, would rule a kingdom of inferior intelligences, and so forth in an eternal hierarchy.[326]
The opportunity to achieve godhood extended to all humanity; those who died with no opportunity to accept Latter Day Saint theology could achieve godhood by accepting its benefit in the afterlife through baptism for the dead.[327] Children who died in their innocence were guaranteed to rise at the resurrection and rule as gods without maturing to adulthood.[328] Apart from those who committed the eternal sin, Smith taught that even the wicked and disbelieving would achieve a degree of glory in the afterlife,[329] where they would serve those who had achieved godhood.[330]

From Wikipedia:,_Jr.#Distinctive_views_and_teachings

What is frightening is that each of these cults started out with one man and his own personal "revelation" of truth. Today their members number in the millions. We might sit back and wonder how so many could be duped. I can give the answer: they believed a lie from a man rather than truth from God. They preferred a different god than the one found in Scripture. How many today are following that same path?


mercygraceword said...

Well spoken!

Anonymous said...

“People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, and obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.” DA Carson

Maureen said...

Hi mgw, thanks for stopping by!

Maureen said...

Anon, that quote is right on. It really is a fine balance between grace and discipline. Or perhaps we simply need a proper understanding of grace, and of legalism. Being disciplined isn't being legalistic, though many might think it is. And grace isn't a liscence to downplay what God has asked, even commanded, of us in scripture. Even though the system of IC is wrong, it doesn't mean that everything we learn there is. God expects us to grow in grace and the "knowledge" of Him, and I don't believe we can do that by downgrading His written word in favor of subjective experience.