Countercult : The Counter-Cult Movement
The Counter-Cult Movement
Counter-cult (or 'Countercult') organizations and individuals usually oppose cults for religious/doctrinal reasons. (Compare the Anti-cult movement).
Most countercult organizations are operated by Christians. Their intend is to educate Christians and non-Christians on the dangers of cultic movements, to help Christians counter the claims of such movements, and to provide cult-members with information that may help them leave those movements.
In their approach, they use apologetics - the logical presentation and defense of the Christian faith - to 'counter' the claims of cults.
Some believe that countercult ministries pay too much attention to 'boundary maintenance' (contrasting Biblical truth with the error taught by cults, heretical- and/or aberrant movements and/or individuals), and in the process neglect evangelism (a "missiological approach"):
Why does the ''counter-cult'' ministry enterprise continue to hover on the fringes of evangelicalism despite the tremendous need for the church to respond to this challenge in a significant way? Undoubtedly there are many factors but at the risk of oversimplification I would like to make a suggestion to help answer this question. I submit that perhaps one of the greatest reasons we hover on the fringes and continue to tread water is that we have defined ourselves in a negative way, largely in refuting doctrinal error as the primary reason for our existence. As a result we have missed and neglected our greatest priority, that of missions and evangelism. Before you dismiss this idea as the mere foolishness of a young, good-looking Californian, please note that this criticism is not unique to this speaker. EMNR founder Gordon Lewis has raised the same concern. In the International Journal of Frontier Missions (IJFM) Dr. Lewis stated:
The connotation of 'countercult' is too negative to represent missionary's loving outreach to unreached people in need of the good news of God's grace. It is not enough for evangelical leaders primarily to react against non-Christian religious world-views, epistemologies and ethics. We need to present a better way. Missions to Muslims would not call themselves CounterMuslims. This plays into the hands of those who dismiss any, even well-reasoned refutation of their views, as anti-Mormon, anti-Muslim, etc.viiI believe these words contain great wisdom worthy of our reflection. Consider for a moment the many titles we use to describe our work: cult watchers, investigative journalists, cult intervention specialist, apologists and the like. Certainly in the course of our multi-faceted ministries as we attempt to provide an all-encompassing response to NRMs there will be times where it is appropriate to engage in all of these tasks, and I am not suggesting otherwise. However, to allow these activities to become the focal point of our ministries does indeed put the emphasis on the negative and allow our critics to easily dismiss as divisive heresy hunters who are not even accepted in the mainstream of evangelicalism, let alone in the broader field of religious studies.
What then should be our primary identity? In this same article from the IJFM Dr. Lewis suggested that we consider the following:
Evangelical ministers to NRMs will remain alive and well insofar as they change their primary identity from mere counter cult agents to missionaries-frontier type missionaries to unreached people in alternative religions and cults.viii
Tired of Treading Water ''Rediscovering And Reapplying A Missiological Paradigm For 'Counter-Cult' Ministry'' By John Morehead.
The vast majority of people involved in countercult ministry support both a "missiological approach" and a "boundary maintenance approach." Morehead's approach, however, is controversial because it includes his promotion and support of cult apologists and their supporters. For example, at Morehead's invitation, J. Gordon Melton and Douglas Cowan spoke at the February, 2002 EMNR conference.
Tired of Treading Water ''Rediscovering And Reapplying A Missiological Paradigm For 'Counter-Cult' Ministry''. An important article by John Morehead, President of EMNR and on staff with Watchman Fellowship. Encourages those involved in countercult ministry to rediscover evangelism as part of their ministry. Unfortunately, Morehead's approach includes his promotion and support of cult apologists.
In 1982, EMNR was formed to become ''a consortium of Christians in North America, seeking to help people distinguish authentic from in-authentic Christianity and strengthen evangelical Christian ministries to new religionists and cultists.'' The founders of EMNR adopted the Lausanne Covenant as the governing document which would apply to both member organizations and individuals. EMNR was born in an effort to practically implement Affirmation 7 of the Lausanne Covenant: ''We urge the development of regional and functional cooperation for the furtherance of the Church's mission, for strategic planning, for mutual encouragement, and for the sharing of resources and experience.''
Though EMNR was conceived as an umbrella group for ministries to the cults and new religions, our founders and current board members have no wish for EMNR to assume a magisterial role, nor to become a closed guild which might diminish the validity of other ministries who are not part of EMNR. We recognize that many devoted and Spirit-led Christian ministries and missionaries will never affiliate with EMNR, and that in the providence and timing of God, both our own ministries and EMNR itself will one day be drawn to a close.
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