In this episode, Kurt and David talk about the importance and issues in reaching people who are in cults of Christianity.
Kurt: Good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. You might see me here in our office studio in downtown West Chicago, Illinois. Our original plan for today was to be in the town of Medinah at an event with John Stonestreet, the event hosted by the Illinois Family Institute. However, the event was canceled due to the massive snowstorm that came through here Thursday night and well into Friday. Yesterday the streets were awful. I actually ended up walking to the office since I live pretty close to the office here. That was a lot of fun. The snow was deep. I would say 10-12 inches of snow. I have here a picture so some of you who are out of state can see what that was like for us, all that snow. It was a lot and so it was a lot to shovel out. I know some people had trouble in their driveways. I think even Chris, our tech guy, he had a lot of trouble getting out of his driveway. His driveway is longer than mine so I can feel your pain.
But yes, a lot of fun with the snow. My two young kids just have had a blast playing in the yard, putting on their snow pants and all that. It is a lot of fun getting that type of snow from time to time. I think it’s probably the most snow we’ve had in four years. I remember the year that my firstborn came around, we had a lot of snow that year. This is reminiscent of that. Like I said, our plan was to be broadcasting from the Illinois Family Institute event, their worldview conference. Instead, we are here so we don’t have any formal guests today. However, joining me in studio is David Montoya and we’re going to be chatting it up about evangelizing to the cults. David is a bit of a cult expert himself, having come from a Mormon background, a Mormon upbringing. David, I’m not sure if we’ve talked about that on the show.
David: We have. Just reference back to the Mormon episode and I had a call-in to the show where we discuss it briefly there.
Kurt: That’s right. For those that may have not heard that episode, give us a two-minute refresher here about your upbringing in the Mormon Church and your time as a Mormon missionary and then how you came into evangelical Christianity.
David: I was what’s called in Mormonism, born into the covenant. You’re born to Mormon parents who have been already married, or sealed as they call it, in the temple. I went to primary and then I did what’s called four years in seminary, waking up at 5:30 in the morning right before high school to learn the Bible and the Mormon scriptures, and then, of course, at the age of 19, I went and served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Brazil, and I, of course, served faithfully for those two years, waking up at 9 A.M., serving from 9 A.M. to 9 P.M., knocking doors and talking to people about the restored gospel of Mormonism, but upon coming back and having a short, brief encounter with anti-Mormon literature at the age of sixteen and revisited it directly when I came back from the mission, sort of the dominoes fell very quickly for me, and what Mormons call you lose your testimony, you lose your belief in what you used to believe as a Mormon, what you held dear. I came into a life of wickedness, but surely the Lord had His grace and providence over me and decisively saved me for a number of years now.
Kurt: Nice. So that’s great. So for those of you who are going to be following along at home, I want to encourage you to get out your Bibles because today we are going to be talking about the importance and the issues in reaching people that are in cults of Christianity. There are other types of cults out there, but we’re specifically going to be focusing upon those cults of Christianity, so those that claim to be Christian or have some affiliation with Christianity. They might recognize the Bible as part of their corpus of holy Scriptures. They might use similar language, in fact, to how you understand your relationship to God. This reminds me, I’ve had at least two instances in my life, two separate instances, where I was sitting next to someone on a plane and when I was in a program with someone who, they were both Mormons, one was a female, one was a male, and I specifically remember they said the exact same thing. They said, and I quote, “Oh, I’m just like you.” End quote. That phrase, “I’m just like you,” is the attempt by Mormons to convey that what they believe is exactly the same thing as what I believe and what we believe and interestingly, when you look into the issues and you look into the interpretations of Scripture and the teachings of these organizations, that is not the case. It is not the case that Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses, those are the two largest cults of Christianity, it’s not the case that they’re just like us. There are some differences and so on today’s show we’re going to be delineating those differences. We’re going to be talking about what makes those beliefs distinct from ours? There are a couple of ways to approach this. The first way, David, I don’t know if you want to say about the concept of works-righteousness, but do Christians believe in works-righteousness?
David: We have to check the context here. We definitely pay lip service to it unfortunately sometimes. We say we want to be holy as our God is holy, but at the same time from the cults’ perspective, they view us as being people of cheap grace. They view Christianity as something that you just pray a prayer, sign a decision card, say a few words, and you’re in. You’re in. That’s the viewpoint from most cultists, for most works-righteousness.
Kurt: The as I call it, the stay out of hell free card.
David: Pretty much, or your fire insurance.
Kurt: I’ve heard that as well.
David: You have those views and they’re sort of predominant.
Kurt: Yeah. So that’s sort of one end of the spectrum.
David: No doubt about it.
Kurt: The cheap grace.
David: We call that, the scholarly term, is antinomianism. You can do whatever you want, but as long as your pray that prayer, you’re set to go.
Kurt: So on the other side of the spectrum you have works-righteouesness, the earning of your own salvation. This is something that you have to do throughout your whole life and it seems that there’s a lot of uncertainty as to whether one is saved or not because they’re just not sure if their good works were sufficient for their own salvation and this is the view embraced by a number of people, sadly even some Christians I think, and especially these cults and I have in mind here Mormonism and there’s a passage, and you know the passage better than I would, passage in the Book of Mormon that steals the text of Ephesians that you are saved by grace through faith…after all that you do.
