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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Beware of Apostates


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Effort would be required to continue walking in love and truth. Explaining why, John wrote:

“For many deceivers have gone forth into the world, persons not confessing Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (2 John 7)

Evidently, some false teachers had been traveling about trying to gain converts among true Christians. (Compare Acts 20:30.) Though professing to be Christians themselves, these misleading “deceivers” would not acknowledge that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh as a human. Such false teachings would undercut Jesus’ role as Messiah and ransomer, including his exalted heavenly position.—Mark 1:9-11; John 1:1, 14; Philippians 2:5-11.

John called these apostates “the deceiver and the antichrist” because their teachings were deceptive and they themselves were opposed to Christ. The apostle’s reference to “many antichrists” indicates that there were numerous individual enemies of Christ, though all together they may form a composite person designated “antichrist.” (1 John 2:18) Denial of Jesus as the Christ and as God’s Son embraces the denying of any or all of the Scriptural teachings concerning him. Faithful witnesses of Jehovah totally reject the views of such false teachers.

Since there was danger of being turned aside from the truth to apostasy, John urged:

“Look out for yourselves, that you do not lose the things we have worked to produce, but that you may obtain a full reward. Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. He that does remain in this teaching is the one that has both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 8, 9)

By such labors as preaching the “good news,” John and others had ‘produced’ fruitage resulting in the conversion of this letter’s original recipients. But only by ‘looking out’ for themselves spiritually would they not “lose” undeserved kindness, mercy and peace from Jehovah and his Son, as well as lasting fellowship with all those bound together in truth and love. If faithful, John’s spirit-anointed fellow believers would continue to enjoy rewarding service to Jehovah. By speaking of a “full reward,” John evidently meant to include the heavenly “crown” received by loyal anointed Christians. (Revelation 2:10; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:7, 8; James 1:12) Of course, every witness of Jehovah should reject apostate doctrine because it can rob him of eternal life either in heaven or on earth.

The apostate “deceivers” were ‘pushing ahead’ and did not “remain in the teaching of the Christ” because they did not stick to the truth taught by Jesus and his faithful apostles. Hence, the heretics did not “have God,” for they were not in union with Jehovah and had no relationship with him. (1 John 1:5, 6; 2:22-25) However, faithful witnesses of Jehovah ‘confess that Christ came in the flesh,’ for they exercise faith in his ransom sacrifice and stick to what he and his loyal apostles taught. (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6; 2 John 7) These genuine Christians cling to the truth and therefore have “both the Father and the Son” because of knowing them, appreciating their qualities and continuing to enjoy an intimate relationship with them.

Attitude Toward Apostates

Christians are to be hospitable, but not toward apostates from the true faith. (1 Peter 4:9) John made this clear in saying:

“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.” (2 John 10, 11)

The “deceivers” were traveling about and actively spreading false teaching. Of course, it would have been wrong for any dedicated Christian to extend the hand of fellowship to them by allowing these false teachers into his home. It would also have been improper to give the apostates any kind of greeting, whether it was welcome on their arrival or “God speed” at their departure. (Authorized Version) No loyal Christian would wish a deliberate promoter of false doctrine success in his work. Certainly, then, no faithful witness of Jehovah would socialize with such an individual.—1 Corinthians 5:11-13.

Moreover, if a dedicated servant of Jehovah were to entertain such a deceptive teacher in his home, he would become “an accomplice” in the “wicked deeds” of that person. (The New English Bible) Therefore, no loyal modern-day witness of Jehovah would greet a disfellowshipped or disassociated apostate or allow that one to use his Christian home as a place from which to spread doctrinal error. Surely, there would be grave accountability before God if a believer extended hospitality to an apostate and this resulted in the spiritual death of a fellow worshiper of Jehovah.—Compare Romans 16:17, 18; 2 Timothy 3:6, 7.

