Cults And CreationCults and Creation
How the major cults all reject straightforward biblical creation
by Benjamin Szumskyj
Published: 26 October 2011(GMT+10)
In studying the nature of cults or being involved in counter-cult ministry, Christians begin to notice a consistency in poor theology, translations and interpretations. It should come as no surprise, then, that most of the leading Christian cults today are unanimous on one point; their rejection of straightforward biblical creation. While there is more to Christian orthodoxy than acceptance of a literal six-day, six-thousand-year interpretation of Genesis 1–2, its rejection means that the entire theological foundations of any group are unorthodox. Thus, it is probably no coincidence that virtually all of the main contenders for cult status—Unitarian Universalism, Christian Science, the Emergent Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism), Christadelphians and Jehovah’s Witnesses—deny biblical creation.
Adherents to this system, which originated in the teachings of anti-Trinitarians Faustus Socinus, John Biddle and William Ellery Channing, are pluralistic in their ideology and believe in the fallibility of the Bible. They reject the divinity of Christ, deny the doctrine of salvation and sin and “focus their efforts on the here and now in an attempt to create ‘heaven on earth’, often through political activism or various social programs”.1 Although there is no official document detailing their views on biblical creation and evolution, their stance is pretty clear from their decision to defend the teaching of evolution in American public schools. The Unitarian Universalist Association, seeing the “efforts being made to insert the creation story of Genesis into public school science textbooks … [believe] such action would be in direct contradiction with the concept of separation of church and state [and] Therefore be it resolved: That the 1977 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association goes on record as opposing such efforts”.2
Years later, they reinforced their views by opposing “efforts to compromise the integrity of public school teaching by the introduction of sectarian religious doctrines, such as ‘scientific creationism’”3. In an interview with William R. Murry, Unitarian Universalist and British biologist Olivia Judson remarked that her religion “cannot help but embrace the tremendous increase in knowledge and understanding made possible by Darwin’s revolutionary idea”.4
Followers of Christian Science, begun by Mary Baker Eddy (born Mary Morse Baker 1821–1910), also believe the Bible to be fallible. They, too, reject the divinity of Christ (and the Trinity), His resurrection, and the doctrine of salvation. They also deny the existence of evil and teach that there is “no life, truth, intelligence nor substance in matter,”5 among other unbiblical ideas. On evolution, Baker stated: “Theorizing about man’s development from mushrooms to monkeys and from monkeys into men amounts to nothing in the right direction and very much in the wrong”.6 But she believed the book of Genesis should not be read literally, as the material world did not exist, for there “is nothing in Spirit out of which matter could be made”,7 and that the “infinite has no beginning … [for this] word beginning is employed to signify the only,—that is, the eternal verity and unity of God and man, including the universe”.8 Echoing some of today’s theistic evolutionists in evangelical circles, she claimed that Genesis 1–2 was “a revelation instead of a creation”.9
Joseph Smith Jr. (1805–1844), founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism), created a religion ‘out of’ biblical Christianity which believes there are other sacred books in addition to the Bible (such as The Book of Mormon). It also holds that there are several planets ruled by gods and goddesses (who were once humans on earth) and that “Salvation is resurrection, but exaltation to godhood, for eternal life in the celestial heaven, must be earned through self meriting works”.10 Their views on the virgin birth of Christ, salvation, judgment, grace and end times do not align with biblical Christianity. Their view of evolution is convoluted, as officially, there is no document that declares their support or rejection of biblical creation. Sixth Mormon president Joseph F. Smith (1838–1918) declared in 1909 that evolution was nothing more than the theory of man but did not make biblical creation an official tenet.11 A variety of other presidents and commentators have supported, renounced or been neutral on evolution throughout the last century. However, recent Mormon publications and attitudes towards evolution indicate a favorable bias to the theory. A recent book entitled Evolution and Mormonism: A Quest for Understanding (2001)12 took the position that Mormonism and evolution were entirely compatible, espousing that God used evolution and permitted natural selection (as a creative process, unlike the essentially culling or conservative role it exhibits in reality). This unofficial view is consistent with a recent article looking at the Mormon church’s teaching on the age of the earth and evolution which confirms that “mainstream scientific theories of evolutionary biology, old-earth geology and paleontology are openly taught at BYU and BYU-Idaho [Brigham Young University]”.13
Some prominent [Christadelphian] leaders are candid about their belief in old-age creationism.
Along with the movement’s founder, Dr John Thomas (1805–1871), Christadelphians do not believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, rejecting the divinity of Christ (and the Trinity), the existence of Satan, his demons and the traditional nature of Hell. On evolution, it is difficult to locate an official stance by the church, but some prominent leaders are candid about their belief in old-age creationism. They undoubtedly believe that God created the universe, but the process and timeline align closer to the teachings of evolution than they do to the Bible itself. Dr. Alan Hayward, author of Creation and Evolution: Rethinking the Evidence from Science and the Bible (1995) makes it clear that his Christadelphian faith is more than compatible with old-age creationism. This stance is shared by Dr. Rob Hyndman, manager and editor of the Christadelphian-moderated website “BibleQ”, which hosts articles on ‘Creation’ that favor old-age creationism.14
This movement, known as the Watchtower Society, was founded by Charles Taze Russell (1852–1916). Their anti-Trinitarian beliefs range from a created Jesus, who was spiritually resurrected (not physically) and returned invisibly in 1914, to co-atonement by God and humanity, and the rejection of Hell in favor of annihilationism (among other unbiblical theologies).15 They reject evolution,16 however they also reject biblical creation in favor of old-earth creationism, as revealed in their tract Life: How did it get here? By Evolution or by Creation? (1985)17 and on their official website:
“ … creationists often say that the entire universe was created in six literal 24-hour days some 6,000 years ago. With teachings like this, they misrepresent the Bible, which says that God created the heavens and the earth ‘in the beginning’—at some unstated point before the more specific creative ‘days’ began. (Genesis 1:1) Significantly, the Genesis account shows that the ex
The Emergent Church
Sometimes also known as the Emerging Church, this is a late twentieth to early twenty-first century movement in Christianity pioneered by theologians such as Rob Bell, Richard Foster, Tony Jones, Brennan Manning, Brian McLaren and Leonard Sweet. It “falls into line with basic post-modernist thinking—it is about experience over reason, subjectivity over ob
It is not surprising that we find a near-universal association (as both cause and effect, to varying degrees) of such a departure from biblical authority within cults whose beliefs are far removed from biblical Christianity.
Rejecting a straightforward interpretation of the book of Genesis to accommodate modern ideologies (Colossians 2:8) such as evolution, old-age creationism, progressive creationism, and theistic evolution, causes the entire theological foundations of Christianity to crumble. Thus it is not surprising that we find a near-universal association (as both cause and effect, to varying degrees) of such a departure from biblical authority within cults whose beliefs are far removed from biblical Christianity.
It’s no surprise that those who reject the authority and infallibility of the Bible and its clear Gospel outline also feel free to reject the clear ‘big picture’ of Genesis history in order to be more acceptable to worldly notions, since Genesis and the Gospel are so clearly tied together.
Today, some mainstream Christian denominations are following a similar path, favoring evolution over biblical creation. Let us pray that they learn from Christian cults and truly believe the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16), starting with the book of Genesis.