updated April 16th 2021, 4:19pm
I was involved with The Way International for 12 years, helping on a volunteer basis in numerous projects to establish new fellowships, run classes, develop coffee houses, and coordinate advances. I also participated in two notable programs: The Word Over the World (W.O.W.) missionary program and The Way Corps leadership training program. I did not realize it at the time but these were really part of an indoctrination process designed with the express purpose of getting me to accept a certain set of beliefs uncritically.
My narrative here is like a circular flow of thoughts and reactions to events, reflecting the interconnectedness of the totality of my experience. So you might notice some recurring themes and reiterations for clarity. I update it from time to time. My hope is that you will find something that resonates with you, whether you are in or out of The Way International; and in that you may feel some assurance that you are not alone or weird for certain doubts and questions you've had.
And it’s not like I woke up one day and realized it was all wrong. That’s not how our minds work. I believe people have an innate desire to make sense of the world. Maybe that has something to do with why we choose a certain path. Since no one has all the answers we occasionally find ourselves making allowances for shortcomings, failures, the mysterious, and the unknown while on our chosen path.
Our beliefs help us make sense of the world. From what I’ve read online, some experts think our beliefs are somewhat like a software program always running in the background as we take in information and examine its source – checking for compatibility or conflicts with our existing beliefs. Our beliefs help form and/or modify a mental model for understanding the world, our self and others. And our beliefs - along with experience, observations, and reason even attempt to predict the future: “If I play at the beach all day I’ll probably get sunburned.”
We tend to base our beliefs on trusted sources. But what happens if you begin to suspect that the organization you’ve trusted for years has not been well grounded, accurate or truthful? I love reading detective and mystery novels. My slow exit of leaving TWI will probably come across like that: logging some suspicious items in the back of my mind for follow-up later, investigating the credentials and experience of the founding president, talking to other disenchanted followers and trying to unravel the convoluted mess of not only a cult’s doctrine and practice but also their control tactics.
Jean Shinoda Bolen's insightful book "The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self" made reference to Agatha Christie's novels about her detective characters often using an intuitive approach asking what is the meaning of this event, what were the circumstances surrounding it, and what are the possibilities implicit within the event ? But in order to see the whole picture Bolen says intuition's counterpart is also necessary - which is a straight forward logical approach of the situation - what details of the circumstances do the five senses take in?
Life is not changeless and we are not static beings either – we change, adapt and grow as time goes by. Sometimes we can get stuck in a rut. Some ruts can be worse than others. For me, the TWI-lifestyle gradually became an unrelenting Groundhog Day of monotony and frustrating repetitiveness. There was never really anything new that was taught. For the most part any new teachings only reinforced what wierwille already taught in PFAL – maybe using alternate passages to teach the same thing or new anecdotes that showed how the principles of PFAL are applied.
Sometimes I like to recall a popular slogan (popular with many Christian groups but not TWI - from the 90s I think) WWJD – - which stands for what would Jesus do? I've always thought that it was cool and pretty compelling – a moral imperative – a reminder to act in a way that demonstrated the love, compassion and kindness of Jesus Christ…(also interesting to note TWI discouraged using just the name "Jesus" - since, they said it referred to his humiliation and also there was a devil spirit named Jesus) Ironically reflecting back on when I took the class in 1974, I think wierwille used Jesus Christ and the basic tenets of Christianity as almost like a window dressing in PFAL – creating a favorable impression to draw people in…but it’s misleading…like a bait-and-switch scam…Jesus Christ, sin, forgiveness, love, etc. are mentioned a lot in the earlier sessions of PFAL but then there is a subtle but crucial shift of importance when wierwille says “The Word takes the place of the absent Christ"…and so a moral imperative to follow Jesus Christ’s example - which should be compelling enough for Christians was eclipsed by an intellectual directive to study “The Word”…Maybe that’s what led me to have a cold…clinical…book-knowledge approach to Christianity rather than pursuing a deeper…personally immersive experience through Jesus Christ.
Seeing PFAL as the be-all and end-all of any pursuit became an unspoken motto of TWI-followers... Just imagine if it was WWWT – or what would wierwille think? Sounds bizarre doesn’t it? And TWI-followers don’t think in such obvious terms like that. And I can understand why – the paradigm shift was hidden in plain sight. wierwille’s self-promotion was camouflaged by the persona that he was a simple clergyman frustrated with the lack of answers and power in his life until God spoke to him.
In the authorized book on TWI, titled “The Way Living in Love” wierwille stated “I was praying. And I told Father outright that He could have the whole thing, unless there were real genuine answers that I wouldn't ever have to back up on. And that's when He spoke to me audibly, just like I'm talking to you now. He said He would teach me the Word as it had not been known since the first century if I would teach it to others. Well, I nearly flew off my chair. I couldn't believe that God would talk to me.”
I believe anyone who is NOT enamored with this myth of wierwille should be able to see through his smoke and mirrors. Comparing wierwille’s body of work with that of E.W. Bullinger, Charles Welch, J.E. Stiles, E.W. Kenyon and B.G. Leonard it becomes clear that wierwille was an unabashed plagiarist. It is intriguing to note wierwille attempted to preemptively avoid the issue of pirating intellectual property by occasionally saying something along the lines that much of what he taught was nothing new, he simply pieced together what he learned from others and with God’s guidance made it accurate in the process.
