What is the definition of a cult?

Classical definition

The classic definition of a cult is a religiously oriented group which uses techniques of manipulation, mind control (brainwashing), and other immoral or incorrect pressures to control people for their own purposes. Others define a cult as a “Christian” group which teaches that an aberrant doctrine which is perverted from true Christianity. Deception in their doctrines and practices are also very strongly involved in the idea of a cult.

Biblical Definition

I think that there is a lot of error in leaving the Bible as our base of authority, and examining cults through the “mindset” of psychologists and others that presume to be “free” of religious bias. There is no such thing. Anybody that can completely rid themselves of all religious concepts is an atheist or agnostic, and both are false religions in themselves.

What people recognize as “false” and “dangerous” in these religious groups is simply the outworking of a false religion. A false religion has various elements: (1) false or erroneous doctrine, including twisted true doctrine, partially explained or held the true doctrine, or true doctrines, but with the wrong emphases. (2) false or sinful practices and conduct which goes against the true doctrine. (3) improper and satanic methods. Satan is the liar and murderer from the beginning, and this element is strongly seen in these groups as they are saturated with deception and manipulation of the truth for their own evil purposes, and they are murderers. A murderer is not necessarily someone who takes another’s life, but one who is aggressive in doing evil to others, taking advantage of them, and exploiting them if they can and as much as they can. The concept of a murderer is one of aggression towards another to do ill-will towards that person, and if circumstances would allow, they could or would easily kill to fulfill their evil deeds, but most don’t go that far because of the restraining effect of civil law.

The problem with current cult studies that are done by “psychological professionals” is that they can never come up with absolutes (not accepting true Christianity as their basis of spiritual authority). Some would claim a Bible Christian is cultic when he tells children and youth about a place of punishment called hell. Although this would be true in their thinking, it is still none the less biblical and right, and not manipulative. Jesus used the “manipulative” power of the concept of hell to motivate people, so it is not wrong.

The indestructible link between doctrine and conduct

One of the most important keys in understanding cults, false prophets, and the truth is the spiritual link between conduct and doctrine. Correct doctrine will without exception cause correct conduct. False doctrine will without exception cause sinful, unbiblical conduct. These relationships are so powerful between the two, that where there is good doctrine, it will slowly change the conduct of the person to conform them to Christ (we call this sanctification). Likewise, incorrect doctrine will slowly grow the fruit of evil deeds. In the short run of things, both can be covered up or confused, but in the long run, this has to be the case always.

Jesus taught us that by their fruits (long run end effect of their life, doctrine, methods, and philosophy) you will know them.

Cults are just false prophets at work

A modern day cult is just a false prophet at work making his control techniques outside of an organized “mainstream” church.


T.R. Simmons A Systematic Study of Bible Doctrine is a Bible Doctrines book of 43 chapters. The author is (according to the Introduction) "systematic, Calvinistic, Baptist, and premillennial". I am offering this work in various formats:
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