Makestraightpaths.com examines the
teachings of the religious group variously known as “the Family,” “The Family
International,” the “Children of God,” or the “Family of Love,” and evaluates
these teachings from a Christian perspective.
This page contains a discussion of the
Family's use of Bible memorisation aids.
The Memory Book and Word
Committing Scripture to memory has been part of
the culture of the Family since its beginning. In fact there were set cards before there were any
before its founder began distributing his own teachings. Over the
years, the Family produced a number of
‘memory books,’ containing lists
of scriptures for members to memorise, beginning in its early days with
which were lists of Bible verses organised into categories.
These set cards gradually evolved into pocket-sized booklets. At
the time of writing, the most recent is the
‘MB2K’ (Memory Book
The Family also produced an extensive, categorised
Scripture book, the ‘Word Basics’ (copyright
‘Global Missions, Sydney, Australia, 1990’), which
differs from the Memory Book in that there are far more verses
listed under far more categories and subsections, and was produced in
order to provide some form of scriptural backing to the Family’s basic
beliefs rather than as an aid to memorisation.
The Bible exhorts its readers to
hide the Word of God in their hearts, to learn it, study it, and teach it. It is
a commendable practice to memorise Scripture.
Memory Book problems
However, there are a number of serious concerns with the various memory
aids produced by the Family, and more importantly with the principles on
which the Family has based its entire memorisation program. These
problems appear to have made the Memory Book a detriment to the Family
rather than an asset. The problems include:
The use of the Memory Book as a replacement for studying Scripture.
The belief that a Family member knows the Bible well
because he or she can quote many verses from memory. If s/he also
knows the reference, s/he is looked on with awe and admiration. In reality those
memory verses usually amount to the sum total of that person’s
Some Family-produced Memory Books include quotes from
the writings of its founder (MLs) to
The use of the Bible as an instant reference book to
find verses to support a particular Family doctrine.
The careful selection of those verses which appear to support Family
doctrine, and the deliberate exclusion of those verses which
contradict or condemn Family beliefs.
The misapplication or incorrect categorisation of Bible verses.
of these concerns are addressed on this page.
Memorising scripture can never replace Bible study
A damning indictment on the Family is that it has never produced an
in-depth Bible study program for its members. This is despite publishing
hundreds of thousands of pages of the writings of its founder and his
successors. As a general rule, all Bible study within the Family is
confined to reading commentaries published by the founder. No Family
member ever presumes to interpret Scripture in such a way that
contradicts the founder, and indeed in general, Family members do not
know how to study the Bible.
The primary rule of Bible interpretation is context. No Scripture should
be taken out of context, for then one may arrive at a meaning which is very different from that which is in the Bible.
In fact, it can
be said that if no in-depth, contextual Bible study occurs then committing verses to
memory might actually be detrimental to one's knowledge of the ways of
God. If the Bible student has no idea of
to whom God was talking and why that particular verse was included in
the Bible, s/he may arrive at an incorrect interpretation of the passage,
which when put into practice may result in wrong decisions.
An example may be given to illustrate the ease with which it
is possible to misuse Scripture. The Family (in general) does not use
this particular verse in this way.
Suppose a Christian has an extremely busy schedule, and
is therefore neglects certain duties. He feels bad about this, and so to
encourage himself, he memorises an appropriate verse:
Samuel 21:8b The king’s business required haste. (NKJV)
This appears reasonable to our busy Christian, but a study of
the context of 1 Samuel 21 is
eye-opening. When David said those words, that ‘the King’s business
required haste’, he was in fact lying to a priest of the Lord, and this
lie indirectly brought on a massacre.
was on the run, escaping for his life from jealous King Saul, who was
obsessed with murdering David. David was frightened, so when he met
Ahimelech the priest, he lied to him in order that the priest would give
him food and weapons. David pretended that King Saul had sent him on an
urgent errand and had commanded him not to tell anyone the nature of
that business. David obtained food and a sword, and went his way.
consequence of David’s lie was that when King Saul realised
that Ahimelech had helped David, he was so angry that despite the
priest’s pleas of ignorance, the priest, his family, the other priests
and temple workers, and many people in their village were put to death,
including women, children and babies.
