Beware of these heresy cults / これらの異端カルトに注意せよ
Question: "Are Mormons Christians? Are Mormons saved?"
Answer: Although Mormons profess to be Christians and say they believe the Word of God, there are many of their beliefs that contradict Christianity. In fact, Mormonism can be referred to as a cult, which can be defined as “a religious group that denies one or more of the fundamentals of biblical truth.” Mormons say they are Christians, but because they reject foundational truths from God’s Word, they are not.
Joseph Smith, who referred to himself as “The Prophet,” founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the mid-1800s. He claimed to have seen a vision of God the Father and God the Son, in which they denounced modern Christianity and appointed Smith to reveal and restore “true” Christianity (Articles of Faith, p. 182–185). Three years later, Smith alleged that the angel Moroni told him about some golden plates on which the Book of Mormon was written. In spite of Smith’s questionable background and proclivity toward bending the truth (see The Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, New York, 1861; and Mormonism Unveiled, Painesville, Ohio, 1834), many believed Smith, and a new “religion” was born. Today, the members of the Mormon Church number in the millions.
The Book of Mormon is purported to be a new revelation, one that Mormons say is part of the new covenant to Israel and “another witness” to the truth of the Bible (History of the Church 4:461, 8th Article of Faith). Aside from the many theological conflicts with the Bible and historical and archeological fact, the writing of the Book of Mormon was shrouded in mystery and false claims. For example, Joseph Smith and his associates asserted that one Professor Charles Anthon of Columbia University verified the Egyptian characters on the golden plates. However, this same professor wrote a rebuttal letter soon after, saying that he never did any such thing and had, in fact, found the characters to be a hoax. In addition, many verses in the Mormon scriptures have been changed over the years, as the church leaders attempt to cover up something embarrassing in their past and to defend themselves against criticism (see http://mit.irr.org/changes-latter-day-scripture). These facts alone are enough to cast much doubt on the veracity of the Book of Mormon.
One of the many areas in which Mormons fall short of saving faith is their belief that God is merely an exalted man who earned his position by good works (Mormon Doctrine, p. 321; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345). This directly contradicts the Bible, which states that God has existed in His position as God of the universe from eternity past (Revelation 1:8; 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:15–16; Psalm 102:24–27). God was never a man (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Hosea 11:9) and is the holy and powerful Creator of all things (Genesis 1; Psalm 24:1; Isaiah 37:16). Mormons also believe that they themselves can attain the status of gods in the afterlife through their works here on earth (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345–354). However, no man can ever become like God (1 Samuel 2:2; Isaiah 43:10–11; 44:6; 45:21–22), despite what the serpent told Eve in the garden (Genesis 3:5).
Mormons also believe that Jesus was a god, but not God Himself (Mormon Doctrine, p. 547; Articles of Faith, p. 35; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 372). It is essential to Christian faith that Jesus is one with God and that He is God’s only begotten Son who became flesh (John 1:1, 14; John 3:16). Only Jesus’ oneness with God would have allowed Him to live a sinless, blameless life (Hebrews 7:26). And only Jesus Christ was able to pay the price for our sins by His death on the cross (Romans 4:25; Acts 4:12).
Those who follow the Mormon faith also believe that they can attain heaven through works (Doctrine and Covenants 58:42–43; 2 Nephi 9:23–24; Alma 34:30–35; Articles of Faith, p.92). While they claim faith in Christ, they also rely on following the commandments of the Mormon Church (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, p 188; Mormon Doctrine, p. 670) and practicing good works (2 Nephi 25:23; Alma 11:37) in order to achieve salvation. The Bible is very clear on this point, stating that good works can never earn the way to heaven (Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:8–9; Titus 3:5) and that faith in Jesus Christ alone is the only way to salvation (John 10:9; 11:25; 14:6; Acts 4:12). Salvation by grace is incompatible with salvation by human works (Romans 11:6).
