“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit" Matthew 12:33 ESV
Last week we explored Christianity as related to the characteristics of cults. Read here. This week we will finish discussing the last of the characteristics.
6. Control—Jesus took our place on the cross and set us free from our sin. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1 ESV). Leaders in cults often monitor their followers and punish them if they do something wrong. They may even blackmail or spy on those who try to leave.
However, Christ does not do this to His followers. He is merciful, loving, kind and quick to forgive“Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19 ESV). Additionally, following Christ is not following a list of rules.
7. Reinforcement of teaching—Cults are taught about the Bible, Christianity, etc., without all of the information, they take small pieces of truth out of context and then reinforce the misrepresentations. As a result, those involved in cults do not understand biblical Christian views and are often not even aware of these truths. Christianity looks at the whole picture from every angle, puts it in context and then reinforces the truth after it has been fully searched. “But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:2 ESV).
With this in mind, Christians should listen to other people with compassion and respect their beliefs while also being bold, sharing truth with the love of Jesus Christ: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:5-6 ESV). After the Holy Spirit has opened our eyes, we will be able to see and know the truth for what it really is.
8. End of the world—The Bible only mentions two eternal destinations: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV).
Cults distort this view by believing in different ideas of the afterlife (multiple heavens, limited number of individuals going to heaven, no hell, spirit worlds, achieving ultimate, ethereal peace, etc.)
9. Experience—Those involved in cults determine truth by their experiences, such as meditation, direct “revelation” from God or the Holy Spirit, repetition of words, etc.
In contrast, as Christians, we search the Word of God to determine the truth: “The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed...” (Acts 17:10-12a ESV).
If we determined truth by our varying experiences, then truth would be relative. Truth is absolute. The law of non-contradiction “states that something cannot be both true and not true at the same time when dealing with the same context.”1 For example, my dog, Sofia, cannot be both a dog and not a dog simultaneously.
10. Persecution—Those in cults believe that any time another individual disagrees with their beliefs, they are being persecuted, partially because they have no response or defense when faced with these views. “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4 ESV).
Yet, we know that persecution is much more than a disagreement. Persecution is outright hatred, hostility and ill-treatment. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19 ESV).
So now I have shared with you what I have studied and I hope what you have learned today has helped you understand the difference between cults and Biblical Christianity. Some may not agree with these studies but I encourage you to research these points for yourself (Acts 17:11). We are capable of understanding the basics of the Bible, but some things about God will remain a mystery in this life. “Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13-14 ESV).
Thank you all for coming on this journey with me. I would love to hear your thoughts, feedback and what you learn through your studies in the comments!
1. Slick, Matt. "Law of Non-contradiction." CARM. Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, n.d. Web. 02 June 2017.