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Why Jehovah’s Witnesses Have Mental Problems

Jerry Bergman, Ph.D


A scientific literature review found that the rate of mental illness among Jehovah’s Witnesses is considerably above average. The specific level found in the research varies partly because the extant research was on different populations and time periods. The major factors identified as either helpful or harmful to Witness mental health were discussed. Although persons with emotional problems tended to join the Witnesses, the Watchtower teachings and its subculture clearly adversely affected the mental health of those involved. The official Watchtower attitude on mental illness was also examined as were the common beliefs about the problem among Witnesses.

The History Of The Watchtower Reveals the Sources of Mental Problems

Jehovah’s Witnesses were organized in the late 1800’s by Charles Taze Russell, a second Adventist disappointed in the failed prophecies of his fellow religionists. He soon reinterpreted these prophesies and set his own new dates. He first taught the time of the end started in 1798 (latter changed to 1799), that Christ had returned invisibly in 1878 (latter changed to 1874), and that a new world wherein the righteous would dwell forever on a paradise Earth would begin in 1914.[1] With his father’s fortune, Russell preached tirelessly, yet when he died only a small band of followers existed as a result of all his efforts.

The second president, a lawyer named Rutherford, used his law background to create one confrontation after another with the state and almost everyone else including business, medicine and even religion. Soon Jehovah’s Witnesses became infamous throughout the world for their legal clashes which often involved violence.[2] A fighter with no small legal skills, Rutherford recruited several other attorneys and the Watchtower soon had themselves positioned as martyrs. The small band of devoted–some would say fanatical–followers, they achieved something that no amount of money could buy: name recognition, and, at least in the legal profession, an admiration for their legal success and tenacity.

The third president, N.H. Knorr, ruled from the 1950s to the 1970s. He toned down their behavior and worked tirelessly to modify their public image from fanatics to quiet, determined Christians fearlessly going about their work preaching the good news of the Watchtower’s kingdom. Pushing numerical growth to the exclusion of almost everything else including the health of individual Witnesses, his policies paid off. Except for the 1975 fiasco, growth has usually been steady. 1975 was their third recent major prediction for Armageddon, the other two were 1914 and 1925 which caused upward of one million people to eventually leave the sect.[3] They have carefully cultivated a public image of a God fearing devoted people, determined to ferret out God’s truth from the scriptures and live their lives fully according to them. Behind this facade lies a nightmare which resulted in a rash of mental illness and social problems considerably higher than that found in virtually every American religion. The reasons for the Watchtower tragedy are complex and can only briefly be explored in this short review.

The Scientific Research

Especially since the 1975 date (which was predicted to usher in God’s kingdom on earth) failed, the numerous problems in the Watchtower congregations have received much mass media and scholarly attention. Most intensively studied problems include disfellowshipping, doctrinal disputes, and their recurring prophetic speculation failures. [4] Witness mental health issues have also been examined by many investigators.[5]

The writer, as a former Witness for over twenty years, was extensively involved in various administrative levels of the organization. This gave him first hand access to information relating to most social and bureaucratic aspects of the Watchtower. He has also used his decade of extensive clinical experience with Witnesses and an extensive literature review as a basis for his evaluation. Outsiders have limited access to inside information, and for this reason are forced to rely on official publications, all of which are viewed by Witnesses as quasi-inspired.[6] The literature reveals eight academic studies which explored the problem of Witness mental illness. These will be briefly reviewed by year, the oldest first.

The Rylander Study

Swedish psychiatrist Dr. Rylander investigated a sample of conscientious objectors imprisoned in Sweden. Of the 135 randomly selected cases, fully 126 were Witnesses. Of these 126, Rylander diagnosed 51 as neurotic, 42 psychotic, 32 as mentally retarded, and 5 as brain-damaged (some overlap exists because some cases were in two or more categories).[7] Diagnosis was made solely on the basis of behavior that was clearly pathological, such as irrational paranoia or severe long term depression, and not behavior that resulted from following Watchtower doctrine as non-social involvement with the non-Witnesses. Rylander also concluded from the subjects’ medical records and his interviews that their pathological state was not uncommonly evident before conversion, but that the Watchtower’s’ influence was often detrimental to mental health, sometimes severely so.

About four percent of the eligible armed service Swedish population were judged psychologically “unfit” for military services. The corresponding figure for Witnesses was twenty-one percent, or a rate five times greater. This was very close to the same ratio found by Spencer [8] whose diagnosis of “psychotic” or “neurotic” was made on the basis of mental hospital admission screening. Few of the cases in Rylander’s study were marginal Witnesses, and most were actively involved in the Watchtower. Rylander concluded that many of those he studied lacked an education, job skills, emotional stability, and quality social relations. Unsatisfactory employment records often existed because of psychological deficiencies, lack of ability or immaturity. Rylander found that Witnesses committed “…a relatively large number of small crimes and other misdemeanors which generally resulted only in a fine…three [Witnesses] have been imprisoned for stealing or harboring of stolen property, and 36 have been fined for various offenses (traffic violations, drunkenness, unlawful selling of alcohol, poaching, unlawful entering, etc.)” [9]

Neurotic symptoms commonly found in his sample included “feelings of discomfort, general anxiety, poor sleep habits, times of brooding over what they see as the meaninglessness of life, the wrongs they have suffered and the mistakes they have made.” [10] Rylander noted that the Watchtower doctrine helped some adherents to explain “all of their problems in life, and has given them a satisfaction and calmness which has brought a measure of stability to their lives.” [11]

He also concluded that individual Witnesses tended to be burdened with a variety of serious concerns and often joined the sect in an effort to solve their many problems. Although the results of this study are not fully applicable to today’s situation, many of his conclusions are still largely true. [12] A major difference between his sample and today is that the Witnesses are now more middle-class and less socially rejected. Many Witnesses, though, especially those living in developing nations, still experience many of the same problems that Rylander reported.

The First American Study

Pescor, in the first study on American Witness mental health, diagnosed as psychotic over seven percent of his total sample (n=177) of young males imprisoned due to obeying the Watchtower’s prohibition against complying with military regulations.[13] The sample was obtained by interviewing all selective service violators admitted to the Federal prison medical center during the study. The level of Witness psychosis in his sample was about seventeen times higher than that for the population as a whole. A whopping seven percent were diagnosed psychotic, four percent had other mental abnormalities and fully one quarter were rated socially maladjusted. Sixteen percent of Pescor’s sample were on hospital status and forty-four percent of these were diagnosed psychotic.

The demographic characteristics of the Witnesses in the study were as follows: almost half were raised on farms and only thirty-nine percent grew-up in cities of 5,000 or more. About half had some high school education (the median grade achieved was 9.2), and the majority were engaged in agricultural work. The discrepancy between socioeconomic status and I.Q. (the median I.Q. was 101.5) was partly a result of the Watchtower’s discouragement of occupational advancement coupled with their stress on the regular study of Watchtower publications, a practice which serves to develop verbal and reading skills.

Only two percent were judged to have poor work performance and over forty percent took advantage of educational opportunities, mostly correspondence courses offered by the institution. Spanish was the most popular class pursued, presumably so the Witness could serve as a Watchtower missionary when released.

The Janner Study

Swiss psychiatrist Janner (1963), examined a random sample of 100 Swiss citizens who were imprisoned because of objection to military service, about eighty-five percent were Jehovah’s Witnesses.[14] The study found a significant number of Witnesses showed one or more of the following symptoms: high level of fear anxiety, severe neuroticism, introversion and/or social isolation tendencies. Janner [15] concluded that the Witnesses were generally “somewhat removed from reality, although some demonstrated intense religious feeling.” As found in other studies, the majority of the Witnesses in his sample were unskilled or semi-skilled workers.

His research revealed a whopping 10.4 percent of the Witnesses had previous criminal convictions, about half of which were for sexual offenses, mostly pedophilia and exhibitionism. The rest of the criminal connections were for minor property or person offenses. He did not compare the mental illness rate of Jehovah’s Witnesses to the population as a whole, but concluded that the rate among Witnesses was far higher than the rate among non-Witnesses. The Watchtower influence was often not positive, and there was no evidence that it had in the long run helped those who had emotional problems when they joined. Evidence was found, though, that the Watchtower had an adverse effect on many regardless of their adjustment level when they became involved.

Spencer’s Research

Spencer, an Australian psychiatrist, examined the records of all admissions to Western Australia psychiatric hospitals from January, 1971 to December, 1973.[16] He located fifty cases that, according to the patients’ own admission, were active Jehovah’s Witnesses. Spencer concluded that the rate of serious mental illness among this group was three times higher than that of non-Witnesses, and the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia was fully four times higher. A reason that Spencer’s statistics are probably low is that Witnesses are prone to avoid psychiatric treatment and, especially, institutionalization.[17] The Watchtower, like many cultic movements, is very critical of both the mental health profession and most non-medical professional therapy.[18] The official Witness teaching is that the decision to visit a psychiatrist is up to one’s conscience, but the undertone in most of their literature is strongly opposed to all types of professional mental health help.[19] The typical Witness believes that it is either very foolish or blatantly wrong to rely on the advice of a secular mental health therapist.[20]

Other Research Studies

Licensed therapist Montague monitored the admissions to state and private mental hospitals, and local mental health clinics in Ohio from 1972 to 1986.[21] From this data (n=102) he estimated that “The mental illness rate of JW’s is approximately 10 to 16 times higher than the rate for the general, nonWitness population [and that]…about 10% of the publishers (full members) in the average congregation are in serious need of professional help…[although they are often] able to hide this fact quite well, especially from outsiders.” [22] From his intensive interviews with Witness patients and others, Montague concluded that persons who had emotional problems were attracted to the Witnesses but Watchtower involvement also caused many of the emotional problems that they suffered. This is evident from the fact that many with problems reported they were far happier after they left.

Another study was completed by Potter [23] as part of his Ph.D. thesis on religion and mental health. He concluded that there exists “a strong positive correlation between Witness membership and clinical schizophrenia.” In yet another Ph.D. dissertation, Sack evaluated the effect of religion on the mental health of select clients.[24] Although the case study method was utilized, many of the same conclusions were reached as found in the above studies, and in many ways her research compliments the present study. The clients she utilized had an enormous amount of insight into the pathological processes of the Watchtower and similar sects, and her study is well worth reading.

In addition, a German study by Elmer Koppl [25] also came to similar conclusions as did a study by Norwegian psychologist, Kjell Totland [26] Using Oakland County court records from 1965 to 1973, Bergman concluded that not only is the mental illness rate above average, but the suicide and crime rates are also high, especially aggressive crimes against persons [27] This is the extent of published empirical studies about the mental health of Jehovah’s Witnesses, an area in which a need exists for more research.

The Validity Of These Studies

The above studies may have under reported the level of Witness mental illness because of sampling problems. A major flaw with the military research studies is that many seriously psychotic Witnesses would have a history of hospitalization, and thus would likely have had a medical deferment. In the States, only those who have passed the required physical would be imprisoned because of refusing to obey the selective service law. If these cases were included, the rate would be higher than that which both Pescor and Rylander found.

It is possible that some Witnesses feigned mental illness in order to be released from prison, thereby inflating the rate. Conversely, faking mental problems generally would not result in prison release, but in reassignment to hospital status within the institution. Although hospital assignment may be a more desirable placement within the prison, the negative feeling that our culture has about the mentally ill would encourage faking physical, not mental problems. On the other hand, some Witnesses may have violated Watchtower teachings and selected alternative service. Those who did may be better adjusted because of the tendency for the more maladjusted Witnesses to rigidly cling to the Watchtower and all of its teachings.[28]

The mental hospital studies also likely under-reported the level of Witness mental illness. Spencer had to rely on self-reporting, and it is possible that many Witness patients did not reveal their true religious affiliation. Those who are forced to seek psychiatric services are often reluctant to admit their Witness involvement.[29] Many have written on their hospital forms “Protestant” or even “none” instead of their true religious affiliation.[30]

Jehovah’s Witnesses who have mental difficulties are typically ashamed of them because they often believe good Witnesses do not become mentally ill. Due to the fear that their illness may bring reproach upon the Watchtower, they not uncommonly are not open with a therapist or researcher about their problems. Often they will undergo intense suffering to protect the Watchtower reputation. [31] When a Witness becomes “mentally ill,” regardless of the reason, much personal guilt results because of the belief that faithfulness to the Watchtower will usually protect one from emotional problems. Witnesses often believe that mental problems are evidence of personal shortcomings that are usually religious in nature. Active Witnesses are instructed to believe that “if I am not happy, I must not be pleasing God or doing what God desires of me” as interpreted by the Watchtower [32]

The Watchtower often stress Scriptures such as Psalms 128:1-2 which state, “Happy is everyone fearing Jehovah…[and] walking in His ways…happy you will be and it will be well with you.” [33] Verses such as this are used to conclude that their unhappiness is a result of displeasing God; therefore, the cause of mental problems must be their personal shortcomings. This belief only further intensifies their guilt and, ironically, in an effort to solve emotional unbalance, they increase their loyalty to what they believe is God’s only true organization. They often reason that “the organization is right; therefore, I must be wrong.” Thus, a Witness who has been active for many years commonly believes that Jehovah’s Witnesses are as a whole a happy people and, “as I am not, I must not be a good Witness.”

Many persons raised around the influence of the Witnesses (especially during their formative years) who leave as adults often remain largely Witness in belief.[34] And these persons are usually no longer included in the Witnesses mental illness statistics. Montague concluded that, although those persons who remain involved often have more emotional problems than those who depart, Witnesses who suffer from severe mental illness tend to be forced out.[35] Those who are obviously psychotic are commonly made to feel unwelcome due to the common conclusion by Witnesses that they are either “demonized,” or not fully committed Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Common Witness Reactions to This Research

Witnesses commonly react to the research on their mental health by refusing to acknowledge its validity. [36] They may cite the Watchtower’s teaching that “…the Christian Witnesses of Jehovah are the best oriented, happiest, and most content group of people on the face of the earth. They get along better with each other than do people of any other religion, tribe or social group. They have the least need for psychiatrists.” [37] The Watchtower [38] adds: “Jehovah God has a New World Society operating earth-wide today, and that it is through it that true happiness can be found.”

Many Witnesses accept this statement as true even though their own experience is often contrary to this frequently repeated misconception.[39] Interestingly, the Watchtower has not made the above claim lately, and they are now more aware of this problem, as is obvious from their discussions of this issue in their publications and at their meetings.[40] Yet they have done little concrete to respond to it in the last decade except to publish numerous articles in their official magazines on depression and similar topics, mostly with primarily pop psychology content. The Watchtower also has not responded to the areas identified as the most serious factors causing emotional problems, and they have actively resisted even minor changes emanating from both insiders and outsiders.

