Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My Study of World Religions


            I want to briefly present what some of the major religions of the world believe.  (I am not covering all of them, of course.  And I am skipping things like Wicca, New Age, and Humanism.)  I studied all the major religions once when I was considering if Christianity was really the only way.  And I came out of the study believing in Jesus all the more. 

            It is important to know what other religions teach so that we can know what they are really about, have real reasons for why we don’t believe them, and understand what makes Jesus and Christianity different. 

            (This is mainly written for believers, taken from my Bible study over at https://ironsharpensironbiblestudy.blogspot.com.) 

            This is my paraphrase of things I have learned over the years and information from a world religion comparison guide called “Christianity: Cults & Religions” and from a book by Fritz Ridenour called, So What’s the Difference?




Judaism:

            The founders of Judaism are Abraham and Moses, of the Bible.  Jews do not consider the whole Bible to be scriptural, but only the Old Testament (called the Hebrew Bible), especially the first five books (the Torah).  There are four kinds of Jews: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Messianic. 

            Orthodox Jews are strict “rule-followers.”  Besides the Old Testament, they also live by additional rules in the Mishnah and the Talmud.  To make sure that they follow the rules completely, they take things to an extreme.  Such as, Exodus 23:19 says to not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.  But they take it even further, always eating meat and dairy products separately, never in the same dish. 

            Conservative Jews are a little more relaxed in their rule-following and are more about trying to keep Jewish traditions alive.  Reformed Jews are not concerned with strict rule-following either.  They believe that following the principles of Judaism are more important than following all the fastidious rules.    

            Christianity and Judaism are similar in much of their values and beliefs.  However, the great difference is how we view Jesus.  The only Jews who follow Jesus are the Messianic Jews, those who still observe Jewish customs yet believe Jesus was the Messiah.  The rest generally believe He was a false messiah or a good teacher who had an unfortunate death.  (Would a “good teacher” deceive everyone by claiming He was God and the only way to heaven?)

            Most Jews do not believe in the Trinity (since they do not believe that Jesus was God).  They believe that God is one Being, not three in one.  Conservative and Reformed Jews believe that He is a spirit who is impersonal and unknowable, whereas Orthodox Jews believe He is personal and knowable.  Some Jews basically think the Holy Spirit is just another name for God’s love/power and some think it refers to His activity on earth.

            Most Jews believe that salvation is obtained by commitment to God and moral living.  Christians and Messianic Jews say that salvation comes only through Jesus’ atoning death. 

           


Catholicism:

            While both Catholics and Christians believe in the Bible and God and Jesus, there are a few big differences between the two. 

            Catholics believe that new revelations are given to the bishops.  Therefore, scriptural authority is not just “the Bible” (as Christians believe).  For them, it’s “the Bible plus the bishop’s new revelations.” 

            And the leaders – Rome – are the only ones with the ability to understand and correctly interpret what the Bible teaches.  Whereas Christians believe that God’s truth is made available to everyone in the Bible and can be understood by everyone.

            The pope claims papal infallibility, meaning that he has complete authority over the church and cannot be wrong in what he decides.  (I am guessing it’s because of his ability to get new revelations from God, which Catholics believe have the same weight and authority as Scripture.)  He even claims to be God on earth, to be in the place of Jesus Christ (google this).

            Catholics hold Mary in higher regard than Christians do, basically to the point of worshipping her.  They believe she was born sinless and died sinless (and remained a virgin her whole life), that she was taken up bodily into heaven, and that she shares Jesus’ job of being a mediator between man and God.

            Catholics pray to Mary and angles and dead saints, asking for their help.  They believe that priests are mediators between people and God, so they confess their sins to the priests.  And the priests pronounce forgiveness, after commanding the person to do certain things to atone for their sins, such as praying a number of prayers, usually including several “Hail Marys.”

            Christians do not believe we can earn or secure our forgiveness by doing these kinds of things.  We do not believe in praying to anyone other than God.  And we believe that we can confess our sins directly to Him. 

            [From what I understand, Catholics believe in having the priests (and Mary, the angels, and dead saints) mediate between people and God out of respect for God’s high position, believing that the common person should not approach God too informally.] 

            Salvation for a Catholic comes through faith plus their good works, including adherence to the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church: baptism, confirmation (the final step of baptism), taking communion (which they believe has been transformed into Christ’s actual body and blood), the regular confession of sins to the priest, being anointed by the priest with oil when you are sick or near death, the ordination of Catholic ministers at three different levels, and Holy Matrimony (being married in the Catholic Church).

