Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Culty New Year?

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. - 2 Tim 4:3-4

This evening, I received a sales call from "Bridge Publications" - which is the publishing company of the Scientology cult. This, in spite of the fact that my home phone number is registered with the National Do Not Call Registry - with whom I promptly filed a complaint.

Yesterday, followers of a cult leader named Yisrayl Hawkins (real name "Bill" - which is somehow just too bourgeois for a cult leader, not nearly as sexy as "Yisrayl") left a newsletter under the wipers of my car (which seems to be a violation of the seventh commandment to me, messing around with parts of my automobile without my consent). The Hawkins cult ("The House of Yahweh", so-called) is one of the many groups trying to predict the date of the end of the world. Yawn. Like other cults and sects - such as the Jehovah's Witnesses - Hawkins has failed in several predictions already, and yet amazingly, still has devotees. An article on Wikipedia has all the details. Pathetic, really.

Interestingly, both Scientology and the Hawkins cult are both forms of Gnosticism - based on the Greek word "gnosis" meaning "knowledge."

The Scientologists claim to have knowledge not revealed to anyone else - other than the science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard. Interestingly, "science" (and Scientology) is a derivative of the Latin word "scio" meaning "I know."

Hawkins' "House of Yahweh" cult is also Gnostic - relying on a kind of "decoding" of biblical texts. Hawkins claims to have found scriptural evidence regarding "global warming" as a payment for human sins. In the newsletter left on my car, there is no mention of Jesus's crucifixion as payment for human sins.

Hawkins' technique is clearly Gnostic. He cites Scripture in a piecemeal fashion, while insisting that God is only to be called "Yahweh" and Jesus is only to be called "Yahshua." By using a sort-of lexicon of code-words, he is implying that he "knows" something that the rest of the world doesn't. He also uses altered names of some (but not all!) biblical books. For instance, He refers to Isaiah as "Isayah"; Matthew is "Mattithyah"; James as "Yaaqob"; John as "Yahchanan" - while other books inexplicably retain their traditional English names, e.g. Revelation, Luke, and Hebrews. In other words, although New Testament books are written in Greek - Hawkins renames some of the books with Hebraicized names, while retaining the English names for the others. Why he changes the name of Isaiah isn't clear - nor is the spelling of his adopted name "Yisrayl" (if we transliterate the Hebrew into English, it would look like "Yisrael." I don't know where he gets the second "Y").

Hawkins also reveals the shocking (shocking, I tell you!) revelation that December 25 is not Jesus's birthday, and that Jesus actually rose some time in the middle of the night before Easter Sunday morning (of course, we historic, traditionalist Christians have been celebrating Easter Vigil after Sundown Saturday night since the earliest centuries of the Church, and never refer to December 25 as "Jesus's Birthday" but rather the Festival of the Nativity).

The argument over how to spell our blessed Lord's name and the use of God's sacred Hebrew name is absolutely silly - since neither "Yahweh" nor "Yashua" are Hebrew. These letters do not exist in the Hebrew alphabet. These are transliterations, not the original Hebrew. Furthermore, the proper transliteration into English of the Divine Name is YHWH - since the Hebrew of the Old Testament lacks vowels. Nobody knows which vowels come before the two H's. Finally, we speak English. The New Testament was written in Greek. The Greek name transliterated as "Iesous" (or perhaps as "IHSOUC") is translated into modern English as "Jesus." This is no different than my name being "Larry" in English, "Lars" in Swedish, "Laurent" in French, and "Larrius" or "Laurentius" in Latin. I can't even imagine what my name would be in Japanese! There is nothing to be gained by refusing to use the English translation and standard transliteration of the New Testament's Greek and substituting an invention of one's own. This is a red herring. This has nothing to do with the Christian faith. This is part of the Gnostic appeal.

What is more interesting about Hawkins' newsletter is not so much what is there, but rather what is not there. There is nothing about the cross, the atonement, the forgiveness of sins, faith, nor anything incarnational or sacramental. There is no "we preach Christ crucified" to be found. There is nothing at all about faith. There is a lot of law - much of which has to be wrung out of the texts by clever hermeneutics.