The Tendency to Protect the Society

The attempt of individual Witnesses to protect the Watchtower is a major impediment to research. The author, from working with almost one hundred active Witnesses who were mentally ill, has repeatedly experienced their revealing significant doubts, troubles, and fears (an important part of which is the personality conflicts common within the congregation) and then a short time later, while attempting to proselytize their neighbors, state that “Jehovah’s Witnesses are the happiest people on the face of the earth.” [41]

Another response is the following rationalization: “True Christians will be persecuted for God’s name sake–and God’s name is Jehovah. Thus Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted–and these statistics about the high mental illness rate are just another example of the persecution against us.” [42] Although Witnesses are sensitive about the common antagonism against them and many persons regard them as somewhat “strange,” most know little more about them other than the fact that they refuse to salute the flag and accept blood transfusions. Many pastors have commented to the author that it is difficult to stimulate church members to study Watchtower theology in order to effectively present orthodox Christianity to Witnesses who visit their homes.

Why People Join the Watchtower

A case history will help the reader understand why people join the Watchtower. The case involves Melissa, a women who from a young age had her life planned, as do many women; a husband, children and a career as a nurse. Shawn was her first true love; and they dated for almost two years before their church wedding. They met when she was waitressing in Connecticut after graduation from high school and attending college part time to become a nurse. The two soon became fast friends, then dated regularly. Shawn was good looking, kind and had no reservations about giving either attention or gifts to Melissa. Shawn was from a nice family, and Melissa felt close to especially his parents and three brothers.

After their first child, Shawn spent less and less time at home–and after their second child, the fights intensified. He then became physically violent, although almost always after drinking heavily. After the violence began, home was no longer the same, and Melissa saw Shawn in a drastically different light. They soon divorced and she was shattered. Alone in the city they moved to after they married, she had few friends, two young babies and no skills aside from waitressing. Melissa also felt trapped under the court order not to leave the city so her ex-husband could see the children.

Soon a young lady with a child in tow knocked on Melissa’s door and offered her two magazines which would “help her to understand her Bible.” Desperately seeking to fill her need for companionship, Melissa enjoyed the company of the lady, Thelma, and invited her back. Thelma seemed to have what she didn’t: happiness and a devoted loving family. The Witness soon offered her a “Bible study,” confirming Melissa’s suspicion that her new friend was a Jehovah’s Witness. Knowing little about the group except they did not celebrate the holiday’s or accept blood transfusions, she felt it would not hurt to discuss the Bible with Thelma. After all, Thelma assured her they would only be studying the Bible, not a Watchtower book. Anyway, Thelma explained, whether Melissa celebrated birthdays was up to her. And besides, Thelma said, the Watchtower does not interfere with medical treatment–all decisions in this area are up to the individual. Many misconceptions about what Jehovah’s Witnesses believed existed, she added, stressing that after they studied the Bible she could decide for herself.

Raised a nominal Lutheran, Melissa now felt a deep spiritual need. Thelma even speculated that the events in Melissa’s life might be part of God’s plan to cause her to make a commitment to God’s organization. After all, if Melissa married a Witness, she would be happily married now. Witness husbands, Thelma explained (and those that Melissa met at the Kingdom Hall seemed to verify this) were good men who loved and cared for their wives in harmony with their scriptural obligations. If they behaved otherwise, they would be disfellowshipped. The more Melissa learned about this religion, the more it seemed the answer to her every need. Soon after Thelma showed up on her porch, the Witnesses helped her by babysitting, chauffeuring her to the store until she could afford a car, and one “brother” who owned a restaurant gave her a good job. She was soon able to rent a small apartment, and in less than a year she met a young Witness who was as enthusiastic for her new religion as she was. They married and both were able to arrange their affairs to spend full time in the Witness work, encouraging other people to accept the gospel accordingly to the Watchtower.

This story which started out so wonderful soon became a nightmare which eventually resulted in the suicide of the two sons which Melissa bore from her second marriage. It is also a scenario that is repeated millions of times every year throughout the world: over thirteen million people are now either active or studying to become Jehovah’s Witnesses. The nightmare that these millions of people enter could have been avoided if they were aware of the deception and entrapping quagmire of this Watchtower.

Why Mental Health Problems are so Great

Numerous reasons exist for the mental health problems among Witnesses, but research has determined the following often are among the most important:

1. Change in policy. The Watchtower is in a perpetual state of doctrinal change, often flip flopping as many as three or four times on a single issue. Nowhere has this been so tragic as in their anti-medical teachings. The Watchtower taught during the 1930’s and 1940’s that vaccinations were not only ineffective, but were a “direct violation” of God’s law.[43] Then in the early fifties vaccinations were up to one’s conscience, but today the Watchtower publishes articles extolling the virtues of vaccinations and the many lives they have saved. In late 1961 organ transplants were specifically ruled acceptable, then in 1967 they were banned.[44] Even cornea and kidney transplants were taught to be in violation of God’s law because they were ruled as being cannibalism. Then in 1980 most organ transplants were ruled a matter of conscience.[45] The only exception, bone marrow transplants, was wrong only because bone was a source of blood. In 1984, even bone marrow transplants were approved.

In 1909 the Watchtower specifically stated that the Jewish prohibition against eating blood was not considered law for Christians, but it was not until 1961 that receiving a blood transfusion was grounds for disfellowshipping.[46] The Watchtower now teaches that “if a court authorized transfusion seems likely…[a witness must] put forth strenuous efforts to avoid a violation of God’s law on blood [and if] authorities…consider him a law-breaker or make him liable to prosecution…the Christian could view it as suffering for the sake of righteousness.” [47]

The Watchtower teaching is clear: Witnesses are to forfeit their life rather than submit to a transfusion, and this includes allowing their children to die. If they do die due to lack of blood, they may sue the surgeon as they did Dr. Denton Cooley– they lost this case; the jury ruled the blood objection made the operation more risky (Houston Chronicle Nov. 18 1995 p. 42A) Yet even in this area the Watchtower society has changed. Use of all blood products and blood fractions for any purpose was once condemned–even glues made from blood products were not to be purchased. Now Witnesses may accept albumin, globulins, factor VIII, factor IX and even circulating blood. The ban on blood fractions for hemophiliacs was lifted in 1978.[48] Blood serums are now approved because those for viral hepatitis rabies, tetanus, diphtheria and others contain only “a tiny amount” of blood.[49] Because the Watchtower also teaches Witnesses are to be faithful even “in little things,” many view these many exceptions as hypocritical. Thousands of children have died of lack of blood, grandparents became blind because of refusing cornea transplants, and others died because of refusing a kidney transplant.[50] This is especially traumatic if the doctrine changes and what was once condemned becomes approved. This is shown in the following case.

According to Walker “Gary Busselman watched his wife, Delores, die of leukemia. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, the couple did not believe in blood transfusions or a bone-marrow transplant…. Today, Busselman thinks the refusal of those medical procedures was wrong and he wants to help others who might have experienced similar tragedies.” [51] He added that “she died in 1971 and in 1980 they changed their rule and members since then can get transplants.” Guilt and anger commonly result from the belief that a loved one died (Busselman had an extremely good marriage) because of following a doctrine which was later admitted as being wrong by the church.

2. Another major reason that causes disillusionment among Witnesses is they are taught that their organization alone is specifically run by God. Those inside of the Watchtower organization are the only true servants of God, and all of those outside, especially the clergy, are evil persons soon to be destroyed at a holocaust called Armageddon. Yet many are aware of the numerous cases of Witnesses who have done horrible things. A recent example is the two “skinheads” who “used to get along with their parents…and [were nice boys]” but murdered their mother, Brenda 48, their father Dennis, 54 and their brother Eric, 11.[52] The boys, Brian, 17 and his brother, David, only 16 then both plead guilty to lesser charges and received life in prison. This horrendous crime which received international attention no doubt reminded many Witnesses of the other infamous Watchtower murder cases. Another Witness, William Carlson, who murdered both his Witness parents when he was only 16, received international publicity and is only one of hundreds of similar cases.[53]

3. Prophecy failure. Many Witnesses harbor a powerful deep seated fear which they often try to repress or rationalize that the Watchtower is a false religious organization. This idea is so frightening for many Witnesses that they refuse to explore their fears–preferring to suppress rather than acknowledge and deal with them. This response is not unlike a wife who is deeply suspicious that her husband is unfaithful. Each sign of his sin causes her emotional turmoil, yet she denies her fear to her friends and even herself.

The most recent drastic doctrinal change was the former Watchtower teaching that the countdown to Armageddon commenced in 1914, and that the first world war was a major sign that Christ would very soon establish his Millennial kingdom on earth. [54] They also taught the generation that saw 1914 would see Armageddon and the New World. Then a November 1995 Watchtower, according to Woodward, announced “all millennial bets are off…the sects leaders quietly acknowledged that Jesus was right in the first place, when he said that ‘no one knows the day or the hour.'” [55] The Watchtower has been wrong on almost every single prediction it has ever made, and this is especially traumatic when persons take stock in what they sacrificed to become Jehovah’s Witness.

The date failures effect in a major way other policies. In the forties and fifties, the Watchtower even discouraged having a family–teaching that Armageddon was too close to risk having children. Even marriage was once discouraged. In 1941 the Watchtower published a book entitled Children in which they argued that the only way people can “please God” is to acquire “the right kind of knowledge.” [56] The book’s purpose was primarily to convince the reader that only the Watchtower is God’s organization, and it is only by following it religiously that everlasting life can be obtained.[57] Woven within this message was the story of John and Eunice who decided not to marry but instead to serve the Watchtower full time. They conclude that they will someday have children but not until after Armageddon when “under the Rule of the Theocracy…all the people will rejoice, and that righteous rule shall stand forever and be a monument to the supremacy and righteousness of Jehovah…[all] those who desire to live and who love righteousness will now give heed to the admonition of the Lord and flee to that kingdom.” [58] The Watchtower then informs its readers in this publication by God’s organization that

“Armageddon is surely near, and during that time the Lord will clean off the earth all that is disagreeable. Then, by His grace we shall begin our life with a greater vision, and prolonged joy…From now on we shall have our heart devotion fixed on the THEOCRACY knowing that soon we shall journey forever together on the earth…We can well defer our marriage until lasting peace comes to the earth. Now we must add nothing to our burdens, but be free and equipped to serve the Lord…Eunice, my decision is made. I shall shun politics, religion, and commerce, and I shall avoid the cities…Our present duty is plain. We must now be witnesses to the name of Jehovah.” [59]

Eunice and John would now be in their 70’s, still waiting for Armageddon which in 1941 was prophesied to occur “very soon.” Witnesses who chance upon these older publications are often both angry and hurt at being deceived and betrayed. This leads to guilt, depression, often bitterness and even open anger. Witnesses who lived during the time when these things were written are likewise often bitter because they sacrificed enormously for what turned out to be, not just a false hope, but an open lie.

Those who are not part of the Watchtower often do not understand the critical significance Watchtower failed prophecy and erroneous teachings have in the lives of Witnesses. Watchtower publications are not simply books written by humans to try and explain scripture, but they are viewed as quasi inspired, a new Bible chapter that arrives each week. Witnesses are taught that no one except the very top Watchtower leaders can discern God’s will through Bible study alone. Only by being part of God’s organization, the Watchtower (which they teach is the ark of salvation), can one be saved. As the flood came and killed all of those who were not in the ark, likewise too, Armageddon will destroy forever all of those who are not in the Watchtower ark.

The key is not being saved in the Christian sense or even being good, but being in the Watchtower organization–although they also teach that even this does not guarantee salvation. Witnesses as a whole firmly believe–at least they must verbalize they firmly believe–that the Watchtower is God’s only organization and is directed by Him. For this reason, the many changed teachings–and hundreds of examples exist–are of no small importance. False prophecy vividly tells the Witness they devoted much of their life to a false religious organization. Dealing with this reality is enormously traumatic, can take years to adjust to and can bring on psychological as well as somatic symptoms. Those who have been in the organization only a short while are often not aware of the Watchtower’s history, but nagging doubts soon become greater and greater, often precipitating a “crisis of conscience” which forces the person to eventually leave the Watchtower.

And leaving is also no easy matter. When people become Witnesses, they are slowly indoctrinated into a belief structure which requires them to give up their friends — often even their family — and adopt a new family, that of the Watchtower. After they have been Witnesses for a few years, most all have only Witness friends. For many, especially those who were born into the Watchtower, their entire family and many relatives were also all Witnesses. Leaving often results in being disfellowshipped, which means that they will be forced to cut off all meaningful association with virtually every one of their friends, and often their family, if Witnesses. Consequently, many find leaving extremely traumatic even after they are fully convinced the Watchtower is wrong. For this reason many elect to stay, trudging along to Watchtower meetings and hearing and saying things that they themselves disagree with. Eventually, the conflict may become too great, and they conclude they must resign, giving up family, friends and their whole previous life.

Common are stories of children who left the Watchtower and as a result ended all communication between parents and the children. Many ex-Witnesses have told me they have never seen their grandchildren, and have not talked with their own children in decades, all because either the parents or the children have left the Watchtower. In one case, a kind man active in his church related that after he and his wife left the Watchtower 15 years ago neither one of their children have spoken to them since. They have even never once seen pictures of their four grandchildren. Their children have an unlisted number, and mail to them from their parents is marked “unwanted, return to sender.” When they tried to visit their sons home he called the police and had them forcefully removed from the porch. Attempts to obtain a court order to see their grandchildren have so far failed. These stories are common, especially because worldwide there are probably as many ex-Witnesses as active Witnesses. Even persons who are not baptized, if they no longer choose to associate with the Watchtower and speak out against it, are labeled “undesirable association” and are often completely cut off as if they were disfellowshipped.

When Witnesses read the earlier Watchtower publications, most agree that much which was once taught is absolute foolishness. The Watchtower’s “historical archives provide a seemingly inexhaustible pool of craziness, superficially written articles, and naive acceptance of formerly in vogue ideas.”[60] Clearly, one of the Watchtower’s problems is “their incredibly superficial research, and the fact that the attitude of ‘God directs us’ tends to cause laziness–why work hard if God directs the way. God will ensure that only what is true will be published…” [61]

The Watchtower’s Control Over Witnesses

In my twenty years as a Witness, I become acquainted with only a handful of Witnesses who were employed as mental therapists, and a couple even had their Ph.D.’s in psychology. As far as I know, most of them have left–although I am aware of three Witnesses in the United States who are licensed counselors. The reports that I have received about these individuals have been less than flattering. I recently received a copy of an agreement form which a Witness psychologist requires that all of his Witness patients sign before he will work with them. I understand he has a thriving practice doing therapy with Witnesses.

The Watchtower policy of requiring Witness professionals such as lawyers, doctors, or psychologists to report information to the elders relative to Watchtower defined wrong-doing has created much controversy. It is appalling that any licensed therapist would indulge in the highly unethical practice of using this agreement which requires them to “report” to the elders behavior in their patients the Watchtower considers wrong. Given the large number of offenses that the Watchtower disfellowships for, it is probably a rare psychiatric client that has not committed some of them. Having doubts about the Watchtower being God’s organization, complaints about the brothers and sisters, or even guilt about past sexual or moral behavior, are all very common among this population. People who seek out a counselor have problems, and in endeavoring to deal with them not uncommonly involve themselves in behavior which they later regret–drinking, unkindness or immorality are only a few examples. Further, many individuals who have doubts about the Watchtower end up with emotional turmoil which they often take to a therapist for help in dealing with.

