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HOW TO IDENTIFY A CULT
Webster's Dictionary defines a cult as;
1. A system of religious worship.
2. Devoted attachment to a person, principle, etc.
3. A sect.
Webster's then goes on to define a sect as a "religious denomination".
With this hazy definition for a cult, it is no wonder people are confused. We need to turn from the pages of the dictionary to the pages of the Bible.
A CULT IS COUNTERFEIT CHRISTIANITY
Counterfeit Christianity" is probably the best description we can give for a cult. Counterfeit Christianity is an imitation of real Christianity. Bible terms like "Jesus Christ", "Resurrection", "Salvation" and "Atonement" are used by the Cult, but entirely different meanings have been assigned to these terms by the various cult groups.
Like counterfeit money which is sometimes difficult to detect, so it is difficult to detect counterfeit Christianity, since it looks like the real thing. Experts examining counterfeit money often hold it up to a strong light and look for identifying marks. Counterfeit Christianity also has identifying marks which can be seen when held up to an even stronger light, the light of God's word, the Bible.
We are repeatedly warned in Scripture to watch out for false prophets, false teachers, and false doctrine. To do this, we need to examine the prophecies, teachings, and doctrines of the various groups claiming to be Christian, and then we need to expose them. This is what the Apostle Paul did in 2 Timothy 2:17,18, where he said,
"...Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and thus they upset the faith of some."
Jesus named, "the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate." (Revelation 2:6).
All this "detecting" of a Cult takes time, so we need some methods whereby we can readily detect a cult without time-consuming research. This is possible, and we outline the methods here.
EARLY DETECTION AND THE TRUE CHURCH
We are at an advantage if we know what to expect from a cult. Cultists are very well trained to appear "Christian", and indeed believe they are the true church, and you need the deliverance!
Therefore, be bold and ask the question, "Do you believe the group you represent is the ONLY TRUE CHURCH on the face of the earth? "
If they reply that they are, or if they are evasive, making remarks like, "Well, every church has a measure of truth BUT....", you have made an early detection of a Cultist!
Every Christian, if asked the same question, regardless of his denomination, would reply that the true church is comprised of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that HE (not some organization) is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. (John 14:6). No legitimate denomination would claim that they alone and their members have salvation EXCLUSIVELY, but the Cults (the counterfeits) do.
EARLY DETECTION AND THE BIBLE
Again, under the subject of early detection of a Cult, find out if the person talking to you believes in MORE THAN THE BIBLE.
For example, the Mormons will SAY they believe the Bible, but they will be anxious to let you know that they have FURTHER REVELATION in the form of the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, etc., which they also consider inspired.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe the Bible, especially their own altered version, The New World Translation, which has altered most scriptures dealing with the Deity of Christ. Jehovah's Witnesses will tell you that the Bible can only be understood by their particular organization, the Watchtower Society. I often ask Jehovah's Witnesses,
"Has anyone ever become a Jehovah's Witness by studying the Bible alone?" Of course not. Other Cults also believe they have EXCLUSIVE UNDERSTANDING of the Bible, as it is explained to them by their particular prophet.
Watch out for anyone trying to interpret Scripture for you, or using the Bible like a "dictionary". That is, they make their point, and then refer to isolated texts, often hop scotching all over the Bible to "prove" their point. Used this way, the Bible can be made to say almost anything. Here are two Scriptures that don't belong together: "Judas went out and hanged himself", coupled with "Go thou and do likewise". Behold! A new doctrine formed in exactly the way the cults use the Bible.
Also, be careful of groups stressing prophecy out of proportion to other subjects in Scripture. "Prophecy Seminars" are often the first step into a cult group.
Remember also, that it is the Holy Spirit who will guide you into all truth, not some self-appointed prophet or organization. John 16:13 reads,
"But when He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come."
WHERE ARE THE CULTS EVANGELIZING?
The Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul gives the Church divine warning in 2 Corinthians, chapter 11, verse 4, that there would be those "COMING TO US" (that is, the Church), and preaching to us "ANOTHER JESUS", a "DIFFERENT GOSPEL", with a "DIFFERENT SPIRIT". This is perhaps the best definition of a Cult in the Bible.In Verse 13, Paul further tells us that their leaders would be disguised as "apostles of Christ". Although Satanically-inspired, they would appear as "angels of light" Therefore do not think a cult has to appear bad to be bad.
On the contrary, a Cult often looks extra good. How do you think the person at your door became so deceived, except that the cult looked so good to them? Bear in mind that you are usually not talking to a deliberate deceiver, but a poor, misguided soul. Cults may look and seem like genuine Christians, perhaps even just another denomination. Do not look on the outward appearance--use your detectors!
Many Cults have begun as "interdenominational Bible Study Groups". As long as neighborhood study groups are under the headship outlined in the Bible in Ephesians 4:11-15, you are protected under the "umbrella" of oversight outlined in Scripture, but if one "lone ranger" leader is answering to no one for his teachings, then look out! As long as he is teaching truth, you are fine, but if he goes out into "left field" with some doctrine, you will go with him into deception.
The purpose of the Cults is to divide the body of Christ. The thrust of their "missionary activities" is not to the unchurched, but to believers in Christ. Missionaries often tell of going to the unsaved and preaching the gospel, finally getting a church going, and then "here come the cults!" We all need to heed the warning in Scripture, "Keep your eye on those who cause divisions among you--and turn away from them". (Romans 16:17).
DETECT WHAT "SALVATION" THE CULT OFFERS
Without fail, the Cults have done away with salvation by GRACE alone. Their salvation is always GRACE PLUS WORKS, and in their organizations you can never be SURE of your salvation until your death, or "until Armageddon".
Cults keep you in a constant state of anxiety and fear of impending judgment. The strongest witness the Christian can present in this situation is the ASSURANCE they have RIGHT NOW that they ARE SAVED! Good works are a RESULT of salvation, not a CONDITION of salvation.
"For by GRACE you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the GIFT OF GOD; NOT AS A RESULT OF WORKS, that no one should boast. (Eph. 2:8,9).
"...God has GIVEN US eternal life, and this life is in His Son. These things I have written to you who BELIEVE in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may KNOW that you HAVE ETERNAL LIFE." (1 John 5: 11 & 13).
RECOGNIZE THE TWO CLASSES IN THE CULTS
In the world of the Cults, there are two classes of people. At the high levels, we find the DECEIVERS. At the lower levels, we find the DECEIVED. Remember, you will usually be dealing with the honest-hearted DECEIVED ones, so remember our instructions in 2 Timothy 2: 24-26,
"And the Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance, leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will."
Those using 2 John as an excuse not to witness to the Cultists, should realize that this admonition not to let such a one into their house is referring to anyone who "does not abide in the teachings of Christ" (vs.9), obviously now-departed members of the Christian congregation. This describes most high-ranking cult leaders, but those at your door usually have never "abided" in the doctrine of Christ. Indeed, most of them have had Christ misrepresented to them, and do not even know who Christ really is.
WHAT DO THE CULTS THINK OF JESUS CHRIST?
This question is the most important one we could possibly ask, for every Cult presents "another Jesus" (2 Cor. 11:4). Listed at the end of this booklet are the names of the various cults and their teachings on the person of Jesus Christ. Cults are often unwilling to share with you their REAL view on Christ until they have drawn you in and won your friendship.
It may be necessary for YOU to present THEM with their own doctrine, and confront them on this most important issue. Remember, if we have the right Jesus Christ we are right for all eternity, but if we have the wrong Jesus Christ, we are wrong for all eternity!
The prime question to ask the Cultist is, "Do you believe that Jesus Christ is ALMIGHTY God, manifest in the flesh?" (Matthew 1:23, John 1:1,14, etc.)
