Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Is this a Cult? *UPDATED*

It's been several days since I've posted-- my mind and time has been occupied with a situation that I am at a loss as to how (if even how) I should respond. In a nutshell, the 18-year-old daughter of some friends has decided to "join" a group known as Smith's Friends. I've been able to find a little bit on the internet about the group. On the surface, they sound like a "christian group"--they refer to themselves as The Christian Church (no association with the Restoration Movement churches, some having the same "name"). But some of the teachings I've read about don't ring true with my understanding of Scripture. Here are some links that I've read:

Some of the teachings (according to one website) are that Jesus was not God and He sinned unconsciously when He was on the earth. The site also claims the group teaches that Christ died for His own sins, as well as the sins of man. Current day leader, Sigurd Bratlie's teachings are accepted by Smith's Friends as infallible.

Several things concern me about this situation (NOTE: I'm speaking from information I've been told by the parents and close friends of the family). First, is how quickly the group was able to convince this girl to join them-- telling her, in essence, that the church she belonged to was not a true church and the things she had been taught by the church and her parents were not right. Second, they convinced the girl to move into their home, out of her dorm where she recently began attending college on a full scholarship. This girl is VERY intelligent-- she graduated at the top of her class; the scholarship was to a well known, private university. Yet, somehow...

The most disturbing thing to me is that the person that lulled her into this group is one that should be a trusted individual in our community. It appears that he has been "grooming" this girl for some time by giving her literature, etc. to help indoctrinate her. I spoke with another parent who said their son brought home some of the literature; that boy did not join the group.

The parents are devastated. Please pray for John and Joanie. Also pray that their daughter will have her eyes opened to this deception.

UPDATE 08-21-09 : Updated broken or dead links


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Anonymous said...

well said!

Cheatwoods said...

Wow!! I well definetly be praying that for this young lady. That teacher should be fierd!!

teetown said...

It's no more a 'cult' that say... the Southern Baptists are a 'cult'.

Because this group holds a different interpretation of the bible than you, you attack them and make a snarky suggestion that they are a cult?

They could very well have a lawsuit against you for slander.

Keith said...
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Keith said...

I guess they "very well could." Since when is it "attacking" to ask questions or to point out differences of interpretation.

You weren't slandering Southern Baptists now were you? There are a lot of them in the Monroe LA area that might take offense at your suggestion that they are a cult..."they could very well have a lawsuit against you."

teetown said...

Monroe, La baptists are a rather stupid lot since they give their hard 'earned' welfare checks to the church of 'dunkers'.

Daniel Strubhar said...

Hi! I'm one of the "Smith's Friends" who lives in Manitoba, Canada. Have no fear! We do not teach anything that is not written in God's Word. Our main teaching is that one can live in victory over conscious sin in daily life, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and become increasingly filled with the fruits of the Spirit. This is an active work with us, and something we fight for in our spiritual life.

We don't believe that Jesus had a sinful nature, and I've never once (in my 24 or so years in our fellowship) heard or read anything about Jesus dying for His own sins! What we DO believe about Jesus is what is written in Romans 8:3,4: "For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."

Also, Hebrews 2:9-18: "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: "I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You." And again: "I will put My trust in Him." And again: "Here am I and the children whom God has given Me." Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted."

We also believe Hebrews 5:7-9: "Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him."

On the issue of whether Jesus was God, we believe John 1:1: "In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Also Philippians 2:5-8: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."

We do not consider Sigurd Bratlie or any other brother among us infallible, but we do have brothers who are humble and whose life testifies of a life in Christ, whose words we take seriously, because of the life they live. This is in keeping with what is written in I Corinthians 11:1: "Follow me, as I follow Christ." That is how we have it.

Our teaching and everything about our fellowship is strongly based on God's Word, and any sincere Christian who has their children's spiritual interests at heart should have no concern on that front. I grew up a conservative Mennonite, and when we first came to this fellowship, my parents were very concerned, but my father told me later, after having had a bit more to do with us, that he really appreciated our fellowship, even though he never "joined" us.

A fear of the unknown is understandable, but a little deeper examination will no doubt show that we are far from being a cult, there is much personal freedom among us for everything except sin. We are definitely not a "strict control" type of group, but encourage each other, with the purpose to build one another up in faith to live in victory over all conscious sin. We experience good brotherhood and fellowship, because we seek to live our life on the cross. There is generally speaking a happy and good spirit among us. In my 24 years in our fellowship, that is how I have found it to be, and I've gotten a lot of spiritual help personally from the teaching I have received.

Just these few words from one who is "one of them!" If one wants to be contentious, of course there is freedom for that, but as it is written, "you shall know them by their fruits." The fruit that I have seen is only happy lives, both in young and old, and happy homes, and that is what the Gospel should produce, as I understand it, anyway!

Daniel Strubhar said...
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Daniel Strubhar said...
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Crystal said...

I just wanted to make a comment. I grow up in this church as well. When I got married 8 years ago, I started attending my husband's church because it was local - not because I had any problems with the other church. Most of what you have said are the teachings of this church are things I have never heard before. In fact, the teachings at that church are almost the same as the evangelical church that I attend now.

Every church, no matter how hard they try, will have some aspects of their belief system that does not quite match up with other churches. For example, evangelicals don't believe in speaking in tongues, despite the fact that it is talked about in the bible as a gift of God. In the end, if your friend is at peace and growing closer to God - she is in the right place.

Keith said...

Thanks for stopping by, but I must disagree with a couple of your thoughts.

There may be a very good reason some of the material I cited are "things [you] have never heard before." It is quite possible some of the church leaders don't want you to know exactly what they believe. Based on first-hand information, I have found the Smith's Friends here to be angry, manipulative and very quick to file a lawsuit over the slightest comment or action they percieve as "slander." The term "cry-babies" comes to mind.

Your comment: evangelicals don't believe in speaking in tongues, despite the fact that it is talked about in the bible as a gift of God." Really? I assume you've done a study on this and have come to the conclusion that "tongues" are for today? The Bible also mentions people being raised from the dead and body parts being restored. Is that "gift" active today? With all due respect, I think you are understanding something way out of context.

There are lots of Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons that are "at peace"--they still belong to a cult.

Keith said...

BTW, I love the way people like "Crystal" and "Daniel Stubhar" leave comments, but they have no profile or blog. Just "touch and go" commenters.

Crystal said...

First yes, I have researched what I said about tongues and yes, all the gifts God gave in the bible would be available today in the same form if we believed in them. God is never changing - the only thing that changes is our faith and ability to believe in and recieve the gifts He offers. Second - you are MORE then welcome to visit my blog, it just doesn't happen to be a blogger blog: http://chrys.biz.

I wanted to comment on this: "There may be a very good reason some of the material I cited are "things [you] have never heard before." It is quite possible some of the church leaders don't want you to know exactly what they believe." - Can you really say this is what they believe if it is not what they teach their members. What is the point of a belief if you aren't teaching it? If you truely believe something to be true - you would not need to hide it. To hide something is the same as admitting that you don't truely think you are right - thus, you don't truely believe it.

After all, almost all the resources you provided, with the exception of the brunstad site, are not written by church members but by outsiders giving their veiw. That's like asking a Catholic to write about the Christian church or a Muslim to write about the Jewish beliefs. Can that sort of reporting really be considered accurate and unbaised? One site even admitted that there is not statement of faith to base their article on, simply what they have heard from others. There should be one, that would definitly help clarify a lot of things!

That being said - there was only one belief that I recall that I have learned to be false. That is the teaching that you must be in that church to be saved. According to the bible - you must believe in God and accept what He did for us to be saved. That is it - and there are MANY faiths that believe that. That being said - that doesn't make you a cult. Throughout history, most religoins have at one time or another, believed they are the only way. Many still do. Baptists thought you had to be baptist, catholics thought you had to be catholic, Jews believe you need to be jewish, etc.

"There are lots of Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons that are "at peace"--they still belong to a cult." - this may have been true at one point but if you look at what these organizations are today - they are just another religion. Each religion has their own set of rules and beliefs and you can choose to agree or disagree - but that does not make them a cult.

Keith said...


I get the feeling this is a very futile exercise, but I will respond nevertheless to your comments. Your comments appears in bold italics; my response in “normal” font.

…all the gifts God gave in the bible would be (emphasis mine) available today in the same form if we believed in them. God is never changing - the only thing that changes is our faith and ability to believe in and recieve (sic) the gifts He offers. This statement seems to imply that man somehow has the ability to thwart God’s power. The Bible states that Peter and the other Apostles spoke “with other tongues as THE SPIRIT (emphasis mine) was giving them utterance” (vs 4). This event was empowered by God, through His Holy Spirit—not the Apostles’ “belief.” Just because you “believe” in something doesn’t always make it true. (Santa Claus and the Easter bunny come to mind.)

Tongues were a sign gift, as was healing and miracles. These sign gifts ceased when the New Testament was completed. God continues to supernaturally perform miracles and heal people today, but He doesn’t operate through human beings, i.e. Benny Hinn, Paul and Jan Crouch, etc. The Bible records three periods when human beings were performing miracles: 1) ministries of Moses and Joshua; 2) ministries of Elijah and Elisha; 3) ministry of Jesus and the Apostles. Each period lasted approximately 70 years, then abruptly ended.

The New Testament age of miracles and tongues:

1) Was for the purpose of confirming the Word of God, given by Jesus and the Apostles.

2) Were given as a sign to unbelievers, particularly unbelieving Jews according to 1 Cor 14:22.

3) Is mentioned only in the early New Testament books. Most of the NT books do not even mention them—cf. James, Peter, John, and Jude. Tongues are not mentioned after Acts 19.

4) Gift of tongues and/or miracles are not found in any writings of the church Fathers. Regarding Acts 2:4, Augustine wrote: “Tongues…was done for betokening and it passed away.”

5) For over 1800 years, the gift of tongues and miracles was unknown in the life of the church. Around the turn of the century, tongues became a major emphasis within the holiness movement, which would later give birth to modern Pentecostalism.

6) First Corinthians 13:8 states: “…if there are tongues, they will cease…”

Can you really say this is what they believe if it is not what they teach their members. What is the point of a belief if you aren't teaching it? This type of thing happens all the time! I left a church because of the things the leadership believed, but weren’t telling or teaching the congregation. The point of doing this is “deception” and church leaders do it ALL THE TIME! Mormonism teaches that Jesus is the brother of Satan. They also teach that anyone (“temple Mormons”) divulging events occurring within the Mormon temple will have their throat slit from ear to ear and their tongue cut out. My cousin is a former Mormon and was married in the Salt Lake temple. He later renounced Mormonism. He can tell all kinds of tales of teachings that are not made known to rank-and-file Mormons. Mormons also deny the Deity of Christ—the doctrine that Jesus was God in the flesh here on earth; that Jesus is God. Kinda hard to get around that one per John 5, but they try! In fact, denial of Christ’s deity and in essence, the doctrine of the Trinity, is one of the key “unbeliefs” identifying a group as a cult.

After all, almost all the resources you provided, with the exception of the brunstad site, are not written by church members but by outsiders giving their view (sic). No argument here. I couldn’t find much on Smith’s Friends (hereafter SF), which makes me even more suspicious. I can find plenty of information from all kinds of sources on Catholics, Baptists, Methodist, etc. The fact that SF has no statement of faith is curious and unsettling. The implication (for me) is that there are no standards, governing doctrines within the group. They do pretty much as they please from what I’ve seen and heard of the group in our town. One thing I’m sure of, they love to threaten “lawsuit!”

…there was only one belief that I recall that I have learned to be false. That is the teaching that you must be in that church to be saved. The fact that SF taught this heresy and you acknowledge it isn’t Biblical should be a “red flag” to you. How can you defend a belief system that got that particular doctrine SO WRONG!? …that doesn’t make you a cult Well, it certainly doesn’t make you a church!

Each religion has their own set of rules and beliefs and you can choose to agree or disagree - but that does not make them a cult. What you or I belief is irrelevant. Does the group’s teaching line up with God’s Word? If not, you’ve got yourself a cult…especially when the group takes on the name of a dead human being, i.e. Smith’s Friends.

I’m glad that you are no longer part of that group. I wish I could say the same for my friend’s daughter. All religions are NOT the same and all religions do NOT believe in the same God.

Harold said...

It has been some time since anything was posted to this blog and I’m not normally a blogger but I did want to make a point on this subject.

First of all your original question was “Is this a cult?” And you have gone off on a tangent of SF theology. I would like to make the point that it is not a particular theology that makes a group a cult. It is their behavior that defines them as a cult.

One of Websters definitions of the word cult is “devoted attachment to, or extravagant admiration for, a person, principle, or lifestyle, especially when regarded as a fad”.

There are many benign groups that fit this definition. Trekkies, OU football fans, and even the Owasso Band are some that come to mind. While there is nothing wrong with these organizations or people, they can be described as a cult.

I would like to make the point that there is a difference between cults and “destructive cults”. The difference is that, in the Owasso Band for instance, the purpose and agenda of the organization is well known. If you choose to join the Owasso Marching Band you know that you are going to have to play an instrument. You are required to get up at the crack of dawn and march in the parking lot until you can’t feel your feet anymore. You are required to travel to marching contests and football games. All these activities are well known ahead of time.

In a destructive cult there is a hidden agenda. The organization or group that you join doesn’t tell you ahead of time all that will ultimately be required of you. They deceive you into thinking one thing but the ultimate agenda is something that may never be known by anyone except by the leader.

One of the Jonestown survivors said it best when she said “Nobody joins a cult. They join a cause, an organization, a church. But nobody joins a cult.”

So is this group a destructive cult? You have to observe their behavior very closely to know for sure. Just picking apart their particular theology will not get you there.

Keith said...

Thanks for stopping by. Very interesting, thougth-provoking comments. (Don't tell the Owasso Band people they're a cult!!! ha ha)

I think I understand you comments re: a group's theology. It's hard to nail down much about this group, since they don't seem to have a large contingency in the U.S. Most of the information on the internet is not in English, at least the stuff I've found. It's almost like they don't WANT you to know what they believe...which is somewhat similar to the Mormons. They have some interesting practices--one of which being baptizing for the dead--that you really don't hear a lot about.

As far as this group, I've had some correspondence with a couple of current members and some former members. They tell a pretty good story...that's all I say for now.

Harold said...

You need to be careful about generalizing any group. Some groups of SF may believe in baptizing for the dead. I’m not sure this group does. But not all Baptist churches may necessarily agree on all 5 points of Calvinism either. SF may have some twisted views of scripture but that doesn’t make them a cult. (By the way, I am going to use the term cult to mean a “destructive cult”) They don’t want you to know what they really believe because the leadership doesn’t have a real belief in theology. Their theology changes depending on what the leadership needs at the time. The members of the group may have a belief in something because that is what the leadership is teaching at the time. But within the leadership, it is all about control. And scripture is a tool used by the leadership to control and manipulate their members. Sometime ago SF required all the women to wear skirts. Pants for women were forbidden, as being ungodly, using scriptures to back it up I’m sure. One of their young girls even had to compete in high school track meets wearing a skirt. She still won her state championship. However, sometime later it was decided by the brothers in Norway that pants were OK. Now if pants for women were ungodly last year, but this year they are OK, what changed? The scriptures didn’t change. No, theology is not what makes a cult. Just like wearing skirts, or pants, does not define a cult. If you want to know if this is a cult, you have to start by answering the question “What is a cult?”

Keith said...

Maybe to begin, I should state that I am using the term “cult” to refer to any group that is “devoted to beliefs or practices that the surrounding culture considers outside the mainstream“ AND/OR has a theology/doctrine that is counter to what is generally accepted within Christian/evangelical circles. Therefore, I would consider any group that practices baptism for the dead to be a cult—again, Mormons.

Sometimes bad theology IS part of the cult. The problem is that the world is full of “sheeple” that will latch onto any and every word spoken by someone that appears to speak with authority. T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyers, and Jesse Duplantis are proof of that. Say it often, loud and with authority…somebody will listen. They will listen because they are ignorant of Scripture. As long as people don’t know what the Bible says…you can teach them anything. (Note: I’m not saying the aforementioned are leading cults; they ARE leading a lot of people astray teaching bad theology. If they can do so easily, so can SF)

I would agree with your statements re: “destructive cults.” SF (more specifically the local group), from what I can gather, has no official statement of beliefs, mission statement, etc. What I really find interesting about SF is the lack of schools/colleges that would teach their beliefs—similar to Bible colleges, etc. This would seem to leave the door wide open for all kinds of personal beliefs, restrictions to be brought in by the local leader without question.

What is a cult? I understand a cult to be or involve the following :
-- any system that insists on blindly follow the teachings of an individual(s) regardless of how “unordinary” those teachings may seem.
-- Participants are not allowed to question the teaching or authority of the leaders.
-- Participants are encouraged to either distance or cut themselves off from family and friends in an effort to control information/influence in their lives—even to the point of living in specific areas or communal situations.
-- Participants are taught that any former “religious” instruction is wrong and must be abandoned. Only teaching from the leader(s) is correct.
-- Participants are kept in the group through coercion/mental control
-- Participants are taught that they are THE ONLY true religion
-- As stated earlier, teaching that deviates from generally accepted Biblical theology (i.e. Jesus and Satan were brothers or Jesus married Mary Magdalene and they had a houseful of children, etc.)
-- Participants that leave the group are ex-communicated (whether they wear pants or not)

(Side Note: I don’t see one having a Calvinist view as eing “twisted” any more than I consider an Arminian view to be twisted. I DO consider one view to be more correct, but that’s another subject.)

Harold said...

Your characteristics of a destructive cult are pretty good. If you want to know more, read the works of Dr. Robert Lifton and Dr. Margret Singer. Their research on cult psychology is the standard. I do agree with you that bad theology is usually part of a religious cult, but not all cults are religious in nature. So the statement about deviating from generally accepted Biblical theology doesn’t really define a cult. There is another book which does a good job of showing how religious cults commonly twist certain scriptures and use them to control their members. It also shows that not all religious cults are outside the mainstream. A cultic relationship can happen inside of any church, including mainline churches like yours or mine.

Dr. Singer defines a cult by three factors.
1) The origin of the group and the role of the leader. Leaders are self-appointed, persuasive persons who claim to have a special mission in life or to have special knowledge. They are determined and domineering and are often described as charismatic and narcissistic.

2) The power structure, or the relationship between the leader (or leaders) and the followers. Cults are authoritarian in structure. They appear to be innovative and exclusive. They tend to have a double set of ethics (David Koresh demanded sexual purity from his followers while he was having sex with all the females in the group).

3) The use of a coordinated program of persuasion. Cults tend to be totalistic, or all-encompassing, in controlling their members’ behavior and also ideologically totalistic, exhibiting zealotry and extremism in their worldview. Many cults put great pressure on new members to leave their families, friends, and jobs to become immersed in the group’s major purpose. This isolation tactic is one of the cult’s most common mechanisms of control and enforced dependency.

So if this group is a cult then they should line up with these factors in some form or fashion. Remember that cults are not all alike. They come in many different sizes, shapes, and purposes. One of the most difficult types to recognize is family cults, because to the outsider they tend to look like a traditional family of individuals related by birth or marriage. But inside the family, the very same psychological system of persuasion exists and can be very destructive to their own family as well as other people and other families.

So outside of theology, are there any visible characteristics that would define this group as a cult? I would say yes, but what do you think?

Mali said...

I'm sorry, but I think everything you're saying is rubbish. I am actually a part of this church, though I am from the USA. I have been to Brunstad and our local church is called Victory. My brother used to go to our church but he doesn't anymore. He hasn't come to a meeting in about 4 years. Also several of my cousins and good friends have left. The articles are voluntary, the person can choose not to take encouragement. Everything we do is out of choice. If we all wanted to not go to the church anymore, we don't have to. There is nothing wrong with strongly believing in something. I have stayed at people's houses before and I'm still alive. Here's another thing for you to think about, I am one of 16 kids. sounds like a cult, but it's not even close.

Keith said...

Thanks for stopping by. Before I respond to your post, I'm curious. What prompted you to seek out MY blog in particular? It appears that you are in the Ft Smith Ark area-working for the State of Arkansas. Do you have friends in the Tulsa area that belong to Smith's Friends? Did they alert you to this blog?

Harold said...

I’m glad to hear your opinion. That leads me to another point. Jim Jones and the People’s Temple were originally affiliated with the Disciples of Christ. That doesn’t mean that whole Disciples of Christ denomination is a cult. So I am not surprised that your experience at your church may be somewhat normal. I may not agree with Sigurd Bratlie’s interpretation of scripture but as I said before it is not the theology that makes a cult, it is the behavior. Mat 7:15,16 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them”. So you have to examine every group on its own merit and get close enough to examine their fruit. When school teachers use undue influence to deceive young teenagers in their classroom and willfully destroy those family relationships, I would call that bad fruit, and I don’t care what religion you are. Real churches don’t separate and destroy families, they help build them.

The other thing I would like to point out is if people knew that they were in a cult, they wouldn’t be there. There was a documentary film released in 2006 called Jonestown. It is a fascinating look into the history of Jim Jones and his church because it contains nothing but real film from the People’s Temple archive and a series of live interviews with survivors. The film lets them tell the story the way they experienced it. There is no narrative, only the interviews with these survivors. It is also interesting because it is very apparent that if you asked anybody in that church if it was a cult they would have denied it. They didn’t see it or they wouldn’t have been there. All the signs were there, their relatives tried to tell them but they didn’t listen. Even that last night, the film crew there with the senator interviewed a lot of the members and, according to them, everything was fine. They were “happier than they had ever been in their lives”. They had convinced the senator that everything was OK, nothing was wrong. But the next morning things came apart, they still drank the Kook-Aid, and history has proven the parents and relatives of those victims to be right.

Like I said, nobody joins a cult and nobody stays in one either.

Keith said...

Harold: Sorry to have put off responding to your latest post; things have been quite hectic at work. It appears that my blog and/or yours and my conversation has stirred some interest in Smith's Friends. I'm seeing traffic from some very interesting places. Also some very specific search phrases--including my name and the name of this blog, so word has obviously gotten out.

Anyway, I found Dr. Singer's definitions of a cult quite fascinating and very familiar sounding. Doing a little browsing this evening, I ran across this statement on the Wikipedia website: "[SF emphasizes]...unquestioning acceptance of the wisdom of the brothers, and social separation from other organizations and the world at large...[they have] little or no contact with other Christian groups." Sounds like "our group" to me. Your comparisons to Jonestown are chilling.

A group of them visited our church some time ago. They didn't really say what they were looking for or what the nature of their visit was. Obviously, they were not looking for a congregation to join! Just checking out the "competition?" Oh wait...they don't consider they rest of us as part of The Church, so I guess they were just killing time.

I worked with a gentleman some time ago that belonged to a well-known cult. We talked quite a bit about our differences; he never really had a "good argument." Most of his answers sounded like something he had memorized, rather than something he trully believed.

Harold said...

Did you read the Tulsa Sunday paper? The front page story about the psychic healer that used undue influence to gain control of a retired woman’s estate is a good example of a one-on-one cultic relationship. She took the role of friend, caretaker, and psychic guide and then proceeded to manipulate the woman into rewriting her will. There are several examples of typical cult-like manipulative behavior that jump out of this story.

People who are most susceptible to being manipulated like this are at some kind of transition point in their life. Teenagers are a perfect target. They are leaving their parents home for the first time and trying to find their own way. They are looking for a career, new friends, new homes, etc. Elderly people are another easy target, especially when most, or all, of their family lives elsewhere. If they loose a spouse for instance and need to find someone else to depend on they can become easy prey for a con artist. It may not be a group cult like Jonestown or Waco but the psychology is the same. Love bomb them as a friend, earn their trust, then manipulate their surroundings, control their environment and information to the point they don’t trust anyone else, especially their own family.

The family is in a real bind in these types of situations because legally their hands are tied. The woman has the legal right to do what she wants with her money. The family may know she is being manipulated but they can’t do anything because it’s not illegal. Scam artists are one thing because they offer you something in return for money then don’t deliver. That is illegal. But proving in court that someone is being manipulated by someone else like this is very difficult. In this case, they had to wait until the woman died to figure out how far this had gone, and then it was too late.

The part of this story where the psychic friend drives the woman to the attorney’s office and stock brokers to do all this is another example. It reminds me of a story I heard from a guy whose wife was attending a church that met on Sundays at the Owasso 6th grade center a couple of years ago. Soon after he expressed a negative opinion about the church, this so called minister convinced his wife that she needed to leave her husband. The minister of this church, a woman, was counseling this wife and even drove her to the court house to help her fill out the paperwork for a divorce. Again, real churches don’t destroy families. They try to build families.

The last thing about the story in the paper was the quote from the psychic. She said “I loved her and I took care of her because the family would not do it.” If she really loved her then she would have kept the family informed of everything, and there would be no change to the will. Everything would have been above board and documented. Instead, there was apparently a hidden agenda on her part. Even if the family did not want to have anything to do with the woman, if she really loved her, she wouldn’t have cared about the money, she wouldn’t have driven the woman to her attorney friend and helped her change the will. Even if the woman wanted, of her own free will, to give the money away to this friend, it does not excuse the friend’s actions to deliberately deceive the family. And then to not notify the family when she died… there is no excuse for that. That tells you more than anything what was going on.

Because of the commitment required of members, cults also do harm to our democratic way of life. They intentionally disrupt educational and career goals, stifle personal relationships, and coerce followers into turning over savings, property, and other assets. They take away a persons freedom. And unfortunately there is nothing in our legal system to prevent this from happening.

Harold said...

Have you seen the movie 3:10 To Yuma. Russell Crowe’s character is a great illustration of a sociopathic cult leader. One of the first scenes in the movie, during the stagecoach holdup, he kills one of his own group. He uses this opportunity to instill fear in the rest of his gang. Fear and guilt are very powerful tools used to manipulate other people. Later in the movie he makes an example of this dead gang member by saying he was weak, he made a mistake and put the rest of them at risk, so he deserved to die. He even quoted scripture to make his point.

The next interesting scene is toward the end where the rancher’s son confronts the gang leader and says that he is really a good guy. Russell Crowe lays it out and for the first time you see the truth. His only purpose is his survival. He isn’t interested in anyone else. They are just tools to be used for his purpose. The rancher and the others served his purpose at times to stay alive so it wasn’t always easy to see his true motive.

But at the end we see the ultimate sociopathic behavior, when he murders his whole gang. To a guy like this, everyone is disposable. I think the reason he did this is because they witnessed him helping the rancher. He showed a weakness and he couldn’t afford for them to start distrusting him. They had seen too much and he couldn’t risk having them start thinking for themselves. So he disposed of them. He could always start over again with another gang.

A cult leader doesn’t care about anybody else. He doesn’t care if he destroys other families because he really doesn’t care about his own family. He will dispose of them if they don’t tow the line. And a sociopath like that doesn’t really understand anyone else who would stand and fight for their own family. It just doesn’t make sense to him.

You can work this into the Smith’s Friend theology as well. They teach that Jesus was born just a man, like you and me, and He died for His own sins. That Jesus BECAME perfect and that is what earned Him His seat on the throne in heaven. In that sense He is the perfect model for us to follow. For us to earn our way to heaven we have to become perfect, like Jesus was perfect. The idea that Jesus was God and willingly paid the ultimate price for all of our sins, so that anyone who believed in Him could go to heaven…well that just doesn’t make any sense to a sociopathic cult leader.

Keith said...

Harold: I did see the Tulsa World article. It really frustrates me that there are people in the world that intentionally set out to decieve and manipulate people--all under the guise of "loving" or "caring" for them. Like you said, if they really loved them...

You stated: "They intentionally disrupt educational and career goals, stifle personal relationships..." In light of the situation I am aware of, this couldn't be more true. My heart aches for the parents who had such high hopes and plans for their child only to have someone come along and manipulate the child into making decisions that are absouletly contrary to their best interest(s), previously held beliefs, plans, etc.

I can't help but believe these same manipulative people would be livid if someone did what they are doing to one of their family members...but then again, I'm assuming they are capable of understanding or feeling the effects of what they are doing.

I haven't seen 3:10 to Yuma. I'll have to check it out.

Harold said...


