Christ in Me International (CiMI) is a New Religious Movement developing in South Africa. We were alerted to its existence when we began receiving emails and requests for information: Is this a group that falls within the historic Christian faith but engages in some odd practices, or does the New Religious Movement fall outside the pale of orthodoxy? We have done two web casts on this subject with a concerned pastor from that area, Rudolph Boshoff who has done a great deal of research and is actively alerting others about the group. Our webcasts with him are: “Who is Christ in Me International and Why Should I Care?” and “Was Jesus the Christ or Was He Just a Human Who Had the Christ?” For the record, we have attempted to dialogue with the leaders of the group and even invited them to participate in the webcast, but they did not accept our overtures. In late February, one of their leaders contacted us to request an opportunity to talk, and we again invited them to participate in a webcast. They have not responded but instead posted “Is Christ in Me International a cult?” The short answer is yes. We will explain our reason shortly.
I have to admit, reading CiMI’s piece was a bit reminiscent of similar material by Gwen Shamblin of Weighdown Workshop/Remnant Fellowship and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. CiMI, like these other groups, trots out definitions (or portions of definitions) of the word cult, and then attempts to prove that their group does not fit said definitions. They then conclude that if they are a cult then so is all of Christianity.
CiMI cites definitions from the Christianity Today website, which shows that the word cult, like most words in any language, has a range of meaning and that one would need the context of the usage to determine which meaning applies:
First of all, a cult can simply be a group that loves something. When people refer to an “Elvis cult” or “The O.C. cult,” the word simply denotes a seriously devoted fan base.
The second definition is that of a religion whose beliefs differ from the majority around them. In the Roman Empire, Christians were sometimes considered a cult because they worshiped Jesus rather than the Roman gods.
The third, and most commonly used definition, refers to a religious group that is
Exclusive. They may say, “We’re the only ones with the truth; everyone else is wrong; and if you leave our group your salvation is in danger.”
Secretive. Certain teachings are not available to outsiders or they are presented only to certain members, sometimes after taking vows of confidentiality.
Authoritarian. A human leader expects total loyalty and unquestioned obedience.
Individual words certainly do have a range of meaning, and the meanings often change or are expanded with usage over time. The context – who I was communicating to, what I was communicating about, and when I communicated it – determines the understanding of the word. For example, the 1890s were referred to as “The Gay Nineties,” and the word gay in those days meanthappy and carefree. However, in our time the word denotes attraction to and engaging in sexual relations with members of one’s own sex. Hardly anyone in our time defines the word gay as happyand carefree. Likewise, the word cult does indeed have a larger variety of meanings than those cited in Christianity Today (CT), and the word has a considerably larger range of meaning since it first appeared in English in the 17th century. The “Cult” entry in Wikipedia is helpful on this issue. Sociologists, psychologists, government officials and religious researchers use the word differently, but each also provides the definition being applied.
CiMI compounds the problem by seemingly possessing a lack of understanding of history and orthodox Christian doctrine. They write:
My eye immediately caught that there is something ‘off’ with the second definition, that it should not be there. I would have thought that if you worship a human being as GOD or ‘GOD the Son’ (trinity doctrine) you would automatically fall under the third category that applies to cults? When did it become legitimate religious behaviour to worship a human being?
The first century Greco-Roman Pantheon was polytheistic and included many deities who were at one time fully human persons who had become gods. Romans had no problem adding a new god to their Pantheon – provided the worshippers swore allegiance to the Caesar as the supreme deity with the simple confession “Kaísaras Kyrios” (Caesar is lord). Early Christian believers didn’t worship “a human being as GOD” or a human being who became god, but rather the One True God Who took on human nature in the incarnation.
The Apostle Paul demonstrates this usage in Romans 10:9-13 by co-opting the confession and applying it to the Savior when he wrote, “If you confess with your mouth ‘Iēsoús Kyrios,’ you shall be saved.” The word kyrios simply means lord, but the context of that phrase when applied to Caesar was that he was the supreme deity. Paul’s use of the phrase carried the same meaning, denoting Jesus as the supreme deity rather than Caesar. Paul informs us Who this “Lord” is by applying Joel 2:32 to “Iēsoús” – Jesus – in Romans 10:13. The early believers were to declare and swear allegiance to “Iēsoús” as YWHW – the only true God – which is the very truth that CiMI denies!Paul’s substitution did not sit well with the Romans, of course, and openly declaring “Jesus is Lord” carried a death sentence from the Roman government.
