4 Sects Mistaken as Christian & How they’re Unsound

4 Sects Mistaken as Christian & How they’re Unsound

Have you noticed that people calling themselves Christians sometimes disagree on core religious beliefs?  Do you ever wonder which ideology is correct?  Have you heard anyone label a particular church or religion heretical?  Is there someone you’re concerned about because their church seems to be controlling them or teaching something that sounds off?  Do you wish you knew enough to help your friend or loved one see things more clearly?  Has a missionary come to your door or approached you on the street, trying to persuade you to believe something that seems incorrect?  

In this guide, you will learn to recognize how four faith-based groups veer from the conventional tenets of the Christian faith.   This is a sampling of their beliefs, with selections that relate to some core elements of Christianity. 

Since 1995, we at Grace Capital Church have been helping people understand what it means to be a Christ-follower.  That is why we have developed this guide to help you steer clear of false doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3-6). 

Because each group ascribes to a mixture of biblical and unbiblical beliefs, this article will look at both their sound and unsound teachings.  

Rather than depending solely on what I say, it is wisest to consult with the ultimate source of truth: the Bible.  Therefore, I have included many passages of God’s Word for your reference. 

Also, to avoid misquoting or misunderstanding each religion’s beliefs stated in this article, I have taken them directly from their websites and/or their spiritual writings; and have included the links.  

Related:  3 Essential Beliefs all Christian Churches Share

1. Jehovah’s Witness 

jehovas witness at someone's home

Jehovah’s Witnesses call themselves Christians, and most of their religious text is directly from the Bible.  This combination makes it particularly challenging to recognize the doctrinal differences between their faith and Christianity. 

The most important starting point in understanding Jehovah’s Witnesses is to be aware that their “bible” is what they call the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT).  Unlike Christians, who have freedom to read any version they want, Jehovah’s Witnesses are only allowed to read the NWT. 

Why is this important to know?  Well, because the NWT contradicts 50+ English Bible translations.   

One valid question for anyone to ask is: how do I know if it is the NWT or if it is the other 50+ English Bible translations that are correct in regard to the passages that have contradictory meanings?

It is a good question.  One that deserves an answer!  While there are many things that could be said, let me just point out a couple facts that may help.  

Reliable versions of Scripture (like those that can be found at BibleGateway.com)  have a couple things in common.  One is that, though some wording varies, the meaning remains the same.  And, the second is that they share the same originating source:  5,000+ ancient Greek manuscripts, of which consistently corroborate each other regarding the accounts in this historical document. 

The ancient manuscripts are further authenticated by other nonreligious authors of the time (i.e., Josephus, Thallus, and Phlegon).  They are substantiated, too, by the fact that they were written during a time when witnesses of the events were still alive and, therefore, had the opportunity to refute the accuracy of what was written.  And then, finally, is that the accuracy of the prophecies contained in the Bible can be verified based on their fulfillment.

The religious writings (books, pamphlets, The Watchtower periodical, and the  NWT) of Jehovah’s Witnesses are unreliable for several reasons, a couple of which include the fact they have made doctrinal changes throughout history in order to correct their false prophecies after they were unfulfilled; and - in the case of the NWT - it was largely written  by unidentified members of their church under the direction of their third president (Nathan Homer Knorr). 

Because the NWT authors were and are intentionally anonymous, it is impossible to evaluate the writers’ credentials - for example, their understanding of ancient Greek and Hebrew, as well as their education in biblical studies.  (Interestingly, their founder - Charles Taze Russell - was found to not know Greek.)  

So, let’s take a look at a few of their beliefs.  

Scripturally Accurate Beliefs 

God is Almighty (Revelation 1:8). 

God is our Creator (Genesis 1).

Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Matthew 3:16-17).

Jesus Christ is Savior* (Acts 4:11-12 and Acts 5:31).   

* They believe God chose Jesus as the means for salvation by dying for the sins of humankind and that Jesus, as a creation of God instead of coexistent with God, inherited sin rather than being sinless (jw.org).] 

