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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Apostasy, who let the dogs out?

17These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit,"[a]and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." - 2 Peter 2:17-22 (New International Version)

Did 2 John 10, which says not to receive into one’s home or to greet certain ones, refer only to those who had promoted false doctrine?

In context this counsel concerned the “many deceivers” who had gone forth, “persons not confessing Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” (2 John 7) The apostle John offered directions on how Christians back there should treat one who denied that Jesus had existed or that he was the Christ and Ransomer. John directed: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.” (2 John 10, 11) But the Bible elsewhere shows that this had a wider application.

At one time among the Christians in Corinth, a man was practicing immorality, and the apostle Paul wrote them to “quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man.” (1 Corinthians 5:11) Now, did that apply to former brothers who had been expelled only for the gross wrongs there listed?

No. Revelation 21:8 shows also that such individuals as unrepentant murderers, spiritists, and liars are included among those who merit the second death. Surely the counsel in 1 Corinthians 5:11 would also have been applied with equal force to former Christians guilty of these wrongs. Further, John wrote that some “went out from us, but they were not of our sort; for if they had been of our sort, they would have remained with us. But they went out that it might be shown up that not all are of our sort.” (1 John 2:18, 19) John did not say that they had been expelled for gross sin. Perhaps some of them just quit, deciding that they no longer wanted to be in the congregation because they disagreed over a doctrine. Others may have grown tired and given out.—1 Corinthians 15:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3; Hebrews 12:3, 5.

Of course, if a brother had begun to stray into sin, mature Christians would have tried to help him. (Galatians 6:1; 1 John 5:16) If he had doubts, they would have attempted to ‘snatch him out of the fire.’ (Jude 23) Even if he had become inactive, not going to meetings or in the public ministry, spiritually strong ones would have striven to restore him. He might have told them that he did not want to be bothered with being in the congregation, reflecting his weakened faith and low spirituality. They would not have badgered him, but they might occasionally have made a friendly visit on him. Such loving, patient, merciful efforts would have reflected God’s interest that none be lost.—Luke 15:4-7.

In contrast, John’s words indicate that some went further than spiritual weakness and inactivity; they actually repudiated God’s congregation. Someone may have come out openly in opposition to God’s people, declaring that he no longer wanted to be in the congregation. He may even have renounced his former faith formally, such as by a letter. Of course, the congregation would have accepted his decision to disassociate himself. But how would they then have treated him?

John says: “Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. He that does remain in this teaching is the one that has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him.” (2 John 9, 10) Those words certainly would have applied to a person who became an apostate by joining a false religion or by spreading false doctrine. (2 Timothy 2:17-19) But what about those who John said “went out from us”? While Christians in the first century would know that they should not associate with an expelled wrongdoer or with an active apostate, did they act similarly toward someone who was not expelled but who willfully renounced the Christian way?

Aid to Bible Understanding shows that the word “apostasy” comes from a Greek word that literally means “‘a standing away from’ but has the sense of ‘desertion, abandonment or rebellion.’” The Aid book adds: “Among the varied causes of apostasy set forth in apostolic warnings were: lack of faith (Heb. 3:12), lack of endurance in the face of persecution (Heb. 10:32-39), abandonment of right moral standards (2 Pet. 2:15-22), the heeding of the ‘counterfeit words’ of false teachers and ‘misleading inspired utterances’ ( . . . 1 Tim. 4:1-3) . . . Such ones willfully abandoning the Christian congregation thereby become part of the ‘antichrist.’ (1 John 2:18, 19)”

A person who had willfully and formally disassociated himself from the congregation would have matched that description. By deliberately repudiating God’s congregation and by renouncing the Christian way, he would have made himself an apostate. A loyal Christian would not have wanted to fellowship with an apostate. Even if they had been friends, when someone repudiated the congregation, apostatizing, he rejected the basis for closeness to the brothers. John made it clear that he himself would not have in his home someone who ‘did not have God’ and who was “not of our sort.”

Scripturally, a person who repudiated God’s congregation became more reprehensible than those in the world. Why? Well, Paul showed that Christians in the Roman world daily contacted fornicators, extortioners, and idolaters. Yet he said that Christians must “quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother” who resumed ungodly ways. (1 Corinthians 5:9-11) Similarly, Peter stated that one who had “escaped from the defilements of the world” but then reverted to his former life was like a sow returning to the mire. (2 Peter 2:20-22) Hence, John was providing harmonious counsel in directing that Christians were not to ‘receive into their homes’ one who willfully ‘went out from among them.’—2 John 10.

John added: “For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.” (2 John 11) Here John used the Greek word of greeting khai′ro rather than the word a‧spa′zo‧mai, found in verse 13.

Khai′ro meant to rejoice. (Luke 10:20; Philippians 3:1; 4:4) It was also used as a greeting, spoken or written. (Matthew 28:9; Acts 15:23; 23:26) A‧spa′zo‧mai meant “to enfold in the arms, thus to greet, to welcome.” (Luke 11:43; Acts 20:1, 37; 21:7, 19) Either could be a salutation, but a‧spa′zo‧mai may have implied more than a polite “hello” or “good-day.” Jesus told the 70 disciples not to a‧spa′se‧sthe anyone. He thus showed that their urgent work allowed no time for the Eastern way of greeting with kisses, embraces, and long conversation. (Luke 10:4) Peter and Paul urged: ‘Greet [a‧spa′sa‧sthe] one another with a kiss of love, or a holy kiss.’—1 Peter 5:14; 2 Corinthians 13:12, 13; 1 Thessalonians 5:26.

So John may deliberately have used khai′ro in 2 John 10, 11 rather than a‧spa′zo‧mai (verse 13). If so, John was not urging Christians then to avoid merely warmly greeting (with an embrace, kiss, and conversation) a person who taught falsehood or who renounced the congregation (apostatized). Rather, John was saying that they ought not even greet such an individual with khai′ro, a common “good-day.”

The seriousness of this counsel is evident from John’s words: “He that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.” No true Christian would have wanted God to view him as sharing in wicked works by associating with an expelled wrongdoer or with one who rejected His congregation. How much finer to be a sharer in the loving Christian brotherhood, as John wrote: “That which we have seen and heard we are reporting also to you, that you too may be having a sharing with us. Furthermore, this sharing of ours is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”—1 John 1:3.


Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary says “apostasy” is “1: renunciation of a religious faith 2: abandonment of a previous loyalty.”

Regarding the use of khai′ro in 2 John 11, R. C. H. Lenski comments: “[It] was the common greeting on meeting or on parting. . . . Here the sense is: Do not even give the proselyter this greeting! Already this makes you a participant in the wicked works for which he has come. John [refers] . . . to a greeting of any nature.

- July 15, 1985 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.