Language, as the late Dr. Walter Martin pointed out in his book Kingdom of the Cults, is very significant. For good or ill, it consists of thoughts, ideas, and the changing meanings of words by which, “entire churches, thrones, and governments have been erected, sustained, or overthrown.”1
He goes on to say that language is one of the chief ways cultists misuse the Bible, by cleverly redefining terms to create a seeming harmony with Biblical truth. For them, redefinitions of words and ideas have become tools of control of those under their sway.
Redefining words controls thought and behavior by placing boundaries on what is possible. It is ideas that determine the actions of people. Men and women can only do what they can put into words. Even their ideas are determined by the meanings of the words as they understand them. To redefine words, then, is an attempt to control what enters into a person’s mind to do, or even to dream. As Dr. Martin said,
Language is, to be sure, a complex subject; all are agreed on this. But one thing is beyond dispute, and that is that in context words mean just what they say. Either we admit this or we must be prepared to… return to writing on cave walls with charcoal sticks in the tradition of our alleged stone-age ancestors.”
If words do not mean what they say, then communication becomes either impossible or meaningless. However, if a cult member can be called back to the original meanings of the terms his leaders have redefined for him, then he can be set free from the very real bondage he is in. Using the ominous “Big Brother” state of George Orwell’s novel, 1984, Martin compares what can happen in politics to what does happen in cults. “The redefinition of common political terms can lead to slavery when it is allowed to pass unchallenged by a lethargic populace.”
When words and ideas are successfully redefined, and the new definitions are accepted by most of the people, then a new “reality” has come about. Anything outside of that reality takes on an air of unreality — if not insanity. So we return to Martin’s insistence on words meaning just what they say.
In light of this, let’s look up some very important words in a dictionary. They have to do with how we think about God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the Church, which is the Body of Christ on earth. Considering the meaning of these words and how they are used by great Christian leaders of today will help us judge what “reality” we live in.
Armed with these quotes and definitions, let’s consider the words of some famous religious leaders and see how they pass the test of “words meaning just what they say.”
I have learned that although Christians do not always agree, they can disagree agreeably,” and “within the true church there is a mysterious unity that overrides all divisive factors.” [Billy Graham pamphlet, “Growing as a Christian]
[I have] a concern to “major on majors” and so not isolate ourselves from fellow Christians with whom we may not entirely agree… In practice, this commitment to “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) means that we refuse to divide over such important, but nevertheless secondary issues as church polity, baptism, style of worship, eschatology, the gifts of the Spirit, Calvinism, the ordination of women, etc.” [Pastor Gordon Hugenberger, Park Street Church, Boston, MA]2
Paul points out that some say, “I’m of Paul,” while others say, “I’m of Apollos.” He asked, “Isn’t that carnal?” But what’s the difference between saying that or saying, “I’m a Baptist,” “I’m a Presbyterian,” “I’m a Methodist,” “I’m a Catholic”? I have found that the more spiritual a person becomes, the less denominational he is. We should realize that we’re all part of the Body of Christ and that there aren’t any real divisions in the Body. We’re all one.” [Pastor Chuck Smith, Calvary Chapel]3
It may be difficult to realize that these men have redefined unity to include, if not equal, division. The ways they use the words “unity, division, and denomination” blatantly contradicts their plain meanings. They give every appearance of not wanting the people they teach to think that unity means oneness, a thing undivided, unbroken completeness. Yet this actual unity is what Jesus prayed for before He died: “that they may be one, Father, as you and I are one.” (John 17:21)
How then should this oneness be defined? Wouldn’t Dr. Martin, the respected anti-cultist, insist we use the plain meaning of unity? Or should we use the redefinitions of today’s Christian leaders? Billy Graham sees a “mysterious unity,” meaning hard to understand, even hidden from sight. Pastor Hugenberger tells us that God’s unity, the “unity of the Spirit,” is only about a few essentials. Pastor Chuck Smith implies that the Father and the Son, like the Church, only have “virtual divisions” not real ones.
Do they not realize that their mystical concepts are blatantly untrue? When religious leaders so radically redefine terms like unity and division, are Christians not justified in suspecting them of having a hidden agenda and seeking to control how their followers think? At Dr. Martin’s urging, let’s turn to 1984 for another definition.
Doublethink — “To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them.”4
To know that the Church is divided and to say it is not, to know that Paul condemned divisions and to say he did not, to believe that God is one and His people are not, and to teach others these things, is classic doublethink. It may well be “historic Christian doctrine” but it is not the truth. It is doublethink.
So, are you in a cult? Or do you believe that God’s words can be accepted to mean just what they say?