What is real scary is that this guy teaches in the high school. These kids are prime targets for coercive manipulators. It’s like fishing in a stocked pond because children are taught to trust their teachers. And when they turn 18 there is nothing legally the parents can do about it even when the kids are in a public high school. It is so easy to manipulate a naïve 18 year old. Earn their trust, convince them you care about them, use the normal teenager desire for independence to isolate them and turn them against the parents, and pretty soon you have them doing whatever you want them to. And they think they have made their own choices when the reality is that the choices were all prepared ahead of time. They just fell in line with the program and were unaware of the hidden agenda. This is a well documented methodology described by Dr. Lifton for what he called thought reform.

My guess is that this is not his first victim and it won’t be his last either. The best way for the parents in the community to protect themselves and their families is to get educated and learn what signs to look for, not only for the sake of their children but for themselves and other family members as well. Even their elderly parents are not immune from coercive manipulators.

It is sometimes hard for uninformed people to recognize a coercive group when they first encounter one. At first there is the feeling that something isn’t quite right, but you can’t put your finger on it. Here are some warning signs to look for.

*The members don’t have any friends outside their group (unless they are possible recruits).

*The children are not allowed to spend time with other families outside the group (significant time like sleepovers, a day at the lake, amusement parks, or even school related activities like sports or other clubs)

*People who question or disagree with the group’s beliefs are shunned. The children are taught to turn their backs to them.

*People who join the group will suddenly shun their families and old friends for seemingly no reason.

*The members are too busy and don’t have time for anyone else outside the group, especially their own families. They will avoid vacations, holidays, weddings, funerals, or any special events with their own families. They will however spend holidays, vacations, and other special events with the other members.

*They avoid answering any questions about the group, and will intentionally lie (even Bible-based groups like this one) to cover up any observed inconsistencies in the group behavior.

Keith said...

Harold: Even more sad is his portraying a church leader. I realize this group is not structured like many denominations, but in essence (according to what I've learned about them), this man fills the position of "pastor" or "shepherd." There is an irony there for me...a shepherd CARES for the sheep.

I know of one child he approached several years ago; the child didn't "bite." He is currently pursuing another young person in our area. Another family devistated by the deception.

Harold said...

Smith’s Friends in general does not claim to have any organizational structure. The claim is that they are just a simple group of believers who gather to worship together. They teach that they are the ONLY true Christians and that ALL organized religions have been corrupted by Satan. In 1John 3:1 where it says “The reason the world did not know us …” they substitute the word “world” with the phrase “the organized religious world”. This interpretation is, of course, completely twisted. What I would like to know is what they do with John 3:16 “For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His one and only Son…” From their interpretation of 1John 3:1 this would be interpreted “For God so loved the organized religious world that He gave His one and only Son…” That would leave Smith’s Friends out. Their writings and teachings are full of inconsistencies like this.

The truth is that that there is a definite organization, it’s just secret. It’s a hierarchical pecking order similar to the mafia. Smith’s Friends itself has, by some estimates, $75M-$100M in real estate and other assets world wide. If you follow this link you will find that they own a multi-million dollar conference center in Norway that is on the scale of the BOK center being built in downtown Tulsa. http://www.bcc.no/EN

This facility opened in 2004 and if you look at the web site it is for lease by the general population. You can rent this place for your own conference. If you do some more research you will find that they claim that this whole facility is operated by volunteer workers. There is only one person on salary in the whole church organization and that is the grounds keeper at this conference center. It is from this facility that they broadcast their meetings via satellite and internet to all their groups worldwide. This is a real impressive technical achievement for an unorganized group of believers gathering to worship together.

elf_asura said...

It's interesting if you analyze the mode of the discussion on this blog. It is about "us" versus "them" and not about "dialogue" or "understanding". So it seems a pointless exercise. Keith is convinced the Smiths Friends are a cult. Others in the Smiths Friends air their views but Keith just guns them down. Obviously Keith wants to prove that he "knows it all" from a certain perspective. The fact that many comments have been deleted proves that it's not a level playin ground.

Scott said...

elf_asura said: "The fact that many comments have been deleted proves that it's not a level playin ground." Actually, the deleted comments were mine that I felt were a little too harsh. No one else's comments have been deleted in this thread.

Several "members" have commented here. Many others cruise by and don't commment. Some comment and then don't return. If the playing field is uneven, maybe they should show up more and bring their "proofs" against what has been said...or maybe there aren't any. You tell me.

elf_asura said...

The whole problem with Christians is that they're totally lost about what their God was or is like and so they spend their time on earth barking and biting at each other and huddling and cuddling up in their little theological holes, snug in their jargon and the total irrelevance of their "gospel" in a post-modern, post-Christian, post-industrial world. How much longer these many-sized crutches will survive remains to be seen. There are no rational "proofs" for anything in Christianity, so every sect or cult or denomination in that sector is free to practise whatever interpretation they choose for themselves. This is called free market Christian hermeneutics, Scott. If you don't like it or cant digest it, hang on to the crutch that suits you and the jargon you like to belch but please please don't go down that silly route of finding "proofs". There are none except that which you and your group imagine. Just like the imaginations of all the other 30,000-0dd Christian groups, sects, cults etc. :-)

elf_asura said...

But what I am really interested in was the "end of the story". Were they able to "rescue" this damsel in distress from the horrific Smith's Friends? Did they manage to de-program her? I am interested in that part of the story but I don't see it anywhere. Did those prayers that she would see her "deception" bear fruit? Do tell. Do tell.

Keith said...

elf_asura: I've been away for a couple of days, but did want to get back to a couple of your comments.

1) You stated: "There are no rational "proofs" for anything in Christianity." Really? I guess the fact that we date our calendar BC versus AD has no validity? Why would be divide history--so to speack--based on the life of a single man if he never really existed?

2) Our prayers have not been answered as of today. God works on a different timeframe. We can patiently wait.

3) So are you going to defend or prove Smith's Friends or did you just come by to argue?

elf_asura said...

It is impossible for anyone to begin to learn that which he thinks he already knows.
Epictetus 50 AD

Keith said...

elf_asura: So are you admitting that YOU have a predisposition that favors Smith's Friends? If so, you're right--probably can't convince you of anything.

Why do you care anyway? What's the harm to you unless you sympathize with this group's beliefs? Why do you care what is said here?

elf_asura said...

Keith: You sound "nasty" but it may just be an impression because we are using text to communicate. It seems to me you are extremely prejudiced. Why don't you seek to understand the group instead of judging them from your limited edition of theology which is not absolute? Why do I care? I love to engage with those who with lack of experiential knowledge dub groups as cults. I am interested in understanding their conditioning, their biases, their assumptions, their fears, their frustrations. I want to understand your pattern of thinking that makes you "nasty" when it comes to the Smith's Friends. I suppose you are one of those people who do not believe in religious freedom but want everyone imprisoned in your tiny cubby hole theology or religion. I would say grow up! Further, perhaps you have until now not taken seriously Jesus injunction when the disciples asked Him to "forbid" someone who was healing in His Name and would not follow the mainstream masses. Jesus said: Leave him alone for he does not take my Name trivially. Learn this lesson and lots of things can change within you. Understand others instead of coming to your own quick, obstinate and absolutist and judgemental conclusions. Isn't the girl of age? Let her choose her path. You perhaps don't have more understanding or wisdom than her
and if you do and she does not care for your wisdom, learn to take it with humility. As you put it, pray and wait with patience. If your prayers and concerns are genuine, God may answer. If you pray out of a heart of judgement and hatred and bitterness towards the SF you will get NOTHING.

Keith said...

"...your limited edition of theology which is not absolute?" And how are you able to discern my theology. You may live near me, but do you really know me?

"I love to engage with those who with lack of experiential knowledge" I've never experienced sticking my head in an oven, but I'm certain it's a bad idea.

So, because I don't agree with SF, you assume I have "[come] to your own quick, obstinate and absolutist and judgemental conclusions." I didn't just read about the group yesterday...for the record.

"If you pray out of a heart of judgement and hatred and bitterness towards the SF you will get NOTHING." Actually, regardless of whether I pray or not, God will do what God intends to do and myself nor Smith's Friends will never be able to thwart His plan. If that were possible, He would be a very small God, wouldn't He?

"I am interested in understanding their conditioning, their biases, their assumptions, their fears, their frustrations." I don't sense that; I sense that you are sympathetic to this group (judging from your IP address, it appears you live in the area and probably have some kind of direct ties) and that you are just looking for a fight. I don't have time for that. Produce some actual evidence refuting the accusations made here. Scripture. Articles. Web pages (English please--my Norwegian is a little rusty). I'm tired and going to bed. I'll check back here tomorrow. Have a good evening.

elf_asura said...

Keith: I am not looking for a fight but a discussion if you have the energy (you're tired, of course!) for it.
List out the accusations one by one and perhaps I can provide you with what you seek.
However, you imply that being fair to the SF is in itself is a "crime". That just reinforces your biases.
As for your theology, it is writ large across your blog in case you are not aware. But then it is common to meet a lot of people who are not "aware". Hopefully you do not fit into that unfortunate lot. So here I am waiting for your volleys - frame them as simple "accusations" and put them up if you please. I will try to help you shed your biases and conditioning.

elf_asura said...

Keith: You said: Actually, regardless of whether I pray or not, God will do what God intends to do and myself nor Smith's Friends will never be able to thwart His plan. If that were possible, He would be a very small God, wouldn't He?
Then why pray at all? To ease your conscience? Your pain at the loss of this girl to a Christian group that does not fit your image of a Christian group?
If God will do what he wants to do, why waste your time praying for her? And if she doesn't leave the SF ever, would you accept God's verdict?
Nice conundrum we have here, huh?

Keith said...

elf_asura: You stated--"I am not looking for a fight but a discussion if you have the energy..." As nicely as I can put this...I believe you are a disenginuous liar. You do not desire a discussion but rather an opportunity to "help [me] shed [my] biases and conditioning." First of all, you assume that I desire to "shed my biases"--I do not. You also assume that you approach this discussion WITHOUT bias--and you DO NOT.

Of course my "theology" is written all across this blog. Are you implying that a semi-intelligent person could actually MISS IT!?

"Then why pray at all?" If you are a Bible believing Christian, you already know the answer. If you are not...you'll never get it, regardless of any amount of explaining.

"...common to meet a lot of people who are not 'aware'." You obviously believe that you are "aware" and that myself and others are not. How fortunate for you that you are able to discern "awareness" about people you don't even know.

"And if she doesn't leave the SF ever, would you accept God's verdict?" That's a very stupid statement. Do YOU think you have the option of accepting or rejecting God's judgment/"verdict?" I don't. God is God--there is no other.

"...the loss of this girl to a Christian group that does not fit your image of a Christian group?" Jesus said that we would know who the Christians are by their "fruit." I don't see any fruit falling from the SF trees...just rotten apples. I don't consider them to be a "Christian group" any more than SF considers me to be Christian--since I'm part of "the world."

Looks like we're at an impasse here. Keep coming back if you want. All you have to do is read back through the post and thread to read mine and others accusations. There is no need for us to repeat ourselves.

Keith said...

Harold: Good point re: their misinterpretation of "world."

elf_asura said...

Ha Ha You seem irked no end Mr Know It All Keith. I pity you.

Keith said...

No need to pity me...I'm not the one defending a cult.

"Irked?" No, just perplexed as to why you keep coming back. Is there nothing better to do in Bangalore? Oh, well. It's your dime. Enjoy the visit.

Harold said...

Elf: You obviously have a problem with Christianity and I am very sorry that you feel that way. I would like the opportunity to debate the proofs of Christianity with you but that is not the issue here. You see when a school teacher uses his position to gain undue influence over young minds and uses them for his purpose, that is just plain immoral. It doesn’t matter what religious belief you adhere to.

I have tried to take this discussion away from a theological debate and show how cults (specifically religious cults) operate so that others can see this man for what he is. Groups like this just use religion as a tool to manipulate others and they don’t care what pain they cause other families.

Can you offer a valid defense for the behavior of this school teacher?

elf_asura said...

Harold: Good to "hear" your voice. Very different from Keith. I beg to differ with your phrase "undue influence". I teach too and students who are interested, let us say in Nietzche, enter into very deep discussions with me, unlike other students who don't care that much. if one of these students becomes Nietzchean and joins a group that operates on Nietzchean principles, it is because he/she has made a choice. Do you believe in freedom of religion and freedom to propagate religion? In other words, do you believe that anyone is free to propagate his or her belief system just as Keith pushes his faith and theology as "sound"? If so, then there is no crime here. Somewhere it was mentioned that the girl is also of age and accountable to herself and that she is "intelligent". She is perhaps seeking something different from the "rut" that Keith is stuck in and she has the freedom to take that pathway. I am sure that "moral police" or "thought police" like Keith fear such freedom because in a sense such freedom destroys the "control" that Keith seeks to exercise on the girl. The best he can do is "warn" her but then it is her choice and her life and you must respect it. Further, I find the discussion on the Smith's Friends is completely skewed and biased. Once you brand a group as a cult you can always beat it to death and that is the attempt being made here by Keith. I also believe that the SF has the legal rights to defend itself in the face of attempts to denigrate it by people who do not know much or anything about the group. I would like to continue this dialogue with you although Keith in his supercilious manner has kept out and evaded discussion and dialogue because he seeks to defend his bias. Even on the theological front, I believe the Smiths Friends have something interesting to offer the mainstream and its opponents. Peace!

Keith said...

I am basically providing a forum for YOUR thoughts--you don't sound very grateful with all the name calling aimed at me.

In response to some of your comments:
1) "The girl" is currently of age; when the proslytizing began, she was not. Information I have is that the indoctrination began during school hours, on school property. Although subtle and undetected by school officials, that IS a violation of the law here in the USA, and therefore would constitute a "crime." (They obviously do things different in India where you are)

2) Because I believe something I am "stuck in a rut?;" you however believe something and are excercising your "freedom?"

3) "...I find the discussion on the Smith's Friends is completely skewed and biased." My intention never was to be anything BUT biased AGAINST the group. I don't agree with them. Neither does Harold. I would expect the Smith's Friends official website (brunstad.org) to also be "skewed and biased" TOWARD the movement, wouldn't you? (I don't read Norwegian, so I can't be 100% sure.) Some commenters on this thread--apparently you included--are "skewed and biased" in favor of SF. So we're both skewed and biased.

4) "I also believe that the SF has the legal rights to defend itself in the face of attempts to denigrate it..." Is that a threat of some kind of legal action? My statements are "denigrating" but yours are not? Why is it that every time someone doesn't like what someone says about them, they start yelling "lawsuit?" If SF is true, it will withstand ANY scrutiny...if not, it will fail or be exposed. Time will tell.

5) You accuse me of evading discussion, yet I have stated my position within the original post and throughout the thread. If you do not agree, that's your right. Is it necessary for you and I to re-hash what has already been said?

6) Harold makes his assertions based on psycological criteria; I make mine based on Scripture. What are you basing yours on? You've never identified your affiliation/connection with SF (although I suspect you are). Are you part of the movement? Do you have first-hand knowledge of their doctrines/practices? Or are you just someone that likes an argument about religion?

7) On the "theological front," just to address a couple of things:
a) SF claims they are "THE Christian Church," i.e. they are the ONLY Christians. Note John 10:16. Jesus himself states that he has "sheep" from all over this world. Jesus told his disciples "...you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8) Doesn't sound like He's claiming a select group of people are the ONLY Christians.

b) SF claim "...one can live in victory over conscious sin in daily life." (See comments in this thread by Daniel Strubhar who is not only a follower of SF's teachings, but is also personally acquainted with the situation.) This statement would appear to contradict Scriptures such as 1 John 1:8-9. The Apostle Paul himself stated he was incapable of controlling the sin in his life, e.g. Romans 7:17-21.

Just to keep the record straight, the comment attributed to "Scott" was made by me from another PC other than my own; another individual was already logged onto Blogspot. To repeat: "...the deleted comments were mine that I felt were a little too harsh. No one else's comments have been deleted in this thread." Mr. Strubhar deleted his own comments for whatever reason(s). As far as I can tell, his and my dialog was amiable.

Finally, your comments would be much easier to read if you used paragraphs in your comments. You state that you are a teacher--not "English Composition," I hope.

elf_asura said...

Keith: Well said. I like your analysis and your defense. I thought you provided more a forum for your thoughts as "superior" to other thoughts. I am glad you have concluded that we are both biased and skewed. Perhaps there is some humility left in you! And it's a level playing ground but one on which we can plainly agree to disagree and not play a game.
I can plainly state that the SF does not believe that it is the only Church. Also, your interpretation of Romans differs from that of the SF but it is pointless trying to engsge with one whose mind is already made. So forget it. Well, if the girl was "influenced" while being a minor and it's a crime in the USA, why haven't the zealot that you are gone in for legal action? Just so I can understand. By the way, remember that Americans DO NOT KNOW ENGLISH. So don't try that angle. Cheers. Have a beer on me!Might help you relax both on the theological and psychological front.

Keith said...

You asked "...why haven't the zealot that you are gone in for legal action?" Mainly because I am not/was not the child's guardian and in this case, the evidence came out after the fact. The parents are more interested in getting their daughter back rather than legal action against the teacher.

This "forum" is a place for me to vent, show off my photography/artwork, express myself, or throw out a thought-provoking comment from time to time. Do I think my thoughts are "superior?" No. I do think I'm right--especially for me, otherwise I wouldn't believe what I say, would I?

"I can plainly state that the SF does not believe that it is the only Church. " That statement may be true for you...it it not the thought I have heard expressed here where I live.

"Americans DO NOT KNOW ENGLISH. So don't try that angle." We may not speak English very well...but you still need paragraphs! 8^)>

I don't drink alcohol of any kind...ever. I'll have an iced tea.

Since I took the time to answer a few of your questions, will you a least answer a couple of mine? Are you affiliated in ANY way with SF? How did you find my blog?

elf_asura said...

Keith: Seems to me the initial hostilities are ceasing. It is a strange picture of the SF that I am getting from you. I'd like to know more about it.
Yes, I have know sections of this fellowship for years but have not experienced what you are speaking of. However, I do know that there have been many such reports emanating from some places. I am interested in finding out what exactly is creating this "impression" of the SF because as far as I know there is tremendous liberty in the fellowships and this sort of radical "separation" doesn't seem to be the norm. So if you could actually pin-point for me situations or experiences that you have come into where you feel the SF has been putting out the impression of a cult, I would be interested in knowing about it.
I think it is important that you build bridges with the SF - to me it seems that your experience both ways has been of confrontation and an us and them approach. You don't think friendliness will help (even if the belief systems are different)?
How did I find your blog? A friend sent the URL to me and I was interested because as I said, I try to follow some trails pertaining to groups that are branded cults and the SF is of particular interest to me because I know them.
I would really like to know some concrete instances of your encounters with them and why you feel they have treated you badly or given the impression of a cult.
From what I know of their literature and people I know, nobody in their senses in this group claims that they are THE ONLY CHURCH. So perhaps you are dealing with some offbeat people from the fellowship? You cant blame an entire fellowship for the skewed beliefs of a few can you?

Keith said...

elf_asura: I'm a little strapped for time this week, but didn't want you to think I had ignored your last post. I'm thinking on it and will get back with you as soon as I am able. Thanks for your patience.

elf_asura said...

Keith: I do have patience and that is indeed a virtue of Christ we can all come to in this conversation. Have a wonderful Easter weekend with all whom you love. God bless.

2b2bnot said...

now that the "initial hositilites" :) are hopefully set aside, i look forward to hearing a response from keith. and i hope that harold continues to pitch in as well.

i wish we first focus on the non-theological reasons for stating that SF is a cult. harold suggested some potential factors. they are of particular interest to me, i confess.

also, how abt "innocent until proven guilty?" happy easter.

Keith said...

elf_asura and 2b2bnot:
I don't mind answering your questions, but I hope you can understand the situation here. I am personally acquainted with the girl that has been drawn into SF, as well as her family. We met them at a church we used to attend. My wife works with the mother of this girl. I know that this family, as well as members of the local group, visit this blog—specifically this post—in order to monitor the "conversation." I have personally been threatened with legal action by the leader of the local group (more later). I will admit that my information is largely from the girl's parent's perspective and from what little information I can find on the internet or in talking with others who have had dealings with the group here and at large. SO, I feel that I need to be sensitive to those things, i.e. the privacy of the families involved, including the leader of the local SF group (notice I have not used names). That said…I will attempt to address some of your comments/questions based on the information I have. If I am wrong, and someone is willing to step forward and prove that, I am more than willing to apologize for my remarks and involvement. My concern here is strictly for the girl and her family. What you perceive as "hostility" is really just my overwhelming sadness at the situation. I know this girl and I know that she would not have sought out this group – or any other for that matter – without a concerted effort on the part of SF.

2b2bnot stated: i wish we first focus on the non-theological reasons for stating that SF is a cult. harold suggested some potential factors. they are of particular interest to me, i confess. It is difficult for me to separate the "theological reasons" from the debate. The religious aspect (in part) is what appears to have drawn the girl into the group in the first place. I have first-hand knowledge of the doctrines/teaching she was exposed to in her growing up years, and I find it interesting that she could be swayed so easily. Again, re: SF, I admit that my information in that area is limited since they do not have any kind of "official" doctrinal statements, etc.—if they do, they are not readily available in English. One of the few exposés, written by a Zac Poonen, who identifies himself as being from India, details some of the SF's teachings that contradict widely accepted doctrines within many mainline denominational churches here in America. Here is the link. I agree with Mr. Poonen's assessment as it is presented.

elf-asura, I did attempt to reach out to the leader of the local group in the beginning. I tried to appeal to him, father-to-father, asking him to please leave the girl alone as his influence was causing problems in the girl's family. The girl's family was very distraught over her eagerness to abandon the faith of her childhood. All they wanted was some time to talk with their daughter and at least try to understand why and what she had gotten herself into. The "leader" immediately threatened me, stating: "You are completely and totally misinformed and have made yourself a part of an harassment campaign that will be addressed at a later date. Also, you are using a school (i.e state-funded) email system to carry out this harassment and should be aware of that breach as well." (I guess it escaped his own notice that he was using the same "state-funded" email system to defend his personal, religious actions.) So much for reaching out.

Multiple times the girl's parents pleaded with the leader and his family to leave their daughter alone, which they refused to do—going as far as helping move the girl from her freshman dormitory at a local university into his own home, all behind the parent's backs. To make a long story short, in less than one year, this girl has made all kinds of accusations against her parents (based on information provided to her by the leader) and has married one of the leader's sons. Based on the group's actions, I believe this was part of the plan all along.

As elf_asura stated, it certainly does appear that we "are dealing with some offbeat people from the fellowship?"

I think Harold is definitely on the right track here, as far as the control-like actions of the local leader. I think the leader in question exhibits many of the "cult-leader-like" traits Harold has already outlined.

I think the local SF group chose this particular "victim" very carefully and it breaks my heart to see the relationship between her and her parents damaged in this way. I wish I could be more detailed in the discussion, but I feel that it would inappropriate to say anymore than I've already said.

This may not answer all of your questions, but it really is the best I can offer at this time.

elf_asura said...

Keith: Thank you for taking time out to speak your heart out. Just a few pointers.
1. You said you cannot get much material about the SF. Here is a link you can look at:
There are some articles up there you can read through. Of course, this is the "official" site while you are pursuing what you believe is the "unofficial" stuff beneath the skin of the SF. But it will be a good start.
2. Zac Poonen's attack on the SF came as a result of his falling out with the SF during a power struggle after he belonged to the group for 15 years or so. That particular essay has been cited almost unanimously by all who attack SF as "gospel truth". But there is a story behind his attack which not many know and all that he has published therein is not exactly true. You need to get the other side of the picture too. Also, can you extrapolate on why you "agree" with Zac Poonen's views or better still state which of his views you "agree" with primarily. That would be of use to continue the dialogue.
3. It is a pity if you were threatened by the leader. How unlike Jesus is that reaction. I do not think that there is a single example in Scripture where Jesus threatens someone with legal action just because the other person thought differently or asked hard questions!!! Very puzzling, this "leader"'s behaviour from your experience!
4. So the girl is now married to the "leader"'s son!! Very interesting. Was the girl's family represented at the wedding? I am curious - did she have a wedding without her parents?
5. I wonder what accusations she brought against her parents other than the accusation that their belief system is "wrong" in the light of her new-found belief system! And why would she be dragged away from her parents behind their backs? That would seem like cult behaviour (though she is of age to decide where and whom she wants to live with.)However, since we do not have her version of these matters, I would rest my case on these issues for now.
6. I agree that one cannot keep the theological and sociological threads separate in matters pertaining to SF. So how does one go about it? Perhaps Harold can help? I am sorry your attempts at being friends with SF did not work out. What if you try again? Or are they terribly suspicious of outsiders and closeted where you are?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Part I:
To Keith, and all the others who are participating in and monitoring this discussion (I would guess that this post and its comments are drawing a large readership).

Earlier this week, I came across this interesting but heart-rending blog post, for the first time.

I read parts of it over the last few days, and finished going through the various comments earlier this morning. I hope to contribute, in a meaningful way, as someone who used to be an "insider" but who has now been an "outsider" for some time. My experience as an "insider" flows largely from contacts with people & churches in N. America, but these American churches and people were very very heavily influenced by Norwegian church members and other Europeans.

1. I spent several years in "close fellowship" with the Smith's Friends. To this day, I remain grateful for my time among the SF's, for what I learned, and for the many ways in which I received help from this affiliation. However, since discontinuing with them, I have CONTINUED to grow in my faith, to be involved with local non-SF churches, and to find my delight and sustenance in Christ.

2. I have met Zac Poonen, and found his insights and remarks about the SFs to be penetrating and worthy of reflecting upon. I have met many of the American and European leaders of the Brunstad Christian Church (Smith's Friends), including their current leaders, and their former leader Sigurd Bratlie. Bratlie always struck me as being a loving, caring, insightful, and godly man. This doesn't mean, though, that he (or Zac Poonen) was free of error in his thinking and scriptural understanding. We are ALL subject to error, after all. Bratlie did seem, though, to be devoted to living out what the Scriptures taught and I always sensed a deep humility in him.

Poonen did not leave the SFs over a "power struggle", although I can see how the SF's might spin it that way - he "left", or dis-associated himself and his churches, for the items of concern that he wrote in the article that Keith linked. The article that he wrote, while somewhat blunt, contains several accurate and worthwhile points (based at the time of its writing, in 1997.) Of course, I cannot vouch for EVERYTHING that Poonen writes in that article, because he and I had separate experiences. But there is enough there to point you, and your readers, in a direction that will help to ask discerning and thoughtful questions.

3. During my period of time with the Smiths Friends, there was DEFINITELY a strong feeling among them that "we are THE church. Anyone who has true understanding of the Bible will join our church and stay in our church." I doubt that everyone felt this way but most people seemed to have that mentality.

I once asked an older wise leading brother from Europe if he felt that way, and he said no. He quoted the verse that says "those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh" - and he quoted that in reference to other Christians who were not part of the SFs but who live a crucified life. However, his perspective was somewhat unique, and was rarely - if ever - taught/preached. The general stream of thought seemed to be that they were THE church, and all true believers on the earth would find their way to their group, and that those who were NOT in the church would not be part of "the bride of Christ" in eternity.

Anonymous said...

Part 2:
4. At the time, they never ever sang any songs other than those in their own songbook (these were songs written by their own church members, with just 1 or 2 exceptions). They did not read Christian books other than those written by their members and their leaders. In fact, they openly discouraged reading other books and singing other songs. I remember one brother criticizing the hymn "Blessed Assurance" because of the line that reads "this is my story..... praising my savior all the day long". Casting doubt on the song, he asked "Who really praises God all day long?" (By that flawed understanding that he espoused, perhaps we should all ignore I Thessalonians 5:16-17 which says to rejoice ALWAYS and pray WITHOUT CEASING. :-))

I clearly remember, at a public meeting in a church conference, one of their men saying that hymnals and outside Christian books should be "Burned". I also remember a few conversations in which outside songs and outside books were spoken of in a condescending, and even in a mocking manner.

