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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Apostates - "animalistic men"

“As for you, beloved ones, call to mind the sayings that have been previously spoken by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, how they used to say to you: ‘In the last time there will be ridiculers, proceeding according to their own desires for ungodly things.’ These are the ones that make separations, animalistic men, not having spirituality.” (Jude 17-19)

Jude said much to expose the “ungodly men” who slyly crept into the congregation. Then, entreating fellow believers for whom he had great affection, Jude bid them to recall words previously spoken by Jesus’ apostles. Recalling those sayings should have moved all genuine Christians to “put up a hard fight for the faith.”

The apostle Paul warned fellow overseers that from among them men would “rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:29, 30) He told Timothy that ‘in later times some would fall away from the faith.’ (1 Timothy 4:1, 2) And the apostle Peter specifically warned that ‘in the last days there would come ridiculers, saying: “Where is this promised presence of his?”’—2Peter 3:1-4.

Hence, recipients of Jude’s letter had good reason to expect “ridiculers” to appear during the period that immediately preceded the end of the Jewish system of things. It was not unlikely that the “ungodly men” who had slipped into the congregation were ridiculing faithful believers who adhered to Jehovah’s righteous standards and would not join the “false brothers” in loose conduct. But it was essential that godly persons “put up a hard fight for the faith,” even though they might have been derided by false teachers who ‘proceeded according to’ and were driven by their own immoral “desires for ungodly things.”—Compare 2 Corinthians 11:26; Galatians 2:4, 5.

Whereas God, by his spirit, assured the unity of those loving him, those ungodly ridiculers tried to “make separations,” or “distinctions,” endeavoring to carry on a separating work among Jehovah’s people. (Jude 19, New World Translation, 1950 edition, footnote; Psalm 133:1-3; 1 Corinthians 1:10) Although the ridiculers spoke against faithful responsible men in the congregation, the ungodly ones expressed admiration for individuals who could benefit them. (Jude 8, 16) Like the Pharisees, they looked down on the humble, godly members of the congregation. Rather than gathering with the Lord, they tried to scatter. Even today some try to draw the unsteady away into private groups, supposedly for “Bible study.” This could never promote love for God, Christ and the Christian congregation.—Luke 11:23.

Those men were fittingly termed “animalistic,” or “soulical,” for they were sentient creatures yielding to fleshly sensations, appetites and inclinations. (Compare Kingdom Interlinear Translation, verse 19.) Although they considered themselves spiritually enlightened, Jude described them as “not having spirituality,” or, literally, not having “the spirit.” Actually, those “animalistic men” lacked Jehovah’s spirit, could not comprehend spiritual matters and scarcely rose above the level of unreasoning beasts. If we have Jehovah’s spirit and understand “the deep things of God,” we should be deeply grateful to our heavenly Father.—1 Corinthians 2:6-16.

How to Remain in God’s Love

Additional Reading:

Jude next turned to earnest entreaty, saying:

“But you, beloved ones, by building up yourselves on your most holy faith, and praying with holy spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love, while you are waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ with everlasting life in view.” (Jude 20, 21)

Jude lovingly showed how his cherished fellow believers could remain in the love of Jehovah. Following his counsel certainly would include the cultivating of faith, a fruit of God’s spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23) But in view of Jude’s earlier reference to fighting for ‘the faith delivered to the holy ones’ (vs. 3), the expression “most holy faith” may have referred to the whole range of Christian teachings, including the good news of salvation. The foundation of such true faith is Christ, and it was called “most holy” because it looked to the God of holiness and was based exclusively upon his holy Word.—Acts 20:32; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.

For Christians to ‘upbuild themselves on their most holy faith,’ or to strengthen it, they must diligently study God’s Word personally and congregationally. Frequently discussing the Scriptures with fellow Christian witnesses of Jehovah, as well as proclaiming the good news to others, will deepen the impression the Bible makes on our hearts. But none of this can be accomplished apart from earnest prayer. An individual ‘prays with holy spirit’ when praying under its influence and in harmony with the things in Jehovah’s Word. Moreover, the Scriptures, written under inspiration of God’s spirit, show us how to pray and what to request in prayer. For instance, we can confidently pray to be filled with God’s holy spirit. If we ‘pray with holy spirit,’ our prayers will reveal a proper heart condition, one loved by God. We will thus be protected from improper influences, including the views of any “ungodly men” who might slip into the congregation.—Luke 11:13; Romans 8:9, 26, 27.