Kurt: And of course the after all that you do is nowhere to be found in the New Testament in that passage, but it’s added there in the Book of Mormon. For them, there’s really this emphasis that it’s about working, not working out your salvation, which is a phrase seen in the New Testament, but which we would qualify I would say as part of becoming holy, the process of sanctification, but for Mormons they have this sense of justification or being made right with God, that they have to work in order to be made right.
David: The phrase that they would use is “I have to be worthy” and this is the key phrase that most cultists use, even Jehovah’s Witnesses will use this phrase as well, clean or worthy in the sight of Jehovah God as example.
Kurt: Following along is Jonathan. He writes “I have found that talking with lay Mormons is not a very good source to what Mormons official believe. Nailing down doctrine is kind of hard.” Jonathan. I think a number of us have had similar experiences because they might say something, but then backtrack and say that’s not the official church teaching. That can be a bit perplexing and perturbing at times, but I think we also need to keep in mind that for some of the lay level Mormons, they might be stating something or believing something out of a place of ignorance, that they simply don’t know what the official church teaching, their official church teaching is. At least for me, that’s a reminder too that we should be gracious in our conversations, but I would also still expect more from the missionaries who do get training and even still it seems that’s insufficient for having a well-informed individual because when some of us actually study the theology of the Mormon church, it’s almost as if we know more about their view than they, the Mormon missionaries, do themselves. Tell me about your experience in that. There have been things, David, that you have studied now after the fact, that you simply were never taught as a Mormon, and so tell me about that.
David: Most teenagers do not get serious, in Mormonism, with the Scriptures until maybe six months to a year right before their 19th birthday. Even though they have gone to the 5:30 in the morning seminary, it’s really not something that they take seriously.
Kurt: I know if I went to seminary at 5:30 in the morning I’d have a lot of trouble.
David: You’d be out of it, I’m sure. You and I both are night owls.
Kurt: That’s right.
David: What happens is that particularly, the deemphasis of the Bible and the limiting of the Bible is emphasized in Mormonism. It’s emphasized to a degree in Jehovah’s Witnesses because they believe in the New World Translation being the correct translation, so there’s a watering down automatically. There’s a casting of suspicion on the Bible. So when you get surrounded by all these missionaries, it becomes readily apparent that their knowledge of the Bible is very much limited. I was a missionary on the mission by the providence of God that loved the Bible more than the Book of Mormon and I can see how the providence of God was working even in those days. They don’t really emphasize, you’re taught to memorize five lessons or with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, you have a specific book when you’re out tracting, and you’re limited in their discussions to these materials. There’s always a limitation in the cults of what materials are going to be handed out and what is laser focused on in terms of teaching. That’s where the problem usually is.
Kurt: Yeah, and as I understand it, for Mormons when they go on their mission, they are restricted from reading material that is published by anything other than a Mormon source or a pro-Mormon….
David: Even within the Mormon sources, you’re only allowed to read five books, which contributed to my exit of Mormonism, because I had accumulated a number of questions that I could not study until after the mission. Six months later, I was out.
Kurt: You were out. You were gone. That might be an indicator to someone that they belong in a cult. You cannot read any other books other than XY&Z because, why not?
David: We’re talking about evangelism to the cults. What I like to do, especially on social media, is to send the videos from the yearly Jehovah’s Witnesses conferences, detailing those very facts, those very commentaries from the leaders at the top of the tract society, saying do not go on the internet and do not study things outside the bounds of the tract society, the Watchtower Society, and you send those to Mormons and in reverse you send the ones from Mormons to Jehovah’s Witnesses, and you show the same thing…..
Kurt: So it might click for them. Why would this overarching organization restrict the materials one could read? You’d think “What’s there to fear? If their position is the truth, then they should be able to explain and defend how it’s the truth. Why bother restricting what materials one can and cannot read.”
Kurt: I would think it strange if a Christian organization, maybe a church denomination, sent out missionaries and said, “But you can only read these five books.” That would seem odd to me that they would place such harsh restrictions.
David: I didn’t even give it a second thought quite frankly.
Kurt: For you, it was just clear something wrong was happening here.
David: These are the rules. That’s the way I thought of my mission. These are the rules, everybody else keeps them, and it’s groupthink going on.
Kurt: Yeah. Groupthink. Let’s talk about, I know I had mentioned, let’s get out our Bibles and go through a number of passages. In terms of what it takes to be saved, because before we were just talking about works-righteousness, Romans 4, there’s a lot of language there. You being what I’ll call our resident cult expert given your experience and even passion for reaching these folks, why don’t you lead us through a number of passages, I know a number of verses from Romans 4, but of course there are other great passages of Scripture, Ephesians 2 and some other ones, and if I’m not mistaken I believe Chris says he will be able to put up the verses here on the livestream, so if you’re following along, you should be able to see these verses as we’re going through them.
