The Way International

HISTORY

Rev. Bob Pardon


Victor Paul Wierwille: The Early Years

The Way International revolves around its founder and first president, Victor Paul Wierwille. Wierwille was born December 31, 1916 and grew up in New Knoxville, Ohio. At the tender age of eight Wierwille first expressed the desire to be a Christian minister. He later recalled the incident, saying,

My first recollection for considering a Christian calling in life is when I was around eight years old. The family church in New Knoxville was celebrating its annual Mission Festival service and a guest speaker, Dr. Lowman of Cincinnati, was present for the occasion. As my mother and I walked past the ministers, Dr. Lowman put his hands on my shoulders in a friendly manner and asked me, "And what do you want to be when you grow up?" Without hesitation I replied, "Well, I would like to be a minister like you." Of course that was a boy's response to an adult's question, but considering the course of my life, this experience remains vivid in my memory.(1)

Wierwille attended the Evangelical and Reformed Church throughout his youth. During this time Wierwille practiced preaching by going into the woods on the family farm to preach to the trees.(2) After graduating from High School in 1934 he attended Mission House (Lakeland) College and Seminary, earning a B.A. degree in 1938 and a B.D. (Bachelor of Divinity) degree in 1940. He then studied for one year at Princeton Theological Seminary, earning the M.Th. (Master of Theology) degree. The registrar at Princeton, James F. Armstrong,(3) reports that this "degree represented advanced study in the field of preaching, and contained no work in the Greek language."

On June 29, 1941 he was ordained into the ministry of the Evangelical and Reformed Church.(4) At age 24 Wierwille took his first pastorate at St. Jacob's Church in Payne Ohio. Wierwille experienced frustration in this pastorate. He was disappointed that his preaching was not producing the abundant life that Jesus promised (John 10:10). Non-Christians seemed to live a more fruitful life than his parishioners. Later he spoke of this period in his life.

As I looked about me at the communities where I had worked, the abundant life was frequently not evident. In contrast to these people, I could see that the secular world of non-Christians was manifesting a more abundant life than were the members of the church.(5)

This lack of life is due to Wierwille's liberal preaching. Wierwille did not believe that the Bible was the Word of God, inspired, or inerrant at this period in his life.



Victor Paul Wierwille: The Divine Encounter

During the summer of 1942 Wierwille invited Rosalind Rinker, the missionary to China, to visit him in Payne, Ohio. He had heard her speak and was impressed with her powerful ministry. She explained to him that her ministry was based on the Bible being the Word of God. She encouraged him to believe and preach the Bible. As they knelt together in prayer on the last day of Rinker's visit, Wierwille expressed his despair to God, asking Him to take control of his ministry.(6) Later Wierwille claimed that he then "took everything I could take at the Moody Bible Institute, too, through their correspondence courses."(7) Moody has no record of Wierwille completing any course.(8) Given the forthcoming events, it is highly unlikely that Wierwille would have actually taken such courses.

During the fall of 1942 Wierwille heard God speak to him audibly. This event turned Wierwille's ministry around. On October 5, 1942, while sitting in his office, Wierwille heard God's voice.

I was praying. And I told the Father outright that He could have the whole thing, unless there were real genuine answers that I wouldn't ever have to back up on.

And that's when He spoke to me audibly, just like I'm talking to you now. He said He would teach me the Word as it had not been known since the first century if I would teach it to others.

Well I nearly flew off my chair. I couldn't believe God would talk to me...But He spoke to me just as plainly as I'm talking now to you.(9)

Startled by this unusual occurrence, Wierwille wondered if this was actually God talking to him. He asked God to give him a sign to validate the message. The day after he heard the voice, Wierwille asked God to make it snow to prove He had spoken. Wierwille describes the scene.

The sky was crystal blue and clear. Not a cloud in sight. It was a beautiful early autumn day, I said, "If that was really you, and you meant what you said, give me a sign. Let me see it snow." My eyes were tightly shut as I prayed. And then I opened them.

