World Mission Society Church of God, Mother God & Christ Ahnsahnghong – The One True Church or Cult?

** Who is Mother God? Who is Christ Ahnsahnghong? Is the WMSCOG the one true church? Is their interpretation of the Bible legit?**

 FIRST, A STATEMENT OF CONCERN

Please note: This isn’t an exercise in “I’m right” and “You’re wrong.” I’m engaging these questions on whether certain churches are teaching a distorted Gospel because Jesus Christ’s true Gospel alone saves us from eternal separation from God.  I believe what the writers of the Bible teach, which is that all people are made in God’s image and are of eternal worth to God, and neither God nor I wish to see anyone live apart from Him.

Secondly, the purpose of this article (and all articles in this series) is not to argue whether certain churches, sects, or religious groups are “cults” or not.  These articles are to inform and respond.  Whether these groups are “cults” or not, I prefer my readers to decide themselves. The following articles will be helpful:

(God From the Machine has published a book titled Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.  Click here to learn more.)

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The Church of “Mother God” and “Christ Ahnsahnghong”

In the past few years, I’ve had several people share that they’d been approached by members of a church that believed in “Mother God.” Many of the encounters took place on the Rutgers University campus and in northern New Jersey. The people I know who had encounters with these people came to refer to them as the “Mother God Cult.”

Recently, I learned this “Mother God Cult” is actually the World Mission Society Church of God. If I didn’t know better, the name of the church wouldn’t have caught my attention much; I probably would’ve figured it was just another denomination I’ve never heard of before. Based on their website, the home church in South Korea appears to be simply called the Church of God. (For simplicity’s sake, I’ll just use “COG” to refer to the World Mission Society Church of God/Church of God throughout this article.)

Within the past few months, I’ve come into closer contact with the COG. A housemate of some friends started dating a girl who is a member of the COG and the housemate is now deeply involved. Shortly after, I found out a student of mine grew up in the COG and is currently a member. I learned of this because she had invited another student of mine to a COG service; he accepted, not realizing it wasn’t a traditional Christian church.

Considering all of this, I decided it was time to look deeper into the COG. Some people have provided me with links to websites criticizing the COG, mostly by former members, but I decided first, before considering what critics have to say about the COG, to let the COG speak for itself.

Before I read any criticisms of the COG, I visited the COG’s own website to see how they explained their own beliefs.  Let it be noted that at the time of the writing of this article, I’ve not looked at any other websites concerning the COG.  This article is a response strictly to the COG’s beliefs as explained on their own website: http://usa.watv.org/

 

History: Church of God

The COG started in South Korea. Here is a brief overview of their history gathered from their website:

  • 1948 – Baptism of “Christ” Ahnsahnghong “according to the prophecy of King David.”
  • 1964 – “Christ” Ahnsahnghong established the Church of God.
  • Feb. 1985 – “Christ” Ahnsahnghong “ascended” (which I assume means he died).
  • 1987 – Twenty COG churches established in Korea.
  • Late 90’s- early 2000’s – Church spreads outside of Korea to several countries, including to the USA in LA.
  • Sept. 2000 – Completed New Jerusalem Temple in Bundang-gu, Seongnam, South Korea.
  • Dec. 2000 – New York church established.
  • 2008 – One million members registered worldwide
  • 2009 – 2nd NY church established.

*Oddly, nothing in their history on their website mentions Mother God.

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Overview: Church of God’s Beliefs

The COG explains history as three 2,000-year eras with 3 saviors, a savior for each era: The Age of God the Father (Jehovah), the Age of God the Son (Jesus), and the Age of the Holy Spirit (Ahnsahnghong). Ahnsahnghong, a Korean man, was the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ, though he has since died. Despite this, we’re now in the Age of the Holy Spirit.

According to the COG, without accepting the current savior, Ahnsahnghong, we will not have salvation. Thus, Jesus Christ is not enough: “…salvation will never be given to those who are stuck on the name of Jesus in this age.” We must accept “Christ Ahnsahnghong” for salvation in this age and pray in his name.