David: So with works-righteousness in terms of when we’re talking about the cults, for most of them, it’s always a checklist that has to be done or accomplished. You have a box, you have the item. So for Mormons, they have in their book called Gospel Principles and when you go into the Mormon church for the first time, you’re going to be taking this class. You’re a visitor of what they call an investigator, you’re going to be going to this class and the book that they use is called Gospel Principles. The very last chapter of this book, it’s called Exaltation and under it it says, requirements for exaltation. I’ll give you an example of this list.
Kurt: Sorry. Before getting into the list, what is exaltation here?
David: Exaltation is salvation.
David: To get into the Mormon heaven known as the celestial kingdom. You have to perform certain ordinances. You have to have been baptized. You have to have received the Holy Ghost by the laying of hands, and all of this must be done by males who possess what is called the Melchizedek Priesthood. You must receive your temple endowment. You must go through the temple and do that ritual. You must be sealed for all time and eternity or married with a partner, with a mate for all time and eternity. The list goes on. Keep the commandments. Repent of all your wrongdoings. Attend church meetings. Have family and individual prayers and study the Scriptures. The list goes on and on and on. There’s a checklist. When I viewed my salvation, I viewed it as a Mormon, as I have to accomplish all these things, and then at the very end persevere to the end. If I at all doubt my membership within the Mormon church, I’m gone. If I lose my faith, I’m an apostate. I’m done. I might even be a son of perdition. That’s the way I was viewed.
Kurt: What would be a son of perdition there?
David: Most Mormons have different opinions on that….
Kurt: But you’re just a really really bad ex-Mormon.
David: You’re done. Exactly. I’m just really really an apostate at this point.
Kurt: Before continuing along here, you’d mentioned that their view of marriage is that you’re married forever. Right? Time and eternity.
Kurt: So I’m just curious, does the Mormon church have any teaching on divorce?
David: They do. They frown upon it and you have both levels. Your spouse can die and you can marry or seal another woman, you have both wives. You have post-mortem polygamy at that point.
Kurt: I see. Post-mortem polygamy.
David: Yes. So that’s definitely on the table for Mormons today. With divorce, there is an annulment of all those rituals and you’re back to square one. You’ve just erased your checkmark and now you have to go out and checkmark it again. Once again, this is the works-righteous mindset. This translates to Jehovah’s Witnesses, to some portions of Seven-Day Adventists, to Black Hebrew Israelites. They all view it this way.
Kurt: With the marriage issue, I can’t help but think of Jesus’s teaching that there won’t be marriage in heaven because the Pharisees themselves tried to trick Jesus and came to Him and said, “Who will he have as his wife in heaven?”
David: Of course, for
a Mormon, anything that contradicts Mormon Scripture, that is merely an
interpolation or some change in the Scripture that was made subsequently. Of
course, the question going back to one of the questions that you just received
from one of the viewers here. One of the questions is what is official church
doctrine. You can never get an answer to that, and the next one is by what
standard or measure do you use to determine whether one verse of the King James
Version of the Bible is translated correctly or not. Those questions are never
answered. Those questions I would use for your deployment in evangelizing
cults. Turning to that subject, where I like to focus on is soteriology. With
each one of the cults is what must I do to be saved? I actually had one
Jehovah’s Witness say, “Believe in Jesus Christ, be baptized, and you’re
saved.” I asked him, “Are you sure that I just need to be baptized in
any other organization outside the Watchtower Society and I’m good to go?”
and he wouldn’t answer the question. That’s the key, “Is what must I do to
Kurt: So we really need to be careful here when we’re having conversations because, like I said, they might say something that without further qualification or nuance, we might agree with.
David: Very much so.
Kurt: We believe in Jesus. We should be baptized. We’re good to go, but it’s not that simple. It’s not just what they believe. They believe more than that and they’re not telling you likely so that they could try to draw you in to the organization.
David: No doubt about it. If they were to lay all their cards on the table, they would be turned away and to be fair, if we as Christians laid all our cards on the table as well, people would just be shunned away.
Kurt: At least in some cases and some of it might depend on how we lay our cards and beliefs on the table and for some people, I know in today’s society, the issue of sexual ethics is just a non-starter for some people because they are unwilling to accept the orthodox Christian view on sexual ethics so, yeah. You’re right. There will still be some people that would reject so it’s maybe in how we lay out the cards, but nevertheless, I mean, we’re not even for other folks, we’re not necessarily making a blanket statement with which one might agree. In those cases where we’re evangelizing we must be fully aware that these people do not believe what we believe as opposed to trying to convince them that we believe just the same thing. Continue on though.
