Intellectual (spiritual) errors of deviant religious groups (Atef Aziz)

Cross posted from with permission:

An excerpt from the book, “Strip the Vanity of the Heretics” by His Grace Bishop Anba Raphael, General Bishop and Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.

Published in Arabic in 2003 by the Bishopric of Youth. 

Intellectual errors of deviant religious groups

By: Bishop Raphael

After the curtain came down on the issue of intellectual doctrinal deviation which drifted a group of Christian youth, some people are probably questioning: What are the methodological errors that they have fallen in? What is the danger to them and to those who follow them? In the beginning I would like to remind the reader that the church does not fight people, but resists skewed thoughts and the flawed approach to service.  The cause is not about this person or that person, but the intellectual deviation that appeared previously in other persons, and that perhaps will rear its head time and again throughout history, with people committed to themselves and themselves only, and are not committed to Christ and the church. Let us now examine their mistakes in an objective methodological manner:

(1) The error of the existence of two approaches: public and secret:

The sincere servant should be true in the faith (Titus 1:4) and professing this faith without lies or evasion, but be proud of his faith and to defend it, like the apostles and all the fathers, “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).

Chameleon behavior:

If the servant changes his teaching, publicly with good talks and a beautiful explanation, and secretly speaking perverse matters, indicates the lack of sincerity and lack of honesty, “double-minded man, unstable in all his ways ” (James 1: 8). “For the perverse man is an abomination to the LORD, but the upright are in his confidence. (Proverbs 3:32)

Smooth talk:

He seems like the innocent angel in front of his hearers, because he is very keen to do not show his erroneous views except for his private group and devotees. He might teach his disciples not to reveal these views, arguing that the devil might raise a complaint against them! In order to enjoy the confidence of the people heretics “mingle poison with Jesus Christ, as one might administer a deadly drug in sweet wine.  They do not give a hint of their manipulation, so that, trusting the sweetness of the potion, a man drinks his own death. “[1](St. Ignatius of Antioch)

Thus his disciples learn malice, deceit, and cunning. Are these characteristics the teaching of Christ? Did the Church Fathers teach in this twisted way? Did St. Athanasius teach in public a teaching he secretly disagreed with, or speak in secret with words contrary to what he says in public? “There are people who preach the name of Christ in hypocrisy and deception, and their works do not please him. These you must needs avoid as wild beasts. For… against whom you must be on your guard, for their bite is hard to heal.”[2]


The existence of two approaches to educating the servant proves his lie and his dishonesty. He is not  worthy to have followers, because he was not honest with himself. The words of Jesus applied to those liars: “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  “(Matthew 12:34). It has been said about the devil that “When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8: 44).

The real servant is true, “He who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.  “(John 7:18).

Here a question remains: Why do people believe a lie? Saint Paul the Apostle, will answer us “The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.  “(2 Thessalonians 2: 9-12).

(2)The error of the isolationist approach:

The Holy Church is the Body of Christ and we are all members of this body, without partisanship or isolation. All are open to all. “This which exists from one end of the world to the other” and even stretching from earth to heaven, all believers are gathered in it, in heaven and on Earth without discrimination. As for these groups, they see themselves as a private and distinct entity (the disciples of so and so). They give themselves names to distinguish themselves from the rest of the faithful (“The Marys Church of the New Testament,” “spiritual discipleship,” “spiritual Koinonia group,”etc.). And they consider the rest of the Christians as bogus, that no one will be saved but only those enter this secluded and isolated group, which intellectually isolated itself from the rest of the fabric of the church.

The result is that he who belongs to these groups despises his friends, his family, his church and the priests and everyone else. This group thinks in itself that God specialized her with a special message! “For if any one thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  ” (Galatians 6: 3), “Let no one deceive himself. “(1 Cor. 3: 18). Man must humble himself and get to know his measure “If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. “ (1 Corinthians 8:2). Our Lord has fought this lofty spirit that makes the Church filled with these protuberances, “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: (Luke 18:9). “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). For such isolated people we dedicate the words of our teacher Saint Paul the Apostle: “If any one is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that as he is Christ’s, so are we” (2 Corinthians 10:7). And of course, it is no secret to the reader, the seriousness of the spread of this spirit, filled with pride, and a sense of superiority.