The COG partakes in 7 “feasts” or ritual celebrations throughout the year. All 7 of these have grounds in the Old Testament, but, according to the COG, each of them should’ve been practiced throughout all 3 ages in slightly different forms. For example, the COG has a yearly mass gathering where they partake in the “Passover,” though it appears to more closely resemble the Lord’s Supper. Other examples include the Day of First Fruits/Resurrection Day and the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost. Partaking in the COG’s version of the Passover is required for salvation.

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The COG also believes in Mother God, also called Jerusalem Mother. She is “the Second Coming Jesus’ [Ahnsahnghong’s] wife.” Jesus didn’t give his people eternal life 2,000 years ago because he was waiting for the appearance of his wife, through whom eternal life will come. God the Mother is currently living in South Korea.

In a video on the website, Mother God is shown at the New Jerusalem Temple in Korea, surrounded by many happy, well-dressed admirers. The video shows her holding their hands, walking with them, and hugging them. In a testimony, Nathan from Memphis, USA, says, “This is the place where our heavenly mother dwells, the land of prophecy, so I came here to receive the water of life that you can only receive here in Korea from God the Mother.” A female Korean teen states, “If God the Mother does not exist, there would be no happiness in the world.”

The COG website clearly teaches that eternal life can only come through Mother God.

Who is Ahnsahnghong?

God?  Christ?  Holy Spirit?  All of the above?

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The COG makes a lot of claims about Ahnsahnghong. From the COG website:

“For our salvation, God divided six thousand years into three ages : the age of the Father, the age of the Son, and the age of the Holy Spirit, and He allowed a different Savior’s name for each of these ages—the name of Jehovah in the age of the Father, the name Jesus in the age of the Son, and the name Ahnsahnghong in the age of the Holy Spirit.”

“Now we are living during the last age of the Holy Spirit. Thus, God has been administrating His plan of salvation, using the new Savior’s name, the name of the Holy Spirit-Ahnsahnghong. Salvation is only given to those who believe in the name of the Savior that God has allowed to the people living in that particular age. Because we are now living in the age of the Holy Spirit, we must receive the Holy Spirit, Ahnsahnghong, as the Savior of this age.”

“The name is Ahnsahnghong, Jesus’ new name.”

“The God in heaven is our God the Father. Just as we have a physical father on this earth, we have a spiritual Father in heaven. He is God the Father, Ahnsahnghong.”

 

JESUS’ 2nd COMING: IT AIN’T A SECRET

 *Is Ahnsahnghong the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?*

Since the COG uses the Bible extensively to explain their beliefs, I will use the Bible to critique their beliefs.

Could Ahnsahnghong possibly be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ? First, let’s look at what’s written in the Bible about Jesus’ Second Coming. The Bible writers clearly teach three facts about Jesus’ Second Coming:

(1)  Jesus will return in the same way as he left.

(2)  Jesus’ return will be visual and known by everyone.

(3)  With Jesus’ return will come the resurrection of the dead.

Let’s look at these 3 facts closer…

After Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection, he taught his disciples for 40 days and then ascended into heaven. Christians call this event “The Ascension.”

Acts 1:9-11

“And after He [Jesus] had said these things, He was lifted up while they [the disciples] were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

Before going, Jesus had promised he would return for his believers:

John 14:1-3

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

In the meantime, Jesus’ disciples were to spread Jesus’ good news of salvation, bringing more and more people to salvation through Christ until he returns. (See the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20.)

As the angels say in Acts 1:11, in the same way Jesus left, he will return. It will be visual and known by all:

Luke 21:27

“Then they will see the Son of Man [Jesus] coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

Revelation 1:7

“Behold, He [Jesus] is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.”

