The Culting Of Christianity
Miscommunication & Perception
I recently had an interaction with a Christian that reminded me how important it is to recognize a phenomena that virtually all counter-cult experts have documented. This is the simple fact that words and doctrines that seem to be universally understood in a Christian context can carry a completely different meaning to people that have been ensnared in a cultic mindset.
For example, a salesman at a Christian book publisher called me recently in an attempt to get us to order more books from his employer. This publisher, known as Hearthstone Publishing, is associated with the Rapture Cult group known as The Southwest Radio Church out of Oklahoma.
I had somewhat reluctantly ordered a respectable wholesale quantity of a single title from this group earlier this year because they put out a book critically examining the Preterist apostasy. I'll remind readers that Preterism is the doctrine that says the Tribulation already happened in 70 AD and Christ returned invisibly at that time. Although I knew the book would be from a Rapture Cult perspective, at least some of the arguments against Preterism would be valid.
My own book assaulting the false doctrine of Preterism (entitled Days Of Future Past: The Preterist Apostasy) could not possibly have covered every argument, and because Christian Media is committed to opposing Preterism, I wanted to add to our knowledge base on the subject. Unfortunately, very few have recognized the enormous threat of Preterism and, as such, there are very few titles available exposing the subject. This might surprise the reader, but I would venture to say that for every published book criticizing Preterism, there are 50 promoting it. Thus, like a fireman throwing everything he has against a rapidly spreading blaze, I am even willing to distribute a book written from the erroneous pre-tribulationist Rapture perspective in order to attack this deadly false doctrine.
How Dare You Call Me A Cultist!
Now, the paragraph before last, I used the phrase "Rapture Cult." Because there are undoubtedly many pre-tribulation rapture adherents that are reading these words, it's very likely there are some that have never heard their own belief system referred to as a "cult." Furthermore, this term is virtually guaranteed to inflame the sensibilities of those "rapturists" that have never considered any form of what appears to be mainstream Christianity to be cultic in nature.
The fact is, the Rapture Cult is just that: a previously tiny cultic group that spread their perspective so effectively that they have emerged as the dominant party in what is presently called evangelical Christianity. In the process, they quietly shed various early doctrinal arguments of extremely dubious value, revised the record concerning their original historical roots, and criminally covered up the actual source of the cultic system.
But back to the episode with the rapture book salesman. After patiently listening to his pitch, I politely and diplomatically told him the only reason we purchased the single book from his group was because we are aggressive opponents of the Preterist doctrine; however, we won't be ordering any other titles from his group because we are also firmly against the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine espoused by his employer. I did not use the inflammatory phrase Rapture Cult, nor did I seek in any way seek to provoke the man. I simply and calmly stated that Christian Media is post-tribulationist and that the Bible plainly teaches us that Christ will return and resurrect the believer "immediately after the tribulation..." (Matthew 24:29).
Sensing I only had a few seconds to make any scriptural point before the salesman reverted to his programming, I quickly mentioned how Jesus said he would resurrect the believer "on the last day" in John chapter 6. Indeed, Christ repeated the statement FOUR times in that chapter saying those that believe in Him will be raised from the dead on "the last day." (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54). I then asked the young man 'If the dead in Christ are raised at the last day, how then can that "last day" happen 7 years before the 2nd coming of Christ, and still be the last day?' (I Corinthians 15:51, I Thessalonians 4:16).
That was the "last" full sentence I was able to state, as the young salesman quickly became enraged and would not allow me to complete a single sentence after that. He immediately launched into what could only be called a very aggressive diatribe of how the land of Israel belongs to the Jews! He grew angrier and angrier, and denounced those that want to take "dominion." He never cited a single verse in scripture, and after a few minutes more of a one sided conversation, he yelled at me and abruptly hung up the phone on me! Noting that he had called me to sell our ministry some books, and having some background in sales, I shook my head and said aloud "this was not a very good sales call!"
