Category: Cults

Voodoo is a name for several religious practices derived from West African Voodoo. The original West African Voodoo is a polytheistic religion called Vodon (also spelled Vodun, Voudoun, Vodou, Vaudoux, Vodoun or Voudou). This religion honors a god with a dual nature, both masculine and feminine, and spirits that rule nature as well as spirits in rocks, rivers, trees, etc. These spirits are the vodon or vudu. This form of Voodoo also includes animal sacrifices and ancestor worship.

Voodoo in Haiti and Louisiana (as well as in Haitian communities in Miami and New York City) is derived from West African Voodoo but blended with the superficial aspects of Roman Catholicism. This came about when slaves were brought to the New World and pressured to convert to Roman Catholicism. They mixed West African Voodoo with Roman Catholicism, thus forming an underground type of Voodoo found in Latin America, Cuba, Haiti, and Louisiana. In Cuba, this blend is usually called Santeria; in Brazil, it is Candomble (other terms may be used as well). In Haitian Voodoo, worship is directed to the loa, deities who serve the one god. The loa became associated with Catholic saints.

Louisiana Voodoo has a strong emphasis on belief in spirits that supervise everything. Slaves changed the African names of these spirits to the names of Catholic saints as part of the blending of West African Voodoo with Roman Catholicism. Women in Louisiana Voodoo who presided over rituals and ceremonies and used charms and magical potions became known as Voodoo Queens. The most well-known Voodoo Queen was Marie Laveau of New Orleans who also considered herself a devout Catholic. Because of this, further syncretization between Voodoo and Roman Catholicism ensued.

Because it is based primarily on oral tradition, Voodoo can vary from person to person. There is belief in one god, called Bondye, but this god is remote and is not active in daily life. Voodoo worshipers connect with the spirits through singing, ecstatic dancing in which the worshipers invite the spirits to “ride” them, and the use of snakes. Additionally, there are special diets, ceremonies, rituals, spell casting, potions, and talismans and amulets (charms) for healing and aiding followers.

Voodoo involves the worship of spirits and occult practices such as divination (fortunetelling) and sorcery. These practices are strongly condemned by God throughout the Bible, such as in Deuteronomy 18:9-13, where God forbids consulting anyone who practices “divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead” (also see Leviticus 19:26, 31, 20:6; 2 Kings 17:17; Acts 19:18-19; Revelation 21:8, 22:15).

The god of Voodoo is not the biblical God but a remote god who is not involved with humanity or nature. The worship of the Voodoo spirits is the worship of false gods, and as such is condemned throughout the Bible. Not only is Voodoo a religion that is incompatible with Christianity, but its practices and beliefs are against God’s Word. Moreover, the occult practices of Voodoo are dangerous because they open people up for the influence of demons.

By blending polytheistic spirit worship with a superficial form of Christianity, Voodoo has effectively denied the primacy of Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross and the need for redemption solely through faith in Christ. Voodoo, therefore, is incompatible with God’s Word in three ways: the true God is not worshiped, Jesus is secondary to the spirits, and occult practices prevail.

The word “Rastafarianism” often calls to mind the stereotypical images of dreadlocks (long braids or natural locks of hair), ganja (marijuana), the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, and the reggae rhythms of Bob Marley. Rastafarians have no universally acknowledged leaders, no universally agreed-upon defining principles. It is a black consciousness movement—Afro-Caribbean—and there is a split between the religion and its accompanying social consciousness, so people can appreciate what Rastas are trying to do socially while not embracing the religion.

The movement takes its name from the title “Ras Tafari.” In the Ethiopian (Amharic) language, ras means “head,” “prince,” or “field marshal,” and tafari means “to be feared.” Within the system of Rastafarianism, the term is a reference most particularly to Ras Tafari Makonnen (1892–1975), who became the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I (his Christian baptismal name) upon his coronation in 1930, when Selassie was lauded with the title “Lion of Judah, Elect of God, King of Kings.” This sent a shock wave through Afro-Caribbean culture. In the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, preachers like Joseph Hibbert started declaring that Haile Selassie was the long awaited Messiah, the second coming of Christ. Thus was born one track of Rastafari, which looked to Selassie as the living God and black messiah who would overthrow the existing order and usher in a reign of blacks.

