September 23, 2020

You Know You/They Are Wrong When…

stopwrong.jpgI’ve got a couple of small posts that have something in common: They are about someone being wrong.

The Fearsome Pirate himself, Josh Strodtbeck, wrote this brief post on Ten Ways To Know You’re Wrong. I thought it was excellent, and should have linked to it earlier. Nice work Josh.

10 Rules for Knowing You’re Wrong

1. If you’re not talking about Jesus, you’re wrong.
2. If you define a sin in such a way that it can’t possibly apply to you, you’re wrong.
3. If your doctrine leads you to cut yourself off from everyone but like 9 others, you’re wrong.
4. If your theology excuses you from doing something God commanded, you’re wrong.
5. If you believe in a way that allows you to inflict or ignore others’ suffering, you’re wrong.
6. If you’re talking about how thankful you are that you’re better than those jerks, you’re wrong.
7. If your case relies entirely on citation of authority, you’re wrong.
8. If you can’t defend your belief without lying about what it is, you’re wrong.
9. If you say you believe something and qualify the hell out of it, you’re wrong.
10. If your version of the Gospel isn’t actually good news, you’re wrong.

On another note, I’ve been reading some sources of “cult profiles” looking for how shame and intimidation regarding unapproved books, outside information, open questions and open discussion are perceived by cults. On one comprehensive list of cultic characteristics as described by various sources, the following statements appeared in various descriptions of cults and cultic behavior:

Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
The leadership induces guilt feelings in members in order to control them.
Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
All The Answers – Provide simple answers to the confusion they, themselves, create. Support these answers with material produced or “approved” by the group
Attack Independent Thought – Critical thinking is discouraged as prideful and sinful, blind acceptance encouraged.
Motive Questioning- When sound evidence against the group is presented, members are taught to question the motivation of the presenter. The verifiable (sound documentation) is ignored because of doubts over the unverifiable (presenter’s motives).
Information Control – Group controls what convert may read or hear. They discourage (forbid) contact with ex-members or anything critical of the group. May say it is the same as pornography making it not only sinful and dangerous but shameful as well. Ex-members become feared and avoidance of them becomes a “survival issue.”
Coercion – Disobedience, including even minor disagreement with group doctrine, may result in expulsion and shunning.
Phobias – The idea is planted that anyone who leaves goes into a life of depravity and sin, loses their sanity, dies, or will have children die, etc. Constant rumors of bad things happening to people who leave. No one ever leaves for “legitimate reasons.”
No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as “persecution”.
Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.

I have to wonder how many churches, ministers, schools and bloggers realize that their approach to these issues comes remarkably close to much of the behavior and attitude of cults? I am not calling these groups/persons cultic, and don’t say I did. I am pointing out that the discouragment of questions and discussion as contrary to the nature of Christianity is a characteristic of a cult, and ought to be called exactly that. It’s an attempt to control discussion, questions and independent thought.

There’s a lot more that could be said along this line, but I want to make it clear that when someone says, “The BHT-an open forum of diverse Christians- should not even allow a discussion of the nature of the resurrection,” that is an approach to the control of thought and dialogue that should be rejected and characterized as what it is: inappropriate intimidation and condemnation.


  1. Well I agree with most of waht you expressed. There is a lack in contemporary conservative Christianity of any kind of real debate or discussion, or even a want for such. When questions that appear to run counter to the group-think are raised those raising the questions are often quickly maligned. I like to think of myself as at least somewhat open-minded, especially if I allow myself to compare my thinking to others, but I know there are certain questions that would make me uncomfortable but I wholeheartedly believe are valid questions that can and should be answered.

    There is a tendancy, I think, on the part of those who believe they possess the truth to merely reinforce that notion. And the means by which that is done is by surrounding ourselves with others who believe like we do, reading things that reinforce our already held beliefs and otherwise engaging in self-edification. When, really, and honestly if we believe we possess the truth we should desire to confront challenges and to deal with complicated or controversial issues head on and with real care and self-critical honesty. And when we discover that we are wrong or not 100% correct we need to be ready and willing to consider changing our minds.

