Truth or lie? The answer is central to our belief
The death last week of Sun Myung Moon, Unification Church leader, brought back memories of the 1970s. It seemed impossible then to walk through a shopping centre without being stopped by smiling young people asking you to buy a magazine to support "missionary work". Only if pushed would they tell you that the money raised would support Rev Moon and his church: "The Moonies" as they were popularly known.
The mainstream church rejected Moon's claims that he had been commissioned by Jesus to complete his work. By and large, concern was expressed that Unification teaching and his authority seemed to exceed that of the Bible and, particularly, of Jesus himself.
We are encouraged by Paul in the New Testament to "test everything". We mustn't just dismiss a newly emerged group as a "cult" because what they say doesn't fit in with our own worldview. At the same time, we shouldn't embrace new ideas in a misguided sense of tolerance.
But in checking out the truth of Korean religious leaders or the vicar in our local pulpit, how do we know who is right? What is the yardstick by which we might test everything?
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For me, what a person or group teaches about Jesus is absolutely central. There is one group who knock at my door on Sunday lunchtimes from time to time. Whenever I raise with them the issue of who Jesus is they always say, "We can come back to that" and then encourage me to talk about the state of the planet or some other subject. My argument is that if we cannot agree about the person of Jesus Christ, all other discussion becomes irrelevant.
He made astounding claims. For example he said: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." People who heard him speak these words understood that he was claiming to be God himself. An outrageous lie if he was making it all up. But what if he wasn't? For me the truth of this claim is foundational to all that I believe. The Psalms encourage us to "find out for ourselves". I hope you will.