• Avoiding cult-like groups that use Biblical-sounding language

Sep
18

Hi Dojo readers,

I wanted to share the following quick thought today:

Beware of people and ministries who know just enough of the Biblical languages (particularly Hebrew!) to mislead those who don’t.

 

Why do I say this? Well, yesterday I came across a gentleman in a Christian discussion group on Facebook who posted the following picture with no comment to go along with it…

I responded by asking: “Which commandments and at what point in redemptive history?” and linked to the video my colleague Chris Thayer and I did on the relationship between the Old Testament commandments and followers of Jesus:  “Do Christians Keep the Ten Commandments??”

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10150213450640582&set=vb.837625581&type=3&theater

 

Instead of answering, the gentleman continued to post a series of pics…

 

This person was very zealous but would not engage in any actual discussion. He simply kept repeating warnings and telling people (in this Christian discussion group) to “come out of Babylon” and that “Many are coming to the feast of tabernacles to be obedient to our Father! Many are being baptized in the Name of Yahshua! The Great Awakening Has Begun! HalleluYah!

In response, a friend posted a link to another discussion forum thread about “Yahweh Restoration” cults: http://www.puritanboard.com/f34/anybody-familiar-yahwehs-restoration-cult-63090/

The links shared on that thread were helpful and I recommend them to anyone who’s come across such people as the gentleman above or have been influenced by such teachings which place a heavy emphasis on using Hebrew (or Hebrew-sounding) terms. One of the commenters who had firsthand experience with such groups shared the following:

I am familiar with them and once was influenced by them but never actually joined it. They are one of many fractitious sects of the Sacred Name Movement (SBM), which believes we have to call the Father Yahweh and the Son Yahshua. They’re an offshoot of the adventist movement that believes in keeping the OT Torah and Feasts, that the NT was written in Hebrew rather than Greek, and avoiding “pagan” words to the point of saying Yahweh is an Elohim not a God (b/c “God” sounds like “Gad” in Hebrew, and that means luck!), and Jesus is at best a second-rate mistransliteration, at worst a word meaning “Heaing Zeus” (seriously!)

Some other unorthodox beliefs

  • The Messiah is a created being, not truly divine
  • Salvation is found only in calling God Yahweh, in addition to following the Torah and believing in His Son
  • The Holy Spirit is Yahweh’s powerful force, not a person
  • The Messiah was impaled (not crucified, since a Cross looks like a Tau and Yahweh could never execute his son on a pagan instrument!) because He pronounced the Father’s name

YRM [Yahweh Restoration Ministry] is a breakaway from Yahweh’s New Covenant Assembly/Yahweh’s Assembly in Yahshua; the leader of YRM is the son of the leader of YAIY. Both came out of the aforementioned AoY. Other groups include Yahweh’s Assembly in Messiah, PaleoTimes, and various Congregation of YHWH assemblies. The “House of Yahweh” is an extreme (even for these guys) offshoot of the SNM.

Most SNM groups have published their own “translations” of the BIble (usually taking the KJV, ASV, or Rotherham and changing it to fit their theology).

 

Now obviously as someone whose teaching ministry often focuses on the Hebrew Bible, I love it when people discover the Biblical languages and the Hebrew roots of our faith!

I smile when people call Jesus’ Disciple as well as his half-brother “Jacob” instead of “James” (after all, that’s what the Greek NT ACTUALLY calls him!) and when people use the name “Yahweh” or “YHWH” instead of the made up mishmash of a name, “Jehovah”.

I love pointing out the nuances and semantic treasures found in the Hebrew text of Scripture which shed new light on so many passages and stories.

In short, I think the Biblical languages are essential for understanding the meaning of Scripture and I lament the degree to which they are ignored by the majority of church leaders (including seminaries that, unbelievably, don’t require both Greek and Hebrew as core classes for their graduates who are going to be preaching and teaching the Biblical texts to others!).

That being said…I repeat the thought I began this post with:

Beware of people and ministries who know just enough of the Biblical languages (particularly Hebrew!) to mislead those who don’t.

Back when I finished my first full year of Greek at Gordon-Conwell, our professor said to the class, “Congratulations! You now know enough of the language to successfully start your own cult!”

We laughed…but he was absolutely correct. There are teachers and preachers out there who get so enamored by just the tiniest bit of Biblical language knowledge that they end up taking a prideful and antagonistic stance toward anyone who doesn’t know what they do (or think they do!).

Some end up simply becoming quirky or obnoxious, yet remain within their churches…daily testing the patience of their pastors or small group leaders, no doubt. 🙂  Others, however, join up with or start their own cult or cult-like movement apart from the overall Body of Christ.

How can we identify such teachers or movements? There’s no cookie-cutter method for delineating between unlearned zeal and full-fledged cultishness. However, here are a few points I find helpful to keep in mind when encountering such people:

 

1. They can often be detected by their insistence on division from other believers over ceremonial/cultic titles and a veiled (or open!) antagonism toward other followers of Jesus who do things differently or use other terminology.

2. They tend to elevate their own pseudo-translations of the Bible (whose translators are either anonymous or have no formal training in ancient Near East languages) and insist that all other translations–and by extension, churches who use them–are “corrupted”, “fabricated”, “pagan” or other ominous sounding terms.

3. They often appeal to people’s desire for secret or hidden knowledge and exhibit spiritual pride in looking down upon the “blind sheep” who are “asleep” or “foolish”, etc.