But to the contrary, what is obvious to outsiders or any disobedient follower who is courageous enough to remove the wierwille-colored glasses is that he was a poser who stole and lied to impress others. I’ve since reflected on the times I sat through a live Power For Abundant Living class, several live Advanced classes, way corps teachings and even times where he gave an unscripted teaching. Seeing him fumble with some definition of a word, teach something on a passage by taking it completely out of context, ignore some other fundamental principle of interpretation or in so many other ways demonstrate his incompetence – makes me think of an actor on some commercial saying “I’m not a real doctor but I play one on TV”. Sometimes he’d offer no text evidence or logical explanation – and just seemed to simply pull an answer out of his a$$ - he’d say something like “Father showed me this” or “If Father wanted me to look into a word in a verse he’d make the word appear one inch high”.
A brief aside here on why all the plagiarizing and teaching shenanigans don't seem to faze devoted followers. It has to do with the wierwille-colored glasses that followers are not aware they are wearing. It’s a set of ideas and assumptions first presented through introductory classes like the Power For Abundant Living class and later The Way of Abundance and Power class. All that becomes more and more heavily reinforced through repetition as one stays involved with TWI. This becomes the TWI-mindset – or groupthink. For me, this mindset was like a ball-and-chain that held me back. It was a crippling mental encumbrance that put restrictions on cognitive skills, creativity, feelings and personal pursuits.
There is an ebb and flow to life – and we must act or react. That’s when the rubber meets the road...theories and ideas are put to the test when our efforts make contact with reality. However the journey unfolds, we may from time to time find intelligible and practical stuff. But what about the things that don’t make sense or seem incapable of handling reality? What about all the disappointments and frustrations? What about The Way Ministry’s claims of increasing the power of God in my life, increasing my prosperity, empowering my prayer life and enabling me to separate truth from error? And something I've learned from experience is that frequent bouts of frustration can lead to an excessive buildup of questions and doubts quietly gnawing away in the back of the mind.
One of victor paul wierwille’s methods of sidestepping any real issues folks had with the ministry’s extraordinary claims was to teach that we should not go by our five senses or worldly logic – that it was part of the spiritual battle... When I first got involved with TWI, being young and naïve I bought into all that – TWI’s ideas provided a means to rationalize away logic or reality…I think “successful” con artists have a real knack for embedding the process of self-deception into devoted followers.
And actually there seemed to be an endless number of pat answers for why you were not "manifesting the more than abundant life" - whatever that means (the following is just a short list of things that leaders have actually said) :
maybe you haven’t mastered the PFAL class – you should sign up for the next class coming up…
maybe it’s time you take the Advanced Class…
want to see God work mightily in your life? Go W.O.W. ...
want to grow super-fast spiritually, want to master the greatness of God's Word and learn how to believe God for everything you need? Go in the way corps...
if you haven’t been abundantly sharing, God won't even spit in your direction…
if you haven’t been going to Twig lately or helping out when classes are run - you're just coasting - it's spiritual stagnation ...
maybe you need to get rid of that worldly stuff in your house (natural man music, movies, books, magazines, etc.) you know that stuff can give devil spirits entrée into your life…
if you listen to all the reasons why you shouldn't go in the way corps you’re letting the devil talk you out of The Word…
maybe it’s time you put God and the ministry first in your life…
instead of complaining about all the needs you have, try making positive confessions - confess The Word…
quit looking at all the things that go wrong - focus on believing images of victory in your mind…
…needless to say there’s an inexhaustible supply of reasons why you're not "manifesting God's best for your life" (whatever that means)– it all depends on how imaginative TWI leadership can be and how good they are at TWI-splaining the cause of your "dilemma", using ministry jargon (buzzwords) and spiritual or biblical sounding terms.
All that is wrong in so many ways! Starting off with the idea of marketing Christianity as a means to increasing one’s good fortune - or that The Way Ministry's classes and programs are a fast track to accelerate your spiritual development. Perhaps it’s old fashioned - but it makes me wonder how many folks would really be interested in Christianity if all that was offered was simply Jesus Christ…and then there’s the manipulative tactics to exploit followers’ beliefs as a means of control – to enforce compliance and suck more money out of them. And if that wasn't enough - also pressuring them to get more and more involved - as non-salaried workers. To me that’s spiritual abuse - when those with religious authority in an organization use their influence to draw upon the deepest and most intimate concerns, fears, needs and desires of followers.
By far the most cunning method for dealing with “unsatisfied customers” is to use the old-tried-and-true-blame-it-on-their-lack-of-believing-ploy. It works every time! If you can’t nail them on anything else – the simplest and surest method of disarming someone is to call their believing into question. What can they say? If they contend they have been believing – you counter with they must not have been really believing because if they were they would not be here right now complaining about their lack of whatever... Now I’m not talking about being a pessimist rather than an optimist, or some run-of-the-mill self-fulfilling prophecy. No - this is different. TWI often referred to it as the law of believing. But in non-TWI terms it's basically magical thinking.
Sadly it seems the goal of counseling someone having a hard time with the law of believing is to encourage them to continue to chase their own tail – to spend a whole lot of time and energy doing something but achieving nothing. Albert Einstein is credited with saying “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
TWI heavily promoted the law of believing ( aka magical thinking if you're outside TWI)– which refers to the idea that one can influence the outcome of specific events by doing something that has no bearing on the circumstances or similarly that personal thoughts can influence the external world without acting on them. This idea is also pretty common in children…That brings to mind an old Saturday Night Live episode of Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey – if a kid asks where the rain comes from you could tell him or her “God is crying – probably because of something you did.”
