Saturday, March 25, 2017

Did Jesus suffer in hell?

Did Jesus need to go to hell to finish the work of saving us from sin? Would God allow Jesus to suffer in hell? Some well-known Christian ministers teach that, after Jesus Christ died on the cross, he went to hell to finish paying the penalty for our sins prior to the resurrection. Is that true? If He was not in hell, where was Jesus during those three days?  

Where did that teaching originate?
Possibly the earliest reference to Jesus’ descent into hell is found in the Apostles’ Creed, which states Christ:
“was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell: The third day He rose again”.[i]
The Apostles’ Creed was almost certainly not penned by the Apostles, but was probably written only a few centuries after their time and is still used in many denominational churches today. The creed is doctrinally very sound, with the reference to hell as the only questionable point. However, the meaning of “hell” in the creed is important, as we will see below.

Two New Testament verses seem to indicate that Jesus went to hell following His death on the cross. They read in the King James Version:
“Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (Acts 2:27) This is a quotation of Psalm 16:10.
“He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.” (Acts 2:31)

Translating “hell”
The Greek word translated as “hell” in the second chapter of Acts is hades, defined as the region of the departed spirits of the lost; the abode into which the spirits of men are ushered immediately after death. Hades and its corresponding Hebrew word sheol, used in the Old Testament, do not denote the permanent, eternal region of the lost. In the New Testament, two Greek words are translated into English as “hell”: hades and gehenna (or geenna). Hades (Strong’s 86), used ten times in the NASB version, is used to refer to “the grave, the place of the dead, ‘the underworld’”.[ii] Hades is properly understood as “the region of the departed spirits of the lost … it expresses the general concept of the invisible world or abode into which the spirits of men are ushered immediately after death … [Hades is] the intermediate state between death and the ultimate hell, Gehenna”.[iii]

What is Gehenna?
This is what we normally think of as hell, with fire and torment. The word geenna (Strong’s 1067), is rendered as “Gehenna, hell, ‘Valley of Hinnom’”.[iv] This valley was used at one time to offer child sacrifices to Molech.[v] The Valley of Hinnom was located just outside of the southern part of Jerusalem and was used as a burning pit for trash from the city. The word Gehenna is used in the Bible twelve times, eleven by Jesus and once in James 3:6. The allusion by Jesus of Gehenna as a continuously burning trash dump for condemned souls would have been very poignant for the Jews living near Jerusalem. He used described Gehenna as “fiery” (Matthew 5:22 and 18:9). The Bible indicates hades (holding place for departed souls) will cease to exist following the white throne judgment:
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:14)
This makes sense if all persons will be, from that time forward, either in heaven or hell (Gehenna). Hell is the place where the unsaved will be cast in the future, after the judgment (Revelation 20:15). Jesus would not have gone to this place during his three days in the grave.

With the differences in the original Greek better understood now, a more accurate translation of the Greek words render these verses in Acts as such:
·         “because you will not abandon my soul to hades nor allow your holy one to undergo decay” (Acts 2:27) The verse in Psalm 16:10 likewise more accurately reads in the Hebrew:  “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol” , not hell.
·         “he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was neither abandoned to hades, nor did his flesh suffer decay.” (Acts 2:31)

Statements of Jesus
Other verses concerning Jesus Christ clearly indicate that he would not be in hell (Gehenna) following his crucifixion and death.  In Luke 23:46, it is written, and Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.”  If Jesus was going to suffer in hell, would He have made this statement?  Additionally, if Jesus would suffer in the fire of hell for three days, would he have said to the one thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise”?  (Luke 23:43) The Greek word translated here as “paradise” is paradeisos (Strong’s 3857), meaning either the part of hades reserved for the righteous held prior to the resurrection or some region of heaven. Paradise may be equated with heaven by Paul, who uses the same word as Luke (paradeisos) in 2 Corinthians 12:4. Two verses previous, he uses the phrase “third heaven” (ouranos – Strong’s 3772). The point is that Jesus did not say he would be in gehenna to endure more suffering later that day; rather He would be in paradeisos.