And so it happens that for this special group they have special meetings, and private cassette tapes, and special education, and secret contacts, and it is announced to their members to read from specific authors, and not to read any other writers. They become like an abscess in the body of the church, or like a malignant tumor that is not in tune with the rest of the body’s tissues. And the most effective treatment is its eradication. The isolationism and vesiculation are the direct expressions of pride, and a sense of superiority, and contempt for others, and judging them. All of this is not the spirit of Christ.

(3) Error of the one leader and the claiming of prophecy:

We have learned in the church to drink its water with joy from all fathers, and the Christian becomes  like an active bee, sipping nectar of the church’s flowers. A Christian will listen to the Pope, bishops, priests, preachers and servants and opens his heart to learn from everyone. So his spiritual growth  becomes balanced. Perhaps one of the speakers is specialized in the rituals, and only speaks about it;  another has an ascetic approach in the commentary; the third adopts a social and humanitarian approach; the fourth explains the Gospel efficiently, etc. If I closed myself to only one teacher, I become another copy of him, adopt his own ideas and defend him as one who defends Christ!

† But if my heart is opened to everyone, I am able to synthesize knowledge, become diverse and balanced in thought, behavior and faith.

†The  risk of these groups is that they do not hear except for one leader and they hallow him to a degree of considering him an inspired leader, and the prophet who hears the voice of God, and with whom the Holy Spirit speak face to face. Here the prophet Jeremiah says: “And the LORD said to me: ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name; I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds’” (Jeremiah 14:14)”For many will come in my name, saying, `I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray” (Matthew 24:5).

It is not a requirement that the false Christ claims to be Christ Himself, for no one will believe him, yet it will be enough for him to make the false claim of being the Savior of the church!

† There is no Savior to the church but Christ only. And it is not for any human being, whatever he claims about the church “being corrupted,” and that it needs him, or his presence, or his efforts to be saved. “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect”(Matthew 24:24). “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray “(Matthew 24:11). “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?  (Mt 7:15,16). “Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2: 3,4). Even if this one leader is orthodox in his thought, will lead his followers into the pit of worshiping persons, and if he has deviation in his thought and is not orthodox, he will lead them to the perdition, all of them. So the danger is there in both cases.

Our Lord Christ is the Only Good Teacher, but He did not follow this sick approach. He was respecting another teacher in his generation, John the Baptist. He sent his disciples two by two before Him, to participate in the service of teaching. He did not distort the personalities of his disciples, but each one of them had his own flavor, while retaining the same Spirit, same teaching and same faith. The solitary leader is a threat in all aspects, even if he is dogmatically correct. How about if he was deviated, and his deviation is clear? Where he will lead his followers and admirers, but even his worshippers? He will deform the personalities of his followers, and will brainwash them so they become his worshippers and followers, even if he led them to commit suicide (as has happened in some Western countries).

(4) Spread the spirit of frustration and failure

In order for the one leader to affix his feet on the hearts of his followers, he has to spread the idea that the whole church is corrupt, and his group is the only group of true believers!

This leader will not tire of exposing the negatives of the priests and the servants, and will focus on the weaknesses. He will ignores the positives, and the power of the church’ services. So the world will become dark in the eyes of his hearers. He tells them that everything is ruined, and that the church shameful and embarrassing and wrecked, with no hope in its repair, and that the Spirit of God departed from it, and that it moved away from the spirit of the Fathers!

† The spiritual servant teaches his spiritual children positivity, and not to condemn people, and to look at the brighter side. Regarding the weaknesses, we have to join hands and close the gap, not rejoice and amplify it out, lest it become the cause of the spread of frustration and despair.

“Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand… Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God;… but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother”  (Romans  14: 4, 10, 13). For the sake of whom – but the devil – would he teach the youth that the church is corrupt with all its leadership and fathers? Who would be encouraged and repent? Who would be strengthened and serve? It certainly a demonic blow, so that youth can lose their determination for the spiritual work.

† The Church is not corrupt, but rather a community of Saints, whom The Holy Spirit works within. The weaknesses of people are counted as “competing according to the rules,”[3] because we do not surrender to the weakness, and no one can claim to be without weakness or without sin. So why look to the weakness of some as that the whole church is lost?

† Why do you ignore the striving of those counted as weak? This approach is a demonic approach, which ” He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, two times, and half a time ” (Daniel 7:25).

† And why are we not fair, appreciating the strengths of people and respecting their achievements? The spiritual servant transmits to the youth the spirit of optimism, hope and enthusiasm to work in humility, with the spirit of respecting the others, adults and children.

(5) Myth and superstition

The Orthodox curriculum is based on the Bible, the Fathers and the liturgy. Those who have a deviated curricula, their reference are dreams and visions and declarations, such as “The Holy Spirit said to me.” “For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream, for it is a lie which they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 29:8,9). The one with a deviant approach controls the specifics of his disciples, recommending one to be a wife for another, or preventing another from marriage, and arguing that the Holy Spirit does not agree! He repeals the mind and thought as if this is contrary to the faith.

† God created in us a mind, in order to use it not to ignore it. When we use our minds well, God is glorified in us, because He is the Creator of this mighty mind. However, if we surrender to the superstitions, we humiliate God because we ignore the great gift to us. We have to think. Where is the biblical reference that says that a cough expels the devil, as they think?! And where are the fathers who taught that the spiritual sensations live in human organs, like liver, spleen, gall bladder?[4]

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1). The spiritual and intellectual bankruptcy lead the people to these myths and superstitions, which insult Christianity, and Christian thought, in front of non-Christians, who sometimes believe that Christianity is a group of these trivial ideas. “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words; from of old their condemnation has not been idle, and their destruction has not been asleep” (2 Peter 2:1-3).

(6) The danger of the emotional spirituality:

Humans are composite of body, soul and spirit. If the spirituality is linked to the body only, it will be an ill, Pharisaic, literal religiosity. If it is linked to the soul only, the religiosity will be psychological, passionate, emotional, unreal, and temporary.

So in the Orthodox approach, we deal with God “in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23,24).

In the Orthodox approach, the body becomes spiritual, yet worship will not be according to the flesh. And the soul transcends, yet the worship will not be at an emotional level. The spirit is leading the human being, but becomes subject to the Spirit of God. The deviated approach, however, depends on the excitement of the emotions of the hearers, whether by enthusiastic songs with loud music, or emotional words flared with passion, or enthusiastic preaching, filled with emotional and psychological inspiration. “It is these who set up divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit” (Jude 19).

Or even more with the most refrains filled with enthusiasm and emotion, for example, repeating several times, “the blood of Jesus Christ purify me from every sin” with a loud and enthusiastic voice, like someone walking in a demonstration!

Even if the term is correct dogmatically, the emotional and passionate cheering is wrong, because it wears off quickly, and man returns back to real coldness, after the unreal heat fades away. We did not hear from the fathers that they were shouting in this way. Such emotional sickness is not found in the church hymns or praises. This counterfeit spirituality is like fire in the straw, and Orthodox spirituality, is like water carved in the rock, quietly, with depth and continuation. Therefore we reject this emotional worship because it is from the soul not the spirit.

(7) Speaking with tongues and messages of the Holy Spirit

On the subject of speaking in tongues, the Orthodox Church view is settled and clear. It is not our approach now to explain Church position in regards to that matter. Our teacher Saint Paul the Apostle, explained it with full details: the meaning of this gift in (1 Cor. 12:14)[5]. The reader can refer to this text and read it quietly.

