How Cults Misinterpret the Bible – Bridge Conference 2015 Posted on May 9, 2015May 11, 2015 by michaeljfelker You can download my Keynote slides as a PDF HERE Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading...
72 thoughts on “How Cults Misinterpret the Bible – Bridge Conference 2015”
Just a few things I noticed that I wanted to comment on.
1. Our belief in an earth-destined class of Christians is far from dependent upon John the 10th chapter. Really, not even needed to well establish the teaching.
2. The belief in an ecclesiatical authority is not dependent upon Matthew 25:45-47. Again, not even needed to well establish the teaching.
3. It appears your criteria for a cult relies heavily upon the acceptance of the Trinity belief. Seriously?
Glad to see you watched and paid attention. I appreciate that!
1. It’s a very commonly used text to support your viewpoint, so it’s the example I chose to use. I didn’t intend to convey that JW’s were dependent on it, though it’s common use in WT literature makes that questionable.
2. Same as above, but probably cited even more often. The point in 1) and 2) was not to display dependence per se, but simply as examples of how JW’s misinterpret Scripture.
3. It’s not simply *my* criteria, but based upon the generally accepted definitions of what a cult is. That doesn’t in and of itself make the “cultist” wrong. Even if I came to believe that the Trinity was a false pagan doctrine, I still wouldn’t have a problem in referring to Trinity-deniers as cultists in the technical sense.
1. In regard to John 10, I believe you stated that we base our entire theological system, in regard to those earthly ones, upon that passage. That’s simply not the case and is misleading.
2. Your accustaion in that area of misinterpretation is entirely circular and I addressed with you the use of Luke 12 which does not demonstrate an misinterpretation. It simply demonstrates a “difference” in interpretation, not a MISinterpretation. There was no contradiction as we discussed.
3. Your final definition of cult was contrived. You didn’t even produce a dictionary, that I recall, that reiterated “your” definition, and you used the Trinity as a straightedge for valid Christinaity. YOu’re saying something different here.
I listened again. That’s what you said. at 26:38
1. I really think you’re nit-picking here. Can you derive a heavenly class and earthly class from John 10:16 or can’t you? It’s cited all over the place in WT literature as a primary supporting verse for your position. So why not just defend your view of John 10:16 and show exegetically/contextually why it supports your case?
2. It’s a misinterpretation because Matthew 24:45 does not say or imply what your leaders claim it says. There’s no need to rehash all this again, but you’re welcome to provide your viewpoint here and i’ll simply refer others to my writings and our debate.
3. “a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.” Which beliefs and practices would this include per the “others”? Ask many Christians, and they would say the Trinity, which is why I used this as an example; something the audience could likely relate to.
1. John 10 is merely corroborative once you understand the clear teaching of an earthly and heavenly class which is amply demonstrated elsewhere. I will glady defend the view if you are willing to engage. Are you?
The fact is you are arguing something different here. You said in your presentation that we based our entire theology upon that verse. Sure, it can be used to corroborate that teaching, but that is not what you stated.
2. It certainly does imply that there is ecclesiatical authority. You even admitted that it speaks to Christian leadership. It has never stood alone to establish that.
3. Then you were tickling their ears if you do not believe yourself that the Trinity is the “Christian” straightedge, do you? And if you do, we have lots to discuss.
1. I’m happy to engage as time permits or as i’m able to do via mobile as I am now. But what i’d actually like to see is where the Watchtower exegetically establishes a two class theology with John 10:16. So yes, if the Watchtower talks about the two class theology and cites this verse almost every time, most thinking people would get the impression that they base their whole theology on this verse, even knowing full well that there are other verses used in corroboration.
2. Yes, it establishes Christian leadership, though not necessarily an office. But what it doesn’t establish is a modern day governing body to the exclusion of all Christians prior to 1919. That is a misinterpretation.
3. It’s one of them, yes. And wouldn’t you agree if you likewise believed in the Trinity? And I don’t care to discuss it with you unless a) I write on it (in that case, i’m liable to some extent), and b) It would be worth my time despite the fact that it’s already been discussed ad infinitum on the internet.