David learned of the massacre, it weighed heavily on his conscience. He
said to the sole survivor of Ahimelech’s family, ‘I have caused the
death of all the persons of your father’s house’ (1 Sam 22:22).
However our busy Christian sadly neglects to read the passage in its
biblical context, so he categorises his memory verse (‘the King’s business requires
haste’) under a section entitled ‘Haste’ in his personal memory book.
Other verses in that section might be John 13:27 ‘What you do, do
quickly’ (Jesus talking to Judas Iscariot on the night of his betrayal)
and Luke 16:6b ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly’ (the unjust
steward). None of these verses, of course, actually mean that God
expects His children to act in haste.
Memorisation that is
not the product of contextual Bible study can lead to misinterpretation.
A better method is to read and study the Bible in its context, and
then to memorise the key verse that summarises or gives the point of the
passage. Memorising verses should be the result of contextual Bible study not a
replacement for it.
Memorising Scriptures is not enough
Bible knowledge is confined to little more than memorised verses, this can lead to some serious misconceptions.
Family members believe they know the Bible well, because of the sheer
quantity of verses they have memorised. In reality, however, they often
know very little about the Bible itself and less about those very
Scriptures they have memorised. True Bible knowledge
consists of understanding the principles behind the stories, letters,
parables, laws, prophecies and exhortations given in the Bible. Studying the
Bible is an unending task, for God leads His children into ever deepening
knowledge of the truth. Bible
knowledge that is limited to selected, categorised, memorised verses is
extremely limited. In some cases, it may be better
than no Bible knowledge at all, in other cases it may actually be
example of detrimental use of the Scripture in the Family is that of
37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all
your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38
“This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like
it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 “On these two
commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
The Family uses these verses to justify the incorrect
doctrine that the Ten Commandments no longer apply to Christians. They teach that
Christians are not
required to obey the Ten Commandments
and in fact are free to break them with impunity.
Their particular application is that they say that Christians may engage in
extra-marital sex without fear of
committing adultery, an application completely unjustified by the text. For more on
what Jesus said about sex, see ‘The
Law of Love in the Gospels’. Actually, there are no
verses anywhere in the Bible that condone
extra-marital sex between Christians. This is a case when memorising
verses under the ‘wrong category’ can be extremely harmful.
The harm caused by this incorrect application of Scripture by the Family
is far-reaching. For more information, please see
Memorising non-biblical quotes
Previous versions of the Memory Book also included selected quotes from
the writings of Berg/ Dad, the founder of the Family. The danger in this
is in the implicit statement that these non-biblical quotes are on the
same level or should be given the same weight as Scripture. The truth is
that the Bible alone is the Word of God, and no other writings can ever be on the
same level. Family members, however, see their official internal
publications as God's Word, and give them precedence over the
For more, see ‘The
Standard of Measurement’.
The Bible as a reference book
Family members often rely on the Memory Book or the Word Basics for
their Bible knowledge. However, each verse in these books has been removed from its
and placed in a category decided by the compiler. This is in
fact conducting Bible study in the opposite direction from which it
should be done.
purpose of studying the Bible is to learn what God said in order that we might understand His
truth, which can then be applied to our own lives.
Book Bible study, by contrast, begins with a particular
Family theory or doctrine, assumes it is correct and then looks for verses to
support it. This method can successfully be used to support almost any
doctrine. People decide what they want to believe, and then look for
the ‘proof-texts’ that appear to give support. God’s word was not designed for that purpose.
The Word of God is the light that shines in the darkness,
searching hearts and exposing sin in order to conform His people to
His own perfect likeness. This is a process that will probably
take forever, but it cannot even begin when the Bible is manipulated and
scribes and Pharisees were experts in devising theories and doctrines,
backing them up with Scripture, and yet they entirely missed the
fact that they pointed to Jesus as their Messiah. Anyone may fall into the same trap if
they begin by assuming their own doctrines are correct, rather than
allowing the Bible itself to direct study.