The sky was so white and thick with snow, I couldn't see the tanks at the filling station on the corner not 75 feet away.(10)

Hence, Wierwille knew that God had indeed spoken to him. God would teach him the Bible as it had not been known since the first century. Wierwille, then, would be the only infallible and God inspired teacher since the apostles.

At the same time as this divine encounter Wierwille was beginning an outreach ministry to youth through the radio. On October 2, 1942 he broadcast the first "Chimes Hour Youth Caravan" over radio station WLOK in Lime, Ohio. This ministry was incorporated in 1947.



Victor Paul Wierwille: Spiritual Drought

The remaining years of the 1940s were building years for Wierwille. Despite his divine encounter and the promise that God would teach him, Wierwille still struggled with understanding the Bible and finding the key to the abundant life. Wierwille claims that because of this promise from God he threw away his library of over 3,000 books.(11) Yet throughout the 1940s God was not revealing to Wierwille the secret. This led Wierwille to seek help from anyone who might help, Roman Catholics and Protestants. He explains,

The more I worked the Bible, the more I began to see that the greatness of God's power lay in the Holy Spirit field. Thus I began a thorough search from Genesis to Revelation on the Holy Spirit until I knew from memory all 385 verses in the New Testament on the Holy Spirit, but I could never pattern these verses nor find anyone to put them together for me. This search for knowledge on the Holy Spirit led me from pillar to post--looking everywhere and anywhere for understanding. I studied everything I could find in the Roman Catholic church and in the Protestant churches. I endeavored to find the answers which would make the Bible fit and which would fit with the Bible, but my quest seemed like it led nowhere. Even though I studied and received tremendous knowledge of God's Word, there were many, many tantalizing Scriptures that I could not understand nor meaningfully fit together.(12)

In the mean time, in 1943 Wierwille resigned his pastorate at St. Jacob's Church in Payne and accepted a pastorate at St. Peter's Church in Van Wert, Ohio in 1944. His years at Van Wert were also plagued by a lack of spiritual power and the abundant life. He describes his experience:

For six years I prayed, asked, pleaded, and begged God for this spiritual power. I literally traveled thousands of miles just to ask people about the Holy Spirit and the gift, I always returned spiritually lacerated and bleeding because those Christians who had received were in such confusion that they had no ability to communicate the blessing to me...I almost gave up in despair.(13)

The six year drought ended in November 1950 when Wierwille met Rev. John (Jack) Edwin Stiles, Sr., a charismatic preacher. J.E. Stiles, an Assemblies of God minister, left the pastorate in 1946 to begin an itinerant ministry, teaching people how to receive the Holy Spirit with the manifestation of speaking in tongues. Whereas the Assemblies of God church taught that one needed to "tarry" and "agonize" for the Spirit, Stiles taught that receiving the Spirit should not be dramatic but a normal experience available for all who simply believe.(14) In 1948 Stiles published The Gift of the Holy Spirit. This received wide circulation (10 printings, 50,000 copies), especially among those who experienced the frustration of "tarrying" and "agonizing" in prayer for the Spirit. Wierwille visited Stiles in Tulsa, Oklahoma in November 1950. He describes the encounter:

Stiles led me into the manifestation of speaking in tongues...and from that day in 1950 my life and ministry began to change very rapidly.(15)

Wierwille began constructing a theological foundation for this experience. He began to develop several classes on "Power for Abundant Living." By 1953 he was ready to begin teaching these classes. In 1954 he published his first booklet on the Holy Spirit. In 1955 Wierwille changed the name of the organization incorporated as the "Chimes Hour Youth Caravan" to "The Way." In this same year Wierwille visited India and England. After his return (1957), Wierwille resigned from the ministry of the Evangelical and Reformed Church. This resignation seems to have been motivated by the denomination. One of the officials of the denomination later reported on the incident, saying,

Because of certain remarks which (Wierwille) made criticizing the Church and the Government of India, a riot erupted in one of our stations.

