What was CRI Thinking?

For one in leadership in the Church being accountable is crucial. James writes, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1) More visible positions of leadership carries greater responsibility due to the influence one has over those that look to them for leadership and direction. That is a main reason why the filing of Amicus Curiae with the Texas Supreme Court by CRI on behalf of The Local Church of Witness Lee is so grievous. All of us have feet of clay and are prone to making mistakes. Again, James points this out, “For we all stumble in many ways.” (James 3:2a). However, when speaking or writing, especially when making a public statement, great care and clear thinking must be used.

Several weeks ago it came to my attention that Hank Hanegraaff had filed an Amicus Curiae. For those who are unsure what this is, Amicus Curie is Latin and means “Friend of the Court”. It is filed by a party who is not directly involved with the case as an attempt to persuade the court in a particular direction. Motives can vary as to why a party may file and we cannot always access motives. So far, this is the case with Hank Hanegraaff, President of CRI as well as Gretchen Passantino of AIA who also filed an Amicus Curiae on August 18, 2006 agreeing with Hank Hanegraaff’s filing. The case in question is between The Local Church of Witness Lee who are attempting to sue John Ankerberg, John Weldon and Harvest House Publishers over being included in their volume Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions (ECNR).

There is a brief history of the legal battles between The Local Church and John Ankerberg, John Weldon and Harvest House Publishers at Apologetics Index. However, a short description of the issues here may be helpful. The Local Church focused in on a portion of a paragraph in the introduction discussing what some cult leaders have done which reads:

…oppose moral convention, denied their followers blood transfusions and medical access, encouraged prostitution for making converts, sometimes raped women, beaten their disciples, molested children, practiced black magic and witchcraft, engaged in drug smuggling and other criminal activity, including murder… (John Ankerberg & John Weldon, Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene OR, 1999, p XXV)

The claim by The Local Church is that the average reader would assume that The Local Church is being accused of all of these behaviors and crimes because they are included in the volume. If this is true ECNR would be defamatory. By excerpting or taking this partial paragraph out of its immediate context and attempting to append it to the preceding section the claim by the Local Church is that these criminal activities are part of Ankerberg and Weldon’s characteristics of the cults listed in this volume. The problems with this are two-fold. First, on page XXIII the last paragraph on the left column begins:

“The characteristics of cults illustrates the applicability of the term.” (John Ankerberg & John Weldon, Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene OR, 1999, p XXIII)

A few sentences later, as they are preparing to give a list of characteristics they state:

“The list is not exhaustive. Not all groups have all the characteristics and not all groups have every characteristic in equal measure.” (John Ankerberg & John Weldon, Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene OR, 1999, p XXIII)

They then go on to list of 12 characteristics that would comprise a hypothetical “perfect cult.” The list ends on page XXIV. Page XXV begins with the words, ‘Another problem with the term “cult…'” which signifies a transition from the list of 12 characteristics to something else. In this case how the word is used. The Texas Court of Appeals ruling as authored by Chief Justice Sherry Radack came down to two essential points. One was, “Therefore, we conclude that being labeled a ‘cult’ is not actionable because the truth or falsity of the statement depends upon one’s religious beliefs, an ecclesiastical matter which cannot and should not be tried in a court of law.” In other words, the term “cult” is religiously defined and the court does not decide religious truth. It should be noted that The Local Church and John Ankerberg, John Weldon and Harvest House Publishers are all in agreement that this case is not over the use of the term “cult.”

The second point, which is likely the most important point, is that the section in question is not “…of and concerning the church…” The courts reasoning was that in order to qualify there had to be some indication that these criminal activates were being applied to The Local Church specifically or to all of the groups in the ECNR. Simply being in a volume which says that some groups which may or may not be included in this volume have done these things is not the same as saying that The Local Church or any particular group in this book has done any of these things. As Chief Justice Radack stated:

We have already held that nothing in the book singles out the church as having committed the ‘immoral, illegal, and despicable’ actions alleged in its petition. Simply being included in a group with others who may have committed such ‘immoral, illegal, and despicable’ actions does not give rise to a libel claim

As E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Historical Theology and Social Ethics at Knox Theological Seminary points out:

The Local Church’s complaint depends on readers’ reasoning thus:

[The book says that] some cults commit illegal acts.
[The book says that] the Local Church is a cult.
Therefore [the book says that] the Local Church commits
illegal acts.

