Do We Have To?
In this article I would like to consider some of the background issue involved in dealing with cultists in general. The first question we should consider is whether we have a responsibility to deal with them at all. After all, they’ve been brain-washed and they’re not going to listen to us. There’s no hope for them and there’s no use in talking to them. Is that really true? Is it hopeless to even talk to a Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon? Is it better just not to answer the door or just tell them “We’re busy,” or “We already have a church and we’re not interested, please leave us alone now”?
First of all, we must acknowledge the power of the lie. Untruths have unquestionably been deeply ingrained into the minds of those be longing to cults. There is no question that there are strong powers at work. In keeping members In these cults But this in itself is nothing unusual. From a postmodern perspective most of the world would consider our churches to be cults as well. We “indoctrinate” our children; we use powerful means of social control such as church discipline to “keep people in” our churches too. Moreover, is the rest of the world really that much different?
Unbelievers indoctrinate their own children; they too have been “brain-washed” and severely prejudiced against the truths of the historic Christian faith. Is there anything really unusual about your typical Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon? Are they not in reality just as prejudiced as your unbelieving neighbor who thinks that television is the meaning of life? Cultists are just as subject to what we read in Romans 1:18: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” The cultist is suppressing the truth in exactly the same way as any other unbeliever. He is in slavery to the power of the great lie.
The cultist is not much different than our other unbelieving neighbors—does that mean then that there is no hope for either? We must emphatically reply, “No!” The reason we do that is because Scripture clearly teaches us about the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul clearly demonstrates in the first two chapters of First Corinthians that it is the Spirit who leads us to the wisdom of God. The Holy Spirit is powerful—He is more powerful than the foolishness of this world. Through the preaching and teaching of the Word, God is pleased to work faith through the power of the Holy Spirit. He did it in you and isn’t that a fact of unfathomable proportions? That He took you and worked faith in your heart (and you know what a sinner you are by nature)—doesn’t that arouse a sense of awe, doesn’t that make your jaw drop? Now what makes you think that He cannot do the same with the Jehovah’s Witnesses who comes to your door? What makes you think that those name-tags don’t belong in the Book of Life? God can do it! He did it with you and therefore He can certainly do it with them.
THE POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION!
The amazing thing is that He has done it in the past. I don’t know if we’ve seen it in our own circles, but that may be simply because we haven’t made any serious efforts. However, there are plenty of examples outside our circles of former cultists who have turned or returned to the Christian faith. God can save even the most-hardened cultist. He did it in the time of Paul and He may do so even today. And for that reason, the Apostle could write: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). Jews, Greeks and cultists—all are potential recipients of God’s grace unto salvation.
Therefore we have no right to say that there is no use in evangelizing or defending the faith to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. We cannot come up with our own exception clause to the command of the Holy Spirit in 1 Peter 3:15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” “Every man,” says Peter. He does not exclude cultists—of which there were plenty also in the time of the apostles. “Every man,” means exactly what it says; none are excluded no matter how brain-washed or prejudiced we may consider them to be. The free offer of the gospel must be extended to every person; we ought not to discriminate.
This means that slamming doors is counter-productive and even disobedient. It may happen that you don’t have time at a particular moment to speak with your doorknockers—then ask them to come back some other time. They are the souls locked in the proverbial burning house. How can you abandon them and leave them to bum eternally without doing everything you can to make sure they get out? We must have compassion for these lost souls. Rather than turning them away, take every opportunity to warn and admonish them. In that context we must also defend the truth before them and show them the riches of the historic Christian gospel.
BUT WHAT ABOUT…
But now, someone will say, what about the injunction of the Spirit in II John 10: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house…” Doesn’t this clearly teach that we should keep cultists out of our homes? That is a common misunderstanding of this text. “Receiving” in your house means much more in this passage than simply having someone sit down in your living room over a cup of coffee. It points to a type of hospitality that would involve allowing a heretic to use your home as some type of headquarters for his work. You would then be cooperating in a very real way in the spread of falsehood. Nothing of the sort happens when you take a cultist in your home to speak with him out of a concern for his eternal welfare. So II John 10 cannot be used as a text to evade our responsibility to the door-knocker. We must answer the door and we must give an answer to the cultist.
There’s no question that this is a difficult task which the Scriptures set before each one of us. It is not easy matter to give a sound defense of our faith and a faithful presentation of the gospel. It isn’t easy to do it with the average unbeliever next door, and it isn’t easy with cultists either. But the Lord calls us to difficult things. The Christian life involves hard work. This includes becoming equipped so that we can deal with situations where we’re confronted with door-knockers. This means we have to learn some things. Before we learn or review some of the key-teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons (in the next two articles), we should be reminded of some practical items.
A STRING AROUND YOUR FINGER
One of the most important things to remember when a cultist comes to remember when a cultist comes knocking is that we have to look at him or her as a total person. They are not simply arguments waiting to be won. They are real people, they are fully human. Connected with this is the fact that they have names and a history. Whenever possible we should try to learn the first and last names of our door-knockers. This not only brings our discussion with them to a more personal level, it also gives us the opportunity to reciprocate the visit. It rarely happens that a cultist will give both his first and last name, but if he does we should shrewdly take advantage of that by looking up his address in the phone book. We can then either show our concern for his eternal welfare by follow-up visits to his home or we could also mail evangelistic material.
Each door-knocker also has his own personal history. Very few cultists were born and raised in the cult. With some inquiring questions, you can find out the life-story of the door-knocker. You can find out what led him into the cult. Was he a Christian before? What made him change his mind? Asking these questions will help you be more understanding and effective in your presentation of the gospel message. It is important that we do not dehumanize the Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon, as if they were some type of worthless animal for joining a cult. Rather, we should see each cultist as a total person desperately in need of God’s salvation.
Doing this we will come to the door with sincere love for the one knocking. We will not look out the window I and see a pest, but we will see someone who is lost and wandering in darkness. He is exactly what you would be if the Lord had not worked with His Spirit in your heart. He is you without the grace of God in your life. That means that we also have a humble heart before the cultist. We have no reason to boast arrogantly about ourselves or even our church. We are the Lord’s by His grace alone.
We have assurance of faith, not because we ourselves are so righteous, but because the Lord is merciful. So we must be careful to show this to the door-knocker in the way that we speak and the way that we act. We must be gentle and humble, showing a deep concern.
This deep concern will mean that after the visit is over you will begin praying for your visitor. The advice found in some books that we tell our visitor that we will pray for him may not always be the best thing to do.
Especially if you have already unintentionally come across in an arrogant fashion, saying this may only add fuel to the fire of the cultist’s conviction that he must be right. Nevertheless, earnest prayer for the salvation of the door-knocker is warranted. We know the teaching of Scripture about the power of prayer. Pray for the visitor in your personal prayers, pray for him in your family worship. Pray and keep praying. It is also tremendously important that we know beforehand what to expect when speaking with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. For that reason, in the two following articles (God willing) we hope to look at some of their essential teachings and how to respond to these with a loving and faithful presentation of the gospel.
[A helpful source for this article was Anthony Hoekema’s The Four Major Cults (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963)]
Reprinted from Outreach, a bi-annual publication of the Reformed Evangelism Taskforce, inserted in Clarion, November 12, 1999.