As C.S. Lewis so eloquently states, I believe its of infinite importance. If you believe it is also, you need to make sure the Church you belong to is of sound doctrine.
The most insidious cults in my mind are the ones that do so secretly. Their words and actions make them to appear to be genuine and without doing some digging in their beliefs you are left in the dark. Some like the Jehovah’s Witness are easy to spot, with their many false prophecies, and heretical beliefs. Others like I stated you have to do some real field work!
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” 2Timothy 4:3-4
People want to hear what they want to hear, if it sounds good to them they will believe anything. You can almost never rationalize with them because rather than read the Bible for themselves they leave it up to the church to interpret it for them. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, as the seed you plant may be something they have never heard and lead them to Christ. This leads to my first point of how I spot a false doctrine. What do they put their trust in, the Bible or their church?
Jehovah’s Witness created their OWN bible (new world translation) which is corrupted to suite their specific beliefs. In fact all other Bible’s are considered corrupt, except for their New World Translation. They add and delete where they deem necessary in order to bend the word to their objective. However when evangelizing and when teaching they hardly ever rely on even their own bible but rather use their own publications watchtower and awake magazines. Here is a glimpse of who they view can rightly interpret scripture.
So to JW’s the Governing Body (the discreet slave according to them) decides how to interpret scripture. Not you or I, that’s a clue.
The Mormons have a whole different testament altogether, that of The Book of Mormon. To them the Book helps them to interpret the Bible, however the very first line in the “Introduction” to the Mormons’ revered text states: “The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible.” This quote should scare anyone calling themselves Christian.
This leads to our third group which I just had the misfortune of discovering myself this weekend. Since they go by different names (Believers Tabernacle, Christian Assembly, Evening Light Tabernacle etc) ill call them Branhamites (following the teachings of William Branham). You could go to their services for months and not know where their core beliefs originate or where they stand on fundamental issues. As such a new member will have a hard time understanding their doctrinal beliefs. When I asked a member of this congregation some questions he referred me to someone else, because he could not answer them. That was a clue to me. What we find in this group is similar to the other cults mentioned above. Doing a brief study of Branham we find that he claimed he was Elijah the prophet (another prophet same as the mormons! see a pattern), the seventh angelic messenger to the Laodicean Church Age (Footprints on the Sands of Time, p. 620), Anyone belonging to any denomination had taken “the mark of the beast” (Footprints on the Sands of Time, pp. 627, 629, 643, 648). He received divinely inspired revelations (The Revelation of the Seven Seals, Branham: Spoken Word Publications, Tucson, Ariz., n.d. p. 19; Questions and Answers, Book 1, Branham: Spoken Word Publications, Tucson, 1964 p. 60.). His followers regard the transcriptions of his sermons as the “spoken word,” and on an equal status to the Bible. Does this sound Biblical to you? At all of their churches you will find a picture of this false teacher prominently displayed. If that doesn’t scream worship of this guy to you, you haven’t been paying attention.
(In Africa picture of branham)
(In Columbia two pictures of the guy)
“The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” Acts 17:11
Which scriptures did the Bereans examine? Did they need a supposed prophet or a group calling itself the governing body or a separate book equal to the bible to know whether Paul was correct? No friends they had the Bible as it was to them in the form of the Old Testament. They could read it for themselves.
These three listed are insidious because they sprinkle truth with false teachings and that is what is heartbreaking. Good people are being led astray by the desire to know God but then failing to do some background checks- “examining the scriptures to see whether these things were so”. This leads me to my second point on how I spot a false doctrine. All three of the above have one glaring belief in common. They deny the Trinity.
For the JW’s
The Holy Spirit is a force, not alive, Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1985, pp. 406-407.
Jesus was Michael the archangel who became a man, The Watchtower, May 15, 1963, p. 307; The New World, 284.
Hence Jesus was a created being.
Jesus was only a perfect man, not God in flesh, Reasoning from the Scriptures,
1985, p. 306.
For the Mormons
The trinity is three separate Gods: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. “That these three are separate individuals, physically distinct from each other, is demonstrated by the accepted records of divine dealings with man,” (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 35).
Jesus is the literal spirit-brother of Lucifer, a creation (Gospel Through the Ages, p. 15).