David: With the Scriptures now, one of the precious doctrines that I’ve learned as a Christian is of course, justification by faith alone, but tied in with that is what is known as the double imputation of Jesus Christ or the imputed righteousness of Christ to my account. This I never even was going to be taught as a Mormon, would never hear about it, and the only way I would have obtained this would have been, which is how I did it, to the word of God, is actually studying what Romans 3, 4, Ephesians 2, 3, Galatians 2, 3, actually have to say on this topic. If we just walkthrough with what Mormons believe, countering them, based on their own works or the cult groups and then when they’re ready to ask you out of frustration, “What’s your solution?” That’s the goal here is to get them to ask that. The purposes of it is to show the vacuous nature of the way in which they are going to be saved and then waiting for them to ask and pleading a response, “What is your solution?” Romans 4, of course, the passage 5, “but to the one that does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his work is credited for righteousness.” I’m looking at the ESV and if you look at that word counted, it’s a bookkeeping term and I do the books here…
Kurt: I was going to say yeah.
David: It’s definitely something I’m extremely familiar with. What this bookkeeping term does is we are saved not by our own works, rather by the works and righteousness of Jesus Christ. This is an idea foreign to all cult groups. Instead, they believe that they have to be worthy…
Kurt: They’re the ones performing the act of…
David: To please God. To placate.
Kurt: That’s right. They are trying to do the accounting themselves. They’re trying to make things equal again perhaps….
David: Or they need to go way and above towards perfection. They need to get as many credits as possible to get to that level of perfection or worthiness. That’s the goal. The only problem and the way it’s done in accounting, we have a bank account. Every sin you commit, you’re going negative, and quite frankly the Bible in accounting terms says…
Kurt: We start out in the negative.
David: You start out in the negative, but that you’re morally bankrupt. Absolutely bankrupt morally. Isaiah 64:6. I had a missionary telling me, “Let me write that down.” All our righteousness are as filthy rags. I may help my neighbor take her cat out of the tree, but the only reason I am doing it is she’s an attractive young woman and maybe I’m looking to sleep with her, and that’s the problem is our motivation…
Kurt: The intention of the heart.
David: Really gets in the way. I may tithe. I may tithe quite a bit of money, but is the only reason to do it so I can be on the list of the church bulletin? So all our righteousness is as filthy rags, but the righteousness of Christ is perfect and when it’s credited to my account, the worst of me goes to Jesus and the best of Him comes to my account, so in the cross of calvary, my negative debts are canceled out, but that only gets me to zero. My good works are not going to get me positive, rather the perfection, the fulfillment of Christ, fulfilling the Law perfectly, gets me to that positive perfection, and that’s exactly what I need. Nothing that I can do, and that’s what I teach the cults. This is how you must be saved. You trust in Christ and Christ alone for what He has done.
Kurt: So we do believe in works-righteousness….
Kurt: But it’s not us that perform the work or works. It’s Jesus who performed the work or works for us.
Kurt: Like you said, context.
David: I don’t want anyone getting me ripped out and putting up on social media…
Kurt: Right. I know we had a discussion a few months ago on atonement theories. How long ago was that?
David: That was quite a long time ago. Maybe six months ago.
Kurt: Maybe six months ago already? And so here we might get into the different historic Christian understandings of models or ways to understand the atoning work or what the work that Christ did, how was that? What was that about? In this case here, there’s more of an emphasis on the repayment of sins, something like that, and I think if I remember correctly from our discussion, we both agreed that the Scripture teaches multiple aspects or multiple models and in this case though it’s really important to emphasize this specific model because they believe that they can earn and work out their own salvation, to be justified that is, and Scripture teaches to the contrary, no it’s Jesus Himself who has saved. He offers us this free gift which we have to accept, but it’s just that. It’s a gift. It’s not something that you earn. You don’t earn a gift. If you earn a gift, then it’s not a gift, so what you’re earning are the wages due to you, but Scripture’s clear that this is in fact a gift from God and that no man should boast and so that’s definitely one of the distinctive features to evangelizing to cults here.
David: I’ll close this section here because we’re coming up to the halfway point. Some of the things that I was just evangelizing in open air preaching to a Black Hebrew Israelite, and he went to the verse obviously from….
Kurt: Before you
continue, for some people that may have not heard this term, what is a Black
David: They believe that because by virtue of being black that they literally believe that they are the descendants of Hebrews, the chosen people of Christ, and every other tribe out there has its own name. I’m a Mexican so I believe that I think they’re from the tribe of Issachar, so I’m somehow lower than them, but they are a works-righteous cultist group and they went straight to the Sermon on the Mount where they talked about fulfillment, that the Law hasn’t been abolished, but they don’t read on and it says fulfilled.
Kurt: So they think that it hasn’t yet been fulfilled.
David: That’s what I had to tell them, is I need to explain to you what fulfillment to you and the cultist group I need to explain to you what fulfillment means. When I go to college, or I went to college, and I took all my courses and received all my credits for my degree in finance, once I completed all the credits, it’s done. I don’t have to go back and do the classes over again. I have my diploma.
Kurt: You’ve earned your diploma.
David: Yes, in this case, so Jesus has earned righteousness, the perfection, the completion of the Law in Him, and any time they go to James 2, this is what I have to reference, is it’s all done in Christ. It’s all done in Christ. James 2 is a whole different context. It’s a whole other discussion, but I want to get that fulfillment terminology. Help us use illustrations in evangelizing the cults in terms of soteriology.