To respond fully to the CiMI article will require one or more full-length articles, a task far too ambitious for this medium. It is our plan to produce a full article on the subject soon. It is important though to point out that the CiMI article cites Christianity Today’s third use of the word cult, which includes the terms Exclusive, Secretive, and Authoritarian then redefines the words to suit the author’s defensive purposes. For example, he ignores the supplied description of “secretive” and instead chooses to make it simply about closed door meetings. “Closed door meetings” was neither stated nor intended by the CT author. What was intended was a group’s practice of holding secret doctrines, often even withholding these deeper “truths” from the group at large and initiating them a little at a time. It would be kind of like the leader of a very large purportedly orthodox Christian denomination privately asserting that there is no hell, though his church has proclaimed the reality of hell for many centuries. What other essential doctrinal deviations may this leader be secretly holding to? The people in the pews should know. Or if an elite cabal in our local church secretly holds to the “truth” that Pastor Dan (our pastor) is the LORD Almighty, we really need to know that. Secrecy involving essential doctrine is a major indicator of unholy and cultic shenanigans. The CiMI author uses a similar bait and switch tactic with each of the three characteristics which describe the third use of the word cult.
In our article, “Weigh Down Workshop a Cult?” (we flesh out the characteristics of cults, as well as provide the definition most Christian theologians, New Religious Movements and cult researchers use which comes from Alan Gomes:
A cult of Christianity is a group of people who claim to be Christian, yet embrace a particular doctrinal system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which (system) denies (either explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian faith as taught in the 66 books of the Bible. 1
Although CiMI affirms the human nature of Jesus, they deny that He was God by nature prior to the incarnation. He essentially came into existence at His supernatural conception and although a perfect sinless man was no more than that. We address the issue of His nature at some length in “Weighed Down with False Doctrine” and “Should You Believe in the Watchtower or Is Jesus Christ Almighty God?”
In short, we have abundant evidence in the Old Testament of at least two persons Who share God’s name, YHWH. For example, in Zechariah 2:7-13 we have a very interesting passage involving YHWH sending YHWH down to Earth, and YHWH going to dwell in the midst of the people at the direction of YHWH. Well, YHWH did come to dwell in the midst of the people at the incarnation – and, He was sent by YHWH! Hallelujah! In Zechariah chapter 11, YHWH is depicted as being valued for 30 pieces of silver – and the blood money would be thrown into the treasury in the House of YHWH. That is precisely what happened with Jesus at the hand of Judas, who was paid 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus, and he ended up throwing the money back into the treasury in a fit of revulsion. YHWH is the Father, and YHWH is also the Son. We find out later that YHWH is also the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17-18), There are indeed three distinct persons in the godhead.
Instead of affirming the nature of the Son, they embrace the heresy of adoptionism:
Adoptionism is a heretical theology that claims Jesus was God’s adopted Son. Adoptionism teaches that, because of Jesus’ sinless life, God chose Him and adopted Him. Adoptionism also goes by the name dynamic monarchianism; it was declared a heresy by the church in the second century. Scripture makes it clear that adoptionism is not true. Jesus Christ is not adopted; He is “begotten” (John 3:16, KJV).2
CiMI is simply adopting (pardon the pun) early church heresies which were rejected and refuted by the end of the Second Century. As a result of rejecting the deity of the Son, they also reject the physical resurrection, a doctrine on which the entirety of the gospel hinges. Jesus Himself said He would raise His physical body! John tells us that after the resurrection the disciples remembered that He had said this. (John 2:18-22) Paul cites an early church creed (in existence about 38 A.D.) in 1 Corinthians 15:1-7. Paul asserts that if Jesus was not physically resurrected, the believers have “believed in vain” and there is no hope of salvation. (see The Resurrection: Watchtower-Style).
As is often the case with cults, New Religious Movements and pseudo-Christian groups, there can be sincere people involved who are nevertheless deeply deceived. That should not really surprise us, for the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy:
…evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13)
Deceiving and being deceived is a hallmark of cult groups everywhere.Ω
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