Upon his return to Ohio, a church (committee)...conducted a hearing with Mr. Wierwille. Because of his feelings and attitudes for the church, he was advised to withdraw as a minister.(16)


The Way International: Beginnings

Wierwille was now able to concentrate all of his time on promoting and teaching the "Power for Abundant Living" class he had developed. His goals were to expand the ministry to "television, the printed page (and) licensing ministers...to send forth qualified men and women to foreign fields, (to) promote Biblical education."(17) Wierwille moved back to the family farm in New Knoxville and there located the headquarters of The Way. In the early years The Way was financed largely by Harry Wierwille, Victor Paul's older brother, who had achieved financial success in the upholstery business.(18)

Wierwille's major problem in the early years was gaining followers. David Anderson, the first director of outreach for The Way, recalled those early days, saying, "We prayed for years, 'Lord, just send us people.'" Anderson quotes Wierwille as saying, "There's a tremendous amount of truth here that we have in this word of God and I can teach it. . But I don't know how to get the people."(19) Anderson suggested Wierwille put the "Power for Abundant Living" course on film and take it around the country. This was accomplished during the mid-1960s. The cost was $30,000, and it proved to be very beneficial in procuring followers.



The Way International: Growth

The Way blossomed in the late 1960s when Wierwille began gaining converts from the "Jesus people" in California. Wierwille decided to take advantage of the growing Jesus people movement, so he took his motorcycle, plastered with "Jesus" stickers, to San Francisco. In 1967 a small group of Christians started a coffee house ministry named "The Living Room" in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. Soon the group rented an old farmhouse in Novato, CA. Five couples lived in the house and many young people ("hippies") used it as a short term safe haven. The commune became known as "The House of Acts." Wierwille visited The Living Room and The House of Acts several times in 1967 and 1968. Soon several of the young people began visiting the headquarters of The Way in New Knoxville. The leadership of The House of Acts began to break up. Lonnie Frisbee moved south to set up another commune in Costa Mesa.(20) Ted Wise started a drug prevention center in Menlo Park, CA and became active at Peninsula Bible Church in Pale Alto. Two of the leaders joined The Way, Steve Heefner joined Wierwille and became the director of The Way East in Rye, NY. Jimmy Doop joined Wierwille and became director of The Way West in Mill Valley, CA. Some of the more astute leaders warned that Wierwille was dangerous. Former Campus Crusade minister Gordon Walker called Wierwille a false prophet preaching heresy.

I consider Victor Wierwille to be a false prophet. I think a lot of kids in The Way are real Christians. I think this that happened in Rye, New York, is of the Lord, but if Wierwille has his way he will completely subvert it... I have no qualms in labeling much of it heresy.

David Hoyt passed out a paper warning about the antinomian lifestyle Wierwille promoted.(21)

Wierwille teaches that since salvation means forgiveness for past, present and future sins, one is free to partake of sinful desires. This idea has been particularly appealing to Christians coming out of the hip scene who still want to take dope and fornicate. This seems to us the major reason why people get into the Way, so they can have a puny Jesus and their sin also. The message of repentance and obedience is not emphasized by the Way.

Despite the warnings, Wierwille picked up thousands of young followers among the hippies of the Jesus people. In 1971 he began an annual rock concert at the New Knoxville headquarters ("Rock of Ages") to keep them coming back every year with new recruits. The Way had become a religion for the young. The May 14, 1971 Life magazine did a story on The Way in Rye, New York titled "The Groovy Christians of Rye, NY."



