“My name is Todd Davis.
This is my Social Security number: . . . ”
Remember that? Davis is the founder of LifeLock, a company that protects against identity theft. He was so confident of his ability to protect sensitive information that he published his actual Social Security number on television, billboards, and the company website. Was he asking for trouble? Yes. Of course. As of 2010, he’d already had his identity hacked thirteen times.
What’s worse than having your personal information stolen? How about having your Christian faith conned from you in broad daylight? That’s what cults do. Those who are deceived by them are usually also blinded to what has happened.
The Way International checks all
the boxes of a non-Christian cult.
It was started by a charismatic leader, Victor Paul Wierwille of New Knoxville, Ohio. He claimed divine revelation, saying that God had spoken with him directly in 1942: he was told that he would interpret the Bible in a new, more accurate way, and would teach it according to the principles of the early church. In 1957, he resigned from his pastorate in the United Church of Christ and started a fulltime radio ministry.
Wierwille did appeal to Scripture for his teachings, but he claimed that he alone could properly understand Scripture. He taught, for example, that Jesus was crucified with four men and not two, as is commonly held. Since Luke called them “malefactors,” and Matthew called them “robbers,” he taught that they were two different groups. He blamed the established church for shoddy interpretation practices and for imposing its will on the text. It’s a clever trick: convince your followers that you, alone, understand the Bible correctly.
The Way International is miles apart from Christianity. It rejects the Trinity, arguing that it is a man-made doctrine invented by church leaders. It openly denies that Jesus is God (God’s son? Yes. True God? No.). It teaches that only the Epistles apply to the New Testament Church, because the Gospels are really part of the Old Testament. Of the church festivals—Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost—the last is of greatest importance because tongue-speaking is standard practice. Oddly, its members are not opposed to abortion because they claim that a fetus does not become a “living soul” until it draws its first physical breath.
Why would anyone be attracted to The Way? In their own words, “The Way International is a nondenominational Christian ministry dedicated to reaching people worldwide with the accuracy of God’s Word so that they can experience a more abundant life. We believe that God makes it available for His people to live life above the negatives of the world, to walk with spiritual power, and to get positive results by way of His Son, Jesus Christ. However, because His will has been misunderstood or misrepresented over time, many suffer from a lack of knowledge regarding God’s heart for their lives.”
It’s a deadly scam. If yours is not the abundant life that God wants you to have, the problem is simply your failure to understand the Bible correctly. And, if you want to understand the Bible correctly . . .
Cults, such as The Way International, are the dark web of the religious world. They promise everything, but all that they deliver is unbelief and a rejection of Christ.
It is not clear how large this group is today. It once claimed a membership of 100,000, but experts feel that the number is inflated. Even one member is too many. Pray that the Lord will work repentance and faith in the hearts of all who have been deceived by this dangerous organization.
James Albrecht is pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Okabena, Minnesota.