It is finished
If it was necessary for Jesus to suffer torment in hell, he would not have been able to make the statement on the cross, “It is finished.” in John 19:30.  The Greek word tetelestai means something is accomplished or fulfilled.  The word tetelestai was also written on business documents or receipts in New Testament times indicating that a bill had been paid in full. Notice Jesus did not say on the cross, “It is almost finished”, nor did He wait until three days had passed to say, “It is finished”. He was the perfect, sinless lamb of God (John 1:29) and when He died, it was completed. Peter stated Jesus bore our sins on the cross (1 Peter 2:24), not in hell.   

To more properly understand this issue, we should differentiate the purpose of the cross from the purpose of hell (gehenna). Hell is a future (2 Peter 3:7), eternal place of punishment, banishment from God’s presence (2 Thessalonians 1:9) and a quarantine for the unregenerate apart from those who are saved. The cross, on the other hand, was the final and ultimate sacrifice, of which the Old Testament animal sacrifices were a foreshadowing. Think about it – the sheep did not go to hell to suffer. That was not the point of the sacrifice. The cross and hell have very different purposes.

Where was He for three days?
If Jesus was not in hell, what was He doing between death on the cross and the resurrection? Geisler and Rhodes point out the two views concerning this issue.
1.    The Hades View. According to this position, Jesus’ spirit went to the holding place of those who had died and “He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison” (1 Peter 3:19). The Apostle Paul references this as well:  “’When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men’. Now this expression, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?” (Ephesians 4:8-9)
Peter states that, following His death, Jesus “went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison” (1 Peter 3:19).  The original Greek word rendered prison is phylake, which means the act of keeping watch or guarding or a place where someone is watched or guarded. The spirits mentioned here are described as those who were disobedient during the time Noah was preaching righteousness (1 Peter 3:20). This also likely includes other unsaved persons who died prior to the time of Christ. 

2.    The Heaven View. Proponents of this position teach that the souls of Old Testament saints ascended directly to heaven. Enoch was taken by God (Genesis 5:24 and Hebrews 11:5). The Bible states Elijah “went up by a whirlwind to heaven” (2 Kings 2:11). Prior to the resurrection of Jesus, the souls of the righteous went to heaven, while their bodies awaited the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20 and Matthew 27:53).[vi]

So, what?
Why is this important? This issue probably does not involve an essential Christian doctrine. However, it relates to two significant issues:
1.    We should be very cautious when extrapolating beliefs concerning Jesus Christ or God. This is particularly evident in statements of some people who go on to say that Jesus not only suffered in hell, but also was born again. As Geisler and Rhodes state, “the Bible is clear that he was not ‘born again’ while there, nor did he gain victory over the devil at that time. Jesus was not a sinner and, therefore, did not need to be born again”.[vii]
2.    The King James version of the Bible, though a very good translation and beautifully written, contains some rendering of words which have the potential to cause misunderstandings for a 21st century reader. Jesus went to hades, which is not the same as hell.

To have the most accurate interpretation of the Bible, we should use the English version that is translated from the oldest reliable manuscripts and seek to understand the writer’s meaning in the original language. By doing this, we see that Jesus Christ did not suffer torment in hell. Nowhere does the Bible indicate Jesus went to hell or needed to be born again. Jesus Christ finished the work of atonement for our sins when He died on the cross.  

[i]Christian Classics Ethereal Library website, “Apostles’ Creed”, accessed 13 Apr 2009,
[ii] Strong’s, 1588.
[iii] Zodhiates, Spiros, Executive Editor, The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, (Chattanooga, TN: 1996), p. 1575.
[iv] Strong’s, 1599.
[v] “They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin” (Jeremiah 32:35).
[vi]Norman Geisler and Ron Rhodes, Correcting the Cults (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Books, 1997), p. 253.
[vii]Ibid., pp. 253-254.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Is Wicca compatible with the Bible? Does God approve of witchcraft?