The Way International: Organization

The Way became a major cult in the 1970s. Fellowship groups were established in every state in the U.S.A. and in fifty foreign countries. It became necessary for Wierwille to organize the growing number of followers. He settled on an organizational plan based on the tree. The "roots" are the executives of The Way; the "trunk" is the headquarters in New Knoxville; the "limbs" are the state organizations; the "branches" are the regional and city groups; the "twigs" are the individual fellowship groups; the "leaves" are the individual members of the group. In essence this organizational scheme was nothing more than the well-known pyramid schemes in fraudulent businesses. With the increasing numbers of people came increasing wealth. In 1973 income to The Way was $20,000. Only five years later in 1978 The Way's assets were $9.7 million.(22) Much of this wealth came through fees for taking the "Power for Abundant Living" class. Also tithing was demanded. All money went directly to the headquarters. When funds were needed in the states and regions, the headquarters sent the money. Such an organization provided Wierwille with a tremendous income. David Anderson, former director of outreach for The Way described Wierwille, saying, "he's sold out for money."(23)

The Way missionaries are the key to Wierwille's success. WOW ("Word Over the World") Ambassadors devote one year to full time missionary activity. They live in communes and work part time to support themselves. Their primary task is to give the "Power for Abundant Living" course (for a set fee) and set up "twig" fellowships. The Way Magazine is the primary propaganda device for the ministry.


THEOLOGY



Jesus Christ is Not God

In 1975 Wierwille published his magnus opus, Jesus Christ is Not God. He believed this message was his greatest contribution to Christianity. He later stated,

When my life is over I think my greatest contribution may prove to be the knowledge and teaching that Jesus Christ is not God. Before I finish, my life may stir up the biggest beehive in Roman Catholicism and Protestantism since the religious leaders took a shot at Martin Luther. May there be a true reformation in our day and time.(24)

Wierwille claims to have begun his research as an unbiased and objective seeker of truth.

I didn't begin research of this topic from a negative framework. It was never a part of my motivation to disprove the trinity. If the Bible had taught that there is a Christian trinity, I would have happily accepted it. Obviously, when a person does unpreconceived research, he does not determine beforehand what he will find. Research doesn't begin with answers; it looks for the answers. I did not willfully choose to find what I have found.(25)

Wierwille also claims to have conducted painstaking and scholarly research on this book.

I have had access to and have read the major works in systematic theology both of the past as well as current publications. For years I have done my utmost in evaluating whatever I could find to read plus directly studying with biblical scholars. I have asked theologians of unblemished character to discuss the trinity with me, yet I never found more substance than what my childhood pastor, Dr. L.H. Kunst, told me 42 years ago: "No one can explain the trinity. We simply accept it by faith."(26)

Upon reading this book, any theologian would find these claims to objectivity and scholarship utterly unbelievable. The book is trite, shallow, devoid of any scholarly argumentation, and completely unaware of the biblical defense of the deity of Christ. The thesis of this book is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, not God the Son, for if he is God he cannot redeem men from sin. This conclusion is based on a preponderance of the evidence, says Wierwille.

In applying this principle, we note that Jesus Christ is directly referred to as the "Son of God" in more than 50 verses in the New Testament; he is called "God" in four. (Never is he called "God the Son.") By sheer weight of this evidence alone, 50 to 4, the truth should be evident.(27)

The four passages that Wierwille discusses as calling Jesus "God" are 1 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 1:8, John 20:28, and Isaiah 9:6. He is apparently completely unaware of Matthew 1:23 ("They will call him Immanuel, which means 'God with us"'), John 1:1 ("The word was God"), Romans 9:5 ("Christ, who is God over all, forever praised"), Philippians 2:6 ("Who being in very nature God"), Colossians 2:9 ("In Christ all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form"), Titus 2:13 ("Waiting for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ."), Hebrews 1:3 ("The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being"), Hebrews 1:9 ("Therefore God, your God has set you above your companions,"), and 2 Peter 1:1 ("The righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ."). He is also completely unaware of the passages that call Jesus "Jehovah" (Matthew 3:3 quoting Isaiah 40:3; Romans 10:9-13 and Acts 2:16-21, 34-38 quoting Joel 2:32; Hebrews 1:10 quoting Psalm 102:25-27), "the First and the Last" (Revelation 1:17-18; 2:8; 22:12-13 with Isaiah 44:6; 48:12-13), the "Alpha and Omega" (Revelation 22:13), and the "Lord of lords" (Revelation 17:14; 19:16 with Deuteronomy 10:17 and Psalm 136:1-3).(28)