…the argument commits the fallacy of undistributed middle and therefore is not reasonable, i.e., no reasonable person would draw that conclusion from the book. The court recognized this and ruled accordingly. I cannot but agree, …

After the Brief Interlude

After reviewing the brief, which had been filed with the Texas Supreme Court on August 14, 2006, I immediately attempted to call Hank at his offices in Charlotte, NC. After being put on hold for a few minutes I was told that they could not put me through to Hank but that CRI’s V.P., Paul Young, is the one who would answer questions related to this. I was put through to Paul’s voice mail, left a message as to why I had called and requested a call back which never came. Shortly after that a copy of Hank’s brief surfaced on the Internet and with its availability I posed some questions to CRI publicly in our weekly E-Letter The Crux.

1) Is it now CRI’s position that the courts should be the ones to determine correct theology? If so is CRI going to close their doors in deference to the courts determining sound biblical teaching?

2) If Hank and CRI believe that The Local Church is a theologically sound Christian group in the essentials of the Christian faith, as he indicates, why would he appeal to a court of unbelievers asking them to clear the way for believers to sue other believers before a court of unbelievers in clear violation of 1 Corinthians Chapter 6?

On Tuesday October 17, 2006, CRI posted their Position Statement: PSL001 titled, “Statement From Christian Research Institute And Answers In Action: Re: Our Amicus Filings On Behalf Of The Local Churches.” There are a number of problems with this document but, as Anton Hein from Apologetics Index points out:

The most glaring problem in CRI’s statement is that both Hank Hanegraaff and Gretchen Passantino appear to have bought in to the very issue the court has so thoroughly rejected: it appears they believe that an excerpt from the introduction of the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions could be construed by – as the court’s ruling puts it – “a person of ordinary intelligence,” to apply equally to all the groups listed in the main part of the book – the Local Church included.

CRI’s Position Statement argues that somehow the courts refusal to interfere with our First Amendment rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion jeopardizes our “First Amendment rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion.” No where in the document do they explain exactly how this is the case. CRI’s Position Statement spends a fair amount of time castigating the Appellate Court for not ruling on the definition of the word “cult.” The court refrained as they saw the definition of this term as primarily theological and they were not willing to wade into theological waters. To quote Chief Justice Radack again:

“Therefore, we conclude that being labeled a ‘cult’ is not actionable because the truth or falsity of the statement depends upon one’s religious beliefs, an ecclesiastical matter which cannot and should not be tried in a court of law.”

It seems that Hank and CRI recognize and agree that the courts should not be arbiters of theological claims:

While our courts quite rightly are prevented by our Constitution from deciding the truth or falsity of theological or religious claims (Position Statement: PSL001 )

I assume that means CRI is not planning on closing it’s doors anytime soon in deference to the courts determining the truth and validity of religious claims which I am sure is a relief to many. Unfortunately the Position Statement goes on to create a straw man argument as it continues:

…our courts are expressly charged with deciding whether or not secular claims are upheld or libelous in issues such as fraud, sexual abuse, false imprisonment, larceny, bioterrorism, pedophilia, and so forth (the kinds of characteristics ECNR uses for cults). When ECNR attributes those kinds of actions to the groups they term cults, they are placing themselves in a position to be challenged legally in the realm of libel if they cannot substantiate their charges. (Position Statement: PSL001)

That the court did not take a position on the use of the term “cult” does not mean that the court didn’t take a position on whether or not the 39 words on page XXV mentioning a number of criminal activites were libelous against The Local Church itself. It seems to be missed, avoided or simply not commented on, whether intentional or unintentional I do not know, that the court was clear that the criminal behavior could not reasonably be “…of and concerning the church…” (The Local Church). The CRI Position Statement also contends that:

…the use of the term cult is not the foundation either for our Amicus support or for the suit or its appeal. (Position Statement: PSL001 )

While I cannot confirm or deny this claim, that was the sole focus of the Amicus while not a word was said in an attempt to demonstrate that the 39 words in question had in fact been applied to the Local Church by the authors or publisher. The court was clear. Simply being written about in a volume which contains those words in no way demonstrates that they were “…of and concerning the church…”.

Three Opposing Views

To complicate this even more, it appears that at the time CRI released their Position Statement they were holding three opposing views simultaneously.

1) Their 1996 view, “Our conclusion can only be that some of the basic teachings of Witness Lee and the Local Church are heretical and dangerous” in the article titled The Teachings of Witness Lee and the Local Church by Cal Beisner, Bob and Gretchen Passantino. (Oddly, after I mentioned this in a recent issue of The Crux it vanished from the CRI website).

2) Hanks position in the Amicus was that the Local Church is not a cult and that he disagrees with The Local Church on secondary issues as he does with other Evangelicals and denominations. It is implicit here that he views them as orthodox in the essential doctrines of the faith.

