Just joking. He's actually warning about the Abolish Human Abortion movement, the movement about which he let me stand in his church building and talk to his congregation literally two months ago, only now to throw me away. The man dispenses with friendships quicker than most anyone I've ever met. Just the other day I was "a close friend" of his. Now I'm an anathematised cultist. That sort of turnaround you can't find every day. The man has some problems. Instability, probably some paranoia going on. It's sad, really it is, but it would appear that while I tried (and probably failed in some ways) not to enable his flaws while he still thought I was his friend, he just picks up enablers to surround himself with. Out with Tom Buck and in with Justin Pierce. Out with Dustin Germain and in with Bud Ahlheim. Out with Gene Clyatt and in with Brandon Hines. It will continue, I figure, until God should mercifully intervene to, I hope, break Jordan's heart unto repentance.
But as it turns out, Jordan's self-made, self-serving, ad hoc list of "cult warning signs" isn't quite what he probably hoped it would be when he wrote it, for it exonerates groups that really are cultic while incriminating Jordan's own ministry endeavors as well as, strangely enough, the earliest Christian church of the apostolic era. To see how, let's explore them one by one, but not before you peruse the pre-requisite reading here and pre-requisite viewing here.
1. Sub-Christian sects often purport to be the only authentic believers, and characterize all others as sell-outs, compromised, or watered-down imitations of the real Church or of real Christians. This tactic has been particularly powerful since the Restorationist Movement in the mid-19th Century. They will speak of “restoring” the church and going back to the “real church” that was lost in the Apostolic Age. This belief eventually causes them to reject the Visible Church.Did the apostolic church of Jesus purport to be such? Yes. So, cult.
Do conservative Bible-believing Christians purport such, over and against liberalism, ecumenism, Rome, and other challengers? Yes. So, cult.
Strangely, an organisation like the LDS Church often does not claim to be the only authentic believers, for various reason. So, I guess the LDS Church is not a cult.
2. Sub-Christian sects focus on proselytizing believers rather than evangelizing the lost. The false teachers the church was warned about in Acts 20:30 come into the church, appearing to be disciples, only to “draw men after themselves.” Satan desires to destroy Christians, and typically leaves the pagan alone. Sub-Christian sects, like their lord and master, Satan, spends most of their time trying to proselytize professing, church-going Christians rather than win the lost.Where did Jordan get this idea? I'd be interested in sources for these thoughts of his. It seems like he just made them up, and yet while I have quite a bit of experience with cults myself, I don't know of any special counter-cult background Jordan has that's more substantial than my own. To what cult study is he alluding?
Do Pulpit & Pen and the Polemics Report focus on proselytizing believers rather than evangelizing the lost? Yes, they sure do. So, cult.
Do the vast majority of American churches do the same? What about Jordan's own church? Yes. So, cult.
Interestingly, this pervasive inward focus is one of the main problems for which abolitionists call churches to repentance, but Jordan wants to blame abolitionists for it. And if you're going to try to indicate cultic tendencies on this count, it doesn't make a lot of sense to try to point fingers at a movement that is made up of people who are generally extremely active in public evangelism like AHA.
3. Sub-Christian sects spend an inordinate amount of time lobbying for approval of the church-at-large, desperately asking (or demanding) acceptance. Of extreme strategic importance to the schismatic is having established churches lend the sub-Christian cult credibility or to embrace them as orthodox. A massive amount of time and resources of the sub-Christian sect will be spent trying to project themselves as orthodox. Those within orthodoxy simply don’t have to spend much – if any – time desperately trying to gain acceptance by the established church, but sub-Christian sects have to.Jordan demonstrates his extremely poor understanding of AHA yet again on this point. In literally no way are abolitionists lobbying for approval of anyone. And if we were, we are amazingly bad at it; you don't generally make friends by calling for repentance of major sins, of apathy, and so on. What facts led Jordan to think that anyone is desperately asking for for acceptance? I can't think of a single one.