The bodily resurrection of the dead is a regular teaching throughout both the Old and New Testament. (See all of 1 Corinthians 15 and Matthew 22:23-33, where Jesus criticizes the Sadducees, who don’t believe in the resurrection.  He says they don’t understand Scripture or the power of God.) The resurrection will occur at the Second Coming:

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.   Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”

With Jesus’ Second Coming and the resurrection of the dead will also come the Final Judgment. (See Chapters 19-21 of Revelation.)  Depending on a person’s interpretation of  “The Millennium,” which is only taught in the Bible in Revelation 20:1-6 (even traditional, conservative Christian scholars understand it in different ways), the Final Judgment may occur at the same time as the resurrection of the dead or later, after Jesus’ Millennium reign.

Interestingly, Jesus also gives a warning when speaking of his Second Coming. He warns not to be fooled by frauds claiming to be the Second Coming of Christ:

Matthew 24:23-27

[Jesus said,] “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

This is particularly interesting because Jesus is saying, yes, there will be false Christs, even ones that seem real with “great signs and wonders” but don’t believe them because it’ll be clear to all when the real Christ comes because of the specific manner of his return.  Further, no one will need to tell us Christ has returned; we will know.

So, let’s recap: Jesus will return by descending from the sky to earth; everyone will clearly understand that this is Jesus; and once he returns, the dead are resurrected.

 

And So…?

Does Ahnsahnghong fulfill any of these biblical requirements of Christ’s Second Coming? In fact, does he fulfill even one of these biblical truths? How many times have false Christs appeared in history, claiming to be Jesus’ Second Coming – only to die?

There’s a very good reason why Christianity has flourished for 2,000 years: Because Jesus died but didn’t stay dead.

Moreover, when Jesus returns, he’s here to stay.

“Christ” Ahnsahnghong is dead. He’s been dead since February of 1985. He’s not coming back. He is not the Christ. He is a fraud.

NEXT: Ahnsahnghong, The Mashed-up Trinity & Mother God

**God From the Machine has published a book for evangelizing, educating, and refuting the World Mission Society Church of God titled Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.  Click here to learn more.

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About (Poor) Biblical Interpretation: Responding to “Christian” Cults… or Anyone Who Misuses Scripture.

Interpreting the Bible poorly is an error made by people in all walks of life, whether they be cult members, atheists or honest Christians who don’t know better.  Here are ways not to interpret the Bible… (and a few tips on how you should…)

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Concerning Scripture

This article continues from last post, which looked at general strategies for interacting with “Christian” cult members.  Though it’s written with cult members in mind, many of these strategies will assist anyone hoping to better understand the Bible.

  • Read Part 1: How Do We Identify “Christian” Cults? What’s the Difference Between a Cult & a Denomination?
  • Read Part 2: Interacting with “Christian” Cult Members: Tips & Strategies

Use the following strategies when discussing Scripture with cult members (as well as anyone who uses Scripture incorrectly)…

  • Look at verses they quote in context.
  • Scripture interprets Scripture: Clear passages clarify ambiguous passages.
  • Don’t fuse over minor doctrine; stick to major doctrines.
  • Always bring it back to Scripture: especially the Gospel & salvation.

Let’s look at each one a little closer…

*Look at verses they quote in context.*

One of the biggest errors of nominal Christians or even dedicated Christians who have a poor understanding of the Bible is to grab random verses out of context to prove the opinions they’re promoting.  In fact, in some circles, this is the norm; any opinion can be “proved” by citing a single verse.  This is also a regular strategy with cults.  Remember, the first rule of proper interpretation: context, context, context!

If anyone (whether it’s a trusted pastor, a cult member, or the Pope) quotes a Bible verse, and if what they’re proposing the verse means doesn’t sound quite right, all you need to do is open your Bible and read the verse in context.  (The footnotes in a study Bible will help too.)  This means reading the whole section, chapter, or even book in which the verse appears.

For example, if someone claims because of Psalm 148:10 that cattle should be welcomed to worship in churches with humans, you probably should open up to Psalm 148 and read the complete Psalm (and hopefully you have a common sense understanding of the difference between poetic and literal language too).  If someone claims Christians shouldn’t eat figs because Jesus hates figs, as evident by his curse upon a fig tree, maybe you should take a moment to read the episode and figure out what Jesus was truly teaching in carrying out this action.