5. There was a strong and inappropriate devotion/allegiance to men from the churches in Norway, where the SFs was founded. The mindset seemed to be that if a brother from Norway was present at an conference in America, he was given deference and more-than-normal respect - even over other older and wiser brothers who might be present from American churches. It was assumed that one should unquestioningly obey whatever was said by Norwegian brothers. For example, the SFs USED to have strict guidelines about women's attire, watching movies, TV, etc. All that has changed over the last several years, from what I've heard, because leaders in Norway have passed down new decrees and new "understanding". Until they passed down this "new understanding", though, such things were associated with worldliness and other outside sub-standard churches!

6. I almost never heard about evangelism in their gatherings. Reaching out to the poor, to widows, to those who didn't know Christ - these did not seem to be priorities in their teachings. Perhaps it is different now, but it was a glaring Scriptural absence at the time.

7. Family estrangement was a sad dimension of this group. I specifically remember talking to a church member from N. America whose own father, in Europe, had "left the church". I asked this man how he felt about it. He replied that "It's very sad. I will probably never see my father again." !!!

I know another man who left the SFs. His grown children and their families are still in the SFs. They still speak to him and see him regularly, but he definitely feels a sense of estrangement from them. Of all the "negative" traits that can be found in this group, this is one of the saddest and perhaps one of the truest indicators of a cult-like effect among them.

Anonymous said...

8. However, the problem with the label of "cult" is that it is inherently subjective. It all depends on what standards you use. Zac Poonen,for example, has written a pamphlet about the Marks of Cultism, and if you read it, and if you are a former SF-er, then you might label the SFs as a cult. On the other hand, I have heard firsthand comments from outsiders about Zac Poonen's own church groups in India - that THEY are a cult!

My direct and firsthand experience with the SFs leads me to state the following:

A. They try to preach and adhere to the writings of Scripture, but they do this with an overly strong and undue focus on their particular church group. However, all preachers and all Christians preach and adhere imperfectly. To be fair, though, they seem to have some strong and blatant erroneous gaps in their teachings that other churches do NOT have. Hence, it is difficult for ME to understand how anyone who can spiritually discern could choose to remain with this group, because there are other churches out there that have more wholesome and more biblically-grounded teaching and who don't have the cultistic tendencies.

B. I could be wrong, but I believe that most of the SFs growth is INTERNAL i.e. large families and children growing up in the group from. Certainly it was that way during my time with them. If you grow up with something that's blatantly erroneous (mormonism, jehovah's witness, etc), you are much more likely to stick with it despite the inconsistencies. The SFs are not as blatantly in error as mormonism & jehovah's witnesses, so it takes a more developed sense of discernment to pick up on the error that is found among them.

C. They do have some cultistic tendencies (i.e. their thoughts about their own church, family estrangement, barely mingling at all with other church groups and other Christians, etc).

D. Like many small church movements, they fostered a sense of "we-ness" and "togetherness" that helped them forge into a lasting faith-based movement that did not simply fade out after 1 or 2 generations (as many faith-based movements have done).

E. They appear to have modernized/liberalized over the last 10-15 years. Some of this has perhaps been positive, in the larger scope of bible-based Christian understanding?

9. I have not visited a SFs church for a long time. I have heard various reports from insiders and former-insiders, over the last several years. I believe that several of the SFs who I knew were leading happy, productive, and meaningful lives (but then that could also be said of many Mormons, for example). Some of their leaders are/were TRULY exemplary men who richly blessed many people through out the world. Others among them were very small-minded, perhaps cultistic, and very hard to "reason" with from the Scriptures.

In fact, they often preached against "reason" and "reasoning" - I guess they had to in order to prevent tough questions and difficult conversations? Many of them seemed to be lacking in the divine wisdom that's written about in James 3:17 - "But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere."

10. As a final note, I would say that this is perhaps a discussion that's "in the family". We are all - SFs included - professed followers of Christ and hence we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We all need to search our own hearts, pray earnestly, and seek out divine wisdom and genuine Biblical truth. Such an effort on my part, led me to move on from the SFs. I know others who have moved on as well, after much painful soul searching and prayer.

Others, for their own reasons, seem to have chosen to stay on with the SFs - despite having very significant concerns. Perhaps they didn't want to be estranged from their children, perhaps they felt their lives would collapse if they moved on, perhaps they had burned too many bridges, perhaps they looked at other non-SF churches and felt like much wasn't offered, etc.

I hope that this discussion can remain God-honoring, and somehow be a blessing and a help to those of us who are conversing.

I feel deeply for the family that you know whose daughter seems to have cut them off, at least to a degree. I hope that she will pray and reflect and be re-united with her family, even if she remains with the Smith's Friends. It is not Scriptural for children to shun and reject their parents, because of church affiliation. The Bible clearly teaches that we are to HONOR and even OBEY our parents, so her behavior - as reported here - seems to be truly unScriptural and therefore must be highly displeasing to our heavenly Father.

If anyone wishes to contact me privately, leave me a comment with your email address at: http://yukonbound.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Keith, I'd like to send you a short private email. Please let me know your email address.

TheTruth said...

I suggest to anyone who is interested in learning further about this destructive cult (I was a former member (22 years), born into and grew up in Smith's Friends) to read the following Google Group:


I have posted my opinions and experience with the group there consistently.

Keith said...

Wow! A lot to digest today!

PS: my personal email is keithwhitfield [at] cox [dot] net. Looking forward to hearing from you. I'll need some time to read through and comment on your posts. Thanks for writing and being a part of the conversation.

elf_asura: Just so you know, I work fairly long hours some days, so if I don't respond quickly, it's not because you have offended me or that I do not intend to respond. I am trying to be fair and kind in my assessment of the situations--also in my responses here. Honestly, it is difficult sometimes due to my personal acquaintance with the family of the girl that has joined SF. I pray very often re: the situation and for God to give me the right words here and in other situations.

In the meatime, I'll briefly try to address some of your previous comments/questions.

1. Thank you for the link. I never could figure out how to get to the English version from the brunstad.org Home page. I've already begun reading some of the info and have some questions. Those will come later.

2. I understand that there may be ill feelings between Mr. Poonen and SF, which could make wading through his comments a little difficult. I'm not so much interested in his personal assessments/feelings as I am in the statements he cites from publications/conversatons that appear to be "official" SF doctrines. One of those is Bratlie's belief that "when [Jesus] came to earth, [He]was NOT God, but ONLY a man." This belief is in direct opposition to what the Bible teaches.

My question would be: Has Bratlie's belief ever been officially challenged by SF? Is this belief still prominent today?

3. I found the leaders' almost instant threat quite interesting. As you stated, I didn't find it to be "Christ-like" for someone that is considered to be a leader (i.e. " Forstander") in the church.

4. The girl's family was present at the wedding. I was told they were ridiculed and cursed by members of the church leader's family. My family nor anyone from the girl's church (the one she grew up in) were invited; neither were any of her friends. This girl is not a snob or "loaner"; she was very involved in several organizations in High School, but strangely, none of here friends (only 1 year after graduation) were present at the ceremony.

5. Several people—including the SF leader—have used the "she's of age" line during this ordeal as if that makes theirs and her actions all right. This is one of the more interesting aspects of this situation to me. Here we have a church leader; an individual that claims to believe the Bible to be the Word of God and being such, the words contained in it are binding on those who believe in it and its Author. Since the Bible commands us to "honor (obey) Father and Mother," I am at a loss as to why this man would encourage the girl to do things such as move out of her school dorm or go away on trips with the SF group when her parents had already expressed concern or had told her they preferred she not do those things. The leader even PERSONALLY helped move the girl from her dorm room.

You should know that the girl was a honor student in High School and had received a FULL scholarship to a private university. She was intending to pursue a degree in engineering, I believe—she is now pursing a teaching degree (I'm not knocking teaching—my wife is a teacher. I'm just saying she had a LOT of potential). All of her books, meals, etc. were paid for. She would not have had to work during her schooling as her parents lived nearby and had already agreed to meet any additional expenses she may have had. Now…why would moving into the home of the SF leader be a better situation than that??!! AND why would he encourage her to disrespect her parents' wishes—regardless of her age? Again, I believe this was always part of the plan, even the eventual marriage of this girl to the church leader's son.

For the record: My son is 20 years old and still lives at home. He is also "of age," yet he understands and abides by the Biblical concept of honoring us by respecting guidelines we have for living in our home. He still tells us where he is going and who he is going with. He "asks" us for permission (it's more of an act of respect in letting us know his intentions) to go out or be gone for a length of time out of town. Legally, we couldn't stop him from doing anything, but he understands the idea of loving and respecting us by letting us know where he is or what he is doing. Why would another adult chose to undermine that kind of respect? (I believe this girl had this same type of respect until she got involved with SF).

6. Harold is probably more qualified to speak to the behavioral aspects of this situation. I'll probably be more focused on the "religious/theological" aspects.

I've got to get some sleep, but I promise to return and say more later.

elf_asura said...

Keith: I would like to point out that your blog is now being infested by a set of people whose primary objective is to malign and slander the Smiths Friends. That is how The Truth has arrived on this blog. You will find in the days to come that these characters will come in like flies to your otherwise serious blog. I have been waiting for this to happen for quite a while and the usual pitiable pattern follows.
I have watched these people operate over several years in their singular mode of attack on SF and find that while the SF goes on living its happy life, these people continue to be unhappy and desire only the SF's destruction.
PS seems to have a more healthy attitude though his comments are again twisted. I doubt whether he was ever in "close fellowship" with the SF. It would be interesting to know which SF fellowship he actually lived over a long period. Unfortunately these people are afraid to put such "facts" out in public. People who come in once or twice to the SF or know some SF people often make claims that they had "close fellowship". That term in itself is a misnomer. They were usually just hangers around.
I find it interesting that the usual anti-SF sources converge around three points today.
1. Zac Poonen's article on the Net and his propaganda after 1989 against the SF.
2. The Griess site.
3. The more recent Google group led by a humanist atheist called Karin which is the pits in terms of discourse.
The real frustration of these groups is that they cannot make any dent on the SF. So I am sure I will be even more amused in the days to come by the posts that will accrue on your blog. Most likely, others from the Google group Smith's Venner will be the chief contributors to your blog from now on and I can promise you that they do not have anything substantial to put up except anecdotes, filthy rumors and bitter subjective comments. And of course, as PS is already attempting to do, you can be a willing recruit to this "movement" if you connect with these people privately.
My consistent challenge to these slanderers has been to make public materials that can prove that SF is a cult. Nobody has been able to do this so far except to cite some instances of grown-up people like the girl in question leaving homes or other churches to join Smith's Friends or some of their own personal subjective experiences or to quote hearsay.
I will be putting up a detailed rejoinder to PS. Going through what he has written, he is obviously out of date. Also he speaks of some things about which he has no knowledge at all, especially concerning Zac Poonen's long and deep association (so long as it profited him) with the SF.
Let us however leave Zac and Griess alone to their empty machinations.
My challenge to you Keith is to engage with the SF directly - one has to find a way to do this - if you want to discover anything that is real about them. The other option would be to remain biased and to be drawn to the side of this tiny network whose only agenda is malice and slander against the SF.

TheTruth said...

Typical of elf_ashura to resort to personal attacks.

You stopped posting on the google group because your positions were indefensible.

I have all the literature of the cult, books like "Bride and the Harlot", which is directed towards other christians and churches in the world as "harlot", whilst Smith's Friends are the "bride".

The cultist, centrist mechanism of Smith's Friends is to disassociate with other Christians and label them as "harlot" and "of the world", whilst Smith's friends are the one true church, the bride of Christ etc.

The google group is open to free debate, you gave up because your positions were not solid.

Sure, I can scan all the dangerous literature of Smith's Friends, but the leadership of Smith's Friends resorts to law suits based on breach of copyright.

I worked for one of Kare's companies, I know all about the intentions of this group, it's simple "money". It's a cult of greed.

Members of the cult resort visciously in terms of all criticsm, because they believe they are the "chosen" and are not to be questioned by the "earthly" (and that includes other Christians).

The google group is a reputable and informative resource for all those who would like to see more information about "Smith's Venner", it's leadership and principles.

elf_asura said...

Keith: Thank you for your patience and yes I too work long hours so I understand. I can also see that you are seeking for your answers not just in what is posted here on the blog but before the face of the living God. Then it cannot but succeed. Can you update the link to Smith's Friends (official site) with the link I sent you. I would be glad to look into those questions you have in your mind after going through the site.
Meanwhile, I am posting detailed comments relating to the post put up by PS below:
Concerning PS and his post:

1. Who can hinder anyone finding sustenance in Christ or any of the denominations or churches one seeks to affiliate oneself with – this is what most Christians claim anyways. They each find the place they call their “home” and hopefully PS has found a “home” where he can be an “insider”.
2. Zac Poonen is, of course, the brightest star on the horizon for all SF critics. So inevitably he will be quoted by Tom, Dick and Harry. However, it is significant that PS desists from attacking Bratlie and gives honest testimony about the man.
3. Zac Poonen did quit after a prolonged period of “politicking” and “power struggle” in India during which time he demanded certain recognition and privileges and he began to turn into a fault-finder, where earlier he was the pioneer of the SF doctrines throughout India, when he found that he could not get his way. He then disassociated himself from the SF, a task that took him several years, and when he was finally “outside”, he chose to attack SF as a cult. That PS is far from “objective” and yet “clever” in his use of words is also clear from his dependence on the “usual suspects” to attack the SF – Poonen and Griess.
4. There is something that those who do not understand the SF will never get. When someone from the SF testifies about his belonging to THE CHURCH, it is a testimony that comes from within the Body of Christ. It does not refer to those who belong only to SF. It is a clear testimony that the ones who are speaking are speaking from THE CHURCH, the Body which Jesus Christ is building, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail. However, fault-finders and cult-hunters often use this testimony to claim that SF believes that it is THE ONLY CHURCH. Further, if there are those who believe that SF is the only church, it does not seem to me to be a serious crime, as these people see it to be, but only a childish dogma. “However, his perspective was somewhat unique, and was rarely - if ever - taught/preached.” This is not true.
5. The songs issue is also something that has often been raked up to discredit the SF. But the truth is, the SF does not need the “old” songs. The members of this movement of faith are constantly coming up with “new” songs that emerge from their faith and life experiences. Of course, if there are churches where no “new” songs are being written, they need to depend on the “old”. I remember how a wave of Vineyard songs engulfed the earth and there must be more of that stuff doing the rounds. But if the SF is vibrantly self-sufficient in their music and does not need the old hymnals, why should PS complain? There is no dearth of new songs among SF and the song books get regularly bigger and updated. The anecdotes are nothing more than what they are – anecdotes – and prove nothing about the SF but only the opinions of some people within SF. People are free to have their own opinions in a movement driven by the Spirit. I do not think it is a crime if certain songs are not used. SF is a movement where the Spirit is always fresh and its songs come from that freshness.
6. PS makes his own judgments about many things. There is no blind obedience to the Norwegians or Europeans as he puts it vis a vis the old and wiser Americans (sic). There is fellowship and togetherness and “we-ness”. Therefore, there is mutual respect across the fellowship for those who have nurtured the churches. “All that has changed over the last several years, from what I've heard, because leaders in Norway have passed down new decrees and new "understanding".” I like his “clever” innuendo in this statement. There are no “new decrees” or “new understanding” – God’s Spirit brings liberty to the Church and things change as God’s Spirit leads the fellowships.
7. The SF does not work with the forms of evangelism that one usually encounters. The Church is vibrant enough to grow on its own and does its own evangelism. In a very powerful sense, the Church has been enabled to be self-sufficient over a century of existence. This fact also offends many – that the SF does not need “certificates” from others. It also gives to widows and charity but does not choose to blow that trumpet. Anyway, since so many are evangelizing, it might be better that the SF retains its cutting edge with the emphasis being on learning to obey Jesus commandments, the Word of the Cross, and living a life “conforming to the image of Jesus” as “disciples” and not indulging in just proselytisation.
8. I have heard firsthand comments from outsiders about Zac Poonen's own church groups in India - that THEY are a cult! Ask the Brethren Church about this! This is possible. Whoever does not worship Zac or recognize his supreme authority is excommunicated from his churches (there are many such examples).
9. They seem to have some strong and blatant erroneous gaps in their teachings that other churches do NOT have. It would be wonderful if PS could list plainly these gaps without pointing us to Zac Poonen or Griess. I hope he will be able to back it up with materials from SF literature or tapes or something like that instead of giving anecdotes.
10. It takes a more developed sense of discernment to pick up on the error that is found among them. It would be wonderful if PS made plain this error that is found among SF instead of speaking by innuendo as he does in most parts of his post. And hopefully he can back it up with real materials and not his innuendo.
11. Like many small church movements, they fostered a sense of "we-ness" and "togetherness" that helped them forge into a lasting faith-based movement that did not simply fade out after 1 or 2 generations (as many faith-based movements have done). Yes, and it ought to continue to be so with God’s help in spite of carping critics.
12. It is not Scriptural for children to shun and reject their parents, because of church affiliation. The Bible clearly teaches that we are to HONOR and even OBEY our parents, so her behavior - as reported here - seems to be truly unScriptural and therefore must be highly displeasing to our heavenly Father. PS seems to have arrogated to himself the right to sit at the right hand of the Father and have it revealed to himself as to who is pleasing or displeasing to the Father! But what is his response to Jesus’ command: “Hate your father and mother and wife and children and brother and sister and your own life – otherwise you cannot be my disciple.” Obviously, this is one Scripture that PS will never be able to obey! However, the history of true disciples of Christ rebounds with the testimonies of those who had to lose the love of their fathers or mothers or friends, etc, because of their undying and intense love for Jesus Christ and His commandments.

elf_asura said...

The Truth (disguised as a lie): I stopped posting on the Google group because it did not have a serious discourse as out here. If you really believe in the truth of what you say, why don't you put out the materials you say you have? I have access to the same materials. But then I suppose you are not willing to suffer for the "truth"? Why don't you pay the price for letting everyone know the truth? Perhaps it is easier to slander and malign that put your neck out on the line? That is obvious. So peace out, man!

TheTruth said...

I love it how you continue in the personal attacks against a man of intergrity like Zac Poonen.

You fail to mention that Smith's Friend's also took him to court on the charge that he stole hymns and songs from Smith's Friends, a case they resoundly lost.

The facts are there in the Bride and Harlot, Kare's book (Shepherd and Prophet) and many other cult literature.

I prefer not to give ammunition to Kare Smith, Harold Kronstad, Bernt Aksel Larsen and the other lynch mob ruling over Brunstad.

You talk about Zac and worshipping Zac, what about the worship of Kare Smith that is in plain existance at every Smith's Friends church? Remember Christ is the head, but at Smith's Friends it seems Kare is the head, due to the cult like environment.

Kare is regarded as "prophet" and brunstad is regarded as the "new jerusalem" on earth. There is no transparency whatsoever in the dealings and actions of Kare Smith and the group leadership.

You claim every criticism is an attempt to "malign and slander". Excuse me, but you have no idea of the personal experiences that this devastating cult has had on people like myself and others. You are quick to judge, slow to think.

But then again, "judging" is at the core of the existance of Smith's Friends!

Judging family who are not in the group.

Judging other churches and christians.

Judging other christian leaders, who the group claims can never equate to "Kare Smith".

Once, I was in a meeting and Svein Ellefsen was ridiculing the pope and mocking him! What an arrogant, self-serving idignant cult. This group does not seek Christ, but seeks it's own manipulative power over it's congregation.

TheTruth said...

Tønsbergs Blad - Magasinet 30.07.2005

"Terrifying power"

Psychiatrist Einar Rognstad thinks that Brunstad is far away from being a paradise

Text and photo: Ane Hunstadbråten

Rognstad has several patients who had broken with the Smiths Friends and who feel to be pushed out and to be "frozen out".

"We talk about a fraction. Less than five percent. Most of them who break out are strong individuals who manage very well without therapy. But there are exceptions." Rognstad has treated former Smiths Friends for fear, depression and loneliness.

"Some of them feel that the family does not want to have anything to do with them because they had broken out.This is frightening. It is dangerous if a few people obtain so much power, as it is the case at the Smiths Friends. The leaders have much power over those who are in the community", he says.

Problems occur if a person breaks out from the community and has to manage him/herself.

"Some are missing social skills, and they have to build up their own social base. They feel that they not any more have any significance for the people they grew up with, that they not any longer belong to the environment they are used to. I have the impression that troubles begin if somebody starts to ask questions. If you are critical towards the community, they don't any longer accept you. This frightens me", says Rognstad.

The PR-manager of the Smiths Friends in Tønsberg, Svein Kronstad, thinks that those who decide not to continue in the community, will not be pushed out.

"We respect the free will of people. Most of them who had left the community, we have a relaxed relation with", Kronstad says.

He thinks that the community does not support the expulsion of people who do not like to further be a part of the Smiths friends.

"By no way. But it is clear that we react if people actively attack us and become antagonists", he says.

He also thinks that there is no pressure on the members to donate for the community.

"It is voluntary to donate. But if you have the believing in that what we do, if you are committed, then you also want to contribute", he says.


elf_asura said...

The Truth: I am sorry if you were treated badly. But I think it is common understanding that if you do not like a church you are free to leave it. The person of maturity will leave it and find another place to hang out in. I hope you have found such a place. Of course, if you think SF is a cult you are free to shout it out from the rooftops. Don't be unhappy if not many people listen to you. Also, I would suggest that you do not trouble us who are looking at issues from a more serious viewpoint from two special angles - sociocultural and theological - with stuff in Norwegian or German that is available on Griess site. It is obvious that you are hurting and want revenge of some sort - I suggest you meet a counselor. However, not everybody in SF has had your experience and from what I know personally most of them have a happy simple life. You too can find it somewhere else, other than the SF, like PS, if you so please. I hope that is what you get in life too.

elf_asura said...

The Truth: I have no problem speaking about anything. Nobody asked about the case against Zac Poonen. By the way, the case is still pending in the Supreme Court of India and speaking about it in public is sub judice. That is why I restrained myself. There are many things to be spoken of Zac Poonen's relationship for a long time with SF and if you consider him a "man of integrity", that is well and good. I don't have to agree with you though.

elf_asura said...

Keith, Harold: I prefer not to enter into juvenile polemics with people like The Truth. I was interested in this blog because of a certain "reasoned" and "educated" approach towards the issue of whether or not the SF is a cult. Now that the Google group characters have reached this blog, it is only going to be subjective and chaotic. So unless there is some sort of moderation on your part of the posts that will come up in future that give the discussion direction, I would prefer to hold my horses, as they say in America.
Ciao and good luck with the witch hunt, now that the real witch-hunters have surfaced.

P. said...

Thanks to Keith, TheTruth, and elf_asura for your replies (I apologize for the length of what I wrote, but I have found that it takes time and effort and careful thought to communicate about these kinds of matters, and I wrote accordingly).

I will try to continue to dialogue with the rest of you here, but I hope that the tone be as gentle and considerate as possible? We are all interested, I hope, in pursuing truth and holiness - regardless of where we currently fall on the SF/nonSF spectrum.

Yes, I spoke good things about Bratlie and I can also speak good things about Poonen. I could also speak good things about Tombre and Erling Ekholt. I spent years of my life in weekly meetings, and numerous yearly conferences - so yes I was in "close fellowship" with this group.

Specifically about Poonen, I already wrote that I cannot vouch for EVERYTHING that he wrote. But some of the points that he wrote about WHAT the SFs actually teach appear to be accurate and coincide with my own memories, and those are worthwhile points for anyone to consider when evaluating whether there are GAPS in the teachings of the SFs.

I do not know Griess at all, other than a few paragraphs I have read of his online posts.

As a closing statement, I specifically would invite elf_asura and TheTruth to "moderate your tone" at least somewhat - there is a lot of pain and passion and grief (esp for the family that Keith knows personally). We would all do well to maintain a civil discourse and mutual respect, despite the difficult nature of what we are discussing.

elf_asura said...

PS - It's interesting that you had "close fellowship" but of course now there is a "gap in fellowship". :-) It is not enough to speak "good things". I am more interested in the gaps in the doctrine of SF that you have mentioned but I do not see those being put out up front. I am specifically interested in these gaps and errors that, other than for Zac Poonen, nobody else seems capable of pointing out in terms of either sociological or theological specifics. That would be a good direction to move in without entering into the passion and pain aspects.

Anonymous said...


The gaps and errors that Zac Poonen pointed out are a good starting point, and as I already wrote, those points coincide with my own memories and are some of the same points that cause me to move on.

From your experience with the SFs, please respond to Poonen's specific points about what he perceived as erroneous. I will read what you write, and try to reply.

elf_asura said...

PS - I refuse to begin from the point of the "accuser". That is the game everyone plays - making Zac Poonen and his views the centre of the discussion. I would rather begin with what you would state as the gaps you noticed and can articulate. Also, Zac Poonen is not around here to argue his case so I do not want to beat around his bush. It would be better if you put your points up for discussion from your experience of SF and in spite of the "good things" you have to say about some of them.

P.S. said...

Elf, This is not a game to me, and I am not playing it as I would a rhetorical argument about theology or end-times beliefs or whatever.

Other than this thread, and a single post that I just left at the Google groups, I have not engaged in online discussions with anyone. I view this entire discourse as very serious, especially since a family friend of Keith's is experiencing significant trauma because of the experience that their own daughter has gone through.

The points that ZP listed somewhat overlap with what I wrote earlier, but I will list the matters of belief that I picked up on during my time with the SFs. Again, I don't know if everyone in the SFs believed all of the below, but it seemed to be the dominant mode of thinking, even among many of the leaders.

1. Christ was not God while on the earth.
2. Christ had sin in His flesh
3. SF's, and only the SFs, are the body of Christ on the earth.
4. That Jesus committed unconscious sin.
5. That ONLY their songs and books and articles were worth reading.
6. Related, that there was very little value (none at all?) in any christian literature or songs that were written before the Smith's Friends came into existence.
7. That leading people to Christ was not a priority.
8. That people who left the SFs were not going to be in the Bride of Christ, and in fact those people might not be saved anymore.
9. That terrible things would happen to those who left the SFs. I remember people sharing testimonies of those who had left, and how they had gotten terrible diseases, into car accidents, and so on.
10. That since the time of the apostles, the "true church" had not been in existence until J.O. Smith.
11. That ALL churches outside of the SFs were part of the "Harlot" and that the SFs had to "wage war" against the Harlot.
12. that it was "Worldly" to watch movies, TV shows, and for women to wear pants.
13. That listening to Christian radio was indulging in the spirit of the Harlot.

Elf, I've just written 13 points. I supposed I could come up with even more, but this is enough of a starting point.

And I would ask you a question: Are you currently "fellowshipping" at a SFs church? How long have you been in fellowship with them?

elf_asura said...

