April 15-21, 2013
New “Christian” cult prompts Taiwanese church leaders to alert church flock and issue united response
Reported by Simon Lin
Written by Lydia Ma
A new “Christian” cult with origins in China has engulfed Hong Kong and Taiwan in the past few months. This cult, known as “Church of Almighty God” or “Eastern Lightning”, has bought large advertisements in major Taiwanese newspapers recently and its members have been actively convincing Christians in Taiwan and the rest of the non-Christian public to join. Their non-biblical advertisements have confused many Christians, which has prompted many churches to become concerned and alert their own flocks.
In response to the claims and actions of the Eastern Lightning cult, the PCT, various regional Christian alliances, and the Methodist Church in Taiwan held a joint symposium on April 14 at Hsinhsing Presbyterian Church on the theme “Discerning the Errors of the Church of Almighty God and the Christian Church’s Response”. According to the convener of this symposium, Elder Ou Yang Chia-li from the Church in New Taipei City, the Eastern Lightning cult fits all the characteristics of a Christian cult. Unfortunately, the Taiwanese public doesn’t know better and assumes that this cult’s advertisements are part of the Christian church’s evangelistic efforts. For this reason, real Christian churches have an obligation to warn the public. A joint response was issued and an advertisement was published in major newspapers at the end of February.
According to Ou, the basic beliefs of the Eastern Lightning cult contain glaring theological errors. For example, it claims that “Jesus” and “Jehovah” are former names of God that have now been replaced with the name “Almighty God”. Furthermore, the cult’s followers claim that Jesus has returned in the form of a Chinese woman – reportedly one of the woman partners of the cult’s founder, Zhao Weishan. This cult not only denies the Trinity, but also denies the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement on the cross for people’s sins. Hence, it teaches that this “woman Christ” has now come to finish what Christ had left undone and trusting in this “female Christ” is the only way to heaven and eternal life. Needless to say, this cult also denies the authority and authenticity of the Bible.
Holy Light Theological Seminary President Rev. Daniel C.S. Chen said that though the Eastern Lightning cult seems to have a passion for evangelism, its ultimate purpose is to draw more people into this cult. Once newcomers let down their guards and join the cult, they are coerced into attending small group meetings and tempted with money and sex, or threatened with violence. In this manner, the tactics used by this cult are not much different than the mafia and many people in China have been brainwashed into abandoning their families and giving away their body and their money.
According to Shoushan Presbytery’s Moderator, Rev. Chen Tsung-hui, the Eastern Lightning cult shares many things in commons with the Mormon Church because both are rejected by orthodox Christian churches but claim to be Christian nevertheless. For this reason, Christian churches need to be concerned and careful. Chen added that Holy Light Seminary felt compelled to host a gathering to discuss this issue and he is very glad that Shoushan Presbytery completely supported such efforts and urged local parishioners to attend.
Logos Theological Seminary President Chuang Ting-chin said that he was very worried about the effects of this cult on the Taiwanese public because it has invested millions on commercial advertisements and has so far been advertising twice a week. He hopes that church leaders can put their heads together and find the best way to respond. This cult especially preys on people who are spiritually and emotionally weak and those who are disaffected by churches. Hence, it is necessary that churches foster loving and caring small groups or fellowships so that every member is cared for and no one falls through the cracks.
Chuang also underscored the importance of churches in providing good nurturing and sound teaching, as well as building a good “firewall” against false teachings. He added that this present threat may just be what churches need to reignite their passion for reaching the lost for Christ.