The First Misunderstood Verse: 1Timothy 3:16

Wierwille listed four verses that are commonly used to defend the deity of Christ. He then proceeds to show how they have been misunderstood. Wierwille quickly dispenses with 1 Timothy 3:16 by noting that the word "God" is actually the relative pronoun "which." The relative pronoun "is found in all Critical Greek texts except Stephens, the text used for the King James translation."(29) Wierwille may have chosen to discuss this text first as a show of scholarship. Undoubtedly, those with no theological training would be impressed with his discussion of the "Critical Greek texts." However, those with theological training will quickly realize that Wierwille has neglected to mention two things. First, scholars have long recognized that 1 Timothy 3:16 probably uses the relative pronoun rather than the word "God." In all of his scholarly research, apparently Wierwille did not discover that this verse is not used as a basis for defending the deity of Christ by knowledgeable Christians. Wierwille has built a straw-man argument to attack. Second, it is not true that only one Greek text contains the reading "God." In fact, Bruce Metzger lists at least 12 Greek manuscripts with this reading, as well as several Church Fathers who acknowledge this reading. The reason that scholars have rejected the reading "God" is that the manuscripts supporting this reading are all dated after the eighth century. Also, none of the Church Fathers earlier than the fourth century attest to the reading "God." The texts with the relative pronoun are both early and numerous.(30) Wierwille has clearly misrepresented the facts in order to present a black and white case.



The Second Misunderstood Verse: Hebrews 1:8

Wierwille acknowledges that Hebrews 1:8 calls Jesus "God," but claims "It is only a formal title, used here to indicate his power and glory."(31) He then claims, "Calling a person 'God' is not that unique in Oriental usage."(32) Why, then, did the Jews try to stone Jesus for claiming to be God (John 10:33)? This statement has no foundation. Wierwille attempts to support his statement with the idea that three passages in the Old Testament call a man "a god." In Exodus 7:1 God tells Moses "I have made you a god to Pharaoh." But Wierwille does not mention the customary interpretation of this passage or even acknowledge the historical context. When God called Moses to speak to Pharaoh, Moses said, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it" (Exodus 4:13). Then the Lord was angry with Moses and chose Aaron to be Moses' spokesman (Exodus 4:14). God then describes the relationship Moses would have with Aaron. This relationship is compared to the relationship between God and His prophets. God tells Moses, "You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him" (Exodus 4:15-16). This incident is repeated in chapters six and seven. God tells Moses to speak to Pharaoh and Moses falters (Exodus 6:28-30). So God says to Moses, "See I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet" (Exodus 7:11). God is describing the relationship between Moses and Aaron as that of God and His prophet. Moses is not called a god.

Wierwille's second example is Exodus 22:28. He quotes the King James Version and inserts his interpretation. "Thou shalt not revile the gods (the judges), nor curse the ruler of thy people." Wierwille's interpretation that this is talking about human judges is simply wrong. The fact that the word "God" is in the plural does not mean that this is talking about something other than God. The word translated "God" throughout the Old Testament is a plural noun (Elohim). Although some have thought this implies the trinity, it is more likely that this is an example of what Hebrew scholars call a "plural of majesty." Hence, all modern versions of the Bible translate Exodus 22:28 as "God. "

Wierwille's third and final example of men being called gods is Psalm 82:6,8. Significantly, Wierwille fails to quote verse seven. Once the entire passage is read the interpretation becomes obvious.

I said you are 'gods'; you are all sons of the Most High. But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler. Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.

This verse is a condemnation of men who rule over others, but rule unrighteously. God has placed them over other men to govern those men; hence they represent God's rulership over all men. But rather than ruling as God directs them, they make sinful decisions (Psalm 82:2-5). These men will be judged by God.