Another track of Rasta has sprung up alongside the messianic track. This group traces its roots to Leonard Percival Howell and has definite Hindu elements. Sometime in the early- to mid-1930s, Howell produced a 14-page pamphlet, “The Promised Key,” which laid the groundwork for a second track within Rastafarianism influenced by Hinduism and Rosicrucianism. Many of the leaders in this track have also been Freemasons. The result has been a sort of Rastafarian pantheism that looks for “the Lion Spirit in each of us: the Christ spirit.”

A summary of Rastafarian theology, as evidenced in the pantheistic track: the belief that “God is man and man is God”; that salvation is earthly; that human beings are called to celebrate and protect life; that the spoken word, as a manifestation of the divine presence and power, can both create and bring destruction; that sin is both personal and corporate; and that Rasta brethren are the chosen people to manifest God’s power and promote peace in the world.

Both tracks of Rasta are in direct contrast to the revealed Word of God in the Bible. First, Haile Selassie is not the Messiah. Those who worship him as such worship a false god. There is only one King of Kings, one Lion of Judah, and that is Jesus Christ (see Revelation 5:5; 19:16), who will return in the future to set up His earthly kingdom. Preceding His coming, there will be a great tribulation, after which the whole world will see Jesus “coming in the clouds of heaven with great power and great glory” (see Matthew 24:29-31). Haile Selassie was a man and, like all men, he was born, he lived, and he died. Jesus Christ, the true Messiah, is alive and seated at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 10:12).

The pantheistic track of Rasta is equally false and based on the same lie that Satan has been telling mankind since the garden of Eden: “you will be as God” (Genesis 3:4). There is one God, not many, and although believers do possess the indwelling Holy Spirit and we do belong to God, we are not God. “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me” (Isaiah 46:9). Furthermore, salvation is not earthly, another anti-scriptural, “salvation by works” idea. No amount of earthly works or good deeds can make us acceptable to a holy and perfect God, which is why He sent His holy and perfect Son to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). Finally, Rastafarians are not the chosen people of God. Scripture is clear that the Jews are God’s chosen people and that He has not yet completed His plan for their redemption (Exodus 6:7; Leviticus 26:12; Romans 11:25-27).

The true origin of Rosicrucianism is unknown. Today there are two groups which claim to be representative of Rosicrucianism, the Rosicrucianism Fellowship in Oceanside, Calif., and the rival organization, the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC) in San Jose, Calif. The latter group is adamant about being the faithful Rosicrucianism order.

The earliest authentically Rosicrucianism writings come from the 17th century. These anonymous works set forth the travels of the alleged founder of the order, one Christian Rosenkreutz. As the story goes, Rosenkreutz learned secrets about medicine and magic while on a trip to the Near East. Upon his return to Europe, he founded a secret fraternity whose members communicated in secret-coded writings.

The Rosicrucianism Order is syncretistic, meaning that it borrows ideas and beliefs from various other religions in an attempt to unify them under a central theme—wisdom about life after death has been preserved through the ages and is revealed only to the secret brotherhood (the Rosicrucians). There are strongly occultic teachings in Rosicrucianism, including ESP, clairvoyance, and spiritism. This goes right along with the secretive nature of Rosicrucianism because these activities are the playground of Satan and his demons, and Satan always shuns the light.

Regarding the principle Christian doctrines found in the Bible, the Rosicrucians believe the following:

Jesus Christ: According to Rosicrucianism, He was born of Gentile parents, did not die on the cross, did not ascend to heaven, and retired to the monastery in Carmel to carry on secret missions with His apostles.

Salvation: Rosicrucianism denies that a person must trust Christ as the only Savior. Their system is one of self-effort, their motto being “TRY.”

The Bible: Rosicrucianism rejects the divine authorship of the Bible and does not hold Scripture in any special favor.