Yes, both examples above are absurd, but they illustrate how verses or passages can be made to mean silly things they don’t actually say.  Context, context, context!

 

*Scripture interprets Scripture.*

Cults have the tendency to grab unclear, difficult, or obscure passages from the Bible and use them as a base for their mistaken theology and fantastical doctrines.

Remember this rule of thumb: Clear passages clarify ambiguous passages.  If the one verse a cult member points to may be interpreted in a way to support their untraditional view, say, “Okay, maybe this unclear verse can be interpreted that way, but what about all these other perfectly clear passages that teach something totally different than what you’re saying…?” or “Yes, that’s a hard verse to understand, but this verse clarifies it…”

Or simply put the ball in their court: if they’re making the claim, the burden of proof is on them.  Simply say, “That’s an interesting interpretation, but where else do you see that idea in the Bible?”  For instance, if someone points to an unclear verse and claims it shows God has a wife, say, “That passage is hardly conclusive.  Where else does the Bible teach God has a wife?”  Chances are their theory will fizzle.

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*Don’t fuse over minor doctrine; stick to major doctrines.*

Cults also have the tendency of making huge deals out of minor doctrines.  Yes, Christian denominations disagree on the interpretation or practice of some minor doctrines, but often cults make their interpretation of these doctrines (often unusual takes on these doctrines as well) and obedience to them as a required means of salvation.

For example, a cult may state the only true way to be baptized is in natural flowing water with your head bowed.  To be baptized in any other way than this, they claim, means one is not saved.

Now, I’m with the Baptists on the doctrine of baptism: the Bible clearly teaches baptism is done once someone accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; it’s an outward, symbolic act to bear witness to others that the one being baptized is declaring Christ as his Lord and Savior; and, finally, “baptism” means “immersion” so those being baptized should be dunked fully in water.  Do I believe this is the correct interpretation of the biblical text and we should obey it?  Yes!  Does this mean those who accept Christ as Lord and Savior but who aren’t baptized in this exact way are unsaved?  By no means!  If someone lives all of her life in a dessert where there is not one pool of water big enough to be fully dunked in, does that mean she remains unsaved?  By no means!  Salvation comes through God’s grace and faith in Jesus Christ alone.

All that being said, don’t bother arguing with cult members over minor doctrines.  They’re often just a distraction from the big issues and the big doctrines – the essential doctrines and beliefs – which salvation does depend on (as laid out in Part 1).  Focus on the big doctrines, and if you make major progress on those or you win a cult member to Christ, then it’s time to discuss minor doctrines.

Likewise, sometimes cult members make odd claims, like saying Jesus was hung on a stake instead of a cross.  Though many of these claims can be disproved, choose your battles wisely and stay focused on the essential issues for salvation.

 

*Always bring it back to Scripture, the Gospel & Salvation.*

Always bring it back to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and the salvation that can be received only through him.  Always bring it back to the true word of God.  The cult member may be dropping absurd claims on you like a dump truck, but stay calm.  You have the truth, so what’s there to fear?  Even if the cult member is a deft debater, just keep referring him back to Scripture, God’s true Word.  As long as you’re speaking God’s truth in love and praying for the intervention of the Holy Spirit, you can’t go wrong.

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*A Bit More About (Poor) Biblical Interpretation

 

 Some other cult (and generally poor) strategies for biblical interpretation:

  • Imposing views on the text rather than letting the text speak for itself. 

Honest biblical interpretation reads the text as it is and works to understand what the original author was trying to communicate to his original audience.  Interpretation is not: “This is what I think.  Now let me look through the Bible and find verses to support my view.”

 

  • Jumping from one part of the Bible to another with utter disregard of context to “prove” ideas, beliefs, or opinions.

