An Open Response to Matt Slick from CARM
There are many grievous generalities that you have made in the article you have written, generalities I am willing to answer in specific, but since you have been general...I will give general answers. I am encouraged by your willingness to sit down with us. Indeed, it would be a daunting task to seek to answer specifics via typing. Your willingness to sit down and talk with us demonstrates a willingness to be incorrect with the generalities you have made, and I am grateful for this. We too are willing to be incorrect in our doctrine and practice, if it can be proven by scripture. We welcome Spirit-filled men to approach us in godly fear and love, with correction and concern. My attempt in this email is to show the error of the loose-handed examination process which makes conclusions by generalities, by heathen persecutions, and by speculation. I will attempt to, by God's grace, show the error of generalities by pointing to scriptural truths and scriptural realities.
With regard to Paul Washer's prediction about the coming persecution: if it is true, then it would be great folly for us to come to conclusions based upon heathen reports, persecutions, or slanders. An approach such as this would have led the common Jew or Greek to deny the 1st Century Jesus Christ of the Bible. He too, and the 1st century Church, were overwhelmed with slander and misrepresentation. And yet, they affirmed that it was a Sovereign appointment by God (Rom. 8:36, 1 Thess. 1:6-7, 2:1-2, 13-16, 3:1-5, 2 Tim. 3:10-12, 1 Cor. 4:8-17, 15:19, 29-34, 2 Cor. 4:8-18, 6:4-10, 11:21-33, Heb. 12:3-4, 1 Pet. 2:21-23, 4:1-5, 12-14, etc.). I believe, as Paul Washer seemed to believe judging by the clip above, the Church today is ignorant of how, why, and in what way persecution is going to come upon us as true Christians...but the 1st century Church was not ignorant. For further information which reveals how deceitful the media is, please see this video titled: The Catherine Grove Controversy - "What is the Truth?"
From here onward, I plan to address specific statements you have made in the CARM article. I have separated the statements you made by topical titles. My answers are following your quotes.
The Church Cursed & Exclusivity:
"The Church is very tight knit, and exclusivistic. This makes sense since they teach that they are among the remnant of God's true believers and that the Christian church has been cursed for the past 2000 years. This is problematic because it lays the intellectual foundation to teach a kind of "restored" or "true" teaching of Scripture. However, this does not automatically make them a cult."
The Church is very "tight knit", you said, but what does this mean?
Col. 2:2 "That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;"
Col. 2:19 "And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God."
The Church is very "exclusivistic", but what does this mean?
Rom. 16:17-19 "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil."
1 Cor. 5:11-13 "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person."
“From such turn away” – 2 Tim. 3:5
“From such withdraw thyself” – 1 Tim. 6:5
“Receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed” – 2 John 1:10.
See also 1 John 2:19, Jude 3-4, Philippians 3:1-3, Matt. 15:13-14, 23:13, Gal. 4:29-31, 1 Thess. 2:16, Luke 12:1, Matt. 16:6, 11-12, Jude 16, 2 Peter 2:3, 13-14, 18,
3:17, 2 Cor. 6:17-7:1.
Matt, you stated that we teach the Church has been cursed for 2000 years, and that it needs to be restored, but I don't believe you understand what we would mean when we say "cursed". Also the general response that you gave saying, "This is problematic because it lays the intellectual foundation to teach a kind of 'restored' or 'true' teaching of Scripture", is erroneous and exceedingly general. I could point to biblical and extra-biblical Church history to affirm how vital and consistent it was for God-ordained men to arise and accomplish a reformation or restoration of the true meaning of scripture, applying it to their generation. Reformation orrestoration into the true meaning of scripture should not be shunned, scorned, or by title condemned, but the true meaning of scripture should be soundly addressed and applied NO MATTER WHAT. Woe to us if we are no longer subject to scripture, simply because we believe we are correct and standing in the truth right here and now. We can profess that we hold to the ancient truths (of extra-biblical Church history and the biblical witness), but even the Pharisees said they were followers of the true prophets. Christ affirmed how they did "garnish the sepulchres of the righteous" (Matt. 23:29)...this means that they honored them, taught their teachings, claimed to follow them, and by their lives they claimed to rightly represent them. Christ had another word to say about it - "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets" (Matt. 23:29-30). Many teach the truth, but oh! Do we do the truth (seeMatt. 23:2-3)? In conclusion, one should not rebuke and disdain another because he believes a truth from scripture must be restored, but the interpretation of scripture which he is arguing for should be addressed, and either refuted or accepted - anything but this is cult-like.