This form almost guarantees that the client will not be free and open with a counselor–but rather will be extremely guarded, fearful that what they say will be used against them later. I cannot imagine a poorer situation to do counseling. A counselor is a person with which the client should feel fully free and open to reveal his or her most hidden thoughts, secrets, dreams, fears, and sins. The whole point of therapy is to lay bare one’s soul so that the therapist can work with clients to help them build a better life. The fear and guilt that such an arrangement as this engenders would almost guarantee that this did not occur. Of course, the client could elect to reveal damning information and face the consequences–a situation which in most cases is hardly very conducive to helping the person deal with his or her problems which are the basis for whatever sin may have occurred. Even if the committee elects not to disfellowship, the fear that one could be thrown out of the congregation and be rejected by one’s counselor during this difficult time can work against helping the client. The counselor is clearly saying with this statement that “you and your needs are not as important as strictly obeying the dictates of the Watchtower.” And, “if in the elders’ opinion you violate these dictates, I as your counselor, who once endeavored to unconditionally accept you and help you with your problems, will also toss you out, and will no longer help you.”

To refer patients to the elders, virtually none of whom have formal training in psychology, therapy or human behavior, is often a drastic mistake. When the writer suggested to a male Bethelite who was going through severe depression to talk to the elders, his response was “Do you think a janitor and a brush salesman are going to help me with my emotional problems?” As has been well documented, elders tend to feel that the solution to every problem is to pray, study more, and trust in Jehovah. Besides, they feel the guilt over whatever emotional problems one is suffering from are likely due to some sin or shortcoming on the victim’s part. In my experience, the elders often do more harm than good, which is what we would expect: putting people who have not only no training, but a false view of humanity and a distorted perception of reality in charge of an emotionally disturbed person could well be lethal–as it sometimes is.

4. The Watchtower prohibitions have reached into virtually every area of life and cover minutia to the extreme. They condemn all holidays and celebrations except one they call “the memorial,” and for generations have condemned higher education, all avocations, and even career advancement. Missing one of their required five meetings per week (Watchtower activities could take between 20 and 30 hours per week if one is conscientious) and spending time with non Witnesses except to proselytize were also condemned. As a result, it is very difficult for a child raised a Witness to develop into a normal, socially aware, well adjusted adult. They are taught that all of those of the world are evil, and even though worldly people may appear to be kind, this is one of Satan’s tactics to lure people out of God’s organization.

Witnesses are often fearful to read anything critical of the Watchtower. The Watchtower teaches Witnesses must have “nothing to do with” critics, and they “will not be curious about what such people have to say.”[62] When something critical is being shown on T.V. they often turn it off, no doubt with secret longings to hear what was said. Yet they routinely put themselves in the position of encountering opposition when they go from door to door–and from this experience often develop paranoia which may explain the fact that paranoia schizophrenia is extremely high among them. A major problem among both leaders and followers is their true believerism causes them to accept conclusions based on ignorance. As a wise person once said, beware of a man who has read only one book!

Prohibited from involving themselves in normal social relations and most all school activities, they often grow up lonely children. Although deviance among them is not uncommon, it none-the-less brings guilt and ambivalence. Their stand on many topics–especially condemning sports, refusing to salute the flag or celebrate the holidays–often also brings derision from their peers which typically acerbates normal social development.[63]

5. A major reason why so many Witnesses have mental health problems is because the Watchtower has issued few effective major guidelines to help them live their lives. Their main goal is to serve the Watchtower, and consequently they feel compelled to attend five usually boring meetings each week and involve themselves in the often unrewarding door-to-door proselytizing work. Although many households are polite but not interested, some are very rude. A Witness can spend years in the field service without detecting a single person who has a genuine interest in their message. Discouraged from many normal means of self fulfillment, they slavishly devote their time and energy to serving an organization which in fact does not care about them as individuals. Given little practical and realistic advise on to how to deal with life problems, discouraged from finding rewarding employment that is enjoyable and financially adequate, many feel they are trapped in a way of life in which virtually every alternative is undesirable. Many thus plod along for years, hoping that Armageddon will come soon to rescue them from their plight. In the mean time, their depression and hopelessness colors everything they do, even though they ostensibly may appear to be “happy serving Jehovah.”

The attractions which originally pulled many people to the Watchtower often do not last much beyond baptism. Their associates who were once very supportive and tolerant of their lack of doctrinal conformity soon insist that they rigidly teach and believe all Watchtower policy. They are now considered mature and must rigidly follow every whim of the Watchtower. No longer is celebrating birthdays “up to the individual,” but now is a disfellowshipping offense. Once they are trapped, the easy going tolerance which lured them into the Watchtower is no longer manifested. They are thus successfully pressured into doing things they had first resisted, sometimes tremendously. The hope of a New World just around the corner becomes more and more in the future until many wonder if this often delayed promise will ever come. Discouragement is an often repeated theme, both in the Watchtower literature and in discussions among Witnesses. They are constantly admonished to keep their chin up and focus on serving the Watchtower only, assuming that slavishly spending as much as thirty hours or more per week in Watchtower interests will solve their every problem. When it doesn’t, guilt often sets in, causing Witnesses to feel that they are evil and will not survive Armageddon. The depression and hopelessness not uncommonly leads to suicide, homicide or both.

Why do People Stay so Long?

Many sincerely believe that the WT is God’s organization -and that He is directing it. Even if things they do are wrong, such as their past erroneous teachings they are done for a purpose. No matter what good or bad they do, it is all part of God’s purpose. Others even feel that the past tragic teachings such as condemning vaccinations, organ transplants, and blood transfusions do not matter since loss of life is now somewhat like having to go on a long vacation–a faithful person will be resurrected anyway, thus what does it matter? A common reason many stay is because they have given their life to this organization– I did not marry, and am too old to begin a career, but have a reasonably good life (the Watchtower will take care of me if I am ill, sick, cannot work or whatever) thus I may as well stay involved in the Society. Many have a “crisis of conscience” and feel that they can no longer support an organization that they no longer believe in, but stay because of family. Many believe that “who knows whether the Watchtower is true or false–it’s background and history indicates that they are as good as any other religion, so why not stick with them? Of, course, the Watchtower stresses the worst in all other churches and only the best of themselves. Some of the leaders believe that they are specially anointed of God, and that God uses them only. These have a “Christ-like” position in the earth–somewhat like the Apostles or better.

The Way Out

Fortunately, some do find the way out. Many become agnostics or atheists, hating God and all attempts to understand and reach Him. Some are fortunate though, and through intensive Bible study come to realize that the Watchtower is based on a misunderstanding of the Bible and a misreading of many select “proof texts.” These persons realize a firm faith does exist that is not based on the shifting sands of a man made organization directed by individuals who are scripturally illiterate and ill informed about historical Christianity or even modern Biblical research. These people are able to look back at their experience in the Watchtower as one that can be used to help others. Many of them become involved in the various cult ministries and use their Watchtower expertise to help others find salvation in Him who is the only way, truth and light.

And the number of these are growing daily: the ex-Jehovahs Witness for Jesus Conference held annually in Pennsylvania attracts hundreds. Ministries to ex-Jehovahs Witnesses world wide now number in the thousands, and the number of high quality tapes, books and journals produced to help persons deal with the Watchtower tragedy is growing yearly. Dr. Walter Martin, one of the early pioneers of this movement, produced excellent literature to help those who were ensnared in the Watchtower find their way out. His Jehovah of the Watchtower, originally published in 1953, is now a classic. Since then, over three hundred books have been published which thoroughly document the Watchtower’s checkered history and the tragedy that it has brought to the lives of multi-millions of people.


The extant research, although some of it is dated, clearly shows that the mental illness rate among Witnesses is many times higher than among the non-Witness population. The Witnesses see their primary task as spreading their message and are generally little concerned with whether or not the mental illness rate is higher among them than the non-Witness population. Yet if they believe that the level is low, they will try to use this (and anything else they believe is favorable) as a drawing card. Frantic activity devoted to spreading the Watchtower “Word” before God destroys “this system of things” is foremost in their minds. Most Witnesses conclude that questioning something they know a priori to be true is a waste of time and counter productive. Most feel that the mental health of members is far less important than obedience to the Watchtower.

Self-report information finds that most Witnesses who leave consistently report that involvement in the Watchtower, while usually positive at first, in time often causes much emotional turmoil which increases to the point that they develop a serious approach-avoidance conflict. The positive aspects are such that for most Witnesses leaving is not easy, and typically causes inner turmoil for months or even years. After one has adjusted to the outside world, most all ex-Witnesses do not regret leaving and many conclude that their involvement seriously adversely affected their mental health. Admittedly, this retrospective assessment is somewhat distorted by the resentment many ex-members usually feel. Nonetheless, an examination of the many available case histories reveals a clear pattern of progressive mental health deterioration caused by the teachings, practices, and the environment that the Watchtower produces.

The Watchtower often shows little concern for those under their care. They are now a huge bureaucratic organization–their USA income alone was over $1,250,000,000. They have just completed a luxury complex in Patterson, New Jersey, own million dollar chandeliers and billions in real estate. A major concern now is their teachings that one should use whatever tactics are necessary to obtain finances to run their empire–a good example is the coercion of individuals to leave their money to the Watchtower Society under the guise that this will facilitate their achieving everlasting life (I am now aware of a dozen cases in this area).





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Spiritual Abuse Survey: Is YOUR church a safe place?

Take the survey from and see!


Here is a questionnaire to determine just how healthy your church really is. To find out how well it ranks, answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions:

•Does your church tightly control the flow of information within its ranks?

•Does the head of your church, along with the other “leaders”, use public shaming as a method to gain the compliance of followers?

•Does the head of your church and his “fellow elders” appear to be intolerant or consider it evil persecution when criticized or questioned?

•Are you discouraged to associate with former members, being warned that they are “evil” or “defiling”; a “danger to your spiritual welfare”?

•Is leaving your church to join another church that “is not approved by the elders” equal to leaving God?

•Do you fear being rebuked, shunned, or ignored for expressing a different opinion?

•At church, is there a sense of control, rather than support?

•Is there a relentless obsession of reminding the sheep of “who’s in authority”?

•Are you told not to ask questions as to why others have left? Are you told to accept the statements that the “elders” give you?

•Are books, tapes and CD’s, speakers, music, etc., carefully controlled to keep only the belief structure of your church before your mind?

•Is there is a relentless campaign to keep you around the activities of your church, expecting you to be at all the stated meetings, except if providentially hindered? And if you are absent, is your spirituality and dedication sometimes questioned?

•Is the concept ever so subtly present that, “when you please the “pastor”, God is pleased and when your “pastor” is not pleased with you, God is not pleased with you?

•Is there present, the breaking of even the closest family ties, to “guard” the flock?

•Is there the constant using of guilt and shame as tools of control?

•Is there present at your church the encouragement of the members to spy and report on each other, lest sin be found in the midst?

•Is there present at your church the dominant climate of fear in the group – fear of failing to keep one of the rules, and fear of being held up to public humiliation and rejection?

•At church, are the normal lines between what is private and what is public knowledge broken, and members confess the most personal, and the most minor sins, as the conscience is being surrendered to the “leadership”?

•Are many (if not all) of the results from voting at “congregational business meetings” announced as….. “it is unanimous!”?

•Is questioning condemned as “whispering, back- biting, vicious slander, gossip, nit picking, signs of a proud rebellious spirit, being disaffected and divisive?

•Are those who dissent publicly punished? Are their reputations murdered by veiled, or not so veiled “revelations” of “sins”; past and present, as confidentiality is broken for the benefit of the leaders?

•Is there a misplaced loyalty from Jesus and God onto the leadership, which is idolatry?

•Is there harsh preaching and full of condemnation for your failures and are you deliberately being kept wounded and off balance by the haranguing and condemnation from the pulpit?

•Is “Persevere or be damned” and “listen to YOUR elders; obey YOUR elders”; “submit to YOUR elders” preached over and over again?

•Is paranoia the “very air you breathe”? Paranoia of falling from grace; thinking for yourselves; breaking the many unspoken rules as well as the clearly spelled out expectations of the leader?

•Are you becoming paranoid – carefully watching your every word and even gesture, lest someone report your faults?

•Does a code of silence reign at your church? Is no one to divulge the business of the church, or the faults of the leadership?

•Do the spiritual leaders at your church seem to give you the impression that either covertly or overtly, they have the right to tell you how you should manage your own family; presuming that they know your own family better than you know yourself?


If you answered “no” to all of the above questions, your church is relatively healthy. If you answered “yes” to a quarter or more, your church is showing signs of being unhealthy. If you answered “yes” to half or more, your church is very, very unhealthy. If you answered “yes” to three-quarters or more, your church is an authoritarian cult.




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The following website summarizes over 900 court cases and lawsuits affecting children of Jehovah’s Witness Parents, including over 400 cases where the JW Parents refused to consent to life-saving blood transfusions for their dying children:

The following website summarizes over 500 Jehovah’s Witnesses Employment related lawsuits, etc, including DOZENS of court cases in which JW Employees refused blood transfusions, and/or other cases involving Worker’s Comp, medical, health, and disability issues:



Any Employer who has Jehovah’s Witness Employees who are given access to company records which contain confidential personal information, be it that of customers, employees, or some other group/class, should read and re-read this webpage until “the light not only comes on”, but is burning brightly. This refers not merely to clerical positions in banks, insurance agencies/companies, attorneys offices, courthouses, medical offices, hospitals, tax firms, etc., but rather, also includes the “professionals” in the same/similar businesses, who are subject to professional codes of conduct.


In August 1985, a “dirty little secret” which Jehovah’s Witnesses had been able to keep quiet for decades was exposed to the rest of the world by an article published in MEDICAL ECONOMICS magazine. The article was written by an obstetrician practicing in Plano, Texas. The doctor opens:

“The young woman I’ll call Toni had been a patient of mine and a family friend for several years before she began working for me. She wanted to become a childbirth educator, and we were glad to help her learn by assisting my wife … in our office Lamaze classes. Toni turned out to be an excellent Lamaze instructor, and with our sponsorship and funding, she began her own series of classes for our patients at the local hospital.”

The doctor was well pleased with Toni’s skills as a childbirth educator, and approximately a year later, he offered Toni a position in his office as receptionist and bookkeeper. He continues:

“My wife and I were aware that Toni was a Jehovah’s Witness, and we’d considered — or so we thought — the implications this might have for her work in a medical office. We’d discussed her beliefs with her, and found no conflicts with our own. Although her religion forbade the use of blood or blood products, she could accept without reservation that I was occasionally required to do so. Her beliefs also forbade abortion, but so did ours. We didn’t foresee any problems at all. I was all the more confident because I had a number of Witnesses as patients. They’re very family oriented, and consider bearing and raising children an honorable calling. They were careful about choosing an obstetrician, and didn’t hesitate to ask questions about my practice philosophy. I’d always been able to satisfy them, and we’d gone on to enjoy good doctor-patient relationships. Finally, Toni was a genuinely kind and good person.”