Perhaps magical thinking is a misplaced faith – I’ve heard it said many times in TWI that we have to believe in our believing. In the Power For Abundant Living foundational class the law of believing is described as a power that works for saint and sinner alike (which to me now sounds like someone is describing The Force in "Star Wars") and God is more or less compelled to accommodate anyone who knows how to use that power. That idea basically reduces God to nothing more than being a genie in a lamp who is obligated to do our bidding.
I have no problem with the simple faith mentioned in the Bible – a faith that has complete trust in God. And God should be the object of our faith - rather than whatever it is that you’re “believing for” . I think true faith is a trust in God – that He is sovereign and hears our prayers – and answers them as He sees fit – and maybe not always as we expect. Ephesians 3:20 should relieve us of any concerns that God is limited by our believing – for he is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ask or think.
Concerning the way corps leadership training program – I have more stuff to add to what I’ve already said.
Harmful cults often use various confessional techniques to break down and then remold one’s ego (the E-meter used for “auditing” in Scientology comes to mind) – and The Way International is no exception…We had to submit a paper “from birth to the way corps” as part of the application process…This goes way beyond any normal religious or therapeutic function... (as a side note one thing that continues to fascinate me is how expectations can influence perception – we might even tend to re-interpret past experiences – especially if we anticipate an upcoming life-changing experience.) When I was drafting my birth-to-way-corps paper I thought of myself as being on the verge of a great transformation – and maybe like a screenplay writer I was streamlining my life’s story to show that the way corps was my destiny. I really believed the program would be a time of self-realization… clarifying my purpose in life.
Typically self-criticism and self-doubt are interwoven in such personal narratives…and revealing information is advantageous to manipulators who harp on the idea that I would be useless and amount to nothing if it weren’t for the way corps program.... Way corps coordinators would guilt-trip us to get us to comply...It seemed like they were always moving the goal post so that we felt unworthy…never making the grade.
A much more sinister use of these birth-to-the-way-corps papers has come to light from various sources. Unbeknownst to a lot of folks, wierwille was a sexual predator. He would often target female way corps applicants if they happened to mention any promiscuity, sexual assault or molestation in their birth-to-the-way-corps papers. He used that information as a pretext for counseling and healing by “the man of God”. He would brazenly trespass personal boundaries in conversation and in physical contact…sometimes even use alcohol and/or a drug to sexually molest women in the way corps.
Cults often have some notoriety if they isolate followers from society- physically or psychologically. This is accomplished by being in-residence for the way corps program…we never got to watch TV or keep up on what’s happening in the news and had one “self-structure day” a week to leave the campus and run errands, etc….There was a demand for spiritual purity; when I first arrived for in-residence training there were posters plastered all over the place “the world out…The Word in”…I found that even after finishing the in-residence part of the program many of those “insulating” attitudes still persisted. I felt a sentiment in myself and other way corps that we were the spiritually elite, serving on the front lines – and with that there was also a lot of negative stereotyping of outsiders and people who disagreed with TWI-leadership. I had such a cavalier attitude about keeping up with current events or anything happening in the world – figuring I would always be ahead of the game by relying on what TWI-leadership had to say about something or maybe in a worst case scenario even God himself would have to show me what’s going on.
I was one of those starry-eyed followers who imagined God worked in and through TWI just like in the book of Acts…never even daring to think it was possible that there was a dark, seamy, hidden side of TWI that really drove the organization forward. The Way International is an authoritarian pyramid structure with the absolute power being at the top. A hierarchy or pyramid-like power structure is probably the most common among businesses and the advantages are obvious. There is a clearly defined career path, clearly defined roles and responsibilities, promotion plan and chain of command. (As a business model – TWI is more along the lines of multilevel marketing where the revenue of the company is derived from the sale of products or services by non-salaried workers.) ...However, I believe the authoritarian characteristic of their organization makes them more like the military than a free enterprise. There are no feedback loops for reactions or comments from customers or employees so as to improve a product, service or the workplace… Think about it…Do they ever ask for input or ideas?…Are leaders approachable?…Do they keep people boxed in with rules?…Are they really interested in the personal preferences and goals of followers?…
There is a phrase many of the way corps are familiar with “a suggestion is tantamount to an order”. Authoritarians rely on psychological coercion and the manipulation of information as ways to control others. The level of control becomes more stringent as one gets more involved.
Conformity is encouraged as if it were a virtue. Individualism is frowned upon. Wanting to debate an issue or having a difference of opinion is a big no-no. If leadership ever does hear you out on your complaint, it’s usually a stalling tactic so you might tend to think they’re going to help you – but in the end, if they can’t “fix” you – i.e. get you to admit you’re wrong and they’re right – then they’ll dismiss you. Dissenters do not last long in TWI.
Complexity is ignored - whether it’s a social issue, resolving a personal problem, sorting out the feelings from a traumatic experience or even how to interpret a passage in the Bible that has not been covered by wierwille. ...TWI-leadership encourages an obfuscating mindset in followers...much of it depends on all-or-nothing thinking. … (An either-or fallacy is a false dilemma that presents only two options or sides when there might actually be more than two options or sides)...some other cognitive distortions often come into play such as overgeneralizations, filtering (focusing on only the negative or the positive instead of looking at the whole picture), jumping to conclusions, blaming, labeling... …what it all boils down to is whatever works to undermine rational thinking and fulfill leadership's need to always be right.
