The Truth about Error -- By: John A. Witmer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 124:495 (Jul 1967)
Article: The Truth about Error
Author: John A. Witmer

The Truth about Error

John A. Witmer

[John A. Witmer, Librarian, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

A phenomenon of the contemporary religious scene is the growth of the heretical cults. Through aggressive propagandizing by means of pablications—electronic media such as radio, television, phonograph records, and tapes—and personal contacts, the cults have established amazing numerical growth records. Their growth rates are the envy of the major Protestant denominations, which at present are not even keeping pace with the population expansion. The cults are growing not only in the United States, where most of them have had their start, but also throughout the world. Especially has this growth of the cults been evident in recent years in the traditional missionary areas of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

The contemporary growth of the cults has been not only in numbers but also in influence and public acceptance. Modern religious liberalism accepts them all without question as manifestations of contemporary religious life. They are listed without notation of any kind in The Yearbook of American Churches and Mead’s Handbook of Denominations in the United States. A current debate among evangelical Christians centers on classifying Seventh-Day Adventism as a heretical cult or a standard Christian denomination. A leader of a cult within a decade has held a United States cabinet post as secretary. Another serves as governor of a large and strategic state and is a potential presidential candidate of a major party.

Paralleling the contemporary numerical growth of the heretical cults is their proliferation. The cults grow not only by addition but also by multiplication. New cults are springing up constantly. They seem to find fertile soil for

development especially in California and Florida, although they spring up anywhere. They find recruits largely among the elderly and the minority groups such as the Negroes. Any idea or issue can serve as the basis for a new cult. One of the most recent is trying to make a religion out of the use of psychedelic drugs.

All of these factors of numerical growth, widespread attention, increased public acceptance, influential leaders, and constant proliferation tend to focus interest upon the cults and to confuse people, including evangelical Christians, about their true character. Where confusion exists error thrives. Therefore, these circumstances amply justify a discussion of the truth about error.

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