Like the Jesus-Only Pentecostals Branham denied the Trinity doctrine teaching a form of Modalism. Instead of three Persons in the Godhead, Branham taught that there was only one Person ( Jesus ) going under different titles or modes at various times in history. Branham’s teaching is a variation of a second century heresy taught by Sabellius know as Modalistic Monarchianism or Patripassianism (see Monarchianism, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, pp. 727-28). Branham explained, “…not one place in the Bible is trinity ever mentioned…It’s Catholic error and you Protestants bow to it” (Conduct, Order, Doctrine Q and A, p. 182). “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is offices of one God. He was the Father; He was the Son; He is the Holy Ghost. It’s three offices or three dispensations,…” (Ibid., p. 392). This view of the Godhead is called Modalism and has been held to be heretical by both Catholic and Protestant churches.
Branham claimed that proper baptism was needed to avoid the “Mark of the Beast” of denominational churches and escape the danger of missing the rapture and entering the Tribulation. Proper baptism must be in the name of Jesus only. Baptism with the Trinitarian formula of Matthew 28:18 (“in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”) is unacceptable to God.
Branham explained, “There never was a person baptized in the name of `Father, Son, Holy Ghost’ until early Catholic church” (Ibid., p. 178). “Look down on your Bible and see if that says `in the names of…’ Does it? No, sir… It said, `in the NAME…'” Branham attempted to explain the distinction, “You see, you misunderstand it then. It’s one God in three dispensations…. And when He said, `Go baptize them in the Name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit,’ it was Jesus Christ. And that’s why we baptize in Jesus’ Name” (Ibid., pp. 181, 184). If this is confusing to you, its because it makes no sense.
If an incorrect formula was spoken during baptism, Branham felt the convert would go into darkness. “But a tritheist, triune baptism was never recognized in the Church, the New Testament… Now you know what to do, that’s right; and if you refuse to walk in Light when Light’s brought forth, you turn to darkness. Right! Amen!” (Ibid., p. 190).
If some of that is confusing consider the next. Branham taught this!
“What is God? God is a great Eternal. At the beginning, way back before there was a beginning, he wasn’t even God. Did you know that? A god is an object of worship, and there wasn’t nothing to worship him; He lived alone. And in him was attributes. What is an attribute? A thought.”
(The Spoken Word, Vol. III, p. 79)
Branham denied the Triune nature of God. He pronounced it a “gross error” (The Spoken Word, p. 79). As a prophet with the authority of a “Thus saith the Lord,” he said it had been revealed to him that “trinitarianism is of the devil” (Footprints on the Sands of Time, p. 606). So it was revealed to him! Again we are left to take his word for it, because the word trinity is not in the bible. However since he is a prophet we should just trust him.
All three teach that if you believe in the Trinity you are apostate! If we make a list of the groups who are Anti Trinitarian the list is a who’s who of cults.
Christian Science (Christian Scientists believe the trinity is life, truth and love. As an impersonal principle, God is the only thing that truly exists. Everything else (matter) is an illusion)
Unification Church (The universe is God’s body, made by him. Jesus was not God, but a man. He did not experience a physical resurrection. In fact, his mission on earth failed and will be fulfilled through Sun Myung Moon, who is greater than Jesus.)
Oneness Pentecostal theology (oneness theology also maintains that baptism is a necessary part of salvation; that is, in order to be saved, one must be baptized and by immersion. If you are not baptized, you cannot be saved. However, not only must baptism be by immersion but also it must be administered with the formula “In Jesus’ name” rather than the formula “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”) So I guess Christs completed work on the Cross is insufficient, this teaching is no different than the Galatians who were being told that they needed to be Circumcised in order to be saved, and what did Paul call that “ANOTHER GOSPEL” “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” Paul sure didn’t like it and neither should you fall for it.
and finally my final proof on this false teaching ISLAM (Muslims believe Jesus was one of the most important prophets—not God’s Son. Islam asserts that Jesus, though born of a virgin, was created like Adam)
“At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11“Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.” Matthew 24:11
“Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.” Romans 16:17
This list above is by no means all inclusive. I left out many other false teachings, failed prophecies and otherwise unsound doctrine. This may be covered in a future post. For the reader I ask that you do your own research and watch out and be ready to expose and confront those who distort the Gospel, if they fail to listen there is no point in arguing move on and pray for them. Do it in love of course as God desires all to be saved, but to do so please study your Bible and commentaries that are Biblically sound!