If they cannot agree, you have detected a cult! Jesus is NOT some lesser or extra god, or any kind of an angel. He is not just one of many prophets and gurus, or an extraordinarily good man, but He is THE ONLY TRUE GOD (1 Tim. 1:16,17). As Jesus is TRULY GOD, He is also TRULY MAN (Romans 5:15, 1 Tim. 2:5). This is the Jesus Christ of the Bible, truly God, truly man! For a fuller explanation, please refer to our book "Coping with the Cults" and the chapter "Defending the Deity of Jesus Christ to the Cults".
CULTS OFTEN HUMANIZE GOD AND DEIFY MAN
Eastern mysticism and humanism have been making steady inroads of late into the Christian Church. Beware of any teacher telling you that you can be "a god", or "part of God" or the "Godhead" or "Godfamily". Especially be on guard for those calling God a "Godforce". Remember that the original lie that Satan whispered in Eve's ear way back in the Garden of Eden was that she could be "as God" or "a god". There is only ONE TRUE GOD (Deut. 6:4), and we are his creation, not His equal. Watch out for the groups that humanize God and deify man.
Remember that persons who have been led into Cults have gone because they were sincerely seeking for God, and no true Christian bore witness to them. Or, after receiving Christ they received wrong teaching, supposing that what they did pleased God. Cults are clever counterfeits for those not grounded solidly in Bible teachings. It is not too late to lead them to the true Christ, or win them back to their original commitment.
Remember to fight SPIRITUAL BATTLES with SPIRITUAL WEAPONS. Prayer is your chief weapon. Take your authority as a Christian and bind the spirit of deception operating in the Cultist's life, loosing him/her to hear the Gospel of Christ. (See Matthew 18:18-20). Prepare yourself to witness as the Holy Spirit makes opportunity for you, by becoming acquainted with cult views on Christ and Salvation, as well as the Scriptures to correct these views.
WHAT DO THEY THINK OF CHRIST?
AHMADIYYA MOVEMENT - (Islam) Jesus a prophet only.
ALAMO CHRISTIAN FOUNDATION -Correct doctrine on Jesus but cultish in their denunciation of other Christians.
AMORC - (See Rosicrucianism)
ANANDA MARGA YOGA SOCIETY - Founder Maha-Guru is an incarnation of God.
ANTHROPOSOPHICAL SOCIETY - Jesus just man until age 30, and then received "Christ Essence".
ARICA INSTITUTE INC. - "Christ cannot be God".
ARMSTRONGISM (WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD)- Since death of H.W.Armstrong in a state of doctrinal changes. Church split with new groups forming. See Philadelphia Church.
ASSEMBLIES OF YAHWEH - Denies Trinity.
ASSOCIATION FOR RESEARCH AND ENLIGHTENMENT (EDGAR CAYCE) - A portion of God called Soul reincarnated eventually as Christ.
ASTARA - Speak of "Cosmic Christ". Deny His eternal nature.
BABA RAM DASS (HANUMAN FOUNDATION) - Disciples encouraged to acknowledge their inner divinity and oneness with universal deity. Hinduistic.
THE BAHA 'I FAITH - Christ one of the 9 great manifestations of divinity. Baha'u'allah greater.
BAWA MUHAIYADDEEN FELOWSHIP- Man becomes God.
BHAGWAN SHREE RAJNEESH- (See Rajneesh Meditation Centers.)
BLACK MUSLIM- Jesus was black and only a prophet. Allah incarnate is Wallace Ford.
BRANHAMISM - Jesus created, not eternal.
BROTHER JULIUS - Believes he is incarnation of Jesus.
BUBBA FREE JOHN (DAWN HORSE FELLOWSHIP; FREE PRIMATIVE CHURCH OF DIVINE COMMUNION; FREE COMMUNITY ORDER; LAUGHING MAN INST.) - Claims he is incarnation of God; a guru to be worshipped; equal with Christ.
