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On Pluralism, Cults, & the Basis for Truth
An Interview with Robert T. Pardon
This month we conclude a three-part series of never-before-published interviews with AIIA’s three Resource Associates, each of whom have training, experience, and expertise in a particular area of apologetics. Robert Pardon is the director of the New England Institute of Religious Research (NEIRR), which he founded with four others in 1991. Rev. Pardon holds a B.A. in Eastern Religions from the University of Michigan, an M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and a Th.M. from Princeton Theological Seminary. He has pastored churches in Middleboro and Watertown, Massachusetts. NEIRR provides up to date research on a wide variety of cultic structures, as well as training in how to minister to those caught in such groups. A service to ex-members is also available. You may contact NEIRR at PO Box 878 Lakeville MA 02347, or by phone at 508-947-9571. An impressive and informative web site is offered at http://www.ultranet.com/~neirr
AIIA: How would you define a cult, and how many cults are there in America?
Pardon: A cult is a controlling group or institution that sets itself up in opposition to the true Church, claiming to be that true Church. It is a heresy in that it fundamentally deviates from what is regarded by the Church as an important orthodox belief (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Boston Movement, Theosophical Society, Scientology, Messianic Communities, etc.). The best estimates seem to indicate between 2,000-3,000 cults in the United States today.
A cult…deviates from what is regarded by the Church as an import-ant orthodox belief.
AIIA: With so many people believing so many things nowadays, how can anyone know for certain what is true?
Pardon: Unless a person believes in some ultimate authority (outside themselves) that has revealed truth, there is no way to be certain about anything. I believe that the Bible is just such a revelation from God. It is the only document as such, that I know of, that can stand up under the most rigorous scrutiny.
AIIA: What gives NEIRR (or any other cult awareness organization) the right to call another organization false, i.e. a cult?
Pardon: The same criteria that I would apply to the Bible or any other person or group that lays claim to truly revealing ultimate reality. What is the basis of its/their authority? Can it withstand close scrutiny by an historical, critical method of evaluation? Is it logically coherent and consistent as a system? Is it consistent with reality as most people experience it?
AIIA: What should someone say or do to get through to a person involved in a cult?
Pardon: I believe that initially one has to build bridges of trust with the person so that a profitable and genuine discussion can be had. That takes time. After that, the critical issues of authority and truth can be dealt with using the Bible as a touchstone.
AIIA: Do you believe that God would damn the innocent children of parents involved in a cult?
Pardon: No, I do not. The God of the Bible is a loving God who does not just capriciously send people to hell because they happened to have had the misfortune of being born at the wrong time and in the wrong place. Each person is responsible before God for their own soul and destiny.
AIIA: Please list a few resources that you would recommend to a person searching for the truth about what to believe.
Pardon: The first would be the Bible. God’s Word speaks to the human heart like no other. Second would be Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands A Verdict, for its wealth of historical evidence verifying the claims of Jesus Christ. Third, C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, as an excellent treatment of the philosophical plausibility of a Christian reality. Fourth, a book by John Wenham entitled The Goodness Of God. This book deals with issues of God’s goodness in a world of evil and pain.