Thursday, 29 August 2013

Mitch Kuhn Ignores His Own Teaching

For those not in the know, Mitch Kuhn is what can best be described as the IWWB "2-ic" - 2nd in charge.

I often refer to Mitch as a "hatchet man" because in the scheme of things, Mitch is often designated to forcefully remove someone from the fellowship or, clamp down on a matter of doctrine. Take for example, this particular doctrine, where Mike Vinson plays the role of good cop, and Mitch the unapologetic hard-case who wants to bust your balls doctrinally. In the corporate world, the term "hatchet man" refers to a person tasked with implementing firings of personnel, so it seems fitting to use it with respect to brother Mitch.

He was at one time, hailed as an elder, until I happened to point out to an IWWB acolyte, that an elder, according the scripture, must be the "husband of one wife," not simply a male teacher as Mitch and IWWB asserted for many years. As Mitch is not married, then he simply cannot fall into that category. Here is a screen-grab of Mitch responding to a brother about whether a woman can be an elder. Please note - at the time he posted this, Mitch was considered to be an IWWB "elder" by both himself, and the others within the fellowship, including Mike Vinson.

My message must have made it up the food chain somehow, as Mitch and Mike Vinson have now acknowledged that according to the scripture, Mitch is not an elder.  

What is interesting to observe, is that Mitch, when attempting to teach others about matters pertaining to the scriptures, frequently hangs himself with his own doctrines. I caught Mitch out earlier on in the year, when he was queried about why certain people had their studies taken down from the IWWB website. After all, if truth is truth, who cares who is teaching it right? Mike and Mitch don't want to hear those kinds of arguments and so, must invent reasons why people who have left the fellowship need to have their studies removed as well. Mitch Kuhn stated on his website the following:
Once someone has been put out of the fellowship, or has left of their own accord, we need to take down all of their studies. This is a part of having no company with them and making them ashamed. If we leave the studies up it gives off the appearance that we are still in fellowship. There are no books of the bible written by anyone that we know fell away from the faith
Note Mitch's emphatic overstatement there? "There are NO BOOKS OF THE BIBLE written by ANYONE that we know fell away from the faith." Quite a statement that. Here is a screen-grab of Mitch's deceitful and fallacious argument. Note that you will need to click to enlarge the image:

Well, Mitch has now had to change that because as I pointed out, King Solomon fell away from the faith and is attributed 3 books of the bible. Heck, Mike Vinson even agreed with me on this. I promptly put up a video about this and posted to my FaceBook page. Obviously, this flies in the face of Mitch Kuhn's prior emphatic overstatement. So what to do? Well, move the goal posts of course. What else? Mitch now states: 
There are no books in the New Testament written by anyone that we know fell away from the faith.
You can see that Mitch is just proof-texting his argument to fit his doctrine. He displays no consistency in his rhetoric whatsoever. Mitch doesn't even know who wrote many of the NT books, because quite a few of them are anonymous.
The issue on qualifications for elders was but one, and the fallacious and dishonest proof-texting about authors who fell away from the faith is another. However, here is a far more damning indictment that Mitch has proverbially slain himself with.

On Mitch's website (at one time called Aionios, now TryingTheSpirits), Mitch answers a question from someone identified as "C."

The question is an excellent one, as "C" asks how can one truly know that we have the official "canon" of scripture as set out by the various councils that took place during the early days of the Christian faith. Great question. Shame he is asking the wrong guy!

In attempting to answer this, and by virtue of the fact that he sees himself as a teacher, with the absolute truth on his side, Mitch Kuhn is forced to make a good many assertive statements.

In truth, his "answer" is just another vain attempt as before, to proof-text his personal belief that the 66 books existing today in the western, orthodox version of "the bible," constitute what he calls "the word of God."