As is the case with all false religion, Rosicrucianism is a lie from the father of lies, Satan, and as such it has many things in common with other false systems. First, it denies the authority of Scripture. We know from 2 Timothy 3:16 that “all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Every word of the Bible is inspired by God Himself (literally God-breathed), who moved the very hands and minds of each of the writers. Second, none of the claims regarding Jesus Christ conform to the Bible. Matthew 1:1-18 and Luke 3:23-28 affirm the long Jewish, not Gentile, ancestry of Jesus. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:17 that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” Acts 1:9-11 and Matthew 24:30 confirm Christ’s ascension into heaven and His eventual return. The Jesus of the Rosicrucians is not the Jesus of the Bible.

As for the Rosicrucianism doctrine of self-effort, the Bible teaches that man is sinful from birth (Jeremiah 17:9) and incapable of doing enough good works to make him acceptable to a holy and perfectly righteous God. “For no human being will be justified in His sight by works of the law” (Romans 3:20). Man is, simply put, in desperate need of a Savior to do that for him. God has provided that Savior in His Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to pay the penalty of our sin and make us acceptable to God. He exchanged His perfect life for our sinful ones: “For He has made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Finally, the secretive nature of Rosicrucianism is in direct contrast with the true faith, Christianity, which seeks to shout the message of Jesus Christ from the roof tops, as the Bible exhorts us: “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light, and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops” (Matthew 10:27).

The Christadelphian sect was founded in 1838 by John Thomas, a London-born physician-turned-Bible teacher. Like the founders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and Christian Scientists, Thomas believed he alone had found the truth of real Christianity. One wonders how these men could “study” the Bible and come to the conclusion that God would leave humanity floundering in the darkness of error and apostasy for 1800 years, only to finally reveal Himself to one man. Nevertheless, that is what John Thomas taught.

Christadelphianism teaches the same two lies as literally every cult and false religion: it denies the deity of Jesus Christ and preaches a works-based salvation. Regarding the deity of Christ, Christadelphianism teaches that Jesus was more than a man, but less than God. According to A. Hayward, in Great News for the World, p. 41, Jesus was a created being with “strength of character to right some of the most appalling wrongs of his time.” Christadelphians teach that Jesus had a sinful nature and he, too, needed salvation from sin, that he was not pre-existent and did not come into existence until he was born in Bethlehem. The Bible declares that Jesus was sinless. He “committed no sin” (1 Peter 2:22); “in him is no sin” (1 John 3:5); He “had no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21); He was “tempted in every way… yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). That Jesus was pre-existent is also evident from such passages as John 1, where He (the Word) was “in the beginning with God” (v. 2) and that all things that were created “were created through him” (v. 3) and that “he became flesh and dwelt among us” (v. 14). Denying that Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity is another universal characteristic of cults.

The second universally taught lie is that of salvation by works. The Christadelphians believe that faith in Christ is the beginning point, but salvation is by no means completed there. While they do claim to teach “salvation by grace,” that claim is buried beneath a landslide of demands for works righteousness. Salvation to the Christadelphians is a process, is not given at the point of faith in Christ, is dependent upon “belief in the covenants,” good works and baptism. Salvation, they believe, is the gift of God, but only bestowed on those whose works merit it. The Bible clearly teaches that “all our righteousness is as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6), that works cannot save us, and that no one can keep even the smallest part of the law. “For whoever shall keep the whole Law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). But “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us…” (Galatians 3:10). The Law, works, and personal righteousness are powerless to save us. Only faith in Christ and His perfect sacrifice on the cross can save us (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:28; John 3:16). We are saved by faith alone, in Christ alone. “For He has made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). If, as the Christadelphians teach, we must merit our salvation through our own efforts, then Christ died in vain (Galatians 2:21), and the free gift described in Ephesians 2:8-9 is not free at all.

Other unbiblical beliefs of the Christadelphians include the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force; man does not have an immortal soul; Satan is not a personal being, but merely a synonym for any adversary; death is unconsciousness or annihilation; and heaven and hell are myths. Rather than restoring true Christianity, the Christadelphians deny the basic doctrines clearly outlined in the Bible and, as such, are like all false religions – a lie from the father of lies, Satan, who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Replacement theology (also known as supersessionism) essentially teaches that the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan. Adherents of replacement theology believe the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, and God does not have specific future plans for the nation of Israel. All the different views of the relationship between the church and Israel can be divided into two camps: either the church is a continuation of Israel (replacement/covenant theology), or the church is completely different and distinct from Israel (dispensationalism/premillennialism).