Rather, when abolitionists say stuff like "Repent with us", we are inviting others to walk more closely with Jesus and to forsake their sin just as we are trying to do. It is a benefit and a loving act to them. They need to repent. They need to get closer to Jesus and love their neighbor and stop not loving their neighbor. This is a blessing for them. Jordan has never understood that about Church Repent though it has been explained to him numerous times by many people, including myself. That he still complains it's unclear does not speak well to his acumen and/or intellectual honesty.
But don't Pulpit & Pen and Polemics Report fit this description? Yes, they do. They love to keep pastors like Emilio Ramos comfy and happy where they are. They love to accept invitations to conferences like NorCal Fire and put on conferences like Reformation: Montana. Other people whom they admire, like Dr James White, regularly mention (almost as a badge of honor) that they don't get invited to "the big conferences", that they're just small fries, and then when they review the stupidities uttered by some Big Shot, they shake their heads and mutter "theology matters." Why do they do that? Is it because they are a cult?
And don't P&P and PR spend a "massive amount of time and resources" on trying to affirm orthodoxy in contrast to others? It sounds like this is true of them.
4. Sub-Christian sects engage in victory-by-victimhood, projecting themselves as virtuous and long-suffering victims of marginalization or mistreatment. These sects “cry foul” at every given opportunity, clinging to the status of victimization in order to signal help from unsuspecting Christians who are drawn in at the accusation of mistreatment, playing on the good but naive intentions of believers. It could be called the “Servetus Syndrome,” in which five-hundred years after the death of a heretic, people still give sympathy and credence to one who (although he should not have been burned at the stake) was still a heretic and should have been marked as a schismatic and shunned from society. Every accusation against the sect is met with charges of “slander” or “persecution,” a martyr-syndrome that manifests itself in crying for help from well-meaning believers.All it will take is a little bit of time watching someone like Jordan Hall, or BibleThumping Wingnut, or Matt Slick, or James White, to know that this description fits them perfectly.
As for abolitionists, I suppose it isn't false that when strawmen are erected, we like to point them out. How is this a bad thing or the mark of a cult, precisely? Is it true that abolitionist cry foul at every opportunity? Can Jordan document such a thing?
Also consider the Catch-22 here - if abolitionists didn't try to show why false accusations are false, wouldn't those who are determined to oppose us jump up and down and claim victory? "I suggested that ___ and ___ were true, and the abolitionists didn't deny them!"
Finally, it's a commonly known fact of history that the apostolic church faced not only persecution but also lies from within and without. Many of the New Testament writings are meant to overturn falsehoods arising even from within the ranks of the believers. I guess the earliest church was a cult. They should never have spoken up to define true doctrine or call for consistency on the part of their opponents. Since they did, though, they were a cult.
5. Sub-Christian sects engage in double-dog daring “are you saying I’m not a brother in Christ” strategy designed to force the critic to anathematize or accept them. A very popular tactic, these schismatics will demand that you call them a “Brother in Christ” or a “fellow Christian” or dare you to say they aren’t. If you concede they seem to be a fellow Christian because the confess orthodoxy on certain soteriological matters, then their charge is that you’re “attacking fellow Christians” and YOU will be made out to be the schismatic. If you say they aren’t Christians, then they’ll demand you explain why, given they agree with this point of theology or that point of theology. They’ll then make you to be an uncharitable curmudgeon. Don’t fall for this. You are not obligated to affirm or disavow anyone’s salvation based upon their profession alone (heretics lie).I'd like to see Jordan document that this is a common occurrence. I don't think it is. I rarely see such a thing. It's one thing to ask if someone thinks someone else is a brother in Christ. It's quite another to demand or dare the same.
This double-talk on Jordan's part is so sad because the accusation takes a virtuous action and calls it evil. Just because someone disagrees about a certain tenet of abolitionism, for example, doesn't mean that they are unregenerate, and I don't know of any abolitionists who think it does. So when we say "We're brothers in Christ, aren't we?", it's an appeal to the commonality of the Gospel and the Word of God to which we all hold. Yet Jordan loves to chide abolitionists for equating the Gospel with abolitionism, even though we don't. And the proof we don't is that we seek common ground with others who profess the Gospel. But Jordan here uses that against us.