Unscriptural Beliefs 

What they erroneously Believe

Jesus Christ is not God (jw.org).

why this is incorrect

Every widely accepted translation of the Bible states in the Gospel of John that Jesus Christ is God.   “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1 ESV). 

The anonymous authors of the NWT altered John 1:1 to read “...the Word was a god (NWT)” to indicate their belief that Jesus is not God Almighty. 

They explain the phrase “a god” to mean that he is godlike in some ways.  (They believe that Jesus will one day become the king of God’s Kingdom in heaven.) 

What they erroneously Believe

Jesus Christ was Michael the archangel (also cited in one of their "holy" books, called: "Insights on the Scriptures") before God created the world. 

why this is incorrect

Jesus Christ created the angels (Colossians 1:15-17) and the angels worship Jesus (Hebrews 1).

What they erroneously Believe

Jesus Christ was resurrected in spirit (jw.org) rather than in the flesh.  

why this is incorrect

Witnesses of Jesus Christ's resurrection not only saw Him but also touched Him (John 20).  In addition, Jesus was witnessed eating food (John 21).

What they erroneously Believe

There is no Trinity (jw.org).

why this is incorrect

The Bible reveals that God is three-in-one:  the Father (1 Peter 1:2), the Son (Hebrews 1:8), and the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-26).

What they erroneously Believe

Hell (jw.org) is not a place. 

why this is incorrect

The Bible talks many times about hell being a place, including in Mark 9:43.

2. Mormonism (also known as Latter-day Saints and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

man holding the Book of Mormon

Mormons see themselves as Christians.  Their religious texts are: The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, and a large portion of the Bible.  Wherever their writings contradict the Bible, they consider the Bible to be incorrect.  

The Book of Mormon was written in 1829 by Joseph Smith after - according to his claims - he was given divine words during a visit by God the Father and Jesus Christ.  He reported that God told him that the Bible contains some falsehood and that the Book of Mormon is to be considered the ultimate source of truth.   Unlike the Bible, which has hordes of corroborating sources, there were no witnesses who heard or saw the meeting with God that Smith claimed to have had.

It is important to understand that Mormonism is especially easy to mix up with Christianity due to the ambiguous language used in their speech and on their website.  For that reason, rather than using their website, I have used links to their three spiritual documents (listed above) even though those sources are more time consuming to navigate through.

If you decide to read from their website instead of their religious texts, I caution and encourage you to compare and contrast their website statements with their official documents (linked several times in this article), so you will recognize contradictions and clearly identify what they believe.  

To help you understand what I mean by ambiguous language, here is one example from their website:  

Under the FAQ “What do Latter-day Saints believe about God”, the answer includes this statement: “God the Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost constitute the Godhead, or Trinity.”  Then, under the FAQ “Do Latter-day Saints believe in the Trinity?”, the answer includes this statement:  “Latter-day Saints believe God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are separate personages, but one in will and purpose—not literally the same being or substance, as conceptions of the Holy Trinity commonly imply.”

Scripturally Accurate Beliefs  

Jesus is God* (2 Nephi 26:12).  

* In regard to this belief which appears true in its fullness, it is important to remember that Mormons are polytheistic (even believing humans can become gods), and they do not believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit make up One God.  Still, it is necessary to include this half truth with which they ascribe in order to guard readers from misunderstanding a Mormon in the case that he/she states a belief that Jesus is God.

The Holy Ghost is God* (2 Nephi 26:13).

* See note in asterisk above under their belief that Jesus is God.

Atonement for sin comes through Jesus* (2 Nephi 9:5-7).

*In regard to this belief which, again, appears true in its fullness, it is essential to know that they believe receiving atonement for sin through Jesus allows people to receive only immortality; but in order to dwell in God’s presence in heaven, believing and obeying Mormon teachings is required.  See Doctrine and Covenants 76 which details the three levels of immortality.

Unscriptural Beliefs: 

What they erroneously Believe

God the Father was a man and he advanced to godhood status over time (“God An Exalted Man”, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-daySaints  volume 6, page 305); they also believe he has bones and flesh (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22).

why this is incorrect

God is eternal (Isaiah 40:28; Deuteronomy 33:27; Romans 16:26; Psalm 90:2).  God is Spirit, not man (Numbers 23:19; John 4:24).  

