Calling a Spade a Spade in the Aftermath of May 21st

A Personal Testimony

When the Lord saved me a few years ago, I never thought I’d wind up sitting under the “preaching” of a cult leader whose only intention was to tear my faith in Christ down, tear my wife and I apart from one another, and, well, gain my allegiance, worship, and adoration. I was bright-eyed and filled with the joy of knowing that Christ had forgiven me of all of my sins, from the “biggest” sins (i.e. those sins that every one can see) to the “smallest” sins (i.e. those sins of the heart – murderous thoughts, envy, lust, covetousness), and I was eager to learn about God’s Word. So…I studied His Word daily, searching the Scriptures and comparing what I was reading with what I was hearing on the radio, in church, from fellow believers. The more I did this, the more dissatisfied I became with much of what I was hearing. I wanted to be taught God’s Truth and share God’s Truth with my brothers and sisters, but I couldn’t find it. The people in church were loving, to be sure, but I longed for fellowship around the Persona and Work of Jesus Christ, not around sports or relationships or American Idol or social functions.

I continued to study the Word of God and began to understand that I was slowly becoming Reformed in my theology, so I sought out a Reformed Church in my area. At first things were okay, but over time I began to pick up on the unbiblical reverence with which the congregants at this “church” were speaking of their leader. A woman told me that “he taught as one who has authority and not as the scribes.” Her willingness to apply a Scripture about Christ the Lord to her leader sent off a warning in my mind, but I let it slide since I was trying to be obedient to the Lord and sit under the teaching of a reformed pastor/teacher. Over time, however, things gradually got worse. Personal conversations that I had with the “pastor” were quoted verbatim by him in a sermon condemning the very topic of our initial conversation. Bible passages were taken out of context in order to justify the leader’s own sense of self-accomplishment. Christ stopped being the focus, and the leader’s importance and authority replaced Christ’s. Instead of teaching me to submit to Christ, he was teaching me to submit to him. Instead of warning me about works-righteousness, he was creating an environment where self-righteousness was the key indicator of whether or not one is truly a Christian.

The longer I remained, the more I began to see how this man who claimed to be a reformed pastor was actually a cult leader who preyed on people like me. It wasn’t until he openly preached heresy that, by the Lord’s powerful mercy, I had the courage to confront him about his theological sin. And once I did, he showed his true colors. He was infuriated that I would so bold as to tell him that I couldn’t remain under his teaching if he refused to answer why he had preached that a man is saved by believing the Gospel and obedience to Christ. He accused me of sin, called me rebellious, and told me that what I was doing was the intellectual equivalent of self-pleasuring. He then went on to slander me, lying to his congregation about me in order to cover up his own sin.

I was burdened, overwhelmed, confused, angry, hurt. I had trusted this man to be my teacher, to be a shepherd under Christ’s Shepherding. Instead, he had used every possible opportunity he had to try to place himself between me and the Lord Jesus Christ, to undermine my assurance of salvation, to make a worshiper of a sinful, unregenerate man, instead of a worshiper of the Lord Jesus Christ. The stress reignited a medical condition that I had for years, and I was hospitalized for three days. The cult leader never once repented for his sin against me, my wife, and my son. His followers never once repented of adoring him more than they did Christ. All continued as planned. My family was shunned and the cult leader remained sinless in the eyes of his followers.

I know what it is like to suffer at the hands of a teacher that you’ve entrusted yourself to because you want to be obedient to the Lord Jesus. I know what it is like to have your conscience bound to a man who couldn’t care less about you, who viewed you merely as a means to an end (namely his own self-glorification). But I also know that Christ Jesus was faithful to me, answering my prayers, as I pleaded with Him to reveal whether or not this “pastor” was an abusive wolf in sheep’s clothing, bringing healing to me as I sat in the hospital with no visits from the cult leader or his followers, with no signs of love from any of the people who claimed to be the only church in the area where I live. I know what it’s like to have God bring my family closer together than anything I could have imagined and strengthened our faith in Him and not in sociopathic old men with a theological axe to grind.