It is interesting to note that Wierwille acknowledges that Jesus is called "God" in Hebrews 1:8. The essence of his argument is essentially that anyone can be called God, but that doesn't mean he is God. With this argument, it would not matter how many irrefutable texts Wierwille found showing that Jesus Christ is God. He can always say it does not mean that. One is left wondering what kind of evidence is needed to convince Wierwille that Jesus Christ is God. One can hardly believe that Wierwille is unbiased, simply wanting to accept whatever the Bible says. He knows what it says, but he explains it away. Why?



The Third Misunderstood Verse: John 20:28

Wierwille also explains away John 20:28. Thomas here calls Jesus "my Lord and my God." Wierwille claims that this is an example of a figure of speech known as "hendiadys" and should be translated "my godly Lord." Again Wierwille attempts to overwhelm the reader with a display of scholarship. Few readers will be familiar with the "hendiadys" figure of speech and will assume Wierwille knows what he is talking about. He writes,

Whenever two words are used but only one idea intended, it is the figure hendiadys. One of the two words expresses the fact and the other intensifies it to the superlative degree, thus making the statement especially emphatic. When Thomas exclaimed "My Lord and my God," he was observing the resurrected Christ as "my godly Lord." The word "lord" expresses the fact and the word "godly" intensifies "lord " to the superlative degree.(33)

There are two problems in Wierwille's explanation. First, if Jesus is Thomas' "lord" to the superlative degree" then either Jesus is God or Thomas is worshiping a false god. If the word "God" is to be taken as emphasizing Christ's lordship, how does Wierwille manage to empty it of its significance? How can an emphatic use of "God" be diluted to mean "godly," as Wierwille does? Obviously Wierwille is playing games with his readers. If Jesus were only a godly man he would have refused Thomas's words and directed his worship to God as the one and only Lord. The word "lord" (kurios) was the standard New Testament translation of the name of God in the Old Testament: Yahweh or Jehovah. Thus, when the Jews called Jesus "lord" they were claiming him as their God. This is why the Jews refused to call Caesar "lord." Therefore, Wierwille has only tossed the words around to confuse the reader. The meaning is still the same. Second, Wierwille has misunderstood the "hendiadys" figure. It is not true that the meaning of second word always loses its use as a noun when it is used adjectivally. E.W. Bullinger explains,

And occasionally, even in an undoubted Hendiadys, the two words may be equally true when taken separately and severally, as when joined together in one. In these cases both letter and figure are correct, and the passage gains considerable additional light and force.(34)

Thus, even if Wierwille wants to call this phrase "hendiadys" that does not mean that Thomas is not calling Jesus "God."



The Fourth Misunderstood Verse: Isaiah 9:6

The fourth and final verse Wierwille dispenses with as a defense of the deity of Christ is Isaiah 9:6 where Christ is prophetically called "the mighty God." Wierwille points out that the verse does not say Christ is the mighty God, it says that "his name shall be called...the mighty God." He explains,

"And his name shall be called ..." is simply another example of the meaning of a name, such as Jacob means "supplanter" and Sarah means "princess." So if this prophecy in Isaiah 9:6 does refer to Jesus Christ, it simply tells us that his name means "Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace," and it does not make him any of these things, including "the mighty God."(35)

If Wierwille is right, then Jesus is not only not the mighty God, but he is not the Prince of Peace either! Is Wierwille trying to say that because a name means something, that something does not describe the person? This is surely backwards thinking. Why give a name with specific meaning to someone, then describe that meaning, then claim that the meaning has nothing to do with the person? Jacob, indeed, was a supplanter. Esau said, "Is he not rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times two times" (Genesis 27:36 KJV). J. Barton Payne, an Old Testament scholar explains, "In the Orient a name is more than an identification. A man's name is not only descriptive of its bearer, it may stand as the equivalent to his very nature and individuality."(36) Strangely, Wierwille claims that because Jesus' name means "the mighty God" then he cannot be the mighty God. Wierwille is very confused about this verse and he wants to confuse others. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that Isaiah is using the word "name" in the manner described by Wierwille. Wierwille assumes Isaiah is using the word " name " to indicate cognomen. However, the more common biblical use of the word "name" is to indicate character. Jesus character is here described as his being a "Wonderful Counselor," "Mighty God," "Father of Eternity," and "Prince of Peace." Finally, if this verse does not mean that Jesus is the mighty God, what does it mean? Wierwille never explains. The meaning is so clear, it cannot mean anything else; to attempt to put forth an alternative meaning would only highlight the foolishness of denying the obvious meaning.