But in asserting such a belief, Mitch makes a colossal blunder. Here are Mitch's own words from his reply and I'll show you how Mitch has hung himself shortly:
When you read the books that some people think should be considered scripture, there is a characteristic of those books that makes is clear they do not belong in the scriptures. We first need to establish that it is the SUM of God’s word that reveals the truth. This always involved at least 2 scriptures and prohibits one scripture from explaining itself. These other supposed books of the bible to not fit into the sum of God’s words LACK A SECOND WITNESS
Mitch here says that anything considered "canonical" must by virtue of its inclusion, adhere to the "2nd witness" rule. What one must ask themselves in light of this statement is thus: Are there any stories or incidents recorded in particular "canonical" works there that are NOT attested elsewhere?

Well, Yes. Many in-fact. Mitch here has made the mistake that his spiritual father Mike  Vinson frequently does, that of over-stating his position to the point of stupidity.

Let's examine the claim Mitch makes as it pertains to the gospel of John. Ignoring for the moment that John's gospel isn't even claimed to be authored by the disciple John, and is in-fact anonymous, let's see if it meets Mitch's guidelines.

Here are a list of scriptures and stories/incidents from the gospel of John that are not attested anywhere else in the bible whatsoever. I'd be interested to know how Mitch can qualify his statement while also reading from the gospel of John.
  • Prologue (1:1-18)
  • "Signs," beginning with the Wedding at Cana (2:1-12)
  • Dialogue with Nicodemus (2:23–3:21)
  • Jesus and/or his Disciples Baptize People (3:22-26; 4:1-2)
  • Samaritan Woman at the Well (4:1-42)
  • Jesus Heals a Sick Man at the Pool of Bethesda (5:1-18)
  • New Details at the Feeding of the 5000 (6:1b, 3-6, 8-9, 12b, 14-15)
  • Bread of Life Discourse (6:22-65)
  • Woman caught in Adultery (7:53–8:11) - note: this was added later.
  • Jesus Gives Sight to a Man Born Blind (9:1-41)
  • Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead (11:1-44)
  • Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet (13:1-20)
  • "Disciple Whom Jesus Loved" (13:23-25; 19:26-27; 20:2-10; 21:7, 20-24; cf. 18:15-16?)
  • Last Supper Discourses, incl. "Paraclete" & "Vine and Branches" (13:31–16:33)
  • Great Prayer of Jesus (17:1-26)
  • New Details at the Trial before Pilate (18:28–19:16)
  • New Details at the Crucifixion (19:20-24, 26-28, 30-37, 39)
  • First Resurrection Appearance to Mary Magdalene alone (20:11-18; cf. Matt 28:9)
  • Resurrection Appearance to Thomas (20:24-29)
  • Another Resurrection Appearance at the Sea of Tiberias/Galilee; Dialogue between Jesus & Peter (21:1-25; cf. Luke 5:1-11)
  • First and Second Endings to John's Gospel (20:30-31; 21:24-25)

Here are incidents/stories/events that LACK A 2ND WITNESS so according to Mitch, this gospel has excluded itself from the canon of scripture. 

Of course, don't bother trying to raise this with Mike Vinson or Mitch Kuhn. These men tout themselves as teachers who are "easily entreat-able" but when push comes to shove, they have a denomination to maintain and specific doctrines that in their minds, are untouchable.   

Elsewhere, Mitch answers another question about biblical inerrancy and makes so many blunders in his logic, it would require a whole new blog to explain them. Here is but a sample of what Mitch says:
When there is an alleged discrepancy we only have to come up with a plausible explanation, then the alleged contradiction loses its force.
A "plausible" explanation? The problem with this approach is that Mitch is now writing his own version of the gospel stories by positing a "plausible" explanation for discrepancies. The sky is the limit with that kind of reasoning and who is to say whether Mitch is right or not? Oh of course, Mitch says he's right so that settles it. Literally anything can pass as a plausible explanation, the question ought to be, why is there a discrepancy in the first instance?
The gospels are history books...
Ah, no they are not Mitch. Sorry. Not a single independent attestation exists to confirm any of the miracles of Christ, even though, this was quite a well attested and literate time period.
Mount of transfiguration: Matthew and Mark say that it was six days. Luke says ABOUT eight days. Luke qualifies eight days with “about”, so this accounts for the difference.
This "accounts for" the difference? Huh? He was 2 days out but because he used the word "about" it's OK? Well I guess that settles it huh?
We have to assume that they do not contradict and are accurate unless we have absolute evidence that they are in disagreement. As you can see from my response there is a plausible explanation for every supposed contradiction you pointed out.
Mitch wants "absolute evidence" to the contrary. He is setting the bar impossibly high because he has a belief system to defend. The truth doesn't factor into this because, Mitch and Mike and the rest of IWWB aren't interested in the truth, they are all about their own wacky doctrines that they selectively lift out of the bible.