3) They will make a decision and public announcement as to the orthodoxy or heretical nature of The Local Church in the future once they complete their research.

We asked that if position one is incorrect will CRI publicly repent and publish their apology for bearing false witness in their 1996 paper to at least the same degree as they promoted this position? So far there is no official answer on that question either. This brings us back to our original questions:

1) Is it now CRI’s position that the courts should be the ones to determine correct theology? If so is CRI going to close their doors in deference to the courts determining sound biblical teaching?

2) If Hank and CRI believe that The Local Church is a theologically sound Christian group in the essentials of the Christian faith, as he indicates, why would he appeal to a court of unbelievers asking them to clear the way for believers to sue other believers before a court of unbelievers in clear violation of 1 Corinthians Chapter 6?

The answer to question number 1 is no. Question number 2 is as yet unanswered. Now we have more unanswered questions. Has CRI been bearing false witness against The Local Church all of these years? If so, are they going to publicly repent to at least the same degree as they have borne their false witness? Are they bearing false witness against John Ankerberg, John Weldon and Harvest House publishers by claiming they made libelous statements against The Local Church when they did not as both the court and Dr. Calvin Beisner have demonstrated?

Hank Hanegraaff is a high profile leader but does he wear that responsibility biblically as a servant? Is he accountable or does he consider himself above accountability in a papal way less tbe big hat? Is the Board of Directors at CRI in agreement with him and more to the point, is he accountable to them or are they simply a figurehead? I certainly don’t have answers to these questions but I do know that the Church which is the Body of Christ does have a way to bring accountability to a leader that has strayed if those to whom he is supposed to be accountable do not or cannot bring about repentence and restoration. They may not be able to vote in a meeting but there is something that may speak louder than the voice, letters or emails. Nickels and noses are a very powerful vote.

The Apostle Paul penned some very powerful words pointing out that the Jews were condemned by the Law when he wrote:

But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God, and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? (Romans 2:17-21)

Hank, like the rest of us in discernment and mission to cults and new religions, are correctors and teachers. As such it is even more critical for us that we are consistent in living out our teaching and being correctable ourselves. Somehow abandoning biblical teaching in order to assist in facilitating litigation before non-believers does not exemplify that.


Comments

What was CRI Thinking? — 18 Comments

  1. This was a great article, Don, and thanks for putting in that logic lesson from Dr. Beiser. I agree with your stance on this issue. The principles and teaching are there in I Corinthians 6.

    I am pondering which circumstances would make it permissible, biblically speaking, for a believer to take another believer to court. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    Also, I am wondering what the similarities/differences are between the case you wrote about, and about Ligonier Ministries suing blogger Frank Vance for defamation per se, then trying to get a prior restraint to close the blog.

    Thanks much for your ministry — I was very helped with the book, A Matter of Basic Principles, which I read in 2002.

  2. After reading the Amicus Curiae, I was not persuaded at all by your article.
    The court concluded, “Therefore, we conclude that being labeled a ‘cult’ is not actionable because the truth or falsity of the statement depends upon one’s religious beliefs, an ecclesiastical matter which cannot and should not be tried in a court of law.”
    Hank Hanegraaff then objects to that conclusion, “Therefore, it should be reviewed and reversed by the Texas Supreme Court.” The “it” refers to the previous sentence, “a legal precedent protecting the use of the word ‘cult'”.
    Where did all the stuff about 1 Corinthians 6 come from? I did not get the impression at all that Hank wanted to encourage The Local Church to sue other believers. Nowhere does he mention believers suing believers. Which was legal, though immoral and unbiblical, before and after the court’s ruling.
    The 1996 paper could have several explanations. One, things/people/perceptions, such as that of The Local Church, could have changed. CRI is not writing immutable material. A ‘cult’ could correct its errors.
    Concerning the quotation of Romans 2, Paul is talking about Salvation. He uses those strong words to reprimand the Jews for relying on the Law, those contained in the Bible, for their salvation. I think that needs more explanation if you are going to use it.

  3. Welcome to The Crux, all — it seems we have the comments feature up and running at last. (I had been wondering where everyone was.)

    As is true with real churches, that is, real establishments of the true Church, you’ll never find a “perfect cult.” I suppose “Witness Lee,” with a possible anti-“establishment church” mindset as most cult leaders have, would insist that just like the “establishment church” can’t be a Real Church because it can’t fulfill all the Requirements, then his group can’t be a Real Cult because it doesn’t fulfill all the Requirements either.

    Jesus was clear in Matthew 7 that we can’t really judge people’s motivations, only their actions. Yet I remain curious about the motivations behind Mr. Hanegraff’s decision to stand behind the “Local Church” group.

