Brothers And Sisters In Christ Ministries


Reverend Steven A. Knotts

Apostasy Watch - Christian Persecution & Discrimination

APOSTASY WATCH/Christian Persecution & Discrimination

 

This space will be dedicated to the publication of instances of discrimination/persecution against Christians and to present evidence of apostasy among supposed “Christian” churches & establishments.

 

Please send articles, links to articles/websites which reflect the ever growing trend among supposed “churches” that have forsaken or otherwise compromised Biblical principles.

 

Also, send articles, documented instances, (including video) etc. which deal with discrimination and/or persecution against Christians to:

 

pastorsteve@basicessentials.org

 

One of the greatest threats to Christianity in this era, aside from the outright discrimination and/or persecutions of Christians which most of us can easily recognize, is even more insidious and harder to spot – that of apostasy and/or a deviation from true faith in the pursuit of a more self-centered vs. God-centered focus.

 

Any so-called “faith” which takes the focus off of God and directs it on the “self” or inner being or one which recognizes the existence of a “higher power” or “supreme being”.  Any of the new-wave or spiritualism religions or the Unitarian Universalism-type “cults” which allow for practically belief in anything as long as it “makes you feel good” would fall in this category.  There are not “many different paths” which lead to God – there is only ONE!  Again…see John 14:6!

 

Below I’ve listed three questions from an excellent on-line resource found at:  www.gotquestions.org

 

These three questions deal with the issues of recognizing false teachers or false prophets, apostasy, and the Unitarian Universalism.  There are many others which are similar to varying degrees – far too numerous to list here – and they all have one common denominator…that of leading one away from a true faith in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit!

 

Question: "How can I recognize a false teacher / false prophet?" (from:  www.gotquestions.org)

Answer: 
Jesus warned us that “false Christs and false prophets” will come and will attempt to deceive even God’s elect (Matthew 24:23-27); see also (2 Peter 3:3 and Jude 17-18). The best way to guard yourself against falsehood and false teachers is to know the truth. To spot a counterfeit, study the real thing. Any believer who “correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and who makes a careful study of the Bible can identify false doctrine. For example, a believer who has read the activities of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Matthew 3:16-17 will immediately question any doctrine that denies the Trinity. Therefore, step one is to study the Bible and judge all teaching by what the Scripture says.

Jesus said “a tree is recognized by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33). When looking for “fruit,” here are three specific tests to apply to any teacher to determine the accuracy of his or her teaching:

1) What does this teacher say about Jesus? In Matthew 15:15-16, Jesus asks, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and for this answer Peter is called “blessed.” In 2 John 9, we read, “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” In other words, Jesus Christ and His work of redemption is of utmost importance; beware of anyone who denies that Jesus is equal with God, who downplays Jesus’ sacrificial death, or who rejects Jesus’ humanity. 1 John 2:22 says, “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son.”

2) Does this teacher preach the gospel? The gospel is defined as the good news concerning Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). As nice as they sound, the statements “God loves you,” “God wants us to feed the hungry,” and “God wants you to be wealthy” are not the complete message of the gospel. As Paul warns in Galatians 1:7, “Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” No one, not even a great preacher, has the right to change the message that God gave us. “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:9).

3) Does this teacher exhibit character qualities that glorify the Lord? Speaking of false teachers, Jude 11 says, “They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.” In other words, a false teacher can be known by his pride (Cain’s rejection of God’s plan), greed (Balaam’s prophesying for money), and rebellion (Korah’s promotion of himself over Moses). Jesus said to beware of such people and that we would know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20). 

For further study, review those books of the Bible that were written specifically to combat false teaching within the church: Galatians, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, and Jude. It is often difficult to spot a false teacher/false prophet. Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), and his ministers masquerade as servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:15). Only by being thoroughly familiar with the truth will we be able to recognize a counterfeit.

 

Question: "What is apostasy and how can I recognize it?"

 (from www.gotquestions.org)

Answer: 
Apostasy, from the Greek word apostasia, means “a defiance of an established system or authority; a rebellion; an abandonment or breach of faith.” In the first-century world, apostasy was a technical term for political revolt or defection. And just like in the first century, apostasy threatens the Body of Christ today. 

