Apologetics, Questions, Issues
Tools for Warfare: Understanding Cults and Religions
by Ed Vasicek
Before I became a Christian, I was not naturally curious. I read what I had to read for school. But when it came to reading based on my choice, I stuck to murder mysteries. I could think when I had to but only did so IF I saw a self-serving reason. I would not exert those little gray cells needlessly, which is one reason I will never develop a love for chess, for example. Since thinking sometimes did offer positive consequences, I engaged in it when motivated. For example, I earned good grades in school but had little interest in current events. I was an unambitious, unmotivated young man. Before I came to know Jesus, I preferred to keep my head in the sand where the stress level was low and where I did not have to take on any else's problems. I did have compassion on those I came across, but I did not look for opportunities to serve.
When I became a born-again Christian, my life changed dramatically in many ways. One effect of my conversion was a motivation to activate my whole being, including my mind. Things I had no interest in before—the Bible, doctrine, missions, evangelism, scientific creationism, apologetics, ethics, world views, serving others, decision making, prayer, and a whole lot more—now mattered very much. I was not necessarily drawn to these things, but I wanted to be useful to the Lord and I realized that these were the tools to the trade of being an effective Christian. Believe me, it wasn't my nature to pour myself into these areas. Unlike people bent upon intellectual or spiritual pursuits who find pleasure pursuing these things, I began to pursue them out of pure conviction. I needed a reason to think, a purpose to energize myself (or, more accurately, a willingness to allow God's Spirit to energize me).
Because I wanted to serve Christ, I had to be equipped for evangelism (among other things), and one area of "being equipped" is understanding what other people believe—not out of mere curiosity but to understand how to best witness to them. Other reasons for such knowledge include keeping ourselves and those we love from error and entrapment, as well as learning to become lovers of truth. After receiving a call to the pastoral ministry, my motivation became a bit greater, but most of this spiritual "surge" came out of conviction, while I was yet a layman.
The reason you and I need to understand the basics of world religions and cults is not for mere intellectual pursuit, but for ministry—our personal ministries. It is true, for example, that we are highly unlikely to convert the Jehovah's Witness or Mormon who comes to our door (and it is probably a waste of time and energy to try). They have an agenda and are not interested in considering alternatives. But if we have family members, friends, or neighbors who get sucked into these things, our knowledge may come in handy. We have at least a chance of winning those with whom we have developed a relationship. This may be even more true among those raised in these false religions. And, hopefully, we can spiritually vaccinate ourselves and our families with truth to prevent spiritual causalities.
On Sunday evenings at 6:30, beginning July 14th, we will begin a series of lessons comparing both major religions and "Christian" cults with Biblical Christianity. Although we cannot address them all, we will look at Islam, Eastern Religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, New Age, etc.), Roman Catholicism, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormonism, among others.
The study of cults and false religions falls under the broader category of apologetics. Apologetics simply means a defense of our faith. We are attacked from many angles (as are all religious, philosophical, or moral viewpoints). Some adversaries (besides Satan himself) include false religions, atheism (a false religion in itself), theological liberalism (e.g., "The Jesus Seminar"), Darwinism (evolutionary theory), Marxism, existentialism, and materialism, to name a few.
Our special "creation nights" help answer our questions about the claims of the theory of evolution. My new addition to the Sunday Night Mix, titled "Apologetics Night," addresses general apologetical issues like, "How do we know the Bible is true?" or "Are miracles possible?" This series about cults and world religions is a likewise a sub-category of apologetics.
A pastor's job is to train church attenders to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13) so that they are mature, doctrinally stable, and equipped to do all the good things God intends them to do. Hopefully our newfound emphasis on apologetics will help do just that. Logic and reason cannot force someone into the Kingdom of God, nor can a good defense. But just as we cannot save anyone, only point them to Christ, so apologetics—an answer—can be used of the Spirit of God (who is, after all, the Spirit of Truth).
Additionally, we too struggle with doubt. We all question God or His Word. Apologetics is for us as well. Because we are Christians, we should love truth. Truth asks questions. We can't answer them all, but we can take a stab at most of them. And that's what apologetics are about, answering questions and objections.
Reprinted from the July 2002 Body Builder, a publication of Highland Park Church.
Highland Park Church