It reminds me of Matthew 11:16“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, 17and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ 18“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ 19“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
Jordan says: "You are not obligated to affirm or disavow anyone’s salvation based upon their profession alone."
Fine. Should we give someone the benefit of the doubt, at least, when they profess the Gospel, without evidence that they don't actually love Jesus?
6. Sub-Christian sects make their beliefs as nebulous and ill-defined as possible, so as to confuse their opponents and make them harder to discern. They claim “straw man” at virtually every criticism, yet don’t define their convictions clearly enough to be properly understood. Schismatics do not like confessions or exhaustive faith statements, because they like to have beliefs that are fluid and ill-defined. Because their goal is achieving for themselves their own disciples, they find that a wide and shallow theology is more conducive to accomplishing their goals, as it is less exclusive as to who can follow them.It's hard to take this seriously, since there are probably hundreds of hours of abolitionist lectures online and our myriad websites include tens of thousands of words describing what we believe and why. Many abolitionists are on social media a lot and are immediately available to answer questions almost 24/7. The amount of literature about abolitionism dwarfs the relatively paltry offering of, say, the London Baptist Confession of 1689.
Further, this objection once again exonerates the LDS Church or the Watchtower. I guess they're not cults.
And would Jordan go so far as to say that most American churches are cults, since their online professions of faith definitely qualify as "nebulous"? If not, why not?
Finally, it's laughable to suggest abolitionists seek a wide and shallow theology. That describes the pro-life movement! You know, the thing against whose ideology abolitionism is at war?
7. Sub-Christian sects commonly twist words and phrases from their intended meanings (also known as ‘equivocation’) to make themselves appear orthodox. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses advertise celebrating Easter, but only speak of the crucifixion because they don’t believe in a bodily resurrection – and yet, people seeing their fliers at Easter time assume they believe in the resurrection. AHA speaks of their protests (which include picket signs and disrupting church services) as mere “exhortation.” Andy Stanley claims he believes in “inerrancy,” but means that term far different from the way others understand it. Again, this is to fool people into assuming their orthodoxy.The blindness this paragraph indicates is amazing. Jordan regularly redefines words, including "cult" and "organization", just because he has some bizarre motivation to slander abolitionists. He also redefines "preach" like the rest of American churches do, in a very self-serving way I might add, and "deacon". He also regularly cites Hebrews 13:17 and inserts the word "elder", even though that word does not appear anywhere in the entire epistle. He regularly confuses the concepts of the invisible universal church and visible local churches in his discussions of ecclesiology, to a degree and with a frequency that suggests nothing short of extreme ineptitude.
Ultimately, what you believe about who gets to define terms will decide whether you think this point has merit. If you think that Muslims get to say that "Jesus" is a mere prophet, if you think that Mormons get to tell you what "monotheism" means, if you think that Jews get to tell you what "Temple" means, then I guess you'll agree with Jordan here. But if you think that it is important to understand what your interlocutor believes before you engage their position so as to avoid erecting a strawman, you'll think that Jordan's point here is foolish. Abolitionists do not believe they are protesting churches. We are exhorting them as fellow Christians. Jordan doesn't like those words, but that is not our problem. He needs to argue, not assume, that his definition is the one that ought to be used. He can assert "equivocation" all he wants; he needs to demonstrate it is equivocation.
8. Sub-Christian sects are dishonest about the details of how their organization or ‘fellowship’ operate. They want to purport that their sect is just another church, but in order to continue the charade, have to conceal the real truth regarding the details of their organization. Those who follow after them will find out the details after they’ve already been inducted. Pay close attention as to how many people leave the organizations once they’ve joined. Often, the sub-Christian sects have “large back doors” through which a sizable proportion of their converts leave after being within them long enough find out their real beliefs.Oh, does that mean that Jordan has already released or is willing to release at a moment's notice the financial details of his church, his salary, and the expenditures involved in Reformation: Montana? I'd like to see those put out there.