1. Well if they know there are other verses used to establish the teaching besides John 10:16, then they also know that the WHOLE theology is not based on a verse. You’re contradicting yourself.
2. The governing body among Christianity existed in the first century as well, so it is wrong to say we limit the governing body element to the last days. Such is not the case. The FDS is just a latter day terminology(as it occurs in a prophey about the parousia) for the same thing that has consistently existed within Christianity throughout its history. I tried to explain this to you before, evidently to no avail as you continue to reiterate the same mistake.
3. So the Trinity is one of them? Interesting. I’ll have more to say on that at another time, in particular your unwillingness to discuss it, but let’s remember what was said here. That aside, I would love to have a list of what you believe are the teachings that would act as a straightedge for valid Christianity.
If I present the argument for two destinies, where should I do that at? I will likely mirror the discussion on truetheology if that is OK.
Rotherham, I just find it really noteworthy that your main beef here are issues in terminology and definitions, rather than actually addressing the main points: how JW’s and others misinterpret the Bible. I’m just going to leave it at that in hopes that those reading the comments will see that.
The problem is that your examples of misinterpretation are entirely self-serving and circular. That was in this series of posts amidst the other errors that I noticed involving definitions and terminology. Surely you must appreciate that if a person bases a presentation upon incorrect terminology and definitions, he has self-defeated his own arguments. In part, this is what you have done.
Am I to gather from your latest post that you are now retracting the offer for me to present the argument behind John 10 and the earth class?
This is really quite simple. My presentation is centered around how cults misinterpret the Bible. JW’s misinterpret John 10:16 in claiming that it teaches a heavenly class and earthly class. They also teach that Matthew 24:45 is exclusively applied to a governing body since 1919 to the exclusion of all Christians prior. This is likewise a misinterpretation as are the other examples provided. If you don’t want to prove me wrong, then don’t.
I’m not retracting any offer. What i’d like for you to show is where the *Watchtower* has provided a contextual exegesis in showing that John 10:16 teaches a two class theology and is better supported than the standard view which I provided. As far as whether i’ll engage or not, i’m not going to make any commitments. If I feel it’s worth my time (if I even have the time) to respond, I will. Otherwise, I suppose you’ll have the last word and any readers can decide for themselves if your explanation is a satisfactory one.
I have already shown you in our prior discussion that our interpretation is a valid way to view the parable. Just because a view differs from yours,does not make it a misinterpretation. Luke 12, as I also explained inthat discussion, inno way overturns our view and exposes it as a misinterpretation.
Plus, and you really should try to get this straight because your accusations are skewed and inaccurate, we do NOT teach that a governing body only existed since 1919. It existed since the inception of Christianity. The term FDS would merely serve as a modern day expression of that governing body during the parousia. The FDS is a SUBSET of the larger and historical governing body within Christianity from the beginning. Evidently I will just have to repost my arguments about that here in this board. You can respond if you choose.
Also, and I will post that here too, John 10:16 can easily be used to SUPPORT the notion of an earthly and heavenly class of Christians IF it can be easily and readily established elsewhere that such classes would exist, which I submit it can be and will demonstrate in my coming post. You act as though John 10:16 is the starting point when it clearly isn’t.
Also, would you please submit a list of the teachings that you believe constitute a valid Christianity. So far we have the Trinity.
Did I say anywhere that no governing body existed until 1919? Or did I say that your view teaches that the FDS didn’t exist until 1919?
I’m not getting into listing everything that constitutes true Christianity since that wasn’t the intent of my talk. Remember, it’s about how cults misinterpret the Bible.
Think about it Mike. If the parable is discussing events in the parousia, naturally they are not talking about things outside the parousia. That should be a no-brainer. You are in effect misrepresenting the picture by making it sound like we don’t believe the governing body existed before 1919. “FDS” is merely a “parousiac” designation. Naturally, again, if it is a “parousiac” designation, it would not be a term applied outside of the parousia. That’s just simple logic.
I understand that it wasn’t the intent of your presentation to list teachings that constitute valid Christianity, but I am indeed now curious and am wanting to know. There should be no reason to not want to tell me.
Again: where did I state or imply that no governing body existed until 1919?
