Cults: Biblical Definition of a Cult is a post on some thoughts about identifying what is a cult from what is a good church.
From the Christian Courrier,
Though the Bible does not use the word “cult,” the idea is there—at least in seed form. It is represented by the Greek term
hairesis, rendered “sect,” which derives from a root meaning “to choose.” W. E. Vine suggests that it hints of a self-willed opinion that rejects the authority of truth, leads to division, and the causes the formation of a sect (1991, 389). By Wayne Jackson of the Christian Courrier.
Biblical Church: No legitimate church founded on the principles that God gives needs to mislead, deceive, or trick people in order to do the work of God which is its mission.
So by definition, a cult is a group, movement or thought process which separates a person from the true body of Christ. What we must insist upon here is that God has defined the body of Christ as truly saved people, and the process of sanctification is active and visible in their lives, and this Christ-likeness is very observable in them.
If you consider this definition of a cult and compare it with past cults, you will see where those followers could have seen a problem and left it before it was too late.
Jim Jones started a cult following in Los Angeles, and he was taking people’s money, trying to get them to give him everything, and he would barely string them along afterwards giving them the minimum after he got their house, car, investments, etc. Jesus never told his followers to completely divest themselves of their earthly possessions and give the money to him. To the rich young ruler that worshiped his possessions instead of God, he said give it to the poor. That is a big difference.
For David Koresh, he claimed to be Jesus himself. That in itself is a lie and should have tipped off anybody with a sound understanding of Scripture. But he sought out people who didn’t have so much sound understanding of Scripture. In the end, the government was investigating him because he was having organized sex with underage minors and their mothers. This was open to all, and there was a sign up sheet posted for the women to pick their “night with the pastor.”
Okay so what happened to adultery being wrong? You can gin up any kind of explanation for something but in the end, Abraham had multiple wives and concubines. But he never took somebody else’s wife. He also saw firsthand why God only wants 1 wife per 1 husband until death do they part. This is common sense. But that is the point, common sense is stolen by the cult and they tell you what is right and wrong, and manufacture new obligations that go against the grain of Scripture.
So there are general tendencies in a cult that is very different from a solid, sound biblical church.
A cult is in the process of hijacking Christianity. They cannot do that by playing by the rules. They have several options. 1) Ignore the rules of Scripture, which whether they publicly say they are doing that or quickly just do it, they all are doing this. 2) redefine the words semantically so that they get what they want.
David Koresh said that he was Jesus, the Messiah, Jehovah. When Scripture says enter into the joy of the Lord, he misinterpreted that as saying, the uttermost joy is sex (it is not, it is pure love, undefiled by inappropriate sex), and so to do this entering into the joy of the Lord, he is the Lord, and the women had to have sex with him. What about the men entering into the joy of the Lord? I have not read where he was a homosexual, so he excluded them because it did not fit what he was going after.
Joseph Smith was a fornicator and adulterer. He had a wife and wanted other women. He married other women. The US law was against this. The authorities pressured him that he was breaking the law. So he invented celestial marriages which were spiritual relationships between married (and unmarried) women, often younger girls and Joseph Smith. But there were physical offspring from these celestial marriages where Smith was the father of these children. The locals ran him off several times over these things. But in the end, anybody that understands that the Bible is against adultery and fornication and see exactly that plastered all over his personal life and spiritual teachings. They excused his sin.
In the end analysis of things, when somebody, anybody, in a church or religious setting sins, the group is to rebuke that person. If he repents and abandons that practice before that rebuke comes, or before people even know, then we can give the person a pass on publicly scandalizing them. That is sometimes, and maybe depending on the circumstances.
But when the practice (repeated acts) is established, and in any way ignored, redefined as good, or redefined as biblical (like “Abraham had wives and concubines why can’t I do the same“), or just forcibly done without any kind of rebuke, then there is a problem. The problem exists if the person is just a layperson. It becomes public and needing a group action against it if the offending person is a leader, or among the people leading, ministering to, or directing the group.
The group can be considered a cult no matter what name or denomination it bears if this kind of conduct is covered up and allowed. There are Baptist churches that fully qualify under this consideration of a cult. They allow their leaders to practice homosexual behavior and allow homosexuals in public positions of leadership or ministry. There is no excuse for this. The church people should move for action or leave the church completely. To continue to attend, support, participate, and see that it continues (both the church and the evil conduct) is to strike against the face of Christ and work against the holiness of the Holy Spirit. These are not good Christians who would ignore or support this.
We cannot extend this to any little detail that you do not like. It must be a grievous sin. Something like stealing from the group, homosexuality, adultery, pedophilia, etc. Just because a church doesn’t pray before taking the offering or offer an invitation at the end of every single service doesn’t mean it is a cult or a bad church.
Unbiblical beliefs or Doctrines
Along side of the unbiblical conduct is false doctrine. There are many false doctrines, and discerning them is difficult at best, and impossible at worst. Let me throw myself into the sticky issue of Calvinism. There are neo-Calvinists that are teaching that it is a cult to teach that you need to decide to believe in Christ as your Savior. They call it regeneration decisionalism. That is, the act of deciding to accept Jesus is a false practice.
If you scan the Old Testament and the New Testament, there are preachers who call on the people hearing them to decide to follow or accept Jesus Christ or the Messiah, the Salvation offered by God. So simply put, these Calvinists are out of whack.
But the point is still there. Under the normal thinking of a Calvinist, what saves a person? The Arminianist (as the Calvinist portrays him) says we can save ourselves. That is not true. We cannot save ourselves without Christ. But do Arminianists really believe and teach that a person can be saved without Christ? I do not think so.
To the Calvinist, a person is saved because he is elect. Where in the preaching of Christ and the apostles do you find them saying look into yourself and if you are elect, then believe in Christ? Actually the Calvinist would reject the “believe in Christ” part. If they are elect, they will automatically believe in Christ. How does that work? How is that portrayed in the preaching and offers of salvation in the Bible? It isn’t. The system is a cult, a way of separating the true believer from the real church of Christ.
Real Christians Resist Falling into a Cult
Now let me just say that I grew up in a Calvinist environment, and for all the doctrines of grace that were thrown around, there are some Calvinists that are really saved. I know that because they are directed by the Scriptures, and no matter what Calvinism teaches, they still believe in the power of prayer to change things (dyed in the wool Calvinists believe in a predetermined future that cannot be altered any way, especially by man), and they still believe in missions (true missions is giving out the gospel to unbelievers not drawing away believers already in good churches into the doctrines of grace), and they still do real evangelism (dyed in the wool Calvinists see evangelism ONLY in the view of promulgating Calvinism, and their false evangelism is teaching the doctrine of election, not the gospel and presenting the person’s need to decide to accept Christ as their Savior and to follow Christ).
More Posts on the Marks of a Cult
- Cults: What is salvation? How does it change you?
- FP: False prophets worship other gods
- FP: Using Scripture or Following Scripture?
- FP: Unshackled from God’s Will
- Cults: Double Standards and Hypocrisy
- Cults: Lies and Deceptions
- Cults: Biblical Definition of a Cult