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Scripture Quotations

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Welcome!

Dear reader,

However you came across our response to Mr. Kluge’s “Description of a Sect”, we appreciate your interest in spending time getting to know the truth, rather than just believing a one-sided presentation. Due to the extensive nature of the accusations against us, we, likewise, have responded extensively. All the same, we would like to encourage you to read our explanations and examine them according to the New Testament. If you’d like to ask any questions, we’ll be happy to answer them.

We’d like to invite you not only to read our writings, but also to get to know us and the way we live. You can contact us via e-mail:

wahrhaftig@fastmail.fm

Re: “The internal structure of the Group”

“You have only one Master, you are all brothers…” (Matthew 23:8b)

We have already written something about the brotherly structure of a Biblical community. There is no fixed, closed circle of elder brothers through whom the Holy Spirit speaks. Every Christian has the Holy Spirit.

“You have been anointed by the Holy One, and have all received knowledge.” (1 John 2:20)

Everybody is encouraged to give what he has, using all his gifts and strength. Guidance through God’s Spirit does not come through either a hierarchical or a democratic structure. What is essential is to recognise and to do what is right. Even if at first there are only a few individuals who recognise something to be right, it is however comprehendible and understandable for everyone. This is not a matter of blind obedience but of doing what we have understood to be right.

We do not use the expression “devoted Christian”. It emerged in the half-hearted protestant awakening movements. There is no such thing as an “undevoted” Christian.

We consider unity to be something very valuable and also attainable. It is not a utopia. For this reason disagreements among us are always a great challenge for us which we cannot simply sweep under the rug.

The claim that “little doubts” can lead to the insubordinate person being cast out is a slanderous reproach. Exclusion from the community is only justified in the case of false teachings or serious moral misdemeanour. In such cases it is even commanded in Scripture.

Kluge describes our way of dealing with money relatively correctly. Only that the voluntary nature of the community of property is not the subjective experience of a manipulated victim but objective reality which is based on brotherly love. The very fact that our sharing with one another works without fixed structures shows that everybody gives willingly and from his whole heart.

Concluding Remark

“Test everything; hold fast to what is good!” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

We would be more than willing to discuss with you the content of our teaching and way of life. We are very glad when somebody wants to examine our teachings in the light of the Holy Scriptures and we invite everyone to share their thoughts with us. Every serious constructive criticism can only help us to grow in the knowledge of God who revealed his eternal nature through the incarnation of his Son, because it is our highest goal to follow him.

Re: “In which regions is the Group active?”

“… and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

In the quote cited in the title of this section, Jesus instructs his disciples on what geographic area they are to operate in… ‘to the ends of the earth’.

Of course, we only know brothers and sisters in a small part of this most comprehensive area. In contrast to Kluge’s conclusion that ‘the boundaries of the organisation are the boundaries of the truth’ we believe that there are Christians not only among our number. We can therefore be sure that despite our limits, we can count on worldwide activity of ‘the group’, that is, the Church.

Due to repeated persecution we cannot publish a list of Christian fellowships known to us. If anyone is interested in getting to know us, we would be very glad to hear from you by email. Everyone who is searching, regardless of where they live, should have the chance to get in contact with Christians.

Re: “Community life versus private life”

“So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8)

God calls us into fellowship. The example of Jesus obliges us to lay down our lives for our brothers (1 John 3:16). This giving of our lives consists of mutual service – in being there for one another.

Kluge’s reproach of “community versus private life” completely misses the essence of Christian fellowship. Nobody would consider the question of “family versus private life” to be justified because family life is considered part of a person’s private life. Our family life is the community life. We share our lives with the brothers and sisters not with unknown, inscrutable institutions.

Jesus’ “private life” consisted of being together with the disciples. Paul became to the Christians “gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children.” (1 Thess 2:7). So we spend our private life together with brothers and sisters who have become close and dear to us through our common decision to follow Jesus.

The difference to a “natural” family lies in the different basis. It is not common ancestry which unites us in the community, but our common faith. Through this deeper basis our shared life is deeper than in a “normal” family.

The relationship which dominates everything in the life of a Christian is the relationship with God which has a formative effect on all other relationships. A relationship in which God is not in the centre loses its meaning. The relationships that are shaped by God grow deeper.

The repeated slanderous claim that, “praying or reading from the Bible in private is not desirable”, does not make it any more correct. The community lives from the relationship each individual has with God. Likewise, each individual is strengthened in his own personal devotion to God through the community life. If somebody’s interest in the Bible is too small, not even the community maintain his spiritual life. That is why personal prayer and Bible reading is an indispensable basis of the spiritual life of each individual as well as of the community.