            Catholics also believe in purgatory – the place your soul goes when you die where you work out any unconfessed sins so that you become fit for heaven.  (Can I ask this:  What did Jesus’ death accomplish then, if we are still required to pay for our sins?) 

            Living Catholics can help those in purgatory get out of it faster by praying for them, by doing good things on their behalf, and by being granted “indulgences” by the leadership. 

            “Indulgences” is the idea that the Catholic Church has accumulated God’s favor over the years through prayers and good works, etc., and that a priest or bishop can dip into this “bank account” and take some of God’s favor and extend it to a person in purgatory as a “pardon for sin,” declaring that the person can now get out of purgatory so many days early.  (Huh!?!  Where is that idea in the Bible?)


            And some verses to consider:

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Tim 2:5).  Jesus Himself is the only mediator there is between men and God.  How wrong it is to elevate mere humans to Jesus’ level and to blatantly defy Scripture.


“And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.”  (Matthew 23:9)  Catholic priests are called “father.”  This verse is not referring to genetic fathers but to spiritual fathers, saying that there is only One who should be called “Father.”  And that would be God alone!  I simply don’t see how they can justify that when this verse is so clear!  I mean, of all the names they could go by, they picked the very one that was forbidden.


“They [false teachers] forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods …” (1 Tim 4:3).  Priests are not allowed to marry, according to the Catholic Church.  However, the Bible claims that church leaders are to be “the husband of but one wife … He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.”  (1 Tim 3:2-4)  You can’t have a family and wife if you are not allowed to marry (a rule made up by men, not God).  And Catholics are forbidden to eat meat on Fridays during Lent, another rule made up by the Catholic Church, not God. 


“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like the pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”  (Matt 6:7)  What do the priests require of you so that you can earn forgiveness for your sins?  That you repeat a certain number of prayers over and over again.  And you are required – as a good Catholic – to pray the rosary.  More repetitive prayer, most of which are to Mary.


And who did Jesus tell us to direct our prayers to?  “This, then, is how you should pray:  ‘Our Father in heaven …’” (Matt 6:9)  Jesus also instructed us just a couple verses later to ask God to forgive us of our sins.  And yet in a Catholic church, you are to confess your sins to the priest.  Because in the Catholic church, he is the one who grants (or withholds) forgiveness, requiring you to jump through their hoops first, as if they have the authority to grant or withhold forgiveness or to require more than what God does in the Bible.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins …”  (1 John 1:9).  And who is “he” in this verse?  The priests, those self-appointed “fathers”?  NO!  It’s God Himself.


“… should not a people inquire of their God?  Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?”  (Isaiah 8:19)  And I think we can apply it like this:  “… should not a people pray only to their God?  Why pray to the dead on behalf of the living?”  (They say they don’t pray to Mary, that they are just asking her to pray for them.  But once again, “why consult the dead on behalf of the living?”) 


Look even at what an angel told John when he fell before it in worship: “At this I fell at his feet to worship him.  But he said to me, ‘Do not do it!  I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus.  Worship God!”  (Rev 19:10)  And what’s the Catholic church doing?  Worshipping servants of God and dead humans and requiring that their followers pray to them.  (It’s incredibly disturbing to see the many pictures on-line of Catholics kneeling before statues of the Pope and Mary and other “saints.”  Kneeling in worship!)  


“But wait,” a Catholic would say, “Mary wasn’t just a mere human!  She was sinless!”

But what does the Bible say? 


Not one verse about Mary being sinless (or ascending bodily into heaven or being the “Queen of heaven”).   However, there are many about Jesus being sinless, which is why His death alone could satisfy the payment required for mankind’s sins (2 Cor 5:21, 1 Peter 2:22, Heb 4:15, Heb 7:26, 1 John 3:5).  And furthermore, it clearly says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  (Romans 3:23)  Not “all but Mary have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”


While I do respect the fact that there are a lot of good, God-fearing people in the Catholic Church and that it’s been a stepping stone to real faith for many people, I think that the Catholic church itself is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and has blatantly altered much of what the Bible teaches.


[Update 5/21/18:  I just watched something alarming online, a clip of Pope Francis telling people that a personal relationship with Jesus is dangerous and harmful.  Click here for the video.  He's basically saying that it's dangerous to attempt to have a relationship with Jesus Christ without the mediation of the church - the Catholic church, of course.  He says that being a Christian means belonging to the church. 

Umm ... NO!  Being a Christian means being a follower of Jesus Christ.  The church is simply the followers of Christ coming together for fellowship, to lift each other up, to pray together, to worship together, and to study the Word together.  Jesus came before the church.  Jesus is the foundation of and head of the Church.  Not the other way around.