If you just want to know out of curiosity and not to engage in a discussion about it here, i’ll just name a few:
1. All true Christians experience the new birth
2. ” ” have Christ as exclusive mediator
3. ” ” will be physically resurrected
4. ” ” are in the new covenant
5. ” ” hold that Christ was physically resurrected and will one day return physically
6. ” ” hold that Adam and Eve were real historical figures
7. ” ” hold that Jesus pre-existed his human birth as a distinct person from the Father
This comment here by you and in your presentation is misleading:
But what it doesn’t establish is a modern day governing body to the exclusion of all Christians prior to 1919.
That’s totally out of context from what I clearly stated in the presentation: that the FDS applies exclusively to the *modern day* governing body. Why not quote the whole section where I clearly described your position?
If it helps, let’s just put it this way: the FDS applies only to the *JW* leaders since 1919. Or, the FDS applied to *no one* prior to 1919. I could keep qualifying and qualifying until the audience starts to get annoyed. I wonder if you are this hyper-nuanced or hyper-qualitative with your leaders who likewise often write and give presentations for general audiences.
Let me put it another way. If we believe its talking about a parousiac group, how could that group exist before the parousia? Naturally, a parousiac group would not exist outside the parousia, so why complain that it excludes people before the parousia? The accusation is not thought out very well.
Think about how off-mark your accusation is. If it’s talking about a “modern-day” group, how could that group exist before 1919?
Let me put it another way. If we believe its talking about a parousiac group, how could that group exist before the parousia? Naturally, a parousiac group would not exist outside the parousia, so why complain that it excludes people before the parousia? The accusation is not thought out very well.
1. Does the FDS apply exclusively to the JW governing body/leaders since 1919?
2. Did a governing body exist in the first century?
That’s the point. It is meaningless to complain about us limiting a parousiac group to the parousia. The FDS is just a term for the parousiac governing body. Naturally, they wouldn’t exist before the parousia.
I have offered a couple of links which address some of the things on your list.
Some of them of course we agree with. Others, not so much.
Any one who cares to discuss any of those, including you, just say let me know.
THE NATURE OF THE RESURRECTION
I will present some info about the John 10:16 and the related topic to that in a few days.
Wanted to let you know I have not forgotten about this, I’ve just been inundated. I know you know the feeling. I’ll be working on that soon, I hope.
Also, I started a blog. https://rotherham2.wordpress.com/
After a large and difficult move, i’ll be buried up to my neck in boxes for some time, so definitely no hurry at all. Glad to see you have a blog now. Once you begin to write on topics of interest to me, i’ll try to chime in from time to time. But for now, you have at least one Trinitarian subscriber 🙂
Okey doke. I’ll being get back with you.
I’m pleased Mike you stated that early Christianity was viewed by the mainstream religion of its day as a dangerous cult.
I also think its important to note that just because a religious movement is mainstream or has millions or billions of followers excludes it from being a cult. Catholicism and Islam are example. I found it concerning that you seemed hesitant to label Islam a cult?
Thanks for taking the time to watch the presentation and I appreciate your comments. I’m open to persuasion on Islam being a cult, but what would it be a cult from? Christianity or Judaism? Since they don’t actually claim to be either, I don’t see it quite as black and white as I would Mormonism and JW’s. But again, I’m open to persuasion on that point.
At the bottom of this it is about the trinity no matter what guise is used. Plenty of Unitiarians/Oneness don’t believe as JW’s and yet they too are labeled cults never mind that some will have a lot of similar beliefs to trinitarian churches besides the trinity,.
Let’s face it your definition of cult is if it if ain’t trinitarian and labels itself a christian it is a cult. This self serving made men law has become the touch stone of Christianity when no apostle prophet etc. ever confessed such.This is why even on the site you use CARM they used to label the COC as a cult but given that it is a trinitairan church they upgraded it’s status to a normal church.
More ironic is that for some who view the Catholic church as the harlot of Revelation are not concerned that it is a trinitrian church amongst other ‘cultic’ beliefs that existed.It is singled out as a whore with daughters which would share similar beliefs
Thanks for your comment. Cult is simply a descriptive word and doesn’t objectively show whether a group is right or wrong. This is why I also argued that early Christianity was a cult. But because I don’t want to distract the focus from the main issue, feel free to replace the word “cult” in my presentation and let’s just call it “how JW’s and Mormons misinterpret the Bible.” Then, we can actually discuss how these groups misinterpret the Bible and leave aside whether we want to call them cults or not.
