Greg Koukl responds to cultists knocking on his door

Here’s a commentary from Greg Koukl. He talks about dealing with Mormons, and what their approach to evangelism says about them.

Here’s the problem:

When LDS missionaries knocked on my brother Dave’s door while he was working, he took off his tool belt and sat down to talk with them. When he began to press them on their case, though, they took offense. “We just came here to share our point of view and now you are trying to have an argument with us,” they said. “We’re not here to argue with people. We just want to talk about our view and our experience.” Dave pointed out that they knocked on his door for the purpose of changing his point of view. They weren’t just “sharing.”

Sometimes they’ll take another tack. When you try to offer evidence counter to their view they’ll say, “You’re persecuting us.” I have heard that as well. I’m not sure if LDS missionaries are actually taught to take that approach when challenged. Maybe they just see it modeled by their mentors, or maybe they have a persecution complex, but this is ready on their lips the minute you offer an objection to their point of view.

How do you get around that? If those young men I saw pedaled up to my house and knocked on my door, I’d want to politely set some ground rules.

And here is the ground rule for dealing with Mormons:

Here’s the way I’d introduce the first question: “Great. I’d be glad to talk to you. I just want to be clear on a couple of things before we get going. Do you think your religion is actually true, I mean really true?”

Now this is a “yes” or “no” question. Either they’ll say “yes” which is the right answer, because they do think their religion is true and that’s why they’re proselytizing or they’ll say “no,” in which case I would ask, “If you don’t think Mormonism is true, then why are you knocking at my door?” So they are probably not going to say that. They might say, “Well, it’s true for us.” Then I’m going to ask what that means. If it is just “true” for them that is, just their opinion that works for them then why should I listen? I have my own “truths” that work for me. What we are getting at is the fact that they actually believe their view about religion is right and ours is wrong. It’s not just true for them. That’s why we should change our religion and become Mormon.

Of course, that’s a politically incorrect way of putting it, and they may be uneasy having their position stated so baldly. (I had one LDS young man say, “I would never say anyone else is wrong in their religious view,” a statement he ultimately retracted after my probing questions forced him to think a little more carefully about that remark in light of his missionary efforts.) To ease the discomfort you might say, “I’m not in the least offended by that view. My religion is a missionary religion, too. We think we’re right and others are wrong in so far as they differ from our beliefs. I just want us both to be clear on our positions. We both think we’re right and the other is mistaken. That’s all.”

We continue. “Okay, so you believe your view is correct. That’s why you’re here. If my view is different from yours, then mine is incorrect and I should change my view if I’m a reasonable person and become a Mormon. So what this discussion is about is who’s view is true, yours or mine. Is that fair? Great — come on in.”

I can remember like yesterday my encounters with Mormons in high school. I told them about the evidences for the Big Bang, and then asked them to square their view of eternally existing matter with the Big Bang. And they replied “we don’t really try to make our religion fit with what science shows”. Later on when I started working, I got into a debate with another Mormon. I noticed she was reading the Book of Mormon. So I asked her why she had chosen Mormonism out of all the other faiths. And she said “because it makes me feel good”. It just doesn’t seem like Mormonism is a religion that you arrive at after some careful investigation, because none of the ones I’ve know or read seem to be able to defend it to me when I ask them.

Here’s another commentary from Greg Koukl. In this one, he gets a visit from Jehovah’s Witnesses. They come to his door, ring the door bell and ask him if he wants some of their apocalyptic literature.

So Greg says this:

“I’m a Christian pastor,” I said, directing my comments to the younger convert, the one less influenced by the Watchtower organization and more open to another viewpoint.  “In fact, I’m studying theology right now.”  I held up the tome I’d been reading, Turretin’s 18th century Institutes of Eclentic Theology.

“It’s clear we have some differences, including the vital issue of the identity of Jesus.  I believe what John teaches in John 1:3, that Jesus is the uncreated Creator.  This makes Him God.”

And they run away!

“You’re entitled to your opinion and we’re entitled to ours,”  was all she said.  No question, no challenge, no theological rejoinder.  This was a dismissal, not a response.  She turned on her heels and started for the next house–young cadet in tow–in search of more vulnerable game.

Greg reflects:

Third, they don’t take the issue of truth very seriously.  Religious evangelism is a persuasive enterprise; the evangelist is trying to change people’s minds.  He thinks his view is true and other views are false.  He also thinks the difference matters.  Follow the truth, you win; follow a lie, you lose–big time.  A commitment to truth (as opposed to a commitment to an organization) means an openness to refining one’s own views, increasing the accuracy in understanding, constantly searching for more precision in thinking.

A challenger could always turn out to be a blessing in disguise, an ally instead of an enemy.  An evangelist who’s convinced of his view would want to hear the very best arguments against it.  One of two things is going to happen.