Yes, we Christians need to be in fellowship with other believers ... BUT the church is not the way to salvation.  Jesus is.  The church doesn't save us.  Jesus does.  The church isn't God on earth.  Jesus is.  The church isn't the way, the truth, and the life.  Jesus is.

The church does not supersede Jesus.  The Catholic Church, the pope, has not taken Jesus's place here on earth.  

And I think there will be consequences for the pope claiming so!

Furthermore, the Catholic church is also working on forming an alliance between Islam and Christianity (actually, I should say "Christianity" - their brand of Christianity).  Anyone who is actually a faithful follower of either Muhammad or Jesus knows that these two cannot be reconciled, that they cannot both be true, not when they both claim such very different foundational truths.

To my Catholic friends:  Get out of the Catholic church!  You don't need the Catholic church to be a Christian or to tell you what God's Word says.  Read it for yourself and find out who Jesus really is and what it means to be a follower of Christ.]  




Islam:

            Founded by Muhammad in the 600s A.D., who claimed to be a prophet but did not claim to be divine.  The Qur’an (Koran) is their holy book, which they believe supersedes all other holy writings, even the Torah (the first five books of the Bible).  Muhammad claims that the angel Gabriel dictated this book to him.  There is also the Sunnah which contains teachings and sayings of Muhammad, and the Shariah which is a collection of strict laws that govern a Muslim’s life.

            According to Islam, there is only one God - Allah.  The idea of the Trinity is highly offensive and blasphemous.  And Muslims believe that God cannot be known. 

            Jesus was not God.  He was a respected prophet who did miracles and lived a sinless life.  He did not die on a cross nor rise again.  But God took Him to heaven before he went to the cross (because no prophet could die such a humiliating death) and someone else was in His place, disguised as Jesus (such as Judas).  Also, Jesus will not come again before judgment.  Muhammad – who is the last and greatest prophet - will be the one coming to usher in the End. 

            Islam teaches that man is born as a clean slate, as opposed to the Christian belief that mankind is born in sin and separated from God.  And each Muslim has to make up for their own sins by being a faithful Muslim and following Islam’s Five Pillars of the Faith: converting to Islam through a Statement of Belief, praying five times a day toward Mecca, giving alms, celebrating Ramadan, and taking a pilgrimage to Mecca. 

            Muslims are taught that God does not love people who do wrong, whereas Christians believe that God loves all sinners and has paid the price for their sins. 

            For a Muslim, heaven is a place of sensual pleasure where a man is given a bunch of virgins to pleasure him for all of eternity.  (What’s a woman’s reward?  Just wondering.  Same thing?  And what happens when all those virgins are used up?)  And hell awaits those who oppose God and Muhammad.                          

            On a different note, there is much contention and confusion nowadays over the idea of “Muslim extremists” versus “moderate, peaceful Muslims.” 

            (In fact, many Muslims say that the word “Islam” means “peace,” whereas it really means being submissive to God . . . and then finding peace.  Islam is about forcing people into submission where they will find peace.)

            While most Muslims in America do seem to be peaceful and just want to practice their faith in peace, it cannot be ignored that Muhammad did, in fact, teach the ideas of warfare and killing those who disagree with Islam. 

            From what I understand, his earliest writings promoted tolerance and a “live and let live” kind of mentality.  But his later writings promote killing “infidels,” subjugating those who disagree, the spreading of Shariah law, and Jihad (warfare against their enemies).  And these later writings are supposed to override the earlier ones.  Therefore, those who are “extremists” are not really misrepresenting Islam.  They are actually the most committed and are following the whole Qur’an to the letter.

            [Some Islamic passages to look up:

            Qur’an 9:5:  “. . . slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush . . .” 

            5:51:  “O you who believe!  do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other.”   

            9:29:  “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the last day. . .”

            9:73:  “O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them.”

            9:123:  “O you who believe!  fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness.”

            48:29:  “Those who follow Muhammad are merciless for the unbelievers but kind to each other.”

            Also see Qur’an 4:95-96, Qur’an 47:4, Sahih Muslim 30, Sunan An-Nasa’i 3099, Sunan Ibn Majah 2763, Sahih al-Bukhari 6922, Hadith 1:13, Hadith 19:4294, Hadith 9:4, etc. 

            It’s all there for you to see, in Muhammad’s own words.  This is not a religion of peace but of warfare, of forcing others to submit, and of killing those who don’t.  And if anyone says otherwise, I think Muhammad himself would disagree, considering his own written words.]      