PS: I suggest that you hung out with some kind of weird SFs and perhaps that is why you had to leave in the end. If you believed or thought the SFs believed that set of doctrines, you obviously understood nothing. Perhaps you were listening to some "deceiving spirit"? Had some hearing problems and no hearing aids? I wonder who your "friends" were and I am laughing.
1. Christ was not God while on earth - too many Scriptures point to the contrary and I have not come across any responsible SF leaders or brothers who believes this. It is ABSOLUTELY NOT the dominant mode of thinking in SF. Zac claims this is a secret doctrine in the SF but then please dig out the proof before you accuse. Anecdotal evidence is not sufficient enough.
2. Romans 8:3 - Where did God condemn sin in the flesh?
3. No SF in his right senses believes that SF are the only Body of Christ on earth. But every SF believes that he/she is in the Body of Christ on earth. There are 6 billion people on planet earth and 2000 years of Christ building his church and only someone dumb would believe that they know all who have been and are in the Body of Christ and SFs are not dumb.
4. Utter folly. Jesus could not become Savior if he sinned consciously or unconsciously. Period. Yes, it is possible that some fool might believe such idiocies but that would be a fool's paradise that he would go to.
5. Unfortunately, I know too many SF leaders and members who have read almost every good Christian book/author that can be read and are abreast of everything happening in Christendom. That they do not care much for drowning in the flood of Christian jargon and theories and doctrines and forms is a different matter.
6. Oh really? Then tell me why JO Smith and others have praised and quoted Christians like Madame Guyon, Jesse Penn Lewis, Martin Luther, several Christian fathers, etc in their writings? There are even quotes from the Apocrypha in some of the writings.
7. Then how is it that many have been made into disciples through the work of the SFs, including many Hindus or Roman Catholics whom I know personally? And how is it that many of their children come to a direct personal faith in Jesus?
8. In battles for control of the church such as happened in the 90s, many unfair blows were struck. Many such things might have been said. But anyone who knows Jesus understands the folly of making such blanket statements. Smells of immaturity, huh? But then, everyone in SFs is not mature either or perfected yet.
9. Same as above but I have seen this happen in Pentecostal and Evangelical churches too. So it's part of sinful human nature to come up with such notions. Nothing to get too het up about. The local Pentecostals believe even more strongly in such cause-effect relationships and it is natural to the religious and the superstitious ones to think that way - the way of fear and hatred. Some SFs are not immune to this disease.
10.SFs is an intense Spirit-driven movement and perhaps some believe such talk or cook up such talk. Take it with a pinch of salt, okay? Nobody with even a meagre understanding of the building of the Body/the Church by Jesus across 2000 years would give much weight to such babbling.
11. An absolute lie. The "harlot" is a "spirit" and Bratlie specifically states that one cannot brand this church or that as the "harlot". However, one can wage war against the "harlot" spirit and usually one who is possessed of such a spirit gets really riled then. :-) I've seen it happen, believe me!
12. Really? For a while, in the old days it was so. Not anymore. In fact, I have known the Pentecostals and certain types of Evangelicals and Baptists and Brethren to be even more rigid about such matters than the SFs. So not much weight in this accusation since it has always been part of fundamentalist thinking to avoid such worldly external things.
13. There is freedom to criticise Christian radio. And yes, even if I would not call it the "harlot", it dresses up and often smells like one, huh? I prefer to listen to normal radio and I know too many SFs who are like that. Why listen to Christian radio when normal radio exists? Or for that matter, why watch God channel when there is enough spiritual food within the SFs - you might as well watch National Geographic!
Hope this helps you. See? SFs do not have horns or tails but are normal human beings with a living faith in Jesus and happy to be part of a loving and intense fellowship, warts and all.

Anonymous said...

Elf, My replies below your statements.

PS: I suggest that you hung out with some kind of weird SFs and perhaps that is why you had to leave in the end. If you believed or thought the SFs believed that set of doctrines, you obviously understood nothing. Perhaps you were listening to some "deceiving spirit"? Had some hearing problems and no hearing aids? I wonder who your "friends" were and I am laughing.

I hung out with a lot of SFs, both from N America and from Europe. So it wasn't just an isolate few, here or there.

1. Christ was not God while on earth - too many Scriptures point to the contrary and I have not come across any responsible SF leaders or brothers who believes this. It is ABSOLUTELY NOT the dominant mode of thinking in SF. Zac claims this is a secret doctrine in the SF but then please dig out the proof before you accuse. Anecdotal evidence is not sufficient enough.

Perhaps things have changed. It was absolutely the dominant mode of thinking. ZP didn't just make it up, and neither did I.

2. Romans 8:3 - Where did God condemn sin in the flesh?

This is an artful dodge on your part. They taught directly that Jesus had Sin in His own flesh i.e. that He was Sinful i.e. that he committed unconscious sin.

3. No SF in his right senses believes that SF are the only Body of Christ on earth. But every SF believes that he/she is in the Body of Christ on earth. There are 6 billion people on planet earth and 2000 years of Christ building his church and only someone dumb would believe that they know all who have been and are in the Body of Christ and SFs are not dumb.

Again, maybe things have changed. I stand by my observation in this regard. They did believe this, so maybe they were dumb back then, per your language.

4. Utter folly. Jesus could not become Savior if he sinned consciously or unconsciously. Period. Yes, it is possible that some fool might believe such idiocies but that would be a fool's paradise that he would go to.

It wasn't just fools who believed this, at the time.

5. Unfortunately, I know too many SF leaders and members who have read almost every good Christian book/author that can be read and are abreast of everything happening in Christendom. That they do not care much for drowning in the flood of Christian jargon and theories and doctrines and forms is a different matter.

Again, things maybe have changed. In my time, no one read other christian books and actively discouraged me and others from doing so.

6. Oh really? Then tell me why JO Smith and others have praised and quoted Christians like Madame Guyon, Jesse Penn Lewis, Martin Luther, several Christian fathers, etc in their writings? There are even quotes from the Apocrypha in some of the writings.

During my time, I never heard any leader or non-leader praise other Christian writers. On the contrary, they would speak mockingly or condescendingly. I know that J.O. Smith had high regard for other writers but the argument I heard about that was "well since the time of JO smith, our own brothers have written much good material, so we no longer need those other books and articles". It is true, as you wrote, that they had/have high regard for the Apocrypha but not for anything else outside of the Bible. In my experience. Things may have changed.

7. Then how is it that many have been made into disciples through the work of the SFs, including many Hindus or Roman Catholics whom I know personally? And how is it that many of their children come to a direct personal faith in Jesus?

Isolated examples are not the same as making it a churchwide priority to be evangelistic, as the Scriptures clearly teach. Again, MY experience was that evangelism was not a priority and rarely did one see new faces on their church meetings and conferences, except for newborn babies!

8. In battles for control of the church such as happened in the 90s, many unfair blows were struck. Many such things might have been said. But anyone who knows Jesus understands the folly of making such blanket statements. Smells of immaturity, huh? But then, everyone in SFs is not mature either or perfected yet.

Yes, there is much that was immature and much that was said PUBLICLY that was NEVER corrected. People make all kinds of statements and never thought to ask forgiveness or apologize; where is Christ in this? Where were the leaders who would correct such folly, publicly or in private?

9. Same as above but I have seen this happen in Pentecostal and Evangelical churches too. So it's part of sinful human nature to come up with such notions. Nothing to get too het up about. The local Pentecostals believe even more strongly in such cause-effect relationships and it is natural to the religious and the superstitious ones to think that way - the way of fear and hatred. Some SFs are not immune to this disease.

True, and well said. But the pentecostals dont have the same overarching sense of cultistic tendencies that the SFs had in my day.

10.SFs is an intense Spirit-driven movement and perhaps some believe such talk or cook up such talk. Take it with a pinch of salt, okay? Nobody with even a meagre understanding of the building of the Body/the Church by Jesus across 2000 years would give much weight to such babbling.

Okay. Again, there is a broader narrative here of cultistic tendencies amongst the SFs compared to other church groups.

11. An absolute lie. The "harlot" is a "spirit" and Bratlie specifically states that one cannot brand this church or that as the "harlot". However, one can wage war against the "harlot" spirit and usually one who is possessed of such a spirit gets really riled then. :-) I've seen it happen, believe me!

No, not an absolute lie. I heard this from many people, and I never heard it publicly corrected from the pulpit or otherwise.

12. Really? For a while, in the old days it was so. Not anymore. In fact, I have known the Pentecostals and certain types of Evangelicals and Baptists and Brethren to be even more rigid about such matters than the SFs. So not much weight in this accusation since it has always been part of fundamentalist thinking to avoid such worldly external things.

The point here, which I raised earlier, was the devotion to Norway and if the norwegian leaders said something was okay, then it was okay. It not, then it wasn't.

13. There is freedom to criticise Christian radio. And yes, even if I would not call it the "harlot", it dresses up and often smells like one, huh? I prefer to listen to normal radio and I know too many SFs who are like that. Why listen to Christian radio when normal radio exists? Or for that matter, why watch God channel when there is enough spiritual food within the SFs - you might as well watch National Geographic!

Why not listen to Christian radio with all the helpful sermons and programming and songs that it contains?

Hope this helps you. See? SFs do not have horns or tails but are normal human beings with a living faith in Jesus and happy to be part of a loving and intense fellowship, warts and all.

As you know, I never said they had horns or tails. I would never say such a thing. I would speak highly of certain people among them i.e. as I already did about Bratlie. But none of your points have led to a sum negation of what I (and many others) have observed about this group. And certainly the behavior that Keith has reported about this local family leads me to believe that there is much about them that STILL is highly concerning, despite some of the changes that may have come about since I left them.

Keith said...

Okay, okay! Everybody listen up! PLAY NICE!!! I don't want to send anyone to "time out," so let's keep this civil (I'm not accusing anyone in particular); I can already feel the tension, so, if necessary, dial it back a notch, take a deep breath and let's ALL try to take part in the discussion without calling names, etc.

Just keep one thing in mind: IT'S MY BLOG. I created it for my on pleasure/fun/enjoyment/place to vent, etc. I love it when people drop by to say "hi" or comment, but I don't want this to turn into a shouting match. OK? Fair enough. Thanks to all for commenting. Can we take a day or two to digest and then meet back here? I've got a Sunday School lesson to write before this weekend, so I'll be watching. You guys BEHAVE!

yukonbound2 said...

Keith, Do your friends have ANY contact with their daughter? Are they seeing any progress in the relationship? Have they established any kind of positive relationship with their new son in law?

elf_asura said...

1. I would state unequivocally that both you and Zac Poonen are misled. It was never the dominant mode of thinking in SF though you may have encountered it somewhere or the other. In 28 years of knowing the SF and having read all their available literature and having had “closer fellowship” than you ever had or will have with them across the world I have come across only two people who thought that Christ was not God while on earth. Both of them have now ended up – outside. People who belabour this point usually find themselves outside the pale because this is not an “open” doctrine in the SF as far as I know and leaders whom I respect have plainly stated to me that it is not so. I have to believe them till it is proven otherwise. I have never heard this preached from any pulpit either.
Understand one thing, PS, the SF is not like other churches. There is high tolerance (but not necessarily acceptance) for what people say or how people might interpret things. Because the emphasis is on sanctification into the image of Christ, there is patience with people unless they seek to destroy the fellowship itself or want to be the “expert” or turn into slanderers and maligners. The emphasis is on the crucified life and the radiant life with Jesus (pressing into genuine perfection) and not “doctrinal perfection”. Inevitably, there will be some who do not understand doctrine unlike the experts. SF does not reject them because coming to a deep life in Christ is not the result of doctrine but of obedience to His commandments in daily life. You cannot help others if you do not tolerate them as they move through the process of understanding and living the crucified life with Christ and being transformed into His likeness. If you think that correcting people and forcing them to make “correct” theological or doctrinal statements publicly is the way, you are free to take that approach and implement it in your church. In SF, I find that even those whom you might think are in “error” can be along because there is a living faith and hope that the Spirit of Jesus really helps everyone and makes all to radiate His glory in time. The genuineness of the SF lies in its commitment to the goal of radical transformation of every sinful person into the image of Jesus and patience with all who desire this.

2. You have no understanding at all on this matter and again I say you are a misled. The SF does not teach that Jesus was sinful or that he committed unconscious sin. They plainly state the truth in Romans 8:3 that God condemned sin in the flesh. In whose flesh was this sin condemned, PS? If you do not know the answer, it’s alright. It’s just that you really have a “hearing” deficiency and so you can only repeat this charge over and over again like a stuck record.

3. Regarding the understanding of the Body of Christ - dumbness is not so great a crime in God’s eyes though the experts think it is. I have already said that SF does not believe that they are the only Body of Christ but everyone in SF speaks from the Body of Christ. If someone narrows it down in terms of interpretation, one can be patient till he/she gets more understanding on the matter. Towards the end of his life, JO Smith plainly stated that he knows very, very little about the Body of Christ which is a mystery even after the tremendous manner in which God used him. Everyone with grace understands what he meant when he said that.

4. That Jesus had a sinful nature and committed unconscious sin: Please feel free to keep on insisting that this is the SF doctrine. It does not change the truth of what SF believes. If there are those in “error” on this point, do not worry – God is very jealous about his Son and will take care of those people. If this is a secret doctrine inside the SF as Zac alleges, do not worry, in God’s time it will all be exposed for “there is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed”. (This Point 4 is directly related to Point 2 above.)

5. About books: Well, I do not know of any such “old” or “new” decrees concerning reading of books. There may be those who go around doing this – as for instance my experience in a Brethren church where someone insisted powerfully from the pulpit that reading Science Fiction is evil – yes, there are such zealous Christians and I have no quarrel with them. I have also met Watchman Nee fanatics, Witness Lee fanatics, Benny Hinn fanatics, Branhamites, etc – all of whom limit their reading. Everyone does not have to be a scholar. So I smile at them because in the end they love Jesus and they feel that one set of books is what helps them most. So be it. If it helps, well and good. If they are just fanatics, God will still help them one day as their stupidities come to the fore and they come into a deeper need to know Christ himself. You make a mountain out of a molehill. Everybody doesn’t have to read Christian books or become an “expert” to get to know Jesus and that’s the bottom line. I have met illiterates with no theology who are radiant with Jesus’ love and power and so I don’t worry if people read only one set of books or no books at all. It is when the experts come in that simple faith is overturned and children are ruined in the winds of doctrines.

6. Evangelism: You are no one to decide on what the church-wide priority of the SF ought to be. Your suggestion is fine but better belaboured in your own denomination. Each church does it their own way and you are not the last word on evangelism. Jesus is - and the way in which His Spirit leads. In more than 100 years of growth, SF has grown only slowly but surely and steadily into a well-knit, compact, deep-rooted fellowship in the virtues of Christ. There is always the option of becoming a booming mega-church and, who knows, it may yet happen! Interestingly, many of those who have come to the SF have done lots as evangelists and “teachers” and doctrinal “experts” etc before coming to SF and have found something even more precious in the fellowship than all that they thankfully experienced. So the issue is not one of size or levels of activity. Quality in growing up into the virtues of Christ is better than quantity and that is the SF focus and has always been the focus.

7. About the battles in the Church: Sometimes things do not work the way some strong minded or strong willed people want it to work. For instance, as a Catholic who hates the Pope and the Cardinals, you might find that for all your hollering nobody cares and the Pope and his Cardinals remain in power. That is the moment for you to humble yourself or leave the Catholic Church. All “errors” need not be publicly corrected as and when people demand it. It is God who corrects folly in His own time. Those who cannot wait for God and did not have the patience to see how God directs matters feel injured during the battles. You might love to have a “correction” ministry but there are more ways than one for things to get sorted out in such situations. The leadership of the SF came out of the battles sifted and with clarity. It is not one individual called Kare Smith. The leadership is many. All those who were unhappy left and technically they should now be happy. I guess not having their demands met and not getting their way in the Church left them unhappy and bitter for life. They were not satisfied with the leaders available. Let them find their own fellowships and the leaders they want to gather to themselves. God is merciful to those who are “outside” too.

8. I am going to sum up some of the points:
Leadership: People are happy with the Norwegian leadership, and those who are unhappy leave. No problem there. There is no “devotion” to them, as you put it twistedly, but there is high respect for these leaders and their service. Even the religious TV evangelists demand the same and receive it of their millions of followers. I am sure you are devoted to and highly respect your own “pastor”. It is the same among SF.
Sermons on Christian radio: In SF meetings many brothers speak and there is enough content to work with for a lifetime in every meeting. Most SFs are quite well established in the faith and do not need to gather teachers by the dozen to themselves or wander around listening to every Tom, Dick and Harry and their pop songs who appear on the horizon every now and then and on Christian Radio. But this is a matter of personal choice so let us not belabour the point.
On the “harlot”: As I said before, SF is not into the “correction” ministry. God’s Spirit is able to help understand what the “harlot” spirit is and to enable His soldiers to wage war against it. I repeat that other churches are not “harlots” but the church is authorized to wage war against the “harlot” spirit. If there are those who see other churches as harlots, there is patience among the SF to wait till they come to maturity and to wage spirit warfare and not the war of words.

9. In the end, PS, I find that you are interested in “proving your point” that SF has “cultistic tendencies”. So be it. People are free to believe what they want and propagate what they like and discuss and debate all manner of things. But then, again you have said many times that perhaps “things have changed” in SF. Yes, things do change and always for the better when a people are devoted to Jesus and to obeying His commandments and living a crucified life. All these issues disappear for such people. If you are such a person, may God bless you, and if you are not, there is still hope for you since Jesus died for you too. The truth is that all this criticism of the SF has been going on since its inception and God has only allowed the Church to grow in spite of fierce opposition and attacks from all sorts of people – malcontents, experts in theology, etc. If there is error at the heart of the SF be sure God will expose it but if what is being taught and done is of God, neither you nor anyone can do anything against it however deep your concerns are and however ardent your prayers and however widespread an “evil report” is brought about the SF.

It has been good to engage in this dialogue though and thank you for it. It brings me to increasing clarity on my faith and fellowship.

Given all your knowledge of Scripture and expertise and deep concern, I would direct you to Acts 5: 34-39.
34But a certain Pharisee in the council (Sanhedrin) named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, highly esteemed by all the people, standing up, ordered that the apostles be taken outside for a little while.

35Then he addressed them [the council, saying]: Men of Israel, take care in regard to what you propose to do concerning these men.

36For before our time there arose Theudas, asserting himself to be a person of importance, with whom a number of men allied themselves, about 400; but he was killed and all who had listened to and adhered to him were scattered and brought to nothing.

37And after this one rose up Judas the Galilean, [who led an uprising] during the time of the census, and drew away a popular following after him; he also perished and all his adherents were scattered.

38Now in the present case let me say to you, stand off (withdraw) from these men and let them alone. For if this doctrine or purpose or undertaking or movement is of human origin, it will fail (be overthrown and come to nothing);

39But if it is of God, you will not be able to stop or overthrow or destroy them; you might even be found fighting against God!

elf_asura said...

Keith: LOL - how I love your schoolmarmish ways. Yeah, but like you said. Let's take a break and come back in here. God bless as you teach Sunday School.

TheTruth said...

In regards to evangelism within Smith's Friends, in the last three years the group has put alot of emphasis on it. Especially in regards to raising funds.

It is often preached within Smith's Friends that Christ will not return until the true gospel, the gospel that is only preached at Smith's Friends is spread to the entire world.

With the above message, the emphasis has been placed on raising funds. This is done through several methods:

1) Brunstad feasts. These are held twice a year, one in Norway and one in another country. They are used to raised funds, as there is a collection world wide every Brunstad feast and the donations from each church are counted and tallied to show which country donated the most (Norway, Denmark / International etc). The "David Columns" are also counted at these events.

2) David Columns. It's basically a long column where you put coins (Different amount per country). The alleged purpose of David's columns is to raise money for "evangelism".

3) Loans. In the last 2 years, Kare Smith put alot of pressure on members of each individual church to take out personal loans from financial institutions to pay off the brunstad debt. He said that the overall debt of Brunstad is the responsibility of each member. For example, in my previous SF church, he said he did not consider it as a church, until the entire Brunstad debt was paid off. By doing this, many members taking Kare's word took large loans, mortgaged their houses to pay off this debt. It simply became a cult of greed. All you would hear in the meetings was about money, fundraising and money. Those who did not give as much as the leaders wanted, would often be compared to "snakes".

4) Fundraising. Another mechanism the group uses is mobilising young people in every church to either create companies or partake in wide spread fundraising. One example of how Kare Smith abuses this is the "A Team" or refered in norwegian as "A-Lag". This young youth are supposed to be fundraising for the church, but instead he redirects their efforts to working in his and his fellow associates companies. For example Horze, Finn-Tack etc.

The amount of deception is staggering, especially when it comes to finances as there is no accountability whatsoever.

No financial reports are released to members, yet alone audited financial reports.

Kare and the group committee do what they please, how they please and no questions can be asked.

Needless to say, their emphasis on evangelism is misguided. It is merely a stint to raise more money.

Keith said...

Yes, the parents do have contact with their daughter at this time. That's really all I feel comforatable revealing about the situation in a public forum. I hope you understand.

yukonbound2 said...

Keith and Others, I was not planning to reply, but after further thought I believe I should make some statements in response. I realize that many of you who have no history with the SFs may find some of this inane and even boring, but hopefully some points listed here will help Keith and his friends, and also provide food for thought for the SFs and ex-SFs who are keeping up with this thread.

1. The question remains, regarding the beliefs among the SFs: Was Jesus God while on the earth? Zac Poonen did not just make up what he wrote in the afore-mentioned pamphlet. Based on my experience, at the time , with the SFs - they taught that "God became man, and man became God" and they extrapolated further to say that Jesus was NOT God when He was born. This remains an irrefutable part of my experience with the SFs and I will not back down from it.

2. Romans 8:3 remains a sticking point, in terms of how to best EXPLAIN it in a way that doesn't seem blasphemous. So I'll leave that alone for now. Did Jesus commit unconscious sin (i.e. sin that he didnt know was sin at the time, and would later have had it revealed to Him - by God the Father - as sin?) There are those among the SFs who did in fact believe this. Perhaps not any more?

3. Membership in the Body of Christ - Back in my day, and even now, there are MANY who believe that the SFs and only the SFs are the body of Christ on the earth. Once again, I will not back down from this very real perspective that I picked up on in my time.

4. I'll skip this for now, it somewhat repeats what I already wrote above.

5. People should read whatever books they find encouraging for a genuine walk with the Lord. The problem, at the time with the SFs and perhaps currently - is that they openly DISCOURAGED and FORBADE the reading of "outside" literature and songs. It is one thing to say "I appreciate the SFs writings and that is all I read" and QUITE ANOTHER THING to discourage or forbid or look down upon those who read "outside" literature. Once again, current SFs cannot deny the legitimacy of my experience at the time. I have no reason to lie. I am not making this stuff up!

6. No I suppose that it is not my place to say how or when the SFs should evangelize. But the command to evangelize is very very clear in the New Testament, and my perception at the time was that this command was rarely - if ever - taught about and almost certainly not emphasized in public preaching or private interactions.

7. Error shoud be corrected, in any given church setting. Privately and publicly if needed. This is Scriptural. This is not up to the whim of the leadership, it is address in multiple new testament books and should not be just glossed over. Granted, correction of any sort is a problem in a LOT of churches, not just the SFs. But i obviously have been writing based on my specific experiences in the past with the SFs.

8. Devotion to Norway: was inappropriate in its scope and breadth - at the time. And may still be.

Christian Radio: I leave it for the readership of these comments to decide. I personally have found a lot of help from "outside" christian resources like radio, books, etc and find it ARROGANT that any thinking Christian would claim otherwise. Frankly, if any SF is SO SURE that all they need is what is in their own church group, then that is blatant and clear proof of a cultistic mindset.

9. The charge of cultistic tendencies is a serious one. I do not wield this charge lightly. Nothing that the current SFs have written here convinces me that they are able to take a truly objective look at their own group, and come to an insightful understanding of the group's cultistic tendencies.

But being objective is very challenging, especially for those who have spent years in a tradition. Even now, years later, it is not easy for me to think of the SFs objectively and I openly acknowledge that. There is always a mix of sadness, gratefulness, a temptation to bitterness, and love and appreciation. Out of all this, I seek the Lord for divine guidance and wisdom and understanding.

In closing, I would never RECOMMEND that anyone make this paritcular church group their home. Things may have changed since my time, but I have kept somewhat abreast of things and I know that there is still much that is concerning as demonstrated by this latest story from Oklahoma.

elf_asura said...

Keith, Yukonbound: In the end SF does not need the recommendations of someone like Yukon bound or Zac Poonen or any of these critics. Let them reform their own denominations or run their denominations perfectly.
It is obvious that such people could not contribute much during their lifetime to SF and had their share of frustrations and bitterness. They call it "sadness" but in the end it is about bitterness over being unable to getting their way or their will done in SF. Let them get their wills done elsewhere.
If they want to continue slandering or maligning or making "recommendations" as Yukon does, then they must also be prepared for counter-action. Given Yukon's recommendations and assertions, I sympathise with the sort of reactions some have already encountered from SF concerning the girl. Obviously, these slanderers do not not have time to evangelise but have enough time to criticise. In which case, whatever comes their way is well-deserved. The USA is a land in which legal recourse is available for issues relating to defamation and slander of both individuals and institutions. I would "recommend" that legal action might be the only way to make these slanderers desist and to turn them back to minding their own business instead of poking their nose in other's business. As a discussion forum, the conversation was worthwhile up to a point but, as I pointed out before, the witch-hunters are here with their "recommendations" and hence it is a pointless exercise in terms of building bridges or having a dialogue. It is best that from this point I disengage myself and let things go the way God allows it to go above and beyond the diatribe. Let me bid adieu with Psalm 69:7-9
which is the reality of SF.
7Because for Your sake I have borne taunt and reproach; confusion and shame have covered my face.

8I have become a stranger to my brethren, and an alien to my mother's children.(B)

9For zeal for Your house has eaten me up, and the reproaches and insults of those who reproach and insult You have fallen upon me.

Silvan Halo said...


do you think that such threats to legal action endear your church group to outsiders?

does it not give off even more of a sense that something is wrong, amiss. Maybe not cultish, but something seems really wrong here. Keith was legally threatened already by someone in your church, and now you are doing it too?

Harold said...

Wow, I have been following this but things are happening so fast I can’t seem to get a post in edgewise. But I think it’s time I gave my two cents worth.

Elf: I’m curious because your first posts to this blog sounded very anti-Christian and from your later posts you obviously are an insider with Smith’s Friends. But you never answered Keith’s question about your belief system. Why? You stated earlier that “There are no rational ‘proofs’ for anything in Christianity…”, yet now your whole persona changes to “why watch God channel when there is enough spiritual food within the SFs..”

And: “The genuineness of the SF lies in its commitment to the goal of radical transformation of every sinful person into the image of Jesus and patience with all who desire this.”

Also: “They (Smith’s Friends) plainly state the TRUTH in Romans 8:3 that God condemned sin in the flesh”

Why would you come out and bash Christians when you obviously profess to be one?

Regarding your comment on “undue influence”; yes, I believe in religious freedom. That is one of the foundations of this country. However, in this country, the public schools are supposed to be theologically neutral. The U.S. Supreme Court has made it very clear that it is unconstitutional for a teacher to use a public school classroom to introduce his religious beliefs. Aside from that, I have no problem if you want to introduce Nietzche to students. But if your name is Nietzche, and after graduating from your class a young female professes to become a Nietzchean and moves into your home when you know the parents disapprove, that crosses the line. Any moral teacher in this country would honor the parent’s relationship with their child and I don’t care how old the girl is. This girl may be of age but that does not diminish the responsibility of the teacher to uphold his moral integrity as an educator. There are two areas in the NEA (National Education Association) code of ethics that are relevant (ref: http://www.nea.org/aboutnea/code.html; emphasis is mine)

1. The educator recognizes the magnitude of the responsibility inherent in the teaching process. The desire for the respect and confidence of one's colleagues, of students, OF PARENTS, and of the members of the community provides the incentive to attain and maintain the highest possible degree of ethical conduct.

2. In fulfillment of the obligation to the student, the educator--Shall not use professional relationships with students for private advantage.

Elf, I agree that if the girl is of age she is free to decide where she wants to live. However, she can’t live in this man’s house if he doesn’t allow it. The issue, as I see it, is that what he is allowing (if not encouraging) her to do defines what he is. It is very easy to get off track on the fact that she is of age and can do what she wants. Some may try to reason that she had issues with her parents (my sources say this isn’t the case), but what about her siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents? All of her friends she ever had? The girl grew up in this town and there are many, many people who know her. She has been a part of many families through her friends, activities, and her church. My understanding is that she girl rejected all of these former relationships as soon as she started attending this “church”. This is one of the hallmark signs of a cult. It would be interesting to hear from some of the people who knew her and what their experience has been.

And while it may seem difficult to separate the theological and sociological aspects of this issue, it really isn’t. All cults use some form of fear or guilt to control their members. There are many scriptures in the Bible which can be misused to cause fear and guilt in people. Even educated and intelligent people fall for these scams. And as I have pointed out earlier, this kind of cultic relationship can work its way into any church or organization regardless of the theology. That is why I said before it is the behavior that defines this group as a cult, not necessarily their theology.

What is interesting in the diatribe from these recent posts is that they focus solely on theological aspects of this group and nobody has defended the behavior of this local fellowship. This discussion about Zac Poonen and Kare Smith may be interesting, and debating various theological topics can be fun and interesting, but here it only detracts from the real issue. One of the most useful tactics of satan is to get Christians into abstract theological debates and arguments among themselves so that they lose their focus on the real issues.

