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My Counter-Cult Ministry

By Dr. Douglas Groothuis

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:1-4; see also Colossians 2:8-10).

Counter-cult ministry is a term used by evangelical Christians to mean the use of apologetics against false religious worldviews, particularly groups that fall outside of traditional world religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism (although evangelicals, myself included, have done apologetics concerning these groups). I deem Walter Martin as the father of counter-cult ministry in the United States, particularly with regard to his seminal book, Kingdom of the Cults (1965), which I read a year after becoming a Christian in 1976 at age nineteen. He biblically and logically critiqued groups such as the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian Science. This book has proven invaluable to me—and countless others—over my many years of my ministry. Dr. Martin would often sign copies of his books with “Jude 3,” which reads, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” Yes, we must content for the Christian faith (see also 1 Peter 3:15). Another key thinker in this area was my mentor and predecessor at Denver Seminary, philosopher and theologian, Dr. Gordon R. Lewis, who wrote Confronting the Cults (1966) and What Everyone Should Know about Transcendental Meditation (1975).

I was interested in eastern religions and the occult before I became a Christian in June of 1976. After converting by the grace of God, I became interested in apologetics, which I define as defending the Christian worldview as objectively true, compellingly rational, and pertinent to the whole of life. While in a secular college, I devoured works by Francis Schaeffer, Os Guinness, C. S. Lewis, and Walter Martin, as well as the publications of the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, particularly the writings of Brooks Alexander. While in campus ministry at the University of Oregon from 1979-84, I continued my study, which lead to my first book, Unmasking the New Age (InterVarsity Press, 1986). While in ministry, I would write and distribute tracks at New Age and other events and seek to reach as many non-Christians (in false religions or otherwise) as possible through conversions and lectures.

After receiving a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1986, I continued to write and publish in the counter-cult realm as a campus minister at the University of Washington in Seattle from 1986-1989. The New Age movement was exploding during this time in the Northwest, and I was not without many opportunities to speak, write, and witness to those involved in this spiritual error. I was interviewed on television, quoted in Time Magazine, often appeared on radio programs, and did apologetics and evangelism at New Age events. During this time, my second book, Confronting the New Age (InterVarsity Press, 1988) was published. The foreword was written by Walter Martin.

While pursuing my Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Oregon, I continued in campus ministry in Eugene, Oregon, and had many opportunities to write and speak on the New Age movement and other spiritual counterfeits. During this time, my third book, Revealing the New Age Jesus (InterVarsity Press, 1990) was released.

Since getting my doctorate and joining the academic world full-time (I began my career at Denver Seminary in 1993), writing in the counter-cult domain has not been my main ministry focus. However, I continue to write, speak, and do outreach for those involved in non-Christian religions. I have written dozens of articles since 1986 for The Christian Research Journal, a counter-cult publication which was founded by Walter Martin in 1960. For example, about two years ago, I had a fruitful conversion with a mother and son, who were both heavily into Hindu meditation. The son said, “My guru says that Jesus was the greatest guru, but I don’t know much about him. Could you tell me more?” What an opportunity! I did so, and followed up with his mother, sending her a copy of my book, Jesus in an Age of Controversy.

Why have I been involved in counter-cult apologetics through these many years? It is because I am convinced that the gospel message is true and he most important truth of all. Everyone needs to know that we can only be reconciled to a holy God through the work of Jesus Christ, the only Savior and Lord (Matthew 11:27; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5). We all need fire in our bones and love in our hearts for the gospel (Jeremiah 20:9; Acts 17:16). Many of those in false religions think they understand the Bible and Jesus, but have substituted a false gospel, which is no gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-11). But we must “test the spirits” according to what the Bible says about Jesus Christ and reject false teaching (1 John 4:1-6; Colossians 2:8-9). Thus, I encourage all of you reading to make sure you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and to make him known to as many people as possible.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., is Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary and the author of nineteen books, including Unmasking the New Age (InterVarsity, 1986), Confronting the New Age (InterVarsity, 1988), Revealing the New Age Jesus (1990), Deceived by the Light (Harvest House, 1995), and Christian Apologetics, 2nd ed. (InterVarsity, 2022).


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Thanks for sharing your background and association with Walter Martin.

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