What they erroneously Believe

Jesus was conceived through a physical relationship between God the Father and the Heavenly Mother Mary (The Family Proclamation).

why this is incorrect

It was the Holy Spirit that placed Jesus into Mary’s womb, and Mary was a virgin at the time Jesus was born (Luke 1:26-38; Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-25).

What they erroneously Believe

Humans can become gods (Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20).  To support their belief, they quote Romans 8:16-17 about believers being glorified with Christ, and 2 Peter 1:4 about believers partaking in divine nature.

why this is incorrect

There is and always will be only One God (Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 45:5-6; Isaiah 45:21-22; Jude 1:25).

Regarding the divine nature, in looking at the context of the verse they cite to defend their belief that humans can become gods (2 Peter 1:4) where it says we can be “partakers of the divine nature”, it becomes clear that partaking of the divine nature refers to gaining entrance to the Kingdom of God.  One of the definitions of the word “divine” is “devoted to God” and that combined with 2 Peter 1:11, shows that by being devoted to God, we gain entrance to Heaven where we will live eternally in the presence of and fully devoted to God.   2 Peter 1:3-11 refers to entry into God’s Kingdom.  

Regarding glorification (meaning: worship), the Bible consistently states that in Heaven, it is only the One True God (all three persons of the Trinity) that will be worshiped, always and forever (Revelation 22:3-4; Revelation 7:9-17; Philippians 2:9-11).

What they erroneously Believe

The Book of Mormon is holy scripture (churchofjesuschrist.org - newsroom), like the Old and New Testament of the Bible.

why this is incorrect

The Bible is perfect (Psalm 19:7; James 1:25), eternal (Isaiah 40:6-81 Peter 1:24-25, and nothing shall be added or removed from it (Deuteronomy 4:1-2; Deuteronomy 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6 ) because it is complete. 

The Book of Mormon contains many statements that contradict the Bible.  One that is especially clear in regard to sin is found in 2 Nephi 2:22-25, where it states that if Adam never sinned, then people would not have been able to have joy or do good.  

3. Unitarian Universalism

unitarian universalism symbol on mountain

Not all Unitarian Universalists identify as Christian.  As an organization, they believe that all theologies and philosophies are equally true even when they categorically contradict each other.  Being that the definition of truth involves the characteristics of being indisputable, factual, and absolute, it is only logical to deduce they do not believe there is truth.  

By nature of their openness to any and every belief, they are some of the most welcoming and accepting people - which, in my opinion, is a beautiful quality.  However, it is still important to point out where they veer from truth because it is the only loving thing to do when we know that there is only one way to heaven - and that is Jesus Christ.  This is seen especially clearly in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy in which he instructed Timothy to point out false doctrine and teach true doctrine in the church at Ephesus. Paul said that the goal of the correction is love (1 Timothy 1:5).

Scripturally Accurate Beliefs  

People have inherent worth and dignity. (References: Psalm 139:13-14; Matthew 10:29-31; 2 Peter 3:9

People should treat one another justly, equitably, and compassionately(Reference: Micah 6:8

Unscriptural Beliefs

What they erroneously Believe

No deity is ascribed to Jesus or the Holy Spirit (uua.org).  

why this is incorrect

Jesus is God (Colossians 2:8-9; Hebrews 1:8; Titus 2:13).  The Holy Spirit is God (John 14:15-26). 

What they erroneously Believe

The Bible is one of many religious books they use.  They do not believe the Bible is meant to be our source of truth but one of many books (uua.org) that can be used to define truth on their own terms about the meaning and purpose of life, what and who to or not to worship, and what happens after we die - even when the different books contradict one another.  

why this is incorrect

Unlike other religious books, the Bible is an historical account supported by the corroboration of 5,000+ ancient Greek manuscripts, other contemporary authors, eyewitnesses, and the fulfillment of prophecy. 

4. Christian Science

first church of christian scientists

Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures along with the Bible form the basis of their beliefs.  They believe the Bible contains many errors and they have "corrected" each of them in their Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. 