(It may seem unusual to place the conclusion first, but this contains the most critical information, answers the questions in the article title, and many readers may not stick around until the end.) Wiccan beliefs (also those of Paganism and witchcraft) differ significantly from Christianity as described in the Bible in several key areas:
1.    Nature of God. Wiccans typically believe in one primary Goddess and a minor male horned God named Pan. The Bible specifically indicates there is one God and His Son Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 8:6, 1 Timothy 2:5) and God is separate from the creation (Colossians 1:16, Revelation 4:11).
2.    Human nature and sin. There really is no concept of sin in Wicca. The Bible is very clear that all people are sinners (Romans 3:10, 1 John 1:10, Ephesians 2:1).
3.    Salvation. Because there is no sin consciousness, there is no need for forgiveness or a savior, as the Bible clearly teaches (Romans 5:8, 1 Timothy 1:15, 1 Corinthians 15:3).
4.    Satan. The existence and role of Satan are diminished or non-existent in Wicca. The Bible mentions Satan as our enemy in numerous places (John 10:10, 1 Peter 5:8).

This may sound absurd at first, but Wiccans and witches would find much appealing in true Christianity. However, one must separate any perceived wrongs committed by the Christian church from the true God and His Son Jesus Christ. First, the God of the Bible is personal (John 17:21, Romans 8:38-39) and this can be appealing to those who have become accustomed to an impersonal spirituality. Second, the Bible is very affirming of women (Esther 9:29, Judges 4:4, Genesis 3:20, Galatians 3:28). Third, the Bible informs that God admonished humans to care for the earth (Genesis 2:15). Rather than a counterfeit (Colossians 2:8), God graciously offers real power (Acts 1:8, Luke 10:19) and His Spirit (Luke 11:13) in our lives.

What does the Bible say?
The Bible clearly condemns many of the practices of Wicca and witchcraft. But, many people (including this writer) ask, “Why?” Here are Old and New Testament references regarding this topic. In the next section is found an explanation concerning the reasons for God’s warning against these practices. Note here that the Lord does not merely condemn witchcraft in general, but mentions specific actions:
·         "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)
·         “He (Manasseh) made his son pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and used divination, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord provoking Him to anger. (2 Kings 21:6)
·         “You shall not … practice divination or soothsaying.” (Leviticus 19:26)
·         “Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them.” (Leviticus 19:31)
·         “As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.” (Leviticus 20:6)
·         “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Revelation 21:8)
·         “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions…” (Galatians 5:19-20)
·         “Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.” (Revelation 22:15)
·         Also see Acts 8:9-22, Isaiah 47:12-15, Acts 13:6-11, Exodus 22:18 and 1 Samuel 28.

Precisely what does the Bible mean by “sorcery”, “witchcraft”, or “divination”? The Greek word in Galatians 5:20, Revelation 9:21 and 18:23 translated as sorcery or magic arts is pharmakeia (Strong’s 5331).[1] According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary:
“pharmakeia “primarily signified ‘the use of medicine, drugs, spells’; then, ‘poisoning’; then, ‘sorcery’”.  Furthermore, “’sorcery’, the use of drugs, whether simple or potent, was generally accompanied by incantations and appeals to occult powers, with the provision of various charms, amulets, etc., professedly designed to keep the applicant or patient from the attention and power of demons, but actually to impress the applicant with the mysterious resources and powers of the sorcerer.”[2]
We can see that, even in the original Greek, the demonic and occult were part of sorcery.

But why?
So it’s not surprising that the God of the Bible disapproves of witchcraft - another in a list of “Thou shalt nots” forced on us by a judgmental, patriarchal God and hypocritical Christians, right? But, why does He disapprove of these practices? First, the simple fact that God warns against these should be reason enough. As a loving Father and our Creator, it makes sense to trust Him. Nonetheless, as inquisitive creatures, we want to know why. The primary reason is that witchcraft brings people into contact with demonic spirits which have rebelled against God and are actively working to destroy God’s greatest creation – us. The Apostle Paul states:
·         “in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons”. (1 Timothy 4:1)
·          “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
·         “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)
·         “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14)
·         Jesus said, “The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy” us (John 10:10).

Someone may say, “That’s ridiculous. I’m not worshipping Satan or demons. Wiccans don’t even believe in them.” First, my disbelief has no bearing on their existence, one way or the other. But, think about it. If there is power in Wicca or witchcraft, from where does that power originate? If this power emanates from some mysterious force in the universe, where did that come from? On the other hand, if the power is derived from within the Pagan practitioner, what evidence does one have as a basis for that assertion? Evil spirits will attempt to deceive us into thinking we have access to some spiritual power other than the true God. God warns us about these things to protect us!