P.S.: I appreciate your series of posts very much. What you have stated confirms what I have heard from other former SF members. As with any large organization, there are varying degrees of conformance, so your experience may be widely different from others. I do believe, however, that the lack of formal training and oversight that seems to define SF leaders lends itself very nicely to being infiltrated by unscrupulous charlatans who can use this organization to give themselves an appearance of legitimacy while extorting and abusing their local fellowship.

And we must not forget what was mentioned earlier, that this girl may not be the only victim. My understanding is that there are other families who have been affected as well.

P.S./Elf/Truth: You people seem to be carrying around a lot of baggage from years of interactions and debates. While your insights are interesting to me, what we perceive from Smith’s Friends is defined by what we have observed from this local fellowship. That is deception, lies, secrets, and threats. So we have to fall back on what Daniel said in the beginning: “by their fruit you will recognize them”. Allow me to put an Okie spin on it this way: If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck….it’s probably a duck.

I would like to make another point about one of the comments from Elf. He quotes Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother…” We must contrast that with 1John 4:20-21 “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

So does the Bible contradict itself? I don’t think so. If Jesus really meant we should hate our parents then He would be contradicting the Ten Commandments. My research into this scripture suggests that Jesus was using a hyperbole to make the point that we should love Jesus more than anything or anyone. He comes first. It is a classic cult control tactic to focus on Luke 14:26 in order to separate members from their families and ignore 1John 4:20. And besides that, if SF really believed that we should hate our parents, why do they seem to maintain their large family groups? Shouldn’t their children hate their parents as well and separate from them? This is a good example of the twisted, double set of ethics that Dr. Singer referred to in order to define a cult.

yukonbound2 said...

Harold, Excellent post. If you have a little time, I'd like to email you privately. You can reach me at yukonbound2@gmail.com.

My primary focus, in my posts to date, have been to convey my experiences and perspectives as a former-insider. Hence, the focus on what the SFs taught theologically and some of the behaviors that I observed. Some of the behaviors that I talked about should give you (and others) enough to work with - as a starting point - in order to gain further understanding. It sounds like some of the behaviors that are currently occurring parallel things that I saw as well.

There was indeed a time where I struggled with bitterness and "baggage". I think that time for me has passed, and I am able to communicate about these matters in a fairly open and honest and bitterness-free manner. I hope so anyway.

TheTruth said...

I agree with very much what Harold has said.

In regards to how SF views relationships with family outside the group, my experience is the following:

1) It was often emphasized in "meetings" to break all bonds with those outside the group, especially family. The verse Matthew 12:48 where Jesus said "Who are my brothers, who is my mother?" was reguarly quoted to push this line. Also other verses such as "do not be yoked with unbelievers" etc.. Where often pushed to the forefront. With unbelievers being everyone who is not in the group.

2) The group emphasized that either your family were part of the church or that you completey forgot about them. Kare once said that if your son was to leave the church, then you must shut the door behind them. The basic teaching was that anyone who was not a member of the one true church, should be frowned upon, especially those who were members and left later.

The group put strong emphasis against earthly "family" relationships.

Keith said...

Harold: I don't have a lot time today, but I just wanted to say thanks to you for stepping back into the discussion. You make some excellent observations.

Elf, I too noticed the change in your tone/logic. It appears at first that you are portraying yourself as just a casual observer, having little or no ties to Christianity, SF, etc. Now we find that you have a VERY close assoction with SF--which is fine, but I think you've been somewhat deceptive with myself and others in this discussion.

Time to come clean: are you currently involved with a SF fellowship and do you have first-hand knowledge of the "Forstander" of the group we've been discussing? Also, you never really addressed my concerns with a church leader encouraging someone of ANY age to dishonor their parents.

Finally Elf, you took exception to some of the statements Zac Poonen made. Mr. Poonen provided citations from what appears to be documents readily available to SF members --not sure where we (outsiders) would go to obtain those. You countered, but did not explicitly provide any proofs from documented sources. Is Mr. Poonen making up these publications? If not, are they available in English? Where can we obtain them?

Silvan Halo said...

Yes, it would appear that elf_asura has been deceptive about his intentions. at first he was just someone interested in various threats about cults, about christianity, etc. I am glad that others have picked up on this.

The good thing about his contributions is they have provided somewhat of an internal perspective, and we can keep that in mind along with his blatant duplicity. Everything he has said, and now revealed, has further demonstrated that this is maybe a very weird church group at best and a maybe a cult at worst?

elf_asura said...

Harold, Keith:
1. I am willing to engage entirely honestly with you. First, let me apologise for my methodology. I like to act as agent provocateur and devil's advocate. My initial "attack" on Christianity was a rhetorical device to see if there is a certain intellectual integrity and honesty on the blog. I have noticed that you and Harold have the integrity. So let me apologise for what seems to be "deception" but was only a method to see the level of engagement. I did this because I wanted to be sure that I was not entering into discussion into a space like that despicable Google group. I have also noticed Keith that you have a good sense for moderation and I deeply respect Harold's approach and am keen to continue but I have no time to waste with the usual SF-baiters given their bitterness.
2. I would rather that the "accusers" provide the evidence, the documentation that Zac Poonen refers to. The onus is on the accuser to prove the crime. As 2Bnot2B said, the principle is "innocent until proven guilty". Why do they keep citing "anecdotal evidence"? Just as I used one rhetorical method to provoke and take this thread further, they resort to another method which is that of rumour mongering and anecdotes that are non-evidential. They keep stating "I heard this and I heard that in this year or that ... blah blah blah". Then to prove their generalities, they point us to Zac Poonen's site. Don't you see the prevarication in this methodology? The objective over two decades has been to spread evil rumors about SF and to attack them SF with hearsay. Let the "accusers" put out the documentation. They will be having the materials if, as they claim, they belonged to SF once. Let them bring out evidence instead of bearing "false witness" as happened in the temple when they brought Jesus in when these maligners said "We heard him say this and that". How well they follow in those footsteps!
3. I have been a "friend" (remember that Smith's Friends is the term used by those who have hated this fellowship from the early 20th century) for a long time of these churches and the things I have stated are plain and true about them. The association has been long. I also have many many Christian friends, including leaders of other churches, who are "intelligent" and understand what we speak and live and seek to do. So it amuses me when I find these "slanderers" at work.
I will reply to Harold's points later, if you accept my position as it stands and my apology for that rhetorical flourish at the beginning. But let it also be clear, that I give no quarter to those who have made it their mission in life to destroy the SF by slandering and maligning but I am willing to engage in intellectual discussion with those who that mettle and are not bogged down by baggage of bitternesses.

2b2bnot said...

Hi Keith,

At the onset, I must say that I can understand the concerns voiced by the girl’s family and their friends. I hope and trust that the reality of SF in your locality is different from their “fears” extrapolated from their “impression” and “experiences” thus far. I am not saying that you are lying about SF but rather as you yourselves admit, there is ample scope in such matters to misunderstand the reality. Even if one can rightly assume the worst, we can avoid bitterness and trust that warm hearts can thaw coldness and indifference and in due time, restore bridges that may have been burnt in the “heat of the battle”.

But now, to my more important points: I myself am familiar with some sections of the SF for some years now. I make the following points based on my observations. I am not sure if others who have been or are associated with SF will agree with them.

The demographics of SF historically comprises mostly “simple” folk. Increasingly, the SF members are getting higher education. However, there is still an aversion to theological discussions.
This fear may be irrational. However, so is my fear of floating on my back on water, which even an average swimmer will find rather amusing. My personal sense is that here, we must give folks the freedom to have their own “phobias”. In time, this may change. SF members in the past generally did not own TVs etc. But their “TV-phobia” seems to have waned. So might their phobia of apologetics. Who knows? Yet, I believe that there are many minds in history that have arguably been led astray by their thinking and have at the very least “wasted time”, if not “lost their salvation”. I dont understand

Yet, there are some who associate with SF, who either thru their background (which may have been outside of SF to begin with) or their intellectual disposition, have less of a fear to discuss theology. But even they will likely engage in it, only if minds are “open”, hearts “warm”, and time (& coffee/iced tea) is “plentiful”.

Is SF organized? The SF movement evolves just as any organization may and does. Lately, there is more organization as far as practical matters are concerned. As Harold pointed out, SF’s “impressive” facilities cannot be run without that. However, its organization may still be much less than that of other mainstream Christian churches. The degree of organization also widely varies between fellowships, and is dependent on the local needs.

Statement of faith: SF’s statement of faith (as far as I know, there is one) may be obtainable from the relevant government agencies with which local churches of SF may have registered for tax/other purposes as a non-profit organization. I am not sure of the laws regarding obtaining such documentation in your jurisdiction.

I think the SF in Norway is coming under a lot more of public attention. Natural, considering its size and presence there. There may be a lot of material online from the impartial (yes, to whatever degree that is true) Norwegian press. If they are only in Norwegian, hopefully, you can find some good Norwegian translation tools online. I myself remember seeing such an article sometime ago, but I don’t remember where.

Do SF members tend to spend a lot of time with each other rather than with the rest of society? Possibly. However as anyone can appreciate, for parents with children, time is severely on demand. They may not be able to participate in their societies as much as they would otherwise. But if parents are able to raise hard-working, law-abiding citizens, they are making an invaluable contribution to that society. I am sure you will agree.

Is there a fear to interact with others? I am not aware of any SF members that has said that to me. However, our resources are limited and have many conflicting demands on it. So each one is free to spend their time, energy and money on activities that he/she thinks is most helpful to attain their goals. Many SF members think that time spent together with like-minded disciples of Christ keeps them focused on their heavenly goal. Can’t we allow “birds of the same feather [to] flock together? I think we can. I know SF members who would love to have their neighbors over for barbecue/tea, but somehow just don’t manage to find the time for it easily. I also know those who chat with their neighbors for long times, while at bus stops with their children.

Its possible that in “times of battle”, blows are hit that are below the belt. Maybe there is some value in “reaching out” again. The immediate family may find that harder. However, it is good that they have friends who can try again, with optimism. I trust that the local SF chapter will also see the value in clearing its “reputation”.

yukonbound2 said...

Excellent responses from elf and 2b2bnot.

2b2bnot - could you clarify the level of your current involvement with the SF? Are you a regular member, or just an occasional visitor-participant?

At the time that ZPoonen wrote that article about the SFs (1997), the SF never disputed the actual citations and books that he quoted (to my knowledge). So it would seem that he did not just make up those quotes. Those who have all the literature could go to the trouble of verifying, if they wanted. I personally don't have most of the literature any longer. But I think it's safe to assume, based on the SF not disputing those citations at the time, that ZPoonen quoted them straight from the texts?

To get back to some of Harold's points. A few of us here have discussed a fair amount of so-called "theology". Are Harold or Keith at liberty to further discuss the actual BEHAVIORS that you have observed in the Oklahoma situation? Meaning, be more specific than you have been - if possible? And of course, there are BEHAVIORS associated with this group that are more than just locally-based but indeed part of the worldwide system. I have alluded to some of these in my previous posts.

I know personally that SFs vary from region to region, around the world. This has led to some individuals moving to other parts of the country or the world, sot that they could remain in the SFs without having to deal with the arrogant troublemakers in a particular locale.

Some churches among them, and some individuals among them are much more narrow minded than others. And hence much more difficult to work with. Even WITHIN the SFs these people have often caused much trouble and heartache that was UNneeded.

Elf keeps talking about bitterness. As I already wrote, I don't deny that there is a struggle in this regard. But I would also point out the "bitterness" and indeed "anger" that seems to emanate from some of the posts here - and at the google group - from CURRENT sfs who cannot seem to tolerate ANY genuine and well-intentioned criticism of their group. This reminds me of the old days when their leaders and non-leaders would talk about those who had left; words like "bitterness", "harlot", "envious" were all that those people would use when discussing those who'd left.

That's some questionable behavior, no?


elf_asura said...

Yukon - Every point of Zac Poonen's was refuted in the circles it needed to be refuted in print. However, it has never been SF's desire to malign him even as he and his followers like you choose to do. So there is no need to print the refutation of each of those points here. I say again that it is those who malign and slander who need to produce hard evidence and not their whiny little sob stories and hearsay.
Harold, Keith: Note that these SF-baiters really never dare to put out any materials but only go on rumor-mongering or making claims about something they "heard" or some "personal experience".
I rest my case and won't waste my time on these "fairy tales" in defense of Zac Poonen.
By the way, I was not threatening legal action but stating unambiguously that I have no sympathy for witch-hunters and that when they push too hard, it wouold only be just if they met with an adequate response, even legal action. :-)

elf_asura said...

Keith: You said: "Time to come clean: are you currently involved with a SF fellowship and do you have first-hand knowledge of the "Forstander" of the group we've been discussing? Also, you never really addressed my concerns with a church leader encouraging someone of ANY age to dishonor their parents."
1. I am directly involved with SF fellowships.
2. I have no first-hand knowledge of the group we are discussing but I have friends who know the group very closely.
3. On the parents issue, let me look at it three different ways:
a. You firstly put too much premium on "honoring of parents" in a time and a land where teens get pregnant every second and teens are killed in school shoot-outs and you have a military-industrial complex that is responsible for the death of millions of innocents across the world - from Vietnam through Granada to Iraq. What you really desire is that in the midst of this uncleanness and madness that is America, children must blindly obey and live by what their parents taught them (even notions about their DENOMINATIONAL faith)after they come of age!!!! I do not expect or demand that either secular or "christian" children of age honor (blindly obey) their parents the way you think it ought to be. Ever since Elvis Presley, this is a fundamental reality you cannot change in America, that young people have become free from their parent's inordinate demands to control their lives. I respect that freedom.
b. But let us look at it another way. In India, many have to pay a price to be Christian. This includes dis-honouring and dis-obeying and moving away from the faith and traditions and empty rituals and congregrations of their parents. Many Hindu and Muslim children pay this price for following Jesus and they obey His injunction that "whoever loves (to obey) his father, mother, brother, sister, wife, children and his own (self) life more than me IS NOT WORTHY OF ME." I beleive that this Scripture is as valid today as the more usually conveniently quoted verse to "honor your parents".
I extend this situation also to the large majority of Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians - many of the children in these denominations are moving out today to born-again, discipleship-based, emergent or radically pentecostal, New Age or "any other color" fellowships and they too "dishonour" their parents in your view. This is something that worries many "oldies" and so I understand your pain and confusion Keith. However, you cannot stop this wind blowing across the world and across the United States. Some of the wind is the Holy Spirit and some winds we have to wait and see where and how it blows. For instance, you cannot stop Rob Bell and I see the witch-hunters gunning for him already!!! You may fear Jonestowns are around the corner but that is not going to stop the new movements or the many mushrooming groups. Accept the reality.
3. God has allowed the SF to survive for over a century and grow steadily and slowly. It is a self-sufficient, evolving movement which is grounded in its living faith that one (even the worst sinner) can learn to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and be knit together with others who have that same goal and hope in deep living daily fellowship.
SF has always faced criticism but has grown despite its critics and enemies. This is God's work, indeed it is a work of Jesus Himself. Now, in SF, we preach and teach steadfastly the conditions of discipleship mentioned in Luke 14:25-33. Those who are with us are those who have understood these conditions.
There are also those in the world who have cut this Scripture out of their Bibles or "explained" it into ineffectiveness. But God helps us to preach it in season and out of season.
However, this does not mean that children should "dishonor" their parents. It means children (especially those of age) need not obey parents in matters of faith. For instance, some parents may get upset if their child wants to go on the China Mission and instead wish a successful life as an engineer for the same. It is my position that the child has every right to "dishonor" (lay aside) the parent's suggestions and go by the leading of the Lord and His Spirit. I do not say this lightly though. Where I have been, the parents of those who have joined us (from other Christian denominations and in the face of similar opposition) know that their children love them and will help them in their need but yet that they will not change their belief systems for the parents' sake. Most of our parents (I have excellent relationships with my parents who are Orthodox) know that we love them and always help them but they are also aware that we will not change our belief system and follow theirs.
This is exactly what the girl ought to demonstrate. There will be an inflexibility on "matters of faith" but flexibility and love for parents in other matters. However, what sometimes happens is the parents think they know it all, they have the 'right" faith etc and they end up confronting and condemning the child. Why be amazed then if the child chooses to walk away? I have seen this happen too. I have seen that people from the orthodox or evangelical faiths think that ONLY THEY HAVE THE TRUTH and they are inflexible when it comes to their children. :-) Why be surprised if the SF is also as inflexible on issues of faith? Qid pro quo.
As an aside: Yukon claims that he is well-intentioned. His intention is, of course, that people keep away from SF and that the SF "corrects" itself. This means that he knows what is BEST for SF!!! It doesn't work that way. Show some respect Yukon, nobody is going to change just because you demand it. Who are you anyway? The Pope? The government? What is your authority? It is an authority that I do not care about and neither does the SF. For it is the emptiness of just another critic and not one who wants to be friends! Friendship with conditionalities attached is a sword that cuts both ways, remember. Ciao.

2b2bnot said...

yes, i am a regular participant in SF.

yukonbound2 said...

Hahahaha. LOL. I burst out laughing at elf's last paragraph about my intentions. Funny guy.

okay. I'll check back in later. Hope everyone is having a good saturday!

Silvan Halo said...

Come on, Yukon. Get real.

2b2bnot gave an excellent response, but Elf's defense of himself and his shifty agendas was NOT at all excellent. He tried to cover for himself, but failed miserably.

His personas shifted from nonchristian to person interested in cults and then fullblown angry and ardent SF defender. If we give him a few more days, he will probably become neutral, and after yet a few more days he will be yet another "bitter" SF ATTACKER! LOL!

Contrast his responses to a seemingly more mature and humble SF like Daniel Strubhar who commented but then went quiet.

I would imagine that any of the SF higher-ups, who probably aren't allowed to respond here, are saddened by elf's clear immaturity and his fast-growing lack of credibility, and the subsequent shame and pity that is resulting for himself and his very weird church group.

So please, let's not any of us pretend like Elf gave a good response for his shifty and manipulative tactics. Maybe this echoes what the Oklahoma group has been doing?

Behavior. Actions speak louder than words. Look at elf's actions that accompanied his words. Look at the Oklahoma groups ACTIONS.

yukonbound2 said...

Back for more. Looks like Elf was not really quite able to bid Adieu after all, eh?

Here I will respond to this post of his:

"Every point of Zac Poonen's was refuted in the circles it needed to be refuted in print. However, it has never been SF's desire to malign him even as he and his followers like you choose to do. So there is no need to print the refutation of each of those points here. I say again that it is those who malign and slander who need to produce hard evidence and not their whiny little sob stories and hearsay."

You notice here that Elf still does not dispute the veracity of the ACTUAL QUOTES that ZP printed in his 1997 expose. Can he or ANYONE among the SFs can do so? Doubtful, since ZP, to my knowledge, printed exact and precise quotes.

If the SFs had a worthwhile response, then why only circulate it to "those who it needed to be" - translation: internally among the SFs only, and perhaps a few select outsiders.

As I understand it, ZP partly wrote his article bvecause the SFs had BEGUN VERY MUCH to malign him and slander him, to speak against him, label him a "Diotrophes", etc - he alludes to this in the article.

From my memory, I remember hearing MANY among the SFs directly speak against ZP - before he wrote the article.

Let Elf or any of the current SFs provide written documentation that responds to ZPs article, since they seem to be so completely provoked and bothered by what ZP wrote. Why will they not do that? Perhaps because there is no true response to be given, or because they don't have permission from their SF leaders to provide such written responses?

Harold, Keith: Note that these SF-baiters really never dare to put out any materials but only go on rumor-mongering or making claims about something they "heard" or some "personal experience".
I rest my case and won't waste my time on these "fairy tales" in defense of Zac Poonen.

Elf and others, I already stated that I no longer have my stash of literature. There are others who are reading here who still have all their literature - it is up to one of them to provide whatever elf is asking for. Elf himself probably could, but it seems it is beneath him? LET HIM OR ANYONE ELSE DISPROVE THE VERACITY OF THE ACTUAL QUOTES THAT POONEN PRINTED? What is so hard about that?

By the way, I was not threatening legal action but stating unambiguously that I have no sympathy for witch-hunters and that when they push too hard, it wouold only be just if they met with an adequate response, even legal action. :-)"

What are you, Elf - the Pope? LOL :-)

Keith said...

Simple questions:
1) Which of the quotes from Christ Manifest In The Flesh (1st English edition, 1973) are incorrect? If so, how and why?

2) Is it not true that Bratlie's book, The Bride And The Harlot (U.S.edition of March 1977, Page 89, last paragraph), states concerning Jesus: "God became man and man became God".

I don't want to sound harsh, but I couldn't care less about any hostilities between you, Mr. Poonen, TheTruth, or YukonBound2. I can appreciate that you have had nothing but pleasant experiences during your association with SF; obviously others have not. Your experiences do not negate theirs any more than theirs negate yours.

What I DO care about is that I have a friend whose daughter has been duped into dishonoring her parents by a man that claims to be a Godly leader of a "church." This same man apparently used some of your "methodology" (to use your term) to gain this girl's confidence. We call that "sneakin' in the back door" around here...and we really don't like it.

This man has acted selfishly, totally ignoring the wishes/pleas of the girl's parents to leave their daughter alone--hiding behind the "she's of age" line. He took advantage of the girl's naïveté and he knows it. He planned it that way. It's his MO.


I stepped away for awhile and noticed you had posted again. I'm pressed for time this evening, but I'll say one thing: things are done differently here in the USA. Some of your logic regarding the "honoring of parents" doesn't work here...at all. Especially for Bible believers in our area. I'm sorry things aren't that way in your neck of the woods.

More later.

Keith said...

Elf stated: "You firstly put too much premium on "honoring of parents" in a time and a land where teens get pregnant every second and teens are killed in school shoot-outs..."

There you have it folks. We should give up--it's just not worth fighting for.

elf_asura said...

Put those exact quotes of Zac Poonen's that you claim you have up here and I will put up my response directly.
I love this cat and mouse game.
But I still think the onus is on the "accusers" in this forum to put the evidence up. So put it up, Keith.
Your duplicity is also evident. Put it up and I will show you some things that will amaze you!!!
This has nothing to do with Zac Poonen, honestly. What do I care about him or an acolyte like Yukon (how he defends the man with passion LoL).
The issue is that you now claim to have some materials that you claim prove that the SF has horns and tails, Keith, when all the while you were playing the innocent "please show me some proof" game. Or perhaps the Poonen acolyte Yukon or someone like him has been feeding you stuff privately by email. But now that you have it, put it up here please! The onus in fact has shifted from the SF-baiters to you to do that! I promise a very interesting response.
And thankfully, things ARE different in our neck of woods unlike in the narrow-minded "bible belt", Keith. The world is a bigger place than you know and offers many more choices than you think to young people today. Did you get upset because I mentioned how it truly is in America? Thank God for the young people who dare to question the older generation!!!
Have a great weekend and I really do not wish you any evil!! :-)
Yukon: Which quotes are you raving about? Put them up here my friend. Too bad you are crying "time out". Beg borrow or steal the quotes from your accomplices because you ought to put them up here to prove your point and the omnipotence of Zac Poonen. :-)
And don't worry this blog has been archived for posterity's sake!! Because it has been a tremendous and illuminating conversation. Thank you all.

yukonbound2 said...

We all keep referencing Poonen's article about the SFs, and the quotes that he provided there from the writings of various SF leaders. Perhaps Elf, or another current SF, could provide a response to the points listed under the following headings.

Their Teachings. (points 1-8. It would be good to ESPECIALLY hear responses to the direct quotes that ZP posted from the various writings of the SFs).


Their Present State.

As a closing remark, I have consistently found - since 1997 - that current SFs are very much bothered and agitated by Poonen's article. This falls in line with the general response that I continually found among them - anger, botheration, agitation, and bitterness towards those who questioned them and/or chose to leave them.

elf_asura said...

Yukon: Right from the start I said this is not about referencing Poonen's article. So it's not "we". It's "you". Those for whom Zac Poonen is Bible Truth reference him, for us he is a non-reference. Nobody's agitated. I am just amused and indulging in a good old Sophists vs Critics bout.

yukonbound2 said...

Elf, my friend aka "The Pope." - Just kidding! Lol.

poonen's remarks about SPECIFIC BOOK REFERENCES are either accurate or they are not.

break it down for us. :-)

hgdreger said...

I noticed several people asked were they could get literature from in English. Not everything is translated from Norwegian, but the vast majority is. You can contact:
Hidden Treasures Publications, P.O. Box 2846, Winnipeg, MB Canada. R3C 4B4. Email: admin@hiddentreasures.org
If you contact them by email, they can send you a price list of everything available. Most local churches also have some in stock.
Hope this helps!

yukonbound2 said...

bear in mind, hgdreger, and others -
the current publications may or may not line up with some of the older versions of these same publications. if someone is interested to really go find those older versions, that'll take some serious digging.

it would be simpler if a current SF who has access to those older versions could simply verify some of ZP's textual quotes.

elf_asura said...

Yukon: Just like it will take a lot of digging to get Zac Poonen's book RADIATING HIS GLORY, the original? :-)

Keith said...

Elf: You are obviously NOT reading this thread. You appear to be scanning, looking for points to make or attack.

You stated: "Put those exact quotes of Zac Poonen's that you claim you have up here" I DID!!! They are in the link --FIRST ONE-- in the ORIGINAL POST!

You stated: "The issue is that you now claim to have some materials..." AGAIN, you are wrong. I did not say I have materials. The ONLY material I have is what I have ALREADY LINKED in the original post and/or links that have been provided by posters like yourself! In fact, YOU provided the link for the Brunstad.org link that is now part of the original post!

You stated: "The world is a bigger place than you know and offers many more choices than you think to young people today." I don't live all over the world. I live where I live--where we have traditions/beliefs that are characteristic of the area in which we live...just like you and everybody else that posts here. You speak of the "Bible belt" with such disdain. Have you ever been here?

You stated: "And don't worry this blog has been archived for posterity's sake!! A veiled threat? Why would anyone care what we say here 1 month, 1 year or 10 years from now?!

You stated: "I promise a very interesting response." Believe me, you've done that on more than one occasion already. You can say it's not about Mr. Poonen 'until the cows come home' (I hope you don't find that phrase offensive, your being from India), but your anger and disdain for him is very obvious. I'm getting the impression that he's been more effective than SF would like--not that they'd actually like it in the first place.

BTW, I've never met Mr. Poonen, never read anything of his other than the linked article (remember that one?). What I really find interesting is the Poonen article is actually hosted on a website belonging to a Friedrich Griess. Mr. Griess apparently has also had some negative dealings with SF, yet no one here has spoken of him or his situation. You're not reading very carefully, I assume, or you would have picked up on that right away.

As I've already stated--more than one and in various ways-- I really don't care how they do things in Canada, India, or Fort Smith Arkansas (yeah, I've hear from SF/sympathizers there, too). My concern is with what is going on HERE--in my town with THIS particular group of SF. I'm telling you, they are rouges...at I least I truly hope that is the case here.

Elf, I've been absolutely truthful regarding EVERYTHING I've said here – unlike yourself. If I had books/materials/etc., I would have come right out and said so. Everything I know about SF in my area comes from first-hand conversations with individuals involved or directly effected by their past and recent activity. I've made no bones about my faith, my denomination, where I live, etc AND, just in case you missed it as you did the aforementioned links: I am a God loving, God fearing, saved by grace, card-carrying, Bible thumping, 50-year-old, husband of one, father of two, reformed thinking, Southern Baptist. I also like the St. Louis Cardinals, just in case you're interested. You've read my blog—this post anyway. You can read anything else you like about me here. You have not been that honest from the start…and you represent SF? That's sad.

I accept your apology, but you have certainly helped solidify my opinion all the more. What else are you holding back? A better question: what things are the local group in my town "holding back?" It's a scary thought to me---here in the awful Bible Belt.

I look forward to your continued posts.

elf_asura said...

