IntroductionEverywhere the Good News of Jesus Christ has been preached, Satan has always tried to destroy it with counterfeit and distorted teachings. The simplicity of the Gospel—salvation from one's sins through faith in Jesus Christ—has been perverted by additional, unbiblical teachings such as salvation by good deeds, mystical readings of plain scripture, and making others such as the virgin Mary or another person co-redeemers with Christ or even superior to Him.
Many heretical and false teachings that challenge Christianity today are nothing new; they have been around for centuries. For example, the unbiblical belief that good deeds help a person get into heaven was condemned by the church fathers in the 4th century. The belief that it doesn't matter how a Christian lives, just as long as they have faith in Christ, was around back in Roman times and was condemned by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5.
Hank Hanegraaff, host of the "Bible Answer Man" radio show, says that a heresy always begins with a misunderstanding of the nature of God. Error begets error, and heresy begets heresy. Heretics and false teachers such as Tony Alamo, Herbert W. Armstrong, Harold Camping, Sun Myung Moon, Charles T. Russell and Joseph Smith all claimed special revelation from God or a new understanding of the Bible that was never understood until they discovered it, and in the process claimed all Christian churches were corrupt and evil.
The sects they founded—the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), the original Worldwide Church of God, the Unification Church, Family Radio and Tony Alamo International Ministries—all teach that their group is the one true church and that all others are false. More recent cults such as the Church of Christ-Iglesia ni Cristo, United Pentecostal Church, International Christian Church and the various splinter groups from Family Radio and Armstrongism all claim theirs is the only true church as well.
Besides claiming every other church is corrupted, all of the above cults demand works that one must perform to maintain their salvation, or else they will lose it. This adding on to the completed work of Christ and denial of salvation by grace is condemned in the Bible by the apostle Paul (Titus 3:4-7, Galatians 2:11-3:14, 1 Timothy 6:3-5) and by our Lord Himself (Matthew 23:13-15, Revelation 22:18-19).
All that being said, the below outline should not imply that one particular church, denomination or ministry, including our own Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, is the only true Christianity. Faithful, doctrinally sound churches and denominations can and do have disagreements on secondary issues such as methods of baptism, contemporary versus traditional worship music, the gifts of the Holy Spirit or interpretation of Bible prophecy. Such differences do not affect one's salvation nor the historic truths and creeds of Christianity.
The below outline of historic church heresies was taught by Pastor Okubo at an adult Bible study and is based on excerpts from an article by Rev. Carl A. Volz, Ph.D (from The Bride of Christ, Vol. X, #1, page 38).I. Doctrines of the Trinity — In Particular the Person of Christ (Christ's Two Natures: Fully Human, Fully Divine)
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