4. They rely almost entirely on self-published tracts or internet resources rather than scholarly publications or peer-reviewed theological work from outside of their own tradition.

5. They have little regard for, or knowledge of, actual Church History of the past 2,000 years…except for the individuals or movements they seek to criticize or condemn (usually Roman Catholic, but sometimes Protestant as well).

 

This isn’t a comprehensive list. Rather, I’m simply wanting to share a few of my observations from the past 15 years or so of ministry dealing with semi-cult groups and the people who have been influenced by them.

I invite readers to add to this list in the comments below if you have other observations about such groups that you find helpful.

 

Blessings from the Dojo,

samurai heb text bg thumb

JM

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Comments

  1. Chris Thayer

    Great article JM. This also highlights the dangers and inadequacy of sound bite theology.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Chris Thayer on September 18, 2014 at 10:53 pm

  2. Daniel Ortiz

    Great piece!!!! Founded on Joel Watt’s blog.

    One thing I would add, and seeing that you are a fellow martial artist I’m surprised you didn’t explicitly mention this one. Their lineage is blurry/nonexisted.
    Many cultish martial “innovators” bring out style after style with no real lineage to behind them. But true martial innovators have a clear lineage behind them (e.g. Bruce Lee, Pro Kano, the Gracies, etc.). The same with cults, they have no lineage (Catholic, Lutheran, etc) that is clear, there is a blur about their origins.
    I suppose my point is part and parcel of the ones you mention above… but I thought I would say it nonetheless…
    Dan

    [Reply]

    Daniel Ortiz Reply:

    Sorry… meant to say found it… not founded. Macs for you

    [Reply]

    Comment by Daniel Ortiz on September 19, 2014 at 3:12 pm

  3. Lawrence Dove

    Here are some End time Scriptures that imply that the Sabbath and Holy Days and Commandments will be kept.

    Isa_66:23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.

    Zec_14:16 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.
    Zec_14:18 And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.
    Zec_14:19 This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.

    Rev_14:12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
    Rev_22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

    This is straight from Scripture!

    [Reply]

    Comment by Lawrence Dove on April 15, 2015 at 2:15 pm

  4. I felt offended by your comments and posting. I have been a Christian for 36 years and I keep searching and learning each day. I am not affiliated with any church, actually I can’t find one I agree with. For the last few months I’ve been posting scriptures and views on my FB page and was preparing one on prayer and was struck my stupidity. I know all the scriptures that say in my name and in his name, and yet I also knew that Jesus was not his real name (since there was no J). Did he really mean that I should know his name? I searched for weeks and couldn’t be sure, because all the sites and authors were sure and they were all different! To me that couldn’t be possible without satanic guidance. From what you wrote I got the impression that you think people should just accept what is taught in any church, go along to get along. I personally am impressed by people who seek the real names of scripture, not necessarily this group, but I believe their attempts are mostly honest. You talk about people degrading the Catholic Church or other churches, but aren’t you doing the same? There is a whole new endeavor to find the real truth and I agree many are cults, but then again so is the Catholic Church. When you find a church that is perfectly in line with scripture, please post it. I didn’t find you suggesting anything, but condemning others. You are part of the problem, not a solution..

    [Reply]

    jm Reply:

    Sorry you feel that way. I most definitely do not think people should “just accept what is taught at any church, go along to get along.” That is the exact opposite of what Disciple Dojo encourages, in fact.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Lance Luther on July 28, 2015 at 9:51 pm

  5. Aaron Peters

    I find this conversation and article quite healthful. For those who are thinking, there are many good points made here. I, too, have not been an official member of a church for decades, but feel welcomed at any I have attended over the years.

    For many decades now anyone watching has been witness to the race between the church and the world. Alas, the world is only ever ahead by a few years as the church does its best to keep pace. Many well meaning church members are part of a cult in the sense that they were born into a family with a particular belief system and have maintained that belief without question or further (if any) study of what they believe and why. In the South where I live this is quite typical. The frightful part of this mentality is that oftentimes churches have no checks and balances built into their faithful, but otherwise clueless membership due to ignorance of the scriptures.

    This has let many disgusting and pagan traditions, teachings and behaviors to infiltrate the church over the last 40+ years to which I’ve been a witness.

    Keep letting the sparks fly (in love) so that iron can sharpen iron. Take nothing personally as we all have the same goal.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Aaron Peters on September 24, 2015 at 12:00 pm

  6. christopher smtih

    been going thru this ‘are they real, which one is real, am i nuts, do names matter, sabbaths, feasts’ debate for years. i would say that i can hold my own in a debate but i am not looking to debate, critisize, alienate or force my thoughts on anyone.

    what i am looking for is a group of people who all have different beliefs / thoughts, trinitarians, unitarians, sabbath people. sunday people and have a real ‘search the scripture’ and what does God, Yah, Yahweh etc write and say for us to truly do. i am looking for the truth of the Creator of this universe on a step by step, point by point, scripture by scripture basis, and see if i /we can find out what is really real. one thing i must say is that since i started doing it this way years ago, a lot more things in the bible seem to make sense.

    anyone know where there is a place on the internet where open honest scriptural based discussions and questions are at?

    65falconsmith@gmail.com

    [Reply]

    Comment by christopher smtih on December 22, 2015 at 8:53 am

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