We spoke about this already above in the section about reading Bible verses in context because people can make the Bible say almost anything they want if they isolate verses and take them out of context.

 

  • Inconsistent decisions on what should be taken literally or figuratively, often based on preconceived ideas.

The Bible is a work of literature.  Even an atheist would agree with that.  And this means both figurative (poetic) and literal language are used in it.

For example, psalms by nature are poetic.  Thus, when we read them, we have to be aware that non-literal, poetic language is regularly used.  Moreover, in the Gospel of John, Jesus calls himself a light, a vine, and a door.  Should we take him literally?  Like any work of literature, the reader needs to strive to understand what the author was communicating to his original audience.  We understand what to take as literal or figurative language through (once again) context, context, context.

Sometimes, it’s not so clear how figuratively or literally a verse should be taken.  When writing about things not found in our normal everyday experiences, writers often have to find creative ways to explain things.  And the Bible is filled with subject matter not within the bounds of everyday experiences.  Think about it: How do you explain with everyday language Jesus as being fully God yet fully human and one with God the Father yet different?

Yet, cults have the habit of taking verses usually taken as literal figuratively and verses usually taken as figurative literally.  The decisions are often quite random and based on preconceived beliefs.

 

  • Selective “translation” and adherence to grammar rules.

Similar to the other erroneous or dishonest strategies above, some cults have their own “translation” of the Bible, where they change words and grammar to fit their beliefs.  Because of this, be sure to refer to a legitimate Bible translation (ESV, NASB) when interacting with them.

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A Few Words on the Book of Revelation:

The closing book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation is notoriously difficult to interpret.  Even legitimate conservative New Testament scholars break up into 4 major camps on how to understand it.  The main reason for this is that Revelation is apocalyptic literature, a style of ancient literature that is highly symbolic.

Cults almost universally seize on the ambiguity of Revelation to “prove” their views, interpreting symbols as they see fit.  (Further, many cults have an unhealthy fascination with the End Times.)

Despite these difficulties, context is (as always) the key.  There are things that can be known for certain in Revelation and certain interpretations that definitely can be eliminated.  If nothing else, be wary of anyone going to Revelation to “prove” an unusual viewpoint.

(To learn more about Revelation, read Four Views of the Book of Revelation published by Zondervan, and/or see Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.)

(To watch a great video of 3 legitimate scholars discussing/debating 3 views of Revelation, End Times, & The Millennium with John Piper, click here.)

CLOSING

In Ephesians 4:14, Paul speaks of those “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”  We need to be beacons of light to lead those upon the waves to shore.

**Two books I recommend for learning about biblical interpretation: A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible by Robert H. Stein & 40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible by Robert L. Plummer.  Both books are readable to everyday Christians, not just seminary students.**

*See more recommendations below.

NEXT:  Specific “Christian” cults.

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Recommended Resources:

Biblical Interpretation:

  • A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible by Robert H. Stein
  • 40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible by Robert L. Plummer.

Cults:

  • The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin (Ed. Ravi Zacharias)
  • The Four Major Cults by Anthony A. Hoekema

 Highly Recommended for all Christians:

  1. How We Got the Bible by Neil Lightfoot
  2. ESV Study Bible
  3. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
  4. Tactics by Greg Koukl
  5. What is Biblical Theology? James M. Hamilton Jr.

OR

       According to Plan by Graeme Goldsworthy

General Apologetics:

  • I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek (Read my review here)
  • Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig
  • What Your Wolrdview? James N. Anderson
  • Covenantal Apologetics by K. Scott Oliphint
  • Apologetics 315 (website)

More Theology:

  • What is Reformed Theology?  R.C. Sproul
  • The Forgotten Trinity James R. White
  • Jesus, the Son of God by D.A. Carson

Podcasts (blogs, websites):

  • The Dividing Line (with James White)
  • Apologia Radio

Articles:

Of course, I hope this blog, God From the Machine, will be a resource for you as well… The following articles may be helpful in some topics that arise with cult members: