We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Monday, May 23, 2016

Culture of Deception in Counterfeit Religions

On 14 May, while at the EMNR apologetics conference in Palatine, IL, we attended this workshop class with teacher Joel B. Groat, who is Director of Ministries for EMNR.  The following are taken from the powerpoint presentation.

A.  Counterfeits want to be accepted as “Christian,” yet they deny or reject the following:

> Christian view of the Bible as the Unique, Final and Infallible Word of God.
> Christian/biblical concept of God
> Christian/biblical teaching on Jesus
> Christian/biblical teaching on salvation

This is what makes them “counterfeit.”

B.  Culture of Counterfeits

> Friendly
> Family oriented
> Church focused
> Doubt intolerant
> Persecution sensitive
> Deception tolerant

C.  Unique Components of Counterfeit Religions

> Culture of Novel Exclusivism: One and only true church.

> Culture of Organizational Truth:  Group as only source of truth or correct interpretation.

> Culture of Membership:  Only members “get it.”

> Culture of Authority:  Only leaders provide truth.

> Culture of Insider Language:  You think you know what I mean.

> Culture of Deception:  Protect the group at any cost.

D.  Why a Culture of Deception?

> Tied closely to the other cultural elements

> If the religion is “the one and only true” then it occupies a special place on the religious landscape.

> If you only get all the unique benefits by being a member, then getting people to join is essential.

> If the leaders (authority) are the only reliable source of truth then they are always right and their reputations must be defended.

> If you are using insider language and familiar terms that are redefined by leaders to gain acceptance and trust you must keep outsiders from discerning the differences.

> The only way to successfully accomplish all this is through extensive deception and manipulation.

> Deception is justified because it is for the good of both the deceiver (the organization) and the deceived (members and potential converts).

E.  How Should We View Counterfeits?

>  People first, religion second

> Fellow image bearers of God

> Part of a culture of deception and therefore capable of deceit and dishonesty

> Deceived and in need of truth

> Lost and in need of compassionate boldness

F. Responding to a Culture of Deception

>  Beam before speck — make sure we are modeling honesty first

> Clarify carefully:  “So you are saying that …”

>  Question rather than accuse:  “So do you believe your church teaches …?”

>  If what you are saying is not true, would you want to know it?

> Express hurt rather than anger in response to lies and deception

> Express concern for the state of their relationship with God

> Kneel for them, don’t Nail them

>  Be prepared to create spiritual need for repentance and faith.


Alec said...

These are excellent points, Glenn.

Perhaps Pastor Groat has already done this, but it would be interesting to compare "Culture of Deception in Counterfeit Religions" with the "Culture of Deception in Counterfeit Christianity". These would be churches which claim to be Christian, accept the doctrine of the Trinity, the historic creeds, etc, yet have the characteristics identified in (B) and (C).

Such groups may be ostensibly "liberal" or "conservative". The "conservative" ones may have excellent "statements of faith" or "this we believe" pages posted on their websites. Yet they have the cult-like markers. And if you dig in far enough, the hidden doctrinal problems will eventually reveal themselves. It's much easier though to look to the items Groat has listed in C:

* Culture of being "the only church that really is serving God faithfully"
* The church that "holds to the truth"
* The church whose members "are all saved"
* The church whose leader(s) "are always theologically sound".
* The church with special meanings for common Christian terms
* The church whose wagons have circled with rifles aimed at any who deign to disagree.

My last church was like this. They look good on the surface, but once you get inside...

I think such groups are of more danger to believers than the ones obviously not Christian.

Thanks for sharing these notes.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


Actually it is all the same; counterfeit religions includes counterfeit Christianity. Examples he used in class were LDS and JWs But this all applies even to the smallest cult groups.

Alec said...

Yes, ultimately it is all the same.

Still, when I read the doctrinal statements for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), I had no clue about their denial of Justification by Faith. Probably most of the members don't know either. All they know is love for WELS.

Bill Gothard churches are similar. They look okay to many from the outside. Certainly they are closer to orthodox Christianity than churches like the LDS or JW which deny the trinity. Yet how many people have had their lives damaged by these groups.


Anonymous said...

...and the largest of denominations also Glenn!

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


Oh, I'm sure that would fit under the denial of "Christian/biblical teaching on salvation."

What about those other examples identifying counterfeits? Do members fit into any of those?

Nevertheless, when looking at parts B, C, and D, my wife and I realized they pointed to a family group which, although they are definitely Christian, they operate as a cultic unit. Only THEY have the truth, and deception must be practiced to protect the group at all costs.

There was much more to the teaching in class that I think would have permitted you to put WELS in the counterfeit column, but I couldn't put the whole 1 hr class on a blog post :)

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


I can certainly agree with you!

Alec said...

Yes, sadly I would say they do.

but I couldn't put the whole 1 hr class on a blog post :)

More's the pity!