Kurt: I think here of Ephesians 1 where Paul talks about, Chris might load that up in time, Ephesians 1:10. “That in dispensation the fullness of the times, He might gather together in one all things in Christ.” So here Paul talks about the fulfillment occurring. The fulfillment has been accomplished and the way I look at it, especially someone who’s more sympathetic to the Christus Victor model, is that the victory has been won and so now we’re just finishing up these fringe battles. If you’re fighting a war, there’s sort of a key to critical victory and at least in how wars used to be managed, word wouldn’t yet spread to these other battlefields that the war is over, so these people are still fighting even though the war is over. That’s kind of like how it is here, that the work has been accomplished. The war is over, but there are still battles that are occurring. To that point, definitely the fulfillment has already occurred. It doesn’t yet have to come. We’ve got to take a break here looking at the time. When we come back I want to talk about the very least, we’ll see where the discussion goes, I want to talk about core Christian doctrine, essential Christian doctrine, not that what we haven’t been talking about isn’t part of that, but specifically, I want to talk about who Jesus is and what Christians believe regarding the two natures of Christ, and also the concept of the Trinity and what that is since Christians believe in the Trinity and how these other cults view these aspects which for the historic view of Christianity has been critical to explaining what we think is the teaching of Jesus, the teaching of the apostles, what the Scripture teaches us about these matters, so stick with us through this break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. Today, we are talking about evangelizing the cults. Initially, our intention was to be coming from the site of the IFI annual worldview conference, but the event was canceled due to the snowstorm that came through in Chicagoland. Nevertheless, we are here in the studio and I am joined by my colleague, David Montoya, our resident expert on cults and so we are talking about the importance and issues of reaching those that belong to cults of Christianity specifically. As I’ve mentioned in the first half of the show, there are other cults out there and we haven’t quite detailed what makes something a cult. We’ve kind of maybe just assumed it to this present time, but I could think of a few features. Usually, there’s a leader in charge and some restrictions on books to read, restrictions on people you can’t talk to. There are in some ways, some funky acts that occur in the cults. What are some other things, David, that you might think of that makes a cult a cult?
David: For me the definition is salvation, once again going back to soteriology. Salvation is tied to membership in the organization. If you’re not a scientologist, you’re outside the organization and its form of “salvation.” If you’re not a Mormon, you don’t have the true priesthood for example. You don’t have the true rituals and they’re not valid. You’re not Jehovah’s Witness.
Kurt: Before we continue on into our discussion today, while you are not a first-time guest on the show and you are also an avid listener of the program, during the break we both realized that you haven’t gone through Rapid Questions yet.
David: That’s correct.
Kurt: This might not be as fun for me because you already know the questions. You know what’s coming. Alright. We’ll see how quickly you can get through the questions and I might be disappointed if we don’t get through all 21 questions.
David: Oooh boy.
Kurt: 21 questions or 20 questions, remember we had Nate Hickox on a few weeks ago. He went through 20 questions. The game clock’s a minute, so that means he went through each question in three seconds.
David: That’s impressive.
Kurt: That is impressive. We’ll see if you can get close to matching that. Are you ready?
Kurt: Here we go. What’s your clothing store of choice?
Kurt: Taco Bell or KFC?
David: Taco Bell.
Kurt: What school did you go to?
David: Carl Sandburg High.
Kurt: What song is playing on your radio these days?
Kurt: Where would you like to live?
David: Here in Chicago.
Kurt: What’s your favorite sport?
David: Favorite sport? Boxing.
Kurt: What kind of razor do you use?
David: The Schick Electric razor.
Kurt: What’s your spouse’s favorite holiday?
David: She likes Thanksgiving.
Kurt: What fruit would you say your head is shaped like?
David: A melon.
Kurt: Most hated sports franchise?
David: New York Yankees.
Kurt: Favorite movie?
David: Terminator II.
Kurt: Left or right?
Kurt: Have you ever
Kurt: Do you drink Dr.
David: Very much so.
Kurt: Have you ever driven on the wrong side of the road?
David: I just did just coming right in a few blocks down the road?
Kurt: Would you drink a Dr. Pepper if it were handed to you?
Kurt: What’s the one thing you’d be sure to keep with you if you’re stranded on an island?
David: A GPS satellite cell phone.
Kurt: What’s your inner milkshake flavor?
Kurt: Okay. Alright. We were three questions shy. We might as well round it out here, David. What celebrity are you most like?
David: People say I look like Lou Diamond Phillips for some reason.
Kurt: Who’s that?
David: I don’t know. Some guy.
Kurt: I see. The Hokey Pokey, Electric Slide, or the Macarena?
David: None of them.
Kurt: None of them. And if you were a baseball pitch, which one would you be?
Kurt: A curveball.
Alright. I gotta ask, have you ever driven on the other side of the road, what
was that answer?
David: Literally just coming in here.
Kurt: What do you mean?
David: The dump truck was there.
Kurt: So you just went…
David: Right around it, but I kept going at least twenty feet.
Kurt: Just because you knew….
David: Just because there’s no one there.
Kurt: I see. Chris already has up the image of who this person is.