This is perhaps an oversimplified description and maybe this was not the intention when the program was set up but it seems to me the whole thing wound up being a means of creating an idealized or somewhat worshipful idea of a leader – victor paul wierwille…in other words a cult of personality…
We learned in the way corps to have complete confidence in everything wierwille wrote, said or did…I know in the Bible we are told to imitate the faith of godly leaders. But what if one fails to discern a counterfeit? I thought of passages like Matthew 7: 15 – 29 and II Peter 2. If there’s anything to verses like that, then it’s possible that false teachers can lead people astray. After leaving TWI, I’ve often wondered if there’s a point where fervent admiration for someone crosses a line. I would think of verses like Ezekiel 14:3 that talks of people setting up idols in their heart – if it’s in my heart, it’s invisible – no one else knows there’s an idol in my heart – perhaps even I wouldn’t realize it… I think a lot of people really believed in wierwille – and believed he could do no wrong…
To be fair, even if a person is a godly leader, we can turn them into an idol when we cease to imitate their example of faith in God and instead make them the object of our faith. But looking back without the way-blinders on, it’s obvious to me now that wierwille wasn’t a godly leader – he lacked the moral uprightness and was lost in delusions of grandeur. For dedicated followers like the way corps, wierwille taught us to shun the status quo or conventional wisdom while at the same time making it clear that his authority was not to be challenged. Teachings on blind obedience were common in residence.
...Recalling my time in residence, it was extremely laser-focused on knowing The Power For Abundant Living class material backwards and forwards. I am NOT exaggerating! During the three meals we had each day in the dining room, we were randomly called upon to give a five minute teaching - right there on the spot – and immediately critiqued right after that. Even back then I was disturbed by one fact (which at the time was another one of those things I relegated to the back burner) - that people who quoted PFAL material verbatim or with very little deviation from that, received the highest praise with little or no criticism... In preparation for doing our research papers – which I suppose is one of the academic highlights of a college education – the then president of TWI, L. Craig Martindale – (I can still remember him as he ) was pounding on the podium and bellowing out “Don’t try to reinvent the wheel – base your research paper on something from PFAL”…looking back now – do you know what all that tells me? The aim of the way corps program was to create little clones of wierwille.
In the years leading up to going in the way corps, as I got more and more involved with the ministry I often found myself envious of other Way-believers who were not as committed as I was. They seemed to have it all – families that actually took fun vacations, nice cars, nice homes, and good jobs. I was oblivious to certain values like dedication to family, being financially wise and responsible, reaping the fruits of one’s labor and finding a sense of fulfilment in a career. I did not realize how detrimental it was to have everything about my life in orbit around The Way Ministry.
I prided myself on putting God and "His ministry" first. That meant giving a lot of my money and time to The Way Ministry. My number one stipulation in considering any job was that schedule-wise it should accommodate my desire to participate in ministry classes, fellowships, large group events and programs. It’s no wonder that making such “sacrifices” for “the greater good”, doing all for “the cause” imbued me with a self-righteous conviction - that I was spiritually or morally superior to others. Oh to be young, naïve, and idealistic – thinking that I was a part of something so all-encompassing that we would change the world. Aye Yai Yai !!!!! Warning - cults appeal to our sense of community...belonging...and our search for meaning and purpose...In The Way Ministry we were united in the greatest purpose of all - moving "The Word" over the world...alas I had guzzled down the Kool-Aid!
By the way, according to my "ex-TWI secret decoder ring", "The Word” really means wierwille’s skewed interpretation of the Bible ...the ex-TWI secret decoder ring is like the secret decoder ring depicted in the movie “A Christmas Story”, many people who have left TWI and re-engaged their cognitive skills are now able to convert the redefining ciphers of wierwille back into a normal language minus the ministry-jargon, thereby exposing their insidious nature.
Generally speaking a lot of folks in dedicated service to The Way Ministry tended to think the haves should really be sharing with the have-nots. This was never more evident than in my drive to get sponsorship for the way corps program. And perhaps just as toxic is an unspoken resentment that often creeps in because we think as way corps we’re sacrificing so much for God while we view others as having it so easy.
To be honest – I knew a lot of people in the way corps – besides myself – who had developed a mooching mentality that we were unaware we had. Technically speaking a freeloader is one who takes something from others without paying for it or giving something of value in return. Oh yeah, I thought I was reciprocating with my sponsors by sharing with them stuff I learned in residence – and the assumption that I would go on to bigger “exploits” for the ministry - and I’m sure sponsors thought it was an investment in the future leadership of TWI. Unfortunately we were all ripped off by a bloodsucking phony institution – leaching hard-earned money from sponsors and wasting my precious time.
The naked truth is that the way corps program is nothing more than an elitism initiative – thinking that the world owes “me and my ministry” something. That pseudo-spiritual elitism was drummed into my head during way corps training. I believed the program would develop and refine my abilities so I would deserve influence and authority over others…Frankly, that is truly a pathetic and self-centered way to think.
Young people have often been described as living in a fog of exaggerated personal invulnerability. Now combine that with the reckless bravado encouraged by TWI…The potential for a major disaster is mind-boggling !... In the way corps program, they were constantly motivating us to throw caution to the wind – we should be fearless about our personal safety, security or financial needs – “God will always provide whatever you need”. One of the riskiest things we were required to do – during our two years of in-residence training – was go L.E.A.D. . This was TWI’s cheapskate version of an outward bound program.
