Cults, or “alternative religious movements,” whatever. It is important to know what a specific cult believes if you are speaking to a member of a group; knowing, for example, what Mormonism is all about is helpful if answering a Mormon’s questions about your beliefs, or framing good questions for them.
Lots of people, even Christians (who should know better), are uneasy with the “cult” label, because it brings up the “cult=bad, truth=good, and I believe the truth and so I’m good” scenario. If we’re uneasy because we don’t want to be rude, that’s understandable; if we’re uneasy because we don’t believe there is such a thing as religious truth, then we’ve got a problem.
Let’s assume that we do believe in truth in religion, that some things are true in matters of faith and some are false. If you are Christian, the limits of truth are set out in the Bible. It is God’s opinion on the matter, and our faithfulness to it can be measured relatively well. I understand fully that if you are a member of a group outside of the limits of Christianity, I will be a cult member to you. That’s ok, write your own blog.
Cults differ from Christianity in several important ways, but the name of the group is irrelevant. A Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Oneness Pentecostal, etc, will all claim to be Christians, but a simple inspection of Scripture will show that they mean different things by the words used.
Keeping it simple, cults will do one of the following:
1) de-God, God: make God less of a God, more of a man
2) deify man: make man into god
3) deny the deity of Christ
4) deny the humanity of Christ
Mormonism manages to do pretty much all four; Jehovah’s Witnesses #3 for certain; Gnosticism #4.
Check out Colossians 1; Philippians 2; John 1; 1 John 2, 4, & 2 John are the ONLY places in the Bible where the name AntiChrist occurs. For all the hype about that name, it might be a good idea to know what it’s about.
Scripture, the Bible, presents a problem for cults: God’s Word is clear and understandable. Cults must do one of the following with respect to the Bible:
1) ignore it (Islam)
2) “de-mytholigize” it (liberalism that has an anti-supernatural bias; ie., the miracles are myth, not truth)
3) supplant it (Mormonism. Gives lip service to Scripture but depends more upon other books).
4) mistranslate it (Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot get their doctrines out of any normal Bible, so they have created a translation that deliberately mistranslates key passages.
5) twist it (selectively quoting out of context, ignoring the intent of the author).
Is my church/Bible study/discussion group a cult? Ask yourself a few questions:
1. What do they believe about Jesus? Is He God with us, or something less?
2. Are you told that you will become a god, or become God, or something like that? This is Mormonism, and apparently from Witness Lee’s quotes, the teachings of the Local Church.
3. Can you freely fellowship with other Christians, or are you banned from others’ company?
4. Are you told you must become worthy of salvation? This is a denial of Grace, and very dangerous. It is also a universal mark of a cult.
5. Does your group use a strange Bible? Can the doctrines taught be found in any Bible, or only a unique one?
6. Can the teachings of your group be found without special Bible footnotes, or study guides? Would anyone, just using a good translation, be able to find the same doctrines?
7. Does your group use only selective verses for study, or are they read in full context?