The Bible warns about people like Arius (c. A.D. 250 - 336), a Christian priest from Alexandria, Egypt, who was trained at Antioch in the early fourth century. About A.D. 318, Arius accused Bishop Alexander of Alexandria of subscribing to Sabellianism, a false teaching which asserted that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were merely roles or modes assumed by God at various times. Arius was determined to emphasize the oneness of God; however, he went too far in his teaching of God’s nature. Arius denied the Trinity and introduced what appeared on the surface to be an inconsequential difference between the Father and Son. 

Arius argued that Jesus was not homoousios (of the same essence) as the Father, but was ratherhomoiousios (of similar essence). Only one Greek letter – the iota (i) – separated the two. Arius described his position in this manner: “The Father existed before the Son. There was a time when the Son did not exist. Therefore, the Son was created by the Father. Therefore, although the Son was the highest of all creatures, he was not of the essence of God.”

Arius was very clever and did his best to get the people on his side, even going so far as to compose little songs that taught his theology, which he tried to teach to everyone who would listen. His winsome nature and revered position as a preacher and one who lived in denial of himself contributed also to his cause.

With respect to apostasy, it is critical that all Christians understand two important things: (1) how to recognize apostasy and apostate teachers; and (2) why apostate teaching is so deadly. 

The Forms of Apostasy
To fully identify and combat apostasy, it is important that Christians understand its various forms and the traits that characterize its doctrines and teachers. As to the forms of apostasy, there are two main types: (1) a falling away from key and true doctrines of the Bible into heretical teachings that proclaim to be “the real” Christian doctrine; and (2) a complete renunciation of the Christian faith, which results in a full abandonment of Christ. 

Arius represents the first form of apostasy—a denial of key Christian truths (such as the divinity of Christ) that ultimately begins a downhill slide into a full departure from the faith, which is the second form of apostasy. It is important to understand that the second form almost always begins with the first. A heretical belief becomes a heretical teaching that splinters and grows until it pollutes all aspects of a person’s faith and then the full end goal of Satan is accomplished, which is a complete falling away from Christianity. 

A recent example of this process is a 2010 study done by prominent atheist Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola called “Preachers Who Are Not Believers.” Dennett and LaScola’s work chronicles five different preachers who over time were presented with and accepted heretical teachings about Christianity and now have completely fallen away from the faith and are either pantheists or clandestine atheists. One of the most disturbing truths highlighted in the study is that these preachers maintain their position as pastors of Christian churches with their congregations being unaware of their leader’s true spiritual state. 

The dangers of apostasy were warned about in the book of Jude, which serves as a handbook for understanding the characteristics of apostates like those chronicled in Dennett and LaScola’s study. Jude’s words are every bit as relevant for us today as they were when he penned them in the first century, so it is important we carefully read and understand them. 

The Characteristics of Apostasy and Apostates
Jude was the half-brother of Jesus and a leader in the early church. In his New Testament letter, he outlines how to recognize apostasy and strongly urges those in the body of Christ to contend earnestly for the faith (vs. 3). The Greek word translated “contend earnestly” is a compound verb from where we get the word “agonize.” It is in the present infinitive form, which means that the struggle will be continuous. In other words, Jude is telling us that there will be a constant fight against false teaching and that Christians should take it so seriously that we “agonize” over the fight in which we are engaged. Moreover, Jude makes it clear that every Christian is called to this fight, not just the local body’s leaders, so it is critical that all believers sharpen their discernment skills so that they can recognize and prevent apostasy in their midst. 

After urging his readers to contend earnestly for the faith, Jude then highlights the reason: “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (vs. 4). In this one verse, Jude provides Christians with three traits of apostasy and apostate teachers. 

First, Jude says that apostasy can be subtle. Jude uses the word “crept” (found in no other book of the Bible) to describe the apostate’s entry into the church. In extra-biblical Greek, the term describes the cunning craftiness of a lawyer who, through clever argumentation, infiltrates the minds of courtroom officials and corrupts their thinking. The word literally means “slip in sideways; come in stealthily; sneak in; hard to detect.” In other words, Jude says it is rare that apostasy begins in an overt and easily detectable manner. Instead, it looks a lot like Arius’ preaching in which, in a seemingly dismissive and nonchalant manner, only a single letter differentiates its doctrine from the real teaching of the Christian faith. 