    What on Earth does Christendom, or even the Christian Research Institute, stand to gain if the court would rule in favor of this “Local Church” outfit?

    To me it seems that even if “Witness Lee” and his bunch were fully orthodox (of which I note they’re not), Ankerberg and Weldon still have the right to criticize them.

    Last spring, Ankerberg hosted a debate on his television program with literal-creation-adherents Ken Ham and Jason Lisle, versus old-earth-creation-adherents Hugh Ross and Walter Kaiser. The literal-creation side later claimed moderator Ankerberg was hardly impartial — but is that worth suing over? Absolutely not, even without the Biblical warnings against lawsuits between believers.

    Instead, Answers in Genesis on its website, having noted what they perceived as biased moderating, offered rebuttals of Ross’s and Kaiser’s positions and moved on.

    That’s the marketplace of ideas, which, despite a few prohibitions against intentional libel and such, is fully open to exchanging opinions about others and their positions, right or wrong. Neither “Witness Lee” nor Mr. Hanegraff at this point seem to understand Ankerberg and Weldon’s free speech rights, much less Biblical discernment — at least in this regard.

  4. Joshua:
    “The court concluded, ‘Therefore, we conclude that being labeled a ‘cult’ is not actionable because the truth or falsity of the statement depends upon one’s religious beliefs, an ecclesiastical matter which cannot and should not be tried in a court of law.’

    Hank Hanegraaff then objects to that conclusion, ‘Therefore, it should be reviewed and reversed by the Texas Supreme Court.’ The ‘it’ refers to the previous sentence, ‘a legal precedent protecting the use of the word ‘cult’.'”

    Lynn:
    Hank gave *his* definition of what the term “cult” means, which is *much* narrower than standard definitions of the term from many dictionaries. In the Second College Edition of The American Heritage Dictionary the primary definition is “A system or community of religious worship and ritual.” The second definition is “A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or bogus.” And Wikipedia points out that the term as used today generally is pejorative, but Wikepedia goes on to list various dictionary definitions, some Protestant and Catholic theological definitions, and more. None of these definitions *only* refer to groups that are into total mind control and commit acts of murder and immorality and stealing and the like. I wouldn’t want the courts of our land to sort this all out by using Hank’s definition and ignoring all the others.

    Whether or not the Local Church is a cult should be determined in the marketplace of ideas, as the other comment pointed out. No sane person wants to have his ideologies, theologies, and ideas to be considered extremist or bogus, but the civil way to counter that in a free society is to answer back, not try to shut up the opposition from having their say. Nobody who was sued was conspiring to restrain trade, or was telling or even insinuating that the Local Church be raided and shut down, and that their freedoms in other ways should be taken away. And they were careful to say that not all cults are alike, and not all cults participate in illegal activities or activities of gross moral turpitude.

    Sure, their words could have an impact on the growth of that church, but the “marketplace of ideas” is so-called because it is a place to persuade, and people can be persuaded for or against ideas. This is allowed in a free society, but in a society where there isn’t freedom of speech this would not be allowed.

    Joshua:
    “Where did all the stuff about 1 Corinthians 6 come from?”

    Well, in the first place, the Local Church did sue other believers for defamation because the other believers called them a cult. This is not according to I Corinthians 6 and other Scriptures, even if they were defamed. Earlier in the book, the apostle says, “being defamed, we intreat.”

    If you agree with Hanegraaf’s brief, you agree that the courts of our land may determine what constitutes a cult, based on Hank’s definition of the term, not the standard dictionary definitions, and that the courts can determine whether and in what instances the term “cult” is a valid label and in which instances it is defamatory.

    That is a tacit endorsement for allowing the courts to have the final say in these matters. Hank *disagreed* with the court declaring that this suit didn’t belong in their domain.

    It is my belief that an endorsement of this kind is very much in opposition to I Corinthians 6.

  5. Lynn wrote:

    I am pondering which circumstances would make it permissible, biblically speaking, for a believer to take another believer to court. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    Also, I am wondering what the similarities/differences are between the case you wrote about, and about Ligonier Ministries suing blogger Frank Vance for defamation per se, then trying to get a prior restraint to close the blog.

    Don Responds:

    I don’t really find some sort of escape clause in 1 Corinthians 6 on this question. Rather in v:7 the apostle tells the church that by going to court before non-believers to have them resolve the issue “it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another.” The apostle is pointing out a problem (one of many) that is a result of Corinth being a highly paganized church which looks very much the same as the paganized culture surrounding them. Paul pointed out earlier that believers will judging angels (v:3) but non-believers (to whom the Corinthians and now The Local Church as well as Ligonier Ministries were and are going) won’t even be in the kingdom (v:9).

