Skip to comments.8 Characteristics of a Counterfeit Christian Church
Posted on 12/28/2010 3:17:20 PM PST by Colofornian
With the leaders of thousands of different religions and churches attempting to make their beliefs appear authentic, it behooves a person to carefully ascertain truth from error. In fact, many leaders of these faiths may call themselves "Christian" and even attempt to convert Christians into their churches.
After all, Jesus Himself said in Matthew 7:15, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." This is why John warned the believers in 1 John 4:1 to "believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." And 1 Thessalonians 5:21 adds, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."
Jesus told the Pharisees in Matthew 23:27 that they were "like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." How can we tell whether or not a particular religious leader (like the Pharisees) ought to be believed, especially when such a person may appear authentic and even claim to be Christian? Let's then consider eight basic doctrinal characteristics of counterfeit groups.
The rejection of fundamental Christian tenets such as the historical definition of God should be a major warning sign to any perceptive believer. Groups that deny the Christian viewpoint of the deity of Christ and the Trinity typically follow in point-by-point succession each of the other characteristics in this article. One example is The Way International, a group founded by Victor Paul Wierwille, (He once served as a former evangelical pastor. In fact, several cult leaders had their start in authentic Christian denominations and churches.) Wierwille's view of God is Unitarian rather than Trinitarian as he denies that there are three persons in the Godhead. He also claims that Jesus was not God, teaching that the deity of Christ was not a Christian teaching for the Christian church's first 300 years. This is a common (though false) assertion of many cult leaders. Because Wierwille and his church deny the very essence of what makes God who He is, this is a group to avoid.
Although a counterfeit's doctrine may include the idea that God's grace is important in the role of salvation, the leader normally emphasizes the idea that "salvation" ultimately comes through one's own efforts. Take the Hare Krishna devotees, for instance. These dedicated followers believe that they are in the middle stage of their reincarnation cycle. The way for a dedicated devotee to be born into the next level of existence is to deny himself on this earth while performing good works, including the repetition of the Hare Krishna mantra a total of 1,728 times a day. It may take a devotee who wakes up at 4 A.M. several hours a day to maintain this goal. Those who belong to such work-oriented groups are normally told that they can never know if their works are good enough to please God; instead, they are told to keep trying even harder.
Counterfeit Christian churches often make it a point to cast doubt and suspicion on other churches or denominations, with the leader oftentimes claiming that only his church is true. While many groups hold that the Christian churches do have partial truth, it is taught that full truth has somehow been lost and can now only be found in the "one true church." This may involve utilizing Christian terminology while having a different meaning behind those particular words. An example is the Watchtower Society, also known as the Jehovah's Witnesses. This group, founded by Charles Taze Russell in the 19th century, teaches that those who belong to any church outside of "Jehovah's" church are doomed to annihilation. Only those who belong to the Watchtower organization have a chance to attain "Paradise Earth." This is why Jehovah's Witnesses are adamant in sharing their faith door to door, even attempting to convert those who already attend Christian churches. The Jehovah's Witnesses will often use words that sound reasonable to a nominal Christian (i.e. "Jehovah's Christian Witnesses," "salvation," "Jesus Christ," etc), but they are usually reluctant to tell potential converts that the meanings behind these words are completely different than what has been historically meant.
A group where the leader(s) has an authoritative role, even to the extent that they say they speak for God, is another cause for concern. Such leaders claim to have special revelation with God, and their words hold special precedence over their followers. A classic example is Jim Jones, who led almost 1,000 followers to their deaths in the jungle of Guyana in 1978. When men in his charge killed Rep. Leo Ryan (D-CA), a congressman who was visiting "Jonestown" in response to complaints from the relatives of church members, Jones called for his followers to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. The majority of the people willingly followed his commands because they had come to accept his words as truthful and from God. Those who refused were shot. Trusting someone so much that you listen to any command, even to the point of moving to another country and then taking your own life, is something that God never intended.
Another heretical trait is when a church regulates the giving of its people or requires a certain amount of financial giving in order to receive certain privileges related to salvation. For example, the Church of Scientology teaches that people need to discover their true nature through a process called "auditing." This is accomplished by "clearing Engrams" from one's life. One Los Angeles Times article on Scientology religion estimated that it would cost a full "Operating Thetan 8" participant between $200,000 to $400,000 from the beginning of the lessons to the completion. Without these courses, the adherent is unable to clear himself of these unwanted "Engrams." Using finances as a requirement to reach salvation goals is much different than what Jesus, Paul, and Peter preached.
