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Cult documents to be housed at MBTS

Posted on Dec 4, 2008 | by Tammi Reed Ledbetter

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–When James Walker hears of another person converted to faith in Christ after years of deception in a cult, he rejoices at the news. But if that new believer is eager to discard newsletters and books filled with the false teaching that once entrapped him, Walker is likely to respond, “Not so fast!”

What is reasonably regarded as harmful literature can serve to enlighten those who study Christian apologetics. Former practitioners are just one source of materials that Walker and the staff of Watchman Fellowship acquire to build an extensive library of primary source material.

Over the past 30 years, materials from countless cultic groups that range from the New Age Movement to the Unification Church have been collected by scouring yard sales, used bookstores and family files.

Because making such materials available to seminary students will help equip future ministers recognize cultic deception and counter it with a Christian witness, Watchman Fellowship in placing part of its collection at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

“Our institution’s interest in the Watchman library stems from our desire to understand and reach cultic enthusiasts with the Gospel,” Thor Madsen, Midwestern’s academic dean, said. “We trust that expertise gained from careful research in these materials will serve that end.”

Such preparation is essential in a postmodern world in which the desire to find something to believe in remains strong.

“We might suppose that as America gives up Christianity, it will default to naturalism, which rejects all forms of religious belief,” Madsen said. “What we actually see, however, is a turning to all sorts of do-it-yourself, garage-band worldviews, prime examples of which are studied by the Watchman Fellowship.”

It was the frustration of being inadequately trained to answer the Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to his doorstep that motivated Watchman founder David Henke to search for literature on the subject, contacting every author or organization for which he could find an address. In 1978 he became a full-time missionary to cults. The organization expanded to staff offices in eight states, involving many ministers with Southern Baptist ties.

Having been a fourth-generation Mormon, Walker walked away from serving as a deacon, teacher and priest in 1976, later studying theology at Criswell College in Dallas. Ten years after joining the staff of Watchman Fellowship, he became president in 1994, developing curriculum materials and leading conferences in local churches and theological schools.

“Our goal is to equip the body of Christ for discernment and evangelism, to educate the community to the dangers of religious cults and to evangelize those lost in cultic deception,” Walker said.

He advises incorporating two elements for an effective witness to someone trapped in a cult: love and authority. An expression of personal concern and interest in the individual as a person, not just a cult member, communicates that love. Then a Christian relies upon the authority of God’s Word, illuminated by the Holy Spirit. By helping cult members recognize the control being exercised by a person or group and how their faith has been misplaced, they become more open to the Gospel.

Walker combines original cult source materials with witnessing manuals to teach Christians an easy, practical and effective method of opening the eyes of cult members.

Watchman Fellowship’s research library contains more than 35,000 volumes with about 10,000 files on cult-related issues. Original materials produced by groups such as the Church of Scientology, the New Age movement, Unification Church, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the holdings. Duplicate copies are being provided to Midwestern Seminary for use by students and other researchers.

“Our library eagerly anticipates the arrival of these new resources and we will find opportunities to share these resources with our students and the community,” librarian Craig Kubic said.
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Tammi Reed Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN.

http://www.sbcbaptistpress.org/BPnews.asp?ID=29451

 

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Eight reasons why we need apologetics

 
There are several reasons why we need apologetics. The first and most obvious is because we are commanded to defend the faith: 1 Peter 3:15 says, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”

Second, we need apologetics because it helps Christians know their faith. This is something that is sadly lacking among believers. Most don’t know much about their faith, let alone be able to describe the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, His physical resurrection, or even be able to tell the difference between justification and sanctification. Apologetics helps to define and defend what the truth of the gospel is.

Third, apologetics is an attempt to keep people out of hell. God takes sin very seriously, and He will punish those who have rebelled against Him and are not covered in the blood of Christ. As Christians, we should be motivated to present the truth of salvation in Jesus. We should not sit idly by and ignore the dilemma of the unbeliever. We need to tell them that sin is real because God is real, and that breaking God’s law has a consequence. Since we have all sinned, we cannot keep God’s Law perfectly. Also, we cannot undo the offense to an infinitely holy God because we are not infinite or holy, so the only thing left for us is to fall under the judgment of God. But God has provided a way for us to escape that judgment. That is why God became man in Jesus. He claimed to be God, (John 8:24,58; compare with Exodus 3:14). Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross, (1 Pet. 2:24). By trusting in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, we will be spared from the rightful judgment of God upon the sinner. Salvation is not found in Buddhism, Islam, relativism, or in one’s self. It is only found in Jesus and we need to not only defend God’s word and truth, but also to present the gospel to all people so they can escape the judgment to come.

Fourth, we need apologetics to counter the bad image that Christianity has received in the media and in culture. Televangelists and their scandals, both sexually and monetarily, are a disgrace to Christianity. The Catholic church hasn’t helped with its scandals involving priests. On top of that, a media is very biased against Christianity and you will see negative opinions of Christianity promoted everywhere.