We had to do that twice – both years we were in-residence. As a couple, my wife Tonto and I were only allowed to take twenty dollars each on our person ( and we had to return with the twenty dollars…I guess so we wouldn’t be considered vagrants if we ran into the police). We strapped on a backpack stuffed with the appropriate clothing to go hiking and rock climbing – and then hitchhiked together from Rome City, Indiana down to Tinnie, New Mexico. And we had to accomplish it within a certain time limit (if my fuzzy memory serves, it was somewhere between 60 and 72 hours – two and a half or three days) and if anyone didn’t make it within that allotted time, the instructors at L.E.A.D. turned them away and they had to hitch back to Rome City...Just for comparing apples to oranges, haha - it's about 1,400 miles one way and it would take a person approximately 21 hours to drive it.
With only twenty dollars each we had to depend on the kindness of strangers to give us a lift…a bonus was when someone offered to buy us a meal … I am thankful my wife and I made it to L.E.A.D. and back both years without any serious incidents.
I remember just before we went L.E.A.D. the first time, wierwille stressed the importance of trusting God in every situation and how hitchhiking was no different – and then he said something like “you could get hit by a car while walking across the street right out here” – so basically minimizing any risks in hitchhiking. (It wasn’t until years later, I read on Grease Spot about some of the horror stories of rape, assault and other horrible experiences of way corps hitchhiking to or from L.E.A.D. …and if that’s not terrible enough, wierwille had a callous way of dealing with anyone’s misfortune – it didn’t matter what happened or how it happened, he would always blame it on the the person's lack of believing – in other words, it was the victim’s fault)...I don't know what the L.E.A.D. program was supposed to accomplish - but it does make me wonder what kind of person wierwille was to put the lives and well-being of his most devoted followers at great risk!
I should mention some good stuff about some of the people I met in TWI. Not everyone was in lockstep with TWI’s policies and procedures and some actually worked to improve the quality of service. There were a lot of decent, honest, and caring folks. They were the ones who made it tolerable to be in TWI – whatever their status was in the hierarchy of The Way Ministry. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why some TWI-fellowships (certain Twigs, Branches, Areas, or Limbs) might have been more laid-back and favorable to genuine growth in the Christian faith - while others were more legalistic or even toxic... And of course leaders are individuals anyway - so each person will have their own way of managing.
As far as the general TWI-public is concerned, indoctrination and control are not as ramped up as they are for the way corps and some other programs – simply because it would scare off a lot of people. But once the love-bombing phase is over for new believers, there are still subliminal means to achieve some indoctrination and control according to the dictates of the top leadership at TWI’s headquarters.
Fortunately there were some good and kind way corps and clergy in the field who were in effect a buffer for the people they served – being more or less a cushion or filter that reduced the shock, damage or nonsense from headquarters’ constant attempts to soft-sell the following:
Dogmatism…expressing opinions and beliefs as if they were fact…confidently pronouncing judgements…communicating ideas based on insufficiently examined premises...
discouraging outside activities and higher education…
stifling religious legalism to follow the TWI-lifestyle rather than one’s personal faith...
maintaining constant subtle pressure to toe the line…
using fear and paranoia of the devil to influence one’s choices and behavior…
loosening up moral restraints in the guise of the freedom we have in Christ…
seeking the approval of leadership and learning to check with them before making big decisions…
preferring TWI-believers over family and friends – especially if they don’t see eye to eye with you on ministry stuff…
and in general, their tendency to overreach – trying to monopolize more and more of everyone’s time.
Some of those good folks left around the same time I did. Some stayed. Personally I don’t think there’s much hope in reforming TWI…or in any TWI-offshoots – since they all seem to have so much of wierwille’s "DNA" in their doctrine and practice.
I don’t have a beef against any organized religion. One thing I do have a problem with is when some megalomaniac supersedes the basic tenets of their faith. I’m sure most ex-TWI-followers have some explanation of what they think went wrong – and they all probably have some valid points. In trying to figure out this “mystery”, I like to hear the perspectives of other folks… and I also believe the jury is still out on some things...Sometimes I just like to ruminate on an open question:
What would happen if a narcissistic sociopath with delusions of grandeur started his own ministry?
Is it possible for someone to hijack Christianity?
Could a parasitic organization have a symbiotic relationship with Christianity?
Could a Christian think they are serving God and not realize they are being sidetracked and exploited by a phony pastor?
Are there any telltale signs that someone is a charlatan?
Why do we ignore red flags? Are we afraid the warning signs are true? Do we think our intuition or feelings are wrong?
Toward the latter half of my TWI involvement, I became more and more aware of this problematic stuff that I had relegated to a back burner of my mind. I started to seriously consider if I had trivialized God to fit into some theological box…it was on a slow simmer but would eventually boil over – as I was approaching a crossroad – for me, a critical juncture in the history of The Way International – the year was 1986.
That was when I left TWI - amidst the vying for power by top leadership and the general air of malaise that seemed to have touched everyone after the founding president victor paul wierwille had passed away. One of the many reasons I left was over the mounting questions and doubts that came to mind as I looked into how and why this house of cards came to be. It was now time to address all that stuff I had put on the back burner...
I turned up the heat by intensifying thoughtful analysis. And in the process this provoked me to change the importance of many issues from a low priority to high priority on my things-to-think-about-and-what-to-do-about-them-list... A tipping point is defined as the moment of critical mass, the threshold, and the boiling point. This was a critical moment in weighing my experiences in TWI (the little bit I've already mentioned above is just the tip of the iceberg). Without realizing it or having some kind of plan, this was my first step toward freedom.