Another major problem
with the Family’s Memory Books concerns the omissions, the deliberate
exclusions. There are major ‘holes’ in the various Memory Books and the Word
Basics, topics conspicuous by their very absence.
For example, in the ‘MB2K,’ there is no section on ‘sin.’ The Bible has a
number of passages in both the Old and New Testaments specifically
listing those things that we should not do. How can one live a Christian
life if we do not know the things that displease God? Surely the Family
does not mean to imply that sin no longer exists? No Family member would
ever go so far, however most would tend to dismiss sin as ‘things that
are not done in love’. The Bible, however, goes into great detail about the
nature of sin and lists numerous specific actions that displease God.
Related to the subject of sin is that of moral behaviour. There are many specific instructions throughout the entire Bible on how
are to act in order to please God in day to day life. For example, they
are to act with truthfulness, integrity, generosity, a lack of vindictiveness, honesty
with secular governments and so on. For a book that claims to give
the Scriptural foundation for the most important Christian beliefs, the absence of a moral
code is puzzling.
it comes to sexual matters, this is a case of careful selection. The
verses that condemn sexual promiscuity, adultery and fornication have
excluded from the Memory Book, but a section on the ‘Law
of Love’ has been included in order to support the
Family’s sexual doctrines. The Word Basics includes a section on
‘Marriage and the Home’, but Bible verses on sexual fidelity, divorce and remarriage
have not been included. Instead, there is a short explanatory note stating
that this topic is ‘personal’, and that as there are ‘such wide
differences of opinion, interpretation and application’ these topics
should be ‘best left to the reader’s personal faith and conviction’
(Word Basics p.274). This is notwithstanding the fact that the editors
are quite dogmatic on Family doctrines, saying for example, that the
law of Moses (including the Ten Commandments) was replaced with God’s
grace by the New Testament (p.250) and that God’s only requirement for
Christians is that they act in love (p.252). The obvious reason that the
Scriptures on sex have been omitted is not due to
“wide differences of
opinion” but rather that these Scriptures clearly condemn Family
teaching as false.
warnings in the Bible
against contacting the dead, as well as other forms of
witchcraft are omitted, and it seems to be a reasonable observation that
they were not included for the very reason that they contradict Family
teaching and practice.
Some of the misapplied verses in the MB2K
verses in the Memory Book are simply in the wrong category, if indeed
they should ever be categorised.
The following is a selection of verses from the MB2K which
should probably not be included in their particular categories, or which
necessitate extra explanation. This webpage does not contain an extensive list
of every wrongly categorised verse in the MB2K, nor an in-depth study on
the verses mentioned, nor an exposition on every topic. Rather, the
following list shows that there are serious problems with the concept of
memory books in general, and in particular with the Family-produced
It is possible that serious errors of application may occur if
these Scriptures are not
studied carefully in the context in which they were given. Without that
understanding doctrines may be invented that are simply not in the Bible
11:13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your
children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit
to those who ask Him! NKJV
important Family doctrine regarding the Holy Spirit is that
(for the Holy Spirit is female, according to the
Family) comes in response to a Christian’s
request, like an extra bonus given upon demand, or a genie from a
lamp. The Holy Spirit (according to the Family) does not come until
requested, whereupon ‘She’ fills the believer to overflowing. This is
despite the fact that Jesus indicated that the Holy Spirit was to be the
permanent enduring presence of God with believers. This is a case where
Family members have not engaged in thorough study and have limited
understanding of the topic.
For more see ‘The
4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any
two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and
of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of
the heart. NKJV
verse is categorised under the section ‘The Word’. The common Family interpretation of
this verse is that as God's Word is a sword, Christians should use it against
the Devil, to ‘cut the Devil to the heart’. In fact, in the Family, this verse is used to support the doctrine that
inspired Family writings may be used to defeat the Devil.