Death of Baby:
"However, it is a concern when medical treatment is not sought for a very young child who is obviously having breathing difficulties. If prayer does not quickly alleviate the problem, then the other God-ordained means of healing via medical attention should be utilized. The apostle Luke, after all, was a physician and Paul himself even said take a little wine for one's infirmities, (1 Timothy 5:23). So, seeking medical attention is biblical."
There was red-ish purple-ish color in the baby's extremities, yes, but this was not apparently different than other newborn babies that we have seen. In fact, the mother of the child that died affirmed that her former baby boy, named Levi, had colorful extremities and difficulty breathing, and this information foremost of all did give much reason to think that the child was NOT in any real danger. The Church of Wells does believe in using medical attention, and we are grateful for all beloved physicians out there who can be compared to Luke. Indeed, seeking medical attention is biblical.
Many Generalized "Suspicions" and a Final Conclusion on the "restored gospel mentality":
"Accusations of brainwashing have been rampant where at least one set of parents (Andy and Patty Groves) had been prevented from seeing their daughter, Catherine, who gave away everything and joined the group. But, an accusation does not a cult make. Apparently, the daughter does not want to see her parents and she is old enough to make that choice. This alone does not mean it is a cult. But, as things begin to add up and suspicious behavior becomes more evident, it makes us wonder what is going on.
In an interview with KTRE, Gardner, one of the elders of the church, said... "We have not in the past or ever intend to arrange marriages." Morris, another elder said, "Everyone in the church has their own possessions, their own homes, has their own bank accounts, the ones that do," said Morris. "So no we don't have all the money and we don't give allowances that is not how this church operates. That's absolutely unbiblical and absurd." These statements are good. But, what about the following said by Jake Gardner, one of the elders...
"Professing Christianity today overwhelming is a cult because a cult is that which is not found in the written word of God which is born by the thoughts of human beings...And the reason why there is so much ignominy and reproach cast upon us is because we're merely endeavoring to get back to what the Bible says and in a generation that is so far departed from the plain understanding and interpretation of the scriptures that is a cult, someone who is trying to return to simply what the bible is, is labeled a cult and that shows the degeneracy of our age,"
Such a statement usually is born out of a "restored gospel" mentality or the idea that everyone else is wrong except them."
What is "brainwashing", truly? I have never met anyone who has given me a clear answer on this. Our brains certainly are filthy, yes, but we don't need a brain washing but a heart washing. Praise God! This word, "brainwashing", is a common scare tactic that people use who are afraid of or amazed about the converting, changing, and transforming power of real salvation! In fact, the revival experienced near Scotland, in which Duncan Campbell was used, was hindered and brought to an end partly because of a slanderous accusation that Duncan Campbell was hypnotizing people (you can read more about this revival HERE). Woe to us that we accuse the work of the Holy Ghost to be hypnotizing or brainwashing, but in an age when psychology is one of the idol-gods to which this "civilized" and "noble" society does unquestionably subscribe faith to, what are we to expect? How can they explain the power of conversion if, in their worldview, they don't even acknowledge sin, depravity, God, and regeneration? I say again, people don't need a brainwashing but "the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5). That is the truth, and I am not ashamed of it. It is perplexing to me how people give weight to the scare tactic - "brainwashing" - usually nobody knows what it is, how it is done, or anything (I acknowledge that it is a Satanic delusion). And even more so, when those who profess Christianity move and sway with such a scare tactic as "brainwashing" name-calling, I would question if the man has ever been used by God to affect lost souls by the ministry of verbal preaching to strangers. If the man had, he would have seen what it is like for the Spirit of God to blow upon and convert poor, God-hating sons of the devil. Anyone who has seen this in any moderate degree has also waded through the hell that breaks loose to steal that convert from his convictions, i.e., the various persecutors, the baffled friends and relatives, etc. Either they get convicted and repent, or persecute it and slander it (like name-call brainwashing)...this is usually the pattern. Anyone who has personally experienced this would not quickly judge another man or ministry who is named by the tags which are commonly attached to us! Also, Catherine did NOT give away everything to join the Church. Furthermore, Jake's statement is sound and right, and it shouldn't be persecuted. Matt, you said, "such a statement usually is born out of "restored gospel" mentality or the idea that everyone else is wrong except them". I wonder if the reformation in the days of Luther would match up to some of your cult criteria? What about the 1st century Church, point-by-point? Jesus looked a lot like two cults of his day (see Acts 5:34-39) - yes, both He and the apostles were known as cult leaders (Acts 24:5-6)! By God's grace, I am not ashamed of them. So what does this mean? What am I saying? I am saying that generalizations as these are not righteous and sound, they often scare and subvert the simple-minded because it sounds good and reasonable. The question should be, what does the scripture teach in comparison to what the accused teach? What is "usual" does not matter, because today it is unusual for a Church to be biblical, it is unusual for a Church to be experiencing the power of God, it is unusual for a Church to be persecuted, but none of these things were true for the New Testament Churches. Finally, we do NOT believe that everyone else is wrong except us! God have mercy on all the slanderers!