I feel there might be something indomitable about the human mind - how it's resilient…capable of doing great things in creativity, critical analysis and solving complex problems… I wonder if all that is driven by the simple desire to be free and to thrive - to remain unconquerable…Some ten years after I left TWI, I went to a professional counselor over some personal issues I had, even before joining TWI – but of course my involvement with them came up a time or two during some sessions. One of the best bits of advice anyone ever gave me was when he simply said I should quit beating myself up over past failures, mistakes and bad decisions…Indeed we sometimes sabotage our own recovery when we are tempted to become hostile to an old mindset…feeling embarrassed…angry… vulnerable that we were that naïve or that we allowed someone to brainwash us – or whatever other feelings come up because we haven’t yet come to terms with our past.
Mind you, I quit being involved with TWI in 1986 – but there was still a long way to go in terms of disentangling myself from a dogmatic mindset, reevaluating what I had been taught and basically unraveling all the ways and means of how a cult can commandeer a life……well…life goes on…and I’m so thankful my wife and I got out when we did, to pursue separate careers, buy a home, and raise our kids. It’s such a satisfying thing to put my family first – instead of some exploitative organization. And after some 35 years of being out of TWI (it's 2021 as I write this), I’m not that occupied with sorting out all that weird TWI stuff like I once was...I've figured out a lot of things – though I do still enjoy coming to Grease Spot and always appreciate the chance to further articulate my experiences and observations.
A lot of folks here have expressed some great analyses of TWI's doctrine and practices as well as some great therapeutic strategies. OutandAbout mentioned she made a pie chart of her life thus far, which showed the proportion of TWI involvement as it related to the entire scope of her life. I loved that idea – because as time goes by the TWI section gets smaller and smaller. That’s a great way to look at it…Out of habit I usually reflect on my life as before, during and after TWI – as if it was the most significant watershed moment of my entire life – like everything about me revolves around that… but with more temporal distancing from TWI a pie chart would show its diminishing part-to-whole relationship with my entire life…there’s a distinct advantage to this overview – seeing the big picture tends to put everything in proper perspective - so it's all no longer out of proportion.
Leaving a subjugating cult can be extremely difficult. Besides any extenuating circumstances like familial and social bonds, living arrangements, staff/leadership responsibilities or any other ties that can keep one tethered to the group – a cult member may be all too well indoctrinated and isolated to hear from or talk to an outsider…I’m no expert on psychology or decision making – but just going on my own experience – what I think it comes down to is being honest with yourself. YOU must weigh everything and determine the status of the situation for YOURSELF. If it feels like anyone is trying to talk you into or out of something – you’ll probably avoid them like you would an aggressive salesperson. It has to be something YOU want…more specifically – being free of a harmful cult’s influence has to be something YOU want.
I should mention the mental challenge. You may feel like it’s swimming upstream – since the simpler, safer and comfortable route is to stick with the TWI-mindset. That’s because thinking like an adult has been trained out of you – as time goes by you tend to lose self-confidence and often find it hard to think clearly about certain things – some mental faculties may have become atrophied. Self-doubt is a byproduct of TWI’s constant bombardment of your “old man nature” (which usually refers to what you were like before you joined TWI but often can still rear its ugly head). They also use some other hi-tech ammunition like berating folks for going by their five senses or using worldly logic and perhaps one of their most deadliest pseudo-spiritual missiles, sowing the fear of disobeying God or the fear of being misled by unbelievers and devil spirits.
TWI wages a continuous silent war on one’s personhood – and one of the major casualties of these attacks is a type of identity crisis. We question ourselves…we may find ourselves at times wondering who we really are… Self-awareness is a conscious knowledge of our own character, true feelings, motives and desires. However, this may be difficult to perceive through that translucent overlay of TWI’s social identity “bestowed” on followers. It’s like wearing frosted glasses and looking at your own reflection in the mirror…details are diffused …individual features are not clear.
We are social creatures and have a natural desire to fit in. But all too often the social influence of a group like The Way International causes pain, fear, sadness, frustration and anger deep inside. So to survive in the group and to insulate our authentic self from further harm, we adapt somehow – we bury those things and put on our ministry-face. We don’t speak the truth - instead we say what is acceptable…We don’t call a problem “a problem” we call it “an opportunity”. Thus our adaptive behavior enables us to get along in a challenging social environment like TWI with some success and with the least amount of conflict with others – but often at the expense of our authentic self going into hibernation... The longer you stay involved with TWI the more your authentic self gets buried under TWI’s values, goals, priorities, contrived interpersonal skills, beliefs, behaviors - all of which serves TWI more than your best interest
What wierwille taught is the real you – was actually more along the lines of The Stepford Wives. As a tyrant with delusions of grandeur, wierwille saw the ideal believer as a servile, compliant, submissive, spineless person endowed with an almost robot-like ability to suppress emotions, ignore sensory input, and turn off logical subroutines…all the while happily doing the man of God’s bidding and serving his every whim dutifully.
…now back to reality…to be the real you and not some cult’s homogenized version of you, requires self-awareness and self-acceptance…self-examination is perhaps a life-long process…from time to time we may have to take stock of our beliefs and behaviors and cull-out what doesn’t serve our best interests.
…The initial path to freedom may be a lonely one... That’s why websites like Grease Spot may be someone’s only lifeline…Wherever your first taste of freedom comes from – I can tell you this – it will feel like a breath of fresh air! And take heart – getting reconnected with the outside world is not such a daunting task. You’ll find that human beings are a lot more alike than they are different. You are free to reconnect with old friends and make new friends.
