One of the real differences between proper Biblical orthodoxy and cultish behavior is that when it comes to leadership the former works by persuasion and dialogue, and the latter works by dictatorial tactics, mind control, smoke-filled room decision making from above, and of course the claim ‘the Spirit told me to say or do X’ etc. The former is not afraid of questions, discussion, different points of view, the latter often claims secret revelations that only the leader has had and is ‘told’ to pass along to the followers. The former allows external authorities including both persons and the Bible to norm and give guidance for their behavior, whereas the latter privileges the internal voice of the Spirit over everything else. A good example of the latter would be the recent I-Hop Kansas City spin off group called the Community where a dictatorial inexperienced young leader led a group of young people to come live together in communal living without outside controls, and somehow his new wife ended up dead. The leader even tried to control what people were wearing etc.
Unfortunately, some of the problem can be traced back to a particular sort of Christian home-schooling (not all sorts). In some forms of Christian home-schooling, children are not taught to think for themselves and ask probing questions, much less to think critically. Rather education is just a data dump with the children simply supposed to be the receivers of the data which they accept without question, and the parents being the unquestioned authorities on all subjects. This is not only an unhealthy approach to learning. It’s an unhealthy approach to parenting as it does not nurture children to question things, including even what their parents sometimes say. I remember vividly having any number of arguments with my mother about things like the Vietnam war. We enjoyed a good disagreement, and I learned how to disagree without being disagreeable. In this way I learned how to gain my own voice, and form my own judgments based on critical reasoning and carefully processing information. Notice that Jesus is depicted as disagreeing with his parents and yet honoring them and obeying them as well as he ‘grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and humankind’ (Lk. 2.41-52). Notice as well that Jesus did not rely just on his parents for his early education. He went and dialogued with the sages and scribes in the Temple, and apparently was as much of a contributor to the conversation as his elders.
With this general orientation, we need to look carefully at what it means to think Biblically, in the following posts.