Cults - be they Scientology, the House of Yahweh, the Bible Codes, the various Messianic sects and cults, or any other claim to "secret knowledge" - all focus on one very narrow part of Christian doctrine and go off on a tangent. They become bogged down in details while missing the overarching biblical narrative.

Christian doctrine is biblical doctrine - and the Bible is not a collection of data, of proof texts, of unrelated factoids. Rather it is a unified narrative, a "story." It has an overarching structure. It begins in paradise, ends in paradise, and has a middle that involves a journey. The journey is a struggle to "get back home." This is mankind's story. There is the struggle between good and evil, and a Hero. The Bible is the classic template for all literature. Not because the Bible is just another story, but rather from this biblical history of fallen man in search of Paradise Restored comes the template for all literature! I discovered this from our friends in Toronto who originated New Moves - the approach to literacy being used by Salem Lutheran School. All epics, all mythology, all really good fiction, involve (at least on some level) this universal human theme.

Without seeing the "big picture" - the overarching theme of Holy Scripture, a person is left with a myriad of unrelated facts that make no sense at all. But in seeing the big picture, in treating the Word of God as an organic whole, there is a unifying principle - a thesis that ties together sin, death, sacrifice, incarnation, redemption, re-creation, and life. In relating Genesis to Revelation, a cogent picture emerges - a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ, His mission, His ministry, and His kingdom.

That overarching theme of the biblical narrative is known as "the Gospel" - the Good News of redemption. This is the thing the cults lack, being sadly bogged down in minutia designed to imply that the cult leader has some secret knowledge (gnosis) - when in fact, he has no knowledge of the Good News at all. He is a pathetic "man behind the curtain" seeking the unquestioning loyalty of personal devotees.

There is nothing hidden in the Bible - unless you consider something "hidden in plain sight" to be hidden. The words of Scripture are right there. The Gospel is not locked into codes or lurking about in mysterious Greek or Hebrew. The Gospel can (and most certainly is) translatable into every human tongue. There is much (very much!) to be gained by reading the Bible in the original languages (just as any other translated work is best read in the original) - but there are no lurking secrets. Any ambitious, disciplined, and reasonably intelligent person can study Biblical Greek and Hebrew, either in a classroom or on one's own, and can certainly benefit greatly. No biblical teacher or theologian has any secret revelation - neither from God nor from a Gnostic reading of the Bible. Any person can learn the original languages and read, just as any literate person can benefit from reading the Word of God.

Our Lord Jesus is called in John 1:1 "the Word." Words convey a message. Words mean things. Words are not secret codes and ciphers only known to those with special gnosis or scientia. This is what separates the Christian faith from cults. The Christian faith is laid out (revealed, revelatus) before you in the revelation of Holy Scripture - not hidden in secret codes only to be unlocked by some self-declared prophet with secret knowledge.

Well, I guess we've been warned:

For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (Matt 24:24).

Even so, come, Lord Jesus! (Rev 22:20).


Danny Haszard said...

Jehovah's Witnesses beliefs:
A) They are at your door to recruit you for enslavement to their watchtower corporation,they will say that "we are just here to share a message from the Bible" this is deception right off.

B) The 'message' is their false Gospel that Jesus is ruling in heaven already since 1914.The problem with this is it's not just a cute fairy tale,Jesus warned of the false prophets who would claim "..look he is here in the wilderness,or see here he is at the temple"

C) Their anti-blood transfusion ban has killed hundreds if not thousands

D) once they recruit you they will "love bomb" you in cult fashion to also recruit your family & friends or cut them off. There are many more dangers,Jehovah's Witnesses got a bad rap for good and valid reasons.

99% of the world has rejected the teachings of the Watchtower Jehovah’s Witnesses, the darker truth is they are a destructive and oppressive organization.
Danny Haszard Jehovah's Witness X 33 years

Father Hollywood said...


Thanks for your insights.