Replacement theology teaches that the church is the replacement for Israel and that the many promises made to Israel in the Bible are fulfilled in the Christian church, not in Israel. So, the prophecies in Scripture concerning the blessing and restoration of Israel to the Promised Land are “spiritualized” or “allegorized” into promises of God’s blessing for the church. Major problems exist with this view, such as the continuing existence of the Jewish people throughout the centuries and especially with the revival of the modern state of Israel. If Israel has been condemned by God, and there is no future for the Jewish nation, how do we explain the supernatural survival of the Jewish people over the past 2000 years despite the many attempts to destroy them? How do we explain why and how Israel reappeared as a nation in the 20th century after not existing for 1900 years?

The view that Israel and the church are different is clearly taught in the New Testament. Biblically speaking, the church is completely different and distinct from Israel, and the two are never to be confused or used interchangeably. We are taught from Scripture that the church is an entirely new creation that came into being on the day of Pentecost and will continue until it is taken to heaven at the rapture (Ephesians 1:9-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). The church has no relationship to the curses and blessings for Israel. The covenants, promises, and warnings are valid only for Israel. Israel has been temporarily set aside in God’s program during these past 2000 years of dispersion.

After the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), God will restore Israel as the primary focus of His plan. The first event at this time is the tribulation (Revelation chapters 6-19). The world will be judged for rejecting Christ, while Israel is prepared through the trials of the great tribulation for the second coming of the Messiah. Then, when Christ does return to the earth, at the end of the tribulation, Israel will be ready to receive Him. The remnant of Israel which survives the tribulation will be saved, and the Lord will establish His kingdom on this earth with Jerusalem as its capital. With Christ reigning as King, Israel will be the leading nation, and representatives from all nations will come to Jerusalem to honor and worship the King—Jesus Christ. The church will return with Christ and will reign with Him for a literal thousand years (Revelation 20:1-5).

Both the Old Testament and the New Testament support a premillennial/dispensational understanding of God’s plan for Israel. Even so, the strongest support for premillennialism is found in the clear teaching of Revelation 20:1-7, where it says six times that Christ’s kingdom will last 1000 years. After the tribulation the Lord will return and establish His kingdom with the nation of Israel, Christ will reign over the whole earth, and Israel will be the leader of the nations. The church will reign with Him for a literal thousand years. The church has not replaced Israel in God’s plan. While God may be focusing His attention primarily on the church in this dispensation of grace, God has not forgotten Israel and will one day restore Israel to His intended role as the nation He has chosen (Romans 11).

In liberal Christian teaching, which is not Christian at all, man’s reason is stressed and is treated as the final authority. Liberal theologians seek to reconcile Christianity with secular science and modern thinking. In doing so, they treat science as all-knowing and the Bible as fable-laden and false. Genesis’ early chapters are reduced to poetry or fantasy, having a message, but not to be taken literally (in spite of Jesus’ having spoken of those early chapters in literal terms). Mankind is not seen as totally depraved, and thus liberal theologians have an optimistic view of the future of mankind. The social gospel is also emphasized, while the inability of fallen man to fulfill it is denied. Whether a person is saved from his sin and its penalty in hell is no longer the issue; the main thing is how man treats his fellow man. “Love” of our fellow man becomes the defining issue. As a result of this “reasoning” by liberal theologians, the following doctrines are taught by liberal quasi-Christian theologians:

1) The Bible is not “God-breathed” and has errors. Because of this belief, man (the liberal theologians) must determine which teachings are correct and which are not. Belief that the Bible is “inspired” (in that word’s original meaning) by God is only held by simpletons. This directly contradicts 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

2) The virgin birth of Christ is a mythological false teaching. This directly contradicts Isaiah 7:14 and Luke 2.

3) Jesus did not rise again from the grave in bodily form. This contradicts the resurrection accounts in all four Gospels and the entire New Testament.