To ‘keep themselves in God’s love,’ Jude’s fellow believers had to observe Jehovah’s commandments and those of His Son. (John 15:10; 1 John 5:3) Remaining in the love of God calls for speech and conduct approved by Jehovah. Being imperfect and sinful, the faithful ones would, in order to remain in God’s love, continually require Jehovah’s mercy extended through Jesus Christ and made possible by means of the ransom sacrifice of their Lord. (Romans 5:8; 9:14-18; 1 John 4:9, 10) The continuance of divine mercy toward Jesus’ faithful followers eventually results in everlasting life.—John 3:16.

- September 1, 1982 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Apostasy (IPA: /əˈpɒstəsi/) is the formal religious disaffiliation or abandonment or renunciation of one's religion, especially if the motive is deemed unworthy. In a technical sense, as used sometimes by sociologists without the pejorative connotations of the word, the term refers to renunciation and criticism of, or opposition to, one's former religion. One who commits apostasy is an apostate, or one who apostatizes. The word derives from Greek αποστασία (apostasia), meaning a defection or revolt, from απο, apo, "away, apart", στασις, stasis, "stand", "standing". Bryan R. Wilson, who was a professor of Sociology at Oxford University, writes that apostates of new religious movements are generally in need of self-justification, and seek to reconstruct their past and to excuse their former affiliations, while blaming those who were formerly their closest associates. Wilson utilizes the term atrocity story, [a story] that is in his view rehearsed by the apostate to explain how, by manipulation, coercion or deceit, he was recruited to a group that he now condemns. Wilson also challenges the reliability of the apostate's testimony by saying that "the apostate [is] always seen as one whose personal history predisposes him to bias with respect to his previous religious commitment and affiliations, the suspicion must arise that he acts from a personal motivation, to vindicate himself and to regain his self-esteem, by showing himself to have been first a victim, but subsequently a redeemed crusader."

Lonnie D. Kliever, Ph.D., Professor of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University writes “There is no denying that these dedicated and diehard opponents of the new religions present a distorted view of the new religions to the public, the academy, and the courts by virtue of their ready availability and eagerness to testify against their former religious associations and activities. Such apostates always act out of a scenario that vindicates themselves by shifting responsibility for their actions to the religious group. Indeed, the various brainwashing scenarios so often invoked against the new religious movements have been overwhelmingly repudiated by social scientists and religion scholars as nothing more than calculated efforts to discredit the beliefs and practices of unconventional religions in the eyes of governmental agencies and public opinion. Such apostates can hardly be regarded as reliable informants by responsible journalists, scholars, or jurists. Even the accounts of voluntary defectors with no grudges to bear must be used with caution since they interpret their past religious experience in the light of present efforts to re-establish their own self-identity and self-esteem. In short, on the face of things, apostates from new religions do not meet the standards of personal objectivity, professional competence, and informed understanding required of expert witnesses.”

Religious scholars have routinely found the testimony and public statements of apostates to be unreliable. In his book "The Politics of Religious Apostasy: The Role of Apostates in the Transformation of Religious Movement", Professor David Bromley, Department of Sociology and Anthropology of Virginia Commonwealth University, explained how individuals who elect to leave a chosen faith must then become critical of their religion in order to justify their departure. This then opens the door to being recruited and used by organizations which seek to use their testimony as a weapon against a minority religion. "Others may ask, if the group is as transparently evil as he now contends, why did he espouse its cause in the first place? In the process of trying to explain his own seduction and to confirm the worst fears about the group, the apostate is likely to paint a caricature of the group that is shaped more by his current role as apostate than by his actual experience in the group."

John Gordon Melton is an American religious scholar who was the founding director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion and is currently a research specialist in religion and New Religious Movements with the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. While testifying as an expert witness in a lawsuit, said that when investigating groups one should not rely solely upon the unverified testimony of ex-members, and that hostile ex-members would invariably shade the truth and blow out of proportion minor incidents, turning them into major incidents. Melton also follows the argumentation of Lewis Carter and David Bromley and claims that as a result of this study, the [psychological] treatment (coerced or voluntary) of former members largely ceased, and that a (perceived) lack of widespread need for psychological help by former members of new religions would in itself be the strongest evidence refuting early sweeping condemnations of new religions as causes of psychological trauma.