Barna survey
A survey conducted by The Barna Group found the following regarding practices and beliefs:
“Wicca is a faith system that has no central organization or theological belief system defined for all of its adherents. It may be best understood through its typical practices, which include performing magic and sorcery, casting spells and engaging in witchcraft. It is a ritualistic faith based on a loose set of pagan beliefs that are generally pantheistic in nature. Those who are involved commonly go through initiation rites for membership, teaching and leadership. Contrary to a widespread assumption, however, Wicca is not synonymous with Satan worship. Wiccans most frequently worship gods and goddesses that are found in nature. Wicca generally embraces the notions of karma and reincarnation, and promotes a laissez faire form of morality.”[3]

Somewhat unique characteristics of Wicca make it attractive to some people, particularly those who are younger and female:
·         the highly individualistic nature of the faith
·         sensitivity to nature and the environment
·         movies, television shows, and books that feature appealing characters
·         value placed upon personal experience rather than adherence to a strict ideology
·         the fascination with casting spells, performing magic
·         the growing determination of Americans to tolerate and accept worldviews, philosophies and religious practices that stray from those of the traditional or widely-recognized religions[4]

What is Wicca?
Is Wicca the same as witchcraft or Paganism? Is it a form of witchcraft? Can someone be a Christian and a Wiccan? This article is not a rant against witchcraft, but rather is intended to provide useful information about the God of the Bible to those involved in Wicca. Christians will also find information here concerning Wiccans with the hope that we can reach out with respect and love. First, we need to define some terms. Wicca is a form of witchcraft and oftentimes the two are synonymous, but clearly Wicca is not Satanism. In fact, most Wiccans (or modern witches) would deny Satan even exists, claiming he is an invention of the Christian religion. Wicca is a neo-pagan, nature-based religion which was popularized in 1954 by Gerald Gardner from Britain. The adherents, known as Wiccans, practice forms of witchcraft such as performing magic, sorcery, and casting spells.

“Wicca is a neo-pagan religion based on the pre-Christian traditions of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Its origins can be traced even further back to Paleolithic peoples who worshipped a Hunter God and a Fertility Goddess.”[5] Catherine Sanders, a writer who has experience with The Washington Times, The Weekly Standard, World, The McLaughlin Group, and others, spent a year researching Wicca and Pagan spirituality. She defined it as “Neo-Pagan witchcraft practiced as a spirituality or religion.”[6]

Many of those involved claim Wicca had its roots thousands of years ago, before Judaism and Christianity. Some aspects likely have been borrowed from ancient times; however, many current practices were developed by Gardner much more recently. Sanders informs:
“It was Gardner who, in the middle of the twentieth century, gathered together all of these themes and created what we know today as Wicca.”[7]
A paper was published by Gardner in Ripley’s Believe it or Not, which “disclosed that Garner took the magical resources he acquired in Asia and a selection of Western magical texts and created a new religion centered upon the worship of the Mother-Goddess.”[8]

What are the beliefs of Wicca?
Because Wicca is not a monolithic religion and has no single defining doctrine, particular core beliefs are difficult to specify. Having said that, here are some major - though not comprehensive - beliefs accepted by most Wiccans:
1.    Belief in the Mother Goddess. She may be referred to in various names, such as Aphrodite, Diana, Artemis, and Gaia mother Earth most efficiently combines goddess worship and environmentalism.
2.    Rites harmonizing with the rhythm of nature. These include eight seasonal festivals, known as Sabbats such as the Spring and Fall equinox, Summer and Winter solstice, and four additional.
3.    Practice of magic: casting spells, divination, clairvoyance, astral projection, and others.
4.    The Wiccan Rede, which states, “That ye harm none, do what ye will.”[9]

Some additional neo-Pagan primary tenets:
1.    All is one – Humans have no special place, are not made in God’s image, and are part of a pantheistic belief that all of nature is of the same value.
2.    You are divine – Wiccans believe they are gods or goddesses and possess divine power.
3.    Personal power is unlimited – there is no deity limiting their abilities
4.    Consciousness is altered through rite and ritual – for example, casting of spells taps into the power of the spirit world.[10]