He may discover that some objections to his view are good ones.  The rebuttal helps him make adjustments and corrections in his thinking, refining his knowledge of the truth.  Or it may turn out he’s on solid ground after all.  Developing answers to the toughest arguments against him strengthens both his witness and his own confidence in his religion.

But my visitors didn’t wait to hear my thoughts to inform their own beliefs, so they might know the truth more accurately.  They didn’t pause to hear the reasons I reject the Watchtower’s authority, so they might try to refute me and gain confidence in their own view.

I remember my own days of dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses who were trying to convert a member of my family. They came back to our door and I stepped outside the house and shut the door behind me. Then I asked them about the failed predictions for the end of the world that their organization had made, especially 1914, 1975 and so forth. They had never heard of the predictions that their organization had made, so I showed them the printouts I had made. Then I asked them why I should trust their organization to tell me the truth, if they were trying to make these prophetic statements and failing so miserably. They left and never came back.

9 thoughts on “Greg Koukl responds to cultists knocking on his door”

  1. Good tips. With JW’s I focus like a friendly pit pull on 2 things: Their Bible’s mistranslation of John 1:1 (“a God” instead of what “God,” as all the ancient manuscripts say). They try to change the subject but I keep bringing them back. Then I offer them literature, knowing they aren’t allowed to take it. Then I emphasize how my religion — Christianity — tells me to test everything and hold onto the good, and to test everything in light of scripture.

    With Mormons, I focus on Galatians 1:8-9. I ask if their Gospel is the same as Paul’s. If yes, then the rest of their works are redundant. If no, then I should immediately reject it.

    I’m pretty sure we’re on the “do not call” list for both groups.

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  2. So I asked her why she had chosen Mormonism out of all the other faiths. And she said “because it makes me feel good”.

    I used to think that’s all religion was. Something to make a person feel good. Boy was I wrong.

    I worked with a Jehovah’s Witness once. He was very interesting. One day on our 15, he started in with his JW stuff (I wasn’t a Christian then). I listened because I wanted to know what set JW apart from other beliefs. He was telling me that Jesus wasn’t crucified on a cross, that he was actually crucified on a torture stake. I asked him why that mattered if Jesus was crucified with his arms stretched out or skyward. He didn’t give me a good answer. He told me that the cross was an object of worship to Catholics and Protestants, that they worshiped the cross instead of God. I pressed the question again of why it mattered spiritually whether Jesus was crucified on a torture stake or a cross. Even though I wasn’t a Christian, I knew that he nothing more than a quibble when it came to Jesus’ crucifixion. Needless to say, he wasn’t witnessing to me very well.

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  3. Great responses! I’ve had some very similar visits. One thing JWs want to do is leave you with materials, but they are not allowed to take anything, so I demand a trade. They don’t like that and won’t leave anything! Most common is after a short visit they say they have to go, and then return with heavy reinforcement by people who are very steeped in the cult so that they can spend the time showing the new person how wrong I am – while they play the “persecution” card. The last time I had some copies of stuff demonstrating how the JWs take ante-Nicene fathers out of context for their “trinity” booklet, and while the old guy wasn’t looking, the young lady surreptitiously slid the material off the coffee table and into her bag. We’ve prayed she has her eyes opened with that – it did demonstrate her courage.

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  4. This is pretty spot-on. I’ve observed the same things with a lot of Christians, too. I’m an atheist, but they definitely do not want me questioning them. They give me the line, “Well, it’s just my opinion. Let’s not talk about it.”, and then proceed to more vulnerable prey.

    Interestingly, when I was into witchcraft, I was exactly the same way. I would only talk about the subject to people I thought would buy what I was saying.

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    1. Hey Donald, you’re right. And to be frank, the reason why I wrote this post WAS to shame Christians who use these tactics. What set me off was a Christian who was having conversations with non-Christians who was NOT talking about truth-based things. When you talk to people to try to convince them, you should be talking about evidence. Not religious stuff. And you should NOT whine about being a victim. The conversations should be about science and history and what science and history can show. Maybe some philosophical responses to the problems of evil and suffering, religious pluralism, the problem of the unevangelized, mind-body dualism, etc. But mostly about EVIDENCE.

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  5. Nobody wants to evangelize you if you have an Irish wolfhound smiling at them through the window.

    People trying to sell fundraising items seem to have more confidence.

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  6. Excellent post.

    I recently sent this link to some Christian friends with whom I’d been discussing Mormonism:
    http://www.leaderu.com/offices/michaeldavis/docs/mormonism/mormonism.html

    Many Christians are unaware that Mormonism is not Christian. Mormons claim to be Christian and most do live very moral lives, but Mormonism differs from Christianity in key areas of Christian theology – including the nature of God Himself, Christology, and the doctrine of salvation. They use a lot of Christian terminology, but with different meaning.

    Here is the topical index:
    http://www.leaderu.com/offices/michaeldavis/docs/mormonism/index.html

    The writer (a medical professor) comes from a Mormon background himself:
    http://leaderu.com/stories/michaeldavis_story.html

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