Fifth, we need apologetics because there is a constant threat of apostasy in the visible Christian church. Such is the case with the Metropolitan Community Church denomination, which openly advocates the support of homosexuality in violation of scripture (Rom. 1:18-32). Also, as of 2002, the Evangelical Lutheran church is in risk of apostasy by entertaining the idea of accepting homosexual relationships into church. “The United Church of Christ set up a $500,000 scholarship fund for gay and lesbian seminarians Friday and urged wider acceptance of homosexuals by other denominations.” (United Church Makes Gay Scholarship, CLEVELAND, June 16, 2000, AP Online via COMTEX). Or “The supreme court of the United Methodist Church was asked Thursday to reconsider the denomination’s ban on gay clergy. (Church court of United Methodists asked to decide on gay clergy ban, NASHVILLE, Tennessee, Oct. 25, 2001, AP WorldStream via COMTEX). Such examples are demonstrations of the incredible need for defending biblical truth within those churches that claim to be Christian.

Sixth, another reason we need apologetics is because of the many false teachings out there. Mormonism teaches that God used to be a man on another world, that he brought one of his goddess wives with him to this world, that they produce spirit offspring that are born into human babies, and that you have the potential of becoming a god of your own world. The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that there is no Trinity, that Jesus is Michael the Archangel, that there is no hell, and that only 144,000 people will go to heaven. Atheism denies God’s existence, openly attacks Christianity and is gaining ground in public life and schools. Islam teaches that Jesus was not God in flesh, that Jesus did not rise from the dead, and that He did not atone for our sins. It teaches that salvation is partly based on one’s works and partly based on Allah’s grace. It teaches that the Holy Spirit is the angel Gabriel (Surah 2:97; 16:102); that Jinn are unseen beings, created (51:56) from fire (15:27; 55:15); and that Muhammed was greater than Jesus. Even within the Christian church, there are false teachings. We can see that from both within the Christian church and from outside of it, false teachings are bombarding believers (and non believers) all over the world.

Seventh, the rise of immorality in America is a threat not only to society but also to Christianity. This is a serious issue because an immoral society cannot last long. The Barna Research group statistics show that 64% of adults and 83% of teenagers said moral truth depends on the situation that you are in. 19% of the adult population believes that “the whole idea of sin is outdated.” 51% believe that “if a person is generally good, or does enough good, he will earn a place in Heaven.”

When a society’s morals fail, the society fails. Just look at history and think of Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece or present day Enron, Watergate, and White House interns. Immorality seeps down into all areas of our culture. Consider this: In the New York Times, online, of May 12, 2002, in the article “With Games of Havoc, Men Will Be Boys,” the author, Warren St. John, interviews some players of what he says is a very popular video game. One young man says, “What I like to do is get in the car and drive around and do drive-by shootings. You can haul someone out of their car and beat on them and steal their money and their car. It’s kind of amusing that you have that ability.” …. A publicist from Long Island says the game’s allure comes down to “just going on killing sprees.” Not all video games are violent, but the fact that it is so popular and that the youth are being trained up by them is very disturbing.

I am not advocating a theocratic socio-political rule administered by stern Christians wearing black-and-white outfits and tall hats. But these kinds of social trends are disturbing, and they reflect a moral decline in America, where what is good is called evil and what is evil is called good. God tells us in Phil. 4:8, Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. We cannot ignore God’s word without a consequence.

The eighth reason we need apologetics is because schools are not friendly to Christianity. My own experience in non-Christian schools was a strong awakening to the unprovoked hostility that exists in school, where the philosophy teachers, history teacher, and even the art teacher all took shots at Christianity. Don Feder in the Conservative Chronicle, in his article of Sept. 22, 1993, titled “Fighting Censorship, PAW Does it Its Way,” said that in some junior high libraries, book titles included The Joy of Gay Sex and How to Make Love to a Single Woman. There is an impressions series for grades one to six which promote the New Age and the occult; a controversial drug education program called Quest, which tells students that they alone can decide whether or not it’s OK to use drugs; as well as texts that direct students to fantasize about suicide, attack religion and undermine family authority. Following is an email I received that represents the hostility of secular schools.

Our daughter had acquired an atheist’s heart since leaving home and attending college. It seems that the books in college breed atheists, because they are full of the philosophy of anti-God thinking. She has been in college for four years now, and one of the last times we had a chance to talk to her, she said that she doesn’t think about sin, or heaven, or hell anymore because, according to her, they do not exist. She said that when she was young and asked the Lord to come into her heart, she did not know what she was doing because children do what they are told.

The fact is that Christianity is under attack in the world and we need to fight the good fight of the faith without shrinking back. We need apologetics to give rational, intelligent, and relevant explanations of Christian viability to the critics and the prejudiced who would seek to undermine the teachings of our Lord Jesus.

If there was ever a time that apologetics is needed, it is now.

http://www.carm.org/apologetics/need.htm

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