4) Jesus was a good moral teacher, but His followers and their followers have taken liberties with the history of His life (there were no “supernatural” miracles), with the Gospels having been written many years later and merely ascribed to the early disciples in order to give greater weight to their teachings. This contradicts the 2 Timothy passage and the doctrine of the supernatural preservation of the Scriptures by God.

5) Hell is not real. Man is not lost in sin and is not doomed to some future judgment without a relationship with Christ through faith. Man can help himself; no sacrificial death by Christ is necessary since a loving God would not send people to such a place as hell and since man is not born in sin. This contradicts Jesus Himself, who declared Himself to be the Way to God, through His atoning death (John 14:6).

6) Most of the human authors of the Bible are not who they are traditionally believed to be. For instance, they believe that Moses did not write the first five books of the Bible. The book of Daniel had two authors because there is no way that the detailed “prophecies” of the later chapters could have been known ahead of time; they must have been written after the fact. The same thinking is carried over to the New Testament books. These ideas contradict not only the Scriptures but historical documents which verify the existence of all the people whom the liberals deny.

7) The most important thing for man to do is to “love” his neighbor. What is the loving thing to do in any situation is not what the Bible says is good but what the liberal theologians decide is good. This denies the doctrine of total depravity, which states that man is capable to doing nothing good and loving (Jeremiah 17:9) until He has been redeemed by Christ and given a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17).

There are many pronouncements of Scripture against those who would deny the deity of Christ (2 Peter 2:1)—which liberal Christianity does. Scripture also denounces those who would preach a different gospel from what was preached by the apostles (Galatians 1:8)—which is what the liberal theologians do in denying the necessity of Christ’s atoning death and preaching a social gospel in its place. The Bible condemns those who call good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20)—which some liberal churches do by embracing homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle while the Bible repeatedly condemns its practice.

Scripture speaks against those who would cry “peace, peace” when there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14)—which liberal theologians do by saying that man can attain peace with God apart from Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and that man need not worry about a future judgment before God. The Word of God speaks of a time when men will have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5)—which is what liberal theology does in that is says that there is some inner goodness in man that does not require a rebirth by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ. And it speaks against those who would serve idols instead of the one true God (1 Chronicles 16:26)—which liberal Christianity does in that it creates a false god according to its own liking rather than worshiping God as He is described in the whole of the Bible.

Simply put, postmodernism is a philosophy that affirms no objective or absolute  truth, especially in matters of religion and spirituality. When confronted with  a truth claim regarding the reality of God and religious practice,  postmodernism’s viewpoint is exemplified in the statement “that may be true for  you, but not for me.” While such a response may be completely appropriate when  discussing favorite foods or preferences toward art, such a mindset is dangerous  when it is applied to reality because it confuses matters of opinion with  matters of truth.

The term “postmodernism” literally means “after  modernism” and is used to philosophically describe the current era which came  after the age of modernism. Postmodernism is a reaction (or perhaps more  appropriately, a disillusioned response) to modernism’s failed promise of using  human reason alone to better mankind and make the world a better place. Because  one of modernism’s beliefs was that absolutes did indeed exist, postmodernism  seeks to “correct” things by first eliminating absolute truth and making  everything (including the empirical sciences and religion) relative to an  individual’s beliefs and desires.

The dangers of postmodernism can be  viewed as a downward spiral that begins with the rejection of absolute truth,  which then leads to a loss of distinctions in matters of religion and faith, and  culminates in a philosophy of religious pluralism that says no faith or religion  is objectively true and therefore no one can claim his or her religion is true  and another is false.

Dangers of Postmodernism – #1 – Relative  Truth

Postmodernism’s stance of relative truth is the  outworking of many generations of philosophical thought. From Augustine to the  Reformation, the intellectual aspects of Western civilization and the concept of  truth were dominated by theologians. But, beginning with the Renaissance the  14th – 17th centuries, thinkers began to elevate humankind to the center of  reality. If one were to look at periods of history like a family tree, the  Renaissance would be modernism’s grandmother and the Enlightenment would be its  mother. Renee Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” personified the beginning of  this era. God was not the center of truth any longer – man was.