Kluge gained a “pitiless, uncharitable and fanatic impression” from us and concluded that “the Group appears to be completely lacking warmth”. Impressions are always subjective and are strongly dependant on the expectations of the observer. Other people gained a different impression. Moreover, this impression contradicts the accusation of “love bombing”. When somebody examines objectively he remains unimpressed by “impressions” and considers the teaching and life on the basis of the Bible.

It is certainly true that we do not always say what people want to hear. We do not keep silent when it comes to exposing unbiblical teachings and unbiblical ways of life. Precisely in this way we point people to the life that Jesus has called us to.

The “warmth and friendliness”, that “do exist within the Group”, are what we wish to share with every person. But a certain common ground is necessary for that. For us, the terms, “brother” and “sister”, are not just religious clichés, but a reality that we experience every day and which we also express to one another through physical contact. Exaggerated politeness is alien to us, not, however, respect for our brother’s personality. A brief example can illustrate the point of how (earlier in practice, but today only in the writings of “holy” founders of Orders) people’s private life was handled elsewhere:

“Let a straw mattress, a blanket, coverlet and pillow, suffice for their bedding. This the Abbot shall frequently examine, to prevent the vice of proprietorship; and if any one be discovered to possess anything which he hath not received from the Abbot, let him be subjected to the severest correction.” (“The Rule of our most Holy Father Benedict”, Chapter 55, CCEL)

Re: “The treatment of children in the Group”

“Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.” (Proverbs 22:6)

This is not the place to write a handbook on Christian child-rearing. Here is just a sketch of a few brief fundamentals of Christian parenting:

a) Consistency: Children should experience their parents (as well as the Christians who they are together with in the community) as reliable and responsible for their care. The aim is not primarily strictness, but a clear line which helps the children to develop a firm foundation of trust. Nothing is more damaging for children than having unpredictable parents and carers. How we live and what we say about God must be consistent with one another, especially in front of children.

b) Freedom: On the one hand, the fact that children should accept the authority of their parents is in keeping with a biblical upbringing. On the other hand, it is important for parents to accept the freedom of their children as far as possible. A child should never experience life with God as something obligatory. Coercion of any kind to take part in religious activities (including prayer, reading the Bible, discussions about matters of faith) should, for this reason, be rejected. Many of us have experienced how our parents wanted to force their lifestyle on us, and in some cases even tried to hinder us from living as Christians by force. We want to avoid repeating these mistakes the other way around.

c) Family and community: The most important reference persons for a child are its parents, despite the fact that children should be integrated into community life as far as possible. Children should experience the community as an extended family, which the core family is integrated into.

Re: “Moral guidelines which determine lifestyle”

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

We direct our lives according to Christ who is the standard for our life. His will pervades all aspects of our life, but not by setting up a catalogue of moral guidelines, rather because we live in Him, we see how all the areas of our life are pervaded by His will for us to be sanctified.

Our life does not consist of constantly running away from sin, rather of constantly turning to God. We do not have any formalistic and casuistic behavioural code, whose standards we must adhere to. But as we always live as Christians, especially in our daily lives, we also want to put God’s will into practice in the every day things.

The example mentioned above (“The lifestyle of a Holic-Group member”) of the hairdresser shows that a lot depends on the decision of the individual and is not the result of strict adherence to prescribed behavioural codes.

The rejection of alcohol and nicotine, which cause the illness and death of millions of people every year and produce unimaginable suffering, is only natural for every person who is aware of his moral responsibility.

Brothers and sisters who used to smoke experienced freedom from the cigarettes through turning to God and they do not consider giving up smoking to be a command achievable only with great effort.

As far as alcohol is concerned, the Bible doesn’t condemn moderate wine drinking. The fact is that in our day and age we see many reasons to abstain from alcohol altogether. On the one hand we do a fair bit of driving. For every car driver it should go without saying that 0 percent blood alcohol is necessary. On the other hand, alcohol has become such a social problem nowadays as never before. We also want to help those very people who have been dependent on alcohol by offering them an environment which provides no temptation to fall back. Beyond this, in our present time there is a wide variety of fruit juices and herbal teas which nature abundantly provides, so that anybody who does not only want to drink water and possibly cannot digest milk has enough alternatives.

As for other stimulants/luxury items (like coffee), their detrimental effect on health is well documented and is not only “deemed unhealthy by doctors”. If I love my creator I will protect his creation and I will offer my body completely for his service.