Sadly, many in the Mormon Church are unaware of the religion’s shady past, amended scriptures, and even the full doctrine of their church. Many Mormons who have discovered these things have left the church and come to a true saving faith in Jesus Christ. As Christians, we must treat Mormons with love and understand that they are among those deceived by Satan himself (1 Peter 5:8). Satan’s goal is to distort the truth, produce false assurance of salvation, and extend a deceptive hope of godhood (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Question: "What is the Church of Almighty God / Eastern Lightning?"
Answer: The Church of Almighty God (Quannengshen in Chinese) is a secretive, theologically aberrant religious movement that started in China in 1991. Although it has been banned by the Chinese Communist Party for its anti-government stance, it continues to grow and is considered an influential doomsday cult.
The Church of Almighty God is also known as Eastern Lightning, a name based on Matthew 24:27: “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” The group believes that God has again become incarnate, this time as a Chinese woman named Yang Xiangbin, who also calls herself “Lightning Deng.” Yang is the nominal head of Eastern Lightning, but the true leader is probably her “high priest” and lover, Zhao Weishan, the man who first began proclaiming that Yang was divine.
In 2000, Zhao Weishan and Yang Xiangbin moved to the United States, and they currently oversee operations of the Church of Almighty God from New York City. Yang Xiangbin is called “Christ of the last days” and “Almighty God” in the belief that she is the second coming of Christ to finish the work of God. Yang gives utterances that are recorded as God’s word for the last days. (Although Yang is seen as an incarnation of God, she is considered separate from Jesus Christ, who was a different incarnation of God.) The Bible is seen as an obsolete record of God’s work in the past. “It is nothing more than a historical record of God’s work, and a testament to the previous two stages of God’s work, and offers you no understanding of the aims of God’s work” (from Eastern Lightning’s official website). Thus, the Bible is insufficient and must be supplemented by the utterances of Almighty God, or “Christ of the last days.”
The group teaches that in the Old Testament God was known by the name Jehovah. In the New Testament era, God was known as Jesus Christ. Now, in the last days, He is properly known as Almighty God. His work, through the female Christ, is qualitatively different from the work of the apostles. Although God used the apostles, they could only do what men who are used by God can do. The Church of Almighty God is the work of God Himself. According to their official website, the group “was entirely founded by Almighty God personally, and is personally led and shepherded by Him, and it was by no means set up by any man.” Currently, in the Kingdom Age, God is carrying out His White Throne Judgment. All Christian denominations and sects have lost the Holy Spirit, and His power is now concentrated in the Church of Almighty God.
The Church of Almighty God denies the Trinity, teaching a form of modalism. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are seen as three different manifestations of the one God, not three distinct Persons. “The Trinity does not exist anywhere in this universe. God has no Father and no Son, much less is there the concept of an instrument jointly used by the Father and the Son: the Holy Spirit. All of this is the greatest fallacy and simply does not exist in this world!” (op. cit.).
According to the teaching of the Church of Almighty God, Jesus forgave mankind’s sin in the Age of Grace, but His salvation was not complete, because the sin nature remained in mankind. Now, in the Age of the Kingdom, through the teaching of the Christ of last days, mankind can finally be delivered from sin and made fully clean. This is true salvation, available to those who will obey Almighty God’s teaching as revealed in the last days. From the group’s official website, it is hard to pin down exactly what allows one to attain this final level of true salvation. It appears that the most important thing is simply believing the teachings of the Church of Almighty God.
The Church of Almighty God has a presence in Hong Kong, New York, and San Francisco, as well as mainland China. There are disturbing reports of the group using sexual seduction, kidnapping, bribes, brainwashing, and blackmail to coerce new members into the group and keep them there. The group especially targets housewives, the poor, and house churches in China, first befriending believers and then slowly trying to convince them that Yang Xiangbin is God incarnate. In 2002, Eastern Lightning members allegedly kidnapped thirty-four leaders of an underground Christian network, the China Gospel Fellowship, and held them captive for two months. In August 2014, five members of the Church of Almighty God went on trial in Yantai, Shandong, for the murder of a 37-year-old woman in a restaurant—the woman was beaten to death for refusing to join their group. In February 2015, two of the five were executed for the crime.
In summary, the Church of Almighty God is a dangerous group that denies the sufficiency of Scripture and supplements it with additional, supposedly inspired teachings. The new teaching comes from a woman who is seen to be a second incarnation of God and who actually calls herself Almighty God. The Trinity is denied. Jesus’ sacrifice is denigrated, and His work on the cross considered powerless to fully save. While the group pays lip-service to the sacrifice of Christ, true and final salvation is only available through adherence to their new teaching. The Church of Almighty God is shrouded in secrecy, and its members use strong-arm tactics and have committed atrocious crimes in the name of their group. The Church of Almighty God has all the hallmarks of a cult, and Christians will do well to heed Scripture’s warning: “Certain individuals . . . have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. . . . These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit” (Jude 1:4, 19).
Question: "Who are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and what are their beliefs?"
Answer: The sect known today as the Jehovah’s Witnesses started out in Pennsylvania in 1870 as a Bible class led by Charles Taze Russell. Russell named his group the “Millennial Dawn Bible Study,” and those who followed him were called “Bible students.” Charles T. Russell began writing a series of books he called “The Millennial Dawn,” which stretched to six volumes before his death and contained much of the theology Jehovah’s Witnesses now hold. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society was founded in 1886 and quickly became the vehicle through which the “Millennial Dawn” movement began distributing their views. Group members were sometimes disparagingly called “Russellites.” After Russell’s death in 1916, Judge J. F. Rutherford, Russell’s friend and successor, wrote the seventh and final volume of the “Millennial Dawn” series, “The Finished Mystery,” in 1917. That was also the year that the organization split. Those who followed Rutherford began calling themselves “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe? Close scrutiny of their doctrinal position on such subjects as the deity of Christ, salvation, the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, and the atonement shows beyond a doubt that they do not hold to orthodox Christian positions on these subjects. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus is Michael the archangel, the highest created being. This contradicts many Scriptures which clearly declare Jesus to be God (John 1:1,14, 8:58, 10:30). Jehovah’s Witnesses believe salvation is obtained by a combination of faith, good works, and obedience. This contradicts countless scriptures which declare salvation to be received by grace through faith (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the Trinity, believing Jesus to be a created being and the Holy Spirit to essentially be the inanimate power of God. Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the concept of Christ’s substitutionary atonement and instead hold to a ransom theory, that Jesus’ death was a ransom payment for Adam’s sin.
How do the Jehovah’s Witnesses justify these unbiblical doctrines? First, they claim that the church has corrupted the Bible over the centuries; thus, they have re-translated the Bible into what they call the New World Translation. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society altered the text of the Bible to make it fit their false doctrine, rather than basing their doctrine on what the Bible actually teaches. The New World Translation has gone through numerous editions, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses discover more and more Scriptures that contradict their doctrines.
The Watchtower bases its beliefs and doctrines on the original and expanded teachings of Charles Taze Russell, Judge Joseph Franklin Rutherford, and their successors. The governing body of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is the only body in the cult that claims authority to interpret Scripture. In other words, what the governing body says concerning any scriptural passage is viewed as the last word, and independent thinking is strongly discouraged. This is in direct opposition to Paul’s admonition to Timothy (and to us as well) to study to be approved by God, so that we need not be ashamed as we correctly handle the Word of God. This admonition, found in 2 Timothy 2:15, is a clear instruction from God to each of His children to be like the Berean Christians, who searched the Scriptures daily to see if the things they were being taught lined up with the Word.
There is probably no religious group that is more faithful than the Jehovah’s Witnesses at getting their message out. Unfortunately, the message is full of distortions, deceptions, and false doctrine. May God open the eyes of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to the truth of the gospel and the true teaching of God’s Word.