What is A CultQUESTION: What is a cult?ANSWER:
What is a cult? In our society, we think of a cult as a group that practices Satan worship or sacrifices animals. In reality, cults often appear as innocent groups who provide physical and religious assistance to a community.
There are basically two kinds of cults. The first kind is a manipulative group who controls its members completely and demands complete commitment and loyalty. The second kind of cult is one who deviates from biblical Christianity.
The Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions
defines a cult as: "A separate religious group generally claiming compatibility with Christianity but whose doctrines contradict those of historic Christianity and who practices and ethical standards violate those of biblical Christianity."1
The respected book Kingdom of the Cults
, quotes Dr. Charles Braden as defining a cult to be: "…any religious group which differs significantly in some one or more respects as to belief or practice from those religious groups which are regarded as the normative expressions of religion in our total culture."2
Basically, what makes a religious group a cult is a denial of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. For example: denial of the deity of Jesus Christ or the Trinity, denial of Jesus' resurrection, denial of salvation by faith, etc.
Another distinguishing factor of cults is the way they twist the Bible and interpret it incorrectly. Many cults take verses out of context, combine passages that aren't relevant to each other, and use incorrect definitions of theological terms.
These theological teachings are presented to people slowly and the thinking process of the person is gradually changed. As an inquirer hears the doctrine presented repeatedly, they gradually accept points one at a time.
1 John 4:1-3 instructs us: "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."