Kurt: What’s that guy’s name?
David: Lou Diamond Phillips.
Kurt: Lou Diamond Phillips.
Kurt: I’m not sure I see…maybe without the glasses.
David: A slight resemblance. Yeah.
Kurt: I could see a little bit more, but he’s got brown hair. You’ve got black hair.
Kurt: Alright. Well, thank you for playing that round of Rapid Questions. You are now part of the clan of those that have participated in that segment of the show.
David: I’ve been baptized into…
Both: Veracity Hill.
Kurt: Now you’re going to be saved.
Kurt: That’s right. Alright. Again, here on the program today we’re talking about evangelizing the cults and in the first half we were able to talk quite a bit about works righteousness and what all of that entailed, but with what is left of the program today, I want to talk about what Christians consider essential Christian doctrine classically speaking. For Christians, why don’t we start with the Trinity? For Christians, we believe that there is one God and of His essence, of God’s essence, by His, we’re already running into linguistic difficulties.
David: In the one being that is God….
Kurt: There are three persons.
David: Three co-equal and co-eternal, those are very important, in the being that is God there exist three co-equal, co-eternal persons. Namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Kurt: And I know for at least Eastern Orthodox churches they are quick to say that this is a divine mystery. For some people they think there’s a contradiction here. I know Muslims will accuse Christians of holding to that. Nevertheless, a contradiction would be something like A and not-A and in the way that Christians have understood the Trinity there is no explicit apparent contradiction in our understanding. There is one being, three persons.
David: Yes. It’s not one being and three beings or one person and three persons at the same time and in the same sense. That would be a contradiction.
Kurt: Right. Again, it’s a divine mystery. It might be a bit confusing to some of us because of maybe our sensibilities, some people associate one person with one nature, but simply put, this is what the Scripture teaches to us. There is one God and there are three persons and there are historically a host of what are called heresies associated with trying to understand these concepts and often times, these were Christian leaders that would later become heretics or deemed heretical. Some of them were very innocent in their theological speculation, their attempt to understand what the Scripture teaches and some of them I think thankfully recanted their positions themselves. Others, not so much. Others embraced and continued to support their views and so the church came along and said, “That’s not what we have always believed. That’s not what the Scripture teaches.” Those positions were deemed heresy. I say this because Ecclesiastes teaches that there is nothing new under the sun. The issues that we see in cults of Christianity, specifically as it pertains to Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, they have certain beliefs about the Godhead that are affiliated with, whether they know it or not, these ancient heresies. Why don’t you tell us about the Mormon conception of God and then we’ll see how that matches up with the historic orthodox Christian position?
David: Certainly. For Mormons they call the title for the God they worship is Heavenly Father, it’s usually a term of endearment to God. They believe that all of us before this world or even universe existed, we all existed in a pre-existent form, and in this pre-existent form, the Heavenly Father had already been exalted to become a god by his god and he was sealed to a heavenly mother that Mormons don’t talk about very much and it may be, speculation depending on which Mormon you talk to, many Heavenly Mothers, but the first spirit creation or spirit child of Heavenly Father is Jesus Christ and we are all spirit children of Jesus Christ. By default, you’re already a child of God in Mormon thought. Not that you’re adopted or you become a child of God as is the uniform testimony of the Bible.
Kurt: So in one sense Christians believe that humans are part of God’s created order and so in that sense we’re part of His creation, but there’s a special sense in which we believe we are sons and daughters of God, that we have an inheritance that’s coming to us and so there’s sort of the use of familial language is restricted to those that are in a right relationship with Him, whereas for Mormons they use this familial language right off the bat for everyone and I wanted to ask you…
David: So the question would be, why does it say in the Scriptures, particularly in Romans, that you become a child of God, if you are already by default? That’s a question for the Mormon.
Kurt: Yeah. So for some folks, I think they might unaware of exactly what Mormons believe. Are Mormons monotheists? Do they believe that there’s only one god that exists?
David: They are not. They believe that there exists many gods, but that only one god that is in charge of them, that they must give devotion, worship, to and the scholarly term would be monolatry or monolatrism.
Kurt: Yeah. So it’s not quite polytheism, because polytheists would embrace the worshiping of all these different gods whereas monolatry holds that there is only one god worthy of worship. You might think of it like the ancient Greco view of religion where there are many gods that exist, but you might just only worship…
Kurt: Yeah. Or some other one that you’re close buddies with I guess. And so, for this one god that’s worthy of worship, they believe, correct me if I’m mistaken, that this guy is a material being.
Kurt: I bring this up because I got into an interesting conversation with some Mormon missionaries once because their view of the virgin birth is perplexing to me, because they don’t actually affirm the virgin birth do they?
David: They do not. This is according to Jesus the Christ in James E. Talmage. One of the books that missionaries must read and one of the five authorized books that you get on the mission. It’s in that book.
Kurt: Yeah. So formally speaking, they reject the virgin birth. Is that right?
David: I’ve even had missionaries say to me, at one time I was actually witnessing to them, and one, the junior missionary said, “We don’t believe that”, and the senior missionary said, “Sorry, elder. We do believe that.”
