A Study of the Cults--a Christian Perspective #1
The best way to know a fake is know the original. I am told that in the banking business, tellers are often sent away to school to learn to distinguish between a counterfeit dollar bill and the real thing. This is accomplished, not by studying the counterfeit, but by studying the real dollar. They examine the print, the texture, the color. They get to know everything about real money. In doing so, they are able to spot a counterfeit right away. Money might be made counterfeit in a number of ways. But the real deal is real only one way thus making it easy to spot.
The important thing about studying cults is to realize that a cult is a counterfeit. Although we will examine some of the world’s most popular cults, the best way to see the real deal is to study the real deal. Some people find the study of cults interesting, and that it is, but never lose your desire to study the Truth, the Word of God. In doing so, you will be able to see a counterfeit “religion” for what it is—counterfeit.
That being said, realize though that it is important to understand other religious philosophies, at least to a certain point. You certainly do not want to major on the false teaching of the cults, but it does help to have an idea of what a particular cult believes especially for witnessing purposes. So let us get started.
Just what do we mean when we use the term “cult”? The American Heritage College Dictionary, 4th edition, 2002 says “A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living communally under an authoritarian charismatic leader”.
This would include David Karesh’s Branch Davidians of Waco, Texas. It would include Jim Jones and the People’s Temple in Jonestown, Guyana. It would include the Symbionese Lebanese Army responsible for the abduction and transformation of heiress Patricia Hearst. It would also include the Charles Manson Family who was responsible for the brutal deathsin the Tate-La Bianca murders. As you will see, this is not a good working definition because you may very well be living next door to a cultist and not even know it.Before giving you our working definition of “cult”, I would like to recommend to you two books. The First, Larson’s Book of Cults by Bob Larson and the classic on cults, The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin.
Now what is the working definition for this class? While this definition may not be all inclusive, we will use this definition. throughout this series of articles. A religious organization is a cult when they ignore or purposely omit central Apostolic doctrines; or if they hold to beliefs which are distinctly opposite to Biblical Christianity.
There are five main areas that when in conflict with the Bible constitute a cult. 1.) The attributes of God (His person, His makeup, His sovereignty, etc.) 2.) The person of Christ (He is God in the flesh and holds all of His attributes. 3.) The nature of man (man is sinful and separated from God because of his sin). 4.) The requirements of the atonement (salvation is by grace trough faith alone in the shed blood of Christ). 5.) The source of revelation (God is revealed only in His Word with no extracurricular revelation).
Let us look at each one of these individually. The attributes of God. God is One God co-equal, co-eternal, and co-existing as three persons in the same substance. We will not take the time right now to look up the following verses, but there is ample Biblical proof for the above statement (John 1:1-3; 14:26; Genesis 1:26; I Corinthians 8:6; Isaiah 43:10; Exodus 3:14; I Timothy 2:5; Psalm 90:2).
Cultic doctrine would teach that God is unknowable and impersonal. This is a central teaching of Hinduism and Bahaism. God is a divine idea, example, or principle as declared by Christian Science. God is not trinitarian as taught by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons.
Although I am not one to hold to creeds, concerning the above second point, the Apostles’ Creed states the following about our Lord. “Conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, died and was buried; He descended into Hell; the third day He arose from the dead; He ascended into Heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” The Scriptures teach this, and again we will not look at each verse, but study them out on your own (John 1:1,3,14; I John 4:3; Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 2:9).
Cults would teach that Jesus Chris was just a human being without divinity who attained God consciousness (The Church Universal and Triumphant, The International Community of Christ). They would teach that He is a created being as do the Mormon Church and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
They may teach that Jesus is one of many avatars or revelations of God. This would be the Hindu position, as well as the Divine Light Mission. Notice how cults have a tendency to borrow Christian words to hide behind—words like “divine”, ‘Light”, “mission”, “Jehovah”, and the “Community of Christ”.
The Bible teaches concerning man that he was created by God without sin, but yet willingly chose to sin separating himself from the Creator making the New Birth necessary. Again, see Genesis 1:26, Psalm 8:5, Genesis 1:28, John 3:3, Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 5:12, 19, Psalm 51:5 and Romans 1:21.
Typical cult teaching about man deals with his divinity, an emanation of the infinite Impersonal (Theosophy, Rosicrucianism). It deals with man being sinful, but capable of reaching the same “Christ Consciousness” that Jesus attained (Holy Order of MANS). Many cults also believe that man can attain Godhood. This fits in very well with the New Age Movement.
Biblical theology would teach us about the atonement. In a nutshell, the only way to cleansing and the only way to peace is through the blood of Jesus Christ (Revelation 13:8; I John 1:7; Colossians 1:20, II Corinthians 5:19; I Peter 2:24; Romans 5:8; Acts 4:12; Hebrews 9:22; I John 1:9).
To the contrary, the cults would teach that good works is the way to peace with God (Unity, Bahaism). Karma will work out all of life’s discontentment (Scientology, Krishna Consciousness, reincarnation). Some cults would teach that in the end all will be saved (Mormonism, Christian Science).
What about revelation? To sum it up, Christian doctrine states that the Word of God is complete, inerrant, infallible and inspired. It speaks of man’s origin and his destiny, and focuses on the person of Jesus Christ ((Revelation 22:18, 19;II Timothy 3:16; II Peter 1:21; Psalm 119:105; Isaiah 40:8; Hebrews 4:12).
Cultic teaching would include the idea that the Bible needs added books or thoughts, a new written revelation (Mormonism, the Walk). The Word of God needs accompanying explanations (Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Way). The Bible is one of many equally divine, sacred books (Unity, Bahaism).
It is therefore necessary in a study of cults to compare the teaching of the “counterfeit” to the Truth of the Word of God. Let God be true…