I’m all for a discussion about how we supposedly misinterpret the Bible. I’ve seen no evidence of that to date.
What would be your strongest example?
I know you’re interested in discussing and I apologize for not being able to devote the necessary amount of time to it. But I’m fine with using the examples in my presentation, even though they may not be the very best examples. The best examples would be the interpretations on the texts used for the governing body, 1919, 1914, and the entire two class system.
Mike I am sure you are quite well aware that 2classes is not unoque nor started by JW’s. Most of the Protestant churches tjemselves teach this especilaaly when they inosost that tje 144,000 are natural born redeemed Jews only. What I find disturbing is the effort that is put on JW’s for their view when churches have had one that is explicitly denounced by scripture no more jew or greek where else the JW has a some weifht because there plenty of texts that speak of those in heaven and earth. I know you possibly agree with in saying that the NT texts I heaven about Christians show not location but the source.of Christian citizenship but I would challenge anyone to show me anywhere else in scripture the expression “in heaven” ever means from heaven . This may not be directly answering your post but it shows that the title needs more.work and your presentations but I think the minut you started with how “mainstream churches themselves minterpet this particular view you would not have an audience for they all hold to some.sort of 2 class theology whteher they admit it or not
I can’t for the life of me figure why you keep dangling this carrot out there and then pulling it away every time a try to take a bite.
As far as 1914 and 1919 goes, they are interpretations of prophecies and the interpretations are as valid as any offered by any others. If interpretations agree scripturally, logically and historically, then whether that interpretation is accurate will depend upon how it actually ends up being fulfilled. “Interpretations” are subject to adjustments, that should be a given.
As far as the existence of a governing body, you have already acknowledged that “congregationally” speaking, ecclesiastical authority exists. We say it is internationally, you say it is just locally. However, all of the NT references to ecclesiastical auhority indicates the broad world scope rather than a limited local scope. I believe the burden of proof is now upon you to prove it is only local. If we are misintepeting scriptures to establish ecclesiastical authority, then wouldn’t you be guilty of doing the same thing since you TOO believe in ecclesiastical authority? Whether Matthew 24 has anything to do with it is interpretational for it is a prophecy, but that is hardly the mountain that this teaching would live or die upon. It’s all through the NT. So i believe the ball is in your court to show you are not misinterpreing scriptures to limit ecclesiasical authority to a local church as opposed to worldwide, as it was in the first century.
I will post a link to a dsicussion about the “two” destinies for Christians, but what exactly are we twisting to make this division exist? Got an example? I think Riven’s comments are noteworthy. All “Christian” groups do it to some degree, do they not?
That’s a true observance, Riven. It seems they are also hard pressed to figure out how the holy ones will judge the world as Paul says they will, if everyone who gets saved is a holy one.
I’m quite familiar with dispensationalism, being a former one myself. And while I am strongly opposed to it, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to compare it to the JW two class theology. But regardless, why do you find it disturbing that the JW view is criticized? Just because there might be some similarities, why would it be disturbing for a dispensationalist to criticize, let’s say, the fact that most JW’s deliberately refuse to partake of the bread and wine? Why can’t we just evaluate the arguments offered and have everyone come to their own conclusions on the matter?
As far as the “in heaven”, you’ll have to be more specific on the Biblical texts to which you refer as each one has to be evaluated in it’s own context.
Lastly, i’m always open to improving my presentations. But I don’t think it’s reasonable to talk about dispensationalism when it’s not the focus of my presentation. There’s only so much one can cover. If I were to write a book on the subject, I wouldn’t hesitate to argue that dispensationalism is false and insufficient to refute the JW two class theology consistently. The reason being, I believe New Covenant Theology is the most consistent system to hold.
I’m glad to see you pursuing this a bit. It’s encouraging. I am sure Riven will have some things to say in response but let me just lay this out.
It seems you agree that Christians will live on earth eternally. Yes? No?