Kurt: So the former teaching is or is not?
David: It is. It is. No doubt about it.
Kurt: They do affirm….
David: They do not affirm the virgin birth. That’s the official teaching of the Mormon church.
Kurt: And why this is fascinating is because while Mary was betrothed to Joseph, God came down and…
Kurt: Had sex with Mary. Actual, physical sex with Mary. I was having lunch once with a couple Mormon missionaries and I said “If someone comes along and has sexual relations with a woman who is betrothed to another man is that moral or immoral?” and they said rightly, that such an act is immoral, but yet here it is that their god has done just that thing and so I thought that was fascinating because they really don’t affirm the virgin birth.
David: It has been stated on this very podcast as a reminder. That would be an act of some people call it, and once again I wouldn’t use these terms with Mormons, this is just for in-house. That would be an act of celestial incest, because Mary herself is already a spirit child of Heavenly Father and so the product of it is incest.
Kurt: I hadn’t thought about this. This seems to be a strong difficulty for Mormonism, the coherence of Mormonism, but before we keep going further off-track, the concept of the Trinity here is one that they certainly reject. What would they say about the Holy Spirit? Do they believe the Holy Spirit is a person?
David: Once again, another spirit child of Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit is awaiting to receive a body.
Kurt: I see. Interesting. Waiting to receive. Maybe this is why Mormons have lots of children, because they are freeing the spirits or souls of people that are waiting to have bodies.
David: Yes. So when Mormons have their children, when I was born I was born into a family that both parents had already went into the temple and sealed for time and eternity, so I was a choice spirit that came and entered into this body because it’s very necessary that we enter into this world so we can return. We need to retain a body in other words so we can be like God who Himself has a body.
Kurt: Now how about the Jehovah’s Witnesses on the Trinity. They would reject the Trinity and they hold to what we could call as a heresy known as adoptionism. Tell me, what is adoptionism
David: This is really confusing. First, the supreme creation of Jehovah God is the archangel Michael. Jesus is truly the archangel Michael, but when He enters into this creation in the person of Jesus Christ, He is merely a man, a perfect man, and becomes divine at His baptism. When He is crucified on the cross, He dies and He is buried. When He resurrects, He is actually recreated as the archangel Michael. That’s what actually takes place. It’s a clone.
David: It’s what it is. That’s the whole spectrum.
Kurt: Yeah. It’s at His baptism that He becomes divine.
David: Becomes divine.
Kurt: And He has not, at least this clone, has not existed for all eternity.
David: Not at all. It would be similar to oneness Pentecostals in a form of modalism where the Son himself is not eternal. Once again, our working definition is three co-equal and co-eternal persons, namely the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That’s why those words are so essential for the definition of the Trinity.
Kurt: I think of a passage in Colossians, 15:16.
David: Jehovah’s Witnesses love this verse.
Kurt: Let’s go through it. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. What does that mean? Hang on a second. Wait. For by Him all things were created that are on heaven or on Earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him and He is before all things and in Him all things consist.
David: The New World Translation says all other things.
Kurt: Good. They might take this language of firstborn and they think literal firstborn.
David: Very much so.
Kurt: Whereas here, Paul means something else in the Jewish context.
David: And the Greek Prototokos…
Kurt: The firstborn is not literal but a figurative meaning here, the best of the best.
David: The pre-eminent one. You just do a word study on this, particularly in Hebrews, and we’ll see that those in the firstborn, Esau, Jacob, Joseph..
Kurt: Just go through the context. What did it mean to be the firstborn. Of course, there’s the more explicit language than that. All things were created through Him. Wait a second. If all things were created through Him, then that means He must have existed before the material world existed. To me, it just speaks volumes of the eternality of the second person of the Trinity right there in Colossians.
David: John 17:5 is the other classic one where Jesus is doing the high priestly prayer. The glory that I had with you before the foundation of the world, but once again, they both cultists get around this by saying they are the supreme spirit creation of Jehovah God in the Jehovah’s Witnesses view and the first spirit child in the Mormon view. It’s a spiritual realm sort of. It’s confusing with Mormons because at the base, Carl Mosser points this out. They are materialists, Mormons are ultimately, because everything is material or as Mormons put it, all spirit is “refined material.”
Kurt: Yeah. So for them, the god that they worship is simply an exalted man and that man is physical, a physical being, and the god that’s worthy of worship is not immaterial but material and that certainly goes against not just the historic view of Christianity, but what many natural law theorists might recognize regarding the creator of the universe, so something even broader outside of Christian theism, but just theism in general or even deism, so it’s just an interesting and perplexing perspective on the divine being. We’re running low on time today. We didn’t even get to the two natures of Christ. We could just simply summarize. If Christ is not eternal, I don’t see how He has a fully divine nature. The Jehovah’s Witnesses wouldn’t just say He’s adopted. He’s like being divine, but not fully divine.