Why do people turn to Wicca?
Sanders provides four primary reasons particularly describing why many Wiccans have turned away from the Christian Church:
1.    Concern for the earth. The church has not typically been strong on the issue of care for the environment. (Environmentalism is one of the two primary drawing points for those involved with Wicca.)
2.    Empowerment for women. (Feminism is the second primary drawing point for Wiccans.) Sanders states that a significant number of women who have left the church for witchcraft did so because they felt wounded and felt as if they had been treated as second-class citizens by the church.  
3.    Frustration with the consumer culture. This concerns the perceived political viewpoint of the so-called Christian Right.
4.    The draw of the supernatural. Many people today are spiritually hungry and this is where some turn to satisfy that hunger.

Deification of nature
The Wiccan belief system elevates nature to the status of deity. In fact, famous Wiccan Starhawk described Wicca as beginning more than 35,000 years ago when the “gifted shamans” believed in “the Mother Goddess, the birthgiver, who brings into existence all life …”[11]
In her research as a journalist, Sanders found that:
“Most practitioners worship, experience, or invoke the Mother Goddess. They call her male consort the Horned God. Both are believed to be imminent deities who manifest themselves in nature. For instance, the moon, with its monthly cycle of waxing and waning, is perceived to be female and is considered a symbol of the Mother Goddess. The earth itself is also a symbol of the Mother Goddess because it gives forth fruit, vegetation, and life that sustain and nurture us.”[12]  

As George Mather and Larry Nichols point out:
“Wiccans deify nature in such a way that both God and nature are identified as synonymous. Further, since divinity lies in nature and in the cosmos, it also resides within each person. Here it can be observed that wiccan thought closely parallels Hinduism and other Eastern paradigms.”[13]

While it is admirable to respect nature and care for the environment, the earth is a creation of the one true God (Genesis 1:1, Ephesians 3:9, Revelation 4:11) and was made for humans (Genesis 1:27-30).

How should Christians speak to Wiccans?
Some good advice was provided by a non-Christian, practicing Pagan on a popular witchcraft website: Below is a condensed version of some of the main points:
·         Don’t attack. Many Christians and their writings called Wicca “evil” and Wiccans “devil-worshippers”, warning those involved must repent or be doomed to hell.
·         Get your facts straight. To be successful in reaching Pagans, Christians need to have a proper understanding of what they actually believe.
·         Admit the dark side of Christianity, such as:  Destruction of other cultures by Christian missionaries, intolerance of other faiths, The Inquisition, and denigration of women. 
·         Treat Pagans as people first. We should not befriend a Pagan solely for the purpose of conversion, then cast him or her aside if they fail to convert.
·         Treat Pagans the way you would want to be treated if approached by someone of a different religion.[14]

[Biblical references are from the NASB version.]

[1]James Strong, The Strongest Strong’s (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 2001), p. 1651.
[2]W. E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, (Nashville, TN:  Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996), p. 587.
[3]The Barna Group, “Survey Reveals Americans’ Feelings About Wicca”, 01/26/09, <>
[5]Magic Wicca website, accessed 5 Apr 2009, <>
[6]Catherine Edwards Sanders, Wicca’s Charm, (Colorado Springs, CO:  WaterBrooke Press, 2005), p. 219.
[7]Sanders, p. 60.
[8]J. Gordon Melton, Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America (New York:  Garland, 1986), 212, cited in George A. Mather and Larry A. Nichols, Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993), p. 315.
[9]Mather and Nichols, p. 315-316.
[10]Sanders, pp. 5-6.
[11]Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, (New York, NY:  HarperCollins Publishers, 1999), p. 27.
[12]Sanders, p. 10.
[13]Mather and Nichols, p. 317.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Is Scientology compatible with the Bible?

What is scientology?
Is Scientology religion? Can someone be a Christian and a Scientologist? Is Dianetics psychoanalysis or a philosophical system? This article provides a brief explanation of the beliefs of Scientology and how they differ from Biblical Christianity.