What is a Cult?
In one section, Matt, you made a list of the ways you think we are cult-like. You made six points. These six points are your conclusions based upon a Nightline piece and other articles written by heathen men, etc. You said, "Again, it is difficult to make accurate assessments without actual contact with the group, but through the examination of articles written about them and watching the Nightline piece on them, I must say that they definitely have cult-like tendencies." We are certainly being defamed (1 Cor. 4:13), but my entreaty is this: Matt, is it biblical and righteous to publicize and spread abroad your thoughts, interpretations, and conclusions based upon unreliable reports (while having no contact with us, as you said), and all this without first coming to us and reproving us as the scriptures teach (Matt. 18)? What if we are true brothers? If there is any doubt, shouldn't there be longsuffering, instruction (2 Tim. 2:24-26), privacy (Matt. 18:15-17), and interaction (1 Cor. 14:29, 33, 40, see Acts 15, the entire chapter), before open rebuke?
In another article that you have written, Matt, I found your understanding of what these six points are. They are listed below, with my answers:
A. Their group is the only true religious system, or one of the few true remnants of God's people.
As far as the situation of exclusivity, what would David say in the days of his persecution when he was running from Saul? What would the generations of Kings like Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah say concerning Israel and other professing Jews? What would Judah say about Israel? Is there something wrong with asserting that there are "few true remnants of God's people"? Were these biblical persons I just cited wrong? What about Christ when he used the word "few" (Matt. 7:13-14, 9:37, 20:16, 22:14, 1 Pet. 3:20, Matt. 24:37-39, Rev. 3:4)? Truly, I say this with all gravity, I would be afraid to persecute someone because they affirm that the way of God is found by FEW!
Luke 13:23-30 "Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last."
If we examine the right-standing of God's people by judging in such generalizations as you made, Matt, consider this: with the same generalizations we could condemn Christ, the scriptures, and other historical moves of God in the process...but sadly, the simple-minded don't know this. They are not aware of scripture or history, and when they read something like this, taking a quick read, they can be moved to persecute something neither the writer nor the reader has biblically examined, tried, and found to be false! Reading something like this can do untold harm to the simple-minded. What I mean to say is, it can be a "great fair speech" (Rom. 16:18), if you will, that can greatly sway men to discount, reject, and repel anyone who meets these six points of "cult-like" attributes - even if it is biblical. "He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD" (Prov. 17:15).
A. Minimizing contact of church members with those outside the group. This facilitates a further control over the thinking and practices of the members by the leadership.
As for "minimization of contact": what are biblical representations and presentations of such behavior? And what would they look like if played out in the midst of a genuine move of God which includes the suffering of persecution and other attacks by spiritual forces of Satan (i.e. false prophets)? What kind of "contact" are we talking about? And what kind of "contact" was the scripture speaking about when it stated such verses in reference earlier in this article, when I addressed "exclusivity"? One such verse is notable and bold, which states:
2 Cor. 6:14-18 "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
What is the point? The point is, these ideas themselves (i.e., "isolation", minimization of contact, exclusivity, etc.) are not to be disdained when in their scriptural and biblical context! Generalizing these attributes would successfully condemn BIBLICAL Christianity, according to the words of scripture. Righteous judgment in such circumstances as this calls for and demands specifics! Even so we are warned, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24). And again, "But wisdom is justified of her children" (Matt. 11:19, Luke 7:35, see also the argument in Matthew 12:1-8).
