Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How to define a cult.

I recently counseled with a person, we'll call her Mary, who was seeing someone, we'll call him John, and found out he held completely different spiritual views. Mary professes to follow Christ while John finally shared that he is a Jehovah's Witness. This came as quite a shock to Mary and it caused a divide in the relationship that caused it to end. John told Mary that if they were to continue seeing each other and eventually get married then she would have to convert to being a Jehovah's Witness. Before the relationship ended Mary attended a service at the Kingdom Hall while she tried to sort everything out. She shared with me that it was an unusual experience for her and shared how unnerved she was by the comments made to her. She had already counseled with me once before this experience and I had shared with her my views that Jehovah's Witnesses were a cult. But does an unusual experience or uneasy feeling when entering a place of worship constitute a cult? If someone says they believe basically the same thing you do but just a little differently, does that make them part of a cult?

There are many cults alive and well in the world today. But how do we define a cult? What guidelines do we follow to evaluate a belief system and call it a cult, false religion or the truth? False Religions are easy to identify in the fact that they worship a god or have a set of beliefs that are different from those followed by Christians. Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Animism are just a few of the false religions around the world. But what sets a cult apart from false religions is that a cult simply perverts the true message of the Bible. Dr. Walter Martin, considered by many to be the expert on cults, defines a cult as this: "By cultism we mean the adherence to doctrines which are pointedly contradictory to orthodox Christianity and which yet claim the distinction of either tracing their origin to orthodox sources or of being in essential harmony with those sources. Cultism, in short, is any major deviation from orthodox Christianity relative to the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith." In layman's terms if a group follows a particular man or beliefs that contradict the doctrines of the Christian faith then it is a cult. Regardless of whether they say they are Christian. Regardless of whether they say they follow Christ. Regardless of what they say about you believing in the same god they do, it's still a cult. It means they aren't teaching the truths of God's Word and we need to lovingly lead them to the truth. The cultist you are most likely to come into contact with in your daily life are most likely going to be a Jehovah's Witness, Mormon, or 7th Day Adventist. There are plenty of others but these are the ones you come into contact with most. What believers need to do is what we read in 1 Peter 3:15. It says “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”  (NIV). If you aren't prepared to share the hope you have, then you won't. Be prepared to share your faith on a daily basis and when the time comes you will be able to share the truth with those that need it most.

Tonight at our church, North Catawba Baptist Church, we start a new series as we look at the cults and how to reach out with the Gospel to them. We hope you'll join us for this series if you want to learn more about cults and how to engage them with the truth. Directions to our church can be found here. We hope you'll join us.

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1 comment:

  1. I have started reading Dr. Martins book "kingdom of the cults" for my next semester study of the various cults and would say youve done a great job of elaborating on his views and definition. I believe in order to minister to the cults we must understand to some extent the basis of their belief system. However we must be thoroughly grounded in our own. The cultist are devout in what they believe and know how to manipulate a conversation in order to throw the true doctrines of christianity under a microscope of examination to compare it with theirs or else use it as a basis for trying to prove the validity of their beliefs. 2 Timothy 2:15 "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly diving the word of truth."