NLQ Question of the Week: Are Many Fundamentalist Churches Cults?

NLQ Question of the Week: Are Many Fundamentalist Churches Cults? July 7, 2016

QuestionoftheweekThis is a new series we have started running on Thursdays. Examining some of the questions involving long held Quiverfull theology and life.

We have to talk about the ‘C’ word today: Cults. Is it possible for a Christian church to morph into a cult?

Reading through Faithful Word Baptist pastor Steven Anderson’s blog posting about Reverend Jim Jones of the Peoples Temple who lead his flock into mass suicide leads me to ask how does Jones Peoples Temple stack up as a cult against many fundamentalist Christian churches? Anderson had this to say:

People often accuse fundamental Baptists of being a “cult” or “like Jim Jones.” Jim Jones was actually a communist liberal, not a fundamentalist Christian.

…and this…

Don’t assume a church is a cult just because people tend to rub off on those around them. This is human nature. It’s just like at your job when a lot of the men start growing beards at once or when your wife suddenly wanted to buy a maxi skirt with a chevron print. People are influenced by trends and get ideas from whoever they hang around. If you attend a good soul-winning church, then chances are your pastor has some practical wisdom about life, and some of the members just might decide to adopt some of his preferences. If that’s you, don’t make your church seem like a cult by “majoring on the minors.” If another family chooses to do some things differently, that’s perfectly fine, and nobody should confront them about those differences.

Anderson may have the Bible memorized to the nth degree, but he lacks the ability to construct an effective persuasive factual appeal. What does Websters say about the definition of a cult?

Simple Definition of cult

  • : a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous

  • : a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much

  • : a small group of very devoted supporters or fans

Seems by the very definition of a ‘cult’ that many small churches loosely affiliated or independent of greater organizational oversight can be termed ‘cults’. What do you think?

If you find yourself wondering if your church is a cult then it probably is. Just don’t drink the koolaid or move to an isolated compound.

moreRead more about Christian cults:

The Language of Cults, Duggars and Quiverfull

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  • Having grown up a General Association Baptist, I can say that most of the churches in the GARBC follow the BITE model with almost scary accuracy.

  • Abigail Smith

    I’m reading an eye opening book right now called Love Wins by Rob Bell. so glad people like Anderson will not be in heaven someday even though they think they will be….Jesus himself said it, “20So then, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?….then those who think they are so “righteous” but full of hate do not get in to heaven.

  • persephone

    This is why a lot of people have shifted to using the term HDO (high demand organization) as opposed to cult.

    Your church expects attendance three times a week, plus evangelizing, plus special events, etc. Lack of attendance is noted and remarked upon.

    Weddings, baptisms, christenings, funerals, memorial services, activities that in other churches would be by invitation only, are expected to be attended by all members of the church.

    Secular education is minimized and often degraded.

    Volunteering isn’t voluntary.

    Members are encouraged to avoid high demand careers and pushed to focus on life after Armageddon, death, the Rapture.

    Members are assigned tasks based on gender.

    Usually there is a focus on an imminent end of the world scenario. If there is not, there is emphasis on never knowing when you might die, Jesus might return, etc. and one must always be vigilant and engaged.

    Members are taught that only they have the TRUTH. All other religions and sects are failures and lies.

    Members must maintain separation from non-members as much as possible.

    Dating and interaction with members of other genders are strictly managed.

    And on and on and on.

  • THERetroGamerNY

    I’m not a fan of how the word “cult” is used. In the scholarly history books I read it merely means “a minor religion”. People have glommed so many confusing and contradictory muddled definitions onto it that it has really annoyed me.

    It’s even gotten to the point where some say “all religions are cults”, which is officially jumping the shark as far as definitions go.

  • gimpi1

    I don’t know about most fundamentalist churches being strictly cults, but most appear to be high-demand groups that expect members to adhere to a long, often increasing group of “standards” that are often designed to isolate them from society at large and create fear and suspicion about those outside the church. It’s mostly about power for church leaders, it tears families apart and it’s dangerous.

  • That describes the church I grew up in at least 90%! A few of my friends who moved on(and were raised there) have labeled it a “cult”. They all remain Christians, and I recently went to church with them instead. These friends have mentioned moments of anger and the urge to just run; one mentioned times in which she is reduced to tears. Back at the old church the one young couple that left got lied about and slandered. His own mother is angry at him for leaving.

  • Anderson will probably consider Bell a heretic.(The Fundamentalists were really upset with Bell because they thought he was teaching universalism.)

  • When Anderson says they are picking on Baptists; well, that’s not my background so I can’t say for sure.(My main Baptist exposure is the A Beka curriculum we used for homeschooling.) My background is Charismatic(probably NAR), and some of the same cultivation tendencies I’ve read about in IFB also exist in Charismatic groups.(Though both groups would likely brand the other heretics.)