I can't say enough good things about all the folks at Grease Spot and what a great place it is to think out load. If anything of what I've said strikes a nerve with you maybe it's time for you to get down to brass tacks and focus on the heart of the matter. The critical issue is NOT what I've said about The Way International. The most important thing about any of this stuff is what do YOU think?...I know that question is a toughie. Believe me I know...You may say "Where do I start?" or "How do I do that?" ...well...It's not as hard as you may think.
Richard Paul and Linda Elder in their book "Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life" hinted at a crucial first step: "...For most people, most of their thinking is subconscious, that is, never explicitly put into words…The problem is that when you are not aware of your thinking you have no chance of correcting it. When thinking is subconscious, you are in no position to see any problems in it. And, if you don’t see any problems in it, you won’t be motivated to change it…most people are in many ways victims of their own thinking…" That book came out in 2002 - but long before that - when I left in 1986, I happened to naturally fumble my way around into a way of exposing the various levels of my thinking.
I just started writing things down. I would write down certain thoughts and ideas I've garnered from my years of involvement. Then - if I had any of my own thoughts, feelings, doubts or questions about what I just wrote down - even if it was counter to that - I would write that down too. This is indeed a deeply personal and vulnerable thing to do. No one else needs to know about this stuff. The purpose of doing this is to make you aware of the various levels of your own thinking - otherwise you'll be oblivious to any cognitive distortions you may have; if you are unaware of a problem then it's impossible to fix the problem.
With all that I've said I know it's a lot to take in and process. Feel free to private message me if you have any questions, comments, feedback or something you'd like to share. I promise it will remain private. I am NOT a professional counselor or some qualified clergyman to hear confessions. If you feel the need to talk to someone the smartest thing for you to do is figure out who YOU can trust. Maybe it's your spouse...maybe an old friend...maybe a professional counselor...Perhaps your first official overt liberating act is to talk to someone about it.
One more thing I should add is that anyone who has ever been involved in an abusive, deceitful and exploitative organization like The Way International will have to deal with grief and loss if they ever decide to leave the group. There are five stages of grief that were first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying”. The 5 stages of grief and loss are: 1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5. Acceptance. People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them.
Below are some quotes from various sources that have inspired me to pick up the pieces and move on with my life. Some of them represent a commitment I’ve made to never let myself get fooled again in such matters of doctrine and practice. Some quotes are food for thought...and some are just funny - which is always good medicine for the soul.
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Freedom of the mind requires not only, or not even specially, the absence of legal constraints but the presence of alternative thoughts. The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities..... Allan Bloom... The Closing of the American Mind
The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.....Edmund Burke
Tao is defined as the absolute principle underlying the universe, combining within itself the principles of yin and yang and signifying the way, or code of behavior, that is in harmony with the natural order…Synchronicity has been described in several ways; the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection. Synchronicities are incidents of spiritual significance that ask us to momentarily dampen our self-obsession and consider the possibility of the divine. Synchronistic experiences leave us with a curious sense that we should pay attention…In her book “The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self” Jean Shinoda Bolen says the following:
What is known intuitively, through experience of the Tao, is that we are not lonely, isolated, insignificant, and meaningless creatures, accidentally evolved from organic rubbish on a miniscule dot in the vast cosmos. Instead, the Tao experience gives us the direct knowledge that we are linked to all others and to the universe, through that which underlies everything and which some call God. Synchronistic events are glimpses into this underlying oneness, which is the meaning conveyed through an uncanny coincidence. The unseen linkage moves us; the synchronistic event tells us we are not alone…
…An uncanny, meaningful coincidence seems to lead to an awareness of an underlying connecting principle, as synchronistic events evoke an intuitively felt spiritual reality. Conversely, becoming spiritually centered, in touch with the Tao, is associated with the occurrence of positive synchronistic events. Being in touch with the Tao seems to prompt an easy flow of outer events through synchronicity. This is the message of religious teachings in both East and West: Seek spiritual values first; whatever is tangibly needed will follow after.
In his ministry, Jesus preached about the Kingdom of God, exhorting people to seek this highest value, saying it was at hand and possible to attain. This Kingdom of God has been interpreted metaphorically to mean the possibility of a direct experience of a loving, eternal God. In Jesus’ teachings about “the birds of the air” and of “the lilies of the field,” it seems to me that he is saying that synchronicity will provide for material needs if first one seeks the Kingdom of God.
Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.....Mark Twain
Things are never so bad they can’t be made worse…Humphrey Bogart in the movie “The African Queen”
At the end of the day, it’s not the love of one other person that matters. It’s the love of life...from the movie "Before Midnight"
What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is its exact opposite....Bertrand Russell
Too often we... enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought...JFK
Knowing a great deal is not the same as being smart; intelligence is not information alone but also judgment, the manner in which information is collected and used....Carl Sagan
Against logic there is no armor like ignorance... Laurence J. Peter
We deceive ourselves because we don’t have enough psychological strength to admit the truth and deal with the consequences that will follow. (clinical psychologist Cortney S. Warren Ph.D)
Self-deception is a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument. Self-deception involves convincing oneself of a truth (or lack of truth) so that one does not reveal any self-knowledge of the deception. from Wikipedia
If it were all truly known and planned and determined, life wouldn’t be worth living, just a giant to-do list waiting to be crossed off…Helen Mirren
The objective of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives....Robert Maynard Hutchins
The human qualities of the raw materials show through. Naivety, error, contradiction, even (as in the cursing Psalms) wickedness are not removed. The total result is not ‘The Word of God’ in the sense that every passage, in itself, gives impeccable science or history. It carries the Word of God; and we (under grace, with attention to tradition and to interpreters wiser than ourselves, and with the use of such intelligence and learning as we may have) receive that word from it not by using it as an encyclopedia or an encyclical but by steeping ourselves in its tone or temper and so learning its overall message…
We might have expected, we may think we should have preferred, an unrefracted light giving us ultimate truth in systematic form – something we could have tabulated and memorized and relied on like the multiplication table…But there is one argument which we should beware of using...God must have done what is best, this is best, therefore God has done this. For we are mortals and do not know what is best for us, and it is dangerous to prescribe what God must have done – especially when we cannot, for the life of us, see that He has after all done it....C.S. Lewis...Reflections on the Psalms
Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail....Ralph Waldo Emerson
There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun...Pablo Picasso
If the quality of your life is not what you wish it to be, it is probably because it is tied to the way you think about your life. If you think about it positively, you will feel positive about it. If you think about it negatively, you will feel negative about it…For most people, most of their thinking is subconscious, that is, never explicitly put into words…The problem is that when you are not aware of your thinking you have no chance of correcting it. When thinking is subconscious, you are in no position to see any problems in it. And, if you don’t see any problems in it, you won’t be motivated to change it…most people are in many ways victims of their own thinking…Richard Paul and Linda Elder…Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life
No man is exempt from saying silly things; the mischief is to say them deliberately....Michel de Montaigne
Just remember, we're all in this alone....Lily Tomlin
As soap is to the body, so laughter is to the soul.... a Jewish Proverb
Cancer is probably the unfunniest thing in the world, but I’m a comedian, and even cancer couldn’t stop me from seeing the humor in what I went through....Gilda Radner
I have always felt that laughter in the face of reality is probably the finest sound there is and will last until the day when the game is called on account of darkness. In this world, a good time to laugh is any time you can.....Linda Ellerbee
Laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy......John Cleese
The question of how to live the best possible life had once been the central question of philosophy. It certainly had been what thinkers like Aristippus, Epicurus, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle had foremost on their minds. And in ensuing centuries, it was the fundamental question of a great variety of philosophers, from Humanists to Deists to Existentialists.
But in recent Western philosophy, the how-to-live question has pretty much taken a backseat to the questions of epistemology (how can we know what is real and true?) and logic (what are the necessary principles of reason and rational discourse?). With a few gratifying exceptions, contemporary academic philosophers leave the whole how-to-live business to daytime TV talk show hosts, smartly dressed motivational speakers, and pop gurus who tend to favor flowing robes. According to the academics, seeking an answer to the how-to-live question is definitely not the enterprise of any self-respecting modern philosopher….Daniel Klein…Every Time I find the Meaning of Life, They Change It
The phenomenon of changing minds is one of the least examined and – I would claim – least understood of familiar human experiences…Howard Gardner…Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own Minds and Other People’s Minds
When I try to put my finger on just why truth is important to us, what comes most readily to my mind is a thought that may perhaps seem unpromisingly banal but that is, nevertheless, unquestionably pertinent. It is the thought that truth often possesses very considerable practical utility. Any society that manages to be even minimally functional must have, it seems to me, a robust appreciation of the endlessly protean utility of truth.
After all, how could a society that cared too little for truth make sufficiently well-informed judgments and decisions concerning the most suitable disposition of its public business? How could it possibly flourish, or even survive, without knowing enough about relevant facts to pursue its ambitions successfully and to cope prudently and effectively with its problems?...Harry G. Frankfurt…On Truth
It does seem that bull$hitting involves a kind of bluff. It is closer to bluffing, surely, than telling a lie…Lying and bluffing are both modes of misrepresentation or deception. Now the concept most central to the distinctive nature of a lie is that of falsity…Bluffing too, is typically devoted to conveying something false…the essence of bull$hit is not that it is false but that it is phony. In order to appreciate this distinction, one must recognize that a fake or phony need not be in any respect (apart from authenticity itself) inferior to the real thing. What is not genuine need not also be defective in some other way. What is wrong with a counterfeit is not what it is like, but how it was made…Harry G. Frankfurt…On Bull$hit
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it…Aristotle
The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend…Henri Bergson
Reason obeys itself: ignorance submits to what is dictated to it…Thomas Paine
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The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
7 “‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.
11 “‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
17 “‘As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? 19 Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
20 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, 22 I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. 23 I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. 24 I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken…Ezekiel 34: 1–24 NIV
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” ...Matthew 9: 35-38 NIV
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent…Luke 15: 1-7 NIV
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”
21 But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”…John 10: 1-21 NIV
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh[c] and despise authority.
Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; 11 yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from[d] the Lord. 12 But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish.
13 They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. 14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! 15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness. 16 But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—an animal without speech—who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
17 These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It 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. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”… II Peter 2 NIV
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness"...Matthew 23: 23 - 28 ESV
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.
A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits"… Matthew 7: 15-20 ESV
“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!" …Matthew 6:22, 23 NASB
John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”... Luke 9: 49, 50 ESV
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. The Word was with God in the beginning. All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it…
...Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. John testified about him and shouted out, “This one was the one about whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than I am, because he existed before me.’” For we have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known… John 1: 1-5, 14-18 NET