Marsha West
April 29, 2016
Cold hard facts on cults
By Marsha West

Six years ago I penned a piece entitled "Caught up in a cult?" My concern at the time was that a growing number of people were being drawn into cults and cult-like groups that call themselves Christian. They had no clue that they'd strayed off The Safe Path into The Deep Weeds. So I laid out what a cult is and listed several groups to beware of. Six years later the numbers of people in cults has increased. The main reason is that there's a famine of spiritual discernment in the land.

Many so-called evangelical Christians do not know the Truth. Why? Largely because they have little or no interest in reading and studying their bibles. Moreover, a growing number of Christians have abandoned the essential doctrines of the faith altogether. You know things are bad when a believer's theology is "experience based" rather than based on God's written Word. Doctrine, after all, is divisive. Several years ago, our late brother Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries lamented: "People are drifting into a highly subjective murky mysticism where one decides truth about God by what they 'feel.'"

One troubling fact is that our younger generation – especially Millennials – have bowed down to the idols of moral relativism, political correctness and tolerance. Wanting to be seen as "loving" and "tolerant," Christian Millennials have adopted liberalism's social justice gospel to avoid offending their neighbor. They haven't a clue that the social justice gospel (social action and involvement in issues of justice) saves no one. Even worse, they completely miss the fact that the true Gospel of Christ has always been, and will continue to be, an offense to the unredeemed mind!

So a word of warning. Christians who wander away from the safety of the sheep pen to explore The Deep Weeds may find themselves in a den of wolves. Once inside the wolf den, there's no easy escape.

Before I move on, I'd like readers to know that those of us involved in a counter-cult ministry oppose anyone, including Christian luminaries, who besmirches the Name of Jesus Christ. Likewise, we're concerned for our brethren who've been drawn into apostasy and our desire is to lead them out of The Deep Weeds onto The Safe Path. To that end, the research material at the bottom of the page will help Bereans determine if a group is biblically sound.

"Caught up in a cult?" (2010)

Countless people are caught up in cults and cult-like groups. To avoid being one of them you must become familiar with the nature of a cult and their schemes. Granted, there are no easy answers to the question, "What exactly is a cult?" But there are some cold hard facts that most people are unaware of.

One thing you can count on is that some of your relatives, friends, neighbors and even the friendly face who checks your groceries at the local market may be caught up in a cult or a cult-like group.

Cult typically refers to "A system of intense religious veneration of a particular person, idea, or object, especially one considered spurious or irrational by traditional religious bodies; as, the Moonie cult." Add to that: "A strong devotion or interest in a particular person, idea or thing without religious associations, or the people holding such an interest; as, the cult of James Dean; the cult of personality in totalitarian societies." [1]

Probably the most well-known pseudo-Christian cults are Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism) and Christian Science, but there are a whole host of other pseudo-Christian cults. Some members of these cults may find my assertion humorous. Others may even become angry. Sorry about that, however, as a Christian I'm not called to be nice; I'm called to speak the truth in love and to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3).

Here's the truth. JWs, Mormons and Christian Scientists claim to be Christians yet they deny fundamental Christian doctrine and manipulate the Scriptures to fit in with their own beliefs. From the Church's perspective, which is what really matters, these groups have deviated from the historic, orthodox teachings that are derived from the Holy Scriptures and confirmed through the ancient ecumenical creeds. Thus, people in these cults aren't true Christians. This should come as no surprise. After all, they've had to defend their spurious beliefs for decades.

Christians are not the only ones caught up in cults. Pagans, agnostics and atheists may very well be involved in a destructive cult or cult-like group and not even realize it. For example, devotees of any of the following groups/movements/theories/celebrities, can be exposed to mind control techniques and even open themselves up to the world of the occult! So following is a short list to ponder: (Warning! This is not for the easily offended.)
  • New Age movement (occultism 101...magic, psychic phenomena, astral travel, divination, tarot cards, astrology, reincarnation...and a whole lot more)

  • New Apostolic Reformation (aka Dominionism, 7-Mountain Mandate, Latter Rain, Elijah's List, IHOP, Bethel Church in Redding CA)