Many counterfeit Christian churches insist that if a member decides to leave the group, for whatever reason, they jeopardize their salvation before God. An example is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As long as a person continues to remain Mormon and works hard to attain salvation, including the performance of work at one of the temples, salvation is just around the corner. But if a person leaves the church, he not only could lost his family relationships, including marriage, children, friends, etc, but the celestial kingdom--the very best a person can desire--is also lost. In fact, while it is believed that most people will not be sent to "Outer Darkness," which is a hell-like eternal state mainly reserved for Satan and his followers, early Mormon leaders claimed that this was a place apostates could go, especially if they said bad things about the Mormon Church. Holding a person's salvation hostage in such a way is certainly not biblical.
Although the Bible is sometimes utilized and even considered beneficial by a number of counterfeit groups, it is not considered as a completely authoritative scripture. Therefore, extrabiblical writings are necessary. Normally these scriptures are considered to have more authority than the dated Bible. The Christian Science religion is one example. Those who inquire into this religion are told that Mary Baker Eddy's 1875 pantheistic book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures is a "reference book for life," which is needed by a person who hopes to discover "practical, spiritual answers for health and healing, security, and lasting relationships." This book must be studied in order to ascertain full truth. When the Bible contradicts Eddy's book, then the Bible is considered to be wrong or misunderstood.
The idea that a hidden mystery or new truth is available through a particular church should be taken as a strong sign that this group is a counterfeit Christian religion. In addition, many such groups may change their doctrines over time. Christians believe that God has very clearly shown His truth through the pages of the Bible; therefore, new or fluctuating doctrineespecially that which contradicts the Bibleought to be taken with a great deal of caution. The Unification Church (numerous front names include "Association of Families for Unification and World Peace" or "Family Federation for World Peace and Unification") was founded by Korean "Rev." Sun Myung Moon. He teaches that Jesus never fulfilled his mission. Therefore, Moon says that he was commissioned to finish the job that Jesus never finished. Moon's followers (often known as "Moonies") accept Moon as a Christ-like representative on earth whose teachings supersede the Bible. The Unification Church theology has evolved over time, and there may be some drastic changes once he dies in the very near future.
Not all counterfeits may be characterized by every one of these traits. However, a person should be cautious when considering a church that is marked by one or two of these characteristics, especially any of the first three in the list. Churches with three or more of the above characteristics ought to be avoided at all cost. In addition, there are some Christian churches that may not have doctrinal problems but are rather sociological abusers. For instance, some churches have controlling "discipleship" programs or church memberships with high levels of guilt or feelings of inadequacy. These types of groups also ought to be avoided. If you believe that your church has problems in either doctrinal or sociological areas, you would be wise not to get involved. If you are already a member, you need to consider leaving. As John 8:32-33 says, "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
The Lds church does this, too...
Claims it's the "only true living church on the face of the earth" (Doctrine & Covenants 1:30);
Labels the entire Christian church (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) as "apostates" for 1500-1700 years;
Claims 100% of our creeds do not honor God -- labels "ALL" of them as an "abomination" to their god...a word meaning "putrid" [see Joseph Smith History, vv. 18-20 in Lds "scripture" Pearl of Great Price]
Claims ALL professing believers of Christian sects are "corrupt" [same PoGP source]
Top 2010 FR Lds threads on the Question: "Are Mormons Christians?" [And note the 2nd thread listed below...if Mormons are Christian, does that mean Christians are Mormon? Or if Mormons say "no go" to calling fundamentalist (FLDS) Mormons as "Mormon," does that mean only Mormons can draw such boundaries?]
* Are Mormons Christian? Inquiry into the Church of Latter Day Saints, a peculiarly American Religion [353 replies]
* Are Christians Mormon?
* Mormon lifestyles and religious differences [269 replies]
* Is Glenn Beck Saved? (A Short Review of Mormonism)
Also the worship and veneration of their founder. You have Joseph Smith,Jr. of the Mormons and Charles Taze Russell, founder of the JW’s.
Shouldn’t that be “authoritarian” rather than “authoritative” leadership? “Authoritative” means reliable and trustworthy.
So is bad mouthing other people’s religion something you are compelled to do out of some kind of perverse religions bigotry or is driving away members who belong do denominations you don’t like just your way of trying to kill off FR?
Ok, I give up, what denomination are you? Are you filled with the spirit right now?
If we wish to locate the Church founded by Jesus, we need to locate the one that has the four chief marks or qualities of his Church. The Church we seek must be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.
If you peruse the Free Republic religion forums you will notice a pattern. There's an anti-Mormon group of people here that spends a great deal of their time attacking the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They post regurgitated propaganda on an almost daily basis.
