Article Summary:

This article decries the association of the local churches with cultic groups by a speaker at Melodyland Christian Center in Anaheim and his endorsement of The Mindbenders.

The Truth Concerning the Local Church Not Being a Cult

The material on this page was written in the 1970s to respond to the criticisms of Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and the original “Bible Answer Man.” CRI has since withdrawn those criticisms and reversed its earlier conclusions (see “A Brief History of the Relationship between the Local Churches and the Christian Research Institute”). The text of this article is published here for the historical record, for the important points of truth it addresses, and because CRI’s criticisms, although withdrawn, are still repeated by others.

From: Answers to the Bible Answer Man (Vol. 1)


When the main speaker at Melodyland on Sunday, October 2, 1977 began his address on Witness Lee and the local church, his initial remark after prayer was, “If you have come to the meeting this afternoon anticipating ‘Roast Witness Lee and the local church,’ I feel you will be sadly disappointed.” He went on to say that “the purpose of our study… is not the principle of attacking individuals; it is the principle of responding when attacks are made upon Christian theology.”

And yet despite these remarks and his prayer that the Holy Spirit would “sweep away our prejudices and those convictions which are not founded upon Thy Word,” he immediately went on to attack in a high-handed, degrading manner, rather than staying with the doctrinal points.

The method of the speaker’s attack was to immediately place the local churches and Witness Lee within the kingdom of the cults. The speaker, in his book The Kingdom of the Cults, has described a mentality or “certain psychological traits” of a cult member. By associating Witness Lee and the local churches with Joseph Smith and Mormonism, J. F. Rutherford, Charles T. Russell and Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science, and Herbert W. Armstrong and the Radio Church of God, the speaker has condemned us as a cult.

While, to my knowledge, the speaker has never called the local churches a cult, he nevertheless resorts to this cheap journalistic device of guilt by association. The speaker knows all too well the principle of guilt by association, so he knows what he is doing in the public’s mind when he persists in this tactic. If the speaker were absolutely pure in his motives of determining the truth, he would not have to resort to such a tactic.

There are many individuals, and even denominations, that differ with the speaker’s interpretations of Christian theology, but he has not grouped them with such heretical cults as Jehovah’s Witnesses, who deny the very divinity of Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, the speaker endorsed Jack Sparks’s book, The Mindbenders, saying, “It is a must for Christians to read.” He agreed with the author’s assessment of the psychology of people in the local churches and said he was grateful to Jack Sparks for “his psychological insights.” In that book, Sparks says, “The brainwashing or mindbending of the local church is, I believe, the most powerful and lasting of any cult on the contemporary scene. …Their means to mind control is as frightening as it is effective. It begins with…an involuntary forfeiture of all normal use of the human mind.”

As a blood-washed, born-again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I am grieved in my spirit and outraged at the vicious, unfounded statements that these two men are making about Christians. These men have made sweeping generalizations about the people in the local churches based upon their research in cults and far-eastern religions. They have not bothered to really find out what kind of people, what kind of Christians, are in the local churches.

I attend the same seminary where the speaker teaches, but he has never asked me about my experience in the church in Anaheim. He has taken Witness Lee’s remarks out of context and left the impression with his audience that all those in the churches are ignorant, mindless people, blindly following this man. I can testify boldly to all Christians, to the speaker, and before the Lord Jesus Christ, that I am not blindly following Witness Lee, nor have I forfeited “all normal use” of my mind.

But I do have a spirit within me and I know when my experience matches what the Word of God says. I do know and do experience as Romans 8:6 says, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (RSV).

In the local churches, we have seen that the Spirit here in Romans 8:6 is our spirit and that as 1 Corinthians 6:17 says, “But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (RSV). We are experiencing walking in the spirit.

I have studied at Melodyland School of Theology and completed the Master of Divinity program. I am now completing my thesis as the final requirement. During this time I have excelled in my studies, being placed on the dean’s list, while I was in the local church.

This appears inconsistent with what the speaker and the author of The Mindbenders have said about people in the local churches.

While I do not expect the speaker to necessarily understand or agree with what the Lord Jesus Christ is doing in the local churches, I do hope that he would refrain from this vile association of Witness Lee and the local churches with the cults. Let him continue his research, let him continue to discuss doctrinal points, but the spirit of Christian love demands that he repent of his biting sarcasm and degrading remarks about the local churches.

Copyright © 1994 Living Stream, Anaheim, CA, USA. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission.

Posted in 1970s Responses, Responses, Walter Martin and tagged , , , , .