The Problem…Not Calling a Spade a Spade…

What I’ve come to notice since that awful time is that men like the cult leader I was being brainwashed by, as well as men like Harold Camping and other heretics, take advantage of the genuine attempts of genuine Christians to genuinely refrain from slandering men who publicly profess to be Christian teachers. They prey on the weak, using their excitement about the Gospel and God’s Word, their love for the Lord Jesus Christ, and their experiential and Biblical ignorance to feel important about themselves. And this, in my own estimation, is a big problem. You see, in the seeker-friendly churches across our country there are, no doubt, hundreds of people who have truly been drawn by God, convicted by His Spirit, and led to faith in His Son, people who desire more in depth teaching (as Scripture says that they should be getting from their pastors) who are being told that their desire for more in depth teaching is selfish. I can attest to this, having received a veiled criticism of my desire to be fed by my seeker-sensitive pastor from another seeker-sensitive pastor who informed me that my experience came from his failure to teach me to be a “self-feeder.” I was ignorant of the fact that it was/is his job to take his congregation deep into God’s Word, so I could only protest vocally, not knowing at the time how to answer from Scripture, although I knew he was wrong. So where do these people turn? Where do sheep without a shepherd who have been wounded by those who are less serious about obedience to God’s Word go? Here is an example of a Mega Church Pastor who is teaching other pastors on this issue.

In a word, they go to those who seem to be enamored with the Gospel, with God’s Word, and who have a superficial desire to eradicate heresy. If these shepherdless sheep knew better, this would be a good thing. However, for those shepherdless sheep who don’t know where to go this could be a disastrous move. I know this from personal experience. But the problem is that there are many in Christ’s church who are aware of the seeker-sensitive abuse of God’s sheep who say nothing, who do not call their leaders to repentance, and who, consequently, are complicit in pushing Christ’s sheep away from Him and into the hands of false teachers whose only desire is to abuse them in his pursuit of self-glory. Similarly, there are many in Christ’s church who are aware of false and abusive teachers who have a history of abuse (in the cult I was attending, I came to find out that the leader has a history of spiritual/psychological/emotional abuse that spans close to thirty years) in conservative circles, but they refrain from calling a spade a spade.

And where does that leave those who belong to Christ? In a place where they are abused by neglect/starvation (i.e. by continuing to attend seeker-sensitive churches) or in a place where they are actively abused by regular spiritual/psychological/emotional beatings. In either case, we their brothers and sisters are failing them. By not speaking out against men like Harold Camping and saying that he is not a Christian, that he is an unregenerate deceiver whose glory is his own belly, we have the Great Disappointment #2, and whatever else ensues. In the last few months, Rob Bell has become a regular name among professing Christians. They have derided him and mocked him for being a universalist, but I read Velvet Elvis a couple of years ago and was absolutely disgusted by his hatred of God’s Word and his pseudo-piety. I also knew that he was a universalist. And so did many others. And they asked him if he was a universalist. And he ran circles around them in order to avoid telling the truth about his satanic teaching. And he took advantage of the sincerity of believers in their attempts to be obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ in not slandering. And here we, some years later wondering how Rob Bell became so prominent, how it is that he has been able to draw such a large audience to himself, and wondering how we can combat his heresy.

The Solution

Theological error will never be fully stamped out while we remain on this earth, but we do have a job to do. Paul tells us to “Mark those who cause divisions,” i.e. call a spade a spade. Jude tells us to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, i.e. to fight against heretics like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, etc etc etc. John tells us to test “the spirits” to see whether or not they come from God. This means that we are to test not only the teaching, but the individual himself and make a Scripturally balanced assessment of him. Is Rob Bell a Christian? According to his own beliefs, I would resoundingly say NO. Is Harold Camping a Christian? Since he has left the church (cf. 1 John 2:19) and condemned every pastor teaching as teaching under the authority of Satan and not Christ Jesus, I would resoundingly say NO.

Men who have openly denied the faith need to be called out for what they are: False teachers, heretics, and unregenerate tools of the enemy of our souls. This doesn’t mean that we should haphazardly go around pointing fingers at the first person we think is a false teacher, but it also isn’t to say that we should just sit back and watch what happens as thousands, perhaps millions, watch as their spiritual, emotional, financial, familial, and psychological well-being completely falls apart. If a man is a danger to the souls of Christ’s sheep, we need to call a spade a spade. This is what Christ, Paul, Peter, Jude, etc did in Scripture. This is what Luther did when he called the Pope the Antichrist. This is what Calvin, Turretin, and Beza did.

We are called to defend God’s truth against His enemies (like Rob Bell and Harold Camping, for instance), for His glorification, and for the sake of the safety of His beloved Bride.