They have a misguided obsession. You can witness many different tactics employed that you might find quite interesting. The straw man argument is a big favorite and is frequently preceded by cherry-picking quotes or other material. After the "quotation" the attacker will misrepresent what has been said or what was meant and then attack their own interpretation.Later they will have the audacity to claim they were "only" quoting our own material.
They will of course insist ad nauseum that they are merely using our sources and are therefore innocent of any deceptive practice. LDS persons have no issue whatsoever having our scriptures or leaders quoted as long as it is presented fairly and accurately. This is rarely (if ever) done.
Another favorite is posting scripture or statements which on their own really present no dilemma. They make something out of nothing while never bringing up a single objection that hasn't been addressed a hundred times before.
You might note a couple of other tactics used to try to antagonize is the use of disrespectful or insulting terms or language and/or pictures. That's a Christlike thing to do right? Yeah I don't think so either. It does speak volumes about them though.
Some of them claim being some sort of special witness to you as being supposedly former Mormons. So someone who is an ex-member of any organization would never have an axe to grind or have reason to try to justify their actions by any means? Perhaps not but perhaps so. The LDS Church gains members from other denominations as well as others faiths all the time. This doesn't make them an expert on anything and you certainly won't hear them attacking their forner Church.
Frequently they cruise the headlines of the day seeking any story that might be twisted into making the Church look bad. Anything will do, just watch the progression of posts following it and see what I mean.
After reading their posts, I invite you to seek the truth about whatever "issue" they seem to be "revealing" or "exposing". I promise that if you do so with honest intent, the "ahah" moments you will have will be many and frequent. You will start to recognize the tactics employed to cleverly twist and attack and will likely chuckle the more you see. In actuality, there's nothing new here. It's all been addressed many times before.
The latest twist in the anti-Mormon propaganda machine is to actually go to the links provided, but then they cherry pick what they want, then quote and straw man attack that. Clever. It almost appears that they are helping you, the seeker of truth out by doing some footwork for you. Not so much. Don't be insulted, look for yourself. It's not the haystack they want you to think.
Here's a few links to get your started from a different viewpoint. I have found that the vast majority of the "issues" brought up can be found and addressed at http://www.fairlds.org/ but here's more:
Now you will likely notice the "you never address or answer our points" posts pop up as usual. All after providing the answers just as you have here.
Sometimes it is claimed that these sites present a needle in a haystack. Far from it. But if you give up before you try you won't know will you? They often state that these sites provide no answer. They just don't want you looking. It is as simple as that.
Will you wear blinders too? Seek truth. Find out for yourself. Want to chat with someone on any topic? A few of these sites provide just that. So do your homework sincere seeker of truth. Listen and read from both "sides". Make up your own mind.
I witness to you of these truths and wish you the best, in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
So by number 7, Mormonism is false.
Now we’re getting somewhere. What is your view as to the Christianess of the Roman Catholic Church based on your posted criteria?
Are you bad-mouthing my own, personal religious compulsions?
Therefore, can I see your "bad-mouthing" religious license (if that's what's goin' on here)?
...or is driving away members who belong do denominations you dont like...
The Lds church proudly says it's not a "branch" off of some larger church "tree." They don't see themselves as one denomination among many. They see themselves as "the only true and living church on the face of the earth" (Lds "scripture" Doctrine & Covenants 1:30)
Besides, do you accuse 52,000 Lds missionaries going door to door of targeting community members they "don't like?"
(Or do only Lds missionaries have some SF Bunker-issued "religious license" to proclaim His Word and the Gospel?)
Thanks! Can I perhaps use that in the future?
Be my guest. Freepmail me and I will give you the HTML for that and also for the Bear image.
A Catholic bashing thread on FR!?!?!?!
.....Question ... If you believe that the Nicene Creed which was adopted by the Officials at the Council of Nicea 325AD through inspiration from God ....
....then it makes sense that you should also believe that Church officials should be Celibate ... since that requirement was also passed by the same Officials at the Council of Nicea in 325AD.
So what was it ... the inspired Nicean Officials in 325 got it right on the Creed but wrong on the Celibacy ...Right on both or wrong on both???
If they got it right on the Creed ... doesn’t it make sense that they also got it right on Celibacy? Is your pastor Celibate? If not ... then according to logic ... aren’t you flirting with Heresy?
Just a few thoughts ..... (Before you try to remove the sliver in my eye .... maybe you should remove the beam in your own!)
At least they took Christmas day off. For a few hours, we had peace on earth, good will toward men.
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