The doctor found Toni to be as proficient at this new job as she had been at the former. But, then …

“Everything was fine until a patient I’ll call Linda came to the office. Linda was a young woman from a small town near ours. She, too, was a Jehovah’s Witness, and she and Toni knew each other. Linda told me a distressing story. On a recent visit to Houston, she’d gone to a bar, where she was raped by several men. She’d been treated for gonorrhea by a physician in Houston, and now was coming to me for a follow-up culture. I had no way of knowing if she was telling the truth about the rape, but that was none of my business. I simply took the culture, and when I found that the gonorrhea had cleared up, I thought no more of it.

“A few weeks later, I got a call from a very angry Linda. The elders of her church had gotten the whole story of her visit to Houston. She’d been denounced from the pulpit and expelled from membership. Her friends were forbidden to associate with her or even speak to her, and her family was allowed to speak to her only when absolutely necessary. Even her mother was forbidden to sit down with her for a chat. Linda was sure that the information could only have come fom Toni. She threatened a lawsuit unless Toni was fired. I had no assurance that she wouldn’t sue even if I did fire Toni.”

The doctor was shocked. He could not believe that Toni would have done such a thing. After all, he had discussed “confidentiality” at length with Toni before hiring her. His personnel manuel even covered “confidentiality” – specifying immediate termination for any employee who would violate a patient’s privacy. However, the doctor was in for a rude awakening:

“When I confronted Toni, I was even more stunned at her open admission that she was indeed the talebearer. She explained that in her religion every member is expected to report to the church elders any other member who violates its teachings and discipline. When she reviewed Linda’s chart for charges and insurance information and read what Linda had told me, she spent some time deciding where her primary loyalty lay. In the end, she took the story to the elders.”

Toni’s ready response shocked the doctor more than if Toni had carelessly gossiped the information to church members. Instead, Toni had carefully thought the situation over before making her decision. Toni had considered both her employment relationship and her personal friendship with both the doctor and his wife, and after considering the damage that would be done to them, Linda, and herself, Toni had decided that her only loyalty was to her Jehovah’s Witness religion. For those unfamiliar with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the doctor’s response is somewhat typical:

” … I found Linda’s story of the public denunciation almost incredible. All the Witnesses I knew seemed so kind. I couldn’t believe that their religion called for such talebearing and harsh retribution for backsliders. I telephoned a leading elder in the church, who’d been a friend [ED: sorry, merely an acquaintance] since high school. He told me it was all true. He explained that the church elders hadn’t tried to weigh the truth of Linda’s story of rape. As they saw it, she’d gone somewhere she shouldn’t have gone, done something she shouldn’t have done, and caught a disease she shouldn’t have caught. For that, she had to suffer the punishment of “disfellowship,” to be lifted only if she could satisfy the elders of her true repentance. The church had even ordered her to move out of her family home until she met the requirements for absolution.

“If I’d been angry when I called, I was furious by the time the elder finished his explanation. I asked him if he realized what his church had done to me, an innocent bystander. He said he was sorry, but, like Toni, he felt the teachings of the church had to come before all other considerations. He offered to call Linda and put pressure on her not to sue me. I told him she’d been hurt enough already, and begged him not to risk making her even more vindictive.”

When the doctor hung up, he knew that he needed to contact his attorney. His attorney counseled him that he was legally responsible for the harm Toni had caused Linda. Despite his properly training Toni on “confidentiality”, he was still ultimately responsible. At best, he could sue Toni for whatever he was forced to compensate Linda – assuming Toni had it to get. The doctor also discovered that his expensive Medical Malpractice insurance policy did not have the endorsement which would cover such a situation. Finally, the attorney recommended that the doctor fire Toni immediately. Despite what Toni had done, their long friendship made firing her extremely difficult. If only this had simply been a momentary error in judgment.

“First thing next morning, I told her what my lawyer’s advice had been, and said I had no alternative but to comply with it. I asked her, though, what she’d do if she found herself in a similar situation in the future. After a moment’s thought, she dropped her eyes and answered. ‘I suppose I’d have to do the same thing.’

“I guess that made firing her a little easier. I told her I couldn’t have anyone working for me who might violate my patients’ right to privacy. I was careful to put it just like that, and to avoid any suggestion that she was being dismissed because of her religious beliefs. I was half afraid she’d turn around and sue me for religious discrimination — and I was in enough trouble without that. But Toni accepted my decision meekly, and somehow we were able to remain friends.

“My next step was to try to cool Linda’s anger and avert the threatened lawsuit. I wanted to apologize to her anyway — I was terribly sorry that she had suffered so much because of her chance visit to my office. When I called her, I explained that I had learned as much as possible about what happened, that she was completely correct in her accusation, and that Toni was gone. I asked her to believe that I’d been completely unaware of what Toni was up to, and that I would never countenance a breach of patient confidentiality. Then I tendered my apologies and asked if there was anything else I could do to help minimize the trauma she’d been subjected to. To my overwhelming relief, she told me she relized it wasn’t my fault and wasn’t going to sue. Before we hung up, I said I’d be happy to see her again as a patient at any time, or to transfer her records to any other physician she might choose. But I never heard from her again.

“But I never heard from her again.” The sad fact is, doctor, that neither has anyone else. “Linda” most likely accepted the Jehovah’s Witnesses punishment of “disfellowshipping” and “shunning”, and when the Elders thought that she was sufficiently repentant, she was allowed to rejoin her family, friends, and the rest of the JW community. Undoubtedly, there was either a spoken or unspoken agreement that “Linda” would never speak publicly about this again, if she knew what was good for her.


As that MEDICAL ECONOMICS magazine article was slowly circulating amongst other members of the media, newspaper articles on the topic of Jehovah’s Witnesses breaching their employer’s confidentiality began to be published in the country’s larger newspapers. At some point, the American Bar Association Journal even carried an article on the topic. (Help!)

However, the most interesting reaction was from the Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves. Exactly two years later, after the issue had died down, the September 1, 1987 issue of the WATCHTOWER magazine featured an article entitled: “‘A Time to Speak’ — When?”. Interestly, the article opened:

“Mary works as a medical assistant at a hospital. One requirement she has to abide by in her work is confidentiality. She must keep documents and information pertaining to her work from going to unauthorized persons. Law codes in her state also regulate the disclosure of confidential information on patients. One day Mary faced a dilemma. In processing medical records, she came upon information indicating that a patient, a fellow Christian [that’s strictly a fellow Jehovah’s Witness for you non-JWs], had submitted to an abortion. Did she have a Scriptural responsibility to expose this information to elders in the congregation, even though it might lead to her losing her job, to her being sued, or to her employer’s having legal problems? … Was this the time for Mary to keep quiet, or was it the time to speak about what she had learned? … But when there seems to be serious wrongdoing, should a loyal Christian out of love of God and his fellow Christian reveal what he knows so that the apparent sinner can receive help and the congregation’s purity be preserved? [key JW doctrine]”

The first subheading, “Applying Bible Principles”, opens with the points that if a Jehovah’s Witness commits “serious wrongdoing”, they should not try to conceal it. Jehovah sees everything, and hidden sins will eventually be accounted for. Then, one of the most important points in the entire article is subtly made:

“At times Jehovah brings concealed wrongdoing to the attention of a member of the congregation that this might be given proper attention.”

Allow me to paraphrase that last statement for those non-JWs who missed this most important point:

Sometimes, when a fellow Jehovah’s Witness has been fornicating with Satan, and they are hiding their evil deeds so that they can keep doing more without getting caught, Jehovah will ‘test’ one of his loyal subjects by revealing the evil JW’s sin to them, so that they can then expose the evildoer to JW leaders, who in turn will disfellowship the evildoer, and thereby keep the congregation spiritually ‘pure’.

The article next quotes Leviticus 5:1: “Now in case a soul sins in that he has heard public cursing and he is a witness or he has seen it or has come to know of it, if he does not report it, then he must answer for his error.” Again, for non-JWs, allow me to paraphrase:

If Jehovah blesses you with the mission to help clean an evildoer out of the congregation, and you fail to do your part, then you have not simply sinned yourself – your sin is even greater than the sin you are helping to conceal. You are a “co-conspirator”. You are a greater sinner than even the person who’s sin you are helping to hide. You chose the evildoer over Jehovah.

The WATCHTOWER article continues:

This command from the Highest Level of authority in the universe put the responsibility upon each Israelite to report to the judges any serious wrongdoing that he observed so that the matter might be handled. While Christians are not strictly under the Mosaic Law, its principles still apply in the Christian congregation. Hence, there may be times when a Christian is obligated to bring a matter to the attention of the elders. True, it is illegal in many countries to disclose to unauthorized ones what is found in private records. But if a Christian feels, after prayerful consideration, that he is facing a situation where the law of God required him to report what he knew despite the demands of lesser authorities, then that is a responsibility he accepts before Jehovah. There are times when a Christian “must obey God as ruler rather than men.” …

While oaths or solemn promises should never be taken lightly, there may be times when promises required by men are in conflict with the requirement that we render exclusive devotion to our God. When someone commits a serious sin, he, in effect, comes under a ‘public curse’ from the One wronged, Jehovah God. … All who become part of the Christian congregation put themselves under ‘oath’ to keep the congregation clean, both by what they do personally and by the way they help others to remain clean.”

After discussing the fact that this Watchtower rule may sometimes cause great difficulties for Jehovah’s Witnesses who are lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc., as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses who are employed by doctors, hospitals, courts, lawyers, accountants, etc., this article ends with this encouragement:

“There may be occasions when a faithful servant of God is motivated by his personal convictions, based on his knowledge of God’s Word, to strain or even breach the requirements of confidentiality because of the superior demands of divine law. Courage and discretion would be needed.”


Those readers who fully grasp the seriousness of this risk management issue will be surprised when any of such breaches of confidentiality see the light of day. The incident reported in MEDICAL ECONOMICS is one of a very few. A second incident which saw the light of day comes to us from the land down under. Bear in mind that Australia, like the U.S., is a former British colony, whose laws are also grounded in English common law.

PATTON v. VICTORIAN DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES was a 2002-2004 case involving a Jehovah’s Witness named William Patton. Patton was an “Elder” in his local JW congregation. In 2002, Patton had been employed for more than 13 years with a “state” Department of Human Services, in the section engaged in the child protection function. In October 2002, while on the job, Patton received a telephone call from a “Mrs. W”. “Mrs. W” identified herself as a fellow Jehovah’s Witness. The purpose of “Mrs. W’s” telephone call was to obtain information pertaining to child custody proceedings between her son and former daughter-in-law, and their four children. “Mrs. W” made sure that Patton was aware that her former daughter-in-law had been disfellowshiped (excommunicated) from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Mrs. W” was particularly concerned that her former daughter-in-law had accused her son of sexually abusing one of his sons. Despite the fact that the topic of conversation did not involve Patton’s specific job function, the telephone call between Patton and “Mrs. W” lasted 90 minutes in length. An audit of the DHS computer system revealed that Patton accessed the family’s file during the 90 minute telephone call, and again after the call ended. Neither access was documented by Patton. The telephone conversation ended with Patton giving “Mrs. W” his home telephone number. During the later investigation, both Patton and “Mrs. W” lied about what all was discussed during that telephone conversation.

After the telephone call, “Mrs. W” inadvertently revealed some of the obtained information and its’ source to “Mrs. M”, who was the Mother of “Mrs. W’s” former daughter-in-law. This would seem to indicate that “Mrs. W”, “Mrs. M”, and the father of the children were all Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were all conspiring against the disfellowshiped former daughter-in-law. “Mrs. M” thereafter passed the info along to her daughter (“Mrs D”). “Mrs D” contacted Patton’s supervisor on the day before his annual vacation started. Evidently, “Mrs D” did a poor job communicating the breach of confidentiality to Patton’s supervisor, and Patton himself evidently lied to the supervisor, since the supervisor consented to Patton’s request to allow him to telephone “Mrs D” to resolve her complaint. The supervisor left for vacation without further discussing the matter with Patton. A few days after Patton’s call to “Mrs D”, she again complained to the supervisor’s replacement, and this time an internal investigation was initiated.

Patton was suspended during the lengthy 8 months DHS investigation, which ended with Patton being fired due to his accessing records which he had no authority to access; Patton’s failure to document said access; and Patton’s unauthorized disclosure of confidential information.

Thereafter, Patton had the gall to file a “wrongful discharge” case with the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, which proceeded to both rule in DHS’s favor, as well as confirm that Patton intentionally disclosed his employer’s confidential information to a fellow Jehovah’s Witness, in order to harm a disfellowshiped JW; plus Patton and the Jehovah’s Witness to whom he disclosed the confidential info both subsequently LIED to coverup the crime.




With regard to the charge of CHILD SEX ABUSE or CHILD MOLESTATION made against the Jehovah’s Witness in the above scenario, Employers who place Jehovah’s Witness Employees in positions which require interaction with minors or disabled adults should be aware that Jehovah’s Witnesses have as many, if not more, sexual predators in their midst as does any other social or religious group. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been called by some “the most sexually repressed group of people on this planet”. That attribution has caused some people to think that Jehovah’s Witnesses are less likely to commit sexual crimes than other members of the general population. Growing evidence seems to point to the exact opposite. Such Employers should visit the SILENTLAMBS.ORG website, which is devoted exclusively to the issue of sexual crimes committed by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The owner/operator of that website has been featured in multiple different news reports and documentaries broadcasted on nearly every major television network over the past five years. He is a former Jehovah’s Witness Elder who labels the WatchTower organization as a “pedophile’s paradise”.




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Manuscript Support for the Bible’s Reliability
by Ron Rhodes

Manuscript Evidence for the New Testament

There are more than 24,000 partial and complete manuscript copies of the New Testament.

These manuscript copies are very ancient and they are available for inspection now.

There are also some 86,000 quotations from the early church fathers and several thousand Lectionaries (church-service books containing Scripture quotations used in the early centuries of Christianity).

Bottom line: the New Testament has an overwhelming amount of evidence supporting its reliability.

The Variants in the New Testament Manuscripts Are Minimal

In the many thousands of manuscript copies we possess of the New Testament, scholars have discovered that there are some 150,000 “variants.”

This may seem like a staggering figure to the uninformed mind.

But to those who study the issue, the numbers are not so damning as it may initially appear.

Indeed, a look at the hard evidence shows that the New Testament manuscripts are amazingly accurate and trustworthy.

To begin, we must emphasize that out of these 150,000 variants, 99 percent hold virtually no significance whatsoever.

Many of these variants simply involve a missing letter in a word; some involve reversing the order of two words (such as “Christ Jesus” instead of “Jesus Christ”); some may involve the absence of one or more insignificant words.

Really, when all the facts are put on the table, only about 50 of the variants have any real significance – and even then, no doctrine of the Christian faith or any moral commandment is effected by them.

For more than ninety-nine percent of the cases the original text can be reconstructed to a practical certainty.

Even in the few cases where some perplexity remains, this does not impinge on the meaning of Scripture to the point of clouding a tenet of the faith or a mandate of life.

Thus, in the Bible as we have it (and as it is conveyed to us through faithful translations) we do have for practical purposes the very Word of God, inasmuch as the manuscripts do convey to us the complete vital truth of the originals.

By practicing the science of textual criticism – comparing all the available manuscripts with each other – we can come to an assurance regarding what the original document must have said.