Kluge’s comments about washing once again show how he simply uses everything to read into our community a rigorous system of rules. It is both sad and ridiculous that we have to emphasise that there is no “internal group” standard for the allowed frequency of washing. Even if the essentially correct statement was once made that “too much washing damages the skin,” it is nevertheless absurd to want to make a prescription out of this quote. This reveals much more about Kluge’s bias than about our washing habits.

Yet again though, we can find something that is completely foreign to our fellowship in the rules of one of the sub-organisations of Kluge’s “church”:

“Let the use of the bath be offered to the sick as often as it is useful, but let it be granted more rarely to the healthy and especially the young.” (“The Holy Rule of St. Benedict”, The 1949 Edition, Chapter 36)

Concerning “doubting aspects of the teaching”:

The right teaching (and not some kind of psychological manipulation) is the basis of every Christian church. Whoever puts this basis in question puts himself outside of the fellowship. The church, if she wants to remain God’s church, is obliged to hold onto the teaching revealed by God. Naturally we must treat weak brothers and sisters with great patience. But if a person does not accept the biblical teaching he has separated himself from the church. If we abandon this principle, we have abandoned our identity as a Christian church. The principle that a person can only be saved with the right teaching is a general Christian principle and can also be found in numerous official doctrinal documents of the generally recognised “churches”, such as:

“Whoever wishes to be saved must, first of all, hold the Catholic faith, for, unless he keeps it whole and inviolate, he will undoubtedly perish forever.” (Athanasian Creed, The Christian Faith, Neuner & Dupuis, Alba House, 1982, p11 – The “Catholic faith” in this context refers exclusively to the correct belief in regard to the Trinity and the person of Jesus. We agree with the quoted sentence within the context of this specific document. The correct teaching about the person of Jesus and the Trinity is foundational and indispensable for Christianity.)

In the Apostolic Constitution of Pius XII, “Munificentissimus Deus” from 1950, even conscious doubts about the assumption of Mary amount to apostasy:

“Wherefore, if anyone – which God forbid – should wilfully dare to deny or call in doubt what has been defined by us, let him know that he certainly has abandoned the divine and Catholic faith. (Neuner & Dupuis p.207)

For the Catholics, wilfully doubting an unbiblical teaching is already enough to lead to apostasy! Even if in practice they accept every unbeliever and criminal (Hitler himself remained a member of the Catholic “church” till his death, without being excommunicated), in their official doctrinal documents we find them taking a position which Kluge would rightly condemn as sectarian in every other organisation. Does he apply different standards to his own organisation?

The fact that the deliberate repetition of grave sins can be a reason for exclusion is not a rigorous regulation, but Jesus himself, in Matt 18:15-17, gives the command that stubborn sinners must be excluded. Further details have already been explained above (III.D.e “Their perception of Community”).

In his representation of our position on Sexuality, our critic refers to the comments of a “member” who said that “abstinence was practiced because of their belief in an imminent end of the world”, which he then qualifies by saying that, “this opinion is not representative of the Group as a whole.” Ever since we first found one another we have continuously held the belief that an expectation of the imminent end of the world fundamentally contradicts the Bible, and so we can, with certainty, exclude the possibility that any of our brothers or sisters ever made this statement. The only possibility that remains is that Kluge either made up a fairy-tale himself, or that he too easily believed the slander of others.

The widespread prejudice among “theologians” that many of the early Christians remained unmarried because of their expectations of the imminent second coming, obviously led him (or his source) to the false conclusion that our high regard for celibacy comes from a belief in Christ’s imminent return. This conclusion is in fact a fallacy. Even among the early Christians it was not an expectation of the imminent end that motivated them to stay unmarried, but their increased availability for work in the Kingdom of God. It is this dedication that is our sole motivation for remaining unmarried. Every form of Gnostic viewpoint, which sees something negative in matter or in sexuality, is irreconcilable with the New Testament.

We regard sexuality as a part of God’s good creation, which God created to be used within marriage (and only there). Every kind of premarital or extramarital sexual relationship must not be tolerated in a Christian community. Within the framework of a Christian marriage, sexuality is not “to be avoided”. Rather it is a natural expression of the mutual love of a married couple. Based on the kind of love that aims to please God, sexuality is not egotistical, but devotion to one’s spouse, with whom a person has become one flesh. The statement that sexuality “operates on a physical level and relationships between people should occur predominantly on a spiritual level” is incorrect and does not represent our attitude.

