What is a Cult
EIGHT MARKS OF ORGANIZED HERESY
Which make a CULT
From the beginning of the church we are warned against divisions (Schisms
a breaking away which means heresy Rom.16:17-18)
1 Jn.2:19 "they
went out from us but they were not of us, if they had been of us, they would
have continued with us, but they went out that they might be made known that
none of them were of us."
John is writing about those who denied Jesus came in the flesh (meaning they did
not believe God came as a human and rose bodily after his death). They left the
fellowship of believers that were holding to the apostles doctrine. Today many
other aberrations just as false have arisen, and given birth to offshoots in the
Sociologist, John Lofland, comments that '"cults are 'little groups' which break
off from the conventional consensus and espouse very different views of the
real, the possible, and the moral."' (Quoted in Ronald Enroth, "What Is a Cult?"
in A Guide to Cults and New Religions 1983, p.14.)
Throughout the old and New Testament we are warned of false teaching and
teachers. Here are only a few references. False teachers in Isa.8:2 false
prophets in Deut.13 and 18. Jesus warned of false prophets and teachers in
Mt.7:15, Mt.24:23-24; Mk.13:6,21-22. we are warned by Paul in 2 Cor. 11:14;
Gal.1:8-9; Col.2:8-9; 2 Thess. 2, 1 Tim.1:3-4,4:1-2. By Peter in 1 Pt.5:8-9,2
Pt.2:1-3. By John 1 Jn.2:18-23, 2 Cor. 4:1-5. Just about every book of the Bible
mentions a warning of error and falsehood.
There are two ways a cult operates in falsehood. Theologically and
sociologically. From belief and practice. Some
are theologically dangerous others are sociologically dangerous, some are both. Not
all cults are harmful to someone’s physical well being, but they are harmful
spiritually if they mislead someone in their relationship to God through another
gospel. They will all have control or manipulation over people in some fashion.
They will hold the person to this particular group or church often with fear,
convincing them that there is no where else to go, no one else has the truth
like they do.
When the term cult is used by the secular world they mean any religious group
viewed as strange or what may be considered dangerous. Christians point to major
errors in core doctrines for justification in using the word cult. Cults contain
deviations from the doctrines of historic orthodox Christianity, what we call
biblical Christianity. What is based on the Bible for living as a believer in
When we hear the word cult we envision people held against their will confined
away from society on a compound, working with little or no pay, or abused. They
are unable to think for themselves having been changed into religious robotic
zealots. While these descriptions are possible and have occurred in extreme
circumstances, they are often unlikely. Someone once said a cult is everyone
who disagrees with your belief. This is essentially what the leaders of the
these groups will state. If someone does not agree with their particular
interpretation of the Bible or of God, they are against God. This is their
exclusivism at work. The word 'Cult' does have a stigma attached to it and has
been thrown around too easily and can be a mislabeling if not understood or
explained. So we want to explain what are the common practice's that the
majority of Cults share to help you identify them. We need to understand that a
cult (or a aberrational group) can be identified into two categories. Again by
theology and or sociological behavior.
There are two categories of cults, non -Christian and Christian cults. The
Christian cult claims to have the truth of Christ and salvation but they deny
one or more of the core doctrines of the Christian faith. To
simplify an identification of a Christian cult it would be noticeable in several
categories. Who is Jesus, the way of salvation, what is your final source of
authority and how they relate to others. They want to call themselves Christian
without adhering to the tenets of the historic "doctrinal " faith found in the
Bible. They change the major core teachings to mean something other than they
are defined in the Bible. The cults do not agree with the historic
(Biblical) Christian faith.
Bible does not use the word "cult." However the Bible does address religious
errors in teaching and practice. It does not take these teachers lightly
and it does not excuse those who teach them. The Bible applies to them
words such as "heresy," "heretic," "false teachers," "false prophets,"
"false apostles, and "false Christ's". Those who teach contrary to the core
teachings may say of themselves "we are not a "cult" but this does not change the fact that they are
in this category.
The Bible reprimands heresy, false teachings, false doctrines,
and false prophecy and tells us to refute, reproof, correct, and expose it by
defending the truth (Jude 3). This can often take place publicly as they teach
their falsehood publicly. Those who claim to be Christian that are found to
teach heresy will often be the strongest opponents against those who point out
their false teachings. They want to censure them so they can continue to teach
unchallenged. It is for this reason cults do not like to be noticed and will not
debate or discuss the issues brought up publicly. For the most part, they will
avoid public exposure or scrutiny because they will lose their membership, lose
money and their reputation (if any) will be marred.