† But what concerns us in this area is that if the servant is called Coptic Orthodox, then why does he not adhere to the faith of the Coptic Orthodox Church?!

† If the church teaches now that there is no speaking with tongues as stated in 1 Corinthians 14:22[6], then how could one of the Church’s servants speak in tongues? This means either that the whole church is not Orthodox, and this brother is a real Orthodox, or that the Church is Orthodox, and this brother is not Orthodox. In both cases he must be honest with himself, and not claim that he belongs to this glorious Church, but declares his true identity and true affiliation.

† The faithful and true servant, is subject to the faith of his church and is committed to it, and understands it well, and does not fall in deviations. If he falls in deviation, he is unworthy to be a teacher in the Church.

† The speaking in tongues in these groups, is an expression of all the previous explained errors. They are devoted to the principle of myths and superstition, and the principle of emotional spirituality, and the principle of the selected (chosen)  group and the principle of the absence of the brain and the mind, and the principle of pride and a sense of superiority. I ask the reader to read more about the position of the Church in the matter of speaking in tongues.

(8) Not submitting to the Church and The Holy Synod:

The simplest principle of spirituality, is that man is subject and obedient, “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry ” (1 Samuel 15:23). How can the church prevent a person from teaching, by the decision of the Holy Synod (the highest authority in the church), when this person does not abide by this decision?

I am wondering, if the Medical Physician Association withdraws the membership of one of the renowned doctors, does he still dare to practice medicine? The Church and the Holy Synod, is responsible for the safety of teaching. Every servant’s teaching must be according to what the Church says. If he Church alerted the servant of his mistakes, he has to submit and abide by the decision. If he insists on his mistakes he is leads himself to expulsion.

† Regarding the lack of submission to the church, it is also an honest proof of all that we have said previously: pride and stubbornness, the emotional, myths, and a sense of superiority. It is the approach of the devil, who said: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.'” (Isaiah 14:14), and of whom it was said: “And the king shall do according to his will; he shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is determined shall be done. He shall give no heed to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women; he shall not give heed to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all. ” (Daniel 11:36,37). “Because your heart is proud, and you have said, `I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas,’ yet you are but a man, and no god, though you consider yourself as wise as a god — ” (Ezekiel 28:2). All the heretics throughout the history began like this and ended in complete destruction, for themselves and for their followers.

† And the church is responsible not only for keeping proper teaching, but also for keeping its people away from the fierce wolves[7], who are feeding themselves[8]  and control the people’s feelings and thoughts, and grip their money and their belongings, and deviate them to the worship of people, without the knowledge of God.

† Our Christ-loving people must be alerted to this, as it has been said from the days of old, “Therefore my people go into exile for want of knowledge; ” (Isaiah 5:13), ” If they hearken and serve him, they complete their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasantness. But if they do not hearken, they perish by the sword, and die without knowledge.” (Job 36:11, 12). “Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour.” (1 Jn 2:18).

We ask the Lord to protect us all in the integrity of the faith, conduct and teaching. To Him is all glory forever. Amen.


[1] Letter of St Ignatius of Antioch to the Trallians

[2] St. Ignatius Epistle to the Ephesians.

[3] 2Tim.2:5

[4] His Grace might be referring to the thoughts of a specific group of these deviated groups that existed at the time of the writing of this book.

[5] Probably HG is referring to reading 1 Corinthians chapters 12 through 14

[6] “Thus, tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers.”

[7] Acts 20:29

[8] Ezekiel 34:2



  1. bonoadamedge

    Is the title of this piece from HG’s book or is that a spin that’s been put on it? If it’s part of the original HG title, then fine. If it’s not, then instead of the parenthetical (), editor’s brackets [] should be used to stated that this is the re-poster’s editorializing on HG’s title. Or to be more honest, if the current parenthetical isn’t in the original then it should be removed for these purposes bc it’s just confusing.


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