            And if I remember correctly, Jihad – holy war – is what will help usher in the End and the coming of Muhammad.  This is why they (the “radical extremists”) are not afraid to declare Jihad on people and why trying to negotiate peace with them will not work.  They want the war because it will bring them rewards and it will bring Muhammad back again.

            Christians are to love their enemies.  Muslims are to kill their enemies.  Christians are to be ready to die for their faith.  Muslims are to kill for theirs. 

            However, let me once again stress that most Muslims seem peaceful and just want to practice their faith in peace.  (They might even try very hard to overlook the violent teachings because they don’t want to be violent.) 

            And we do not have to fear those who are not violent.  Nor should we be lashing out at them.  Instead, we need to show them the same kind of grace, love, and compassion that we should be showing everyone.  Jesus died for them, too, that they might believe in Him and find everlasting life. 

            (How can we tell the difference between violent and non-violent Muslims?  I don’t know.  But until someone proves to be violent, show them love and grace and compassion.  And pray for them.  It’s what we Christians are called to do.)



Hinduism:

            It has no founder but began sometime in 1800-1000 B.C. in India through the mixing of people groups and their polytheistic religions.  Hinduism has no particular central theology or doctrine, but it allows for many various beliefs, such as believing in whatever gods you want or none at all.  Oftentimes, they worship a god in just about everything in nature.  But all Hindus believe in the idea of reincarnation and karma. 

            Basically, they believe that souls are repeatedly reincarnated into various forms on earth (human or animal), going through various levels of suffering while they work out their karma in order to reach the highest level of being united with the infinite spirit, Brahma (their idea of “God”). 

            Karma is a sort of “point system” based on the good or bad things you do.  And karma determines what kind of body and station you are given in your next reincarnation. 

            And, last I knew, they believe in not interfering with someone else’s destiny.  So if someone is suffering, it is their karmic destiny.  They brought it on themselves from the way they lived their previous lives, and no one should interfere with them while they work out their karma. 

            (This is why they did not help those in the lowest rung of the caste system – the Untouchables.  They believed the Untouchables deserved what they got because of their past lives and that they had to work out their own karma.  They may have changed this recently, though.)

            And once you tip the scales enough to the “good” – through yoga and meditation and good works and faithfully living within your reincarnated position – you will be released from the endless cycles of reincarnation and be absorbed into Brahma. 

            (Yoga is a form of Hindu worship.  Those poses are prayer poses to Hindu gods, meant to align you with the universe and with Brahma, where “all are one” and where you learn “I am Brahma.”  And yet the Christians who practice yoga act like it’s just a “morally neutral,” harmless form of exercise.  But is it really!?!  Would God think so?)

            They believe that God – Brahma – is in everything and that everyone is part of God, which is why they worship so many different gods and allow different beliefs.  They believe that all beliefs might take different paths, but that they all lead to the same thing, to the only reality out there – God (Brahma). 

            Idol worship – worshipping physical items of stone and wood – is common in Hindu homes.  And the dot that they wear on their foreheads represents a spiritual “third eye.”      


              

Buddhism:

            Founded in the 500s B.C. by Gautama Siddhartha (a.k.a. Buddha).  Buddhists do not believe in the Bible, God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit.  If they do believe in Jesus, they believe He was an enlightened teacher or an avatar (the savior of your choice), but He was not God. 

            Buddhists believe that life is about suffering, brought about by selfish desires.  And all desires are bad and need to be eradicated.  If you can get to a point where you master your desires and no longer crave anything, you will be released from the suffering-filled cycle of reincarnation. 

            And the way to overcome cravings and selfish desires is through mastering the Noble Eightfold Path.  This is when you get to the point where you have the right viewpoint, intentions, speech, behavior, job, effort, mindfulness, and meditation. 

            If you can do all this properly, you will not suffer anymore and will reach a state of nirvana, a sort of perfect consciousness.



Jehovah’s Witnesses: 

            In the beginning was the Almighty God, Jehovah.  He created Jesus, who isn’t really a god but who can be considered a “lesser god.”  Jesus actually was Michael the archangel when he was in heaven.  After he was created, Jesus created everything else.  But Jehovah is really the only God.  There is no Trinity – no “three in one” of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Trinity is actually a teaching of Satan (according to them). 

            The founder, Charles Taze Russell, predicted that Jesus’ coming and Armageddon would happen in 1914.  When it didn’t happen, he claimed it was an invisible, spiritual coming of Jesus. 

            The next leader changed the date to 1925, and then claimed he was “misunderstood” when it didn’t happen.  He also claimed that only the first 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses would get into heaven.  The rest (those who became Witnesses after 1935) can’t get into heaven because it’s “full,” but they can earn everlasting life on earth as part of the “great crowd.” 