Keith: I really appreciate your sense of humor and bearing with me and my peccaddiloes. No, I don't get offended with phrases like until the cows come home - cos I don't believe in "holy cows" of any sort even if many parents and holy men and traditionalists believe in them! I also accept your parochial approach to issues. It is natural.
Your post has made me also realise that you are honest. Thanks for pointing out that the ONLY materials you are relying on are that Poonen link and of course your unfortunate relationships with the SF in your area.
Now, there is only one thing I want to know - are we going to enter into a theological discussion or a behavioural discussion. If it's theology, you can be certain that you and I will not meet eye to eye. On behaviour, yes, we can speak about it.
So will you clarify as to which direction you want the discussion to go in?
Forgive me, but part of the problem with people like me is truly this - that one quickly scans and responds to posts. That is the world I live in - fastpaced, postmodern and multi-tasked.
More later.

Harold said...

You know, I really don’t care what Zac Poonen wrote. He wrote about his observations some 10 years ago. His opinion may be useful background information but he doesn’t determine what I think here and now. It’s just his opinion. If he’s wrong then SF should prove him wrong by their lifestyle and his opinion will amount to nothing in the end.

Elf has said several things that I would like to address.

1.”this is a fundamental reality you cannot change in America, that young people have become free from their parent's inordinate demands to control their lives. I respect that freedom.”
2.”It means children (especially those of age) need not obey parents in matters of faith.”
3.”Did you get upset because I mentioned how it truly is in America? Thank God for the young people who dare to question the older generation!!!”

You seem to think you know everything there is to know about the good ol’ U.S. of A. And the underlying theme of your comments is that the parents are to blame for this particular situation here in this community. That American parents, in general, are overbearing and demand strict obedience from their children. How arrogant. You don’t know these people. That’s like me claiming that I know everything about India because I watched the movie ‘Gandhi’.

And by the way the Bible does not put any age limits on parents or children. It doesn’t say honor your parents until you’re “of age”.

Let me ask another question. Is this what you taught your own children (I assume you have children of your own.)? Did you teach them that your rules were actually inordinate demands intended to control their lives, and that they should rebel as soon as they became “of age”? I can’t see any parent from any culture anywhere in the world that would teach their own children these things.

The idea presented here is that SF is giving refuge to children who are escaping from their overbearing and protective parents. How does Elf or 2b2bnot explain the words from their song book, Hymn #370: Verse 3

Evil spirits round us hover,
Seeking entrance to our mind,
They shall know us and discover
They no place within can find.
Friends and family use persuasion;
Comfort for the flesh have they.
Bolt the door! Resist temptation!
All such comfort drive away!

These words seem to equate friends and family with evil spirits. The comfort that we find in friends and family are evil and we must flee from this evil. I have to ask again, why do the SF seem to maintain large family groups given this kind of teaching?

2b2bnot: I have to make a point about your post.

“Many SF members think that time spent together with like-minded disciples of Christ keeps them focused on their heavenly goal. Can’t we allow “birds of the same feather [to] flock together”?

You profess to be a believer in Christ, so do I. The girl grew up attending, and her family still attends a very respected Bible believing church. So what is it that we are not “like-minded” about? What are these “birds of the same feather”? One of the things that I appreciate about our community, here in the heart of the Bible belt, is that there seems to be a great deal of cooperative spirit among the Bible based evangelical churches. Methodist, Assembly of God, Baptist, Church of Christ, and others. I know personally several young people that float between youth groups in different churches. Yes, I have my home church but I do associate with, and have close friends, in some of these other church fellowships as well, including the Catholic Church. If the SF fellowships have to isolate themselves from society in order to maintain their focus on heavenly goals then their faith must be very small.

This reference to like-mindedness is a tool used to isolate SF members from the rest of society in order to maintain control. This is typical cult behavior. Allow me to repeat the words of Dr. Singer:

“Cults tend to be totalistic, or all-encompassing, in controlling their members’ behavior and also ideologically totalistic, exhibiting zealotry and extremism in their worldview. Many cults put great pressure on new members to leave their families, friends, and jobs to become immersed in the group’s major purpose. This isolation tactic is one of the cult’s most common mechanisms of control and enforced dependency.”

If this local SF fellowship is not a cult, then why do they behave like one? What I have heard from Elf and 2b2bnot confirms for me that the overall teaching from SF was, is, and continues to be consistent with most religious cult groups. And the most concerning thing of all is that this local SF leader is using a public school classroom and my tax dollars to deceive young people and turn them against their own unsuspecting families.

elf_asura said...

Harold: Glad you're back in action.
1. I accept your statement that "If he’s (Zac)is wrong then SF should prove him wrong by their lifestyle and his opinion will amount to nothing in the end." I respect the behaviour tack you are on. On theology, we can argue till Kingdom Come. But I endorse your position with reservations which I will cite below.
2. Strangely enough, I know pretty much about the United States, in fact much more than Americans who have seen "Gandhi" know about India!! I mean we Indians are everywhere but not killing innocent children for oil! I also understand what you mean about community. It's akin to my grandfather's backwoods community trying to defend itself against the onslaught of modernity and the independence of youth!! I am amused that people find it hard to acknowledge this reality even when it bonks them in the face. In fact, that "grandfatherly generation" and you would have made good friends sitting on the porch and bemoaning how everything is changing too fast and kids are rebellious disobedient to parents and being seduced by this and that and how it's all going to hell! But that's a wider picture perhaps your community is fending itself against and reacting to and I appreciate that.
3. About my children, it's simple. I would be concerned if my child went to an "unknown" group with a "bad reputation". :-) But trust me, my home has always and will always be open to my child and her "weird" friends. In fact, that is precisely what I do with my kids even now. All their friends - and some of them like my eldest daughters college friends who are really "with it" and " extremely worldly" and "dangerous" - are welcome in my home and I have become their "friend". I make it a point to also make friends with the parents and some of the other "friends" of my children's friends. So there are bridges being built all the time. I also trust God that all this "extra and careful effort" will not be "in vain". :-)
4."These words seem to equate friends and family with evil spirits. " Sorry, that is a connection your mind is making and it is not what SF believes. The two parts of that verse, first four lines and second four lines, are separate. Of course, it depends on "how your eye sees it". Friends and families are not "evil spirits" but they do try to "persuade" people to stay away from the Gospel we preach and our fellowship, don't they!!! "It was so comfortable and good at home for you wasn't it? - we always cared for you and did all things for you - is this how you repay us? - what you believe in is utter trash and evil - how could you leave all that we invested into you? - don't you love us and don't you want to repay us for our love to you? " I can hear all these questions and statements pop up. It is this kind of "persuasion" that we learn to resist. Unfortunately, when someone sticks by their "conviction", these "loving" people only get more and more angry and upset and attack both the group and the one who has joined it. Noticed this behaviour, Harold? Why does that happen?
5. Do you know that not everybody in SF families, in terms of children, is in the Church? Many youth have taken their own path or joined other churches. If you travelled through the fellowships, you would find that these families undergo the same "anguish" you are going through and yet have a faith in Jesus that the children will return to their parent's faith and fellowship! But such "departures" into the world or other churches are also "accepted" in a sense by these families without all this "noise" that is being made.
6. I too have friends in other churches and even among Catholics. But they are "intelligent" friends who have taken the bother to understand us and become friends with us instead of being among those carping critics and those who want to brand us a cult and malign us. How fortunate I am! Nor are they upset that I don't associate myself too closely with their "churchy" activities!!!! I guess I am not a threat to their doctrines or activities or their children. But I can also tell you, they won't have much of a problem if their children came to us because we are "friends"!! These children would be seen to be loving and helping and caring for their parents on all matters except the faith and activities they are involved in within SF. For instance, if this child's parents were going to a meeting in their evangelical church at 9 am and it coincided with a meeting in SF, they would choose the SF meeting. Again even if the times did not coincide, they may not bother to go to the parent's church simply because they receive adequate spiritual food in SF and don't need to go church or youth fellowship-hopping as many others do!!! You have an objection to that? Why?
7. You seem to love to quote Dr Singer as your final authority just like some others here cite Poonen. Who the heck is this guy? I'd like to read his books (that's an aside).
8. SF doesn't isolate itself. Intolerant and unaccepting people like you condemn and "isolate" SF. Understand this!!
Warmest regards though.

elf_asura said...

Harold: One more question.
Can you or Keith or anyone out here list out the "dos and donts" for children that will enable them to prove that they "honor" their parents according to this Scripture you go on endlessly citing?
It would help everyone around if you did this and make the discussion more lively.

Penguin41 said...

I have been reading these pages for some time and felt impelled to post a comment.
I am not sure as to why you think Keith or Harold or any of the ones posting here should respond or engage you in further discussion now. As far as I am concerned, it is because they have much more integrity than what your posts have indicated about you, that they are even bothering to take time to respond to you. In one of your recent posts, you tell Keith, “Your post has made me also realise that you are honest.” Sad to say, the same cannot be said of you. You seem to value honesty in others and yet you misrepresented yourself on here and you would have continued on with the misrepresentation if others here had not caught on to it. And you value honesty?

You have also stated that you scan posts without reading them closely and yet you still manage to respond and hurl insults at the people posting here. Why bother to respond when you are not reading closely? If you do not have the time, then please do not waste the time of others as well by posting and expecting the others to read through your verbiage. Or do you want the others to do the same with your posts as well? Scan and then hurl insults? You want the others here (those who are actively contributing and those who are reading the discussion) to learn more about the church being discussed in this thread and get to know its people before making assumptions about the group and yet are you showing the same patience with the others here? You have called the ones here who seem to have a genuine desire to learn more about the church at discussion as “narrow-minded” and equated their community to a “backwoods community.” You said you will be archiving this page as this discussion has been an “illuminating conversation”. I am sure many others will be illuminated as well when they go back and read through this whole discussion. The words that I associate now with your posts are: deception, arrogance, ignorance, mean-spirited. If you want these qualities to be a representation of the church you have finally admitted to representing, then carry on as you are carrying on now in these discussions.

“Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” [Colossians 3:12]
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” [Colossians 4:5, 6]

elf_asura said...

A Penguin quoting Scripture?
Well, well, well ....It's up to you to call me whatever ...I am not offended cos I am not any of what you just tried to "insult" me with. Thank you my friend. Just avoid reading my posts.

Keith said...

Diving right in:

1) re: a theological discussion, I sensed we are/were at an impasse from the beginning. I don’t claim to be a Bible expert, but I have been a student of the Word for many years. I own a respectable number of reference works and spend many hours each week in study. I teach an Adult Sunday School class at a church that puts a very high importance on Biblical knowledge, certain methods of exegesis/systematic theology, etc. Teachers are meticulously screened and must agree with specific doctrinal beliefs held, not only by the leadership (i.e. pastors/elders), but by those in the vein historically held by men such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, C. H. Spurgeon, and more currently R. C. Sproul, Albert Mohler, Tom Nettles and John MacArthur. We do NOT uphold these men’s writings as inspired, but we do look to them as Biblically solid models of accurate interpretation and application of Scripture.

Conversely, I note that SF seems to take pride in the fact that many of their church leaders are uneducated. (“They do not necessarily have an educational background in the theology.” Source: brunstad.org – Church Leaders and Overseers)

The same page cited above also states: “…we have no central management or administration.” To sum up this point, therein, I believe, lies the problem. You have an un-organized group, based on the beliefs of a SINGLE MAN (Johan Oscar Smith.), lead by men (I assume) with little or no formal training in Hebrew, Greek or other historically accepted methods or documents outside their own group. It makes things quite convenient and dangerous in my opinion.

SO…you are correct. A theological discussion would probably be a waste of time. Just to be blunt: groups that are “unorganized” like this tend to place more emphasis on feelings and emotions than solid Bible study/interpretation—unless it comes from the “inside.” And in those situations, who can refute their teachings or actions if there is no organization or acceptance of outside sources? The followers are left to whims and fancies of the leaders.

2) re: behavior. You have presented many “proofs” for the behaviors of SF with which you have association. I don’t doubt your observations. However, by your own admission, you have no first-hand observation re: the group in our area, therefore, we are probably at an impasse here as well. You cannot speak to that which you do not know, and citing experiences of “…friends who know the group very closely” isn’t going to sway my opinion. As I said earlier, your original entrance into this discussion spoke volumes. You were dishonest in your motives and the disclosure of your relationship to SF and this discussion. That’s the very same type of tactics we have seen here. What you saw as being clever actually confirmed my suspicions. Sorry. That’s how I see it.

The girl in question here was “seduced” by similar tactics. The ultimate goal apparently was, from what has transpired in recent weeks, a bride for the son. This girl was NOT in an abusive situation at home. She was not in any kind of danger at any time. Contrary to the words of the SF here, it was never the case that “she had nowhere else to go.” SF saw a target and hit it---dead center! The thing that makes me wretch is that the leader of this group prostituted his position as a trusted instructor.

Your statement: these families [SF] undergo the same "anguish" you are going through and yet have a faith in Jesus that the children will return to their parent's faith and fellowship Really? Isn’t that interesting? This girl’s family (both physical family and family of faith) would and do pray the same thing for her…and yet, you and this local group think we are wrong; that we should leave her alone because she is “of age.”

As Harold has already stated: this local group acts like a cult. That may not be what you see in the groups you’re associated with, but here—they obviously do things different. Again, the downside to a lack of organized leadership within various groups.

You stated: Can you…or anyone out here list out the "dos and donts" for children that will enable them to prove that they "honor" their parents according to this Scripture you go on endlessly citing? For starters, the girl’s parents—on more than one occasion—told her they were NOT comfortable with her attending a conference in New York with this local group. They told her they did not approve. She went anyway. When they enrolled her in college and moved her into her dormitory, they did so believing this is where she would reside. There was absolutely NO reason for her to move out of the dorm—which was already paid for IN FULL. The local group took it upon themselves to move the girl out of her dorm room into their OWN HOME. Again, without her parent’s approval. The parents trusted the girl and the group aided her in breaking that trust. I know this girl---PERSONALLY. She would not have conceived this action on her own.

There’s two “don’ts” for ya.

You also stated: SF doesn't isolate itself, That’s NOT the case here. Outsiders are not welcome; they have made that point very clear.

Seriously. What is your motivation for being a part of this discussion? Why did you feel it necessary to post a comment here? Did you really believe that you could/would provide evidence to the contrary of what we have personally seen?

I have to get back to work…

elf_asura said...

1. You belittle the girl herself and her intelligence. I do not believe that she was either "seduced" or "influenced" as you put it. To me it seems to me that now you're portraying her as a mindless zombie.
2. "Disapproval" by parents need not always be complied with. I have followed many paths of the Lord which my parents have "disapproved" but my parents have not held it against me and I have only sensed more love and acceptance. You guys seem to be very different. I also know many who have met with similar disapproval and have yet attended our conferences and have fellowship with us. They have courage of conviction.
3. It doesn't matter one whit to if you consider me dishonest, the devil or an angel. That is your choice and how does it affect me and my life in the Lord?
4. SF is not "proud" that its leaders were uneducated or illiterate. The miracle is that God has used them wonderfully and SF is thankful for every one of them. Yes, they do not know Greek or Hebrew but they have radiant lives in Jesus Christ and inspire many to live the same.
5. I am glad that you realise that in theology we are at an impasse. So let us not spout Scripture "against" each other.
6. I am surprised that you claim that SF there is unwelcoming of others. I do not think so. Make a fresh effort is all I can say. The churches I know all have open doors.
7. You are again entirely wrong in assuming that SF is based on the beliefs of one man. But let us not bicker over this.
8. Yeah, my motivation is to state unambiguously (or cleverly or dishonestly - whatever you like to believe) that the SF is not the "evil group" you make it out to be - "rogues" to use your own words. I hope Penguin can direct some of his Scripture to you too (I mean this as a joke, don't get het up.)
God bless you.

Keith said...

Again, the fact that you are not here negates your ablibity to understand the situation. The girl is not a "zombie", nor is she "mindless" or lackng in intelligence. In fact, she graduated at the top of her class, receiving a full scholarship to a prestige, private university in the area. She is/was as I've already state, "naive" and very innocent (thanks to her upbringing) and that is exactly the trait SF needed to accomplish their task.

You stated: "You are again entirely wrong in assuming that SF is based on the beliefs of one man." Then why is the name of the group SMITH'S FRIENDS?!!! And why does the OFFICIAL website state that's exactly where the group had it's beginnings?! I'm sorry, but your statement was almost insulting.

You stated: "I am surprised that you claim that SF there is unwelcoming of others." And again, I'm surprised that you say they are not. We have different experiences. (This is really starting to feel like a ping pong match). I believe you when you say the groups IN YOUR AREA are welcoming. You have no foundation for making statements re: the group here.

You stated: "It doesn't matter one whit to if you consider me dishonest..." I didn't have to "consider" anything. The fact is you WERE dishonest. That's not an opinion; it's a verifiable fact documented right here in this thread.

You know, it's funny to me that the local group doesn't seem to be nearly as concerned about their reputation as people as far away as India are.

elf_asura said...

Keith: Don't you understand? She is not naive. She has a zeal and love for God that has led her to the SF. God is going to bless her very very much. Why don't you believe that?
SF is called SF by their enemies - that is the "beginning" - just like it was a shame to be called "Christian" in the beginning. But God has allowed us to be shamed and hated by everyone and yet helps us and will continue to do so.
I don't want to fight with you.
God bless you much.

Keith said...

"I don't want to fight with you."

Yeah, you do. That's why you can't keep away from here. It's as easy as dangling yarn in front of a cat.

"SF is called SF by their enemies"From the brunstad.org website: Brunstad Christian Church (sometimes called "Smith's Friends") is an evangelical, non-denominational church that uses the Bible as the basis and guideline for life and teaching. In their own words--"Smith's Friends." I guess they are their own worst enemy.

TheTruth said...


I should let you know that Smith's Friends has two separate websites.

One for the public (www.brunstad.org) and one for their members only - www.brunstadworld.org, which is password protected.

The content on the private site is very different to the content on the public site.

2b2bnot said...

I will focus, as I have until now, on the concerns of Keith and Harold. Why? They seem to have a common interest (the OK situation) and this is Keith’s blog after all.

Elf: Please desist from discussing political issues like US policy, and other side issues. They are taking away the focus from the main issue.

Keith/Harold: Unlike Elf who has admitted that his posting is reflective of the fast-paced, multi-tasked world he is in, I won’t admit that. My last post was written and mulled over for more than three days, before it was posted.

Harold highlighted my sentence: “Many SF members think that time spent together with like-minded disciples of Christ keeps them focused on their heavenly goal. Can’t we allow “birds of the same feather [to] flock together”?

I did not intend the phrase “like-minded disciples of Christ” to mean “fellow SFs”. Who apparently equated the two phrases? Harold. Who assumed that I meant that the girl’s family and friends were not “like minded disciples of Christ”? Harold. I honestly state that I was not being crafty in trying to use this as a litmus test to prove that Harold has preset biases. In fact, I hope and trust that this was a minor blip in his fair-minded approach, admirably displayed thus far on this blog. But human nature is human nature. So let us ALL watch out against this mistake, going forward.

Elf has already addressed H’s quote of Hymn 370, verse 3. His response, as I see it, is more or less on the same vein, as my previous paragraph. I have nothing to add.

Harold mentions a “great deal of cooperative spirit” and knows personally “several young people …”. That is truly heartening (no sarcasm intended). When Harold mentions that he knows several young people who float around, I assume that he also knows others in the “evangelical Bible-based churches” who don’t. What does Harold do with those who don’t float around? I would think his faith is large enough not to place burdens on them to go floating around. Surely, a person whose faith is “large” should be able to accommodate those whose faith is “narrow”, isn’t it? Do people have to go floating around just to prove that their faith is “large”? And who all do we have to prove this to? I don’t intend this paragraph to be read as an admission that SFs “don’t float around” or that SFs “have a narrow faith”. Nor do I desire to prove otherwise as yet, as I don’t see a value in doing so. In addition, even if I desire to, I will not attempt to, as I am not personally aware of the ground “realities” in OK, and Harold & Keith are only interested in OK facts (and rightly so, given their interests).

As Christians, we have one comfort in life: We all will stand one day, before a Righteous Judge. That day will make it clear, if we had a big or small faith, isn’t it? Meanwhile, we are all in a development, aren’t we? If I get upset that my brother is not eating meat (or holds a “narrow faith”), then I still have things to learn, don’t I?

I believe that I have adequately proven that Harold still has very little (if any) grounds to show that MY statements on this blog, thus far, prove that SFs fit into Singers criteria for cult. Harold will have to look elsewhere for proof on that. Whether Singers criteria for cult are worthy is an altogether different question, which I most likely am not qualified to comment on.

Harold is concerned about the ‘teacher/public school/tax issues”. I hope to squeeze in a few thoughts on that shortly.

Cheers to all. Iced tea, anyone?

elf_asura said...

Keith, Harold:
Let's cut the crap. I reiterate I am not for a fight.
Keith: You were unhappy with that Zac Poonen accusation that Bratlie was a heretic because he wrote that "God became man and man became God." Here is something for you to chew on.
St. Clement of Alexandria: “The Word of God became man, that you may learn from man how man may become God.”

St. Athanasius of Alexandria: “For he was made man that we might be made God…and…he himself has made us sons of the Father, and deified men by becoming himself man.”

St. Gregory the Theologian: “Let us become as Christ is, since Christ became as we are; let us become gods for his sake, since he became man for our sake.”

St. Gregory of Nyssa: “…the Word became incarnate so that by becoming as we are, he might make us as he is.”

St. John Chrysostom: “He became Son of man, who was God’s own Son, in order that he might make the sons of men to be children of God.”

St. Ephrem the Syrian: “He gave us divinity, we gave him humanity.”

St. Hilary of Poitiers: “For when God was born to be man, the purpose was not that the Godhead should be lost but that, the Godhead remaining, man should be born to be god.”

St. Augustine of Hippo: “God wanted to be the Son of Man and he wanted men to be the Sons of God.”

Pope St. Leo the Great: “[The Savior] was made the son of man, so that we could be the sons of God…and…He united humanity to himself in such a way that he remained God, unchangeable. He imparted divinity to human beings in such a way that he did not destroy, but enriched them, by glorification.”

The First Protestants, likewise:

Martin Luther in a Christmas sermon: “For the Word becomes flesh precisely so that the flesh may become word. In other words: God becomes man so that man may become God.”

John Calvin: “This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us; that, by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us; that, by taking on our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us; that, accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power; that, receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us; that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness.”
Bratlie is perfectly in line with the most Orthodox thoughts of the Church Fathers.

Keith said...

Elf: Do you really think I haven't read most of those quotes -- and similar ones -- already? You obviously do not understand the Biblical teaching re: Christ's "humanity/deity." I'll not try to explain it to you as I can tell it would be waste of my good time. Do you know the meaning of the word "context?" There's a HUGE difference in becoming a son of God versus becoming a god. Good grief, you're starting to sound like a Mormon!

I hereby dub thee "Chameleon"--because you change colors some much.

Early on you stated: But what I am really interested in was the "end of the story". You are a liar--and a very BAD public relations spokesperson for SF! You are their worst nightmare. You have managed to do more damage to their "cause" than any good you thought you would accomplish. Nice work.

Keith said...

PS--"cut the crap?" You're starting to sound more American everyday. We'll have you whistling "Dixie" in no time.

Keith said...

Nice cut-and-paste from The Society of St. Seraphim of Sarov website.

elf_asura said...

Keith: So much for Harold's observation that I know nothing about the US of A since I sound like one!
I am not acting as a "spokesperson" for SF. I am just being my own happy self and I can see it irritates/provokes you no end. More apologies, not that you care.
I am glad you have given up trying to push your "brand" of theology on me knowing it won't get you anywhere. At least, you've read the quotes.
So if I were a Mormon, I guess you would be very unhappy and be part of a "lynch mob". Ah, the hatred and intolerance that exists in the name of the "faith".
I guess all those people quoted are stoopid. Must avoid them in future.

elf_asura said...

Keith: Touche! Nice cut and paste originally by you and the Poonenites of the Zac Poonen page. It's convenient when you want to denigrate the SF but my cut and paste doesn't count because it backs Bratlie? Don't like it when two play the same game, is it?
How much more corny is this going to get?

Keith said...

Elf: We can do this as long as you like and as "corny" (what's the word for "corny" in Telugu?) as you like--you're too easy and nowhere near the quick wit you think you are.

I'm hearing from people in our community and you have become somewhat of a celebrity. Of course, they also enjoy the fact that you are the best example of what is WRONG with SF we could ever hope to find. Your hard work is appreciated.

Citing or providing links is much different than cutting and pasting something you probably hadn't ever read yourself...remember, you people are not "theologically educated." 8^)>

I highly doubt you've read any more of John Calvin or Martin Luther than the quotes you copied.

"Irritates/provokes?" You think WAY too highly of yourself. This is too much fun watching you implode. Cheaper than a movie! (I gotta run. I've got to go get a bag of popcorn out of the microwave and I don't want to miss your second act.)

elf_asura said...

Keith: However much you try, you cant kick against the pricks! I got a pretty fair idea of the kind of tricks you have been trying to pull with the SF out there and how it has not been working. No wonder you sound really frustrated. By the way, I also know the girl is nothing like what you have been portraying on your blog. It must be hard for her, the demeaning picture you draw of a person who is upright and independent in her desire to follow God and Jesus Christ. In a way, I am glad she has escaped from your cloying "love" and theology.
I am preparing my second act but I am hoping you don't fall off your chair and die before that with all the laughing and mocking you are up to. The Good Lor of the Bible Belt is watchin' you. I think you need a Penguin break with some Scripture thrown in! Be careful all this mockin and insultin doesnt get in the way of your work quality declinin or a few spankings at the Judgement. Awrite? :-)


Keith said...

You stated: "...I also know the girl is nothing like what you have been portraying on your blog."

Really? When was the last time you spoke with her?

Keith said...

Hey, Elf. Can you say "Shibboleth?" We'd like to know whose side you're really on.

elf_asura said...

Keith: I'd rather sing this one with you if you know the tune.


(“sung by Barbara Bush” to the original Etta James arrangement) Parody lyrics by Jim Terr (c) 2004, Blue Canyon Music BMI)

You thought the SF had WMDs,
Gas and bombs and what-you-please.
Now you find this scary global threat you sold
Is just a little rat in a stinkin' little hole. I want you to—

Tell mama, all about it.
Tell mama, what you need.
Tell mama, what you want.
And I'll make everything all right.

They say this war don't make no sense,
Not worth all the lives and money you spent.
They're makin' fun of your heroic pose,
Your little helmet and goggles and aviator clothes. I want you to—


On break : You gotta do what's right, son, whatever God tells you to do. Even if you gotta take the whole world down with you.
People always chicken when it comes to doing what needs to be done, Why won't they just trust my oldest, wisest son?

You got an army that can go anywhere,
Over land and sea and through the air.
– Don't they understand--
--You can't just let all that machinery rust,
Even if you gotta turn the whole world to dust.

I want you to –


Keith said...

I didn't realize Barbara Bush was a singer...

So are you saying that Saddam Hussein was part of SF?

Keith said...

Elf: I'm beginning to think you really like it here. You've visted this page six times already today. I'm honored.

We like you, too.

elf_asura said...

Dear Keith: I always knew the mis-understandings were because you speak Yankee English and I speak British English.
And yes, Barbara Bush is a singer. :-) Never heard her before?

Keith said...

Barbara Bush, ex-First Lady? Yes, I've heard of her. She's a singer, eh?

I don't listen to much music that was produced beyond the 70's.

Harold said...

I have a question for TheTruth. You gave a reference to the private web site for Smith’s Friends and stated that the content of that web site is very different from the public site. How is it different? And who is Den Kristelige Menighet?

Penguin41 said...

Yo,Yo,Yo --- it’s me Penguin again, this time I am not here to quote the scriptures but to take up 2b2bnot’s offer on the iced tea.
Penguin Out.

TheTruth said...

Den Kristelige Menighet is the new name for Smith's Friends. They now call themselves "The Christian Church".

The content is different, because they expose alot of their literature on the private site, as well as sound files of messages given by their leader Kare Smith.

If these items were available publically, people would not have a favorable view of them.

Alot of these recordings of Kare Smith and other Smith Friend's leaders are concentrated on "bashing" other churches and Christians, whilst proclaiming that they are the only bride of Christ and the rest of the Christian churches are harlots and foolish virgins.

The Brunstad.org site was created purely as propaganda for public consumption. Their real ideology and stances can be seen on the password-protected site.

elf_asura said...