  • Spiritual Warfare movement (deliverance from demonic strongholds, casting out demons, binding territorial spirits, strategic level prayer)

  • Spirituality (new term for New Age occult beliefs)

  • Eastern mysticism (pantheistic, the opposite of Sola Scriptura...Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Disciplines, Centering Prayer, Contemplative Prayer, Contemplative Spirituality, Labyrinth, Lectio Divina, The Silence)

  • Secret wisdom (occultism)

  • Oprah Winfrey (New Age guru who claims to be a Christian but denies that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and also promotes occultism)

  • Wicca/witchcraft (neopaganism)

  • Secret organizations (Freemasonry, Ku Klux Klan, New World Order)

  • Radical political/social groups (feminists, environmentalists, animal rights, abortion, LGBT)

  • Hebrew Roots

  • Global warming aka climate change (mind manipulation)

  • Self-improvement (personal transformation)

  • Holistic Health movement (occultism)

  • Esoteric groups (UFO's, Mind Science, Mind Therapy, Transhumanism)

  • Multi-level Marketing (mind manipulation)

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (12-steps – occultism)

  • Advertisements (mind manipulation)

  • Academia (mind manipulation)

  • Darwinian evolution (dare to question "settled science" and see what happens)

  • Marxism
For the record, some of the above mentioned groups may not be bona fide cults. But they're not averse to using mind manipulation techniques as a means to an end – and this is what the cults do! Granted, some cults or cult-like groups may not be psychologically harmful. However, for the true Christian it can be spiritually damaging to become involved in any sort of occult practice. And it's spiritually harmful to follow the teachings of charismatic cult-like leaders whose teaching is decidedly unorthodox. The Bible calls these men and women false prophets. (Jer 5:31).

Some people will believe almost anything, regardless of its absurdity. When confronted with the facts they refuse to listen. Why? Because knowing the truth could deflate their fantasy world so they choose to remain in denial. This is why religious/spiritual gurus, social activists, the media, advertisers, celebrities, doctors, dispensers of pills/vitamins, multi-level marketing groups and powerful political leaders have such an easy time sucking people in – then sucking the life blood out of them! Take est for example. Chances are you haven't heard of est, as it was big in the late 60s. I don't have the space to go into the details, but the trainers used mind manipulation techniques on willing participants during feel good weekend seminars. "We're going to tear you down and put you back together." Critics of the training called it a cult. Eventually the organization changed its name to Landmark Education and now promotes The Landmark Forum...but only the name has changed.

I'd be remiss not to mention the cult of liberalism. Liberals fit right in with groups that have a "strong devotion or interest in a particular person, idea or thing without religious associations [but not always], or the people holding such an interest."

Ever notice how your liberal friends refuse to look at both sides an issue? An area of thought where this approach prevails is so-called global warming. The eco-crowd believes that the evidence for global warming is compelling and that scientists on their side of the debate are the best and the brightest. Scientists who deny that global warming is manmade are marginalized and often smeared. Dare to present the opposing side's views, which is compelling, and the "warmests" just plug their ears.

Liberals continually carp about narrow-minded unenlightened knuckle dragging people of faith while they walk in lock step with their own spiritual gurus and pay homage to radical activists. And by the way, some of these radicals are our congressional representatives who focus on their leftist social agenda and really don't give a rip about their constituent's desires.

But this isn't about the cult of liberalism; it's about pseudo Christian cults that are reaching around the globe to suck people in.

Admittedly, it's not always easy to tell the genuine from the counterfeit, even for the discerning Christian. According t, a common mark of a "Christian" cult is the manipulation of Scripture:

The Bible is twisted to fit the leader or group's interpretation. Private interpretations are forbidden because the leader of the cult is the only one, of course, who is able to understand God's voice properly. Their teachings distort the historic, orthodox claims of Christianity. [2]

Another mark of a cult (religious or otherwise) is the use of thought control techniques on the unsuspecting:

There is little concern for individual thought and development. Education is usually discouraged while the convert is bombarded with the cult's doctrine and literature. Members are called to leave or neglect their old family and life-style for a brand new one. [3]

Cults typically manipulate reality:

They tend to have an exclusive "us"/"them" mentality in which society and old associates are all out to get them. Anyone outside of the group is suspect. [4]

What does the Bible say about those who stray from the truth?