BUDDHISM - Christ not recognized as Deity. Zen Buddhism also does not affirm the existence of the living God.
CABALA (KABBALAH) - Doctrine of Deity recognizes only two deities-the hidden god; the infinite great divine Nothing; and the dynamic god of religious experience. Mystical.
CENTER FOR SPIRITUAL AWARENESS - (CHRISTIAN SPIRITUAL ALLIANCE) - Jesus a man who reached "Christ-consciousness".
CHILDREN OF GOD (FAMILY OF LOVE) - Began fundamentalist but degenerated into Occult.
CHRISTADELPHIANS - Jesus did not exist before birth to Mary. Not God.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE -Christ is a Divine Idea and his blood doesn't cleanse us.
CHURCH OF ARMAGEDDON (LOVE FAMILY) - Follow prophet "Love Israel". Use Yoga & drugs.
CHURCH OF GOD INTERNATIONAL)(Garner Ted Armstrong) follows original teachings of Herbert W Armstrong. Denies Trinity, God is a family.
CHURCH OF BIBLE UNDERSTANDING (FOREVER FAMILY)- Founder Traill is one true access to bible understanding; denies Trinity.
THE CHURCH OF GOD INTERNATIONAL -(See Armstrongism.)
CHURCH OF THE LIVING WORD (THE WALK) - Followers become the Living Word (Christ) to the world.
CHURCH UNIVERSAL AND TRIUMPHANT (SUMMIT INT.; SUMMIT LIGHTHOUSE) - Jesus a man with Christ-consciousness within him.
COONEYITES (TWO BY TWOS) -Jesus inherited Adam's fallen sin nature and did not finish His earthly mission, but they are doing so.
DAWN BIBLE STUDENTS ASSOC. (FRANK AND EARNEST) - Jesus created; not God. Deny Trinity.
DIANETICS - (See Scientology)
DHYANA-MA-NDIRAM - Jesus one of many reincarnations of God.
DIVINE LIGHT M ISSION OF GURU MAHARAJ JI - Followers believe their Guru is Christ come again.
ECKANKAR (THE ANCIENT ART OF SOUL TRAVEL) Christ is "god as all men are god".
EMISSARIES OF DIVINE LIGHT (ONTOLOGISTS) - Do not accept the atoning work of Christ; Mystical.
ESALEN INSTITUTE - "Human Potential" movement; Mystical.
EST (ERHARD SEMINAR TRAININGS) THE FORUM)- Teach that each person is a god himself.
ETERNAL FLAME - Chas. Paul Brown, the leader, claims to be the very body and blood of Christ.
FAMILY OF LOVE - (See Children of God)
THE FARM - Jesus a man indwelt by Christ-consciousness.
FINDHORN FOUNDATION UNIVERSITY OF LIGHT - Separate Jesus and Christ. Appear to be pantheistic and believe in plant spirits.
FOREVER FAMILY - (See Church of Bible Understanding)THE FORUM- (see est)
THE FOUNDATION FAITH OF THE MILLENNIUM- Deny deity of Christ, only a prophet.
FOUNDATION OF HUMAN UNDERSTANDING (ROY MASTERS) - Neglects Christ or mentions him in a negative context.
FRANK & EARNEST - (See Dawn Bible Students Assoc.)
FREE MASONRY - Jesus a man like us.
HARE KRISHNA (ISKON) - Jesus one of their gurus, but Hare Krishna is their God.
HINDUISM - No need of a personal savior; each one attains to becoming "a god" or attaining "cosmic consciousness".
THE HOLY ORDER OF MANS - Jesus a man indwelt by Christ consciousness."
I AM" MOVEMENT - Jesus one of many ascended masters.
IGLESIA NI CRISTO - Jesus a great savior, but not true God.
INNER PEACE MOVEMENT - Jesus a man who reached "Christ-consciousness". God is impersonal.