Some who once served as Jehovah’s Witnesses have rejected various Scriptural views based on the teachings of Jesus Christ and his apostles. For instance, they insist that we are not living in the “last days,” despite overwhelming evidence that we are. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) These apostates ‘have gone out from us because they were not of our sort.’ (1 John 2:18, 19) Hence, they no longer have fellowship with loyal anointed witnesses of Jehovah and their companions, and therefore these self-seeking heretics have no “sharing” with the Father and the Son, no matter how much they may boast of having intimacy with God and Christ. Instead, they are in spiritual darkness. (1 John 1:3, 6) Lovers of light and truth must take a firm stand against these promoters of false teaching. In no way do loyal witnesses of Jehovah want to be accomplices in the “wicked deeds” of such unfaithful persons by supporting their ungodly words and activities in any manner. Rather, may we “put up a hard fight for the faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones.”—Jude 3, 4, 19.

- Published by the WTB&TS

Apostasy (IPA: /əˈpɒstəsi/) is the formal religious disaffiliation or abandonment or renunciation of one's religion, especially if the motive is deemed unworthy. In a technical sense, as used sometimes by sociologists without the pejorative connotations of the word, the term refers to renunciation and criticism of, or opposition to, one's former religion. One who commits apostasy is an apostate, or one who apostatizes. The word derives from Greek αποστασία (apostasia), meaning a defection or revolt, from απο, apo, "away, apart", στασις, stasis, "stand", "standing". Bryan R. Wilson, who was a professor of Sociology at Oxford University, writes that apostates of new religious movements are generally in need of self-justification, and seek to reconstruct their past and to excuse their former affiliations, while blaming those who were formerly their closest associates. Wilson utilizes the term atrocity story, [a story] that is in his view rehearsed by the apostate to explain how, by manipulation, coercion or deceit, he was recruited to a group that he now condemns. Wilson also challenges the reliability of the apostate's testimony by saying that "the apostate [is] always seen as one whose personal history predisposes him to bias with respect to his previous religious commitment and affiliations, the suspicion must arise that he acts from a personal motivation, to vindicate himself and to regain his self-esteem, by showing himself to have been first a victim, but subsequently a redeemed crusader."

Lonnie D. Kliever, Ph.D., Professor of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University writes “There is no denying that these dedicated and diehard opponents of the new religions present a distorted view of the new religions to the public, the academy, and the courts by virtue of their ready availability and eagerness to testify against their former religious associations and activities. Such apostates always act out of a scenario that vindicates themselves by shifting responsibility for their actions to the religious group. Indeed, the various brainwashing scenarios so often invoked against the new religious movements have been overwhelmingly repudiated by social scientists and religion scholars as nothing more than calculated efforts to discredit the beliefs and practices of unconventional religions in the eyes of governmental agencies and public opinion. Such apostates can hardly be regarded as reliable informants by responsible journalists, scholars, or jurists. Even the accounts of voluntary defectors with no grudges to bear must be used with caution since they interpret their past religious experience in the light of present efforts to re-establish their own self-identity and self-esteem. In short, on the face of things, apostates from new religions do not meet the standards of personal objectivity, professional competence, and informed understanding required of expert witnesses.”

Religious scholars have routinely found the testimony and public statements of apostates to be unreliable. In his book "The Politics of Religious Apostasy: The Role of Apostates in the Transformation of Religious Movement", Professor David Bromley, Department of Sociology and Anthropology of Virginia Commonwealth University, explained how individuals who elect to leave a chosen faith must then become critical of their religion in order to justify their departure. This then opens the door to being recruited and used by organizations which seek to use their testimony as a weapon against a minority religion. "Others may ask, if the group is as transparently evil as he now contends, why did he espouse its cause in the first place? In the process of trying to explain his own seduction and to confirm the worst fears about the group, the apostate is likely to paint a caricature of the group that is shaped more by his current role as apostate than by his actual experience in the group."

John Gordon Melton is an American religious scholar who was the founding director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion and is currently a research specialist in religion and New Religious Movements with the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. While testifying as an expert witness in a lawsuit, said that when investigating groups one should not rely solely upon the unverified testimony of ex-members, and that hostile ex-members would invariably shade the truth and blow out of proportion minor incidents, turning them into major incidents. Melton also follows the argumentation of Lewis Carter and David Bromley and claims that as a result of this study, the [psychological] treatment (coerced or voluntary) of former members largely ceased, and that a (perceived) lack of widespread need for psychological help by former members of new religions would in itself be the strongest evidence refuting early sweeping condemnations of new religions as causes of psychological trauma.