Son of God or God the Son

Wierwille then proceeds to list over sixty verses in the New Testament that call Jesus Christ the "Son of God." He claims,

To say that 'Son of God' means or equals 'God the Son' totally negates the rules of language, leaving it utterly useless as a tool of communication.(37)

This is a common objection among anti-trinitarians. This objection reveals a failure to understand the use of the biblical phrase "son of ..." This phrase is commonly used in the Bible to describe someone's position, character, or nature. Paul describes sinful men as the "sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2). Jesus describes Judas as the " son of perdition" (John 17:12). Paul calls the anti-Christ the "son of perdition" (2 Thessalonians 2:3). The phrase "sons of Belial" is commonly translated "wicked men" (Judges 19:22; 1 Samuel 2:12). In all of these phrases "son of..." denotes the person's character. F.F. Bruce explains, "The expression 'sons of disobedience' exemplifies an idiomatic Semitic way of referring to men whose lives are characterized by disobedience."(38) Therefore, Jesus' claim to be the "Son of God" is a claim to having the character and nature of God. The Jews of Jesus day certainly understood this, for the Apostle John tells us, "For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God" (John 5:18).

Some have objected that Christians, too, are the "sons of God." This objection fails to note that Jesus alone is the Son of God by nature. He is the "one and only Son of God" (John 3:16 NIV). The Bible distinguishes between Jesus as the unique Son of God and believers as sons of God in three ways. First, Jesus indicates that his relationship to the Father is absolutely unique. To highlight the fact that he and believers do not have the same relationship with the Father, Jesus always spoke of God as "my Father" or "your Father, but never as "our Father."(39) Second, John distinguishes the two by always referring to Jesus as the "Son" (uios) of God and the believer as a "child" (teknon) of God. Third, Paul distinguishes the two by describing Jesus as the Son of God by nature (Romans 1:3) and believers as sons of God by adoption (Romans 8:15; 8:23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5).(40)

The conclusion to this evaluation of Wierwille's case against the deity of Christ must be that Wierwille's case is entirely lacking in any persuasive evidence. His work is shallow and unscholarly.


CONCLUSION


The Way International is an organized heresy. It follows the teachings of one supposedly inspired prophet. It condemns all Christian groups as apostate and teaching paganism. It denies the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ and attacks our trinitarian God. The Jesus of The Way is just a man. As such he cannot reconcile men with God.

It is true that many untaught Christians have been deceived by Wierwille's sophistication. Therefore, it is quite possible that many of the followers are Christians. But this is only because they came into the movement as Christians. Those who study the Bible without Wierwille's interpretations and who listen to the Spirit of God indwelling them are very likely to give up their position in The Way and come back to the true Jesus Christ.



ENDNOTES

1. Quoted from Walter Martin, The New Cults (Santa Ana: Vision House, 1980), 37. The original source is the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Souvenir Booklet (New Knoxville: The Way, Inc., 1967). This story is repeated in Elena S. Whiteside, The Way: Living in Love, 2nd ed. (New Knoxville: American Christian Press, 1974), 172.

2. J. L. Williams, Victor Paul Wierwille and The Way International (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979), 18.

