Reflection on Cult ‘New Heaven and Earth’ and Situation of Chinese Church

A church.
A church.

Recently, South Korea's Shincheonji "New Heaven and Earth" cult has caused serious disruption to the Chinese church as they specifically targeted young and middle-aged believers. They are more harmful than Eastern Lightning. "New Heaven and Earth" not only spreads false teachings, but also does whatever it takes to achieve its goal, even brutally murdering dissidents.

The falsehood of "New Heaven and Earth" is mainly reflected on the key point of "cult leader worship", which is where most cults go wrong. "New Heaven and Earth" deifies its leader, Li Wanxi, as the embodiment of the patron of the Holy Spirit and the envoy of God, who is as equally honorable as Jesus. "New Heaven and Earth" holds that is the shepherd who is specially anointed by Jesus. He is the Messenger of the Book of Revelation, and therefore only he knows the mysteries of God. His purpose in the world is to create God's Empire, to re-establish the 12 tribes, to bear 12 kinds of fruit each month, and to become a victorious new Israel.

"New Heaven and Earth" is regarded as heresy because of its obvious deviation in the core teachings of Christianity, such as revelation, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and salvation.

From a cognitive point of view, the falsehood of "New Heaven and Earth" is obvious. However, why can such obvious heresy still have such a serious impact on the Chinese church? This is because they mystify the word of God in order to take away the authority of interpreting the Bible. "New Heaven and Earth" claims that all the biblical records are symbols and metaphors. They exegete the Bible using vague metaphors creating a novel atmosphere for those who hear it for the first time, allowing people to think that metaphorical exegesis as something spiritual, and thus fall into confusion.

In the author's view, the negative impact of "New Heaven and Earth" on the Chinese church is due to the existence of various heresies on the soil of the Chinese church. That very soil is the mysticism found in Chinese traditional culture, the anti-intellectualism embedded in the traditional church, and the animism under the influence of the spiritual movement of the Charismatics. Together, these three lead people to pay more and more attention to the perceptual dimension of the Christian faith while ignoring the importance of its rational dimension. Since the withdrawal of Western missionaries, the development of the Chinese church has undergone a great transformation. The Three Self-Patriotic Movement exists. However due to its Christian patriotic nature, the development of canonical doctrine, therefore, has not been important. It can be said that since then until now, the Chinese Church has been neglected its focus on theology.

Paul Wu, a Christian writer, has shared that the Chinese church prides itself on "merely reading the Bible" and "shutting itself off from the outside world but reading the Gospels with all intent." This phenomenon has caused many people to misrepresent the Bible, blindly believe, be ignorant of the world, and be very subjectively religious, but hold to errors and deviation from the truth.

Moreover, anti-intellectualism had influenced some highly educated believers, added Wu. Although they have all received higher education, some of them have been infected by the anti-intellectualism atmosphere after joining the church, and over time have been mired in it.

For instance, Wu knows a sister who holds a master's degree in English and was very enthusiastic to serve in the church after coming to faith in the Lord. Strangely enough, she once said to him, "Were the people who followed Jesus at that time mainly uneducated and at the bottom of society?"

"The people at the bottom really made up a large proportion," he said.

Yet she actually said, "Right. One needn't have knowledge in the Lord because Jesus likes people who don't have knowledge (and culture)."

He was incredibly shocked to hear that. Afterward, he learned that there is serious anti-intellectualism in her fellowship, and that although she initially felt out of place, she had eventually became accustomed to it after a long time, and had finally denied her experience of many years of higher education.

This sister's story is by no means a rare case. The author has been contacted by a number of highly educated believers who have similar ideas, but not as extreme as hers. Furthermore, those espousing anti-intellectualism generally oppose "seeking understanding in one's faith" and are unwilling to acquire varied theological knowledge, believing that understanding theology will lead them to atheism and finally lose their blessing.

Yet these ideas of anti-intellectualism eventually lead to a shallowness of walking on the Way so that believers find it difficult to distinguish all kinds of heresy. Consequently, when they encounter "seducers of the sheep", they lose resistance and eventually fall into the abyss of false teachings. This is also an important reason why "New Heaven and Earth" can seduce young people who are highly educated.

-  Translated by Charlie Li

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