Saturday, March 22, 2008

David Kupelian is Not A Christian:

At least not according to the way that evangelicals and other orthodox Christians understand the term. Kupelian seems to be in a similar position to Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. He calls and understands himself a "Christian" but is not according to the way the orthodox understand the term.

So it's ironic that WorldNetDaily for whom Kupelian is top editor, but is run by an (I think) orthodox evangelical Christian (Joe Farah) and has a huge audience of Protestant fundamentalists, chooses to run a column by Kupelian on what it means to be a Christian. The column notes that some 80% of Americans profess to be "Christians," but that only some smaller figure are "real Christians." Again, it's ironic that though Protestant fundamentalists would agree that most of those 80% are not "real Christians," they also wouldn't consider Kupelian one.

The best evidence I have been able to gather shows Kupelian to be a follower of one Roy Masters. Indeed, every column Kupelian has written that explicates his theology confirms this in my eyes. The problem for those who follow Masters is they seek to convert evangelical Protestants (and Catholics, Jews or whomever they can, but "religious conservatives" are their most sympathetic audience) but when those conservative Christians actually find out about what Masters believes they consider his teachings heretical and cultic. As John Lofton once put it, "Masters is a false prophet and theological fraud."

So what is it that Masters believes:

1) Arianism: He denies the Trinity, but seems to believe Jesus as a "Divine Son."
2) Gnosticism: See Masters quote from the Gospel of Thomas here.
3) Sin: Masters claims not to sin. I think salvation to him means getting to a point where humans no longer sin. The above linked video also alludes to this.
4) Meditation: Masters teaches reliance on a New-Age like meditation exercise as essential for salvation. You can listen to it here. It's actually probably a useful exercise and in this regard is not all that different from what diverse figures such as Deepak Chopra, Sam Harris and George Harrison advise. Masters of course claims his meditation exercise is "different" (he calls it Judeo-Christian meditation), but I don't see it as any different from the myriad of meditation exercises, most of them associated with New Age and Eastern philosophy. The process or content of his meditation on its surface certainly seems to have nothing to do with the Bible or Judaism or Christianity.

On political matters, Masters is hard right and often sounds like an evangelical Christian, agreeing with their social positions 100%. His dilemma is he targets evangelicals for conversion but must tread carefully in initially exposing them to what he really believes or else he'll chase them away. Hence on the surface he attempts to sound like an evangelical.

I've studied much about religious heretics, most of them prominent Enlightenment figures like John Locke, who faced a similar dilemma: They could be, at worst, executed for their heresy. They thus had to do their best to argue publicly they weren't heretics, while peddling their heretical ideas. Hence lots of beating around the bush, talking in code, stressing common ground with the orthodox, and otherwise trying to argue for compatibility. For instance, in Locke's "The Reasonableness of Christianity" the purpose of which was for Locke to articulate what doctrines are central to Christianity, Locke leaves out original sin and the Trinity! When the orthodox confronted Locke for peddling Socinianism (denial of Trinity, belief that Jesus is 100% human, not God at all) all Locke could say was nothing in his book denies the Trinity. And he was right, by simply not discussing the Trinity he could at once not contradict either his heterodox unitarian views or the orthodox Trinitarian positions of the civil authorities. He focused on common ground. Anyone who, after reading Locke's denial, believes Locke was an orthodox Trinitarian Christian is profoundly naive.

We live in freer times, and Roy Masters isn't going to be executed for his heterodoxy. But it could ruin his recruitment effort. Human psychology being what it is, I see some remarkable parallels in the ways in which Masters, Kupelian, et al. try to present their ideas and the ways in which the heretics of old likewise did.

For instance, I have heard Masters say that he does not sin which is absolutely inconsistent with orthodox Christianity. Some reporter apparently interpreted that as Masters saying he is "without sin." Here is Masters' response:

The absurd "I am without sin" quote attributed to me, and repeated endlessly by the media, to the best of my knowledge originally came from US magazine. As you can imagine, trying to describe the process of being "born again" to the average reporter is truly a dangerous prospect, especially if one's reputation will depend on that reporter's understanding of Christian mystery. I was so outraged by the seemingly intentional betrayal in that story that I sued US magazine. My case was so strong that the famous trial lawyer Melvin Belli took it on contingency. US eventually paid me in an, out-of-court settlement. But the damage that one article did to the Foundation of Human Understanding has been incalculable, because many Christians have believed it, and some have quoted it to others, who, however well-intentioned, spread this untruth to still others. Of course, only Jesus is without sin. To say otherwise is to deny the whole purpose of His coming into a sinful world in need of redemption. Thus, the Bible states that anyone who says he's without sin is a liar.

Again notice how Masters focuses only on what is compatible with traditional Christianity (that he believes no one but Jesus is "without sin") but does not address what he really believes that is incompatible with orthodox Christianity, that, at this point in his life (the point of salvation?), he doesn't sin. And he dresses his beliefs up in orthodox Christian language using terms like being "born again" which to Masters means something entirely different than what it means to evangelicals. Likewise David Kupelian, in the above linked article, uses the same approach:

No, if God wanted to demonstrate His love for us, and at the same time provide us with the perfect, ultimate example of real love for our fellow man, what could be a more perfect expression of love than the willing suffering and death of His Son – Who while dying asked God to forgive His tormentors? The sheer logic and power of it is transcendent. If you're looking for love in this loveless world, that's it.

I know some will be offended by this message, as though by even mentioning and holding up the standard Jesus clearly demanded of His followers, I am somehow denying the sufficiency of His substitutionary death for all mankind.

If I have at all misrepresented what Masters or Kupelian believe, I invite them or their spokespeople to email, comment or otherwise clarify and I likewise will correct any errors or misunderstandings.

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