HOW CULT LEADERS TWIST SCRIPTURE
(Reprinted from The Gospel Truth, May 1988, by permission of David Reed)
(Investigator 25, 1992 July)
CULT LEADERS use the Bible to teach strange doctrines and counterfeit
gospels. They turn the Bible upside down, inside out and backwards to
"prove" these peculiar notions. And, millions of people accept and
believe their twisted interpretations. Why?
A lot has to do with the techniques cult leaders employ when they teach
from God's Word. They have learned how to manipulate the Bible like a
musical instrument that they can use to play any tune they wish.
These are six steps that cult leaders typically use to twist Scripture:
They use the power of suggestion.
They tell you what you are going to see in a verse—before you read it.
Even if it is possible to draw other conclusions from the verse, the
suggestible student sees only the thought his teacher told him he would
see. For example, rather than say, "Read this verse, and tell me what
you think," the cultic teacher is more likely to say, "Let's look up a
verse that proves...[whatever doctrine he is trying to support with the
They isolate verses.
Taking a verse or two out of their original context and quoting them in
the context of a modern article or book can give a whole new meaning—a
meaning quite different from what the inspired writer intended. Thus
Jehovah's Witnesses are taught that changes in Watchtower
doctrine over the years are due to "the light getting brighter."
Their leaders quote Proverbs 4:18, "the path of the righteous ones is
like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day
is firmly established." (J.W. New World Translation)
But a quick look at the context reveals that the discussion in
Proverbs, chapter 4, concerns the contrast between a wicked man's way
of life and a righteous man's—nothing to do with the Watchtower
They link together unrelated verses.
You can simulate this by flipping your television from one channel to
another, listening to just a few words from each: "This program is
brought to you by ... [click] ... President Reagan ... [click] ... the
new heavyweight champion ... [click] ... guaranteed to remove tough
stains..." Doing this with the T.V. can produce an amusing string of
unrelated phrases, but cult members are taught to take seriously the
chain of unrelated Scripture passages strung together in the same
They draw the conclusion for you.
Before you have time to meditate on the Bible verses you just read, a
pre-packaged conclusion is placed before you. No need to do any extra
thinking—it has already been done for you. This technique is similar
to the familiar formula for a sales pitch: "You tell them what you're going
to tell them; then you tell them; and then you tell them what you told
them." What the verse actually said gets lost, sandwiched in between
the teacher's introductory remarks and the conclusion he supplies.
They use intimidation.
"Any honest-hearted person can plainly see..."—this is a favorite
phrase of scripture-twisters. If you express disagreement with them you
risk being viewed as so corrupt at heart that you cannot see the "plain
truth" that is "obvious" to others.
They use the weight of authority.
How can the average workingman or housewife dare to disagree with an
interpretation presented by "God's organization" or by "the Rev. Dr.
So-and-so, D.D., Ph.D"? Who would take it upon himself to question what
is presented as "the traditional understanding" of a verse? It is time
to become suspicious when a teacher tries to use the weight of
authority to tip the balance in favor of an interpretation out of
harmony with the plain reading of a text or its context.
Cult leaders skillfully combine these techniques to make Scripture appear to say what they want it to say.
The best way to un-twist twisted verses is to go back to the beginning
of the passage or chapter, read all of it in its full context, and then
ask: What is the topic under discussion? What point is the writer
making? How do others understand these verses? What does the rest of
the Bible say on the matter? Let God speak for Himself, without an
interpreter. — David A. Reed