            The next leader changed the date of Armageddon to 1975. 

            Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was a perfect man when He was on earth but nothing more.  And His death was a “good trade” for Adam’s sin, basically buying us the right to earn our salvation through good works (i.e. evangelizing door-to-door, etc.).  Of course, this is only for Jehovah’s Witnesses.  And after dying, Jesus stopped being human and once again became the archangel, Michael.

            The leadership of the Jehovah’s Witnesses teaches their followers that they must not try to read and understand the Bible themselves, but they must learn their theology from headquarters, from the Watchtower.  And they are never to question the Watchtower. 

            Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own translation of the Bible, The New World Translation.  In this version, they have altered certain verses to fit their teachings.  Such as, they took John 1:1 “. . . and the Word was God” and changed it to “. . . and the Word was a god,” thereby making Jesus sort of “a god” but not the God.  And they add the word “other” when talking about created things to make it sound like Jesus was created first and then he created all the other things. 

            And while they talk about grace and salvation, they do not say that salvation is by faith in Christ alone.  They claim that you earn your salvation – your spot on the eternal earth (because remember that heaven is full) - by working for it through your faithful obedience, faithful attendance, and door-to-door work.  And there is no hell.  All non-Jehovah’s Witnesses will be annihilated, simply ceasing to exist. 

            (While new Jehovah’s Witness publications admit that Russell was the founder, they distance themselves from his beliefs and teachings.  Interesting!  How can one follow a religion made up by a man whose authority and theology they refuse to acknowledge?)



Mormons (Latter-Day Saints):

            In the 1820’s, a teenage Joseph Smith, Jr. had a vision where the Father and Son (or so he believed) appeared to him and told him that all Christian denominations are off-track and that he should not join any of them. 

            Several years later, supposedly through an occultic “seer” practice, the Book of Mormon was “shown” to Smith.  And Mormonism was born.  (Modern Mormons deny his occultic practices.)

            According to Mormons, new revelations have been given to Mormon leaders which should be added to the Bible.  So while they do acknowledge the Bible, Mormons base their faith primarily on the Book of Mormon, along with two other Mormon books, considering them to be inspired words of God.  (Yet they feel the Bible has been corrupted, making it the least reliable book.)

            One of these extra Mormon books (Doctrine & Covenants) is a book of prophecies made by Smith which did not come true.  And, ironically (considering that they believe the Bible has been corrupted), the book of Smith’s prophecies has been altered over the years.  (Maybe to make them less inaccurate?  I guess that when you can still get new revelations from God, you can make all the changes you want and still call it “God-inspired” truth.)

            The other Mormon book (Pearl of Great Price) was partly inspired from a papyri fragment that Smith bought in 1835, which he thought was the writings of Abraham.  But in the mid-1900s, it was reexamined and found to be about Egyptian funerals and how to embalm people.  Yet the Mormons today claim that God supernaturally revealed the “Book of Abraham” to Smith through it.

            According to the Mormons:  In the beginning was a race of “gods” who were all created by previous “gods.”  Somewhere along the line, God the Father was created and sent to a planet to live as a man, where he worked his way to godhood.  Then he returned to the heavens and had a bunch of “spirit babies” with his goddess-wife. 

            The first sprit-baby was Jesus.  (However, it’s also said that Jesus was created when God the Father came to earth, took on a human body, and had sex with Mary.)  And the next was Lucifer, Jesus’ younger brother.  And then, God created all the rest of the spirit-babies who would eventually inhabit bodies on earth and become people.

            God’s plan was to test people on earth while they lived in human bodies, and then they would return to him after death.  But he needed someone to make amends for Adam’s sin.

            And when he chose Jesus, Lucifer got jealous and rebelled.  And after a Great War in heaven, Lucifer was banished to earth where he was condemned to live as a spirit, never getting a human body.

            Jesus and the other spirit-babies then made human bodies out of the earth’s material.

            However, some of the spirit-babies who fought against Lucifer in the Great War didn’t really fight that hard.  And their punishment was to be born with black skin.          

            Smith initially taught that there was a Trinity. However, he eventually changed it to say that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate gods.  (The Holy Spirit was never able to get a human body.) 

            To attain godhood, according to Mormon teaching, Jesus would have had to have been married (most likely having multiple wives).  And after Jesus died, he fully reached godhood.  Eventually, Jesus will take God the Father’s place when God the Father moves on to a higher realm.   

            While Mormon’s claim that salvation is only possible because of Jesus’ death, His death only covered Adam’s sin but we are responsible for our own sins.  His death simply earned us the right to pay for our sins and gain our salvation, through strict adherence to Mormon doctrines and practices.