Both cult's and a sect adhere to a distinctive doctrine that oftentimes is
majoring on the minors. Sect's on the other hand refer to a religious
denomination or a group of people that broke from another body they were
involved with to form their own. For example there are sects in Islam and
Mormonism (like the RLDS). The term sect can
at time have similarities to a cult but
its identification does not help someone identify how severe a deviation from
the original they are. This is especially true with those who claim their
Christianity is exclusive only to themselves being the only way as the one true
Definition of a cult
THE ORIGINAL USE OF THE WORD "CULT" AS WELL AS IT'S USE TODAY DERIVES FROM THE
LATIN WORD "CULTUS" WHICH
DICTIONARY DEFINITION- A GROUP BOUND TOGETHER IN A INTENSE DEVOTION TO A
PERSON, IDEAL OR THING; A SYSTEM OF BELIEFS AND RITUALS THAT ARE BOGUS. In
other words they are practicing a false system of spirituality while claiming to
In 1912 Ernst Troeltsch in the book social teaching of the Christian church,
classified religious groups in three groups: "Church", "sect", and "cult". A
cult represented a mystical or spiritual religion to intellectuals and educated
With a more Biblical perspective, in 1938 Jan Van Baalens' "The Chaos of Cults"
critiqued Theosophy, Mormonism, Christian Science, and Jehovah's Witnesses as
'Cults.' Because they were aberrant in their teachings while claiming to be
Christian apologist Robert Bowman defines a cult as A religious group
originating as a heretical sect and maintaining fervent commitment to heresy.
Adj.: "cultic" (may be used with reference to tendencies as well as full cult
status.( Robert Bowman, A Biblical guide to Orthodoxy and heresy.)
Cult's will say they are the way to Christ and Christ Himself is not the way. So
they put themselves as a group or their teaching in between man and God. They
become mediators between God and man. They do not have the Christian
distinctive, but will claim to be Christian in their beliefs and practices. It
was Christ himself who Said "I Am the way, the truth the life."
A THEOLOGICAL DEFINITION A
THEOLOGICAL DEFINITION OF "CULT" MUST BE BASED ON A STANDARD OF CHRISTIAN
ORTHODOXY. USING THE BIBLE'S TEACHING AS A FOCAL POINT. A CULT IS ANY RELIGIOUS
GROUP THAT CLAIMS TO BE CHRISTIAN (OR MAY NOT BE) IS DISTINCT AND HAS DOCTRINES
AND PRACTICES THAT CONTRADICT THOSE OF THE SCRIPTURES AS INTERPRETED BY ORTHODOX
CHRISTIANITY. THOSE THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN UPHELD IN HISTORIC CHRISTIANITY .
ORTHODOXY IS REPRESENTED FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE CHURCH, AND IS EXPRESSED IN
STATEMENTS SUCH AS THE APOSTLES CREED WHICH ARE DENIED . THEY WILL DENY THE
BIBLE AS THE COMPLETE BOOK OF REVELATION AND OUR GUIDE TO KNOWING GOD. THEY WILL
DISTORT THE CENTRAL MESSAGE OF THE SCRIPTURES AS CHRIST BEING THE SAVIOR ALONE.
THEY WILL DENY HIS DEITY AND DISTORT HIS NATURE. THEY FORM THEIR GROUP AROUND A
SINGLE PERSONS INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE, OR CHRIST USUALLY BY A NEW
REVELATION. THEY REMOVE THEMSELVES FROM THE LARGER BODY AND OPERATE
AUTONOMOUSLY. A CULT IS ORGANIZED HERESY. THEY WILL DISTORT ONE OR MORE OF THE
Walter Martin described a cult like this: "as a group of people gathered about a
specific persons interpretation of the bible... from a theological view point,
the cults contain not only a few major deviations from historic Christianity.
They paradoxically, they continue to insist that they are entitled to be
classified as Christians." (Kingdom of the cults p.11)
In his book The New Cults, Walter Martin defines a cult as “a group religious in
nature which surrounds a leader, or a group which either denies or misinterprets
essential biblical doctrines.”
It is not our personal opinion on this site of
those who are called a cult or labeled as aberrant.
Almost unanimously those that are found in this
category are written about in books and on other
websites for years. These are held to be such by the
majority in the Apologetic- Cult Research community.
Many new groups continue to spring up and we will
try our best to keep you informed on them and
explain why their teachings are not Biblical.