After the intense exchange, I thought a bit about it and, once again, tried to evaluate what had just happened. I had never even mentioned Israel, nor the Jews, or even voiced an opinion as to land rights in the Middle East. The only thing I mentioned was the order of the resurrection - and yet the man's statements were completely focused on the issue of Jewish versus Palestinian claims to the historic land of Israel!
What this interaction illustrates is how easily it is to become so programmed into a particular perspective that when we encounter opposition, we fall into a pre-arranged pattern of response. The phenomena is not dissimilar to an old married couple that fights the same fight over and over. They might have a spat over something relatively recent and inconsequential, but they frequently end up falling into the behavioral abyss of rehashing something they've already clashed on repeatedly many years before.
In this case, experiential and doctrinal conditioning has programmed the young book salesman to believe that anyone that opposes the pre-tribulation rapture must be a dominionist and is therefore against the Jewish people laying claim to their historic territory. This is nonsense, but because he can't think 'outside of the box' as the popular idiom states, he immediately leaped to the fallacious conclusion of his position - that the real issue of the so-called "rapture" is the pre-eminent position of the Jews in the Middle East.
This is religious programming of the very worst kind, because it assumes an end position before any intelligent inquiry begins. Indeed, with rapturists, in most cases the subject is not even open for a scripturally centered discussion. The fact is, while we are not dispensational (the technical term for the pre-tribulationists), we are not against Jewish control of that hotly contested tiny tract of land that has become "a burdensome stone for all people...." (Zechariah 12:3).
In this person's perspective, the issue of Jewish pre-eminence is so crucial to his worldview that he simply defers any scriptural examination of the weak foundation that his conclusion is resting upon. Very few Christians realize that the reason the rapturists fight so fiercely for pre-trib is not only because they have grave difficulty envisioning actually being in the tribulation, they know that the doctrine is the lynchpin to their larger understanding of prophetic fulfillment vis a vis our so-called "Judaeo-Christian" heritage.
Thus, vast numbers of Christians blindly accept the ultimate conclusions of a theological system without a thorough examination of the full implications of the position they hold. I submit this is a classic characteristic of a cult.
Indeed, one of the reasons the rapture folks argue so strenuously concerning the so-called "ancient origin" of the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is the fact that the historical record clearly places the doctrine as emerging during the period when almost every other American cult system was developed. For instance, the Mormon religion, the cultic group known as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mary Baker Eddy's Gnostic originated Christian Science, and virtually all the other modern rivals to Biblical Christianity were formed around the same period.
Even groups such as the 7th Day Adventists and subsequent splinter groups such as Herbert W Armstrong's Worldwide Church Of God and even the pre-Pentecostal group known as Branhamites were spiritually birthed during the explosive cult creating 19th century. Although at least one Catholic intellectual anticipated the doctrine, an unbiased appraisal of the Rapture Cult conclusively demonstrates the origin of the system is rooted in an 1830 Scottish cult that was involved in various spiritualist practices - including levitation. By denying the truth of these facts in order to sustain the desired political result of the system, the proponents of the doctrine have built their house on the shifting sand of false doctrine, and given the great deceiver an enormous stronghold from which to continue his nefarious work.
While this study will continue with another installment in a future edition of Christian Media Currents, I will close with the following plea: Instead of confirming our statements by refusing to hear any more on the subject and demanding to be deleted from the email list receiving this periodical, why not prove me wrong on one simple front? Just as I asked the book salesman, I ask the reader the same fundamental question based on SCRIPTURE.
The Bible plainly teaches us that "the dead in Christ will rise" before the living believers when He comes for His church (I Corinthians 15:51). Because Jesus Christ promises the believer that it is on "the last day" that He will "raise him up" (again he makes this statement 4 times in a single chapter), how can that 'raising up' be on the last day if the "dead in Christ" rise at the so-called rapture years before the 2nd coming?
July 15, 2002 -- James Lloyd
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