            Like Jesus, humans can earn godhood through our works and rituals and proper Mormon living.  We can even eventually earn our own planet.  But there is no eternal life for those who are not members of the Mormon Church. 

            Mormons strongly reject the label of “cult” or “false religion,” claiming that they are indeed biblical Christians who believe in the power of Jesus Christ to save.  (Like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they use many of the same terms Christians do, but they have redefined them.)   

               


Freemasonry:

            The only reason I included this one is because my husband’s grandfather was a Freemason.  And I have done a bit of research on this over the years to see what might have been “passed down” in the family line, spiritually speaking.  (Before I knew what this group was, my husband’s father tried to pass on his father’s Freemason rings to my husband.  I am so glad that my husband knew enough to not accept them.) 

            This is a secret society – a sort of fraternal brotherhood – surrounded in rituals, symbolism, and mystery. 

            According to them, man is basically good, we can reach perfection, we need to live good, moral, charitable lives, and there will be an afterlife with rewards and punishments. 

            However, the Bible is not the inspired Word of God.  And Jesus wasn’t God.  He was just a man.  (They are not even allowed to speak Jesus’ name in their meetings, so they delete His name when using the Bible.)  And we improve our standing before God (and gain salvation) through good works.  Also, they believe that all religions essentially believe in the same God.  So as long as you believe in a “supreme being,” you can be a Mason. 

            While they initially think that they were getting into a God-based religion, as they climb up the various levels of freemasonry, it reveals itself to be more pagan and occultic than they thought.  The higher you go in the levels, the more pagan rituals you perform, the more prayers you are required to pray to false gods (even praying allegiance to them, even to Lucifer), the more blasphemies against God you are required to pronounce, and the more you learn you don’t need God (that there is no God) because you are a god.  You are even required to pronounce curses of pain and death upon you and your family if you share the secrets of Freemasonry.

            Freemasonry is widespread.  (Even my neighbor across the street has the “Freemason” emblem on his door.)  And it has ties with or is similar to these groups:

            -  Shriners (those who reached the highest level of freemasonry)

            -  Job’s Daughters (girls that are related to Masons)

            -  Eastern Star

            -  Elks, Moose, Buffalos, etc. 

            -  DeMolay groups

            -  International Order of the Rainbow for Girls (Rainbow girls.  Makes it sound appealing to little girls, doesn’t it?)

            -  Knight’s Templar

            -  Illuminati

            -  Skull and Bones Society

            -  And many others         



Christian Science:

            Founded in the 1870s by Mary Baker Eddy.  She taught that there is no physical reality.  Everything is basically just a metaphysical idea.  Nothing really exists as matter.  Therefore, there is no sin, no sickness, no death.  It’s all in our minds.  And since nothing really exists except ideas, you can control your health and healing by believing that you cannot really be hurt or sick.  Even God is just a principle, not a person.  And heaven and hell are just states of the mind, based on whether we do wrong or right.  And there is no need for a Savior – for Jesus – because all people are already eternally saved.  Christian Scientists say that Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures supersedes the Bible and that the Bible can only be understood in light of it. 

 


Scientology:

            Founded by L. Ron Hubbard in 1954.  They don’t have anything to do with the idea of the God of the Bible or Jesus or the Holy Spirit.  There is no such thing as sin or heaven or hell.  They believe all people are immortal spirits that control their own bodies and universe.  And as you work with an “auditor,” you can progress up the ladder to “total freedom” where you will gain total control over matter, energy, space, and time.  



Hare Krishna (ISKCON):

            Founded in the 1500s, with a foundation in Hinduism and the Hindu writing, Bhagavad-Gita.  Having a personal relationship with the god “Krishna” is the way to salvation.  And you earn your salvation by total devotion to Krishna and by tipping the karmic balance with an abundance of good works, by constantly chanting Krishna’s name, and by obeying ISKCON rules throughout your reincarnated lives.  Jesus wasn’t the Savior.  He was either an enlightened teacher or may have been the son of Krishna.  But either way, He is not as important.  Krishna is the one to follow.  

     


Church of Christ (International Church of Christ, ICC):

            An evangelistic church determined to save the lost and make disciples.  The leader, Kip McKean, said that the Bible teaches that every city should only have one church.  And, of course, he claimed that the church he founded – the Boston Church of Christ - was the church and that none of the others in the city were of God. 

            In order to obtain salvation, you must be baptized into and totally committed to the International Church of Christ, and you must live righteously.  And if you want to join the ICC but you were baptized by a different church, you must be baptized again by them because only their baptisms are valid. 

