Well. Nice lady working near me, has overheard enough to guess that I’m a Christian – Starts in by asking me if I’ve read the whole Bible.
Odd question. So my ears are immediately up for “What idiosyncratic interpretations of single verses are driving her people? Is this a cult, or just some heterodox spinoff?” First off she asks me if I know about the Female Image Of God. So, cult. Lots of people in mainstream Christianity put energy into correcting what they believe are culture-bound descriptions of masculine and feminine in the Bible, that are not fully accurate pictures of God. But they use completely different language in describing that. Not bumper-sticker style. There have been lots of groups through history which have made this duality one of their main doctrines. The Shakers were big around here, and the teachings of Mother Ann Lee highlighted that idea. So when my friend follows up by announcing that her church is the only one that teaches the Female Image of God, then I’m concluding “Oh, a new cult, that doesn't actually know much church history.”
She next switches to the day of the Sabbath. She’s quizzing me here (she thinks), asking "if you know the Bible, do you know this fact?" I’m pretty familiar with Seventh-Day Adventists, less so with Seventh Day Baptists, but I know there’s not Female Image of God teaching coming out of those groups. So that’s confirming my previous impression: new cult. She looks surprised when I tell her that there are other groups that believe in Saturday Sabbath as still in force, unchanged. I’m prepared to pick that up with reference to Waldenses and some 17th C Transylvanian churches, plus the SDA’s in the 1840’s but think better of it. I’m dealing with an unarmed opponent here. That she is indeed unarmed is confirmed by a declaration that “Constantine changed it.” Ah yes.
There’s more. “What about Passover?” as if she is checking off some list of unrelated surprises. So whoever this is also celebrates the Jewish festivals, and considers it an important point. The Armstrongites keep some distinctives, but have come over to generally orthodox Christianity at this point. And I like keeping Jewish festivals myself, though we haven’t done much of that since the boys were small.
So I say “Your church seems to be very concerned about what everyone else gets wrong. That doesn’t seem healthy. Different groups sometimes have good reasons for their beliefs.” She nicely agrees but points out that it’s the Bible, not man, that contains the truth. I agree, but note that people disagree more about the Bible. She repeats that it’s not man’s opinions, but what God says. I have heard this from many mouths in my time. What it means is “Everything that disagrees with my prophet is a teaching of man, and we don’t follow the teachings of man but of God. So those others are wrong.”
So, this new cult that shares some features with Shakers, and SDA, and Armstrongism, but isn’t deeply close to any of them doctrinally is unfamiliar to me. She tells me her church was founded in South Korea. It’s the World Mission Society Church of God, and they got some other strange beliefs as well. They believe the Second Coming has already occurred, in the person of their founder. That’s not uncommon.