To what facts would Jordan point to indicate that abolitionists are dishonest about these details? All anyone need do is ask. AHA is not an organization. It is a movement. There are churches and abolitionist societies that adhere to the ideology. They all operate somewhat differently. There exists a store that so far is the main provider of so-called AHA Gear, but that could change in the future. It is run out of Norman, OK, in a retail space that it rents that sometimes our church also uses to assemble and inside of which sometimes we make videos. How is any of this mystical or weird?
Jordan says: "Pay close attention as to how many people leave the organizations once they’ve joined."
Yes, pay close attention to how many have left Jordan's church.
How a former elder has tried to get Jordan fired. How a former deacon has also caused major trouble for him at his church. How his church is shrinking. Look at how many people who used to blog for P&P no longer do - Kofi Adu-Boahen, Tom Buck, Dustin Germain, Cameron Dobbins, Gene Clyatt, and more. I guess Jordan is part of a cult. Large back door and all.
Jordan makes a major blunder in saying: "They want to purport that their sect is just another church".
This is wrong wrong wrong wrong. Nobody is saying that AHA is a church! We don't even say it's an organization! We say it isn't one! What we keep saying is that AHA is a movement among people of God, and thus since we are regenerate people of God, it is part of the Bride of Christ that is rising up. Literally nobody is saying that AHA is a church.
Finally, this seems to strike against one of the mainstream, and actual, definitions of what constitutes a cult. One of the real markers of a cult is the manipulation by leaders and peers of those who might show a wavering allegiance to the cult, so pressure is brought to bear to make sure they don't leave the fold. As a result, cults usually have small back doors. This is further evidence that Jordan is just making this stuff up as he goes.
9. Sub-Christian sects portray their beliefs as common or ordinary as a means to deflect criticism. Theonomists – those who believe the Mosaic judicial law (including penology) is obligatory for all nations and times – will say that the term “theonomy” is limited to its etymological definition of “God’s Law,” when in fact it means far more than that. AHA claims that the organization is synonymous with abortion abolition, when in the fact the majority of its work is directed towards converting Christians to Sectarian Minimalism and following after their leaders. These sects reduce their beliefs to a simple, often-repeatable mantra that lacks controversy, hiding their actual beliefs and intentions.It is very difficult to see how this point can be harmonised with points #1 and #4.
Further, Jordan here condemns the Apostle Paul, of whom it says in Acts 24:
10When the governor had nodded for him to speak, Paul responded:
“Knowing that for many years you have been a judge to this nation, I cheerfully make my defense, 11since you can take note of the fact that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12“Neither in the temple, nor in the synagogues, nor in the city itself did they find me carrying on a discussion with anyone or causing a riot. 13“Nor can they prove to you the charges of which they now accuse me. 14“But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; 15having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16“In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men. 17“Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings; 18in which they found me occupied in the temple, having been purified, without any crowd or uproar. But there were some Jews from Asia— 19who ought to have been present before you and to make accusation, if they should have anything against me. 20“Or else let these men themselves tell what misdeed they found when I stood before the Council, 21other than for this one statement which I shouted out while standing among them, ‘For the resurrection of the dead I am on trial before you today.’”
Jordan says: "AHA claims that the organization is synonymous with abortion abolition"
Not only have abolitionists claimed that, but we have argued for it. Where are Jordan's counterarguments? Or is he twisting the word "abolition" because it sounds cool and he wants to be an abolitionist too, just without the icky parts?
Jordan says: "when in the fact the majority of its work is directed towards converting Christians to Sectarian Minimalism and following after their leaders"
Jordan has been told that the majority of abolitionists do not hold to an ecclesiology that would match his "Sectarian Minimalism". He has been told numerous times. He does not care.
I challenge anyone to review our website, our material, our videos, and our public proclamations to see how true this is. It isn't true. I personally can't recall a time I discussed ecclesiology for more than a few seconds with anyone on the street! Not even once! Where is Jordan's evidence?
