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This is the fourth article in our series on differences between ourselves and The Family. Earlier studies are entitled "Simple Salvation," "Eternal Salvation," and "Living by Faith".

A Family leader recently said, "We believe the Bible is the complete, infallible Word of God... but it has some mistakes in it and God is still adding to it!" This somewhat facetious comment sums up both The Family's and our own paradoxical attitudes toward the Bible.

So what is the difference between ourselves and The Family? Our differences are also paradoxical, in that The Family is both more literal than us and less literal at the same time.

They are more literal when it comes to "proof texting", i.e. they are more inclined to build major teachings on isolated bits of scripture. Examples of this are their belief in astrology, and belief in the spirits of such people as Ivan the Terrible, Rasputin, Anne Boleyn, and Lord Byron speaking through their leaders. They take the fact that Daniel was put in charge of the Babylonian astrologers when he was being held prisoner (Daniel 5:11), as support for astrology. And they quote a reference to seven spirits of God (Revelation 4:5) to support their conviction that familiar spirits which regularly possessed David Berg were "good" spirits.

Our own position would be that the "proof texts" they quote are less reliable than Bible warnings against the very practices that they claim the passages support. The word translated as "astrologers" in Daniel literally meant "enchanters". Enchanters are condemned along with "observers of times" and "consulters with familiar spirits" in Deuteronomy 18:9-14. At the very least, we would regard astrology as an ignorant superstition with absolutely no scientific basis.

However, we have not found it necessary to cut ourselves off from The Family, for several reasons: (1) As far as we know, the practice of consulting familiar spirits died out with their leader. No one in the group today has shown evidence of possession by any spirit other than the Holy Spirit; (update: We have since learned that this is definitely not the case.) (2) Although they talk freely of astrological star signs, they teach that God is more powerful than whatever power the "stars" might have over their personality and/or destiny; (3) They seem to be moving farther away from the occult practices of the New Age Movement; (4) The fables told by David Berg's "spirit helpers" do not form a significant part of Family teaching, and could easily be dropped without affecting anything else that they do or teach; (5) Because we are not officially linked with them, we feel that ultimately all we must answer for is our own behaviour; and we will trust God to deal with them as he sees fit; and (6) There is no one in the churches who will have anything to do with us, so we're not likely to turn loose of the best friends we have in order to satisfy our worst enemies.

We have said that The Family is more literal than us when it comes to "proof texting". However, they are much less literal than us when it comes to the teachings of Jesus. While we agree that God continues to inspire and speak through people today, we believe the teachings of Jesus are the Cornerstone by which we must test every other teaching.

In The Word - New and Old, David Berg writes, "You had better read what God said today in preference to what he said 2,000 ...years ago! Then when you've gotten done reading the latest Mo Letters, you can go back to reading the Bible..."

To be fair, Berg does teach that present-day teaching must conform with the Bible (|P22), and he says that the teachings of Jesus are timeless (|P38). But our experience has been that attempts to criticise Family teaching on the basis of Christ's teachings are often seen as signs of disloyalty. For example, it is Family practice to refer to Berg as "Father David" (or the more familiar Dad). The fact that Jesus commands us not to call anyone "Father" does not seem to matter.

It is not uncommon for Family members to remind us that "Dad wrote against playing chess", or "Father David was against immunising babies," etc. Yet if we bring up the teachings of Jesus, we usually get a cool reception on the grounds that we are being too legalistic. We find it difficult not to believe that The Family is more loyal to brother David than to Jesus under these circumstances.

The next article in this series is entitled Jesus Christ.

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