            As a member, you must fully obey the leadership (with McKean at the top) – even if asked to do something un-Christ-like.  And all parts of your life are to be submitted to their authority, even your marital relationship.  They claim authority over a person’s every aspect of life because of Hebrews 13:17:  “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.” 

            You must also undergo intense discipleship, confess all sins to your mentor, and attend every ICC meeting.  And once you are a member, there is to be no sin in your life.  To accomplish this, many members pull away from family and friends and get more and more involved in the Church of Christ.

            The leadership often confronts those who want to leave the ICC, bringing up their previously confessed sins (to harass them?  intimidate them?  control them?) and telling them that they will go to hell if they leave the church. 



Unification Church (The Moonies):

            Founded by Sun Myung Moon in 1954.  (In the US, it’s “Lovin’ Life Ministries.”)  Moon claims to have had a vision at the age of 16 where he was called to complete the mission that Jesus failed at.  They believe that the way Jesus (a perfect man, but not God) was supposed to save humans was by getting married and having sinless children. 

            Obviously, since Jesus died (and didn’t rise again, according to them), he failed.  So Moon stepped in to finish the job.  (What a guy!)  He teaches that the mass weddings that he and his wife perform and bless will result in sinless offspring for the couples they marry.

            They don’t use the Bible.  They use Moon’s writing, The Divine Principle.  Moon believes that he is the Second Coming of Messiah.  Moonies pray in the name of Sun Myung Moon and his wife, the “True Parents.”  They believe that even Jesus bows down to Moon.  The Moonies believe that people are basically good – divine even – and that we can save ourselves by our good works.  And eventually everyone, even Satan, will be saved. 

            Moonies support the idea of contacting the dead and channeling spirits because they believe that dead ancestors can help you become divine.  In fact, after his “vision,” Moon spent years contacting spirits of “great teachers” like Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, etc. for guidance and knowledge.  He even claims that Satan revealed to him the real reason for mankind’s Fall - that Eve had sex with Satan and then with Adam, causing sin to be passed down through their children.            



Unitarianism:

            Jesus wasn’t God.  He was a man who reached perfect levels of god-consciousness.  The Bible is not God-inspired.  It’s just a myth.  And God is not a conscious being.  He is a force.

            Since they are not bound to a book like the Bible, they continue to update and change their theology. 

            In their theology, people are not “sinners” by nature and don’t need a Savior.  Mankind needs to be his own savior.  And all that’s required for salvation is to live a good life and treat others as you want to be treated. 

            It’s a “Love everybody . . . It’s all good . . . No rules, no judgment, no guilt” kind of religion, which I am sure is very appealing in this age of moral relativity.  They focus only on this lifetime, believing that heaven and hell don’t exist.  Even the idea of hell offends Unitarians (because that would imply rules and judgment and “right and wrong”). 

            They try to find and embrace spirituality in everything, such as in nature, but also even in things like neo-paganism, allowing Wiccans to join them.



The Emerging/Emergent Church

            This is a relatively new movement, from the 1990’s.  I would never have even heard about it if it weren’t for the fact that several big celebrities seem to be tied to it.  But I think this is going to be one to watch.  And to be carefully discerning about. 

            From what I’ve read, this movement is about getting away from the stiff, organized way that churches traditionally operate.  They are trying to make themselves inviting to all, fresh and new and relevant and more informal.  And while I don’t have much problem with that, the problem seems to be that they are trading in sound biblical doctrine in order to be inviting and relevant.  Big problem! 

            This movement seems to have a fluid, undefined, shifting doctrine and way of living, depending on the culture around them.  The Emergent churches don’t even have a defined set of “faith statements.”  They don’t have a clear stand on doctrine and scriptural truths. 

            In fact, some of the biggest leaders of this group deny the authority of Scripture.  They deny the most basic, foundational doctrines, such as eternal hell and the virgin birth.  They say things like, “We are all God’s children and God loves everyone, so eventually everyone will be saved and no one will spend eternity in hell.” 

            [While we are all God’s creation, aren’t “God’s children” the ones who choose to call Him “Father”?  And, yes, God is love.  But isn’t God also just and holy?  “God is love” is being used to excuse immorality and ungodliness.  And this happens when “God is holy and just” is deliberately ignored or denied or downplayed.]

            In one breath, leaders of the Emergent church act like they believe Scripture while at the same time questioning it and dismantling it.  In effect, they end up presenting a bunch of half-truths, watering them down so much that they are not truths at all.