The problem is, it is near impossible to prove a negative. It would be like me asking you to prove with "absolute evidence" that faery's and leprechauns don't really exist. Could you do it, absolutely?
I doubt it. All you could point out is that lack of physical evidence and the contradictory accounts of stories about these characters, and then rely on your opponents sound reasoning to conclude that perhaps, such beings are purely fictional in nature, and not "real." 

Or what if I told you I was visited by aliens 10 years ago and spent time in their spacecraft. You might say, "prove it." Using Mitch's logic, I would say to you - "prove with absolute evidence that I didn't." Obviously, that is impossible to do.

However, one thing remains - the onus of proof lies with the one making the claim. Mitch, and other dishonest "magical thinkers" like to swing the burden of proof back around onto their critics. In the real world, this won't work, you'll be laughed out the door.

But in the confines of IWWB, anything goes.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Rick Ross Forum

A little over a year ago, I took the time to post on the web's largest cult repository - the Rick Ross Cult Institute Forum. My post was largely ignored for a few months, until an IWWB member "Robin Korevaar" came on to the forum in an attempt to defend the movement.

Rick Ross (that's him in the pic above), the forum owner and a cult expert with decades of experience in dealing with those inside of cults, came onto the forum post I had made, and asked this member some questions. As expected, IWWB member Robin Korevaar ended up incriminating himself and Mike Vinson as a legitimate cult group. I had links to this on social media sites including Twitter, YouTube and more.

However, Rick Ross sold the "rickross" domain name and decided to use "culteducationforum" instead. As a result of moving all of the content over to this new domain name, the previous 2 years (approx Sept 2011 - August 2013) of content have vanished into the aether. Unfortunately, this happened to include the exchanges between Rick Ross and the aforementioned IWWB member. 

A thousand hallelujah's must be said for the internet archive "Way Back Machine" - a digital archive of the world-wide-web, created by the "internet archive" which is a non-profit organisation based in SF California. 

I have been able to recover 3 of the 7 pages of forum posts. If you want to download a PDF of this, please do so by clicking here. The 3 pages include my introductory post
(I am forum poster "Truth_Seeker_78") as well as comments back and forth between IWWB acolyte Robin Korevaar and Rick Ross himself. 

Unfortunately, pages 3-5 have "done a Jesus" - having ascended into the cosmos somewhere, never to return.

But not to worry. What I have been able to retrieve is plenty good. While I won't copy and paste the entire thing here (it's 19 pages long!), I will put Rick's appraisal of the group below as that seems to be the most concise, to the point, and non-emotionally attached, independent third-party analysis of the group I have yet seen. Here it is:
You have often posted comments that are evasive, [you] talk in circles, and are deliberately vague. But here is what I have come away with after this exchange.
Based upon your comments and others here and my own thirty years of experience working in the area of destructive cults, the IWWB appears to be a classic cult. 
The group is exclusive and sees no other group, organization or denomination of Christians as legitimate. Members believe they are the spiritual elite chosen by God to judge and lead. This belief system is similar to the Waco Davidians, Unification Church, International Church of Christ, Exclusive Brethren, Children of God and other supposedly bible-based groups that have been called "cults".
All the groups can cite and quote various scriptures, which supposedly prove they are right etc. However, the scriptures only prove this to those inside the group and are based upon the group's interpretation of those scriptures. This is done by spinning the scriptures in what can be seen as little more than "proof-texting", which is a discredited form of studying the bible. 
The IWWB apparently has no meaningful accountability or financial transparency and therefore appears to be essentially a totalitarian organization run by Mike Vinson and "elders". The only check on the leadership's power is that members are free to leave if they don't like the way the group is run. But based upon posts on this thread they are made to feel fearful about leaving and that there is no other group to affiliate with chosen by God. 