On the other hand, Kluge’s observation that “there are more important things to be done” is correct, not, however, only at the “present time”. The NT records clear statements made by both Paul and Jesus about the value of celibacy (Matt 19:12, 1 Cor 7:7-8, 17-24, 25-40). These words are also our reason for regarding celibacy so highly. It is quite strange then, that a Catholic priest, who himself has chosen this way of life shows so little understanding for this.

“…but as those who have come to the knowledge of sanctity, and pursue it and prefer it, without detriment, however, to marriage; not as if we superseded a bad thing by a good, but only a good thing by a better. For we do not reject marriage, but simply refrain from it. Nor do we prescribe sanctity as the rule, but only recommend it, observing it as a good, yea, even the better state, if each man uses it carefully according to his ability; but at the same time earnestly vindicating marriage, whenever hostile attacks are made against it as a polluted thing, to the disparagement of the Creator. For He bestowed His blessing on matrimony also, as on an honourable estate, for the increase of the human race; as He did indeed on the whole of His creation, for wholesome and good uses.”
(Tertullian, Anti-Marcion I, 29,1-4)

“Hobbys” are something that Kluge comes back to again and again. We have already explained our position above (III.B.). What would Paul, or even Jesus have responded if asked about their hobbies?

Our “attitude to life” is not what Kluge accuses us of. We do not need to prove ourselves, nor are we chasing after a feeling of superiority. We are constantly striving to do the will of God. But despite this, our life is not a process of constantly questioning our own behaviour as Kluge thinks he knows. It is not our aim to live up to a cleverly devised behavioural code, continually refining its details. What we really want is to obey God in every situation, free from formalistic commandments, living a life in which holiness is not just a catchword, but a reality, expressing itself in every aspect of our life.

Re: “The Individual”

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

(2 Corinthians 5:17)

“No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer.” (2 Timothy 2:4)

Re: “The lifestyle of a Holic-Group member”

We are accused of living a radical lifestyle. “Radical” comes from “Radix” – the root. We don’t just want to play a bit of Christianity, but to live as Christians, to live through Christ who is our root (Col 2:7).

We do not follow any formalised daily programme, we certainly try to spend as much time together as possible, but the specific way we use our time depends on the current tasks. Each one should be given sufficient opportunity to use his own abilities in the life of the community.

We gratefully accept that our time our abilities and our bodies are a gift of God to be used for his glory, that’s why we also want to use all of this thankfully according to his will.

We do not treat our bodies like “brother donkey” (as Francis of Assisi did), which we simply exploit, but as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), in which we should glorify God. Therefore our body should self-evidently be supplied with all its needs, both sleep and food. Because the needs of each individual are different it is not possible to apply one uniform standard for everyone. Our desire to serve God protects us from sleeping excessively as we can also see in the example of Jesus (e.g. Luke 6:12) and of Paul (Acts 20:31 and 2 Cor 6:5).

Whereas the now beatified founder of Opus Dei (the conservative Catholic “Renewal” movement from the 20th century) took a completely different approach to dealing with the body.

“Do the same; fifteen minutes more mortification for the souls in purgatory; five more for your parents; another five for your brothers in the apostolate… Until, in the end, the allotted time is up. Your mortification done in this way… is worth so much!.” (Josemaria Escrivá, The Way, No. 899)

Our body has not been given to us for the purpose of mortification, but for the glory of God!

The way Kluge reproaches us of having an “unhealthy diet” shows how weak his argumentation is. On the one hand he knows very little about our dietary habits, on the other hand we do not have a typical “Christian” diet. Our diet is as varied as our tastes.

We do not make a cult out of food, but neither do we have any food laws or other regulations concerning our diet.

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving.” (1 Tim 4:4)

Kluge’s impression, that our flats and houses (in which he has never set foot) lack “comfort and cosiness”, is his own subjective opinion. It is true, though, that our real home is not here on this earth, but with God. (John 14:2)

“For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” (Heb 13:14)

For this reason we do not try to fill our living spaces with as much decoration as possible. Fine ornamentation, gold, silver and other treasures, which can be found in various religious buildings, cannot be found in any of our homes. “Simple and practical” is the principle, but there are no regulations, no rules (unfortunately we have to repeat this again and again, because Kluge wants to see a law behind everything).

Quite naturally, we let go of the things that we do not need anymore, nor will need in the future. We are not the museum curators of our old life.

As pilgrims we must wander,

free, bare and truly empty;

much gathering, holding, dealing,

only makes our walk heavier.

Your load will be your death;

we leave all behind when we depart.

Content with having less,

We take only what we need.

