(Reprinted from The Gospel Truth, May 1988, by permission of David Reed)

(Investigator 25, 1992 July)

CULT LEADERS use the Bible to teach strange doctrines and counterfeit gospels. They turn the Bible upside down, inside out and backwards to "prove" these peculiar notions. And, millions of people accept and believe their twisted interpretations. Why?

A lot has to do with the techniques cult leaders employ when they teach from God's Word. They have learned how to manipulate the Bible like a musical instrument that they can use to play any tune they wish.

These are six steps that cult leaders typically use to twist Scripture:

They use the power of suggestion.

They tell you what you are going to see in a verse
before you read it. Even if it is possible to draw other conclusions from the verse, the suggestible student sees only the thought his teacher told him he would see. For example, rather than say, "Read this verse, and tell me what you think," the cultic teacher is more likely to say, "Let's look up a verse that proves...[whatever doctrine he is trying to support with the proof-text]."

They isolate verses.

Taking a verse or two out of their original context and quoting them in the context of a modern article or book can give a whole new meaning
a meaning quite different from what the inspired writer intended. Thus Jehovah's Witnesses are taught that changes in Watchtower doctrine over the years are due to "the light getting brighter." Their leaders quote Proverbs 4:18, "the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established." (J.W. New World Translation) But a quick look at the context reveals that the discussion in Proverbs, chapter 4, concerns the contrast between a wicked man's way of life and a righteous man'snothing to do with the Watchtower doctrinal changes.

They link together unrelated verses.

You can simulate this by flipping your television from one channel to another, listening to just a few words from each: "This program is brought to you by ... [click] ... President Reagan ... [click] ... the new heavyweight champion ... [click] ... guaranteed to remove tough stains..." Doing this with the T.V. can produce an amusing string of unrelated phrases, but cult members are taught to take seriously the chain of unrelated Scripture passages strung together in the same manner.

They draw the conclusion for you.

Before you have time to meditate on the Bible verses you just read, a pre-packaged conclusion is placed before you. No need to do any extra thinking
it has already been done for you. This technique is similar to the familiar formula for a sales pitch: "You tell them what you're going to tell them; then you tell them; and then you tell them what you told them." What the verse actually said gets lost, sandwiched in between the teacher's introductory remarks and the conclusion he supplies.

They use intimidation.

"Any honest-hearted person can plainly see..."
this is a favorite phrase of scripture-twisters. If you express disagreement with them you risk being viewed as so corrupt at heart that you cannot see the "plain truth" that is "obvious" to others.

They use the weight of authority.

How can the average workingman or housewife dare to disagree with an interpretation presented by "God's organization" or by "the Rev. Dr. So-and-so, D.D., Ph.D"? Who would take it upon himself to question what is presented as "the traditional understanding" of a verse? It is time to become suspicious when a teacher tries to use the weight of authority to tip the balance in favor of an interpretation out of harmony with the plain reading of a text or its context.

Cult leaders skillfully combine these techniques to make Scripture appear to say what they want it to say.

The best way to un-twist twisted verses is to go back to the beginning of the passage or chapter, read all of it in its full context, and then ask: What is the topic under discussion? What point is the writer making? How do others understand these verses? What does the rest of the Bible say on the matter? Let God speak for Himself, without an interpreter.
David A. Reed