First, Hebrews 4:12, when taken in context, actually says nothing about
fighting the Devil, using the Word of God as a sword. For a detailed
study of Hebrews 4:12 on this website, please
Second, the ‘word of God’ in Hebrews 4:12 does not carry the same
meaning as used by the Family. The ‘Word of God’ means the entire Bible, it is
the Word that was made flesh, it is Jesus Christ the incarnate Son of
God, it is the Logos of John chapter one, it means the collection
of God’s eternal unchangeable statements, but it does not mean
Family writings. The writer of Hebrews had Jesus Christ and the
Scriptures in mind, not the doctrinal teachings of small Christian
sects. It is a presumptuous misinterpretation with serious consequences
to claim that prophecies and teaching given by a twentieth century man (Berg/Dad)
or a twenty-first century group are also the word of God. To state it
categorically, no teacher, no prophecy, no instruction will ever be on
the same spiritual level as the Bible. To elevate such teachings to a
place of such exaltation is to court disaster.
Third, the verse does not say that Christians can use portions of Scripture to
destroy the Devil. The works of the Devil are destroyed by Jesus Christ
Himself (1 John 3:8), not by Christians waving Bible verses around.
The idea that the Devil runs in terror when
a Christian quotes Bible verses is not supported by the Bible itself -
the Devil was unafraid to quote Scripture to Jesus in the temptation
(Matt. ch.4). To be sure, the Devil was misusing Scripture, but the
incident proves that Bible verses themselves do not frighten the Devil.
Relationship with the Lord
7:4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through
the body of Christ, that you may be married to another — to Him who was
raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. NKJV
Family uses this verse to support the doctrine that believers are (or
will be) literally married to Jesus. This in turn leads to a number of
spurious teachings, many with explicit sexual content.
In Romans chapters six and seven, Paul writes extensively on the
relationship between sin and the law, showing that obedience to the law
can never be enough to secure our eternal salvation. It is in this
context that the above verse occurs. Romans chapter seven does
not discuss the Christian’s so-called ‘marriage’ with Christ, nor their
intimate relationship with Him. For more, see ‘Who
is Jesus’, or ‘Jesus the
1:37 For with God nothing will be impossible. NKJV
Family, faith is seen as spiritual power, faith is believing for what we want,
faith is obtaining the impossible. Family members are told they can
access unlimited spiritual power if they have enough faith.
Bible, faith is coming to God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son
for eternal salvation. Miracles and the impossible are solely God’s domain. When and if He chooses to do the impossible, it
is according to His
will, His plan and His idea, not those of a Christian.
For more, see ‘Working
45:11 Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me
of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my
hands command ye me. (KJV)
Family interprets this verse to mean that the Lord wants Christians to make bold
requests, to ‘command’ Him what He should do. The Family teaches
that God waits on the requests of believers before He acts and that if
they ask in faith,
they can actually change God’s mind or alter the outcome of specific events so that
they are favourable to their own circumstances.
problem is that the Family has completely misread the verse, not having
read it in its context.
In Isaiah 45:5-12 God is proclaiming His own sovereign
power. He declares Himself to be the only God (vs. 5-6) and the mighty
Creator of the heavens and the earth (vs. 7-8). Verses 9-11 rebuke
people who dare to question the works of His hands. In verse 11 the Lord
is hotly indignant at the presumption of man telling God what He should do.
NIV puts it this way:
45:11 “This is what the LORD says — the Holy One of Israel, and its
Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children,
or give me orders about the work of my hands? (NIV)
45:11 Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: “Will
you question me about my children, or command me concerning the work of
my hands? (RSV)
45:11 Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, Israel's Creator, says: “What
right have you to question what I do? Who are you to command me
concerning the work of my hands? (TLB)
45:11 This is what the Lord says, the Holy One of Israel, the one who
formed him, concerning things to come: “How dare you question me about
NASB is less indignant, nonetheless very clearly informing man to leave
God’s works in His hands.