    But all this requires a standard, something we can look to that we hold to be reliable. My question is, what is that standard? Most Christians might point to the Bible but there are so many questions that get raised about how to properly deal with the Bible and it becomes monumentally important how we answer those questions, so how would you or anyone else approach this issue of open and honest discussion about all things? Where is the common ground that must be the foundation for any truly fruitful dialog?

  2. Remember that I am not discussing the curriculum of a seminary here. I am discussing what any group of persons interested in Christianity can talk about. In that case, our “standard” is our mutual interest. There is no need for an authority to declare who is right. We can read, talk, communicate, exchange ideas, listen, disagree and NEVER come to a conclusion.

    In other contexts there needs to be an authority so we can agree on specifics in order to function in whatever ways are appropriate. So a community like OBI might have a grade scale, a student rulebook or a Confession of faith.

    This grows out of the constant berating my other web site endures from some in the Reformed Baptist Camp saying that the discussion of _______________ shouldn’t occur except in strict confessional boundaries, and those who do so are probably not Christians, are false teachers, etc. This is a cult tactic. It’s an attempt at control that ought to be labelled inappropriate.

  3. Given your contextual clarification I find no reason to disagree with you myself. However, even in a broader Christian context there would need to be some sort of ground rules that define the parameters for conversation. Take the resurrection: Someone like J.D. Crossan who takes a very critical approach to the Bible wouldn’t have much common ground with myself when discussing the resurrection since I reject almost all of his textual criticisms outright. And although we might be able to have a meaningful conversation about the validity or what not of his critical conclusions we couldn’t really say much about the issue of the resurrection to each other because our underlying positions are far too different.

    Much of the popular theological conversations are largely defined by lower level, but equally important, positions that if disagreed upon almost make meaningful discussion impossible. But that kind of issue has to be tackled as it comes, especially when holding “public” talks.

  4. I especially like #10.

    The problem with the volume of comments over at that TR “attack” site is that it reinforces their perception that they are right. It inflates their arrogance.

    By the way, has anyone ever met a humble TR? I see a lot of humility and self-depreciation at Christian blogs, but I haven’t noticed it at a TR site.

  5. In case you missed it. Steve Camp has called N. T. Wright “unregenerate.” TR must also stand for “truly regenerate.” That’s what I call a really limited atonement!

  6. stkatheryne says

    That creeped me out. You just described what I came out of almost a decade ago…to a T (every single one of those). Those symptoms are totally true. If you see those in your church RUN…FAST. But make sure you run toward the cross. It’s the only place to safely stop running. I’m still out of breath but at least I’m not running anymore 🙂

  7. dpaultaylor57 says

    I have never felt comfortable with the tendency to isolate and highlight certain groups with the label “cult.” Aside from the sinister connotations of the word, it is essentially a mirror image (or negation) of an artificial definition of who the faithful are, one that relies too heavily on belief in orthodox ideas only.

    That tends toward pharisaism and self-righteousness and it’s sorely lacking in mercy, among other things. Not to mention that it downplays the importance of actually obeying everything Jesus commanded, which is one of the standards he set for disciplemaking.

    Label something a “cult” and it’s automatically beyond the pale, and when this is combined with childish ideas about “separation” from what is sinful and wrong, it basically writes people off for good.

  8. stkatheryne on April 19th, 2006 4:43 pm

    That creeped me out. You just described what I came out of almost a decade ago…to a T (every single one of those). Those symptoms are totally true. If you see those in your church RUN…FAST. But make sure you run toward the cross. It’s the only place to safely stop running. I’m still out of breath but at least I’m not running anymore

    You and me too stkateryne. I left 3 years ago. iMonk’s points on cult-like Christian groups is right on the mark.

    The blessing is that, having experienced the controlling manipulating cult, I so appreciate the church I attend now.

  9. dpaul:

    I am highly reluctant to use the term, as it is vague and often inappropriate. In this instance, however, the repeated call for discussion of issues to cease and only approved discussions to take place is similar to the kind of control tactics used in cults. Guilt for reading the wrong books. Shame for being in discussions with “outsiders.” Assumed authoritarian superiority. On and on it goes. It’s cultish in its approach and the word needs to be used.

  10. Michael,

    There is a Monty Python skit breaking out “over there.” I think I am about to be banned for excessive disagreement.


  11. Brother Bob says

    Lets keep thing simple…

    A cult is any teaching that creates a need for itself.

    What say you?