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY OF CHRIST (THE JAMILIANS) - Christ came again in the form of Jamil Sean Savoy (Born 1959, died 1962). Christ a "universal force" to be experienced but not worshipped.
ISKON - (See Hare Krishna)
ISLAM - Jesus a prophet of Allah who was superceded by Muhammed.
JAINISM - Deny existence of Creator. Non-theistic humanists.
JAMILIANS - See International Community of Christ)
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES THE WATCHTOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY) - Jesus created as Archangel Michael/lesser god; became only a good man, died, ceased to exist, re-created as Michael again in heaven. Not God. Deny Trinity.
KABALARIANS - Speak of "Christ Principle" born within every individual. (See Cabala)
KRISHNAMURTI FOUNDATION OF AMERICA-Disciples worship him as incarnation of God without his approval.
LATTER DAY SAINTS - (See Mormons)
LAYMEN'S HOME MISSIONARY MOVEMENT - Christ is not God.
LIFESPRING - Similar to EST.
LOVE FAMILY- (See Church of Armageddon)
MAHIKARI - Both Jesus and Buddha are regarded as refined spiritual beings able to radiate true light in their day.
MEGIDDO MISSION - Jesus wholly human in his nature.
THE MIND SCIENCES - God is a principle.
MOONIES (THE UNIFICATION CHURCH; THE HOLY SPIRIT ASSOC.; HOLY SPIRIT ASSOC. FOR THE UNIFICATION OF WORLD CHRISTIANITY; THE UNIFIED FAMILY; INTERNATIONAL ONE WORLD CRUSADE; INTERFAITH ENDEAVOR; ETC. ETC.) - Christ failed in His earthly mission leaving Rev. Moon to finish the task. Many believe Moon to be "Lord of the Second Advent."
MORMONS (THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS) - Jesus was born in heaven as the spirit child of Elohim (Heavenly Father) by one of his wives, and Jesus' brother was Lucifer, who became Satan. Jesus one of many gods.
MUKTANANDA PARAMAHANSA (SHREE GURUDEV SIDDHA YOGA ASHRAM) - Each person strives for his own "God-realization".
NEO-GNOSTICISM - Jesus one who possessed a "higher consciousness". Did not die for man's sins.
NEW AGE MOVEMENT - Promises to produce "Messiah" out of a coalition of cult/occult groups.
NICHIREN SHOSHU SOKA GAKKAI - True God replaced by Gautama Buddha and Nichiren. Bible replaced.
ONTOLOGISTS - (See Emmissaries of Divine Light) Spirit.
PENITENTES (BROTHER OF OUR FATHER JESUS) - Atonement comes by personal bloodshed rather than Christ's death and suffering.
PEACE MISSION MOVEMENT- Sometimes states that Jesus is God, but leader George Baker has also claimed to be God and Holy Spirit.
PEOPLES TEMPLE CHRISTIAN CHURCH -Jim Jones considered himself the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and led over 900 followers to their deaths.
PHILADELPHIA CHURCH Recently formed breakaway group from World Wide Church of God. Carries on with old Armstronism teachings. Denies Trinity, God is a Family.
PROCESS CHURCH OF THE FINAL JUDGEMENT - Jesus a man.
PSYCHIANA - Jesus a human life acting out the God-power.
RADHA SOAMI SOCIETY - Jesus one of many lords.
RAJNEESH MEDITATION CENTERS (ORANGE PEOPLE) God is not a person. Existence is without cause.
REORGANIZED CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS - Jesus Christ existed with God in the beginning, sharing in creation.
REV.IKE (FREDERICK EIKERENKOETTER) - Deity is "the presence of God in you". There are no literal, spiritual realities.
ROSICRUCIANISM (ROSICRUCI ; AMORC) - Reincarnated man is a manifestation of the cosmic Christ.
RUHANI SATSANG - Jesus Christ essentially a man of the East.
