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What is a cult?

A cult is a group of people who claim to be of a certain belief but instead have made changes to that belief in its originality and authenticity, therefore critically undermining the truths or the specifics of the original belief. This belief becomes a prostitution of the former belief.

With a claim of equality with the original belief, the prostituted cult then masquerades as the real thing in an attempt to transform society to their deviations. When we speak of cults in Christianity we single out groups that deviate from the orthodox teachings of the historic Christian faith being derived from the Bible and confirmed through the ancient ecumenical creeds. These groups may deny or distort one or more of the fundamental Christian doctrines such as the Trinity, the nature of God, the deity of Christ, or salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ.

Some popular cults that would fall into this category are the United Pentecostal Church (Modalists-Oneness), Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, The Way International, the Masonic Lodge, the Rosacrucian Orders, Hare Krishna, and the Unity School of Christianity. Most of these cults claim to be Christian, and even consider the Bible to be authoritative, but they manipulate the Scriptures to fit their own beliefs. Although they may claim to serve Jesus Christ, and may even use the same terminology used by Christians, their definitions are vastly different.

Another way to determine a cult is from a socialogical standpoint. From this perspective, a cult is a religious or semi-religious sect whose members are controlled almost entirely by a single individual or by an organization. This kind of cult is usually manipulative, demanding total commitment and loyalty from its followers. Converts are usually cut off from all former associations, including their own families. The Hare Krishnas, the Family of Love led by Moses David Berg, the Heaven's Gate cult, the David Koresh cult, and Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church are some examples of this kind of a cult.

These groups, whether a theological cult, a sociological cult, or both, do not lead to the Christ of the Bible, but to another Jesus and another gospel (2 Cor. 11:1-4; Gal. 1:8, 9). The Bible says that there will be many false christs. We must therefore reject these false teachings. The Bible admonishes us that we must do this with gentleness, and with respect. We can present the Gospel, but we need to recognize that it is only the Holy Spirit who can change a human heart.