Deception is sometimes used as a form of entertainment. David Copperfield is perhaps the most well-known and wealthiest magician today. Doug Henning, Penn and Teller are among the top in their field and who hasn’t heard of The Great Houdini? While we watch we know deception is going on and we are trying to figure out what it is they are actually doing. Even children can perform seeming magic. When my son, Lee, was young, he was interested in magic and one of the simplest tricks was also one of the best, Cups and Balls. If done correctly it was always reset and ready to be performed again once completed. When Lee was perhaps 7 or 8 he was very good and had his Uncle Steve trying for nearly an hour to catch what he was doing and could not. It seems as though the little balls were indeed passing through the solid bottom of the plastic cups. Fun.
Other deceptions can be quite tragic and even have eternal consequences. These have been with us nearly since the beginning of creation. In Scripture we have a record of Lucifer’s self-deception in Isaiah 14:13-14:
But you said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
He then went on to deceive Eve in Genesis 3:
You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
Deception is effective because there are things we want to believe, whether rational or irrational. Sometimes it is a result of simply being skeptical or perhaps not having access to the resources we need to check things out. For Eve the fruit was enticing. She had added to what God said (you shall not touch it) which made her claim untrue. The thought that she could have something which she came to believe God was withholding from her (“you will be like God, knowing good and evil”) that she wanted.
Deception in religion is fairly common and some groups are better than others at perpetrating it. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society for example, have honed their ability to deceive for over a century. The Watchtower even has an official teaching called, “Theocratic War Strategy” which is defined as not having to tell the truth to those who do not have a right to know. Who decides who does not have the right to know? Well, the Watchtower leadership. In the process they also continually change the truth if past “truth” claims prove them to be false teachers. This has happened recently with changes in Society’s teachings in the July 15, 2013 Watchtower magazine. The changes are major but they needed to be. The 100th anniversary of their believed 1914 date is approaching and the “anointed class” has nearly all passed away without the end-times judgment. Although they have held on to the date they would change the meaning of its importance. At one time, it was the predicted end of the world. When that failed it was the pivotal date when those who witnesses the events of 1914 (World War 1) would see the end before they passed away. Then it was changed to those born by 1914 and they have had a number of false prophecies about when the end would come (1914, 1915, 1916, 1925, 1942, and 1975, before the generation of 1914 passed away). Former Jehovah’s Witness from Australia, Doug Mason, has done an outstanding job in his review, Truth Changes of demonstrating the deception in this Watchtower and their past. As he points out:
With The Watchtower [WT] magazine of July 15, 2013, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses [GB] introduced changes to their teachings. These are the men who demand total loyalty and unquestioned acceptance by every Jehovah’s Witness [JW].
A significant The Watchtower magazine
There can be no doubt that this issue of The Watchtower magazine introduces significant changes by the GB. In restructuring its eschatology (study of the “Last Days”), the GB cuts away from its past, distancing itself from previously held beliefs which up to now had to be vigorously defended by Jehovah’s Witnesses. With this magazine, the GB changes several key teachings, and in the process remodels its past, its attitude towards Russell, the Bible Students, and to 1914. The GB is moving its focus from past dates to an anticipated future — without making commitments to dates. The centenary of October 1914 looms, and the events of those times slip ever further away.
Their changes are not unanticipated aberrations. A few months earlier, the GB wrote in The Watchtower of January 1, 2013 that it was changing its stance on significant matters:
It should be noted that although I think Doug has done a great job on this issue, he disagrees with us on core issues of the faith. As we have corresponded he has been quite upfront that he:
Is “not a Trinitarian”
Believes “that Jesus (Yeshua) was a man”
Does “not hold to pre-existence” (of Jesus)
Believes “the Bible is a human book, written by people, edited by people and altered by people.”
He is, “Perhaps I am more of a universalist”
Why has be gone to so much effort on this issue?
It is my desire that JWs are able to break free of the mental stranglehold exerted by their overlords in the name of religion. I want them to experience real freedom; the WTS rips families apart and it causes children and parents to die at their altar of “no medical use of some parts of blood”. These are my drivers.
So even though we would disagree in some essential areas we are both aware of what they are and have had some dialogue on them while we both agree that the deception of the Watchtower leadership needs to be exposed.
Deception occurs within the church as well. A very recent example is Million-selling reformed killer Tony Anthony exposed as serial fantasist. It seems about the only honest aspect of Tony Anthony’s claims to have been a trained killer transformed by Christ, is his name. All other or nearly all other aspects were pure invention. But again, this is nothing new. Mike Warnke claimed have been a High Priest of Satan in his book Satan Seller and Lauren Stratford claimed to have been Satanically ritually abused in her book Satan’s Underground: The Extraordinary Story of One Woman’s Escape. Warnke was exposed in the book Selling Satan and after Stratford was exposed as a deceiver she then began claiming she was a Holocaust Survivor. We naturally want to trust people and their claims, especially when we think God has done something miraculous. However, we do need to, as the late Ronald Reagan said, “Trust but verify.”
It happens that I see the wreckage of people’s lives that is due to deception. Much of my time and the time of MCOI is spent in communicating what is true and exposing what is false as well as trying to help those who have been deceived rebuild their lives. The Bible is pretty clear from cover to cover that we are to test claims and expose false teachings and teachers. That is not only outside the church but inside as well. If we don’t have the integrity to deal with false teachers in the church we don’t have the right to address them outside!