    The differences between The Local Church vs. Ligonier/Vance are that Ankerberg and Weldon made general statements in a 39 word section which applies to some groups in the book but not all and they do not specify which groups. For example, the Family (formerly the Children of God) practiced prostitution or what they called “Flirty Fishing” and the women were “Hookers for Jesus,” On the other hand, the Christadelphians (another group in the book) did not.

    In the case of Ligonier v Vance, Vance made specific claims about specific named individuals. Since it appears that Vance abandoned biblical teaching and jumped immediately to public claims Ligonier would have been better served to issue an Open Letter inviting him to meet with their leadership as well as the leadership of their respective home churches as well as his and a mediator or mediators on which both sides could agree. Barring that it seems the apostles words are fairly understandable, “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” (1 Cor. 6:7)

  6. Joshua wrote:

    Hank Hanegraaff then objects to that conclusion, “Therefore, it should be reviewed and reversed by the Texas Supreme Court.” The “it” refers to the previous sentence, “a legal precedent protecting the use of the word ‘cult’”.

    Don Responds:

    Lynn did an excellent job in addressing the definition of the word “cult” so I won’t revisit that. You are correct as to what the “it” is referring to. Hank fails to demonstrate how not ruling on the term (and therefore who it applies to and thereby having the court venture into determining acceptable theology) protects the word. I would suggest that the court not taking a position on the word protects freedom of speech and religious expression. But in a sense the Amicus seems top miss the point. Both sides had agreed that the issue wasn’t the use of the word cult but rather whether the 39 words on page XXV had been applied or were “of and concerning” The Local Church. Hank’s Amicus did not even venture into demonstrating how the Appellate Court wrongly ruled that they were not “of and concerning.”

    Joshua wrote:

    Where did all the stuff about 1 Corinthians 6 come from? I did not get the impression at all that Hank wanted to encourage The Local Church to sue other believers. Nowhere does he mention believers suing believers. Which was legal, though immoral and unbiblical, before and after the court’s ruling.

    Don Responds:

    The entire purpose of Hank’s Amicus was a request to the Texas Supreme Court to hear the case. A prerequisite to hearing the case is that one party (The Local Church) be allowed to sue another party (Ankerberg/Weldon/Harvest House Publishers). If Hank views the Local Church as a Christian group, (which he at least implies in his Amicus) and if he views Ankerberg/Weldon/Harvest House Publishers as Christians (which he does not address in his Amicus one way or the other so I am assuming that he views them as Christian but perhaps not) then the conclusion is that Hank is requesting the court of unbelievers to allow the case to proceed for them (unbelievers) to adjudicate for believers. The apostle’s words on this are as true today as when they were penned, “…already it is a defeat for you,…” (1 Cor. 6:7).

    Joshua wrote:

    The 1996 paper could have several explanations. One, things/people/perceptions, such as that of The Local Church, could have changed. CRI is not writing immutable material. A ‘cult’ could correct its errors.

    Don Responds:
    Of course it is true that a group, cult or not, could change. However, no one at CRI nor from The Local Church have even indicated that is the case and The Local Church has spent a significant amount of time attempting to demonstrate to Evangelicals over the years that there teachings, the one which CRI’s official statement called “dangerous and heretical” are orthodox. Hank and CRI seem confused on this issue at best.

    Joshua wrote:

    Concerning the quotation of Romans 2, Paul is talking about Salvation. He uses those strong words to reprimand the Jews for relying on the Law, those contained in the Bible, for their salvation. I think that needs more explanation if you are going to use it.

    Don Responds:

    Actually, the passage is about condemnation. Chapter 1:18-23 Paul demonstrates that the Gentile is condemned because he turned away from God as shown through natural revelation to worship creation. In 1:24-32 he demonstrates the slide into debauchery that results. He then turns in chapter 3:1-16 and demonstrates that the Moralist is condemned be he knows the right thing to do and thus confirms that which the Law states but doesn’t live according to what they know is right. In 3:17-29 the apostle points out that the Jews are also condemned and that they have even more revealed knowledge about God. With that greater knowledge goes a greater responsibility. With regard to Hank, and I will say myself as well, and any who are more visible teachers and leaders within the church that the more we know the more is required of us to walk circumspectly. We live in glass houses and everyone around us has Windex.

  7. The Local Church of Witness Lee is a dangerous, Buddhist-like religion that masks itself with the language of Christianity.

    Its central doctrine, which it calls “the heart of the gospel” is that man’s soul must be totally destroyed forever. This they call “salvation.” Actually, it is Buddhist obliteration into Nirvana. This is the first part of Lee’s central doctrine.