Keith, Harold:


elf_asura said...


elf_asura said...


Keith said...

I will give the links you provided a look, but I assume you know how Wikipedia works. Anyone can put just about anything out there, so just because it's on the internet, doesn't make it true. Nevertheless, I will look.

Do you have access to this "private" Brunstad website that has been alluded to? If so, how can it be accessed?

TheTruth said...

Elf will have access, as do any "active" members of SF.

I also still have access, unless they've changed the username and password again. They've changed it alot of times as they do not want non-members to access it.

The reason they do not want non-members to access it, is because they'll generally let a new member in on the website once they've been fully indoctrinated. Knowing of the website before joining the group, would make the prospective joinee flee rather then join.

elf_asura said...

Keith: The Truth is but a bitter person and a liar. He needs much psychological help and if you guys can provide him with that, God will be grateful!
If he still has access to church sites, it is because we know who he is and it is of no consequence. "44You are of your father, the devil ...He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a falsehood, he speaks what is natural to him, for he is a liar [himself] and the father of lies and of all that is false."
THE (self-professing)TRUTH said: "The reason they do not want non-members to access it, is because they'll generally let a new member in on the website once they've been fully indoctrinated. Knowing of the website before joining the group, would make the prospective joinee flee rather then join." It's a blatant lie. Everyone who is part of the church has always had access to the Church sites. Even "liars" like this guy "still have access" though he does not know "if the password has changed" (sic). :-)
Keith: If you asked me for access to my professional institution's server, you wouldn't get it because you are not part of it. Likewise, when you belong to this church you can have access. By the way, I don't want access to your church's website, public or private. That's the difference between you and me. I hope you get the drift, as you Yankees put it.
Take care and God bless you.

elf_asura said...

Keith: Since you are interested in theology, here is something you might enjoy.
[Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 7:2 (2004), pp. 305-314]


By Geir Lie

1. Introduction

“They are a church without membership rolls, clergy, central administration, tithing, or even a name. They are called “Smith’s Friends” after their founder, Johan Oscar Smith. Although there are many thousands of them in churches throughout the world, they are
virtually unknown. When some Norwegians hear the expression “Smith’s Friends,” they think the speaker is referring to the Mormons, who follow the teachings of Joseph Smith. When some Americans hear the term, they think they are being told about a Quaker offshoot, a branch of the Society of Friends. They often ask how a Norwegian religious reformer could have the very un-Scandinavian name of Smith. Answer: Because his father planned to immigrate to New Zealand and adopted an appropriate name for the planned, but never taken journey.” 1

The indigenous Norwegian denomination The Christian Church (or Smith’s Friends, as they are known to outsiders) was founded by a noncommissioned officer in the Norwegian Navy, Johan Oscar Smith (1871-1943). By 1996 this unique denomination claimed 211 churches in 50 different nations, and the Norwegian researcher Knut Lundby estimated its membership at 25,000 to 30,000 and growing. As much as two-thirds of the members live outside of Norway. The success of this Norwegian denomination in establishing itself on all continents of the world is in itself quite amazing. The Friends have not been able to escape media attention and have even been the subject of some scholarly analysis. One of the first attempts of the latter was an article by Nils Bloch-Hoell which provided “an overview of the movement in order to assist researchers who might desire to obtain a deeper understanding of the movement’s history and
My main concern in this article is not primarily to write the movement’s institutional history, but rather to document its confessional roots. This documentation takes as its point of departure the Christological views of the group’s members. However, these
Christological views are not treated as isolated doctrinal themes. Rather, they will be analyzed as an extension of hamartology (and particularly the movement’s understanding of sanctification) and anthropology.

2. The Understanding of Sanctification Compared with Related Movements
Many of Bloch-Hoell’s observations are interesting and should be carefully considered. This particularly holds true for his treatment of the movement’s sanctification doctrine. Bloch-Hoell suggested a certain similarity between the “old-Methodist teachings on Christian Perfection and Pentecostalism’s emphasis on cleansing, on the one hand (since
inherent in these teachings was the expectation that it was possible to live one’s life without incurring personal guilt, while at the same time taking into account the possibility of defection from one’s ethical standard, including the possibility and necessity of growth in ethical cognition”), and on the other, the distinction made by Smith’s Friends between “sins that lead to guilt and errors committed through ignorance.”
Even Christ during his walk on earth grew in cognition and— according to the Friends—did not sin against the fourth commandment during his stay in the temple as a twelve-year old, because it was, as Bloch-Hoell put it, an “error of ignorance.”5 Of particular relevance here is the Friends’ early contact with the Pentecostal movement in Norway, and with the related indigenous movement De Frie Evangeliske Forsamlinger.6 Johan Oscar’s younger brother, Mr. Aksel Smith, cooperated with T.B. Barratt (Pentecostalism’s founder in Norway) during the first few years after Barratt introduced
Pentecostalism to Norway in 1906-1907. 7 Indeed, Aksel experienced Spirit baptism and spoke in tongues.8 Johan Oscar Smith was baptized in water by Mr. Erik Andersen Nordquelle, the founder of De Frie Evangeliske Forsamlinger. However, in his dissertation on the Pentecostal movement in Norway, Bloch-Hoell documented an ever increasing disassociation of the Pentecostals from the Friends. In the city of Ålesund, for instance, the Friends according to Barratt were the cause of internal schism. 9 Similarly, the Friends grew wary of the Pentecostals.10 Consequently, Bloch-Hoell wrote, “Oftentimes there has been a warlike situation between the two related movements. The war was carried on both in Skjulte Skatte [that is, the Friends’ official journal] and Korsets Seir [that is, the Pentecostals’ official journal], as well as in specific polemical writings.”11
Despite their similarities and the close but conflicted relationship between them, Bloch-Hoell was right, in my opinion, to emphasize the differences between original Methodism and Pentecostalism on the one hand and the Friends on the other, on the point of sanctification:
The Old-Methodism and the Pentecostal movement, particularly during their first phase, taught instantaneous sanctification. Among the Friends, however, it is rather a matter of a gradual mortificatio carnis.12 It is correct, as most outside observers have noted that Johan Oscar Smith had Methodist roots from his hometown of Fredrikstad. And, we
cannot dismiss the possibility that he was influenced by Fredrikstad-born Ole Peter Petersen (1822-1901), the founder of Methodism in Norway. I agree with the late Norwegian researcher Tore Meistad, who claimed that Petersen’s teachings found a receptive audience among Norwegians familiar with Pietism because these same teachings united elements of Haugeanism, Methodism and the “entire sanctification” teachings that characterized the Methodist branch of the American Holiness movement.13 The American Holiness movement, in turn, was Pentecostalism’s
predecessor. Most of the latter’s adherents had a Methodist background that appealed (rightly or not) to founder John Wesley’s teachings on sanctification—thus the somewhat misleading term “Old-Methodism” (gammelmetodisme). It is a matter of record that in the U.S. Wesley was read in the light of his successor John Fletcher, the latter having
radicalized the former’s views on sanctification by insisting that the believer must receive the “baptism with the Holy Spirit”—a reference to a specific experience of sanctification which eliminated the believer’s sin nature and consequently made it possible to conquer conscious sin.
Despite Johan Smith’s Methodist background, the Friends’ gradual mortificatio carnis reveals a striking doctrinal affinity with another branch of the broader holiness movement: the British Keswick tradition.14 Perhaps the clearest evidence of the connection between the Keswick tradition and Smith’s Friends is seen in the 45 articles by the Welch devotional writer Jessie Penn-Lewis published in the official Friends’ journal, Skjulte Skatter.15 Just as within the Methodist branch of the Holiness movement, Keswick adherents also considered it possible to conquer conscious sin. This possibility, however, was not anchored in any specific sanctification experience, whereby God removed one’s sin nature, but rather in the fact that the believer, by the indwelling Spirit’s enduement, could subdue his ever-existing sin nature. I am not disputing Bloch-Hoell’s suggestion that the Friends’ teachings on sanctification “developed as a conscious response and reaction against the seeming absence of practical holiness within Norwegian Christendom, and after a while, with specific opposition against the sanctification views which were taught within the Pentecostal movement.”16 Barratt’s own background was Methodist, and throughout his entire life he embraced the sanctification views that were taught within the Methodist branch of the American Holiness movement. However, I cannot follow Bloch-Hoell when he implies that the Friends arose as “a more or less conscious reaction against the one-sided emphasis on grace within the Scandinavian Neo-Evangelicalism” and that it reflected “the tension between a more Rosenian understanding of grace and an older understanding of penance leading to sanctification.”17 I find Bloch-Hoell’s suggestions just as speculative as Norwegian researcher Steinar Moe’s attempt to locate the Friends within the same
confessional tradition as the Lutheran Pietists Spener, Francke and Pontoppidan.18 Certainly, Moe, in another context, was quick to admit that “Much basic and time-consuming labor remains—at least as far as [the movement’s] historical roots and doctrinal background are concerned.”19
Naturally, I do not debate the movement’s Pietist roots. My concern, rather, is to give the movement a much more precise confessional location in the Keswick branch of the Holiness movement. Moe’s somewhat imprecise confessional location prevented him
from forming a theory to explain “whether [including how] there exists a specific connection between this type [Lutheran] of Pietist reasoning and the understanding of the Gospel which one later finds among the Friends.”20 It is important to point out here that Moe has not identified a single reference to any of the Lutheran Pietists that he claims have influenced the Friends (although Francke’s name does show up a time or two in the Friends’ devotional writings). By contrast, I would suggest that the Friends were most influenced in this respect by the Keswick tradition. In the pages ahead, I will develop a theory that can explain how a connection existed between the Keswick tradition (e.g., via Jessie Penn-Lewis) and the Friends so far as the doctrine of sanctification is concerned.
Bloch-Hoell described the movement’s characteristic Christology as “a consequence of their understanding of anthropology and sanctification.”21 My thesis is that Keswick-influenced anthropology and holiness teaching [including the implicit understanding that the believer’s sin nature is not eliminated during his/her walk on earth] shaped the
distinctive Christology of Smith’s Friends in which Jesus also partook of an indwelling sin nature. This particular dogma will be carefully considered in the following paragraphs.
3. Christology among Smith’s Friends
The Friends believe that the pre-existent Christ was “divinely united with the Father and not subordinate to Him or a different being than Him.”22 The Incarnation, however, involved a kenotic process whereby Christ temporarily laid aside some of his divinity so that Jesus as “true man” could receive a truly human will. Certainly, Jesus did not receive
“sinful flesh,” but he purportedly had “sin in the flesh,” i.e., he was actually tempted by sin, but chose not to submit to these temptations. During his entire walk on earth he was “holy and pure in thoughts, words and deeds.”23 As one of the movement’s leaders explained in polemics against Pentecostals Lærum and Barratt: “If Christ without exception had not been pure and blameless in thoughts, words and deeds, then he could
never have saved neither us nor anybody else!”24 With his point of departure in Hebrews 5:7,25 Elias Aslaksen claimed that Jesus’ human will, which he had voluntarily taken on, was “in disharmony with the Father’s will,” but that it was always “submitted (albeit under internal struggle) under the Father’s will.”26 Accordingly, it seems likely that Smith’s Friends applied Keswickean anthropology and holiness teachings to Christology—possibly without being consciously aware of their actual departure from
Keswickean Christology. Of course, I do not mean to imply that these doctrinal impulses have come exclusively from the Keswick tradition. As we have seen, proof texts like Hebrews 5:7-8 also played a role. However, to the extent that Smith’s Friends during the early phase of their history may have been conscious of their indebtedness to the Keswick tradition and have desired to maintain doctrinal fidelity towards it, the discontinuity (as far as Christology is concerned) may possibly be explained by the Friends’ lack of understanding of the importance of theological reflection about Jesus’ character.
In his 1956 dissertation on Pentecostalism, Bloch-Hoell critiqued Pentecostal believers, not only for their “one-sided emphasis on the second person within the Godhead,”27 but also for their accentuation of Jesus’ utilitarian value as “savior and friend, shepherd and comforter and as the individual’s bridegroom.” 28 However, as Bloch-Hoell himself
noted, “This one-sidedness” (the undue emphasis on Christ leading to the implicit belittling of the Father and the Spirit) is hardly unique to Pentecostals. Indeed, Bloch-Hoell quite properly, in my opinion, declared that “the entire modern revivalistic piety is a pronounced Jesus-cult.”29 Scriptural passages such as Hebrews 13:8—“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever”—have both in hymnals and regular
preaching been exclusively applied to his beneficial deeds towards the believer and not to his person. So-called lay preaching has always had the ideal of being applicable, and that pragmatic bent has shown little patience for theological hair-splitting. Although conclusive documentation is difficult to find, I would suggest that the Friends have
misunderstood Keswickean Christology and therefore have uncritically applied the latter tradition’s anthropology and holiness teaching to Christology precisely because they basically have been preoccupied with praxis, the pragmatic element within Christology: e.g., that the believer is called to follow Christ’s example. It is not a matter of debating Christ’s unique standing vis-à-vis the believer, but rather that the emphases of one’s reflections have been anchored in practical rather than theoretical systematic theology. As long as the believer—according to Keswick teachings—had an ongoing struggle against his or her indwelling sin nature, the Friends have had few if any difficulties with Jesus’ voluntary participation in the very same corrupted sin nature.
4. Influence via Jeanne Marie Bouvière de la Motte Guyón?
A seeming weakness with my thesis concerning the Friends’ doctrinal dependency on the Keswick tradition is the movement’s affinity to the Catholic mystic Madame Guyón. Her book with the Norwegian title Bønnen was published by Skjulte Skatters forlag in 1912 as the Friends’ first book-length publication. Johan Smith wrote to his brother Aksel in 1909 that he was reading a Swedish translation of Madame Guyón’s autobiography to his wife Pauline: “Granted, some of her ideas are strongly influenced by the Catholic Church, but God has given us light so we are able to separate the wheat from the chaff.”30 Probably, it was because of the Catholic distinctives, not in order to prevent a view into the movement’s confessional roots that Johan admonished his brother “not constantly [to] quote…Madame Guyon.”31
Bloch-Hoell found the frequent quotations from Guyón in the movement’s official journal to be perplexing, especially since the Friends differed from the Quietists in so many respects. For example, Bloch-Hoell noted that “ecstasy among the Friends primarily is exaltive and not, as in Quietism, contemplative (apathetic).” 32 Despite these
differences, however, Bloch-Hoell observed important similarities, such as “analogies to the very same mortificatio carnis-reasonings in Madame Guyón as those having been noted among Smith’s Friends.”33
Steinar Moe is correct, then, when he on one occasion claims: Catholic thought processes concerning salvation [primarily that Christ delivers us, then one allows oneself to be delivered, and then, finally, with Christ in his/her life, the believer continues the battle. So then, salvation is not something that is done and over with, but rather a process that is moving forward toward a goal] and thoughts and ideas from old pietistic theology from the 1700’s can be fitted into Smith’s Friends’ understanding of the gospel in the twentieth century.34 At the same time we should not forget the fact that Madame Guyón was very controversial within her own Roman Catholic tradition, and that she has been greatly admired within the Holiness movement. The American Holiness leader Thomas Cogswell Upham published her autobiography, Madame Guyón, which came out in 37 editions.35 Penn-Lewis also cherished the French mystic36 and once admitted, “I owe a great deal to the books of Madame Guyon.”37An abbreviated edition of one of Guyón’s books, Spiritual Torrents, was published by Penn-Lewis under the title Life out of death. Penn-Lewis explained in the preface that the original edition was “too analytical, too involved in expression, too overdrawn, too mystical” for the average reader.38
Just as was the case with many in the Holiness movement, the Friends primarily benefited from Madame Guyón’s books as inspirational writings. In 1909, Johan Smith wrote, “I firmly believe that it is very healthy and edifying to read about god-fearing souls and the battles and hardships they had to endure in order to gain light.” As an
example, he explicitly mentioned the life of Guyón. “Madame Guyón’s book,” he continued, “has truly been a blessing to me, because I detect a zeal in her which blesses my heart. Not many people in each century give themselves over so unreservedly to God.”39 Nonetheless, heritage from Guyón is by all appearances an indirect one, mediated through the Holiness movement in general and through Penn-Lewis in particular. I cannot see that the appreciation of Madame Guyón weakens my thesis that the Friends’ holiness teachings are influenced by the Keswick tradition, and that their Christology has been formulated, at least in part, through the adaptation or appropriation of Keswick anthropology and holiness teachings.

1 The indigenous Norwegian denomination The Christian Church2 (or
Smith’s Friends, as they are known to outsiders) was founded by a noncommissioned
officer in the Norwegian Navy, Johan Oscar Smith (1871-
1943). By 1996 this unique denomination claimed 211 churches in 50
different nations, and the Norwegian researcher Knut Lundby estimated
1 Lowell D. Streiker, Smith’s Friend: A “Religion Critic” Meets a Free Church
Movement (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999), pp. 1-2.
2 “Outside of Norway, besides ‘the friends’ or ‘the fellowship,’ the church is
known as ‘the Norwegian Brethren,’ ‘the Norwegian Movement,’ or simply as
‘the church’ (USA and Canada).” Kjell Arne Bratli, The Way of the Cross: An
Account of Smith’s Friends (Tananger, Norway: Skjulte Skatters Forlag, 1996), p.4.
3 Knut Lundby, “Religion, medier og modernitet. Kommunikasjonsmønstre i sekt
og kirke i en norsk kommune” [Religion, Media and Modernity: Communication
Patterns in Sect and Church in a Norwegian Municipality], Sosiologisk tidsskrift
4 (1996), pp. 265-84 (266).
4 Nils Bloch-Hoell, “Smiths Venner: En eiendommelig norsk dissenterbevegelse”
[Smith’s Friends: A Peculiar Norwegian Non-conformist Denomination],
Tidsskrift for teologi og kirke 27 (1956), pp. 165-77 (165).
5 Bloch-Hoell, “Smiths Venner,” p. 172.
6 Audun Erdal, “‘Smiths venner’: innblikk i en norsk frimenighets oppkomst og
egenart” [Smith’s Friends: Insights into the Origins and Characteristics of an
Indegenous Norwegian Denomination], Tidsskrift for Teologi og Kirke 2 (1987),
pp. 81-101 (83).
7 Kjell Arne Bratli, En Herrens tjener. Sigurd Bratlie 1905-1996 [A Servant of
the Lord: Sigurd Bratlie 1905-1996] (Tananger: Skjulte Skatters Forlag, 2003),
pp. 34, 38-39; Kjell Arne Bratli, Seilas mot Himmelens Kyst. En beretning om
Johan Oscar Smith [Navigating towards the Coasts of Heaven: The Story about
Johan Oscar Smith] (Tananger: Skjulte Skatters Forlag, 1997), pp. 140-41.
8 Bloch-Hoell, “Smiths Venner,” p. 166.
9 Nils Bloch-Hoell, Pinsebevegelsen. En undersøkelse av pinsebevegelsens
tilblivelse, utvikling og særpreg med særlig henblikk på bevegelsens utforming i
Norge [The Pentecostal Movement: An Analysis of Its Origins, Development and
Characteristics with Particular Emphasis on Its Appearance in Norway] (Oslo:
Universitetsforlaget, 1956), p. 236 n. 149.
10 Elias Aslaksen, Et ugudelig overgrep. Kirke- og pastoruvesenet. En av den
religiøse verdens største synder [An Ungodly Violation: The Nuisance of
Churches and Pastors: One of the Most Serious Sins of the Religious Community] (Hønefoss: Privately printed, 1953), pp. 9-11. See also Elias
Aslaksen, Svar på S.H. Lærums og T.B. Barratts angrep på Jesu Kristi
disippelskap [A Response to S. H. Lærum and T. B. Barratt’s Polemics against
the Discipleship of Jesus Christ] (Hønefoss: Privately printed, 1937).
11 Bloch-Hoell, “Smiths venner,” p. 166.
12 Bloch-Hoell, “Smiths venner,” p. 172.
13 Tore Meistad, Methodism as a Carrier of the Holiness Tradition in Norway
(Alta: ALH-forskning, 1994), p. 138.
14 Geir Lie, “Hellighetsbevegelsen i USA og Storbritannia: et historisk riss” [The
Holiness Movement within the U.S. and the UK: A Historical Overview], Refleks
2:1 (2003), pp. 3-20.
15 All 45 articles appear between 1913 and 1938.
16 Bloch-Hoell, “Smiths venner,” p. 172.
17 Bloch-Hoell, “Smiths venner,” p. 172.
18 Steinar Moe, “Fokus på Smiths Venner” [Focus on Smith’s Friends], Tønsberg
Blad 5 (March 1996), n.p. Moe’s suggestion is repeated in his article
“Evangelieforståelsen i Den kristelige menighet. Et bidrag til
konfesjonskunnskap” [The Understanding of the Gospel among Smith’s Friends],
Tidsskrift for teologi og kirke 2 (1996), pp. 111-30 (122).
19 Steinar Moe, Hva lærer Smiths venner? Et bidrag til konfesjonskunnskap
[What Do Smith’s Friends Teach?] (Larvik: Færder Forlag, 2002), p. 5.
20 Moe, “På leting etter røtter” [Searching for Roots] (unpublished manuscript,
n.d.), p. 1.
21 Bloch-Hoell, “Smiths venner,” p. 175.
22 Moe, Hva lærer Smiths venner? p. 37.
23 Elias Aslaksen, “Åpent brev til Ivar Welle, Håkon E. Andersen, S. Anker-Goli
og andre likesinnede” [Open Letter to Ivar Welle, Håkon E. Andersen, S. Anker-
Goli and Other Likeminded Ones] (tract/brochure, n.d.), p. 2.
24 Aslaksen, Svar på S.H. Lærums, p. 9.
25 “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and
supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him
from death, and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he
obedience by the things which he suffered.”
26 Aslaksen, Svar på S.H. Lærums, p. 11.
27 Bloch-Hoell, Pinsebevegelsen, p. 315.
28 Bloch-Hoell, Pinsebevegelsen, p. 316.
29 Bloch-Hoell, Pinsebevegelsen, p. 315.
30 Johan Oscar Smith, letter to Aksel Smith, Oct 23, 1909 in Letters of Johan O.
Smith, 2nd English edition (Tananger, Norway: Skjulte Skatters Forlag, 1999), p.
31 Smith, letter to Aksel Smith, Oct 23, 1909.
32 Bloch-Hoell, “Smiths venner,” p. 174.
33 Bloch-Hoell, “Smiths venner,” p. 174.
34 Moe, “Fokus på Smiths Venner,” translated into English by Lowell D. Streiker
in Streiker, Smith’s Friends, p. 107.
35 Dale Hawthorne Simmons, E.W. Kenyon and the Postbellum Pursuit of Peace,
Power, and Plenty (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 1996), p. 89.
36 Brynmor Pierce Jones, The Trials and Triumphs of Jessie Penn-Lewis (North
Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos, 1997), p. 16.
37 Quoted from Mary N. Garrard, Mrs. Penn-Lewis: A Memoir (London:
Overcomer Book Room, 1930), p. 34.
38 Jessie Penn-Lewis, Life out of Death (Poole, Dorset: Overcomer Literature
Trust, n.d.), p. 5.
39 Smith, letter to Aksel Smith, Oct 23, 1909.

Keith said...

Elf: I checked out a few of the links you provided earlier; they're Norwegian...I don't read Norwegian and the translators don't do a very good job in some cases.

My church's website (we are part of the Southern Baptist Convention which you can also check out) is www.bethelowasso.com

It is a public site--no hidden pages, etc. I know, because I am the website designer/admin. We would love for you to visit our site; we have absolutely nothing to hide.

Man, you've GOT to learn to use paragraphs!!! You're killin' me!!! I know dang good and well they have those in "British English."

elf_asura said...

Keith: All I am trying to do is to feed you existing materials and links. The private Brunstad site is for the churches, I don't see why that is so abominable.
If The Truth has access then let him publish all that stuff which he claims is on it out here. I say he is a liar and he has nothing to show except make empty claims.
But thank you for your website. It looks cool.:-)
God bless you.

Keith said...

I wouldn't say it's "abominable" to have a private site...unless of course the intent is to decieve. I do wonder what is on the site the church wouldn't want the general populace to see. Aren't they interested in others knowing about their church? If they believe they have "the truth," why would they not want to share it?

Now, if the site contained private information, i.e. members email addresses, phone, etc. and was being used as some type of "directory," then I could see having a protected area.

TheTruth said...


You and I both know what would be the result if I was to post copyrighted material here from Brunstadworld.org.

Kare has proven his intention to take legal action, because he doesn't like the truth exposed.

Now, please explain why Kare does not allow his speeches from conferences to be available publically? Yes, the mp3 files on Brunstad Multimedia?

Is he afraid of some of his speeches being heard? Like the one where he said "I want to kill all arabs"? Because they expose him as a fraud?

Do you remember the Brunstad conference, with the "focus on israel" meeting? I'm sure you have the DVD "Focus on Israel". Why don't you tell everyone what Kare said about killing Arabs?

Please don't tell me it's because of the stupid requirement to fill "David's Columns" to be able to listen to his "speeches".

elf_asura said...

Keith: The second site is the organic network of the different churches with lots of personal and important administrative and financial information; about activities of the church in various parts of the world and in local assemblies.
There are also tonnes of photographs and why would we want you or anyone to be able to rip those photographs and use it or abuse it?
There are testimonies, music, exhortations, etc.
But it is all for us and not for the "world" because it is about the daily "inner" life of the church. It is exactly as you put it.
I am sure I can't walk into your church (nor do I care to do that!) and ask for the accounts and background materials of each member, etc. That would be a ridiculous demand to make. So why make such demands on us?
The Truth is "twisted" as usual. If he really cares for "the truth" why is he afraid of "legal action"? Isn't "the truth" more important than all his fears which are in themselves false.
I choose to ignore these ravings until he puts his coins where his mouth is and proves that he can "fight" for "the truth". If he has left SF as he claims, then let him find another christian assembly where he feels comfortable and learn to serve God properly and usefully if he can do anything like that.

TheTruth said...

Nice try elf. Accounts?

You and I both know SF doesn't have a shred of transparency.

Accounts of Brunstad are never made available to the members. There is no audited annual report released.

No one knows where all the money goes.

- Davids columns
- Brunstad feasts
- Fundraising competition
- "church" businesses


What is on the private website, is a nice collection of audio clips from meetings where people can really understand the ideology behind this group and how the "leaders" behave.

As I said, I have no intention in breaching copyright laws, to prove my point to you. That's what you'd like, but I will never give Kare Smith and his cohorts the satisfaction.

What they want to keep away from the public is Brunstad multimedia, as well as the propagandist messages on the site in regards to fundraising.

elf_asura said...

The Truth: "You and I both know SF doesn't have a shred of transparency."
Please don't include me with you!! I don't have your problems in life, man. God has given me a happy life in Jesus Christ.
Those of us who share in Brunstad and the entire church worldwide work a lot based on trust and not that "suspicious spirit" that has possessed you. The money we put is is put in by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and as unto Him. Jesus knows who is spending it and how and knows how to keep accounts.
For your information, in India we keep our accounts well and put much into the church, both local and international. And we know that it is being used well. If it is not being used well as you allege, we know that God is just and oversees all things and will call all into account. Do you have this faith? If you do, you will be happy.

Keith said...

You stated: "I am sure I can't walk into your church (nor do I care to do that!) and ask for the accounts and background materials of each member, etc." And no one is advocating that. You read more into my statements in order to justify the secrecy of the group.

Our congregation has no problem with posting biographies of it leaders (Pastors and Deacpons). We do...I did. Remember I'm the Admin.

We have a printed directory with the names and address AND photos of all the members of our congregation that is free for the asking to anyone that comes through our doors.

ALL of our Pastor's sermons (as up to date as I can be) are posted and available for download or streaming on our website. I put them there. I know.

Our statement of beliefs is published on our website for anyone and everyone to see. Anyone that reads it would have no problem uderstanding that we are a Southern Baptist Church that holds to the "Doctrines of Grace", i.e. Reformed Theology. We're WANT people to know what we belive.

Absolutely NO ONE has requested or demanded the financial records of SF (or whatever name you want to apply) and to imply so is disingenuous. You're attempting to sidetrack the conversation again.

