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A Study of the Cults--a Christian Perspective #4
The term “Muslim” means “one who submits”. The Muslim is one who submits himself to God and the prophet of God, Muhammad. The Muslim confession of faith, the Shahada is very simple, “There is no god, but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Five times a day, prayers are offered toward Mecca in the name of Allah.
It is impossible to separate Islam from the Arab culture. It is more than a religion. It is a lifestyle. Islam is an intolerant religion that seeks to bring everyone under the banner of Islam. If violence is necessary (as in jihad—holy war), then so be it.
Muhammad was born in 570 AD as Ubu’l-Kassim. His father died when he was an infant and his mother died when he reached the age of six. He was raised by Abu-Talib, an uncle. Through his uncle he was able to make long trips through the Near East. This put him in touch with Jews and Christians alike from which became the foundations for his religious theology. He was afflicted with a strange disorder that caused him to foam at the mouth and fall into trances. These symptoms resemble much of demonic activity in scripture.
According to Islamic tradition, Muhammad entered a cave at the age of forty and was confronted by a being that identified himself as the angel Gabriel. “Gabriel” ordered him to “Proclaim in the name of the Lord the Creator who created man from a clot of blood”. All the while “Gabriel” was choking him into submission. Thus the term “Muslim” means “one who submits”.
He continued to visit the cave and the visions grew more in number. What he saw and heard is summarized in the Muslim holy book, the Koran (Qur’an—recitation). Muhammad memorized all 78,000 words of the Koran’s 114 chapters. He was illiterate and therefore his teachings were initially transmitted orally.
Islam was slow in growing. The teaching of a monotheistic religion did not fit in well with the lifestyle of nomadic polytheists. In 622AD Muhammad had a vision of mortal danger. He left his home and traveled to Medina for safety. Medina, or “the city of the prophet” is second only to Mecca as a spiritual city of Islam.
To raise funds for his spiritual quests he sanctioned plundering of expeditions and caravans. Through his exploits Muhammad became not just a “prophet” but king of the Islamic empire. He conquered lands in the name of Allah and took them by force through holy wars or jihad. This practice continues today. If submission is not voluntarily reached, then it must be forced. Islam looks at Jews and Christians who believe that Jesus is God incarnate as committing blasphemy.
Like Christians, the Muslim believes that his holy book, the Koran was given by God and eternally existed. That being the case, every thing that is taught in the Koran is “God-breathed” and is the final word. Islam is built upon five pillars of faith mentioned in the Koran, and thus are the only true way of worship for the Muslim.. The five pillars are as follows: 1.) Reciting the Shahada—Each and every day the Muslim must publicly affirm the monotheism of God and the prophetic status of his prophet Mohammad; 2.) Daily prayer—5 times a day the Muslim prays toward Mecca, the holy city, with their forehead touching the ground. These times are morning, noon, late afternoon, sunset, and before bedtime; 3.) Almsgiving—Charity was once a volunteer act to aid the poor. It also acted as a way of purifying one’s remaining material wealth. Today however, most Muslim countries tax 1/40 of a person’s income; 4.) Fasting during the month of Ramadan—Muslims are not permitted to eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset. Ramadan is determined by the lunar calendar and celebrates the month that Gabriel supposedly appeared to Muhammad; 5.) The Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca—Muslims are required to attempt a trip to the holy city Mecca. This in part earns his salvation. When he arrives in Mecca he is to walk around the kaaba seven times. The kaaba is a building which houses a stone supposedly brought by Gabriel when he first visited Muhammad.
As for some of the erroneous teaching of Islam, I refer you to my hub, The Error of Islam--http://lifegate.hubpages.com/hub/Suffering-for-Christ.
Moving on-- Although Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism are considered world religions, bits and pieces of their teaching show up in the major cults of the world. The classification of cults is opinion at best, but there seem to be at least three major groups that all cults fit under.
The Pseudo-Christian cults are one such group. These cults seek to emulate Christianity either deliberately by deception or in their sincerity. Examples of this category would be the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons.
Personality cults are categorized as such because they focus on the personality of the leader. His message is secondary to his being. Most leaders of these cults tend to deify themselves. Cults such as Bubba Free John, Reverend Ike and Sun Myung Moon (the Unification Church fit into this category.
The last group to be classified are those that have an occult/mystical background. These would include the Martial Arts, Yoga, and Astrology as well as Scientology, Spiritualism and UFOs. First, we will first look at some examples of Pseudo-Christian cults.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses is no doubt one of the best known Pseudo-Christian cults. The witnesses hold to several strange, unbiblical beliefs. Many have died from refusing a blood transfusion. They will not allow other blood in their veins because they equte taking blood into the veins with the eating of blood from which we are to abstain (Genesis 9:3, 4; Leviticus 17:10-15). They do not donate nor receive donated organs and up until 1952 did not receive smallpox vaccinations.
Furthermore, they do not practice patriotism. They do not vote, salute the flag or sing The Star Spangled Banner. They refuse to serve in the armed forces. Anyone who participates in these activities is excommunicated from his “church” the Kingdom Hall, and is considered dead. The “apostate” is told he will not rise from the grave on judgment day.
In 1879 a Bible study leader by the name of Charles Taze Russell was looking for a way to promote his rather strange beliefs. He denied the existence of hell, the Trinity, and the deity of Christ. He published his teachings in a magazine called The Herald of the Morning. By 1884 Russell controlled the publication and renamed it The Watch Tower . The first edition ran only 6,000 copies. Today the mega presses of Jehovah’s Witnesses push out over 100,000 books and over 800,000 copies of its two magazines every day.
Russell’s teachings left no room for the application of sole liberty for the believer. Until his death in 1916, Russell proclaimed that no individual person could understand the Bible apart from his interpretation. He was the voice of God.
He taught that Christ had returned in 1874, but only as a presence in the upper atmosphere. Following this, the 144,000 would be sealed in 1914. Those “saved” after that would make up a servant class that would rule the earth under the direction of the 144,000.
In 1931, Joseph Rutherford took over the presidency and changed the name to Jehovah’s Witnesses using Isaiah 43:10 as the main text. This seemed to take away the stigma of Russell’s lack of morals and education (he only attended up to 7th grade).
Today there are over 4,000,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, but all official pronouncements come from Brooklyn NY (known as Bethel) and are binding. The New World Translation is the official “Bible”. In it, we find that Christ is really Michael the Archangel created by God.
The Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Biblical concept of the Trinity is incorrect. The Trinity is a demonic doctrine according to their teaching. The Holy Spirit is referred to as a “force”. Thus, the Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the personality of the Holy Spirit and the deity of Christ.
The existence of a soul outside of the body is a foreign concept to a Jehovah’s Witness. Therefore the doctrine of soul-sleep and annihilation of the wicked (including satan and his demons) are taught. Since there is no conscious existence after death, the Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the existence of hell.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses view of eschatology is also incorrect. They have prophesied the end of the world at least six times (1914, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, and 1975). Of course this kind of glaring error sent thousands running from the cult.
In Part 5 we will look at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and Christian Science.