You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Matthew 7:16 ESV
A little over a week ago we discovered how to identify cults by their characteristics. Read about it here. This week we will learn more about cults and why Christianity does not fit within this category, starting with the first five characteristics. Next week we will finish off by discussing the last five. Let’s dive in:
1. New teaching—Christianity is not a new teaching. It is solely based off the Bible which dates back to 1400 BC and was finished in 90 AD. The Bible narrates historical events beginning with the creation of the universe.
2. Only True Belief System—Over 40 authors wrote the Bible in three different languages across three different continents. The validity of the Bible is found in the manuscript evidence. For example, to this day we have found 5,686 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. They are all within 99.5% accuracy compared to each other. There were less than 100 years between when the original was written and the date of the first found copy.
Yet, the second most verifiable ancient text is The Iliad by Homer with 643 manuscripts. They have a 95% accuracy compared to each other and 500 years between when the story was written and the date of the first found copy. “In addition, there are over 19,000 copies in the Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic languages. The total supporting New Testament manuscript base is over 24,000.”1 As Jesus says in John 10:35, “Scripture cannot be broken.”
3. Powerful leaders—Jesus is the only leader we have in Christianity. John 14:6 ESV states, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
4. Taking money/possessions—Congregational leaders should not keep all of the tithing money for themselves, but rather distribute it to missionaries and to the cost of running the church. The main use should be furthering the gospel. Often times in cults, financial security is promised, which would result from giving money and, possibly, possessions over to the congregation/organization. In contrast, the widow in the book of Mark sets the perfect example for why and how Christians should give to the Lord:
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on. Mark 12:41-44 ESV
Followers of Jesus must remember the point in giving. Is it so that we can get some promised blessing, or is it with joyful, grateful hearts in serving the Lord with what He has given us?
5. Seclusion—As we are called to follow Jesus, we look at how Jesus lived. Did He separate Himself from unbelievers? We see in Mark that He did not:
And as He reclined at table in His house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and His disciples, for there were many who followed Him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to His disciples, ‘Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ And when Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. Mark 2:15-17 ESV
I challenge you to brainstorm with me as we learn and grow together. How else have you found the Christianity is not a cult? What from this post resonated with you? Please let me know in the comments below!
- Slick, Matt. "Manuscript Evidence for Superior New Testament Reliability." CARM. Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, 10 Dec. 2008. Web. 29 May 2017.