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What is a Cult


With such an overwhelming number of religious groups around these days, it is necessary to understand the difference between a legitimate religious group and a cult. What exactly is a cult?

There are two ways to define a cult. The first way to describe a cult is popular in the secular media. From this perspective, a cult is a religious or semi-religious sect whose members are controlled almost entirely by a single individual or by an organization.

This kind of cult is usually manipulative, demanding total commitment and loyalty from its followers. Converts are usually cut off from all former associations, including their own families. The Hare Krishnas, the Family of Love led by Moses David Berg, and Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church are some examples of this kind of a cult.

The second way to define a cult is popular in evangelical Christian circles. From this perspective, a cult is any group that deviates from the orthodox teachings of the historic Christian faith being derived from the Bible and confirmed through the ancient ecumenical creeds.

These groups deny or distort fundamental Christian doctrines such as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and salvation by grace through faith alone. Some cults that would fall into this category are the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, The Way International, and the Unity School of Christianity.

Most of these cults claim to be Christian, and even consider the Bible to be authoritative. But they manipulate the Scriptures to fit their own beliefs. Although they may claim to serve Jesus Christ, and may even use the same terminology orthodox Christians use, their definitions are vastly different.

These groups do not lead to the Christ of the Bible, but to another Jesus and another gospel (2 Cor. 11:1-4; Gal. 1:8, 9). We must therefore reject these false teachings, and “earnestly contend for the faith which was once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). And, of course, remember the Bible also goes on to admonish us that we must do this with gentleness, and with respect. Remember, you must present the message, but you need to recognize that it is only the Holy Spirit that changes the heart.

reproduced with permission

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