45:11 Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: “Ask Me
about the things to come concerning My sons, And you shall commit to Me
the work of My hands. (NASB)
we see that the Family has misapplied the King James version, to read something into the passage that the
translators of the KJV did not intend, and which is not present in the
chapter as a whole. In fact, it seems reasonable to say that the
‘command God’ interpretation is only possible if we (a) select a
translation that suits our liking and (b) surgically remove Isaiah 45:11 from its context.
For more, see ‘Commanding
23:28 “The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has
My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the
wheat?” says the LORD. NKJV
entire section on ‘prophecy’ in the MB2K is comprised of verses from the
Old Testament. This appears to support the Family’s high emphasis on
individual members being directed through personal prophecies. Family
members are taught to receive ‘prophecies’ at will. They are also taught allegiance to the leaders of the Family as though they
are mouthpieces of God, similar to Old Testament prophets.
For more, see
"Believe his prophets".
Law of Love
mentioned above, not one of the verses in this section actually justifies the
Family’s promiscuous sexual practices. All are grossly misapplied when
used to justify extra-marital sex between Christians.
new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have
loved you, that you also love one another.
By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for
one another. NKJV
the last supper, Jesus gave extensive instruction on a number of
subjects, including His command to ‘love one another’. Jesus was talking
to His remaining eleven disciples, all male. When He told them to ‘love
one another’, there was, of course, not the slightest hint of sex involved.
There was absolutely no possibility that His disciples could interpret
this teaching to involve sex as Jesus Himself clarified the meaning of
‘love one another’ a few minutes later, during the same discourse.
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his
Christian love is to love each other as Jesus loved us. Jesus is the model for
love, and the primary example is His self-sacrificial death for us. To
say that these verses mean Christians may break Old Testament rules
against adultery and fornication is to be
guilty of flagrant abuse of the Scripture.
For more see
what Jesus said on adultery, the ‘Law
of Love in the Gospels’, or ‘Sexual
Freedom in the Early Church’.
Cor 1:10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no
divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the
same mind and in the same judgment. NKJV
A vital point regarding Christian unity is one that is rarely, if ever,
mentioned in the Family. The principle of unity between Christians does
not only mean that churches should avoid the sin of internal discord, but also the sin of holding to divisive doctrines and practices
that separate denominations or churches from each other. In other words,
if a church holds to a belief that separates it from other Christians,
that church is no longer following the Lord. The question must be asked
here if the Family strives to ‘speaks the same thing’ as the other
Christian churches. Is the Family ‘perfectly joined together in the same
mind and in the same judgement’? Or is it that the Family presumes to
have the only truth in these matters?
For more see
14:33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has
cannot be My disciple. NKJV
Family interprets ‘Forsaking-all’ to mean that in order for anyone to be
accepted as a Family member, he or she must leave all that they have
and/or permanently donate all their assets to the Family. The Bible has
a far more extensive application that relates to all Christians, their
life in Christ and their desire to relinquish the obstacles to that
See ‘Forsaking All’.
The Memory Book: Conclusion
are serious problems with the Memory Book. Primarily, it encourages shallow Bible understanding, and actually discourages Family members
from studying the Bible for themselves. If Family members actually do
read the Bible, the explicit categories into which the verses have been
placed colour their interpretation so that it is very
difficult for them to learn what it really says.
Family members rely on Scripture compilations like the Memory Book and
the Word Basics for their Bible knowledge, without realising that a
large proportion of the verses included have been miscategorised,
misapplied, or even deliberately included for the sole purpose of
supporting Family doctrine, while contradictory verses have been
Relying on these publications can only foster an ignorance of the
Memorising Scripture is valuable and important if it is the result of
Bible study, and it is not the intention of Make Straight Paths to imply that
Christians should not memorise Bible verses. However, Scripture
memorisation without a thorough understanding of the Bible can lead to
grave doctrinal errors. There is currently an urgent need in the Family
for its members to study the Bible for themselves and discover the
truths that are within.