    The second part of this central doctrine is that as man is being totally destroyed, Witness Lee’s “god” takes possession of him as an alien spirit and replaces the man with himself. This is a process which Lee’s religion calls “mingling.”

    The third and last part of is the final harvest of that “god” back to himself. If the man has carefully followed all of Lee’s myriad of rituals, his “god” will have totally destroyed and replaced the man with himself. Thus when the man is last totally destroyed forever, only God remains. This Lee calls “redemption.”

    An interesting consequence of this three-part central doctrine is that Witness Lee is “god.” Since he must certainly have followed all his own rituals and has ended his life on earth, his mingling is complete and he is “god.”

    Another consequence of this is that no Christian is saved and Christians face a fate worse than non-Christians. The reason is that a Christian according to Lee will have accepted the first step of “salvation” but not have followed Lee’s rituals. Since he has thus received a tiny seed of Lee’s “god,” he cannot be destroyed mercifully in Hell as the non-Christian will be. Instead he must endure a 1000-years of TORTURE before his destruction in Hell.

    For its members, the Local Church of Witness Lee is its own smiling, shouting torture and members have a high rate of mental illness, sexual paraphilia, and social disorders. Life is hard enough without the rigors of Lee’s demands, especially for those approved to give all to the Living Stream hierarchy and become “full-timers.”

    Frank Haanegraff knows all this. Many have told him, citing Lee’s writings. I know I did.

    Jim Moran knew the truth and wrote about on his website before he passed away. The Local Church’s central headquarters offices, the Living Stream Ministry, bought off his family members and thus the truth is suppressed.

    Since many others have been bought off, I must assume the obvious — that Hanegraaff has been bought off.

    Thus Hanegraaff should not be considered by anyone as a Christian. Rather he should be grouped together with those like him: Ted Haggard, the gay, drug-using “preacher” and Kathy Schori, the gay-loving, Judeo-Unitarian “bishop.”

    All three are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    They think they have won, since they are become rich. But wait until they meet the God they do not believe in.

  8. Peter wrote:

    The Local Church of Witness Lee is a dangerous, Buddhist-like religion that masks itself with the language of Christianity.

    Its central doctrine, which it calls “the heart of the gospel” is that man’s soul must be totally destroyed forever. This they call “salvation.” Actually, it is Buddhist obliteration into Nirvana. This is the first part of Lee’s central doctrine.

    The second part of this central doctrine is that as man is being totally destroyed, Witness Lee’s “god” takes possession of him as an alien spirit and replaces the man with himself. This is a process which Lee’s religion calls “mingling.”

    The third and last part of is the final harvest of that “god” back to himself. If the man has carefully followed all of Lee’s myriad of rituals, his “god” will have totally destroyed and replaced the man with himself. Thus when the man is last totally destroyed forever, only God remains. This Lee calls “redemption.”

    An interesting consequence of this three-part central doctrine is that Witness Lee is “god.” Since he must certainly have followed all his own rituals and has ended his life on earth, his mingling is complete and he is “god.”

    Another consequence of this is that no Christian is saved and Christians face a fate worse than non-Christians. The reason is that a Christian according to Lee will have accepted the first step of “salvation” but not have followed Lee’s rituals. Since he has thus received a tiny seed of Lee’s “god,” he cannot be destroyed mercifully in Hell as the non-Christian will be. Instead he must endure a 1000-years of TORTURE before his destruction in Hell.

    For its members, the Local Church of Witness Lee is its own smiling, shouting torture and members have a high rate of mental illness, sexual paraphilia, and social disorders. Life is hard enough without the rigors of Lee’s demands, especially for those approved to give all to the Living Stream hierarchy and become “full-timers.”

    Don responds:

    Several of us within the ministry of MCOI have looked at this post in trying to decide how to moderate it. Do we delete it or let it stand? Do we let it stand or respond? I decided let it post and to respond as I think it provides us with a teachable moment. There is no question that Peter is passionate on this subject but his passion has veered from the main subject of the original blog piece. I primarily was raising the issues of:

    1) The three contradictory positions which CRI is currently taking on The Local Church
    2) Essentially requesting the Texas Supreme Court to determine whose theological position is correct
    3) Requesting the court to hear the case and thus clearing the way for believers to sue believers (if CRI regards both groups as believers which it seems to).

    Whether or not the theology of the Local Church as laid out by Peter is true or not was not the primary focus. I am not saying it is not important but is another subject.

    Peter wrote:

    Frank Haanegraff knows all this. Many have told him, citing Lee’s writings. I know I did.