Finally, the notion that we try to inculcate some sort of unthinking obedience to leaders is beyond laughable. Not even Jordan thinks this! Otherwise he wouldn't attack us for "Sectarian Minimalism"! You can't have both unquestioning obedience to leaders and "Sectarian Minimalism". You have to pick one accusation and stick with it. That Jordan tries to pin both of them on abolitionists is more evidence that he is not arguing in good faith.
In point of fact, "following after their leaders" is precisely what he tells us over and over that we should do. In this matter, he and his church and P&P and PR are a lot more cultic than abolitionists, for they seek to establish and maintain a church structure in which the leaders hold a very powerful sway. Listen to how papist Jordan sounds in this podcast and tell me I'm wrong.
Jordan asserts: "These sects reduce their beliefs to a simple, often-repeatable mantra that lacks controversy, hiding their actual beliefs and intentions."
So Jordan evidently believes that abolitionists' real aim is to get everyone to agree with the ecclesiology to which only some within even the body of abolitionists in Norman, OK adhere. We are sure doing a good job of hiding our real aim in that case! Such a good job that it virtually never comes up.
10. Sub-Christian sects prefer to project themselves as movements or ideologies rather than as organizations, in order to insulate themselves from criticism. Almost every sub-Christian sect in the last 170 years (since the Restorationist Movement) has claimed that their sect was just a grass-roots or “organic” movement, repudiating “organizationalism” or “insitutionalism.” They repudiate the label of organization (or denomination, etc…) even though they fit the qualifications of such. This way, they can argue that it is a move of the Holy Spirit and not the subtle guise of spiritual schemers. This also insulates the organization from criticism regarding the claims of more honest members, who are sure to be radicalized and ostracized for their unorthodoxy.Or maybe it's because AHA actually is a movement/ideology and not an organization. In what real way does such a setup actually insulate anyone from criticism, anyway? Jordan doesn't seem to have had difficulty figuring out who at least some of the leading / most influential abolitionists are. We get criticised all the time. I'd love some of that insulation I ordered right about now, please. I want my money back.
Jordan claims AHA fits the qualifications of an organization. How so? Let him bring forth his evidence. Let him show also how Calvinism isn't an organization by the same standards.
Leaders of institutional churches insulate themselves from criticism all the time by hiding behind their office and their "authority", and Jordan is no exception. This is thus a hypocritical accusation.
Jordan makes a prediction: "regarding the claims of more honest members, who are sure to be radicalized and ostracized for their unorthodoxy."
So... P&P has never tried to insulate itself from criticism by former contributors? Sure it has. This is hypocrisy yet again. But as for AHA, we can only guess what Jordan means by "radicalized". Does he mean that certain members might become even more peacenik and non-violent than they currently are? God forbid such a terrible thing!
11. Sub-Christian sects have a tendency to rove in packs in social media, and they call for help from fellow sectarians in the event of argumentation. Infiltrating one social media group at a time, the sect targets seemingly vulnerable subjects and strategically “run together” to intimidate, annoy, or in some way coerce Christians into either following after them or risk being abused, shamed or shunned if they speak out against them. This is a very successful and common strategy, as it appears the movement is far larger, when it only has a small handful of highly motivated adherents.Does Jordan mean like #the15? All you need do is listen to some older Pulpit & Pen podcasts to hear Jordan refer repeatedly to how he is able to marshal together social media followers to involve themselves in some social media skirmish. Jordan put together just such a social media takeover of at least one running hashtag (one example: #askrickjoyner). So I guess Jordan is part of a cult. What hypocrisy on his part! His hypocrisy is furthered by the statement "This is a very successful and common strategy, as it appears the movement is far larger, when it only has a small handful of highly motivated adherents." Such is precisely true of P&P and #the15! Does Jordan care?
In reality, there is nothing wrong with this. So many people have access to social media; why not use it to contend for truth? The fact that most people adhere to false beliefs is no reason not to speak up for that which is true!