Describing this aspect of apostasy and its underlying danger, A. W. Tozer wrote, "So skilled is error at imitating truth, that the two are constantly being mistaken for each another. It takes a sharp eye these days to know which brother is Cain and which is Abel." The Apostle Paul also speaks to the outwardly pleasing behavior of apostates and their teaching when he says, "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). In other words, do not look for apostates to appear bad on the outside or speak dramatic words of heresy at the outset of their teaching. Rather than denying truth outright, apostates will twist it to fit their own agenda, but as pastor R. C. Lensky has noted, “The worst forms of wickedness consist in perversions of the truth.” 

Second, Jude describes the apostates as “ungodly” and as those who use God’s grace as a license to commit unrighteous acts. Beginning with “ungodly,” throughout his letter Jude describes eighteen unflattering traits of apostates so his readers can more easily identify them. Jude says the apostates are ungodly (vs. 4), morally perverted (vs. 4), denying Christ (vs. 4), ones who defile the flesh (vs. 8), rebellious (vs. 8), people who revile angels (vs. 8), who are ignorant about God (vs. 8), those who proclaim false visions (vs. 10), self-destructive (vs. 10), grumblers (vs. 16), fault finders (vs. 16), self-satisfying (vs. 16), people who use arrogant words and false flattery (vs. 16), mockers of God (vs. 18), those who cause divisions (vs. 19), worldly minded (vs. 19), and finally (and not surprisingly), devoid of the Spirit/unsaved (vs. 19). 

Third, Jude says apostates “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” How do apostates do this? Paul tells us in his letter to Titus: "To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed" (Titus 1:15-16, emphasis added). Through their unrighteous behavior, the apostates show their true selves. Unlike an apostate, one who is a true believer is someone who has been delivered from sin to righteousness in Christ. With Paul, they ask the apostates who promote licentious behavior, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2)

But the apostates’ false teaching also shows their true nature. Peter says, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Peter 2:1). Another aspect of true believers is that they have been delivered out of spiritual darkness into light (Ephesians 5:8) and therefore will not deny core truths of Scripture like Arius did with the divinity of Jesus. 

Ultimately, the sign of an apostate is that he eventually falls away and departs from the truth of God’s Word and His righteousness. The Apostle John signifies this is a mark of a false believer: “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). 

Ideas Have Consequences
That God takes apostasy and false teaching seriously is evidenced by the fact that every New Testament book except Philemon contains warnings about false teaching. Why is this? Simply because ideas have consequences. Right thinking and its fruit produces goodness, whereas wrong thinking and its accompanying action results in undesired penalties. As an example, the 1970s Cambodian killing fields were the product of the nihilistic worldview of Jean Paul Sartre and his teaching. The Khmer Rouge’s leader Pol Pot lived out Sartre’s philosophy toward the people in a clear and frightening way, which was articulated in this manner: “To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss.” 

It should be remembered that Satan did not come to the first couple in the Garden with an external armament or supernatural weapon, but instead he came to them with an idea. And it was that idea that condemned them and the rest of humankind, with the only remedy being the sacrificial death of God’s Son. 

The great tragedy is, whether knowingly or unknowingly, the apostate teacher dooms his unsuspecting followers. One of the most frightening verses in all of Scripture comes from the lips of Jesus. Speaking to His disciples about the religious leaders of His day, He said, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14, emphasis added). This verse is alarming because Jesus affirms that it is not only the false teachers that go to destruction, but their disciples also follow them. Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard put it this way: “For it has never yet been known to fail that one fool, when he goes astray, takes several others with him.” 

Conclusion
In A.D. 325, the Council of Nicea convened primarily to take up the issue of Arius and his teaching. Much to Arius’s dismay, the end result was his excommunication and a statement made in the Nicene Creed, which affirmed Christ’s divinity: “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father.” 