They declare that they do not have any doctrinal beliefs (496:28 - 497:27) but, instead, have tenets.

It is especially important to note when reading the Christian Scientists' statements of faith, that they believe matter does not exist.  They believe that the things we “see” with our eyes are not physical but are the working of the mind/imagination.  To them, everything is spiritual and in the mind.  It states this belief throughout what they consider their ultimate religious text (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures); one place of which, where it is particularly stated clearly, is located in the section 530:18 531:6; 557:15 - 27.   Knowing they have this foundational belief will help you interpret their text.

Scripturally Accurate Beliefs

There is only one God and he is all-powerful, all-knowing,and all-present (465:16 - 466:1).

Unscriptural Beliefs 

What they erroneously Believe

The Bible is erroneous (139:15-22).

why this is incorrect

The Bible is perfect (Psalm 19:7; James 1:25), and nothing shall be added or removed from it (Deuteronomy 4:1-2; Deuteronomy 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6). 

What they erroneously Believe

Sin and evil are not real (529:21 - 530:3).  

why this is incorrect

Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4).  The law was given to humankind via the ten commandments (Exodus 20:1-17).  When Jesus Christ came, he summed up the ten commandments into two:  to love God above all else and to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40).

What they erroneously Believe

Christ’s sacrifice destroyed the illusion of sin for all who will believe, therefore, freeing people from the illusion’s power over them (472:23 - 473:6).

why this is incorrect

Jesus Christ died on the cross in order to pay the penalty of our actual sin so that all who believe and receive His sacrifice can be forgiven, be reconciled to God, and live eternally with Him in heaven (John 3:16-21; Colossians 1:19-23).

Next Steps

If you are unsure of what you believe and are considering joining one of these faith-based organizations, take these next steps:

  1. Ask God for wisdom and to direct your steps.  "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him" (James 1:5).  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  2. Before joining an organization, look further into it so you can determine what are their actual beliefs.  Don't just take the word of one person - whether that is me, your family, a member of the religion, a public figure, or a friend.  Read from multiple sources (i.e. the Bible, the organization's documents, the articles listed below, etc.) until you have a full picture of what they believe.  
  3. Read from one of the 50+ Bible translations that all agree with one another.  Choose the version that uses language that resonate the most with you.  You can find many options here
  4. Get more acquainted with the core beliefs of Christianity.  A good starting point is to read these articles:
    3 Essential Beliefs all Christian Churches Share  
    How to Become a Christian in 2 Life-Saving Steps

If you are a Christian, take these next steps:

  1. Stay in the Word of God (the Bible) so you will recognize false doctrine.
  2. Attend a Bible-believing Church and join a small group Bible study where you can develop friendships, build a support system, and grow in your faith.  These articles will help you find the right community of Christ-followers:  
    6 Tips for Choosing the Right Church For You      
    3 Essential Beliefs all Christian Churches Share      
    4 Reasons to Become a Church Member    
  3.  Share the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) rather than arguing with those who believe differently from you (2 Timothy 2:14-19).

If you are a member of one of the religions in this article, please know that - though we may disagree - I respect you.  I also welcome you to reach out in the comment section below.

Takeaway

By understanding the core Christian beliefs and how they agree and disagree with these four faith-based organizations, you can be more grounded in your comprehension of God's Word - the Bible.  Knowledge is power (Francis Bacon), and wisdom is more precious than gold (Proverbs 3:13-15).

Do you want to read more Christian material about these religions?

Check out these articles:

  1. The 11 Beliefs You Should Know about Jehovah’s Witnesses When They Knock at the Door
  2. 10 Things Everyone Should Know about Jehovah’s Witnesses and Their Beliefs
  3. The 8 Beliefs You Should Know about Mormons When They Knock at the Door
  4. What is Mormonism?
  5. Contradictions Between the Book of Mormon and the Bible
  6. Comparison Chart - Mormonism and Christianity
  7. Ten Questions to Ask Christian Scientists
  8. 9 Things You Should Know about ‘Christian Science’

If we can help you at all on your exploration journey (whether or not our opinions match), please feel free to reach out by commenting below or emailing us. 

living sozo call to action button man on rock at sunset

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