However this may not be possible with all the new
religious movements on the scene. For this reason it
is to ones advantage to become familiar with the
heresies in the past so they can be recognized
The difference between a sect and a cult
The term sect comes from the Late Latin secta, which means an “organized church
body.” That in turn is rooted in the Latin sequi, which means “to follow,” and
is used of “way of life,” or “class of persons.” The term sect, can and is
sometimes exchanged for the term cult. A Sect can refer to: a religious
denomination a group of people that broke from another greater body of religion
to form their own. It can be to reform and go back to truth or deviate further
Most offshoots are formed as the result of schism (division; separation). In
this case, the term also borrows from the Latin sectus, which means “cut” or
“divide.” They are distinguished because of their adherence to their own
religious beliefs. An example of a sect would be the Re-organized Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints who are an offshoot of The Mormons Latter-day
Saints. However this is a group that claims they are the original Latter Day
term sect can
be exchanged for cult but
does not carry the weight of severity that most want to get across. Both a cult
and a sect adhere to a distinctive doctrine that oftentimes is majoring on the
minors. The members have a leader or a groups teachings that are used to
interpret the bible. The main difference between the two is that a cult is more
exclusive in its demands on its people and their claims as being the only true
way to salvation as the one true Church.
Counter-cult (Christian) organizations usually oppose cults for their deviation
in doctrinal matters. Their intention is to warn and rescue those who are
involved in false teaching and practice. Some false teaching and practices are
more serious than others as they are an immediate threat to ones welfare or
physical life. Most of these ministries (both religious and secular) provide the
service to cult-members and their loved ones information that may help them
leave those movements. It is easier to prevent someone from joining a
cult than it is to get them out afterwards. So we want to give the other side of
the story that they often do not tell. We are not subscribing any enforcement on
ones decision. It is a persons own choice what group or religion they will join.
What is important before one invests their time and money is to find out what
the group really teaches. This information often does not come openly from the
group but will be told after one has committed themselves to the teachings.
There are some groups that have right doctrine but are steeped in legalism. Legalism
are laws that are unscriptural or biblical laws that are no longer to be
practiced. They make ones walk heavy and the effect is having them lose their
joy. They become toilsome, harsh and inflexible. The Pharisees couldn’t show
mercy the heavier matters of the law because of their legalism although they
knew the Scriptures well enough. Love and legalism don’t mix, love is flexible
willing to yield. Love, grace and peace are a family they bring health and
growth to an individual. While extra laws are a burden and often times bring
bondage if not exercised by an individuals own free choice, legalism may not
affect ones salvation as much as it will affect
their spiritual growth. It certainly can affect their relationship to the Lord.
churches that are orthodox in doctrine can fall under a pastor or leadership
that goes beyond their God given authority and manipulate the congregation or
What are some of the teachings that cults hold in common?
1. THEY DEIFY
TEACHING THAT MAN MAY BECOME GOD, OR IS A PART OF GOD. MAN NEEDS TO BE A PART OF
A CERTAIN GROUP OR CHURCH TO LEARN NEW REVELATION OR KNOWLEDGE TO PROGRESS TO
GODHOOD. SOMEONE, USUALLY THE LEADER WILL SAY THEY ARE GOD OR HAS THE CHRIST
SPIRIT IN A GREATER WAY. THAT THEY ARE COMMISSIONED OR APPOINTED TO BE THE
LEADER BY GOD.
SOME GROUPS DENY THAT GOD IS ETERNAL. SOME BELIEVE IN MANY GODS, OR THAT ALL IS
GOD (PANTHEISM). OTHER GROUPS SUCH AS JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES TEACH THAT GOD'S
NATURE OR STATE OF BEING MUST BE UNDERSTOOD AND REASONABLE TO BE TRUE. IN OTHER
WORDS, IF FINITE MAN CANNOT UNDERSTAND SOMETHING ABOUT GOD THEN IT IS NOT TRUE.
THIS TECHNIQUE SUBTLY ELEVATES MAN'S MENTAL ABILITY TO THAT OF GOD.
OR ELIMINATE SIN
THE BIBLICAL CONCEPT OF SIN IS
NOT TAUGHT, OR IS COMPLETELY ELIMINATED BY SOME GROUPS. THIS IS SEEN IN
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE, MIND SCIENCE, RELIGIOUS SCIENCE, AND NEW AGE GROUPS. MEANINGS
THAT ARE BIBLICAL ARE CHANGED TO THEIR OWN PERSONAL INTERPRETATIONS THAT ARE NOT
RELATED TO THE CONTEXT OR ORIGINAL INTENT OF THE AUTHOR..