Please understand that your quotation of scripture is not what "God says" or what "God wants", but rather a reflection of how leaders can twist the bible to mean whatever they want. 
Jesus warned that many would come in his name, but he would not know them (Matthew 24:5) and that there would be "false prophets" and "They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves" (Matthew 7:15). Paul warned believers about bad leaders and condemned them in Galatians. Peter also said there would be "false teachers" (2 Peter 2:1-3). These scriptures are not subject to interpretation, but instead are self-evident and quite explicit. What they say collectively is that groups like the IWWB have been around for a long time and believers should watch out for them. 
Cults behave in a fairly predictable and consistent manner, which can be observed through their pattern of their behaviour. 

Certain psychological themes which recur in these various historical contexts also arise in the study of cults. Cults can be identified by three characteristics:
1. A charismatic leader who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose their power; 
2. A process I call coercive persuasion or thought reform; 
3. economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie. 
In my opinion these themes are evident in the IWWB based upon the discussion and posts at this thread. 
The key factors that distinguish coercive persuasion from other training and socialization schemes are: 
1. The reliance on intense interpersonal and psychological attack to destabilize an individual's sense of self to promote compliance.
2. The use of an organized peer group.
3. Applying interpersonal pressure to promote conformity. 
4. The manipulation of the totality of the person's social environment to stabilize behaviour once modified. 
In my opinion the IWWB uses coercive persuasion to maintain control over members of the group. 

"The totalist milieu maintains an aura of sacredness around its basic dogma, holding it out as an ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence. This sacredness is evident in the prohibition (whether or not explicit) against the questioning of basic assumptions, and in the reverence which is demanded for the originators of the Word, the present bearers of the Word, and the Word itself." 
This is one of the criteria for "thought reform" as explained by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton and would apply to the peculiar way that the IWWB quotes and uses the bible. This can be seen as the IWWB form of "sacred science" for the "ordering of human existence". That is, the Vinson/IWWB interpretation of the bible is not just an interpretation, but rather "what God says" and therefore cannot be questioned and is perfect. Any other understanding of the bible is wrong and condemned. Likewise all churches, denominations and Christians that disagree are always wrong. 
Of course you probably feel that all this doesn't apply to your group. Other groups may be "cults", but not your group. But that's what they all say. 
In my opinion if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it just might be a duck. And you should know that I have been qualified and accepted as an expert witness in court proceedings about groups called "cults" in 10 states including US. Federal Court. 
I would strongly recommend that you take an IWWB vacation. Get out of the bubble you are in and seek out others for feedback. You might take a month off and stay away from anyone associated in any way, shape or form with IWWB. During that time talk with Christian clergy and other believers in your area to learn in-depth specifically why they would disagree with Vinson/IWWB doctrines. You might be surprised to find out how solid and biblical their explanations will be in an open discussion away from the group and its influence. 
I realize that you probably won't do this in any meaningful way and that at this point you are probably deeply embedded in the group and its mindset. 
But there it is. 
Thank you for helping me to understand what's wrong with Vinson/IWWB. Often people that post at this message board to defend their group actually end up indicting it through their statements. 
Even though you have attempted to avoid directly answering questions enough has come through anyway to indict your group, its practices and teachings.
As you can see, this is a fairly damning indictment of the IWWB group but as Rick said, IWWB member Robin Korevaar didn't let it sway him one bit. Of course, in this brothers mind, Rick is under the influence of Satan and does not know the "true" Jesus so therefore, is not qualified to make these kinds of comments.