The  Enlightenment was, in a way, the complete imposition of the scientific model of  rationality upon all aspects of truth. It claimed that only scientific data  could be objectively understood, defined, and defended. Truth as it pertained to  religion was discarded. The philosopher who contributed to the idea of relative  truth was the Prussian Immanuel Kant and his work The Critique of Pure  Reason, which appeared in 1781. Kant argued that true knowledge about God  was impossible, so he created a divide of knowledge between “facts” and “faith.”  According to Kant, “Facts have nothing to do with religion.” The result was that  spiritual matters were assigned to the realm of opinion, and only the empirical  sciences were allowed to speak of truth. While modernism believed in absolutes  in science, God’s special revelation (the Bible) was evicted from the realm of  truth and certainty.

From modernism came postmodernism and the ideas of  Frederick Nietzsche. As the patron saint of postmodernist philosophy, Nietzsche  held to “perspectivism,” which says that all knowledge (including science) is a  matter of perspective and interpretation. Many other philosophers have built  upon Nietzsche’s work (for example, Foucault, Rorty, and Lyotard) and have  shared his rejection of God and religion in general. They also rejected any hint  of absolute truth, or as Lyotard put it, a rejection of a metanarrative (a truth  that transcends all peoples and cultures).

This philosophical war  against objective truth has resulted in postmodernism being completely averse to  any claim to absolutes. Such a mindset naturally rejects anything that declares  to be inerrant truth, such as the Bible.

Dangers of  Postmodernism – #2 – Loss of Discernment

The great theologian  Thomas Aquinas said, “It is the task of the philosopher to make distinctions.”  What Aquinas meant is that truth is dependent upon the ability to discern – the  capability to distinguish “this” from “that” in the realm of knowledge. However,  if objective and absolute truth does not exist, then everything becomes a matter  of personal interpretation. To the postmodern thinker, the author of a book does  not possess the correct interpretation of his work; it is the reader who  actually determines what the book means – a process called deconstruction. And  given that there are multiple readers (vs. one author), there are naturally  multiple valid interpretations.

Such a chaotic situation makes it  impossible to make meaningful or lasting distinctions between interpretations  because there is no standard that can be used. This especially applies to  matters of faith and religion. Attempting to make proper and meaningful  distinctions in the area of religion is no more meaningful than arguing that  chocolate tastes better than vanilla. Postmodernism says that it is impossible  to objectively adjudicate between competing truth claims.

Dangers of Postmodernism – #3 – Pluralism

If  absolute truth does not exist, and if there is no way to make meaningful,  right/wrong distinctions between different faiths and religions, then the  natural conclusion is that all beliefs must be considered equally valid. The  proper term for this practical outworking in postmodernism is “philosophical  pluralism.” With pluralism, no religion has the right to pronounce itself true  and the other competing faiths false, or even inferior. For those who espouse  philosophical religious pluralism, there is no longer any heresy, except perhaps  the view that there are heresies. D. A. Carson underscores conservative  evangelicalism’s concerns about what it sees as the danger of pluralism: “In my  most somber moods I sometimes wonder if the ugly face of what I refer to as  philosophical pluralism is the most dangerous threat to the gospel since the  rise of the Gnostic heresy in the second century.”

These progressive  dangers of postmodernism – relative truth, a loss of discernment, and  philosophical pluralism – represent imposing threats to Christianity because  they collectively dismiss God’s Word as something that has no real authority  over mankind and no ability to show itself as true in a world of competing  religions. What is Christianity’s response to these challenges?

Response to the Dangers of Postmodernism

Christianity claims to be absolutely true, that meaningful distinctions in  matters of right/wrong (as well as spiritual truth and falsehood) exist, and  that to be correct in its claims about God any contrary claims from competing  religions must be incorrect. Such a stance provokes cries of “arrogance” and  “intolerance” from postmodernism. However, truth is not a matter of attitude or  preference, and when closely examined, the foundations of postmodernism quickly  crumble, revealing Christianity’s claims to be both plausible and  compelling.