Scientology was founded by Lafayette Ron Hubbard, who wrote the very popular book Dianetics, from which the principles of Scientology originated. During his formative years, L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) studied Freudian psychoanalysis. He was a prolific writer, with more than 300 books and short stories published. Scientology is a religion and a psychoanalytic, human potential belief system. Many of the concepts found in Dianetics resemble those of psychoanalysts such as Sigmund Freud. This system borrows from other religions, particularly a form of reincarnation from Hinduism. Some well known adherents of Scientology are:  John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Kirstie Alley, Mimi Rogers, Priscilla Presley, Isaac Hayes, and others.

What are the beliefs of Scientology?
 “Scientology is a religion that contains tools and methods to assist you in finding your own answers to life’s questions.”[1]
One of the primary tenets is belief in some Ultimate Reality and eternal truth, while helping humans to become more aware of God and achieve spiritual improvement. There are churches and a concept of life after death. From the website we see the religious nature of Scientology:
“To serve the spiritual needs of congregations and to ensure all religious services are ministered in strict accordance with Scientology scripture ...”[2]
Human existence will transcend this lifetime:
            “Man is an immortal spiritual being.” (website, FAQs)
Scientology teaches that humans are inherently good:
“Scientology further holds man to be basically good, and that his spiritual salvation depends upon himself and his fellows and his attainment of brotherhood with the universe.” (FAQs)

God and Jesus Christ are mentioned infrequently in Scientology. Purportedly, “Scientology helps man become more aware of God”, but also teaches “beliefs in an Ultimate Reality that transcends the material world”.[3] God may be “a big Thetan” or there may be many gods, as Hubbard stated:  “There are gods above other gods, and gods beyond the gods of the universes.”[4] However, the God of the Bible is under the impression He is the only God (Isaiah 45:21, 1 Timothy 2:5, and others). The scriptures of Scientology are the writings and recorded lectures of L. Ron Hubbard. However, the only divinely inspired scriptures are found in the Old (Luke 24:27) and New Testaments (2 Peter 3:16). According to Hubbard, Jesus was a fine teacher with good information, but did not effectively explain his source for the information and may have believed in reincarnation. Jesus is referred to on the same level as Buddha, both of whom were “just a shade above clear”[5] (described below), which is not bad for mere humans. However, Hubbard certainly does not place Jesus in the same categories as does the Bible:  equal with God (John 10:30, Isaiah 9:6, John 8:58, Colossians 1:15-19); sinless (Hebrews 4:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21); and able to perform miracles (Matthew 11:5, Luke 7:22, John 11:44).

The book Dianetics, written by L. Ron Hubbard in 1950, introduced a human potential psychological system which was described as “The Modern Science of Mental Health”, leading to the beginning of Scientology in 1953. Allegedly, “Dianetics means ‘through the soul’ (from Greek dia, through, and noos, soul). Dianetics is further defined as ‘what the soul is doing to the body.’ It is a way of handling the energy of which life is made in such a way as to bring about a greater efficiency in the organism and in the spiritual life of the individual.” (p. 566)

The basic source of human’s problems in life are “engrams”, which are formed during painful moments in our lives. These repressed memories can be formed prenatally and even during previous lives:
·         “These engrams are a complete recording, down to the last accurate detail, of every perception present in a moment of partial or full ‘consciousness’”.[6]
·         “no engram has any constructive value.” (p. 85)
·         “The engram is the single and sole source of aberration and psychosomatic illness.” (p. 94)
·         Intelligence is inhibited by engrams” (p. 55)
·         Aberrations, under which is included all deranged or irrational behavior, are caused by engrams. They are stimulus-response, pro- and contrasurvival.”(p. 56)

Therapy in Dianetics involves an “auditor” assisting the client in ridding his or her life of engrams. After a sufficient number of auditing sessions, the client may eventually obtain “release” and become a “clear”:
·         “Dianetically, the optimum individual is called the clear.” (p. 14) 
·         “The clear … is an unrepressed person” (p. 26) without aberrations.
·         “The clear has full color-visio, tone-sonic, tactile, olfactory, rhythmic, kinesthetic, thermal and organic imagination in kind.” (p. 23)
·         “the clear is an unaberrated person … The clear has no engrams … Clear is the goal in Dianetics therapy ...” (p. 565)

