What surprises me as I go through the sequential schedule of Bible reading, now focused on the letters of Paul, is how well they anticipate current “anti-cultist” complaints—about being brainwashed, misled, duped, and so forth. What would appear to be a brand new scenario is just history recycled, today intensified by modern viral methods of communication. Given that the following was said then, when the only communication was word-of-mouth, it is not at all surprising that it would be so prolific today:
“We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one,” says the apostle at 2 Corinthians 7:2, as though the accusation of those things was commonplace.
“Nevertheless, you say, I was “crafty” and I caught you “by trickery,” he says again at 2 Corinthians 12:16. For sure, Solomon had a point: “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Eccles 1:9)
Do “apostates” proliferate today, as though something new? It appears to be the oldest game in town. “For there are many—I used to mention them often but now I mention them also with weeping—who are walking as enemies of the torture stake of the Christ. Their end is destruction, and their god is their belly, and their glory is really their shame, and they have their minds on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18-19)
“Having their mind on earthly things” is where it is at today, and there are endless people who obsess over petty freedoms at the expense of totally missing the real ones. Their “critical thinking” has sold them down the river; they have shipwrecked whatever faith they once had—just like Paul says about two actual malcontents in the first century, when he advised Timothy to “go on waging the fine warfare, holding faith and a good conscience, which some have thrust aside, resulting in the shipwreck of their faith. Hymenaeus and Alexander are among these, and I have handed them over to Satan so that they may be taught by discipline not to blaspheme.” (1 Timothy 3:18-19)
What exactly is it to be “handed over to Satan?” The only other use of the expression (1 Corinthians 5:5) makes clear that it is expulsion from the congregation. Today Hymenaous’s and Alexander’s counterparts on social media loudly decry that discipline.
They decry another sort of discipline as well. “Just as I encouraged you to stay in Ephesus when I was about to go to Macedonia, so I do now, in order for you to command certain ones not to teach different doctrine, nor to pay attention to false stories and to genealogies. Such things end up in nothing useful but merely give rise to speculations rather than providing anything from God in connection with faith.” Today the ones so “commanded” would hop on social media to rail that you can’t even breathe a word different from the tyrannical men on top to be muzzled at first transgression, and ejected at second.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult if and only if the Bible is a cult manual.
Nobody has apostates like Jehovah’s Witnesses. Nobody has apostates more prolific, more determined, and in some cases, more deranged—I mean, if someone so much as farts at Bethel, there is one of these yo-yos to start a thread on it, and that thread is not ignored, but is joined in by countless persons in sympathy, some of whom are coherent and some of whom are pure loons.
It is as it should be. We should be proud of our apostates. Nobody else has anyone like them. What if they did not exist? Would you not have to wonder why? No writer of the New Testament fails to deal with them. What if there were no mention of them today? Would it not indicate that the faith had strayed so far from its roots, to embrace contemporary thinking, that there was little to apostatize from?
I will admit that the only apostates that interest me are the ones that go atheist, which partly accounts for my take on the 2 Thessalonians “Man of Lawlessness.” Having learned the man-made origins of Trinity and the immortal soul, and having come to appreciate the damage these teachings do to to a close relationship with God, can one really go back to them? Often the “believing” apostates do not—they simply become ambiguous on such doctrines, thinking that they hardly matter—to each his own. Essentially, they want to retain God, but they acquiesce to the greater world molding their thinking as to outlook, goals, and morals. They want to “throw off all restraint” and in no time at all, they have lost whatever unity they once had. When they can be distracted from attacking their former roots on social media, they are to found attacking each other over differences in matters scientific, medical, climate, politics, etc.