Let’s pray that the Lord grant us the discernment and humility necessary for this task.

-h.

About Hiram Diaz

Hiram Diaz has written 18 post in this blog.

Hiram Diaz is a New York native currently residing in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and children. His interests are philosophy and presuppositional & exegetical apologetics. He maintains Involuted Speculations, a blog about pretty much anything that pops into his head and can't find its way out until it's written down.

8 Responses to Calling a Spade a Spade in the Aftermath of May 21st

  1. Bob says:

    It would be helpful to body of Christ if you named him.

  2. Tracey Dea says:

    All I can say is Amen! My husband and I have come out of a very , very similar church situation. We were very hurt but God is faithful and kept us from falling. We now have a home fellowship and our family has grown leaps and bounds in the Lord. Thank you for calling a spade and spade. Of course these false prophets are a sign of the times we live in. Thank you for your ministry and truth.

  3. Lori says:

    This is such a timely word. Someone close to me is going through this with Harold Camping and I have been praying for discernment on how to approach her. Plus, I have been seeing how the idols in church have been on the head and how it is to take our eyes off of the Lord Jesus. My mouth will not stay silent like others tell me to do, but all in order and for HIS Glory and at the proper times. Thank you for this message.

  4. Ian says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ll quote Mat Slick from CARM.org “All this heresy, not enough time.” I at times want to pull my hair out at the dangerousness of the likes of Harold Camping. I guess, all we can do is just take it one heresy at a time but first set apart Christ as LORD in our hearts (cf. 1st Peter 3:15a) — Again thanks for your efforts.

    Ian — http://www.gospelaxiom.blogspot.com

  5. Hiram Diaz says:

    @Bob: His name is Paul K. Christianson. His place of operation is called Grace Reformed Church, they’re located in Clarkston, WA. I wasn’t going to post that information initially, but you’re right, it would be helpful to the body of Christ.

    Solus Christus.
    -h.

  6. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Hi Hiram,

    This is the third post that I’ve read of yours. All wonderful. Bopped over here from apprising.org which linked Emergents with Phariseeism. (FWIW, I’ve used the term “Liberal Pharisee” for a long time in blog interactions and the term stings the moralizing Emergers. But not enough to get them to disavow their emerging liberalism.)

    Second article was the critique of higher criticism and the two demoniacs. Again, excellent throughout.

    This article, I’m glad that you answered the request to name the pastor. I went to the church website and it looks pretty solid actually. I like the 1689 confession in particular.

    It’s actually nigh impossible to ascertain that pastor Clarkson is a cult leader or not from the website alone.

    Pax.

  7. Hiram Diaz says:

    Hey, anonymous ;)

    Thank you for the compliments on my writing. I praise God for the opportunity to assist the brethren in their walk with Christ.

    Just a brief correction: The cult leader’s name is Paul K. Christianson, not Clarkson. ClarksTon is where he “preaches.”

    Regarding the cult and its leader, you’re right – on paper everything looks fine. That’s why I began attending there. However, what one says one believes and what one actually practices are two entirely different things.

    Grace Reformed Church in Clarkston, WA is a cult for two primary reasons:

    1. (Actual) Doctrine
    Their leader denies justification by faith alone, subscribing to the heretical notion that a person enters into a living relationship with Christ by believing and obeying. I attempted to ask the leader there about his position on justification and he accused me of being rebellious and intellectually proud. This is a typical move of cult leaders who do not allow anyone to question their pope-like status. (I’ll post more on why they do this below.)He went farther than mixing Law and Gospel in his presentation of how to enter into a living relationship, by, essentially, denying that faith is the instrumental cause of justification publicly and telling me that faith is the effectual cause of justification — of course, in private.
    He has also abused a host of church members during the time that he’s been behind the pulpit, some of whom I know personally, and has done so by twisting Scripture to suit his own ends…particularly Scriptures about the authority of Moses or the pastorate in general.

    2. Practice
    Grace Reformed Church has all the marks of a cult when it comes to practice, including:

    Milieu control

    All communication with outside world is limited, either being strictly filtered or completely cut off. Whether it is a monastery or a behind-closed-doors cult, isolation from the ideas, examples and distractions of the outside world turns the individuals attention to the only remaining form of stimulation, which is the ideology that is being inculcated in them.

    This even works at the intrapersonal level, and individuals are discouraged from thinking incorrect thoughts, which may be termed evil, selfish, immoral and so on.

    [Mr. Christian did this by condemning every single church in the area where he preaches and surrounding as false churches. As you would expect, in his estimation it was only his group that could be legitimately be called a church.]

    Mystical manipulation

    A part of the teaching is that the group has a higher purpose than others outside the group. This may be altruistic, such as saving the world or helping people in need. It may also be selfish, for example that group members will be saved when others outside the group will perish.

    All things are then attributed and linked to this higher purpose. Coincidences (which actually may be deliberately engineered) are portrayed as symbolic events. Attention is given to the problems of out-group people and attributed to their not being in the group. Revelations are attributed to spiritual causes.

    This association of events is used as evidence that the group truly is special and exclusive.

    [Mr. Christianson, by stressing how his group was the only legitimate church, made himself out to be an evangelist to the other churches in the area. By implication, then, his congregants were missionaries of sorts to get people to come to his meetings. This encouraged self-righteousness among the members and elitism. He also manipulated events and called them the work of the Holy Spirit, which is utterly blasphemous considering what he was doing. One example that is common is the subject matter of his "sermons." Mr. Christianson listens in on personal conversation by means of gossip. He then decides to preach on something from the conversations that he's had reported to him in order to isolate and condemn the individual he and the rest of the congregation know has done something that he disapproves of. He has quoted conversations between myself and one of his deacons, for instance, verbatim in order to "put me in my place" for something that was not even sin. This is a common phenomenon there.]

    Confession

    Individuals are encouraged to confess past ‘sins’ (as defined by the group). This creates a tension between the person’s actions and their stated belief that the action is bad, particularly if the statement is made publicly. The consistency principle thus leads the person to fully adopt the belief that the sin is bad and to distance themselves from repeating it.

    Discussion of inner fears and anxieties, as well as confessing sins is exposing vulnerabilities and requires the person to place trust in the group and hence bond with them. When we bond with others, they become our friends, and we will tend to adopt their beliefs more easily.

    This effect may be exaggerated with intense sessions where deep thoughts and feelings are regularly surfaced. This also has the effect of exhausting people, making them more open to suggestion.

    [Mr. Christianson does this by holding what are called "ingress meetings" for potential members of his cult. He wanted to know about my past sins and told me that I should be confessing them individually even now. This is not only a cult tactic, it flies in the face of the Gospel of Christ. Our sins have been forgiven in Christ. God has forgotten them. Who is a man to require that we confess them to him, a mere man? The condemnation of congregants was done also from the pulpit in "sermons" that were really nothing more than tirades against an individual or manipulative appeals to what Mr. Christianson thought were the interests of the congregant he was attempting to keep in the congregation. He did the latter to me just before I left.]

    I’m pressed for time, but I hope to post more on this subject to help those who have been abused by men who profess to be Christians but are not, and who profess to be shepherds when they’re really nothing but wolves seeking to devour the weak.

    Thanks for your interest in my experience. I hope to help others who have been abused as my family has been. One thing that would help is removing anonymity in discussions like these, which is why I’ve chosen to write in my real name and name Mr. Christianson and his cult openly.

    I would find it helpful if you also disclosed your identity, as we could bond in our efforts to openly confront the forces of wickedness. What’s your name? Your story? Are you a former cult member? Or a present cult member?

    Thanks, again. If you want to know more about brain-washing techniques and how cults treat Scripture, CARM has a great cult-outline page here.

    Sola Gratia.
    Sola Fide.
    Solus Christus.

    -h.

  8. Jay says:

    I think this is a common issue at “Reformed” churches. I left a very similar situation at a “Reformed” Church in Schererville Indiana. The “church” elders agreed with me(to my face). But, did nothing to protect the membership. There is a web site called Cultwatch that listed The Reformed Movement as a cult.
    There are plenty of nice people at these “churches”. But, unfortunately, they are more like brain dead zombies when you step back and look at whats going on. People need to speak up and expose these social clubs that operate like cults and disguise themselves as Christian churches. I have plenty of scars on my body from physical beatings(thanks dad). The religious, mental and financial abuse that thrives in these environments is much much worse!
    People need to study their own bibles and not let these clubs lead them to beleive they can be seperated from the relationship they have with God and their savior Jesus Christ.

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