Also, it seems most mainstream religions claim that Christians will go to heaven eternally.
My question. Is there no way that both could be right with certain qualifications in place?
Sorry for the carrot, but i’m happy to answer direct questions here even if I don’t have time to engage them in detail.
For most of your points, I think we’ve already covered a great deal of that in our debate and in other posts here on my site. I know you’re not convinced of my arguments nor am I of yours. So I don’t think my perspective should come as any kind of shock.
Of course I believe that Christians will live on earth eternally. And yes, many or most who call themselves Christians believe they will spend eternity in heaven. But I think when pressed, a lot of them will admit that its earth but in the “heaven on earth” sense. But even if that’s not the case, i’m fine with admitting that many Christians are wrong on this, just as they are on a whole host of issues.
And no, they couldn’t both be right because the point isn’t necessary the issue of location as it is the profound implications of your theology such as the JW views on the new birth, the new covenant, Jesus as mediator, the Lord’s Supper, etc. etc.
If mainstream Christians has equally profound implications tied to their views on heaven, then we would definitely have a problem on our hands.
Why are you able to admit that most Christian are wrong about certain things without much evaluation of them as “real” Christians, yet, when it comes to us, you would claim we are not? Right?
In a nutshell, you might encapsulate the things that you mentioned above (new birth, the new covenant, Jesus as mediator, the Lord’s Supper) in the understanding of who is in the New Covenant. True, all of saved mankind will
benefit from the New Covenant, but who is actually IN the New Covenant. Who is it with? Hebrews tells us specifically that the New Covenant is with Israel and the house of Judah? What does that mean to you? Are all Christians( Jews and Gentiles) Israel and the house of Judah?
Yes, all Christians today are Israel.
Who then are the saints, the holy ones, who will judge the world? In what manner will they judge them?
Which texts are you referring to? I just want to make sure we’re speaking of the same thing since there are different texts with various contexts.
As follows: 1 Cor. 6:2
I feel like i’d be doing you a disservice by giving you a snapshot response to these texts rather than an exegesis in explaining why I interpret them the way that I do. Ideally, i’d like to address them in a blog post. I did a post a while back on the nature of the ruling/reigning of the saints, so a lot of that would be relevant here.
There is a profound implication in how the majority has views in heaven/earth /the new birth etc.
First the basic premise is that there is a denial of the Resurrection. This.This is just like the Sadducee. The concept of soul going to heaven and being alive just throws out the idea of resurrection .For people get resurrected not things. And according to their teachings exactly how do they meet the Lord in the air when they are already basking with him in glory upon death with no clothing(new body)?
Whose voice got these out of the tomb?
Jesus had to have his new resurrected body when he went to heaven and serves as a model and yet we have bodiless humans who get there without such .
3.Denial of the Resurrection not in coded faith statement but in reality of theology denies the new birth for that is the touchstone of whether one really has received the new birth. No Resurrection no new birth although Christians can consider it a present reality. This leads to the next point also
Unbelievers being assigned eternal life.Yes regardless of location as u point this just really is blasphemy as it teaches non believers have immortality unto themselves .Whether in misery or in joy mortality is immortality
5.Baptism yes in water…Jesus did, Paul did, so many Christians in scripture did but behold the majority preach it unnecessary .This all has to do with the new birth. I wonder how it is reasoned when Jesus said baptise them..We cant baptise in Holy Spirit. Did the Ethiopian Eunuch go into the water and perform a dead work at the command of an inspired evangelist.?
3.Once saved always saved. Believers eternal security .Funny how Paul and Jesus warned believers of the opposite but why need a warning if its impossible to lose it? This is a corrupt teaching with dire consequences.
4. Destruction of the earth do I need to say more..
The above are just a few teachings which have to do with the new birth and have profound implications at a far larger scale and found in mainline Christianity in huge numbers.
Thanks for your response. I’m not saying that perspectives don’t have implications, even ones that are held by the vast majority. If you want to hold that the views outlines below have implications that are just as severe as the views held by the JW’s, then by all means, you are welcome to your opinion. All I was saying is that the view held by many Christians that their eternity will be in heaven does not have the same devastating consequences as the Watchtower view. What you outlined below is really stretching it as I don’t see a direct connection.