Everyone is led by something (1 Cor. 12:2). Everyone, whether they are saved or unsaved, is controlled by and in slavery to something or Someone. Scripture states, "as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:21). Either sin rules, reigns, and controls the lost man, or Jesus Christ (through Grace) rules, reigns, and controls the saved man! The experience of saving grace discontinues the possibility that the man would, as it is written, "continue in sin" (Rom. 6:1, 15-16). Grace causes the lost man to yield to the Master - Jesus Christ - as a servant to obey Him! "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness" (Rom. 6:16)? Grace forcibly controls lost men so that they become "servants of righteousness" (Rom. 6:18) and "servants to righteousness unto holiness" (Rom. 6:19), when formerly they were "servants of sin" (Rom. 6:20). This experience of grace, in context, is "the gift of God" which is "eternal life" (Rom. 6:23). I am not ashamed of the fact that, "he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant" (1 Cor. 7:22). This being the case, what place have God's ministers?
Christ is a Ruler, a Monarch, and a King, and His people love to have it so...this is true! By His grace He makes slaves, and shockingly, His slavery is freedom...this is true! But furthermore He had created for Himself a Body through which He maintains His Lordship practically and experientially. God has appointed ministers as "labourers together with God" (1 Cor. 3:9), this also is true; and yet they are incomparable to God. They help and look after the furtherance of faith and grace in the people of God, and in so doing they help the Lordship of Jesus Christ progress into deeper realities - glory to glory - therefore it is written, "Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand" (2 Cor. 1:24). All this is true, but according to the sovereignty of God, each individual proves their own burdens (Gal. 6:4-5), will obey or disobey the calling of God on their life which is scripturally revealed, and in the process of time and circumstantial necessity, the Elders do operate as ambassadors and helpers of the rulership of the Ruler - what I mean to say is, they use authority when necessary for spiritual sanctity (2 Cor. 1:23, 1 Cor. 5:3-5, 2 Cor. 2:10, 1 Cor. 4:18-21, 2 Cor. 12:19-13:5, 2 Cor. 4:5, 1 John 2:19, 4:5-6, Heb. 13:17). Through the instruction of scripture to the flock, coupled with godly accountability, the "thinking and practices" of the members of Christ are conformed to Christ instead of the world (1 Cor. 2:16, 3:18, 2 Cor. 10:3-6, Php. 3:17-21, 4:8-9, 1 Cor. 4:16-21, Heb. 13:17, 1 Pet. 5:5-6, 1 Tim. 4:16, Heb. 3:12-13, 10:25, Gal. 6:1, Jas. 5:19-20,Eph. 4:11-13, Acts 2:42-47, Rom. 12:1-3, 1 John 4:5-6). Amen.
A. Instructions and/or knowledge are sometimes said to be received by a leader(s) from God. This leader then informs the members.
B. The Special Knowledge can be received through visions, dreams, or new interpretations of sacred scriptures such as the Bible.
Receiving instruction and knowledge that comes from God, in fact, is the only knowledge of God at all (James 1:5, 3:13-18). Anyone who professes to have "the knowledge of God" (Prov. 2:3-5) - it is for sure: they did not learn it like a heathen man learned chemistry (1 Cor. 2:14, John 6:63, 7:16-17, 8:37, 43, 47, Matt. 16:17). I mean to say that it was a revelation from God! For more concerning this, I wrote a blog post called, "Seminary & Seminarian - Do You Pray?". As for the "special knowledge" that is received through the gifts of the Spirit like visions and dreams, I can say that I am not a cessationist, I am NOT a charismatic, I hold the written word of God as the supreme and unrivaled RULE, and I do not aspire to obtain or teach anything that would or could be rightly considered a "new" interpretation of sacred scripture, but only the old ones which are forgotten and destroyed by false prophets.
A. The teachings of the group are repeatedly drilled into the members, but the indoctrination usually occurs around Special Knowledge.
I am not sure what is meant by the phrase, "repeatedly drilled", but I know this: the New Testament pastors and apostles were VERY repetitious (Col. 1:28-29, 2 Pet. 1:12-15, 1 Thess. 2:11-12, 3:10, Rom. 15:14-16, Php. 3:1-3, Jude 3). The Lord knows that we NEEDED four gospels, not just one - for many reasons. As for our experience in special knowledge (visions, dreams, etc.), I can say that our preaching and pastoral repetition is of the truth found written in scripture; the other forms of revelation cannot even compare to this affirmation.
