By Larry Ray Hafley
The gruesome, grisly events in Guyana need a bead drawn on them. It is still impossible to conceive and believe the magnitude of the murder and suicide of 900 people. Why? What? How? These are the beginnings to questions we cannot verbalize, let alone find complete answers to. Apart from the human horror, there are other thoughts to ponder.
First, skeptics and unbelievers are saying: “The Rev. Jim Jones, Jonestown, mass suicide; well, what can you expect? That’s religion for you!” In other words, Christians are lumped together with the “People’s Temple” cult of Jim Jones. We are all just a bunch of cranks and nuts. “Faith” and “religion” are the cause of the madness of Jonestown. Saints must be aware of this attitude on the part of the world. They must not be embittered by it, but they must recognize that it exists and prepare to live it down (1 Pet. 2:12).
The Scriptures say this disposition will result when disciples are led into “damnable heresies.” “And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (2 Pet. 2:2). and so it has happened, and so it is that the way of truth is evil spoken of.
Second, there are some horrible things mentioned in the Bible. The practices of the heathen religions are unreal. They are as unbelievable as Jonestown. And people do not believe them. Some of the things in the Bible are just too “far out” to believe, say the unbelievers. Well, suppose the Bible mentioned a false teacher, a deluder and deceiver named Jim Jones. Suppose it described the slaughter in Jonestown. No one would believe that such a thing could be done, but it was! Nothing about the Ammonite god, Molech, is as remarkable as the Jonestown deaths. The Bible is not as unbelievable as real life.
“But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they ail gave heed from the least to the greatest, saying, this man is the great power of God. And to him that had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries” (Acts 8:9-11). You could put the name of Jim Jones in a paraphrase of that text. You might even be able to come up with something using the name of Joseph Smith, Ellen G. White, or Mary Baker Eddy, not to mention, Herbert W. Armstrong. No, the Bible is mild compared to current events. If anything is not to be believed, it is Jonestown, not the Bible.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 6, p. 106
February 8, 1979