    Jim Moran knew the truth and wrote about on his website before he passed away. The Local Church’s central headquarters offices, the Living Stream Ministry, bought off his family members and thus the truth is suppressed.

    There are two issues here. One bears on accuracy. I am fairly sure that Peter knows it is Hank Hanegraaff and not Frank Haanegraff. Unfortunately in the eyes of some this raises a question of credibility. Second, although I am very familiar with the events surrounding the Local Church acquiring the website and research of Jim Moran (who was a friend), it is less than wise to make an accusation which cannot be substantiated with evidence. The scriptural injunctions to confirm all things in the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses are for the purpose of producing proper evidence. Again, as important as this may be this isn’t the particular forum to address it one way or the other.

    Peter wrote:

    Since many others have been bought off, I must assume the obvious — that Hanegraaff has been bought off.

    Thus Hanegraaff should not be considered by anyone as a Christian. Rather he should be grouped together with those like him: Ted Haggard, the gay, drug-using “preacher” and Kathy Schori, the gay-loving, Judeo-Unitarian “bishop.”

    All three are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    They think they have won, since they are become rich. But wait until they meet the God they do not believe in.

    Don responds:

    Of all that Peter wrote this may be the most grievous. In this particular forum we only have a few rules. 1) Disagree agreeably. That means no name calling or unfounded accusations. Because Hank and I may see this issue differently does not mean that he does not mean that he has been bribed. 2 Tim. 2:24-26; Jude 3; 1 Peter 3:15 all indicate that we should be gentle in correcting. Making unfounded accusations violates that. Lumping these three together when the issues are so vastly different looses credibility and is one of the things that causes many in church leadership to shy away from apologetics and apologists. I am not saying that satire at times isn’t an important teaching tool but this isn’t satire. Rather it is simply mud slinging.

    2) Believe what you choose and be prepared to defend your beliefs.

    In the future posts that do not meet these criteria may be deleted without warning.

  9. Hanegraaf:
    “By saying the term “cult” is inherently religious and therefore not actionable, they are themselves acting on the term—making it, in effect, a “Get out of jail free” card for libel and slander purposes. . . . It would now (by precedent) become the case that any time we use the term “cult” it will inexorably be linked to things such as psychological abuse, pedophilia, and so forth.”

    Joshua, I just don’t get it. Don quoted Dr. Beisner who demonstrated the lack of logic here. The authors clearly stated that not all the groups they are calling cults will have all the characteristics they list. There is no logical way you can get from the argument:

    Some cults do illegal things
    This church is a cult
    to
    Therefore this church does illegal things.

    Saying something is true of SOME in a group, logically implies NOTHING about all of the group as a whole. That fact is something that would be taught in an introductory logic class.

    Hank keeps committing this fallacy when he says that now the term “cult” will be used to slander only. And in spite of the fact that he said the brief wasn’t about the use of the term “cult,” what I am reading from your link tells me the term “cult” is very much what he is focusing on.

  10. First, the question was “What was CRI Thinking?” As I reviewed the above link I don’t find anything that addresses that questions. Second, I see nothing in here that shows the Apostle Paul was wrong on 1 Corinthians 6 or that Witness Lee received further revelation from God to sue any and all who publically disagree with The Local Church. The entire piece appears to be a PR piece designed to squelch thinking among the followers of the Local Church.

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  12. Dear Don,

    I was rather surprised that you asked for evidence re: the LSM’s purchase of Jim Moran’s website from family members. I am not aware that LSM or anyone else challenges that they bought it from Jim’s family. Jim was a friend of mine, too, and helped me greatly in overcoming the pain and scarring from an adolescence lost in the Local Church. Do I need remind anyone that Jim would be dismayed to see his work being sold to the LSM and censored?

    Here is evidence that indeed, the LSM paid Jim’s family for the website.

    From localchurchinfo.org http://www.lcinfo.org/?page=news#item3 , the site that currently mirrors Jim’s original work.

    “Jim Moran Dies, Local Church Seizes Websites (28 June 2003)
    In January of this year, Jim Moran, director of Light Of Truth Ministries, probably the largest countercult ministry focused on the “Local Church”, passed away, reportedly of a massive heart attack. This event effectively ended the work of Light Of Truth Ministries.

    “Several months later, in April, the “Local Church”, represented by The Church In Fullerton, purchased ownership of Mr. Moran’s research material, websites and copyrights from his estate. Since then, The Church In Fullerton has been exercising its ownership of those copyrights by demanding the removal of all Mr. Moran’s works from distribution. As another consequence of these events, Internet addresses previously owned by Jim Moran or Light Of Truth Ministries, including the Light Of Truth Ministries home page located at http://www.ltm.org and http://www.thelocalchurch.org, are now owned and controlled by the “Local Church” movement. Therefore, visitors should note that material posted at those sites now are not likely to reflect Mr. Moran’s original intent.