A. The group's coherence is maintained by the observance to policies handed down from those in authority.
B. There is an internal enforcement of policies by members who reward "proper" behavior, and those who perform properly are rewarded with further inclusion and acceptance by the group.
By "policies" which are "handed down" from the "authority", what are these policies? Certainly you are referring to non-scriptural policies...but I don't know of any non-biblical policies that we instruct the people with, hand down to them, or expect them to obey by faith through grace. In the Church of Wells, all who are covered by the blood are accepted equally and wholly, by God's grace, from all different backgrounds, denominations, and non-damnable heretical tendencies, etc. I praise God that we are not a group, but a Church; not a gathering, but a Body; not a collection of doctrines, but a family; not a disconnected, dismembered mess of mishap, but a fitly jointed and biologically connected Body in which every member is NEEDED - a body with one single mind (Php. 1:27)!
A. Often a common appearance is maintained. For instance, women might wear prairie dresses, and/or their hair in buns, and/or no makeup, and/or the men might all wear white short-sleeved shirts, and/or without beards, or all wear beards.
As for appearances, we believe in biblical modesty for men and women. We do NOT teach that women should wear prairie dresses, hair buns, etc., but a few Anabaptists have been converted from their former religion, and they still wear prairie dresses at times. Also, not all are convinced that the covering of the woman’s head is a non-literal head covering in 1 Corinthians 11, so a few women do wear head coverings. We accept them and do not condemn them because this is a non-damnable heresy. It is their personal conviction that they cover their head with a piece of cloth. This is not the teaching of the Church, nor is it what we understand 1 Corinthians 11 to teach. Convictions on makeup change from home to home, family to family, so some wear it and some don't. There is no laid out rule so that all look the same, but we do believe in modesty, meekness, and shamefacedness as the scriptures teach. The men do not all wear short-sleeved shirts, they do not dress alike in any intentional way, they do not wear beards or refrain from beards in any intentional way of rule or anything like that, as all the cults of Anabaptism do. Nevertheless, it does so happen that, when men are dead to the world, don't like the labels of popular apostasy, don't desire to be flashy, and don't desire to live in luxury, they start dressing with modesty and they live with temperance - such a thing can sometimes make men appear similar. The truth is that they just don't care about these things that dazzle others, but by God's grace they are amazed with and in earnest pursuit of Christ - their treasure is in heaven (Matt. 6)!
Two closing verses that are upon my heart, that deserve due consideration and reflection:
"Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates" - 2 Corinthians 13:7
"He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him." - Proverbs 18:17
Is it is possible that “evil communications” of false prophets and carnal men have so inoculated this generation that we cannot discern good from evil and do not walk in the sufferings that the Book of God deems normal? Though our consciences scream that we need Revival, we are incoherent and proud enough to think that we can still judge our own state rightly, divide the word of God wisely, and know His will truly: yet how can we? If we need Revival (or are carnal), how can we know judgment, wisdom, and righteousness? If we are carnal, then it is predominately hidden from us (John 16:12, 1 Cor. 3:1-2, Hebrews 5:11-14) and must be taught or exemplified to us, and if we are not fearfully careful, then we will persecute the wisdom of God because it is foolish, be offended at the righteousness of God because of its weakness, and misdefine the awakenings of God as the darkness of the Devil. Jesus said: “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Matt. 11:6, Luke 7:23). Are we in such a condition where we should take heed to the awful warning, "but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise" (2 Cor. 10:12)?
I appeal to the justice and judgment of Jesus Christ who is alive, who is the King of the Church, who walks in the midst of the Lampstands of God, who is a searcher of hearts and a revealer of secrets: Jesus Christ, would you bring the truth to the light? Would you judge your Church right now…that we might be saved from the Judgment to come? Would you gather all men involved in this public address which has begun on the internet, and would you work mightily and powerfully among us that all might look upon and acknowledge the truth? In Jesus Christ’s Name I pray, for the glory of God the Father in the name of His Son, Amen.
Matt, we are praying about the next step from here. We trust that, God willing, we will be in contact soon. Until then, our sincere love and prayers are toward and for you.
Sean Morris on behalf of Ryan, Jake, and the Church of Wells