            However, straying from clear biblical truth opens the door to all kinds of heresy.  This movement sounds a bit like a pseudo-Christian version of Unitarianism, a sort of “It’s all good and everyone’s just fine” view.  It’s more about spirituality than biblical truth.  And it seems to be more about reaching society by blending in with them than about taking firm biblical stands which differentiate us from the world.  It’s more about telling society what it wants to hear than about preaching the hard, unsavory truths that might offend them.  It’s more about being popular than being faithful. 

            But if this is the case, it is not sound doctrine and it is not from the Lord.  Whether traditional or modern or post-modern, truth still matters.  Doctrine still matters.  And people will be held accountable for embracing and spreading falsehood and feel-good half-truths, whether they call themselves Christian or not.  Shifting, flexible truths are no truths at all.  Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.


            [Other groups like this to be cautious and discerning about – look them up for yourself and see what they are about and what critics say about them – are Bethel Church in Redding, California, the New Apostolic Reformation, and Word of Faith churches. 

            I am just now learning about these, but they appear to be drifting off-track – elevating personal experience over Scripture, elevating love over doctrinal truths, appealing to our emotions, glorifying the self more than the Lord, focusing more on spiritual signs and wonders and spiritual gifts than on sin and man’s need for forgiveness and the salvation message, watering down the Truth so much that it’s basically meaningless, teaching that we can basically bring heaven to earth and do the same things Jesus did, denying His full deity, spreading the “prosperity gospel,” and even using occultic and New Age kinds of practices, etc.

            Bethel encourages something called “grave sucking” or “grave soaking” where you can absorb the spiritual anointing of a dead person if you lay on their grave or grab ahold of their headstone, something else called a “fire tunnel” in order to acquire the Holy Spirit, and such things as waking up angels and raising the dead and “glory clouds” of gold dust, etc.

            Regarding Bethel, I found this video clip and criticism about the “glory cloud” to be interesting.  If you watch it, notice the manipulative techniques that are meant to keep people from questioning the cloud. 

            Also notice Bill Johnson’s critical comment about how the church has come together around a sermon throughout history, whereas Israel came together around God’s presence.  And since he’s all about God’s presence, he would willingly throw out everything else (and I assume he’s referring to sound doctrine) to celebrate God’s presence.  This upholds personal, emotional experience over anything else, including Scripture.  The problem here is that “God’s presence” is a vague term and can be used to define just about any abnormal, sensationalistic, “supernatural” thing – even demonic activity.  Because once you throw out sound doctrine and spiritual discernment, anything goes. 

            And did you also notice how unemotional he seemed about it all, how jaded he appeared - even as dust fell while he tried to convince the people that it’s all so great and they should celebrate it?  How can one stand in a shower of God’s awesome presence and sound so ho-hum about it all? 

            You know what happened in the Bible when people experienced God’s presence?

            Leviticus 9:23-24:  “Moses and Aaron then went into the Tent of Meeting.  When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people.  Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar.  And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.”

            Exodus 19:16:  As Moses gathered the people around Mount Sinai … “there was a thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast.  Everyone in the camp trembled.”

            1 Kings 19: 12-13:  “After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face . . .”

            Isaiah 6:5:  “‘Woe is me!’ I cried.  ‘I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.’”

            Ezekiel 1:28:  “. . . This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.  When I saw it, I fell facedown, . . .”

            Revelation 1:17:   “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. . . .”

            These people fell facedown, trembled, covered their faces, cried out in distress about their sinful condition, passed out. 

            And what are the people at Bethel doing?  Getting out their phones to take videos and trying to catch the dust while Bill Johnson barely even glances at it as he unemotionally drones on about what a great thing it is.  His attitude and composure alone while he (supposedly) stood in a physical manifestation of God’s presence is enough to make me seriously question what’s really going on there.        

            Not everyone who comes with signs and wonders is godly.  Not everyone who preaches is preaching Scriptural truth.

            “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible.”  (Matthew 24:24)

            And Satan even disguises himself as an angel of light.  “… for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.  It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.”  (1 Cor. 11:14-15)

            I am not saying that these groups are indeed heretics, but I am saying that you need to use discernment about them.  Look past their flashy shows and feel-good music and “lovey-dovey” messages and compare what they teach (or fail to teach) to what the Bible teaches.  It is entirely possible to have the correct core beliefs but to live them out wrong.

            FYI – I cannot vouch for any of the other content on the webpages that I gave you links for, because I haven’t read it all.  I am simply considering the topic at hand.]



            Now click here if you want to see what Christianity is all about.  Compare the teachings you’ve read about to see which one holds more hope, more truth, more healing, more life.


            Consider carefully where you put your faith.  You pay for your beliefs with your eternal soul.