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE BIBLE
MOST ORGANIZED HERESIES (CULTS) USE "ANOINTED" INFORMATION, BOOKS, MAGAZINES OR
SCRIPTURES. THESE ARE BELIEVED TO BE JUST AS OR MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE BIBLE.
THEY ARE INDISPENSABLE IN UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE. SOME GROUPS STRONGLY
DISCOURAGE THEIR MEMBERS FROM READING THE BIBLE ALONE, AND SOME DO NOT BELIEVE
THE BIBLE IS THE WORD OF GOD ALONE. OTHERS USE THE BIBLE WITH THEIR OWN UNIQUE
INTERPRETATION UNKNOWN EVER IN THE CHURCH HISTORY OR ALIGN THEMSELVES WITH WHAT
WAS CONSIDERED HERESY.
5. THEY HAVE A
DIFFERENT WAY OF SALVATION
MANY ORGANIZED HERESIES TEACH A "GRACE PLUS WORKS" SALVATION. MANY TEACH THAT
AT LEAST SOME ABILITY TO EARN ETERNAL LIFE BY THEIR OWN WORKS BY GRACE PERFECTED
THROUGH THEIR WORKS. SALVATION BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH IN THE FINISHED WORK OF
JESUS CHRIST ON CALVARY IS DENIED. THE CROSS IS NOT SUFFICIENT. A SYSTEM OF GOOD
WORKS, DICTATED BY THE GROUP, HELPS THE MEMBERS EARN ETERNAL LIFE . MEMBERSHIP
IN THEIR ORGANIZATION OR CHURCH IS A REQUIREMENT FOR SALVATION IN MOST OF THESE
6. THEY HAVE A DIFFERENT
VIRTUALLY ALL ORGANIZED HERESIES DENY THE DEITY OF JESUS CHRIST, THEY TEACH
THAT JESUS IS NOT THE TRUE GOD MANIFEST IN HUMAN FORM BUT SOMETHING LESS, SUCH
AS A CREATED BEING, AN ANGEL, A PROPHET, AN ASCENDED MASTER OR JUST "a god"
(SECONDARY). SOME TEACH WE TOO CAN BE THE VERY SAME AS JESUS. IN THIS WAY THEY
CHANGE THE CLEAR TEACHING OF THE BIBLE OF HIM BEING THE UNIQUE (ONLY BEGOTTEN)
SON OF GOD.
7. THEY HAVE
A DIFFERENT SPIRIT
MOST ORGANIZED HERESIES TEACH THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT IS NOT GOD BUT
AN IMPERSONAL FORCE OR ENERGY THAT EMANATES FROM GOD TO PERFORM CERTAIN
FUNCTIONS, MUCH LIKE THE ENERGY FLOWING FROM A BATTERY TO START A CAR. SOME
TEACH THAT IT PERMEATES EVERYTHING AND WE CAN BREATHE IT IN. PRACTICES OF
SPIRITISM INCLUDING VISITS BY SPIRIT BEINGS ARE COMMON IN THE NEW AGE AND THEY
HAVE COUNTERFEIT MIRACLES TO VALIDATE THEMSELVES.
8. THEY BELIEVE THEY ARE THE
ONLY TRUE CHURCH
THE ONE MARK OF AN ORGANIZED HERESY THAT IS THE
MOST COMMON IS THEIR CLAIM TO BE THE ONLY GROUP OR CHURCH ORDAINED BY GOD.
THEY ALONE SPEAK FOR GOD ON EARTH TODAY. GOD DIRECTS ONLY THEIR ORGANIZATION, OR
CHURCH. THIS IS DONE EITHER THROUGH A LEADER WHO HAS ALL THE SAY OR A GROUP. IF
ANYONE COMES TO YOU CLAIMING THEY REPRESENT THE ONLY TRUE CHURCH OF CHRIST OR
GOD, AND DENY THAT ANYONE ELSE OUTSIDE THEMSELVES CAN BE PART, YOU CAN BE SURE
THAT THEY ARE NOT FROM GOD. ALL CHRISTIAN CHURCHES WILL RECOGNIZE OTHERS THAT
HOLD THE SAME CORE TEACHINGS THAT THEY DO, THAT WERE ALWAYS PART OF THE HISTORIC
THE CORE BELIEFS UNITE ONE IN CHRIST AS THERE IS A CERTAIN CRITERIA FOR BIBLICAL
DOCTRINE. THIS HAS BEEN HELD SINCE THE INCEPTION OF THE SCRIPTURES WRITTEN BY
THE APOSTLES AND TAUGHT BY THE CHURCH.