How to read the Bible
Pray. David prayed that his eyes should be opened (Ps. 119:18), and
Jesus said, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’ (Matt. 11:15)
Our first prayer should be that God opens our eyes and ears to what
He has to say.
Listen to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can teach us the things
of the Lord (John 16:13), but if we are not willing to let go of our
sin, we will not hear His voice.
Submit to the Bible’s correction. The Bible was written to teach us
truth, to correct our sin and warn us of its consequences, and to
instruct us in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). So we should allow its
words to cut into the thoughts and intents of our heart (Heb. 4:12),
correcting and instructing us.
Repent. It is the Bible that will cleanse us from our sin (John
15:3), but without repentance, our own sin will block the truth.
Let the Bible be the teacher. It is important not to bring our
doctrines to the Bible looking for confirmation, but to let the
Bible speak for itself. Anyone with a concordance can find verses
that supposedly support almost any conceivable topic, but this kind
of Bible study is little more than a vain exercise in
categorisation. When the Bible teaches, we grow, learn and are
changed. If we use the Bible to support our own doctrines, we run
the risk of falling into error, reducing the Bible to a
reference book, used to support our own fanciful theories.
How to study the Bible
following are steps for gaining a thorough understanding of Bible
doctrine. It is understood that the Bible student must first start with a clean heart
and a regenerated spirit, and that s/he follow the ‘How to read the Bible’
Understand the purpose of the particular book of the Bible you are
reading. Why was it written? To whom? What was the particular
occasion? Try to understand the author, the recipients and the
particular occasion that prompted this book to be written. How does
this book relate to other books? Which books complement its message?
Which give a contrast or balance?
Understand the structure of the book. What are the sections? How
does the line of thought develop? What are the overlying or
recurring themes? Does the book state its purpose?
Understand the chapter. Are there chapter divisions according to
subject matter? What is the general topic of this chapter? How does
this chapter relate to previous and following chapters?
Read the entire chapter. How do the verses fit together? How do they
fit the purpose of the book? How does the passage relate to other
books in the Bible? How does it relate to the general purpose of
God? How does it fit within the salvation as found in Christianity?
Read the verse in question. What is God saying to that person? How
did he or she understand it? How did the author of that book
understand it? How does it relate to the verses before and after? Is
it part of an extended exposition on a particular topic or is it a
stand-alone thought (as many of the verses in the book of Proverbs
are, for example).
Understand the principle behind the particular verse in question.
What is the truth that lies behind this verse? What is God’s
principle that inspired this to be said to these people on this
occasion? What is God’s truth?
Apply the principle. How does that principle apply to me? How can
that truth be translated into the context of my life and my current
DO NOT take a verse as meaning something which its original authors
could not have meant.
DO NOT attempt to impose a personal doctrine onto a verse in a way
that the original authors did not mean.
DO NOT interpret a verse to justify something that is condemned
elsewhere in the Bible.
DO NOT attempt to correct the writers of the Bible for their failings or lacks.
In other words, do not assume that we know better than them because
of the ‘revelations’ given to us by the Lord.
DO NOT remove the verse from its original context and categorise it
as the proof of a certain doctrine.
DO NOT interpret the verse in such a way as to cause division
between Christians and Christians.
DO NOT presume to have come to full and final understanding of a
particular verse. Always be open to the Holy Spirit revealing more.
the Bible into categorised sections treats God’s word with
great disrespect. It is a disservice to Bible students, as it forces the
Bible into certain doctrinal boxes, chosen by the compilers and dissuades
readers from learning truth for themselves. It assumes a lack of ability
on the part of the readers, and the inadequacy of the Holy Spirit to
Bible is the living Word of the Eternal God, who can never be categorised,
who will not fit into convenient doctrinal boxes, and who refuses to
take second place to anything or anyone. His Word can instruct us,
correct us, and change us, but it may be that groups like the Family who
rely on individual Scriptures for their Bible knowledge may actually be cutting
themselves off from the power and truth of God.
The Bible Student
Scripture Twisting in the Family
© 2009 Make Straight Paths