Harold said...

TheTruth: Would you be willing to share with us a couple of things? What was it about your Smith’s Friends fellowship that interested you enough to join? And why did you decide to leave? And how long were you involved with your fellowship?

Keith said...

You stated: "For your information, in India we keep our accounts well and put much into the church, both local and international. And we know that it is being used well. If it is not being used well as you allege, we know that God is just and oversees all things and will call all into account. Do you have this faith? If you do, you will be happy.

This sounds like American Politician gobbley-gook for "we really don't have any accountability to anyone...and we like it that way. What the folks don't know won't hurt them."

Having read some of the officical website, as well as Kjell Arne Bratli's site, I am already suspicious of a WORLDWIDE group that claims "the only individual employed by the church is the caretaker on the conference grounds at Brunstad;" (Source: Kjell Bratli website). Sorry. I'm not buying it. An "organization" of that size with only ONE paid individual. I may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night!

TheTruth: I would also be interested in your response to Harold's latest questions.

elf_asura said...

Keith: For one thing, SF is not the Southern Baptist Church and obviously does not consider it a "good" example to follow in spite of your "tall" claims. "Free" sermons do not interest us.
The church is self-sufficient in Christ Jesus and we continuously work to increase that!
If you want to know the Word of God preached and practised amongst us, write to Br. Dreger, get a price-list and buy all our books. Then dig into them. Stop whining. You're like someone who walks into another person's home and makes all sorts of demands - "Hey, can I take this or that, hey gimme a coffee and breakfast, hey let me take a good look at your wife!" If we ask you why you're so interested in our home and who gives you the right to come nosing in, then your answer is "Follow our example (I am the admin - sic) or there's something fishy about you!" Sorry, those tactics don't work, my friend.
By the way, I thought I would use American political gobbledegook for a loyal American Southern Baptist to mis-understand me better. :-)

TheTruth said...

TheTruth: Would you be willing to share with us a couple of things? What was it about your Smith’s Friends fellowship that interested you enough to join? And why did you decide to leave? And how long were you involved with your fellowship?


Well, my family had been members of Smith's Friends for 22 years in our local group. That was nearly as long as the group had existed in our local area.

We joined the group through the leader prior to Kare Smith, Sigurd Bratlie.

He led the church very differently to what it is like now under Kare Smith.

The things that interested us about the group was:

- Simplicity
Back then, there were no stringent requirements for money, constant fundraising and several other money-related schemes.

- Victory of sin and Christ manifest in the flesh
The message that you could have victory over sin and strive towards perfection was a unique one for us. We had not heard this message anywhere else.

- Conservative as the bible
By this, the church was not "liberal" in the sense many churches are today. Everything was inaccordance with scripture. In terms of clothing etc.

- Lack of organisation
The core of the group then, was simply to gathering together and worship Christ. It was not an organisation like it is now.

Why did I leave? Well it's a long story, but I can give you a summary.

Once Kare Smith took over as leader from Sigurd Bratlie when he died in 1996, things gradually started to change. Money became more of a focus over saving souls, over the message of Christ.

Not only that, but there was this renewed hatred in the message, directed at other Christians, churches and Christian leaders.

Often we'd hear the leaders in Smith's Friends mock and condemn the pope, or evangelists like Billy Graham.

They would preach that these people were the harlot, who were preaching a false message to entice the masses.

I used to read alot of Billy Graham's books. Once you can say, I was "caught" reading his book. The next day, the entire meeting was based upon not taking part in the harlot and how it is a backwards step to read such literature, when we have the true message of Christ revealed to us by the prophets on earth today (SF leaders).

It turned more into a cult day by day. People were required to take loans out on their houses and give to Brunstad, if they did not, they were condemned daily in the "meetings". For some of us, who had family outside of the church, we were told to separate from them and "close" the door behind us on them. Basically, we constantly told not to mingle with the harlot or unbelievers. But this is opposite to the message of Christ, who came to save the sinners.

The group started to create more and more activities, that would require 100% participation. Most of it had to do with fund-raising. Infact we would even have competitions within the churches world-wide, as to who would fundraise the most money, that church would be praised by the leader.

So the group would start to make you distance yourself from life outside of the group. This had a negative effect on family relations and it would soon (in my experience) create me to dislike my family who were not in the group with vigour.

I also personally experienced the lack of transparency within the group, with my dealings with the leader. I prefer not to write too much about that publically tho (legal issues).

It was a culmination of many things, that led me to believe the main aim of the new leadership was to:

1) Secure membership to the group through mind control

2) Raise as much funds as possible, without letting members know where this money is being spent.

3) Hate and dislike those who are not in the group.

Another point, is that the leader who replaced Bratlie, Kare Smith, was quite poor before he became leader.

Naturally, after he became leader and created all these fund raising schemes, his wealth increased to "millionaire" status. He would usually tell members that he accomplished this through success on the stock market, but I doubt it. Just too coincidental for my liking.

Not once were audited annual reports released as to where all this money was going.

They would hold these brunstad feasts every six months, where churches around the world would raise literally millions in donations.

In the end, it became more of a financial situation.

I really hope you get the chance to read either "The bride and the harlot" or Kare Smiths (leader) book "the shepherd and the prophet". These two books, sum up how this group acts and behaves today. I am happy to say I have now left for one year and have never been happier.

My intention is to warn people not to join this group that will create you to hate the same people christ came to save. It will take all your time and only for one purpose, to generate finances.

TheTruth said...

I'd just like to add something else.

The message about Christ Manifest In the Flesh and Victory over sin was often used to attack other churches.

Let me explain.

Basically they created this notion, that it was the only church as to who God revealed the true message of the gospel, to the prophets on earth who are Smith's Friends leaders and elders.

By creating this notion, they were constantly able to beat down and attack other churches for not preaching this message.

During the latter years of being a member, I opened my eyes and started to see that many churches preached victory over sin.

I used to watch Greg Laurie on the Christian channel and he often preached to have victory over sin.

The leaders would constantly tell us that every other church would only preach that we are saved by grace AND that we can continue to sin (conciously) and still be saved!

I found this to be an abhorent lie by the leaders!

They mis-represented every church out there on false basis, just so they could create a false argument and smash it down, to further entice members to join and remain in the group.

To think, that people in this group would ridicule people like Billy Graham, who have given their lives for the purpose of serving Christ and spreading the message, was the last straw for me.

elf_asura said...

Keith: I too urge you to buy the two books THE TRUTH (disguised as a Lie) recommends. That is the one good suggestion he has made.
The Truth: You're a coward too.

yukonbound2 said...

Elf or 2b2bnot: You seem to be the main insiders on this thread. Can you please confirm or deny that Kare Smith publicly made a statement about wanting to kill all Arabs. If so, what was the context of his remark?

TheTruth: Very good thoughts and honest sharing from you. You were with the SFs more recently than I was, but much of what you wrote about was true even when I was with them. I can therefore affirm many of the things that you wrote, from my own firsthand experience.

Keith said...

I have seen the error of my ways. You are correct; I am not. Oh well. (Now you're an expert on the SBC? You are an amazing and all wise person.)

You stated: "You're like someone who walks into another person's home and makes all sorts of demands... Believe me, I've seen enough of what's in "your house." I'd NEVER ask you for any of it. Too much junk--not worth a dime.

You know, for someone that--in the beginning--was just a casual observer, you sure have an overwhelming interest now.

Keith said...

TheTruth: Thanks for the "bio." Sounds pretty familiar.

elf_asura said...

Keith: Thank God you're not interested in our house. But you are lying - you want more, don't you? You really would like to hear more, don't you? Or are you really "full"? We shall see, for this blog will reveal each person's real self or nature and how it flows. :-)
Be good!

TheTruth said...

Elf asura, you're very quick with the personal attacks.

But hey, after 22 years in Smith's Friends, I'm used to them.

I call Smith's Friends, The Church Of Condemnation.

You are constantly condemned by the leaders for everything, be it not donating enough money, to reading non-church literature.

elf_asura said...

Keith: Let me whet your appetite a bit. I can hear your stomach growling for more. :-)
What The Truth fears to do, here, let me put it out a little by little.
Excerpt from The Bride and The Harlot and the End Times by Sigurd Bratlie:

"Now we can understand how the harlot comes into being. If we come to Jesus without hating ourselves according to the flesh, our heart is divided. We are adulterous, and James says, "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." James 4:4 "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him." 1 John 2:15
This is how the harlot comes into being. The name "harlot" cannot be attached only to one particular denomination, but let each one take heed that he is not adulterous according to God's Word."
Keith: Would you like to hear more such edifying thoughts? Exhortations that can make one truly happy and established in the Lord Jesus Christ and His ways?
May the Lord Jesus make it to be so for you and The Truth.

TheTruth said...

Yukonbound2: Can you please confirm or deny that Kare Smith publicly made a statement about wanting to kill all Arabs.


The audio clip should still be online in the multimedia section of the Brunstadworld.org site (if they havent removed it yet).

It was in the context of a Brunstad summer conference (2006 I Believe), where there was a special meeting which was titled as "Focus On Israel".

Basically, it was Bernt Aksel Larsen, Kare Smith and Sverre Riskfjord (If I recall correctly) sitting on the stage at Brunstad.

The discussion was about how the media in Norway was very anti-Israel and anti-SF. Kare Smith said he wanted to join the Israeli army so he could "kill all the arabs". Naturally this met great applause, as does anything Kare says.

The next day, there was a normal conference meeting and Yakup Ozyurek went up to the pulpit and said "I want to kill all arabs also!" (Yakup is Turkish). Also another brother from England (forgot his name) said something along the same lines.

This meeting was later released in a DVD and sold to members. The DVD was called "Focus On Israel".

TheTruth said...

elf asura...

In the same book, I suggest you read page four.

"The Development of the Harlot".

This book labels all Christians as harlots, as it makes the assumption that they only seek grace and do the work of Satan in their assemblies.

I would post quotes, but I do not want to fall in the same trap that Friedrich Griess did and face a law suit on my hands by SF's lawyers. The prefer to keep their literature a secret from non-members.

elf_asura said...

The Truth:
I am not here to do your bidding of a coward and liar who is seething with bitterness.
I have the book and I know what is on Page 4 and it is not what you insinuate. I will post what I choose to post at my leisure and pleasure. Just hang in there and don't lose your marbles.

Keith said...

The Truth: Thanks for your recent post(s).

"Kare Smith said he wanted to join the Israeli army so he could "kill all the arabs". Naturally this met great applause, as does anything Kare says." Sounds like the SF are into a bit of idol worship there.

So...Kare Smith is to SF as Joseph Smith was to the Mormons...infallible prophet?!

elf_asura said...

Keith: I am surprised you are so gullible. But I guess I ought not to be.

Keith said...

Could someone please run over to Elf's house and wake him up? I think he's fallen asleep on his keyboard. (Just don't ask to see anything when you're in his house...he gets really testy about that.)

elf_asura said...

Keith: Flying out of town on work. Take care and hope you have a good time with The Truth. He seems to be the man after your heart! Bye!

Keith said...

Man, I thought he'd never leave! Maybe now we can have a meaningful dialog.

yukonbound2 said...

This Kill Arab story doesn't sound like a made up story to me. I am concerned that Kare Smith would 1) say such a thing and 2) that he would be met with APPLAUSE when saying it and that 3) other SFs would get up and share that they wanted to do the same thing (talk about seeking approval, something that the SFs used to preach against a lot and probably still do!).

If all this is true, then there is much room for concern. I can never, in a thousand years, imagine SF leaders like Bratlie or Tombre making such a statement. It is quite ungodly, as was the response as reported below. ESPECIALLY if he never apologized for such a remark. If it's true, it speaks very much to the immaturity and fleshly tendencies of a man like Kare Smith - which in fact somewhat I picked up on during my final years with the SFs.

It reminds me of a story that I PERSONALLY heard from Kare Smith's mouth in the early 90s. He relayed a story of how he punched someone in the face, someone who had angered him (and it wasn't a chivalrous type of scenario i.e. where someone maligned his wife or spoke ill of his parents or something along those lines).

In telling the story, Kare wasn't apologizing for it, or saying that he learned from it and that "I knew then that I had to overcome my anger.". Not at all. He said it in a very self-justifying way, and many of the people gathered around just laughed as he told it. I was appalled, just as I am appalled to hear this Arab story. Granted, the Arab story may not be true, but I find it hard to believe that someone would simply make such a story up. But the story about punching someone in the face is definitely true.

A general remark regarding those who have left, and are still "harping" about issues, and who in fact might seem "bitter" to current SF.

I would point out that the vast vast majority of people who have left are probably not reading these blogposts or google groups. They have moved on, for better or for worse. I personally know several exSF who are happy and thriving and doing well in their respective environments. I do think that for most people - upon leaving there is an initial period of loneliness, adjustment, some anger and even bitterness, and considerable shaking off of the weird and strange tendencies found in this group. This can be a long and arduous process, often with considerable pain associated. Certainly there was some of that for me, but the Lord (and fellow christians) helped me to work through it. So some of the "angst" that is coming through here and at the google group may simply be a phase.

yukonbound2 said...

I just reread my post about K Smith punching someone. I now realize that I may not have been clear enough in the telling of the story about K Smith punching someone.

He was NOT telling the story to show that he needed to overcome his anger. As he told the story, it was clear that he had no problem at all with the fact that he had punched this person in the face. In his telling of the story, he was not at all apologetic or sorrowful. In fact, he was very self-justifying. It was truly appalling, and it was also appalling that all the brethren and young people gathered around simply LAUGHED and went along with his telling of it.

When he told it, in the early 90s, it sounded very much like it was something that had happened in the recent past and not the distant past.

TheTruth said...

Very true Yukon. One of the key reasons for leaving SF, was because Kare Smith started to become the head and not Christ.

It reached a point where he was worshipped and not Christ. This of course has to do with his attitude. He is a kind of dictator that demands respect. Many times he has said at the pulpit "I have done all the work, I created Brunstad when you all doubted, how dare any of you question me".

This is far from the life of Christ.

Bratlie was far better then Kare, but he still had the same attitude towards other Christians and churches.

He once said that Billy Graham will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

This is the biggest problem with SF, they constantly judge other christians, other denominations. It is because they need to convince members that SF is the only one true church and the rest are harlots. It's a strategy for keeping church membership.

elf asura is exactly how SF deals with criticism, even from those within the group - ridicule.

In relation to the girl which is caught up in this group. It is very hard to leave, especially when you are a new member and have no family inside the group.

In the first few years, she will be given alot of attention and treated very well. They will go out of their way to treat her well, all whilst teaching her to not have contact with her parents and other Christians, because they belong to a false doctrine.

We can only pray that she will break free from this spiritual cacoon. That she will see the light that these people are the opposite of Christ's intention. They have hatred for other Christians and sinners, they believe that only they are the body of Christ.

Keith said...

Hey, gang. Just so you know, Elf said he was going out of town, but it looks like he (or one of his buddies) is still hanging around--just watching.

"You better watch out...you better not cry...Elf_Asura is coming back to town!"

Harold said...

TheTruth: Thank you for telling us some of your history with SF. I realize that your experience is unique to you and nobody else. But it is hard to discount your opinions of SF when so much of it is backed up by other independent stories I have heard and what is observed from the local fellowship. Elf’s tirade is typical and does nothing but bolster your credibility for me.

You also made the statement that the SF leadership sought to “secure membership to the group through mind control”. I have studied some on the subject of mind control and would like to know what experience you had that would lead you to say that?

Sophie said...

TheTruth: Earlier, you mentioned that “SF leaders created a notion that they were the only church as to who God revealed the true message” (that SF was the only ones who had the truth). Isn’t that another classic characteristic of a cult – to believe that you’re the ONLY one who has the truth?

I actually feel sorry for Elf (as well as all other SF’s members) because it appears he’s been duped by these SF’s leaders also.

Elf: You called TheTruth a coward. On what do you base that comment? How is he a coward? Why is it that when people have no substantial evidences, they begin calling names?

You quoted: “You are of your father, the devil….he was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a falsehood, he speaks what is natural of him for he is a liar and the father of lies and all that is false”. It is interesting that you quote scripture to TheTruth after you tried to deceive these people here yourself, yet call yourself a Christian. Isn’t that being judgmental to think it’s ok for you to deceive, but yet criticize and accuse someone else of doing the very thing you’ve done? For you to judge others like this and threaten people with legal action does nothing to honor the God that you say you serve.

hgdreger said...

Have you all checked out our website at www.brunstad.org ?
It's fairly new, only put up in the last few months, so I apologize for the scarcity of articles, but they're working on adding articles from different churches, and translating old ones every day.
Previously, a lot of the churches had (and still have) their own websites, on which they posted articles, pictures, announcements etc. Because there was no cross-translating done, it was becoming frustrating, that when we wanted to know how the friends, say in Denmark, were doing,the language barrier was always there. So a new website was set up, in addition to the old ones,where everything is cross-translated into 8 or 9 languages I think, possibly more.
There is also a directory of all our churches, the addresses and the leading brothers etc.
I'm just saying this, as an opportunity for anyone who wants to know the church a little better. Weirdly, the web page is called Brunstad Christian Church. I'll be honest, I think that's not the wisest choice, but hey.
Oh and maybe I should add, that I freely acknowledge my affiliation with the church, sometimes called Smith's Friends, but in this case, I am not speaking in any official capacity for them. I'm just excite about the new website!

TheTruth said...

Harold: You also made the statement that the SF leadership sought to “secure membership to the group through mind control”. I have studied some on the subject of mind control and would like to know what experience you had that would lead you to say that?


I say this, because every meeting was based on condemnation of the congregation.

Because at the core of the message in the group was "perfection" and "victory over sin", the leaders would constantly preach about faults he sees in the congregation.

So every meeting was basically one of condemnation or critique.

In the end, it reaches a state where members are actually just trying to please the leaders.

Not only this, but members were often told examples of how bad it has gone with those who left the "fellowship".

Even Kare Smith has said, in the conference, that those who left now "live like pigs". They would tell stories of how they died of disease or killed in accidents.

There was never any uplifting message, it was either leave and have something bad happen to you (for leaving the one true church) or stay and receive a message of condemnation.

When you break people down this way, in my opinion it is a type of mind control. They feel without hope and see the only hope is to keep coming back to the congregation, for acceptance from the leaders.

The leaders would often "testify" about how "spiritual" another "brother" or "sister" was. A kind of honor-system.

Harold said...

TheTruth: Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. What you have said is very similar to other accounts that I have read about. I have written some quotes from other people below in order to show the similarities that exist in all coercive groups. I have references for these but I am choosing not to publish these here.

A former member of the Unification Church:
“As a member I had been told many times that it was better to die or kill than to leave the church.”

A former member of Children of God (COG):
“But for a long time after I left the group, I still feared…that in ‘turning my back on the truth,’ I had exposed myself to hell on earth and judgment hereafter …. that COG’s prophecies about ‘backsliders’ loomed large and threatening in my mind.”

A former member of Church of the International Society of Divine Love. (an Eastern meditation cult)
“Am I going to have to descend into lower animal forms? Will I spend many lifetimes searching for God before I am given another chance at a human birth? Over time I began to realize that these thoughts were phobias induced by the group.”

A former member of a political cult in the Midwest:
“A feeling of uselessness was a major issue in that first year. Reacting to the ingrained cult-induced phobia that we would be nothing if we left the cult, I often thought to myself: ‘I have totally failed.”

A former member of a left wing political cult:
“With hindsight, I can see that in order to avoid the wrath of the leadership and the ultimate consequence of being expelled, I lived for eight years in terror of not being able to adequately control my thoughts, actions, feelings, and words. I had fully internalized the belief that there was no life outside this group, and that I might as well be dead as expelled.”

The tactics used by the leadership of SF is not unique. Rev. Moon does the same thing. Jim Jones did it, David Koresh did it, Marshall Applewhite did it, even Hitler did it. They all did the same thing. The words used may be different but the behavior, the manipulation, the control tactics are the same.

The sad thing is that we raise our children to respect and trust those in authority, like policemen, firemen, and teachers. And most people live up to that kind of responsibility. But how do we train our children to recognize those individuals in these positions who abuse that authority and resort to this kind of manipulation?

Sophie said...

TheTruth stated that the leadership of SFs discouraged its members from reading outside materials. Elf stated that “Why read outside materials or sing music from the outside when SFs has so many interesting materials itself?” It’s clear that SFs leaders are trying to control what materials its members are subjected to and they have succeeded with Elf. Isn’t that yet another technique that cults use? Controlling literature and other outside materials?

Harold said...

That’s right. It’s one part of the mind control process. One of the first things Hitler did when he came to power in Germany was to burn all books and information that was anti-Nazi. If people don’t have access to any outside information then their capability to judge for themselves what is right or wrong has been taken away. Our capacity for critical thinking is driven by the ability to process information from many sources and make our own decisions. That is why a free press and free speech in this country are vital to our freedoms. If we let the government or anyone else control the press in this country then they will control what we think and we are no longer free to make our own choices.

Some cults control information by physical isolation. But you don’t have to. It is just as effective to isolate someone mentally too. If you can convince someone that all outside material is evil and they choose not to read it, then you have essentially isolated them. You can say that they made their own choice, but if you feed them false information and throw a little fear of outsiders into the mix then you have control of them. You have taken away the necessary information for critical thought and their freedom to make their own choices.

jarsmom said...

Excellent work, I am too a former
sv. I agree with what us post sv
people are saying, I had no idea
kare was so over the edge these
To all you who are still in sv thank you for your honest imput,esp
daniel and sorry miss drager, I cant remember your first name. ARE there others who would like to
contribute something with out being
so abrasive.

Keith said...

I haven't checked in lately, but wanted thank all of you that have posted in recent days. It appears things have quieted down somewhat, although I can see that several of the previous posters are still visiting the site and watching the thread. That's OK.

Continue to pray for the daughter of our friends, that her eyes will be opened to the deception that has been perpetrated on her.

I've been watching the situation in Texas with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I see some very similar tactics/practices there. Isolation from outside influences being the most obvious. Also, the things the children have reportedly been told, e.g. "everyone on the outside is evil--they will lie to you, etc."

I have no doubt that the children are scared and bewildered because of their circumstances. I have prayed for them as well.

It's interesting to hear the sect (and even SF members) use the word "lies" when referring to things said from the "outside." Because they have never heard some of the things, they are labeled lies. Control what comes into the group (i.e. only "OUR" material) and prevent outside material from coming in either physically or by coercion then anything else--when and if it is encountered-- is jettisoned as a "lie." That's a form of mind control in my book.

TheTruth said...

What you say Keith is very correct.

In my local church, we had "special" meetings for the Children, which were called "children meetings". They usually took part before the main meeting and were open only to the children, the leading "brother", the "brother" responsible for the children. Usually parents would not take part.

About 60-70% of these meeting was concentrated on attacking those on the outside and not just anyone, but specifically other Christians. It was drilled into the children early on, that only "we" had the true message and those on the outside were the "harlot", basically Christians who were working for the devil.

Again also in the Children conferences the same rhetoric was drilled in.

The indoctrination started at a very young age.

I am so thankful, I managed to break free from this spiritual cacoon and really started to question why this "church" dwelt on attacking, rebuking and ridiculing other Christians so much. It reached a point where the "hatred" demonstrated towards those on the outside was just too much.

Children are pushed to radicalism and dedication to the group's principles at an early age. It was common for 5 years onwards (sometimes younger), to testify in the children and normal meetings, praise the leadership of the church and say how thankful they are to be part of the church.

This is why it is so hard for many to break free from SF and when they do, it is never easy....

I hope your friend's daughter will be able to break free from this spiritual cacoon. I think because she did not grow in the group, that it will reach a point with her too, where she will question the teaching that other Christians are doomed.

2b2bnot said...


5 year olds testifying in normal meetings!! Highly exaggerated..Please admit it.

Btw, how do u know so much abt the childrens meetings? Were u a leader?

I used to teach Sunday school in a non-SF church, where only teachers and the youth pastor used to be present. Why? Because the adults were at their worship session which was going on simultaneously. So whats ur point?

elf_asura said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TheTruth said...

Not really. Even the children were caught up in the spirit of pleasing the leadership by attacking other Christians.

And no, there were no meetings for the "adults" whilst the Children meeting was on. I'm not suggesting anything, just saying that the arrogant preaching and disdain towards other Christians is the hallmark of cultism.

I was never a leader, that is reserved for the "norwegians" :)

jarsmom said...

I would like to say, Ive heard small childern testify in adult meetings, every week, However they
usually had something to say that
didnt involve critizing others. I must say very little of that went on in the meetings I went to. I give credit where credit is due

elf_asura said...


Taken from an essay by James R Lewis of Santa Barbara, CA from the site:

SAFE SECTS? Early Warning Signs of Bad Religions

In ordinary language people talk as
if there is an objective category of groups called "cults" that can be distinguished from genuine religions. In this commonly accepted view, cults are by definition socially dangerous false religions, led by cynical cult leaders who exploit followers for their own gain.
This stereotype is, however, deeply flawed, and for more than one reason. In the first place, "cult" is a socially-negotiated label that often means little more than a religion one dislikes for some reason. To certain conservative Christians, for example, a "cult" is any religion that departs from a certain traditional interpretation of scripture. Alternatively, ultra-conservative Christians who take a strictly fundamentalist approach to scripture often appear "cult-like" to many mainline Christians. In other words, one person's cult is another person's religion.

In the second place, the founders of new groups are--despite whatever personal flaws some might have--almost always sincerely religious. Part of the problem here is that most people unreflectively assume that religion is always something "good." If, therefore, a given religious body does something "bad," then ipso facto it must not be "real" religion. Instead, it must be a false religion, created for no other reason than the founder/leader's personal gain. This attitude is, however, naive.
....The proper question to ask, then, is not whether some particular group is or is not a cult (in the sense of a "false religion"), but, rather, whether or not the social-psychological dynamics within a particular religion are potentially dangerous to its members and/or to the larger society.
The traits designated as early warning signs of 'bad religion'" are:

1. The organization is willing to place itself above the law. With the exceptions noted earlier, this is probably the most important characteristic.
2. The leadership dictates (rather than suggests) important personal (as opposed to spiritual) details of followers' lives, such as whom to marry, what to study in college, etc.
3. The leader sets forth ethical guidelines members must follow but from which the leader is exempt.
4. The group is preparing to fight a literal, physical Armageddon against other human beings.
5. The leader regularly makes public assertions that he or she knows is false and/or the group has a policy of routinely deceiving outsiders.

Finally, we noted that, while many benign religions establish semi-segregated communities, socially dangerous religions are almost always isolated or partially isolated from the larger society.

These five traits are about as close as one can get to legitimate, objective criteria for judging whether or not a given religious organization is going--or has gone--"bad." With the exception of placing the group's actions above the law, none of these characteristics, taken by themselves, are necessarily cause for alarm. On the other hand, a group possessing more than one or two of the above traits might well bear closer scrutiny. As a corollary to this line of analysis, minority religions possessing none of the above traits are, from a public policy standpoint, almost certainly harmless.

jarsmom said...

Excellent alf,

ARE you by the way norweigan??
Im curious, how many of you out
there are familar with lowell strikers paper

elf_asura said...

I have Lowell Streiker's paper in its entirety with me.

yukonbound2 said...

"Cultistic tendencies"
"being a cult"

Another former SF who I know has broken it down with this distinction.

The SFs certainly seemed to have cultistic tendencies, in my day. I have already written about those here, and I can confirm what many SFs have written here as well.

But from all I have heard and read since I left, I wonder if they have veered from cultistic tendencies into being a cult or very very cultlike. Certainly the comments left by current SFs on this thread, and at the google group, lead me to believe that things have probably gotten worse since the rise of Kare Smith.

elf_asura said...

Keith: The Elf_Asura is back. Rejoice, O SBC cultist!
I hope your prayers are ascending and meeting that bronze barrier in the sky!
Yukon: For one who has been away from SF for more than a decade and who is, like most ex-SF persons, yet fearful to reveal his identity, your "claims" to know a lot about SF only increasingly demonstrates ignorance. :-) Things that you are "lead to believe" are nothing compared to the things that are.
And yes, hey, I am back with my abrasiveness - so its "Showtime, Folks!"

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