SANATANA DHARMA FOUNDATION - Jesus is a man who achieved a divine state through meditation.SATHYA SAI BABA - Claims to be Christ and has achieved "God-realization".
SCIENTOLOGY - All are gods including Christ.
SELF-REALIZATION FELLOWSHIP - Separates Jesus and Christ. Jesus was indwelt by "Christ-consciousness".
SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISM -Believe Jesus is God but also that he is Michael. Christ did not complete atonement at Calvary.
SHREE GURU DEV SIDDHA YOGA ASHRAM Believe leader is God.
SIKHISM - If a person works his w ay to salvation he is absorbed into the formless God.
SILVA MIND CONTROL -Seek oneness with pantheistic deity; speak of "Christ awareness".
SPIRITUAL ADVANCEMENT OF THE INDIVIDUAL FOUNDATION- Their leader, Sai Baba, is Jesus Christ who was returned. Man forgets he is God.
SPIRITUAL FRONTIERS FELLOWSHIP - Jesus the man died but Christ lived. Uses seances.
SPIRITUALISTS - Jesus was a Jewish medium.
SRI CHINMOY CENTERS - God is seen as consciousness and light. Divinity is within.
STILL POINT INSTITUTE - Christ is an evolutive god, a cosmic Christ.
SUBUD (GURDJIEFF; RENAISSANCE FELLOWSHIP OF FRIENDS) - God is a "great life force" flowing through everything and is felt by inner vibrations. Impersonal.
SUFISM - God-consciousness by whirling dancing.
SUFISM REORIENTED INC. - Meher Baba claimed to be Christ incarnate.
SUMMIT LIGHTHOUSE (SUMMI NTERNATIONAL) (See Church Universal and Triumphant)
SWAMI KRIYANANDA - Followers seek God-realization; Hinduistic.
SWAMI RAMI (HIMALAYAN INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF YOGA SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY) Combines Indian religious philosophy with psychological therapeutic chniques.
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA (VEDANTA SOCIETY) - Mystical Hinduism; Ramakrishna worthy of same devotion as Christ.
SWEDENBORGISM - Calls Jesus god but denies the personality of the Holy Spirit.
TAOISM - Worships creator-principle of the Tao ("The Force") Ignores Christ.
THEOSOPHY - Christ is the reincarnation of the world's soul.
THE 3 HO FOUNDATION (YOGI BHAJAN; SIKH FOUNDATION) - God is cosmic consciousness. Pantheistic.
T.M. (TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION) - Christ is a prophet. Mankind can meditate into God-awareness without a mediator.
THE UNIFICATION CHURCH - (See Moonies)
UNITY (UNITY SCHOOL OF CHRISTIANITY) Jesus was a perfect man indwelt by the Christ consciousness present in everybody.
UNITARIANS (UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST ASSOC.)- Jesus extraordinarily good man only.
UNITED PENTECOSTAL CHURCH - Denies Trinity.
URANTIA - Jesus a "Creator Son" called "Michael".
THE WALK - (See Church of the Living Word)
THE WATCHTOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY - (See Jehovah's Witnesses)
THE WAY INTERNATIONAL - Jesus is not God.
WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD - (See Armstrongism)
YOGA - A series of exercises designed to align your body to absorb the cosmic force.
ANANDA MARGA YOGA - Jesus is considered God, but you, too, will become God.
INTEGRAL YOGA INSTITUTE - God has no name, no form, no place. Evil is also God.
SIVANANDA YOGA VENDENTA CENTERS- God (or Christ) is not a person or spirit, but conciousness.
TANTRIC YOGA- Achieving God realisation by sexual means.
ZOROASTRIANISM- Does not recognize personal God.
Not all religions are Christian.
There is a difference.
The Gospel message of Salvation is clear:
Jesus is the Way, the Truth,and the Life.
No one comes to the Father except through Him.