(G. Tersteegen)

Also in this point each one of us decides for himself what he can discard as unnecessary luxuries from the past.

Concerning the choice of “careers”:

We distinguish between our calling as Christians and our occupation through which we earn our keep and are able to buy the necessary material things. Paul, too, earned his money as a tent maker. His calling, though, was the proclamation of the gospel.

At work we want to fulfil our tasks conscientiously and according to our best knowledge and thus we do not altogether reject taking on responsibility. It is clear though, that the commandments of God are also valid in the work place, and unethical behaviour, (such as lying) is for a Christian just as impossible at work as it is in the community of the brothers and sisters.

We do not reject “church”-related organisations as employers from the outset. Other employers do not share our religious views either. As long as a “church”-related employer does not oblige its employees to take part in any religious practices specific to their particular religious denomination, and as long as the work itself is not unethical, working for a religious employer is not a problem. The problem was sometimes the other way around, namely that a Catholic employer did not want to take on non-Catholic employees.

When a sister of ours considered that the fulfilment of the human desire of vanity in working as a hair dresser was not a sensible activity and thus looked for another job, it was her own decision which was naturally accepted by the other brothers and sisters. Despite this we have no prohibition on working as a hairdresser. Unfortunately it is not always so easy to find a job which also has a more profound aim. As long as a job in itself is not immoral, it is possible for a Christian to do.

In all cases jobs which directly harm people must be rejected, like selling tobacco, or newspapers/magazines with immoral content. The fact that some jobs do not come into question at all for Christians was completely clear for people of former times. Thus, church ordinances from the second and third centuries excluded particular occupations from belonging to the church altogether.

It is not right to say that a Christian can only take the lowest position. Even a supervisory position is not something to be absolutely rejected. A Christian, however, is always conscious that his occupation can never be more important than his calling to follow Jesus. Accordingly, the level of involvement in a particular occupation has its limits. If Paul had initiated a large tent making production he might have gained a market leading position. But then there would have remained no time for him to fulfil his calling.

Re: “The expulsion of disobedient/unsuitable members”

“…and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.” (Matthew 18:17)

The question of “Exclusion” has already been dealt with in the context of “Perception of the community”.

Kluge’s conclusion that “the group will not cling desperately to every Group member” contradicts his reproach that we want to bind people to “the Group” using psychological methods.

Exclusion must not be seen in isolation from community life. We have the obligation from God to fight for one another and to strengthen one another in sanctification. This happens through brotherly encouragement and admonition. It is only when it becomes obvious that a person loves the sin more than he loves God – when we see that we are not able to help him in the community anymore – that exclusion is the only remaining option.

The given interpretation of Hebrews 6:4 and the following verses – that when someone sins a second time he has already lost his chance for repentance and there is no more mercy for him – is a strong simplification and it is not a view held by us. However, this teaching is already found in “The Shepherd of Hermas”, a document from the end of the first century. But life does not let itself be pressed into such a rigid mould. We must never deny anyone the possibility to repent, unless it is completely clear that he has apostatised.

Not only does Hebrews 6:4 warn of apostasy, but numerous other passages also warn urgently of this danger. Jesus also warns us:

“Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” (John 15:6)

The freedom of a person is not nullified by his decision to follow Jesus. The love of God still allows us the possibility as Christians to say “no” to him. When a Christian has indeed turned from God through his sins, there is, according to the unambiguous statements of the scripture, no longer any possibility for repentance, because he has hardened himself against God.

“Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13)

Even if many “Bible-believing” groups deny the possibility of apostasy, what we are dealing with here is a clear biblical teaching which we have to hold on to even if the fact that someone has apostatised cannot be ascertained using the simplistic pattern Kluge accuses us of. As long as it is not clear that someone has fallen away from God, we also want to fight for him. The spiritual life of a person is worth every effort.

It is correct that exclusion is not immediately the same as apostasy. When we can no longer help a brother in the community it does not mean that there is no chance anymore for him to repent. If it is visible that a brother has repented it is a great joy for the whole community.

If someone has unambiguously and irreversibly left the path of God, the only option for us is to separate from him, because people who want to live without God must not be part of the community. We do not call this separation “Sending”, as Kluge supposes.

The term “sending”, which we do not use in this form anyway, has rather positive connotations such as sending someone into mission.

We have no knowledge of someone being punished for dishonesty by having their house key confiscated. If however, someone puts the life or health of other brothers or the public at risk through their dangerous driving, it goes without saying that he should only be allowed to get behind the wheel again once he has changed his attitude.