Arius may have died centuries ago, but his spiritual children are still with us to this day in the form of cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and others who deny Christ’s true essence and person. Sadly, until Christ returns and every last spiritual enemy has been removed, tares such as these will be present among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30). In fact, Scripture says apostasy will only get worse as Christ’s return approaches. “At that time [the latter days] many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another” (Matthew 24:10). Paul echoes Jesus in his inspired writings as well. The apostle told the Thessalonians that a great falling away would precede Christ’s second coming (2 Thessalonians 2:3) and that the end times would be characterized by tribulation and hollow religious charlatans: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be . . . holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these” (2 Timothy 3:1-2, 5). 

This being true, it is critical, now more than ever, that every believer pray for discernment, combat apostasy, and contend earnestly for the faith that has once and for all been delivered to the saints.

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns.


Related Topics:

If our salvation is eternally secure, why does the Bible warn so strongly against apostasy?

How can I recognize a false teacher / false prophet?

What is Arianism?

Who are the Jehovah's Witnesses and what are their beliefs?

Is there such a thing as an ex-Christian?


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Questions about False Doctrine


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Question: "What is Unitarian Universalism?"

Answer: 
Unitarian Universalism is a fairly small, yet widely influential, cult. Having some 300,000 registered members, mostly in the United States, they are becoming more and more popular. Relativism, tolerance, and alternative lifestyles are all buzz words used by Unitarian Universalism.

The Unitarian Universalist name comes from their denial of the doctrine of the Trinity and their belief that all human beings gain salvation. According to Universalists, the mere idea someone might go to hell is not compatible with the character of a loving God. Its roots go all the way back to the sixteenth-century when Unitarian beliefs became popular during the Reformation. Unitarian thought and Universal thought were merged together during the late eighteenth-century in America during the "Age of Reason". The intellectual elite of that time refused to believe in such biblical teachings as total depravity and eternal damnation, but rather embraced the idea of a loving God who would never cause someone to suffer.

Adherents of Unitarian Universalism base their beliefs primarily upon their own experiences and are not committed to any one religious system. They believe that individuals have the right to decide for themselves what to believe in and that others should not infringe upon this right. As a result, one such believer might lean toward liberal Christianity, while another might lean toward New Age spirituality. There is no real dogma beyond tolerance—for everything except biblical Christianity. They reject the Bible as a book of myths—denying it is the Word of God—equating it with barbaric writing that has little to do with modern man. As such, they reject the Bible's portrayal of a Triune God, leaving the concept of God up to each individual's imagination.

To the Unitarian Universalist, Jesus was a good moral teacher, but nothing more. He is not considered to be divine, and every miracle associated with Him is rejected as being outside of human reason. Most sayings of Jesus recorded in the Bible are regarded as embellishments on the part of the authors. Among the Universalist beliefs: Jesus did not die to save mankind from sin, as man is not a fallen sinner; emphasis is placed on humankind's capacity for goodness; sin is completely relative, and the term itself is rarely used; man saves himself through personal improvement, salvation being a purely worldly experience, a "waking up" to the world around oneself. This is very important, for death is final. Most Unitarian Universalists deny the existence of an afterlife, so all we have on earth is all we'll ever get.

The Bible, on the other hand, refutes these falsehoods. Jesus does save mankind, which was in a fallen state since the Garden of Eden and separated from God by sin (John 10:15; Romans 3:24-35, Romans 5:8, 1 Peter 2:23). Man is not good, but sinful and hopelessly lost. It is only through the grace of God and faith in the shed blood of Christ on the cross can mankind be reconciled to a holy, transcendent God (Genesis 2:16-17, Genesis 3:1-19), John 3:36, Romans 3:23, 1 Corinthians 2:14, Ephesians 2:1-3, 1 Timothy 2:13-14, 1 John 1:8). 

Unitarian Universalism has nothing in common with biblical Christianity. It is a false gospel, its teachings are contrary to the Bible, and its members strongly oppose traditional, biblical Christian beliefs (while purporting to be free of discrimination or prejudice of any kind). The Bible clearly refutes Unitarian Universalism on all the major points of its teachings.

Recommended Resource: The Kingdom of the Cults, revised and updated edition.

 

 


 


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False Teachers &
False Doctrine

2 Peter 2

The Rise of False Prophets

1But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.
2Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned;
3and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idel, and their destruction is not asleep.


2 Timoth 4:3

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teacher to say what their itching ears want to hear.
 

 

 

 Christian Apostasy

  

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