3. Martin, The New Cults, 38. From a letter dated July 13, 1976 on file at the Christian Research Institute, Irvine, CA.

4. The Evangelical and Reformed Church merged with the old Congregational Church and became the United Church of Christ.

5. Victor Paul Wierwille, Power For Abundant Living (New Knoxville: American Christian Press, 1971), 3.

6. Whiteside, The Way, 177.

7. Whiteside, The Way, 175.

8. Martin, The New Cults, 38.

9. Whiteside, The Way, 178.

10. Whiteside, The Way, 180-181.

11. Wierwille, Power For Abundant Living, 120.

12. Twenty-fifth Anniversary Souvenir Booklet, 10.

13. Wierwille, Receiving the Holy Spirit Today (New Knoxville: American Christian Press, 1982), 22-23.

14. J.E. Stiles, The Gift of the Holy Spirit (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1971), 9-10.

15. Twenty-fifth Anniversary Souvenir Booklet, 12.

16. Quoted from J. L. Williams, Victor Paul Wierwille and the Way International, 24. Williams' source was Vince McKelvey, "Charisma: Way Founder Wierwille Seen as Either Loving, Warm or 'Own Worst Enemy,'" Dayton (Ohio) Journal Herald, April 3, 1979.

17. From Williams, 23. Williams' source was Vince McKelvey, "Growth: The Way Tree has Branched Out, but Expansion brings Criticism," Dayton (Ohio) Journal Herald, April 2, 1979.

18. Williams, 24.

19. Williams, 24, quoting from Vince McKelvey, "Growth." David Anderson left The Way in 1973.

20. Frisbee became Youth Minister at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa under Chuck Smith, and later joined Bob Mumford.

21. The information about Wierwille's activities in San Francisco and the two quotes from Walker and Hoyt were taken from Ronald Enroth, Edward Ericson, and C. Breckinridge Peters, The Jesus People (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 12-14, 152-153. Sadly and ironically, David Hoyt became a member of the Children of God, another group known for their antinomian lifestyle.

22. Williams, 31.

23. Williams, 42, quoting from Vince McKelvey, "Way's Assets Draw Criticism," Dayton, (Ohio) Journal Herald April 4, 1979.

24. Williams, 50, quoted from Hal Miller, "The Way Followers March on New Knoxville Church," St. Mary's (Ohio) Evening Leader October 17, 1977. The date of this issue may be incorrect. It may have appeared in the October 31, 1977 issue.

25. Jesus Christ is Not God, 3.

26. Jesus Christ is Not God, 1-2.

27. Jesus Christ is Not God, 30.

28. There are several other lines of argument that are used to defend the deity of Jesus Christ, including the fact that Christ possesses the attributes of God--all knowing (John 2:24-25; 6:64; 16:30-31), all powerful (John 1:3; 5:19; Hebrews 1:3), ever present (Matthew 18:20; 28:20), and eternal (Micah 5:2; John 1:1; 8:58; I John 1:1-2). Also, other arguments used to defend the deity of Christ include the fact that Jesus is worshipped (Hebrews 1:6; cf. Exodus 20:4-5), he forgives sin (Mark 2:7; cf. Micah 7:18), he created the world (Colossians 1:16; cf. Isaiah 44:24; 48:12-13), and he is called "Savior" (Titus 1:4; cf. Hosea 13:14). Yet Wierwille attempts to dispense with the deity of Jesus on the basis of four verses.

29. Jesus Christ is Not God, 31.

30. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (New York: United Bible Society, 1971), 641.

31. Jesus Christ is Not God, 32.

32. Jesus Christ is Not God, 32. This is a remarkable example of Wierwille's flippant disregard for historical truth. Surely in pagan nations men could be regarded as gods (Pharaoh in Egypt), but the distinguishing mark of the nation of Israel was monotheism. The first of the Ten Commandments was "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Throughout the Old Testament God says "apart from me there is no God" (Isaiah 44:6).

33. Jesus Christ is Not God, 34-35.

34. Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (1898; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1968), 658.

35. Jesus Christ is Not God, 36.

36. The Theology of the Older Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962), 144.

37. Jesus Christ is Not God, 5.

38. The Epistle to the Ephesians (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1961), 48.

39. When Jesus teaches the believers to pray he does say "our Father" (Matthew 6:9). This is not an exception to the above statement. Jesus is teaching the believers how to pray; he is not leading them in a communal prayer.

40. Unfortunately Bible versions do not always translate the word here as "adoption." The word does occur five times in the Bible, once in each verse listed above.

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