First, Christianity claims that absolute truth exists. In  fact, Jesus specifically says that He was sent to do one thing: “To testify to  the truth” (John 18:37).  Postmodernism says that no truth should be affirmed, yet its position is  self-defeating – it affirms at least one absolute truth: that no truth should be  affirmed. This means that postmodernism does believe in absolute truth. Its  philosophers write books stating things they expect their readers to embrace as  truth. Putting it simply, one professor has said, “When someone says there is no  such thing as truth, they are asking you not to believe them. So don’t.”

Second, Christianity claims that meaningful distinctions exist between  the Christian faith and all other beliefs. It should be understood that those  who claim meaningful distinctions do not exist are actually making a  distinction. They are attempting to showcase a difference in what they believe  to be true and the Christian’s truth claims. Postmodernist authors expect their  readers to come to the right conclusions about what they have written and will  correct those who interpret their work differently from they have intended.  Again, their position and philosophy proves itself to be self-defeating because  they eagerly make distinctions between what they believe to be correct and what  they see as being false.

Finally, Christianity claims to be universally  true in what it says regarding man’s lost condition before God, the sacrifice of  Christ on behalf of fallen mankind, and the separation between God and anyone  who chooses not to accept what God says about sin and the need for repentance.  When Paul addressed the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers on Mars Hill, he said,  “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men  that all people everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30).  Paul’s declaration was not “this is true for me, but may not be true for you”;  rather; it was an exclusive and universal command (that is, a metanarrative)  from God to everyone. Any postmodernist who says Paul is wrong is committing an  error against his own pluralistic philosophy, which says no faith or religion is  incorrect. Once again, the postmodernist violates his own view that every  religion is equally true.

Just as it is not arrogant for a math teacher  to insist that 2+2=4 or for a locksmith to insist that only one key will fit a  locked door, it is not arrogant for the Christian to stand against postmodernist  thinking and insist that Christianity is true and anything opposed to it is  false. Absolute truth does exist, and consequences do exist for being wrong.  While pluralism may be desirable in matters of food preferences, it is not  helpful in matters of truth. The Christian should present God’s truth in love  and simply ask any postmodernist who is angered by the exclusive claims of  Christianity, “So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16).

Post-modern Christianity is just as difficult to lock down in a concise  definition as post-modernism itself. What started in the 1950s in architecture  as a reaction to modernist thought and style was soon adopted by the art and  literary world in the 1970s and 1980s. The Church didn’t really feel this effect  until the 1990s. This reaction was a dissolution of “cold, hard fact” in favor  of “warm, fuzzy subjectivity.” Think of anything considered post-modern, then  stick Christianity into that context and you have a glimpse of what post-modern  Christianity is.

Post-modern Christianity falls into line with basic  post-modernist thinking. It is about experience over reason, subjectivity over  objectivity, spirituality over religion, images over words, outward over inward.  Are these things good? Sure. Are these things bad? Sure. It all depends on how  far from biblical truth each reaction against modernity takes one’s faith. This,  of course, is up to each believer. However, when groups form under such  thinking, theology and doctrine tend to lean more towards liberalism.

For example, because experience is valued more highly than reason, truth  becomes relative. This opens up all kinds of problems, as this lessens the  standard that the Bible contains absolute truth, and even disqualifies biblical  truth as being absolute in many cases. If the Bible is not our source for  absolute truth, and personal experience is allowed to define and interpret what  truth actually is, a saving faith in Jesus Christ is rendered  meaningless.

There will always be “paradigm shifts” in thinking as long  as mankind inhabits this present earth, because mankind constantly seeks to  better itself in knowledge and stature. Challenges to our way of thinking are  good, as they cause us to grow, to learn, and to understand. This is the  principle of Romans 12:2 at work, of our minds being transformed. Yet, we need to be ever mindful of Acts 17:11 and be like the  Bereans, weighing every new teaching, every new thought, against Scripture. We  don’t let our experiences interpret Scripture for us, but as we change and  conform ourselves to Christ, we interpret our experiences according to  Scripture. Unfortunately, this is not what is happening in circles espousing  post-modern Christianity.

The word heathen is an older translation of the Hebrew word goyim in the Old Testament. The word goyim literally meant “nations” and could refer broadly to all the nations of the world. In other contexts, the word was used to distinguish other nations from Israel, the people of God (Joshua 23:7; 1 Kings 11:2). In such cases, the “heathen” were non-Jewish idolaters who did not know the one true God.

In the New Testament, the corresponding word is ethne, the source of our English word ethnic. It is the word used in Matthew 28:19 when Jesus commands His followers to make disciples of all “nations.” He taught that each people group needs to hear the gospel and accept it to receive eternal life.

The word heathen is found more than 140 times in the King James Version of the Bible. Through the years, heathen has lost its original biblical meaning of “not Jewish.” Today, heathen means “pagan” or “unbeliever,” or it is used to describe sinful or irreligious activity in general. Many times, people use the word heathen today to refer to the culture of a people, without regard to religion; the word has taken on the connotation of “barbaric” or “uncivilized.” Nations with regressive technology or a lack of economic development, for example, might be considered part of “heathendom.” We are glad to say that modern translations of the Bible use the more accurate rendering “nations” to refer to people groups.

Certainly, God has created all people and loves each person perfectly. In fact, Jesus came to provide the opportunity for salvation for every person of every nation. We are not to view those of other people groups critically or negatively, but with a desire to share the love of Christ with them. In addition, a person can live in a non-Christian culture yet deeply love Jesus. Many people have come to faith in Jesus in cultures that some would call “heathen.”

Our goal is to share Christ’s love with all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20) and to show respect to all, even if they oppose our message. God is in the process of redeeming people from all over the world. John had a glimpse of the multicultural crowd that will be in heaven one day: “There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:9-10).

From a Christian viewpoint, pagans are generally characterized as those who are caught up in any religious ceremony, act, or practice that is not distinctly Christian. Correspondingly, Jews and Muslims also use the term “pagans” to describe those outside their religion. Others define the term “paganism” as any religion outside of Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Christianity; whereas some argue that it is anyone with no religion at all.

Paganism comes from the Latin word paganus, which means “country dweller” and can refer to polytheism or the worship of more than one god, such as in ancient Rome. A pagan is also considered to be one who, for the most part, has no religion and indulges in worldly delights and material possessions; someone who reveres in sensual pleasures; a hedonistic or self-indulgent individual. Another more modern term is “neo-paganism” which refers to some of the contemporary forms of paganism such as Wicca, Druidry, and Gwyddons.

These modern “pagan” practices are actually similar to their ancient counterparts in that they rely heavily on hedonism—sensual gratification and self-indulgence and the pursuit of happiness and pleasure to the exclusion of everything else. In ancient times, sexual ceremonies were a major part of pagan religions. The Old Testament references these perverted religions in such passages as Deuteronomy 23:17, Amos 2:7-8, and Isaiah 57:7-8.

Though they are numerous and varied in their practices and beliefs, pagans do hold to some similar beliefs. For example:

• The physical world is a good place, one to be taken pleasure in by everyone.
• Everyone is considered to be part of this Mother Earth.
• Divinity reveals itself in every facet of the world.
• Every being, man and animal, is a derivative of the Divine. As such all are gods and goddess.
• Most pagan religions do not have gurus or messiahs.
• Doctrine is superseded by one’s own responsibility.
• Solar and lunar cycles are significant in pagan worship.

Any form of paganism is false doctrine. Paul addressed this perversion of the truth in his letter to the believers in Rome (Romans 1:22-27). These people were worldly and materialistic, worshipping created things rather than the Creator. They worshipped trees, animals, and rocks, going so far as to abuse their bodies in deviant sexual practices to revel in their passions. Paul then goes on to tell us why they did this and the end result:

“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28).

In spite of common assumptions, most pagan worshippers claim they don’t believe in Satan. However, there’s no question that Satan is their chief source of influence and control. Though they will deny it, they deify him in their worldly and sensual practices. Paul tells us plainly how Satan works in the lives of people without God, through his power, his signs, his deceit, his lies:

“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).

That Satan is alive and well is powerfully evidenced in these pagan practices. This was not only clear in the times of the 1st century church, but also in today’s post-modern world. To the faithful believers who know the Lord, pagan worship is what it appears to be—the power and deceit of the prince of this world, Satan (1 John 5:19) who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). As such, it should be avoided.