Plus, i’m not here to defend the views of the majority of Christians. Many of my views are directly contrary to the views of many Christians.
Fair enough on that your view differ with the majority but how is the JW view of heaven more devastating than what Protestants believe?
I don’t think what i said is a stretch those are things that mainline Protestants believe
I don’t doubt that many protestants believe what you mentioned. My point is that there is not a direct connection between, let’s say, “once saved always saved”, and the belief that Christians will spend eternity in heaven. This is why I was emphasizing that the mere belief of eternity in heaven for all Christians doesn’t carry with it the same devastating implications as the WT two class theology does.
You haven’t described what exactly is the “devastating” aspect of what we teach.
I believe I mentioned some of this above: the JW views on the new birth, the Lord’s Supper, Christ’s mediator role, the new covenant, etc.
So where is the “devastation” in this?
Christ is not your exclusive mediator and you are not born again. Therefore, you cannot see the kingdom of God. In addition, you deny your membership into the new covenant, therefore your sins cannot be forgiven. In my view, this is devastating.
Wouldn’t that only include some of us, that is, if you would actually be right, which I clearly do not think you are. Those among us who do claim to have Christ as their mediator and partake and are in the New Covenant and are born again would appear to be in good shape then, right?
Obviously not because they completely miss the nature of these doctrines. But even so, these are only a drop in the bucket in the plethora of false doctrines JW’s all hold to.
Well now, hold on a minute. You were drawing a distinction between us and others because we dont have Christ as our mediator, not in the New Covenant, not born again. Well, they are! Now you say there is more. So what’s the bottom line that separates us from the rest of “incorrect” Christianity that you tolerate so well and even find a sort of comradery with? It can’t just be the above because numerous JWs don’t have that problem, as you see it, anyway, so what’s the rest that we’re missing that robs us from salvation?
Is Christ the exclusive mediator of Abraham and all other less or more prominent Israelites and believers from the past? What of all other non-believers in history who may have never even knew YHWH and/or Christ even exists? Are they lost eternally?
Yes to the first and your second question contains a false premise due to Romans 1. Everyone knows God but suppresses the truth in unrighteousness.
You’re a being vague I’m afraid. First, explain how Abraham and other ancient faithful ones have Christ as their exclusive mediator when they never even encountered his writings, teachings or his person?
Second, are you saying those ancient non-believers have a shot? If so, how?
Rotherham- unfortunately I’m just going to have to be short and vague at this point unless I can find the time to elaborate.
Natuarlly, just when its about to get good. Thanks for not answering the questions.
If you can’t respect my time constraints and priorities, then feel free to leave.
Like I said yours i a matter of what a certain brand of Protestantism belles. AS I have show the new birth is very much false according to many Protestants
1)The majority reject baptism-(A requirement for the new birth)
2)They eat the Lords supper without being baptized therefore they are heaping even more problems upon themselves disrepsepecting the body of Christ.Partaking unworthily.
3) The resurrection-Like it or not the resurrection will be a confirmation if one has truly received the new birth and as many JW;’s will tell you the notion is ,foreign even others calling it weird or false because of the whole notion of go to heaven when you die’.We know this because we come across “trinitairians” regularly who are taught as such in their churches
The new birth to most trinitarians is say “I believe in Jesus and voila. Really now.
Regarding 1) and 2), I would say that those who believe such things are not only not Christians, but they aren’t really Protestants. For 3), I’m not sure I’m understanding you.
So for the sake of getting past whatever disagreement you’re having with me, I’ll agree that there are plenty who claim to the Protestants who deny essential Christian beliefs.
Additionally you say JW’s don’t have Christ as their mediator.May I ask who they say their mediator is
No, I wount leave, I actually like it here. But, could I get a list of what you regard as essential Christian beliefs?
Do I need to list all of them? And also, didn’t we already go over this in earlier comments?
We may have, but I don’t know where to find them. These blogs are like a nightmare trying to find old stuff. If you could give
me a complete list, I would love to see it.
It’s in this same comment section towards the beginning of the exchanges.
OK, I’ll look for it.