Let us suppose we have five manuscript copies of an original document that no longer exists. Each of the manuscript copies are different. Our goal is to compare the manuscript copies and ascertain what the original must have said. Here are the five copies:

Manuscript #1: Jesus Christ is the Savior of the whole worl.

Manuscript #2: Christ Jesus is the Savior of the whole world.

Manuscript #3: Jesus Christ s the Savior of the whole world.

Manuscript #4: Jesus Christ is th Savior of the whle world.

Manuscript #5: Jesus Christ is the Savor of the whole wrld.

Could you, by comparing the manuscript copies, ascertain what the original document said with a high degree of certainty that you are correct? Of course you could.

This illustration may be extremely simplistic, but a great majority of the 150,000 variants are solved by the above methodology.

By comparing the various manuscripts, all of which contain very minor differences like the above, it becomes fairly clear what the original must have said.

Most of the manuscript variations concern matters of spelling, word order, tenses, and the like; no single doctrine is affected by them in any way.

We must also emphasize that the sheer volume of manuscripts we possess greatly narrows the margin of doubt regarding what the original biblical document said.

If the number of [manuscripts] increases the number of scribal errors, it increases proportionately the means of correcting such errors, so that the margin of doubt left in the process of recovering the exact original wording is not so large as might be feared; it is in truth remarkably small.

The New Testament Versus Other Ancient Books

By comparing the manuscript support for the Bible with manuscript support for other ancient documents and books, it becomes overwhelmingly clear that no other ancient piece of literature can stand up to the Bible. Manuscript support for the Bible is unparalleled!

There are more [New Testament] manuscripts copied with greater accuracy and earlier dating than for any secular classic from antiquity.

Rene Pache adds, “The historical books of antiquity have a documentation infinitely less solid.”

Dr. Benjamin Warfield concludes, “If we compare the present state of the text of the New Testament with that of no matter what other ancient work, we must…declare it marvelously exact.”
Norman Geisler makes several key observations for our consideration:

No other book is even a close second to the Bible on either the number or early dating of the copies. The average secular work from antiquity survives on only a handful of manuscripts; the New Testament boasts thousands.

The average gap between the original composition and the earliest copy is over 1,000 years for other books.

The New Testament, however, has a fragment within one generation from its original composition, whole books within about 100 years from the time of the autograph [original manuscript], most of the New Testament in less than 200 years, and the entire New Testament within 250 years from the date of its completion.

The degree of accuracy of the copies is greater for the New Testament than for other books that can be compared. Most books do not survive with enough manuscripts that make comparison possible.
From this documentary evidence, then, it is clear that the New Testament writings are superior to comparable ancient writings. “The records for the New Testament are vastly more abundant, clearly more ancient, and considerably more accurate in their text.”

Support for the New Testament from the Church Fathers

As noted at the beginning of this chapter, in addition to the many thousands of New Testament manuscripts, there are over 86,000 quotations of the New Testament in the early church fathers. There are also New Testament quotations in thousands of early church Lectionaries (worship books).

There are enough quotations from the early church fathers that even if we did not have a single copy of the Bible, scholars could still reconstruct all but 11 verses of the entire New Testament from material written within 150 to 200 years from the time of Christ.

Manuscript Evidence for the Old Testament

The Dead Sea Scrolls prove the accuracy of the transmission of the Bible.

In fact, in these scrolls discovered at Qumran in 1947, we have Old Testament manuscripts that date about a thousand years earlier (150 B.C.) than the other Old Testament manuscripts then in our possession (which dated to A.D. 900).

The significant thing is that when one compares the two sets of manuscripts, it is clear that they are essentially the same, with very few changes.

The fact that manuscripts separated by a thousand years are essentially the same indicates the incredible accuracy of the Old Testament’s manuscript transmission.

A full copy of the Book of Isaiah was discovered at Qumran.

Even though the two copies of Isaiah discovered in Qumran Cave 1 near the Dead Sea in 1947 were a thousand years earlier than the oldest dated manuscript previously known (A.D. 980), they proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text.

The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling.”
From manuscript discoveries like the Dead Sea Scrolls, Christians have undeniable evidence that today’s Old Testament Scripture, for all practical purposes, is exactly the same as it was when originally inspired by God and recorded in the Bible.

Combine this with the massive amount of manuscript evidence we have for the New Testament, and it is clear that the Christian Bible is a trustworthy and reliable book.

The Dead Sea Scrolls prove that the copyists of biblical manuscripts took great care in going about their work.

These copyists knew they were duplicating God’s Word, so they went to incredible lengths to prevent error from creeping into their work.

The scribes carefully counted every line, word, syllable, and letter to ensure accuracy.

God’s Preservation of the Bible

The Westminster Confession declares: “The Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek, being immediately inspired by God and, by His singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them.”

The Westminster Confession makes a very important point here.

The fact is, the God who had the power and sovereign control to inspire the Scriptures in the first place is surely going to continue to exercise His power and sovereign control in the preservation of Scripture.

Actually, God’s preservational work is illustrated in the text of the Bible.

By examining how Christ viewed the Old Testament, we see that He had full confidence that the Scriptures He used had been faithfully preserved through the centuries.

Because Christ raised no doubts about the adequacy of the Scripture as His contemporaries knew them, we can safely assume that the first-century text of the Old Testament was a wholly adequate representation of the divine word originally given.

Jesus regarded the extant copies of His day as so approximate to the originals in their message that He appealed to those copies as authoritative.

The respect that Jesus and His apostles held for the extant Old Testament text is, at base, an expression of the confidence in God’s providential preservation of the copies and translations as substantially identical with the inspired originals.
Hence, the Bible itself indicates that copies can faithfully reflect the original text and therefore function authoritatively.




Frequently Asked Questions About Cults, Apologetics and Christian Discernment
by Rev. Rafael Martinez, Co-Director, Spiritwatch Ministries

  • Questions We’ve Been Asked
    What Do You Mean By Christian “Apologetics?”
    What Does Christianity Need Defending Against?
    So what is “Christian orthodoxy” and “heresy”? Why is this such a big deal?
    Why do Christians label others who don’t believe as they do “heretics”?
    What is Christian “discernment”?
    But we are not to judge anyone! Jesus said “judge not”, didn’t he?
    What are cultic groups? What do they have to do with this?
    How does a cult’s control of one’s thoughts psychologically harm anyone?
    What is “countercult ministry”?
    How did countercult work begin?
    Does the Bible say anything about cults?
    Shouldn’t defending the faith be left only to “the experts”?


What Do You Mean By Christian “Apologetics?”

The term “apologetics” is drawn from a Biblical Greek word “apologia”, and doesn’t mean one’s “apology” for being a Christian! The world literally means to give a reasoned defense, a verbal speech in defense of oneself. Paul the apostle had to resort frequently to this when facing down the rebellious Corinthian Christians who challenged his authority (1 Cor. 9:3): “Mine answer (or apologia) to them that do examine me is this ..” An apologetic is a verbal defense, an explanation for one’s beliefs and practices. Therefore, Christian “apologetics” is the process of defending the claims and teachings of Christianity.

As Edward John Carnell once put it “Apologetics is that branch of Christian theology which answers the question, Is Christianity rationally defensible?” (emphasis author). Christian apologetics goes beyond simple proclamation of Biblical truths, whether in traditional preaching or systematic theology: it not only seeks to proclaim these truths but provide the answers to whoever might raise critical objections to the Christian faith. Carnell also goes on to explain the two fold purpose of apologetics: “First, to bring glory to God. Just as we would defend the words of our earthly father, so we defend the words of our Father in heaven. Secondly, to remove from critics any excuse for not repenting before God. Men who refuse Christ because of presumed ‘logical errors’ in Christianity are men with a self-righteousness in the area of knowledge. They are resting on props which must be pulled away.”

Christian apologetics, then, is a balanced and reasoned defense of the truth claims of orthodox and historically Biblical Christian faith and practices, with the aim of glorifying God and bringing those objecting to or distorting the faith to see not only their error but their need of a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

What Does Christianity Need Defending Against?

More than most Christians scarcely are aware of. There are innumerable challenges to Christianity today that too many Christians fail to recognize as such, from both philosophical and spiritual perspectives of every persuasion. From the pop philosophical front, certainly the most aggressive of these is the cultural conflict instigated by secular humanism, active in virtually every social institution around. This challenger makes the unstable value system of man “the measure of all things,” rejecting belief in divinely revealed moral absolutes as mythology. Another age-old challenge is the popular stepchild to secular humanism, that of relativism, where it is said that one belief system is no better than another, and that absolute truth is a fluid concept that isn’t necessarily universally binding. Still another one of the offspring of purely human reasoning is syncretism, which advances a “pick and choose” approach allowing one to create their own belief system, based entirely upon their own preferences to “follow their own path” (no matter how contradictory and flawed).

From the spiritual dimension, the emergence of thousands of cultic organizations with belief systems directly attacking the Christian faith has sharply risen over the past hundred years. Once found only in their Third World homelands, the allure and attraction of “world religions” such as Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism have found many disciples in the West, let alone the multiple billions they have traditionally had in the past. A full scale revival of ancient pagan spiritualities from across the globe is seen in the networking of New Age and occultic movements. And along with these phenomena there has also been a simultaneous rise of heretical and divisive movements within the Christian Church itself that have helped to contribute to the general doctrinal and practical erosion of Christian orthodoxy and the revival of heresy.

Despite their sheer diversity, however, there is one common element found among them all: they all boldly set forth truth claims which oppose the exclusive claims of the Christian Gospel. These ideologies all reject at one level or another the Christian faith by establishing rival belief systems that, from Atheism to Zorastrianism, stake their own claims to absolute truth, their own divine revelation of lost knowledge. Ultimately, these spiritual and philosophical perspectives all defy and deny the historical Jesus, the Biblical Good News, and the genuine work of the Spirit of God (2 Corinthians 11:4). These counterfeits through “good words and fair speeches” (Romans 16:18) have overthrown the Christian faith among many for centuries “through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:8). Throughout the Christian New Testament, Jesus and the apostles constantly warned that a time of great spiritual deceptive season prior to His return would come (Matthew 24:4, Acts 20:28-31, 2 Peter 2:1-3, Jude 3-4). These closing hours of the twentieth century certainly, in our opinion, seem to be the fulfillment of these sobering admonitions.

So what is “Christian orthodoxy” and “heresy”? Why is this such a big deal?

We cannot overemphasize the supreme and critical need for understanding the Difference between what is called Christian orthodoxy and that which is called heresy. Our understanding of what is spiritually and morally “right” and what is spiritually and morally “wrong” will obviously affect how we live and relate to this world – as well as the next. Christian orthodoxy (the word literally means “right teaching” or “right doctrine”) provides for us those established and historical principles that define the central truths of the Christian faith. Robert Bowman concisely defines orthodoxy as “that body of essential teachings which must be held by all those who would be accepted as Christians.” Such foundational beliefs are the basis of a consistent, balanced and Biblically authenticated spirituality that can be truly called “Christian”. Without them, it would be impossible to recognize what Christianity is and what it stands for. The Christian faith – as taught by Christ and preserved by the Spirit of God through apostolic teaching found in the Word of God – has in fact been preserved through the centuries, by the grace of God despite the diversity and regrettable division that has occurred in the Church since the time of Christ.

Heresy, on the other hand, in the clearest sense of the word when contrasted against Christian orthodoxy, is a description of a body of teaching (and the group or movement that follows it) that contradicts these Christian essentials. “‘Heresy’ came to be used to mean a separation or split resulting from a false faith (1 Cor. 11:19; Gala. 5:20),” wrote Harold O.J. Brown. It “designate(s) either a doctrine or the party holding the doctrine, a doctrine that was sufficiently intolerable to destroy the unity of the Christian church .. something that seemed to undercut the very basis of Christian existence.” A heretic is one who believes and advocates a heresy, which is a teaching “which directly opposes the essentials of the Christian faith, so that true Christians must divide themselves from those who hold it,” as Bowman himself describes it.

So the fruit of heresy is not the secondary issues that Christians have often disagreed upon. It is the establishment of doctrinal positions that deny the orthodox Christian teachings that have been preserved since the time of the apostles. It almost always creates factions within the church itself that aggressively embrace the position in an objectionable and divisive fashion. Heresy destroys and disrupts the legitimate Christian unity of the faith that orthodoxy has established. For this reason, Christians do not have an option to simply sit on the fence with a “live and let live” attitude, as the apostle Jude made it soberingly clear:
“.. When I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation (the salvation we share – NIV, a reference to the orthodox understanding of Christian teaching), it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men slipped in unawares .. ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Why do Christians label others who don’t believe as they do “heretics”?

Christians are rightly justified in identifying heretics when necessary, but sadly, throughout church history, there have been far too many instances in which they did so far too rashly, quickly, and wrongfully. Most of the time when the latter occurred it was because they completely misunderstand the Biblical definition of what heresy is as we have just seen. While doctrinal disagreement among Christians has gone on for centuries, and perhaps always will, these disagreements have, for the most part, been disputes over non-essential matters such as the mode of baptism and the form of church government. Such disagreements are not genuine examples of “heresy”, despite the regrettable instances in which the same disputing parties often called one another “heretics.” Indeed, the underlying unity of the Faith has always provided for them true fellowship as fellow believers and disciples of Jesus Christ (whether they chose to accept and act upon this has been a reproach on those naming themselves Christians), despite their spiritual diversity.
Such a wondrous unity as forged by the Word and Spirit of God does exist, even if it not as universally accepted or recognized as it should be by disputing Christians. Calvinists and Armenians are in agreement over the revelation of God’s nature in Christ by the Spirit as a Holy Trinity, Baptists and Pentecostals universally agree that Jesus physically resurrected after His death for our sins, and despite the serious differences between them, even Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants would agree that Jesus Christ – in the fulfillment of ancient prophecies – was born of a virgin, died for the sins of the world, rose again and will someday return to judge the living and the dead.

On the other hand, however, when Christians do correctly identify (as this article and web site has) certain beliefs and teachers as heretical and say as such in full view of the pluralistic age we live in, trouble usually begins. There comes a secular demand for “tolerance” at the expense of the exclusive distinctives that Christianity has always upheld and – shockingly – equally strident cries for respecting “diversity” from those within the “Church” itself. Our American value of toleration, as vital as it has been, has been too long misapplied in the defense of destructive doctrines and the dismissal of Christians committed to an orthodox and Biblically-based Christian spirituality as witch-hunting “fundies” and heresy-hunting “critics”. This perspective on “toleration” has widely and adversely affected the Western Christian church and the unchurched world and has done much to advance the cause of deceptive and antichristian spirituality and philosophy today. Despite the politically incorrect position that absolute truth does exist, Christian apologists will continue to say as such, and identify it by contrasting Christian orthodoxy to ungodly heresy. If this involves identifying by name the offending parties, it still must be done, as the first-century apostles often did themselves, to preserve truth and expose error that it might be corrected. (1 Timothy 1:3, Titus 1:10-14, 3 John 9, 2 Timothy 1:15, 2:17-18, 4:14-16).

What is Christian “discernment”?