Jordan says: "the sect targets seemingly vulnerable subjects"
Where is his evidence that this is something abolitionists have done and focused on? It just sounds like unsubstantiated well-poisoning.
Jordan says: "to intimidate, annoy, or in some way coerce Christians into either following after them or risk being abused, shamed or shunned if they speak out against them"
As if most people don't look at P&P and PR as exercises in intimidation, annoyance, or coercion that lead to abuse, shame, and shunning. Is Jordan even reading the words he is writing?
And what would be some examples of abolitionists intimidating or coercing people into some sort of action? I'd like to see that. If he means a few people holding signs outside a church building on Sunday morning, making no move to go inside, making no threatening gestures of any kind, all the while vastly outnumbered by the congregation as well as the police officers that the congregation usually summons (in violation of 1 Cor 6, by the way), then there is little to say in response to such limp-wristed foolishness.
Finally, the Bible tells us that we are to admonish and teach and sharpen each other and help each other to grow in understanding of the faith once delivered to the saints. Often one person will not be able to think of all the pertinent angles to a given question or challenge, which is why it can be helpful for others to chime in and offer their own thoughts. That's just Bible. What's wrong with that? How is it a mark of a cult? Do JWs or LDS do this? I've not met many, but I've seen a lot of Reformed people do it. Are they cultists?
I've seen a lot of abolitionists get intimidated and coerced to pipe down about AHA in numerous Facebook groups, like the Reformed Pub and the Pulpit Bunker, lest the admins kick the offenders. By Jordan's standard, these admins are cultists.
12. Sub-Christian sects often try to win arguments through a victory-by-volume approach to argumentation. The schismatics produce an over-abundance of blogs, articles, books, videos and (in 2016) Internet memes to simply repeat over and again the same talking points. Schismatics, because they are by nature law-oriented and works-focused (as opposed to being Gospel-focused) are highly motivated (their righteousness depends on it), deeply fanatical, tireless individuals who will dedicate the many hours upon hours necessary to win a single argument. Their goal, after all, is building up their organization. Schismatics often believe they’ve won an argument simply because they’ve used more words.Such as spending 114 pages in pdf format to talk about one single debate like Jordan did? That a guy who has made a name for himself by writing long articles and doing regular podcasts could say this with a straight face doesn't speak well of his objectivity. Do P&P and PR repeat over and again the same talking points? Yes, they do. Is that bad? No! But Jordan says it is a mark of a cult, so I guess he is a cultist.
Jordan asserts: "because they are by nature law-oriented and works-focused (as opposed to being Gospel-focused)"
Where is his evidence? His mere say-so should not suffice for any lover of truth.
Jordan says: "Schismatics often believe they’ve won an argument simply because they’ve used more words."
That may be. What is his evidence it is true of any abolitionist?
Amazingly, Jordan says: "Their goal, after all, is building up their organization"
Yet in his post from April 2016 titled "Goodbye", Jordan said this:
"There’s Gospel to preach, souls to save, kids to rear, a wife to adore, animals to hunt, guns to shoot, lawns to mow and a church to pastor."
What he means is: He has among familial responsibilities and leisure, an organization to build up. So it's OK for him, but not OK for abolitionists, do I have that right? (And no, AHA is still not an organization.)
Notably, Jordan is obviously ashamed of this post, because even though it was live on the Internet as of the morning of 24 September 2016, the URL now redirects to a totally different article. He is trying to erase the past. Tell me that's not cultic behavior! Fortunately, the article lives on at archive.org and in my personal hard drive.
Notice also from the same defunct article:
"If I had one regret (and trust me, I have many), it would be that our polemics has not been seasoned with enough grace."
It doesn't seem he meant it, for he has moved in the course of just over a month from calling me a "close friend" to a cultist and anathema. That is not how stable people act, and it isn't biblical behavior.
To sum up, Jordan Hall's article is an ad hoc, self-serving mess and is devoid of any serious love of truth. The heart and mind of a man who could write such a thing is in several ways laid bare by that which he expresses. God help him. I truly greatly fear for the soul of a man I once trusted and counted a friend.