Are there still cults around today? What is the definition of a cult and how can you know when from the read Christian church?
A Cult is…
There are cults of Satan, of magic, and of all sorts of human imaginations but these cults are obviously wrong to most of us. A church can look like a normal church from the outside but once you join them and see how they operate, you find out that many are cults. Some brainwash their patrons into believing that they are the only way to truth. A religious cult could be defined as an organization that conducts rituals or practices religious observances and has a body of adherents that have certain codes strictly enforced among their members. Some are fairly mainstream and widely accepted but many adhere to an extreme dedication to a certain leader and a set of beliefs that are often viewed as odd by others, or even as excessive by most. Cults are flourishing these days and the most dangerous cults are those that pretend to be Christian but mix truth with error but a half-truth is still a whole lie.
A Church Cult
Most church cults are self-introverts. They are exclusivists. They don’t like change. They don’t compromise on their beliefs. They also deviate from the fundamental teachings of historic, biblically based Christianity. Some believe that they are the one and only way and all other churches have people who are going to hell. Still others tend to brainwash their members. They like to control their lives and a few have compounds where the members must live and give up all their property and financial rights. They typically have one strong charismatic leader who the group adheres too, no matter what is asked of them. Others teach that we are under certain laws of the Old Testament like the dietary laws, the necessity of observing the holy days, and strictly enforce a Sabbath-keeping regimen. They either distort or deny essential doctrines of the faith that are clearly taught in the Bible. The main things are the plain things in Scripture but cults tend to cloud things up. They sometimes focus on non-essentials or strictly enforce “grey areas” where the Bible is silent. Most cults add their own rituals, rules, and ceremonies that the Bible does not teach.
Salvation by Works
Paul wrote that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9) but cults often add elementary things to salvation, creating a necessity of other “must-do’s” in order to be saved. They can distort or manipulate Scripture and make salvation anything but a free gift of God. They compromise the truth and they often proof-text certain verses to build their belief system around them. The idea that text taken out of context makes it a pretext doesn’t bother them. They don’t believe that context is king. They believe their leader is king and whatever he or she says is law and many cults today elevate their own books or writings as superior to the Bible. Satan not only has his own ministers, he has his own churches and these are frequently cults (2nd Cor 11:4).
Sadly, the proverb is true, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Prov 14:12). Even “The way of fools seems right to them” (Prov 12:15) and to them, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov 16:25). Some have to be reoriented once they come out of cults and have to be “de-programmed” because their way of thinking has been so stilted by indoctrination that they don’t recognize the truth anymore. Only biblical truth can straighten them out again and we know where, or more specifically, Who that truth is: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.