Christian discernment is the careful process of sorting through truth claims to arrive at the clearest possible decision concerning their trustworthiness and value as it relates to Christian orthodoxy. Such discernment reveals, clarifies and proclaims truth and exposes, examines and rejects error. This involves the Christian fully, as it is a personal commitment to the command of 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 as a necessary part of Christian growth in grace (or as verse 23 points out sanctification). The word “discern” appears in Matthew 16:3 (diakrino, in the Greek – denoting “to separate thoroughly”), Hebrews 5:14 (diakrisis, again in the original Greek – meaning “an estimation; a decision”) and in Ezekiel 44:23 (yada, this time in the Old Testament Hebrew – describing “to know, comprehend; to make known”). The clear sense of the three terms is that discernment necessarily involves making value judgments between claim (a) and claim (b) as needed so as to reveal by examination which is right or wrong, or somwhere in the middle. To make such judgments involves the process of examining the claims by an objective standard, and for the orthodox Christian, such a standard exists only in the Word of God ( 2 Timothy 3:16).

Discernment is a Bible mandate that cannot be ignored by Christians claiming to walk in the light of the Faith. Hebrews 5:14 points out that spiritually mature believers will regularly and routinely “make decisions” or value judgments between the principles of good and evil. Ezekiel 44:23 shows us that spiritually mature leaders will teach others how to accurately recognize the difference between the holy and the unholy. And Malachi 3:18 clearly reveals that spiritually mature people will be actively involved in the process of discernment on a continual basis. Discernment, according to the Bible is a critical part of Christian life.

But we are not to judge anyone! Jesus said “judge not”, didn’t he?

Again, we would have to point out that this is a misinterpretation of what Jesus meant regarding judgment. The verse this is often cited from is found in Luke 6:37: “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned.” What did Jesus mean here? Was he outright forbidding anyone to practice the Biblically based kind of discernment as we have just described it?
Look at John 7:24 for the answer: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” Here, Jesus commands His followers to not make snap judgments based solely upon a shallow acceptance of what one sees “on the surface” or the image being projected by the subject being considered! This is the very mistake that virtually all those who criticize discernment as “heresy hunting” commit when demanding that we “not judge”. Indeed, this is a direct command byJesus Christ Himself phrased as a nonnegotiable imperative that would be an actual sin to disobey! What Jesus is demanding here is that we don’t do the sloppy and superficial “checking out” of questionable things that we have for too many years done; rather, he goes on to command that godly judgment be actually done in a holy and sober manner. Christian apologists strive to base their ministry on that principle and that one alone, although admittedly, that has not been the case in many instances.

In Revelation 2:2, we actually find Jesus commending the Ephesian church for trying impostors who posed as apostles and were found to be “liars.” Such an examination coudn’t take place without a) a Scriptural mandate to “test all things”, b) moral courage, and c) just plain obedience for the sake of the truth. Righteous judgment was done, and the Ephesian church was preserved from one deadly aspect of error, if not all. In this case, Jesus showed how “questioning authority” was a right thing to do. This was a church that “judged” but “judged” correctly, to the glory of God. So it is superficial judgment based upon shallow decision making that is actually forbidden by Christ, not the process of sound judgment itself!

What are cultic groups? What do they have to do with this?

Debate continues over this question, especially when the contemporary sentiment that “one man’s religion is another man’s cult” is continually circulated by many (not without some merit, but with a great deal of intentional lack of discernment). From an orthodox Christian viewpoint that many, if not all Christian apologists would agree with, a cult is a group of people who follow one man or the group’s collective wisdom, teachings and practices that, when compared with orthodox Christian doctrine always contradict it. In one way or another, cultic groups also exalt their particular belief system as the only exclusive way to fulfillment, knowledge of the divine and one’s salvation – which no one else can offer. Many cults claim that their authority is derived directly from God or Bible and are the only group anywhere who really know God or are interpreting Scripture correctly (hence the rationale for some countercult workers calling some groups “Bible based”). Yet ultimately, once examined, a questionable group’s doctrines will always deny orthodox Biblical truth in one way, shape or form.

There are deeper issues that go beyond the religious belief systems many cultic groups hold. Cultism – relationship to cults themselves is – a very much a way of life, a way of being that is far more profoundly part of what it means to be human and humanly vulnerable to those we interact with. In his book Cult Proofing Your Kids, Dr. Paul Martin, who directs a recovery center for ex-cultists, observes that the definition of a cult involves more than simply theological definition: he observes that a cult is

“a group that uses methods that deprive individuals of their ability to make a free choice. They use deceitful recruitment techniques, they deceptively and destructively use the devotees’ energies, and they capture the devotee’s minds .. to advance the goals of the group leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community. .. Cults can include groups and organizations that are not typically viewed as cults”

Michael Langone defines cults in the following terms:
“A cult is a group or movement that, to a significant degree, (a) exhibits great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing, (b) uses a thought-reform program to persuade, controland socialize members (i.e. to integrate them into the group’s unique pattern of relationships, beliefs, values, and practices), (c) systematically induces states of psychological dependency in members, (d) exploits members to advance the leadership’s goals, and (e) causes psychological harm to members, their families and the community.”

Note that these definitions of cults are focus more closely on the systematic and intentional abuse of power and authority that members must submit to, and not necessarily upon their doctrinal teaching or practice. The key issue lies in the deliberate control of members’ lives through manipulative patterns of group behavior. Most people will not immediately recognize any of the inherent dangers of heretical and false teachings of cultic groups, yet one thing that never fails to escape the notice of any observer is how radically someone recruited by a cult (even if it is not seen as such) will be affected by the group’s influence and social circles. Designed to indoctrinate members and force a relative or absolute submission to the group’s leaders, cultic circles of influence use them to literally transform people through psychologically abusive means that the propective member is completely unaware of.

We contend that the dogmatic false teachings and practices that cult groups in conjunction with this powerful social aspect of cultic influence provide a potent and destructive influence in the lives of those submitting to it. Groups providing both of these are what we would describe as cultic groups, no matter their respectability, influence and social presence.

How does a cult’s control of one’s thoughts psychologically harm anyone

As we can see, cults involve themselves with more than just a novel spirituality or philosophical speculation. They cunningly utilize observable and predictable practices that attempt to manipulate their members by control of behavior and thought. This is what is known as cultic mind control, a term used to describe the socially applied pressures placed upon members by their cult leaders to achieve their total submission and conformity to the group’s purposes. And because such blatantly authoritarian pressures have been exerted by those in positions of authority both within and without purely religious groups (such as political leaders, radical terrorists, business executives, therapists, dysfunctional families and relationships, and others), we can see that cultism and cults are far more widespread in society than we care to believe.

We must make an important qualification here: cult mind control doesn’t imply that the controlled cult member has no ability to think for themselves, but it does assert that this capacity for independent thought is largely, if not entirely, suspended through their time of indoctrination and socialization into the group. The choices to submit to the authority of the group are indeed their own, but the choices are usually based upon their ignorance of the group’s agenda of misinformation and their seriously impaired ability to objectively examine it . The process is gradual, yet relentless. Once having made the decision to relinquish their faculties of independent and critical thinking, step by step, the member will effectivly lose their ability to make their own decisions relevant to the spirituality and/or philosophy they believe is beneficial to them. Steve Hassan, a cult recovery specialist, observes helpfully that cultic mind control seeks “to undermine an individual’s integrity in making his own decisions. The esssence of mind control is that it encourages dependence and conformity, and discourages autonomy and individuality (emphasis author’s).” In many instances they are led to believe by cultic leaders that such a loss of autonomy is necessary for their personal good, and that any objective, independent thought concerning their personal lifestyle that conflicts with the group belief system is actually sinful or traitorous. When the only tool a person has to discern with – a free mind – is so completely and voluntarily hedged in under such a belief, mind control is inevitable.

The issue of cult mind control and psychological manipulation is a point of controversy among many in the countercult community. Some feel that such a coercive dynamic as cult mind control does not exist. However, we believe that many cultists have indeed been deceived by false cult authorities and then bound by mind control techniques that utilize implanted phobias, socialized conditioning and deceptive propaganda to coerce, deceive and manipulate prospective converts and the “true believer” into blindly following the authority. Independent thinking is suspended, and the control of reason and emotion is firmly conditioned by intensive interaction with this cult authority. It is our contention that the central task of the Christian countercult worker is to, by the leading of the Spirit, help the deceived to reactivate their faculties of critical thought in relation to the group or philosophy they have been deceived by – and to see that their authority they have been trusting in is both unreliable and erroneous. Cult authority must be sensitively, yet deliberately undermined. We concede that this is a controversial topic and one that is still being widely debated, yet we feel that this website and its articles will attempt to adequately address it as time permits.

A Christian response to this real issue must be intentional and forthright. The countercult worker must be committed to a continuous process of learning, of education to learn the ins and outs of countercult strategy that deals with this crucial issue of the cult mindset. While a Christian perspective certainly takes into consideration the very real influences of the demonic, the plain truth is that the cult recruitment process that lures and indoctrinates prospective members of cultic groups is a thoroughly human one involving manipulation based upon social pressures. From start to finish, the influences of group dynamics and thought control are incredibly subtle, almost indistinguishable from normal human behavior. The human tendency to seek companionship, acceptance by authority and a desire for purpose and community in life plays perfectly into the hands of cultic groups who, knowing these needs, will unhesitatingly exploit them to make converts. It is unethical, coercive and certain dishonest to say the least. But the cult recruiter generally doesn’t hesitate to round a few corners for “the truth”, and half of the problem is understanding that there is a process of mind control at work that underlies, in many instances, the false and heretical doctrine that they cult recruit has chosen to embrace, at the peril of body, mind and spirit.

What Is “Countercult Ministry”?

The explicitly Christian countercult ministry is a direct, deliberate and Spirit-led response to the call of the Lord Jesus Christ to His Body against last-days deception. Jesus, when asked in Matthew 24:4 about when to know when the end of the world and His coming would be at hand, said that, first of all, that His people must “take heed, lest no man deceive you.” Deception is a calling card of the last days, and the Bible has prophetically and imperatively warned us to be aware of this in the most explicit manner possible. Jude 3-4 calls us to action for the love of deceived souls, and 1 Peter 3:15 is a command for all Christians to be ready to answer all who question our faith. If we have received the truth of the Gospel, then we must also be ready to contend for it, as 2 Timothy 2:24-26 teaches. The alternative is damning deception that divides families, and destroys life in the name of God.

It must be repeated for emphasis that the Scriptures have made it crystal clear that the prophecies about the end of all things and Christ’s Second Coming would be foreshadowed by a tidal wave onslaught of deception. The explosive proliferation of unorthodox and aberrant religious activity in the past thirty years is , we feel, the fulfillment of this stark and sobering prophetic warning by Christ. Therein lies the critical need for a never ending vigilance against the onslaught of heresy and a never ending readiness to provide a reasoned response to its seductive advances – through upholding Christian orthodoxy and engaging in countercult work.

Countercult ministry is a militant response to this challenge of Satan. Dr. Gordon Lewis’ remarks on this are sobering and to the point as he sought to highlight the high stakes involved:

” .. we are led to specialize in delivering people from counterfeit religions. .. we seek to expose (1) deceptive teachings, (2) immoral ways of life, and (3) oppressive ministerial, missiological tactics, like heavy-handed shepherding of every detail of life in religions, cults and the occult. But these are two-edged swords that have a way of cutting against aberrant Christians as well as cultists. Our battle is not only against the religious oppressors of this dark world, but also against ‘the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Eph. 6:12) .. Among the evils we deplore in the cults are abuses of human rights, destructive violence, institutionalized violence, and the undermining of the family and the inhuman exploitation of people in the cults. We must deplore those evils even more if they occur among missionaries to the cults or aberrant Christian groups.”

“Lone Ranger” heroes will not survive long in this atmosphere, and the high turnover of countercult workers and ministry is proof of this. Only within the context of the Christian community of faith can such a ministry be conducted, and only among Christians united together can countercult workers “be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” It is nothing less than warfare in the spirit, a conflict that is invisible to all but discerning believers. It is a contention for the truth of the Gospel in the face of false prophets and teachers, to both evangelize and restore the deceived and to edify and defend the Body. We contend there are few more demanding ministries and disciplines required than for the countercult ministry. And it goes way beyond simple argumentation with cult missionaries: the countercult ministry requires an integrative approach that can easily demand of the countercult worker a dear price: the patience of the pastor, the aptitude of the teacher, the zeal of the evangelist, the discernment of the prophet, and the mission mindedness of the apostle.

How did countercult work begin?

Cultic groups have circulated throughout Western civilization and the United States for generations representing themselves as organizations claiming to speak exclusively for God and who have institutionalized the free usage of mind control, deceptive claims, unscrupulous and unethical practices, and outright religious abuse. Groups such as these have left in their wake many destroyed marriages, disrupted families, and suicidal children along with the untold amounts of societal destablization and ruin such activity would bring.

But in the United States the same First Amendment freedoms that have given cult groups the means to brazenly carry on their destructive work also guarantee that voices of dissent can also be heard – and organized. Hence the rise of the countercult movement, a movement prefigured by the isolated protests of a few brave men and women in the spiritual wilderness of the last two centuries. These were primarily Christian clergy, deistic rationalists and Jewish rabbis who recognized the seductive lure of spiritual manipulation and tried to sound an alarm, but were largely ignored. With the rise of the cultural turmoil of the 1960’s in post-Christian Western society came a tremendous amount of growth in cult group formation and activity. Concerted efforts to counter these organizations began to be manifest in the development of cult deprogramming (through the efforts of men like Ted Patrick and Patrick Ryan) and grass roots formation of support groups for the families of cult members. These hapless and bewildered families saw loved ones change into mindless individuals and disappear into cult communities for good, and could find help nowhere else.

Research by Robert J. Lifton, Leon Festinger, Eric Hoffer and others concerning thought reform, social psychology and the powerful influence of group dynamics gave great insight into the power of the cult, and the draw of the mass movement. Organizations that opposed groups such as the Unification Church, the Children of God and the ISKCON movement began to appear and actively network with one another. With the high profile mass suicide of the People’s Temple cult in Guyana in the late 1970’s, the effort gained tremendous impetus. The now defunct Cult Awareness Network became a major clearinghouse of information and support of countercult activity at that time. Today, this largely secular movement is headed up by organizations such as the American Family Foundation, ReFocus, and individual professional counselors, researchers, and university professors. The continuing influence of deceptive religious groups – aside from the well known debacles at Rajneeshpuram and the Heaven’s Gate group, among others – in the more mundane circles of life have required their presence.

About the same time that purely secular efforts to oppose cult groups began, the religious community began to mount its own response, largely if not entirely along Jewish and Christian lines. The Christian faith was being seen as directly challenged by cultic innovations, and the early Church’s ancient tactic of the apologia, or reasoned defense of the Faith, enjoyed a long overdue rediscovery by her spiritual heirs. Classical Christian apologetical training became the foundation for countercult work, and drawing on the work of pioneering Christian researchers such as J.K. Van Baalen, Walter Martin, and John Gerstner, individual Christian groups and communities started to explore the culture of deception that cult groups firmly established to reach out to them in actual mission work. These largely Evangelical and Jewish efforts proceeded from the perception that these groups were not merely “competitors” but were spiritually destructive influences that defied orthodoxy, targeted new converts and the established faithful who were ignorant of the dangers. Many of the Christian workers involved in this work also began to network and organize, some of them being actual ex members of various cult groups themselves who felt a deeper sense of personal ownership in the mission aspect. Helplines and exit counseling, as in secular efforts, became part of the arsenal used in the silent conflict. Christian ministries such as the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, CARIS, Watchman Fellowship and the Christian Research Institute came into being in the 1970’s and have been the Christian Church’s major resource on spiritual deception since then.

