What Is a Cult?

What defines a cult separate from a religion? I wondered this recently, and I would like to share my new knowledge with you all. According to Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, a religion is “an organized system of belief that generally seeks to understand purpose, meaning, goals, and methods of spiritual things, like God, people in relation to God, salvation, after life, purpose of life, order of the cosmos, etc.,” while a cult is “a group that is unorthodox, esoteric, and has a devotion to a person, object, or a set of new ideas.”

When it comes to talking to a person in a cult, show him/her respect and the love of Jesus Christ. Most importantly, pray without ceasing, because serious spiritual warfare is at play. Do not grow angry with the individual. Would you get upset at a blind person for being blind? Blind people cannot control their blindness, whether physically or spiritually. People in cults are like hostages in an enemy camp. Our job as Christians is to try to rescue them to the best of our ability through prayer, love and sharing the truth of the gospel.

Remember, anyone not firmly rooted in the Word of God is vulnerable to joining a cult. So, now that you have a basis, let’s move on to the characteristics of cults:

1. New teaching—the cult’s teachings and doctrine are different and “new”

2. Only true belief system—cult members believe that their teachings are the only true teachings

3.  Powerful leaders—individual or small group

4.  Taking money/possessions—require tithing and/or giving one’s property to the cult

5. Seclusion—the more the members are separated from everyday mainstream society, the more they depend on the group intellectually, financially, spiritually, etc.

6. Control—through reinforcing the group’s teachings or fear tactics (“loss of salvation,” blackmail, being shunned, etc.)  

7.  Reinforcement of teachings—constant and through exact, practiced methods

8.  End of the world—have a belief about the afterlife and redemption

9.  “Experience—various practices including meditation, repetition of words and/or phrases, and ‘spiritual’ enlightenment with God are used as confirmation of their truth”

10.  Persecution—they either have been and/or will be persecuted and view any disagreements about beliefs with others as a form of persecution

Today I will leave you to ponder this short introduction on cults, so that you will have the ability to accurately identify their characteristics when you come across them. Next week we will explore more on this topic and confront the misconception that Christianity is within this category.

“...preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths”

2 Timothy 4:2-4 ESV

Slick, Matt. "Cults! An Outline Analysis." CARM. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, 12 Apr. 2017. Web. 19 May 2017.