Reincarnation or past lives
Scientology contains teachings involving past lives, while claiming to not ascribe to belief in reincarnation. For example:
“Reincarnation is a definite system and is not part of Scientology” and “Past lives is not a dogma in Scientology …”, but then goes on to state:
“… generally Scientologists, during their auditing, experience a past life and then know for themselves that they have lived before” and “In Scientology, you are given the tools to handle upsets and aberrations from past lives that adversely affect you in present time.”[7]
If we are not reincarnated, how do these past lives affect us today? Scientology teachings agree with the Bible that humans are spiritual and will live forever. On the official Scientology website, the following description of humans is given:
“Man is an immortal, spiritual being. His experience extends well beyond a single lifetime. His capabilities are unlimited … He is able to achieve … new, higher states of awareness and ability.”[8]
However, the beliefs of Scientology and Christianity quickly diverge. The analogy to the Biblical concept of salvation and eternal life in heaven with God in Scientology is the effort to remove engrams from our lives, thereby enabling humans to achieve optimum existence. The difference is described as:
“Some religions offer salvation in the hereafter, while Scientology offers certainty of eternal salvation now.”[9]
It may be noted that the Bible asserts eternal life begins when someone believes in Jesus Christ (John 6:47).

Biblical Christianity clearly does not teach the doctrine of reincarnation or the influence of past lives: “… it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Jesus said to the thief crucified next to him, “Today (not ‘in some later life’) you shall be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) The Apostle Paul stated that believers are either in this body or with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6), not in another body in another life. And, whereas Scientology teaches that humans can achieve godlike status, the true God is not taken into account and the means of salvation does not include repentance from sins (Acts 3:19), belief in Jesus Christ (John 1:12), or God’s mercy (Ephesians 2:8).

Nature of man
Hubbard clearly stated his disagreement with the Biblical teaching on sin and repentance:
“It is despicable and utterly beneath contempt to tell a man he must repent, that he is evil.”[10]
Hubbard also taught, “Man is good. Take away his basic aberrations and with them go the evil of which the scholastic and the moralist were so fond.” (Dianetics, p. 26) The concept of human sin, according to Scientology, does not deem man to be responsible for his own sinfulness:
“A fundamental tenet of Scientology is that man is basically good but has become “aberrated” (capable of erring or departing from rational thought or behavior) through spending many lifetimes in the physical universe and therefore commits harmful acts or sins.”[11]
The Bible disagrees with Hubbard, asserting:  No one is good (Romans 3:12); we were born with a sinful nature (Psalm 51:5); “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23); and salvation is found through belief in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12 and Acts16:31).

The beliefs and practices of Scientology are not compatible with Biblical Christianity. There is no evidence for the effects of engrams as described in L. Ron Hubbard’s belief system. The basic nature of man is described in Scientology as good and in the Bible as sinful. The Christian concepts of sin, forgiveness, and salvation are not a part of Scientology. Interactions by Christians with those who are currently or have been involved with Dianetics or Scientology should never be disparaging, but rather demonstrating kindness (2 Peter 1:7) and bringing the truth (Ephesians 4:15 and Jude 23) in love (John 13:34).

[Biblical references are from the NASB version.]

[1]Scientology website:  <>, accessed 26 Feb 2009.
[2]Scientology website, “Churches, missions and groups”
[3]Scientology website, “Why is Scientology called a religion?”
[4]L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology, 8-8008 (Los Angeles:  ASHO, 1967), 73, cited by Kurt Van Gorden in The Kingdom of the Cults (Bloomington, MN:  Bethany House Publishers, 2003), 363.
[5]Kurt Van Gorden in The Kingdom of the Cults, 365.
[6]L. Ron Hubbard, DIanetics (Los Angeles, CA:  Bridge Publications, 1950), 82-82.
[7]Ibid., “Does Scientology believe in reincarnation or past lives?” <>, accessed 8 Mar 2009.
[8]Scientology website, “Introduction to Scientology” <>, accessed 4 Mar 2009.
[9]Scientology website, “In what way does Scientology differ from other religions?”
[10]Hubbard, Auditor’s Bulletin, 31, cited by Kurt Van Gorden in The Kingdom of the Cults (Bloomington, MN:  Bethany House Publishers, 2003), 367.
[11]Scientology website, Catechism FAQ, “Does Scientology believe man is sinful?”