In the past twenty years, Evangelical publishing houses have produced many long needed resources and books on the cult problem that have helped sensitize the Church to its challenge. The Church of God (Cleveland) Lay Affairs Office-created curricula on cult outreach and the Southern Baptist Convention’s Interfaith Witness Office were perhaps the first major attempts by the Church to professionalize a response to spiritual deception, and the creation of the Evangelical Ministries To New Religions coalition (EMNR), an organization dedicated to advancing Christian mission among cultic groups, is more evidence that countercult work is being recognized for the bona fide ministry that is has always been. A growing but established presence of Christian counter cult and apologetics ministries on the World Wide Web continues to escalate. With the rise of a new pagan “spirituality” in our post-Christian society, it has become obvious that the defense of the Faith can no longer be ignored. But whether the Church as a whole will ever embrace such a Biblical mandate as it once did remains to be seen, and personally, we are concerned that present trends seem to make that possibility more and more remote.

Does the Bible say anything about cults?

While there would not appear to be much in common between the ancient Near East as described in the Bible and today’s modern world, the descriptions and activities of certain religious and philosophical factions and leaders of that day give great insight into how cultic groups operate. Some of the most revealing passages are about the apostacy of Israel (Deuteronomy 32:17, 28-29), the spiritual abuse of its people by its leaders (Ezekiel 34:1-10), the elitist pride of the Pharisees (John 9:28-34), and the nature of false teachings themselves (Colossians 2:8, 18-23, 1 Timothy 4:1-3, 2 Peter 2:9-10, 12-19). Time will not permit us to bring forth the many other Scriptural allusions we are referring to, but these glimpses of divisive deception and abuse (along with the others we have offered in these articles) are a good introduction.

From a purely Biblical perspective, 2 Corinthians 11:4 gives us the clearest and most concise description of how cults may be discerned. False teachings, the apostle Paul warned here, will introduce three major errors to the unsuspecting in the name of Christianity. First they will preach their own determination of who Jesus Christ is, denying his Biblically revealed identity as God the Son and exchanging it with another. They’ll point to “another Jesus.” Secondly, cult teachers will proclaim a “gospel message” that is ultimately is a message of works-centered salvation, in sharpest contrast to the Good News of saving grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). They’ll preach “another gospel.” Thirdly, the revealed spiritual nature of the work of the cult claims to be, but actually is not, inspired by God the Spirit. Instead, a chilling reference is made to spiritual entities who lend tremendous spiritual power to their natural human puppets to preach deceptive gospels. They’ll be empowered by “another spirit.” This is the work of demonic agents in allegiance with Satan, the opposer of God throughout history.

Shouldn’t defending the faith be left only to “the experts”?

This is a question that stems from similar lines of inquiry concerning the calling to Christian ministry that are asked by many Christians today, as in the past. This is a vital and fundamental question: how we answer it will define just how we will approach the uneasy, fragile, almost antagonistic ties that the Church seems to have with those willing to defend the faith, choosing many times to castigate them as judgmental “heresy hunters” and “critics” who tear down and criticize needlessly.

We hold that a balanced understanding of the Scriptures we’ve reviewed earlier is that the corporate Body of Christ has been specifically charged to earnestly contend for the faith, to provide an answer for every man who wants an answer concerning their questions of our faith, and to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to all mankind. That the Body has historically not done a good job of this is the understatement of the age. It is all too obvious that the Church has been, for the most part in the last two millennia, been laboring under spiritual malaise, division, or outright carnal ignorance. At one time in her past, however, we can see that this was not always the case, at least in comparison to the magnitude of apathy, ignorance and prejudice of today’s Church. Amidst the backlash, affliction and chaos that the first great persecution wrought upon the early Church in Acts 8, we find the report of Luke, the ever careful historian that he was, recording that “those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4 NIV). Despite the loss of apostolic leadership, daily worship, and house church fellowship, the believers who were dispersed throughout Israel fearlessly proclaimed the Gospel.

This presupposes a degree of spiritual maturity that the entire early Church was to emulate: if this was a reality in the early Church, then we would contend that the apostolic admonitions of Jude and Peter for the church to collectively defend the faith are to be considered as binding today for all Christians. Period. Although the Church today is nowhere near that level of maturity (really, how many churches can be said to be – to a man, woman and child – be preaching “as they go” in this backslidden age? cf. Mt. 28:19) we are still, in my opinion, not relieved of that responsibility. Therefore, we cannot consider countercult ministry as something reserved only for a few “called” to it, and the Spirit of God still awaits the Body of Christ to embrace this mandate (as well as the countless other charges to defend the widow, to feed the hungry, to receive strangers into one’s home, and generally to be real salt and light).

Thank God for those who have responded to His calling in this area of countercult and discernment ministry, and have provided such profound contributions and examples in tackling the challenge, brothers like Craig Branch, Charles Beach, John Farkas and Jerry Yamamoto, and sisters like Jobi Eaves, Angela Goedelman, Lora Burton and Joy Veinot. Still, we do not feel that it is the province only of the “enlightened” countercult worker alone in the defense of the Faith. We are all called to this sacred task. There is no Greek to parse or creedal convention to recite that can possibly refute this simple truth (for the sake of seeming “objective”), mainly because such a comforting and conscience numbing option that could be used to dismiss such a declaration is nonexistent.

While the world, the flesh and the devil continue to gnaw away at the old landmarks and the ancient foundations of the Faith, we have absolutely no excuse for ignoring its’ commands to demonstrate our Christian maturity through discernment, to try all things, and to earnestly contend for its very existence. Only our own spiritual hardness of heart and lack of spiritual passion for what is True and Right in the sight of the Father keep us paralyzed. In the sight of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the terrifying depravity of our fallen world, and the continued backslidings of an increasingly nominal and almost irrelevant “church,” such an attitude is sheer spiritual folly that only adds religious Novocain to our already dulled senses. A falling away indeed is at work here.

So, assuming we are correct, we feel justified in making this final charge directly to all of those reading this article who would call themselves Christians: what will you do with what you now know? Will you lay aside this article considering this to have been a fascinating intellectual exercise about last days perils that, however interesting, has only the most fleeting relevance to your “real life”? Do you now conclude this with an amazement that will last just long enough until the next thing catches your bored eye? Or will have you seen a universe of ministry that has barely been charted by the Church? Will you have heard the mandate by our Lord as given through apostolic admonition? And will you earnestly seek the Lord for what He would have you to do in this hidden and silent war of the ages, the conflict between truth and error?

We realize this may sound as if we are coming on too strong, as if we are perhaps being too dramatic and grave, even fanatical. Strong passions are indeed unsettling. Yet after several years of beholding on the front lines the human cost of deception, we don’t think it is possible to overstate the case to people who have never been in the arena, or even aware of the warfare that routinely claims many innocents in the lines of strange cultic fire. Generation after generation of precious men, women and children like you and me have become unwitting victims of deception-inspired breakdowns, suicides, molestations, spiritual abuse, and religious megalomania that have left them living lives of control-oriented legalism, or premature graves. All of them known and loved by God, all of them mattering so much to Him as you and I that Jesus Christ emptied himself of all Glory to become like them – and us – yet without sin, to die for all our sins.

No, we believe the gravest matter to be considered here is this: that such a horrendous tragedy as the rise of global spiritual deception and subsequent global destruction of human life could ever have risen to the crisis point that it is at today, and that much if not most of this state of affairs is due to the irresponsibility of the Church’s failure to reach its hands out to the drowning – among other things.

One former cult member who came to know Christ after years of patient personal work by a faithful Christian worker later was to overhear outside a Sunday School class the complaint of a less patient Christian about the amount of time that it takes to witness to cultists. “Why, with all of that time and effort,” they protested, “you can win several people to Christ!” The ex-cultist pulled the Christian aside afterwards and said “you are right. It is true. You could have won many others to the Lord with the time taken to witness to me. But,” he concluded with a shining face, “I’m so glad someone thought I was worth the trouble.”
RDM BIBLIOGRAPHY Heresies, Harold O.J. Brown, Baker 1984 Orthodoxy And Heresy, Robert Bowman, Baker 1992. An Introduction To Christian Apologetics, Edward John Carnell, Eerdmans, 1948. Combatting Cult Mind Control, Steven Hassan, Park Street, 1990. Recovery From Cults, edited by Michael Langone, Norton, 1993 Cult Proofing Your Kids, Paul Martin, Zondervan, Zondervan 1993. Contend For The Faith, edited by Eric Pement, EMNR, 1992






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Why talk about cults?

We are continually warned in the Bible to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. The cults fall into the category of darkness. Cults are leading people astray into lies, deceit, confusion and ultimately hell. According to our theme verse, we are not even supposed to say, “God bless you” to cult members lest we be partakers of their evil deeds. We can tell cultists about the Lord, but if they don’t want to hear and persist in their cult activities, we are to have no fellowship with them. Today’s “Christianity” says, “Just love everybody and try to impress them with your life. After all, we all believe the same ‘essentials’.” The Lord says:

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

I Corinthians 5:11

In this and other verses, the Bible says to mark those that cause division–not embrace them.


This page has multiple purposes:

  1. warn the saints, cult members and potential cult members of false doctrines
  2. equip saints to effectively witness to cult members and sympathizers
  3. equip saints to identify cult members from a few words of conversation

Satan has filled this world with “Christian” cults and wrong doctrines in order to see people cast in hell fire. He (1) deceives the simple and (2) appeals to the prideful who want a “customized” religion that fits in with their belief system. Cults also offer something, “new” which in this world is tantamount to better. But God said, “I change not”. So when someone brings me a “new thing” I am wary and really seek the Lord about it.

Witnessing to the Cultist

I’ve met people from a number of cults and all of them had been brainwashed by their religious leaders. You must be in prayer the whole time you are talking to them, because the spirits that have control over them must be quieted in order for them to hear what you are saying. The cult member has been told the same lies so many times that he believes they are true. He’s been told that his group is the only one that has the truth. He has been told that the world considers his group a cult. He has been told that disciples of Jesus had to undergo the same persecution he does. You are talking to a person that thinks they are right.

The biggest weapon you’ve got is the word of God. It punches holes in every cult argument. The Bible is the only offensive weapon listed in the whole armour of God in Ephesians 6. NOTHING can replace an intimate knowledge of the authorized King James Bible. Believe it or not, I’ve met cultists who have been specifically told NOT to read the authorized King James version of the Bible. This is personal experience. Dear reader, I’m not straining at a gnat on the AKJV issue.

One time I was making some good headway with a Jehovah’s Witness cult member. The Holy Ghost was moving heavily and I could see that some light was getting through, but our time expired and she had to go back to work because her lunch hour was up. She said she’d like to get together again. I told her that if she told any of her members that they’d tell her not to talk to me again. “Oh, I’m just going to tell my husband.” That was the last I saw of her. I just have to pray and trust that God will take whatever occurred that day and work it out to His glory–His word will not return unto Him void, but will accomplish the thing that He pleases.

Cults have a tendency to change their names, but their evil deeds remain. They’ll try to tell you that their “official publications” speak for them, not the writings of their founders and prominent leaders. If you’re not sure if an organization is a cult, do these three things:

  1. Take a look at their founder. Good don’t come out of evil. Jesus said an evil tree cannot bear good fruit and this is true for cults.
  2. Ask yourself, “Who do they say Jesus is?”
  3. Ask yourself, “How do they say we must be saved?”






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Scaling the language barrier is of utmost importance when witnessing to a Jehovah’s Witness. Witnesses will use the same words as Christians but the meaning behind the word is often radically different. Before any significant biblical dialogue can take place, a Christian must know the meaning behind the cultists’ terms. Although this list is somewhat brief, it will give you a start on some of the basic words used when dialoguing, and the definitions.


Watchtower- Jehovah, the Father.
Christianity-  Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:18-20) 


Jesus Christ-
Watchtower-  First created being by Jehovah, a god, Michael the Archangel.
Christianity-  Fully God and fully man, equal to the Father in nature, Eternal, Omnipotent Creator. (John 1:1, 5:18, 20:28)

Holy Spirit-
Watchtower- God’s active force, impersonal.

Christianity- Third member of Trinity, fully God, personal. (Acts 5:3-4, 8:29, 13:2, 1 Co. 2:10-11, Eph. 4:30)

Watchtower- False doctrine originating with Satan, stems from Babylonian and Greek Mythology.

Christianity- The essence and Nature of God, One God manifested in 3 Persons, all equal in Nature but different in position. (see above verses)

Watchtower- The common grave of mankind, no conscious existence and/or punishment.

Christianity- Eternal separation from God, conscious everlasting punishment. (Matt. 25:41,46)            

Watchtower- A state of nonexistence, soul sleep, deny an immaterial soul and/or spirit.                  

Christianity- Soul and spirit remain conscious after physical death. (Matt. 10:28, Luke 23:43, 2 Co. 5:8, Rev. 6:9)                          

Resurrection of Christ-
Watchtower- Rose as an invisible spirit being.

Christianity- Rose bodily and visibly. (John 2:19-21, Luke 24:36-39) 

Atonement (Ransom)-
Watchtower- Jesus’ death paid for Adam’s (inherited) sin only.

Christianity- Jesus’ death paid for all sins, personal and inherited. (1 Peter 2:24, Galatians 1:4, Isaiah 53:5)

Watchtower- Living forever on a restored earth, or Paradise.

Christianity- Eternal life in heaven in the presence of God. (Phil. 3:20) 

Second Coming of Christ

Watchtower- Occurred invisibly in 1914.
Christianity-  A future event that will be plainly visible. (Matt. 24:27,30 ; Rev. 1:7)





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Mormonism teaches:
– God used to be a man on another planet and Mormon members
may become gods of their own worlds.
– There are many gods.
– The Trinity is three separate Gods.
– Entrance into celestial heaven is by the consent of God and the
Mormon prophet Joseph Smith.
– God has a body of flesh and bones.
– God is married and produces spirit babies by having physical
relations with his goddess wife.
– Jesus, Satan, and all of us are spirit brothers and sisters
procreated in a pre-existent spirit life.
– God had relations with Mary to make Jesus’ body.
– You must shed your own blood for the forgiveness of some sins.
– Good works are necessary for the forgiveness of sins.10
Be careful. Rarely will they mention these ‘higher’ doctrines. Therefore, you really don’t know what they are teaching until long after you have joined. Be warned.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach:
– Their church organization is the prophet of God.11
– Jesus returned invisibly in 1914.
– Blood transfusions are sinful.
– The Holy Spirit is God’s impersonal active force.
– Only their church members will be saved.
– Jesus was an angel who became a man.
– Jesus did not rise from the dead physically.
– There is no Trinity.
– Good works are necessary for the forgiveness of sins.19

Be careful. Jehovah’s Witnesses will want to begin a home ‘Bible study’ with you. What they really want is for you to join their religion.