    “Anton Hein of The Apologetics Index has been encouraging readers to download copies of Mr. Moran’s original site as cached by Google. The Church In Fullerton claims that these actions violate its copyright.”

    Also, brother Don, you made a big deal about making a typographical error in a blog comment. That is “Frank” for “Hank.” You do not allow for proofreading comments. It was rather unfair to make the leap that a typographical error on a blog comment impinges on my credibility. Did you really mean that?

    Last, I am surprised you are unaware of the well-publicized and well-documented charges against Mr. Hanegraaff. In case you are not, I shall here quote from the respected apologetics indexhttp://www.apologeticsindex.org/c174ab.html:

    Rather than waste space here on your blog with the a lengthy series of articles, allow me to summarize that several Christians have come forth with documentation that Mr. Hanegraaff unethically took over CRI, that he stands accused of living in luxury, and has not properly reported the source of his income. This is well known both among Christians and in the secular media and I need not go into further detail.

    As for the charge to me of “passion,” I site John 2:12-22.

    Grace to you and peace,
    Peter

  13. Woops!

    I made two minor typographical errors; I said “proofreading” when I meant “previewing” and I left out a space towards the bottom. Oh well, I am sure no one will mind.

    Perhaps one could add a preview function as is common on blogs these days?

  14. A few things in response to Peter:

    With regard to LSM taking over the late Jim Moran’s website, as I mentioned earlier, I am fully aware of the events surrounding that. A mutual friend was in conversation with Jim’s family within hours of his passing and the ownership of the site was to be transferred to him or to MCOI or to both. Shortly after that we were informed that the family had been given the option of selling to LSM or being sued and our of fear of litigation they gave in. I cannot confirm or deny these allegations bu you misrepresent me when you suggest that I asked for evidence that it had been sold.

    Second, I am aware of the allegations against Hank Hanegraaff but allegations are not the same thing as evidence and you stated “Since many others have been bought off, I must assume the obvious — that Hanegraaff has been bought off.” If you can produce evidence that he has been bought off please produce it. If not you are simply slandering.

  15. Don,

    I have been going to the Local church meeting for about a year and a half now. I received Christ very young and I attended private Christian schooling until I graduated high school. I was saved in a baptist church and then my parents moved to a pentecostal church. In my early Christian experience it seems that I went in “emotional” circles where one moment I would be excited about God and the next moment I would be sad and depressed ( I have a degree in Psychology btw) After I attented a few of the meetings with the local church i realized that most of the churches I had been to worked off emotions making people feel excited and zealous but after that feeling left they were back where they were before.

    In the church life it is very different. People were not judgmental but VERY loving and excepting. They teach that instead of focus on personal gain and wealth we should focus on the Lord and gaining more of him. It is sad how in many churches the focus of the Lord is only through wealth and physical gain. the Lord did not create us for this but to ave a relationship and fellowship with us.

    The local churches teachings are very different from the teachings of your average christian church however in no way do the local church’s teachings go against the word of God. The bible says their is only one God in the form of three persons The Father, the son, and the holy spirit. One argument against the local church said that the local churches belief that The father, the son, and the holy spirit were interchangeable was not biblical. How can this be? How can you have one God if this is the case? You would have three Gods if they were not interchangable. They are in Unity. So they are One. So they must be interchangable.

    I was very skeptical once I came into this particular church life, but i am no longer skeptical. I have learned through the local church to focus on the Lord and everything else will fall into place. At every of church I was taught to focus on wealth or houses or offerings. The Lord is not in any of that. In all the churches I’ve gone to in the past if there weren’t constant prosperity teaching there was conflict with hypocrisy judgment. I have never felt so free in the Lord as I do now. Most of the member in the Local Church are HIGHLY educated people that have dedicated themselves to fully loving and gaining and the Lord. The do not beat doctrine over your head or condemn people for making a mistake but they teach you to turn to the Lord and not to give up if you fall and eventually all of your sin and shorting comings will fall off from you and the desire for sin and the world will not be there. I am experiencing this myself. I have never met and fellowshipped with such a sweet and caring group of people. They teach and just expect you to follow but they also live what they teach as an example. In the local church loving the Lord is not just something that is done on Sunday morning but it is an experience that we have every single day. I love you all and I hope that each of us can just experience the Lord richly and fully wherever that may be.

    Delmar

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