David: Yeah. In summary, to evangelize the cults my focus has always been soteriological or how one gets saved. I look at their system. I ask them exactly in a very kind way “What must I do to be saved?” Give me the list. I keep asking probing questions, and you finally get down to the point where it’s impossible for someone to keep, then you basically try to get them to ask “So what’s your solution?” and you go to your Bible and you proclaim the Word of God and by hearing faith comes. With the Trinity on the other hand, it’s demonstrating that they fundamentally believe in a different god, in a different Christ, and because of that, they cannot be saved by continuing having faith worshipping this god or this Christ.
Kurt: And they haven’t had, for me as someone who studies historical theology, I would hope these people realize what they believe is an innovation. It is not part of what Christians have historically believed. At what point did the Christians screw up? For Mormons, there’s the great apostasy. When was it? Show me where in the history of our theological literature. That has yet to be illustrated when that precisely occur. Some of them I think just have to say really early on.
David: Yeah. I’ve actually talked to an academic and he says, “I know about the manuscript evidence. I know how early it is, but it was just in that period of time of when it was switched, this 50-100 year period of time. All the manuscripts were switched.”
Kurt: Fascinating. Before we get onto, we do have a question here before I have this final announcement here. Steven writes in question to Jehovah’s Witnesses, what is the name that is above all names? He says see Philippians 2:9. I’d have to look that up myself here. You might know that off the top of your head, David. Let’s see here.
David: I’ll look it up in the New World Translation.
Kurt: Here we go. Chris probably beat me to it. Therefore God has also highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and those in Heaven and those under the Earth and that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. What’s the name that is above all names? What does that mean? What do you think that means David?
David: For Jehovah’s
Witnesses, the name Jehovah God is central for their worship. The name above
all names, Jehovah God. Jehovah. This verse really throws a wheel in the
wrench. It’s 2:9. Correct?
David: The New World Translation: For this very reason, God exalted Him to a superior position and gave Him….
Kurt; So the Jehovah’s Witnesses translation…
David: Yeah, but then it says kindly gave Him the name that is above every other name, so every other name as in this creation here. That’s how they get around.
Kurt: The New World Translation, the translation of the Watchtower Society.
David: Takes supreme precedence.
Kurt: That’s right. So they are already giving their bent, their interpretation of the text, instead of letting the text speak for itself.
David: So the key when you’re evangelizing the cults is always look in their materials what their twist or bent is and how you’re going to interact with that. You can’t just take out Scriptures from your Bible and expect to convince them, because they already see it as watered down and corrupt.
Kurt: We’ve got to close up shop for the day. David. Thanks so much for helping us get through these tricky issues and helping us realize the importance of why we should be evangelizing to those that might come knocking on our door. Before we leave on the program today. I want to put this out there. I want to throw it out there and see if anything catches. We have an opportunity to work with one of our partner ministries, God Loves Mormons, to go toward Utah in the latter half of June to the town of Manti. David, tell us about Manti and what that is about.
David: The Manti Pageant is a yearly, sort of play, it’s a grand play on a large scale with actors and lights and theatrics…
Kurt: And it’s every night for a whole week.
David: And Mormons flock.
Kurt: It’s like a pilgrimage.
David: It’s a tradition. It’s a yearly tradition. If you live in that area you go to that Manti pageant and Mormons from all over that section of the United States come to see this event.
Kurt: So we’ve been invited by our friends at God Loves Mormons, to come, bring some people, to receive training and teaching on Mormonism and then to exercise what has been learned through conversation with Mormons and so we want to try to, of course, not just have this as a mental or conversational exercise. We want to reach the lost. If you are interested in coming along with us. Before we commit to anything, we want to see if there are folks willing and interested to come along with us essentially on this Mormon trip. We’re looking for, I would say 5-10 people. The costs can be very minimal. I know Rich, our friend there at JLM camps, he camps out there, so if you’re interested in camping, you’d save money on lodging there. We might even be able to get hooked up with some Christian churches where you might be able to sleep, or of course, you could always just get a hotel as well, but if you’re interested in coming along with us, please let me know. Email me Kurt@veracityhill.com and so we can begin gathering a list and seeing if there’s interest here. We will have a deadline in a couple months to decide if we want to move forward on it and I think it was the week after Easter, Rich wanted us to know. If you’re interested in going to Utah, seeing God’s beautiful creation, but engaging with the lost, please let me know so we can begin coordinating quite possibly a summer mission trip. We’re looking at, I forget the exact date, I don’t know if it’s the same date every year, David, but the second half of June, late June, might be the last week even, the Manti festival is it called, pageant?
Kurt: If you want, I’ll be sure to put some links out there here on the livestream and our web site. We’ll even post a video from God Loves Mormons, interviewing people who have participated in this event in reaching Mormons so you can learn more about that. We’ll be sure to put the links up on the Mormon miracle pageant as they call it, the Manti pageant. We’ve got the dates there. June 19-23. Second half of June. That does it for the show today. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the sponsorships that we have with Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Evolution 2.0, Non-Profit Megaphone, and Fox Restoration. Thank you to our technical producer Chris, and to our in studio guest today, David Montoya, and last but not least, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
[NP1]Unclear at 40:00