These groups are non-Christian cults because they deny the true biblical doctrines of Jesus and salvation. First, Mormonism says Jesus is the brother of the Devil.7 J.W.’s teach that he is an angel who became a man.16 These teachings are not biblical.

Second, both these cults erroneously say that in order to be saved you must cooperate with God by doing good works. The Bible says that salvation is a free gift from God.21 The Bible condemns the addition of our works to the finished sacrifice of Jesus.22 Galatians 2:21 says that if salvation comes by works (“if righteousness comes through the Law”), then Jesus died needlessly. Salvation comes by God’s grace through faith alone, not by our works21 which are impure.29 Simply put, they each preach a false message of salvation.

The Bible teaches: there is only one God;23 God is spirit;24 Jesus’ sacrifice cleanses from all sin;25 Jesus is the only way to God;26 all who receive Jesus as Savior will be saved;27 and Jesus is God in flesh 20 who rose from the dead in the same body He died in.28

These are some of the things the Christian church has always believed. These two cults distort them and thus lead many into eternal damnation. Why? Because…

Only the Jesus of the Bible saves, not the brother of Satan (Mormonism), not an angel made into a man (Jehovah’s Witnesses). Faith works only when you trust someone who is true.

The Mormons and J.W.’s are good people and we love them; but, they are misled.30 They do not know that the true gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for our sins and that we receive His forgiveness by faith alone (faith in the true Jesus). Satan has blinded them.30 Jesus said that if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit.31 That is why this Christian ministry is exposing these cults, so you won’t be deceived.

If you want to be assured of the forgiveness of your sins and have peace with God, then you must realize that you have sinned against God,32 and are separated from Him.33 Then, ask Jesus into your life; ask Him to forgive you of your sins, and save you. He will.27 He is Savior and Lord and He is as close as the call of your heart. Then read your Bible and go to church. At least now you know which two not to join. Eternity is a long time to be wrong.



1)Mormon Doctrine by Bruce McConkie, p. 321. 2)Ibid., p. 163. 3)Ibid., p. 319. 4)Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, P.289. 5)Doctrine and Covenants 130:22. 6)McConkie, p. 516. 7)Ibid., pp. 192;589. 8)Ibid., pp.741-742; The Seer, p. 158. 9)Doctrines of Salvation by Joseph Smith, Vol. I p. 135. 10)Articles of Faith, p. 79.


11)The Watchtower, April 1, 1972, pp.197, 200. 12)You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, 1982, p. 147. 13)Reasoning from the Scriptures, pp 70-76. 14)Holy Spirit, 1976, p. 11. 15)Ibid., Feb. 15, 1979, p. 30. 16)Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 1152; New Heavens and New Earth, p. 30. 17)You Can Live Forever…pp. 143, 144, 172. 18)Let God be True, p. 101. 19)Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. I pp. 150,152.


20)John 1:1,14, 8:58, 10:30; Col. 2:9. 21)Rom. 6:23;3:28;4:5. Eph. 2:8-9. 22)Gal. 3:1-2;5:1-4. 23)Isaiah 43:10; 44:6, 8. 24)John 4:24. 25)1 John 1:7,2:2. 26)John 14:6. 27)John 1:12; Rom. 10:9-10. 28)Luke 24:39; John 2:19-21. 29)Isaiah 64:6 30)2 Cor. 4:3-4. 31)Luke 6:39. 32)Rom. 3:23, 5:12. 33)Isaiah 59:2.

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Have you ever heard that phrase “The ONE TRUE CHURCH” before?

If You have,,, it is most likely that you heard it from a cult member or cult group. ALL cults say they are the “one true Church” (referred to as OTC hereafter). All cults have 3 things in common. 1. The all have distorted teachings about God, specifically Jesus and the Trinity. 2. They all employ a teaching and culture of legalism. And while they may give lip service to “salvation by grace”, they apply a system of salvation by works. 3. They all claim to be “The ONE TRUE CHURCH” !

This idea of the OTC among cults is expressed in many ways, some of them very ambiguously and not always clearly understood by the folks that hear the assertions. The claim to be the OTC by cults, and the many different ways that say or imply it,, is generally called Authoritarianism. Authoritarianism being defined as “Characterized by or favoring absolute obedience to authority, as against individual freedom” (1).

Lets understand how Cults practice authoritarianism by looking at the teachings of their leaders or books. We will see that indeed cults are sectarian and authoritarian in belief and practice,,, claiming that “only they have the ONE TRUE way” and that only through their group, church, or fellowship can anyone be saved. They say only they have authority and salvation is exclusive to, and dependant upon their teachings and membership in their group. They keep their members in bondage by saying that members that leave the OTC, will lose their salvation by doing so.

We will hear it in their own words and then I will share a comment from a friend, that sums up the topic of “The ONE TRUE CHURCH” very well. We’ll look at 3 or 4 of the more well known cults. Lets look at a couple of Mormon quotes first.


Joseph Smith claimed that he had seen both God the Father and Jesus Christ and asked these personages which church he should join. He claimed he was told to join none of them, “for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight” (Joseph Smith History 1:19).

“Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth” (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 14:10).

Notice that the Book of Mormon here is saying that the Christian church is “the whore of all the earth”, “the church of the devil” and “the mother of abominations”.

The Mormon scripture Doctrine and Covenants says the Mormon church, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Later day saints is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased ….” (1:30)

Clearly Mormonism’s claim has always been that it is the OTC and all others are false and of Satan. For more anti-Christian quotes from Mormon leaders all the way up to the present leadership, see this post on this blog. LINK HERE

Church of Christ

For the Church of Christ, we will refer to section of an article at @

The section is appropriately titled,,,,


Walter Scott in the preface of his book, The Gospel Restored, said: “In 1827 the True Gospel was restored. For distinction’s sake it was styled the Ancient Gospel.” In a more recent Church of Christ tract, the writer says: “She [the church] was HIDDEN for 1260 years, that she might be protected from the power of the Popes.” Is it true that some within the CC still teach that the true church was really completely hidden for some 1260 years, so hidden in fact that Alexander Campbell had to find a Baptist preacher to baptize him?

Apparently not all CC people have this understanding of the 1260 year church gap. Some only say that the true church existed during those 1260 years, although believers had to worship in secret lest they be persecuted by the apostate Catholic church. But if you do hold to the gap view, what is the meaning of Mat 28:20 (“And lo, I am with you all the days, even unto the end of the age.”)? And Ephesians 3:21 (“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.”) If the church was in apostasy for centuries, why does Jesus say, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it”?

Is it correct that sometimes the CC considers Christians who “do not walk with you,” as Ketcherside claims ( to be “hobbyists, or dishonest, or insincere, or sectarians, or unworthy of notice?” Did Jesus die for a particular party within Christendom? Do you know precisely where God would draw the line to eliminate certain people from being considered Christians? How would you define “sect?” Would you define it differently than Cecil Hook (

Hasn’t the church always been in need of reform and restoration—even from the beginning, as evidenced by Paul’ letters to his churches? If a man loses his leg, doesn’t he still have the essential nature of a man? If the church loses some correct practices, doesn’t it still have the essential nature of a church ( The concept of the restoration of the true church is a view that the CC holds in common with Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. If the church only existed in “seed” (meaning the Word) as you say during this church gap period, where in the “seed” does it prophecy that Alexander Campbell and his followers would restore the church? Or where in the “seed” does it authorize anyone to restore the church?

Is it fair to accuse other Christians groups of being started by men, when history clearly shows that the Church of Christ was started by men—Thomas and Alexander Campbell on May 4, 1811?

How does the Bible differentiate between joining a local congregation and joining the universal church of Christ (

Jehovah Witness’s

“It should be expected that the Lord would have a means of communication to his people on the earth, and he has clearly shown that the magazine called The Watchtower is used for that purpose.” (1939 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 85.)

“Make haste to identify the visible theocratic organization of God that represents his king, Jesus Christ. It is essential for life. Doing so, be complete in accepting its every aspect.” The Watchtower, October 1, 1967, p. 591.

“We cannot claim to love God, yet deny his word and channel of communication.” The Watchtower, October 1, 1967, p. 591.

Only this organization functions for Jehovah’s purpose and to his praise. To it alone God’s Sacred Word, the Bible, is not a sealed book. The Watchtower; July 1, 1973, pp. 402.

“We all need help to understand the Bible, and we cannot find the Scriptural guidance we need outside the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ organization.” (The Watchtower, Feb. 15, 1981.)

“Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible.” The Watchtower, Oct. 1, 1967. p. 587.

Just like the Mormons, the COC and all of the Christian Cults of the restoration movement started by Alexander Campbell, the JW’s also claim to be the ONE TRUE CHURCH.

Lets look at one more cult and then I will give you my friends wise summary of all of this.. This next cult is thought by some well respected Christians to not be a cult,, but it is in both doctrine and it’s authoritarianism and claim to be the OTC.

Seventh Day Adventist (SDA)

For the SDA we will refer to a section of an article by McGregor ministries @

What facts won’t they tell you?

They won’t tell you that they consider themselves to be the only, true, remnant Church. Their prophetess, Ellen G. White, whom they revere and believe without question has told them that
“…Satan has taken full possession of the Churches”. (Spiritual Gifts V.l,p.189-90)
They also believe our prayers are an “abomination” to God. (Spiritual Gifts, V1 p.190).

That is what they think of you and your church, even if they won’t say it out loud in public, or to your face.

They revere their founding prophetess, Ellen G. White, and made this statement in their “Ministry” Magazine of Oct. 1981 and have never retracted it:

“We believe the revelation and inspiration of both the Bible and Ellen White’s writings to be of equal quality. The superintendence of the Holy Spirit was just as careful and thorough in one case as in the other”.

They won’t tell you too much about Ellen G. White at their public seminars, but their goal is to bring the person attending to the point of conversion and baptism.
Their 2000 baptismal certificate poses questions to which the candidate must answer “yes”. Question 8 says,

“Do you accept the biblical teaching of spiritual gifts and believe that the gift of prophecy is one of the identifying marks of the remnant church”.

If the candidate says “yes” and is baptised, they soon learn that the “gift of prophecy” is Ellen G. White’s writings. Point 13 has them accepting that the SDA Church is the remnant church of Bible Prophecy. They have been baptized into an exclusive group, but they don’t know how exclusive it is, yet!

No doubt they will be urged to avail themselves of a “Clear Word Bible”. This publication of theirs has inserted the words and doctrines of Ellen G. White right into the Bible text, insuring that the person studying it will have the mind of Ellen G. White.

Slowly, but surely, the new SDA will come to believe these extra-biblical doctrines that set the SDA church apart from Evangelical Christianity.
Summary conclusion My friend Katherine wrote the following about “the True Church” and she did such a good job I asked her if I could include her words here in this article. Katherine says,,,

The One True Church is easy…..there will be many that are members of the One True Church….they will come from all over the World…..God knows each and everyone of them because He is the only one that knows their heart………
They come from every denomination….from every walk of life….they are rich and poor…lame and weak but very rarely strong except that because of Jesus they have become stronger and richer than they ever imagined…beyond what they could ever conceive….this is the reason they continue to want to tell others about the Love Christ has for them….so they can know also.. God wants none to perish but many will, simply because of PRIDE……

Any denomination that has rules and regulations that do not match up with the Word of GOD… not TRUTH….and just about every denomination has one rule that does not match with the Word……some have so many they have become cultist….. now if this rule is a rule that is a salvation rule or says that if you do not do so and are not saved or if you do not belong to this denom or that denom you are not saved….well they do not match up to the Word Of GOD……the Bible is Black and White… is man that blurs the Word …..If you truly love one another, understanding will fall into place….God is Love….If you Love… will know GOD…….it seems that pride is always out front……and this is sad…….

There are two types of churches……

Church…a building with a name and lots of different people attend……saved and unsaved….

Church…..the only members of the body of Christ….they come from everywhere….and some don’t even attend a church building…….real simple

Some of my other wirings that are related to this subject are,,

1, The Heresy of Restorationsim 2. CULT UNITY 3. 34,000 differing denominations or Unity Within Diversity UNITY IN ESSENTIALS

FAIR USE notice: The material from other ministries in this article was used for research and educational purposes.
Foot note (1)
Vodpod videos no longer available.

Anti-Trinitarians falsely view of the Holy Spirit as a poetic device known as personification!

The Holy Spirit is not a Personification of God’s power! 

A. Personification Definition: “A figure of speech in which a thing, quality or idea is represented as a person. To speak of a thing as having life or personality”

In reference to “59 Thunderbird Coup, “She sure is a beauty”
Cupid is personification of love.

Expressions like. “The face of the moon”

C. The Bible does use personification widely:

“Oh earth, earth, earth, write this man down childless.”

Ps 98:8 “The rivers clap their hands: Let the mountains sing together for Joy.

“I tell you if these become silent, the stones would cry out.” Lk 19:37­40

Of wisdom, “She stands and calls on the rooftops” Proverbs 9:1­6

“And I heard the altar say: “Yes, Jehovah God, the Almighty, true and righteous are your judicial decisions.” Revelation 16:7

“At this he said: “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground.” Genesis 4:10

“Look! The wages due the workers who harvested YOUR fields but which are held up by YOU, keep crying out, and the calls for help on the part of the reapers have entered into the ears of Jehovah of armies.” James 5:4

wisdom is said to have “children.” Luke 7:35

Sin and death are spoken of as kings. Rom 5:14,21

D. Similar false view of the nature of Satan. They view the devil, not as a separate personal evil being, but as the personification of sin and disease. When it says “the Devil prowls around seeking someone to devour”, (Jas 4:8) This is personification they would say.

E. Some say the Holy Spirit the personification of the Bible. They do this by constructing a chart like below and show that the two have many of the save qualities. They then conclude that since they have the same qualities, they are the sane thing and rest on this chart as proof.

Similar qualities does not mean two things are the same. Identical twins have many similar qualities but are distinct.

There are several qualities the Holy Spirit has that the word does not. Although the Bible is ascribed functionality that might imply person hood, (speak, convicts, leads, justifies, instructs etc) these terms are not exclusive to person hood but are normal applications of what a book can do.


What is never ascribed to the Bible, that is to the Holy Spirit, are emotions, intercedes, searches, the ability to choose, exercise free will, or be worshipped

. The many similarities between what the Bible is said to do and what the Holy Spirit is said to do, is because the Bible is the instrument the Holy Spirit uses to convict, convert and guide the church.The Holy Spirit revealed the Bible. He is the revealer. The Bible is the revelation.
The Bible is the “sword of the Spirit”, not the Spirit Himself, but the instrument he uses to accomplish His will. Eph 6:17
F. Notice that we can construct a similar chart to show Characteristics that the Father shares with the Holy Spirit. The difference is that none of these things can the Bible do!

PLEASE VISIT THIS LINK to see the charts they have made showing the differences between the Bible and the Holy Spirit




B. Examples we are familiar with: