Category Archives: Christianity Questions

Questions about Christianity: Who Are the Free Will Baptists, and What Do They Believe?

 

The Free Will Baptists are one of many denominations within the widely varied Baptist realm. They are organized under the National Association of Free Will Baptists, or NAFWB, an association of autonomous local churches in regional, state, and national fellowships. Each church is governed in a congregational style, meaning the entire membership votes democratically on nearly all decisions the church makes.

As their name indicates, Free Will Baptists teach a strong Arminian theology, which holds neither to predestination nor to an unconditional assurance of the perseverance of believers in their faith. As Baptists, they believe in believer’s baptism by immersion. Their understanding of God, the Trinity, salvation, and the Bible are all congruent with common Protestant teachings. One distinctive in the practice of all NAFWB churches is that they practice foot washing as a required ordinance of the church, alongside baptism and communion.

Aside from their practice of foot washing, Freewill Baptist churches represent fairly standard, conservative Baptist churches, with an Arminian point of view.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Christianity: Who Are the Gideons International, and What Do They Believe?

 

The Gideons International is an association of Christian business and professional men who are dedicated to distributing God’s Word around the world. The Auxiliary of Gideons are wives who support the work with prayer and by participating in many of the functions of Gideons, including the placement of Bibles. By making Bibles available around the world, the Gideons trust God to use His Word to increase His kingdom (1 Corinthians 3:6).

The Gideons International has its worldwide headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, but each Gideon is assigned to a local group called a “camp.” Camps usually meet once a week for a prayer breakfast and once a month for education and planning. Members encourage each other in personal witnessing and in their overarching goal of bringing men and women, boys and girls, to a saving knowledge and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior.

The Gideons organization was begun in 1899 by two traveling salesmen with a heart for evangelism. They later adopted the goal of putting a Bible in every hotel room in the United States starting in 1908. From those beginnings grew an organization of over 300,000 men and women in 195 countries giving out Bibles or New Testaments in over ninety languages. In their first 105 years, the Gideons have given out over 1.8 billion copies of God’s Word.

The Gideons are lay persons (not clergy) who are members in good standing in an evangelical or Protestant church. Essentially, they represent local churches as missionaries whose sole purpose is winning the lost through providing them the Word of God. Today, they distribute over one million Scriptures throughout the world every week—that’s more than two copies per second. Whole Bibles are left in hotels and motels, and New Testaments are provided to middle schools, high schools, colleges, prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, military facilities, doctor’s offices, and fire stations—all at no cost to those receiving the Bibles. Churches support the Gideons with prayer, with some of their members serving as Gideons and Auxiliary members, and by paying for Bibles. All donations to the Gideons go for the printing and transportation of Bibles—many to countries where traditional missionaries cannot go. In forty-eight of the countries where the Gideons are organized, people struggle to survive; they will never own a Bible without some assistance.

The Gideons believe and teach the basics of orthodox Christian doctrine, and the New Testaments they distribute have two pages in the back devoted to explaining the gospel and how to be saved. Their doctrinal statement and further information on the Gideons are available on their website.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Christianity: What Is the International Church of Christ (ICOC), and What Do They Believe?

 

The International Churches of Christ (ICOC) is a spin-off from the Churches of Christ; both groups are non-denominational, worldwide associations of churches and part of the Restoration Movement. The ICOC has a network of over 600 non-denominational churches in about 160 countries. The International Churches of Christ was formerly referred to as the ICC.

The International Churches of Christ has a number of distinctives. One is a strong emphasis on discipleship; however, “discipleship” in the ICOC looks very different from what most other churches practice. The ICOC consistently uses high-pressure manipulation to bring new disciples into their fellowship. Once a member is acquired, he is set up in a “buddy system” of discipleship. The neophyte is indoctrinated to believe that only the International Churches of Christ has a true understanding of the Bible and the gospel. The “disciple” is encouraged to imitate the whole life of his “discipler.” The disciple must meet with the discipler at least weekly, have daily contact, and make no major decision without checking with him or her. Disciples are told where to live, whom to date, what courses to take in school, how often to have sex with their spouses, and so on. Individuals must not question their leaders. Such requirements are often made by those who practice heavy shepherding.

Another distinctive is that the International Churches of Christ focuses its evangelism almost exclusively on college students. This fits well with the ICOC’s preferred method of “love-bombing”—suddenly and purposefully surrounding a person with high amounts of friendly contact, various forms of aid, and an overall sense of being immersed in a community—something first-year college students especially crave. While none of these things are unbiblical (indeed, community, service, and friendliness are all excellent aims for Christians), the International Churches of Christ uses these virtues as a façade and manipulative tool to increase membership.

Theologically, the International Church of Christ holds to the basic tenets of Protestant evangelicalism, but with two very important exceptions. First, the group is exclusivist, claiming that the church is meant to be united in one association, divided only by geography. It teaches that any church that remains outside of this unified system, i.e., not under the ICOC’s leadership, is not a part of the “true church.” Such claims of exclusivity should raise a red flag. Any church or denomination that claims to be the “one true church” and that all others are false churches is itself teaching falsehood.

The International Churches of Christ also departs from biblical teaching in its teaching of baptismal regeneration, the belief that baptism is required for salvation. The ICOC believes that anyone who is not baptized is not saved and must be “evangelized” and brought into the church. Further, the ICOC teaches that baptism under the auspices of the ICOC is the only baptism that can save. No other baptism will do. The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that salvation is by grace through faith, apart from works (Ephesians 2:8–9)—including the work of baptism.

Other problems with ICOC theology include their rejection of eternal security and their amillennial perspective of the end times.

The International Churches of Christ has a strict and invasive power structure that uses manipulation and indoctrination to control its membership. Many people have been hurt by this group emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Because of its manipulative practices and errant view of salvation, we must caution against becoming involved in the International Churches of Christ.

If you have been negatively affected by the International Churches of Christ or another manipulative group claiming to be Christian, we encourage you to seek healing, firm in the knowledge that, even though God’s name may have been used to hurt you, God Himself is loving and able heal those who have been spiritually abused.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Christianity: What Is the 700 Club? Is the 700 Club Biblical?

 

The Christian Broadcasting Network’s flagship television program, The 700 Club, is a talk show combining news, social commentary, human interest interviews, and responses to questions and prayer requests received by phone or email. The show has been running since 1966, born out of telethons for CBN during which the station’s founder, Pat Robertson, requested 700 people to support CBN monthly. The original show included various interviews, performances, and call-in questions or prayer requests. Today, Pat Robertson is still the main host, while his son, Gordon, has taken over as CEO of CBN.

It should be noted that using television or a talk show format is not inherently wrong or unbiblical, any more than radio, newspapers, or the internet is. Television is simply another form of communication that can be used in many ways. Christian-themed information and the gospel can indeed be communicated effectively through various television formats.

However, The 700 Club itself is not an ideal source for biblical information. Pat Robertson has become well known for his comments about natural disasters, 9–11, homosexuals, and many other hot topics. The way Robertson has expressed his opinions has sometimes been inconsiderate and inappropriate for someone who claims to love others with the love of Jesus. Aside from their social unsuitability, Pat Robertson’s statements on current events are often far from what most Christians would consider to be true about God and the Bible.

This is not to say that The 700 Club never communicates biblical truth or that it is un-Christian. However, one should exercise caution with advice and information from the commentators and hosts of CBN. We are all fallible, and all information should be checked according to Scripture. Some sources of information should be considered less reliable than others, and The 700 Club is one of those sources.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Christianity: Who Are the Hutterites, and What Do They Believe?

 

The Hutterites, or Hutterian Brethren, are a communal, pacifist Christian sect who live mainly in Southern Canada and the Northern United States. There are approximately 49,000 Hutterites (as of 2011), living in 483 colonies (as of 2004). Since coming to the New World from the Ukraine in the 1870s, the Hutterites have sustained themselves mainly through agriculture, although they are beginning to return to manufactured goods out of economic necessity.

The history of the Hutterites is intertwined with the Protestant Reformation. As Anabaptists, the Hutterites share common roots with the Mennonites and the Amish. The group takes its name from Jakob Hutter, a Moravian Anabaptist pastor who was martyred in 1536 by King Ferdinand I of the Holy Roman Empire. Hutter’s followers emerged as the only fully communal representatives of the Anabaptist movement.

The Hutterites firmly hold to adult baptism by immersion, pacifism, and living completely separate from the world.

The Hutterites practice communal living, where everyone puts their output “in” and takes “out” just what they need. In a colony, each family has an individual dwelling, usually including a yard, and household goods, but the buildings, equipment, land, and all monetary or material gain belong to the colony as a whole. The size of a colony is 100 people, on average. This number could represent as few as nine or ten families because of the large number of children per family. Hutterites base their social format on the facts that Jesus and His disciples shared a common moneybag (John 13:29) and that the early church in Jerusalem held everything in common (Acts 2:44–47 and 4:32–35).

Partly because of their pacifism and beliefs about baptism, and partly because of various European wars, the Hutterites have been forced to move a great deal since their founding in 1528 in the Tyrol province of Austria. Within a hundred years of Hutter’s death, the entire sect had been forced out of Moravia. From there, they spent time in Transylvania and Slovakia, then spent a short three years in Wallachia, a region of modern-day Romania, until the Russian government invited them to the Ukraine in 1770. One hundred years later, the group of 800—a small number compared to the 20,000 once living in Tyrol—had to leave when their military exemption was rescinded. The Hutterites proceeded to abandon Europe altogether, founding three colonies in the then-U.S. territory of South Dakota from 1874–77. This was not to be their last migration, however, as the U.S. also rescinded their military exemption for a time, beginning in 1918. Although some Hutterites slowly returned to the U.S., most now live in Canada.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.