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Mat. 7:13-14).

Why do so many seemingly intelligent people end up in a cult? Principally because their hearts have been hardened by sin. (Eph. 4:18) Thus, they are easily led into a cult because of pride, or whatever else, and they allow themselves to follow teachers or teachings rather than the God of the Bible. "There is a real church and a real work for God," says Mike Oppenheimer of Let Us Reason. "The difference is in the motivation – the why they do it. The cults do things for rewards and good standing in the church, the real Christian does it because they love God and are motivated by love to people having real compassion. The cults become offended when you speak ill of them or their teacher or teachings and become emotional. The real Christian does not take offense and they know it is the Lords [sic] battle not theirs." [5]

Indeed. The believer is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, only the Holy Spirit can change a person's heart. (1 Cor. 15:1-4) It is the work of the Holy Spirit that regenerates us, convicts us of our sin, and brings us to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 3:6)

Oppenheimer continues:

The other difference is in teachings, about the person of Christ, the gospel, even the Bible itself. Although cults may use the Bible they have a false understanding of God and salvation and the way we are to relate to Him. [6]

So according to Mike, cults receive their understanding of the Bible from an exhaustive study of their own books and from their teachers, but not from using main stream Christian resources and Bible study tools to better understand the Word of God. Hence, they're unaware of what historic Christianity really teaches. He also points out that cults will "focus on the minor things and make them major ones and make the major things minor. When this happens doctrines that are not core teachings become amplified and used to make the group exclusive and unique."

It's a sad fact that most professing Christians are not well-read on the cults. Some do believe that the JWs and Mormons are non-Christian cults but they're unable to articulate why they believe this. I don't mean to pile on the JWs and Mormons but the reason these groups fall in the category of a pseudo Christian cult is, as I stated earlier, they claim to be Christians even though they outright deny many of the essentials of the faith. There is no doubt whatsoever that Mormon theology is incompatible with Christian theology. A mouse in a cookie jar is not a cookie!

Sadly, some people do not protect themselves against wolves in sheep's clothing. Those who are in destructive cults fail to ask questions. They're too trusting.

People should want to know the truth – no matter where it leads. So here's a word of advice. Before committing to anything or getting involved in any sort of group, do your homework. In other words, investigate – dig, examine, study, ask probing questions and demand answers. You have that right!

I'll close with 2 Cor. 4:3-4:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 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.

One last thing. It is of the utmost importance for God's people start to "test the spirits to see whether they are from God." (1 John 4:1) Even a little error can be dangerous. Paul pointed out that "a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough." (Gal. 5:9) So examine everyone's teaching!

Notes:

[1] Definition of cult – define.com

[2] What are the common characteristics of cults? – Christian Research Institute

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] How Did I Get Here? – Let Us Reason Ministries/Mike Oppenheimer

[6] Ibid

Additional Reading:

Rightly Interpreting the Bible By Ron Rhodes

The Challenge of the Cults and New Religions: The Essential Guide to Their History, Their Doctrine, and Our Response – Book by Ron Rhodes

Mormonism aka Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) – Berean Research

Jehovah's Witnesses aka Watchtower Society – Berean Research

© Marsha West

 

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

Click to enlarge

Marsha West

Marsha West is founder and co-blogger at Berean Research, along with Amy Spreeman. For two decades Marsha was the owner and managing editor of Email Brigade website and EMB News Report, a bi-weekly report for conservative people of faith. In 2015 she took over as general editor of Christian Research Network (CRN).

Marsha is a regular contributor for several blogs including CRN, RenewAmerica, News With Views, and Web Commentary. Her articles have been translated into many languages and distributed worldwide.

Visit Marsha's blog, On Solid Rock Resources.

Connect with her on Facebook.

Subscribe

Receive future articles by Marsha West: Click here

More by this author