How To Recognize A Cult

Here's a great illustration of a cult:  You're back in the days of long ago; fleeing trouble in a wagon with your spouse and precious little kids .  You’re mind fixed on finding a place of refuge.  You see a structure up on the horizon and can’t help but think to yourself, “It’s one of our forts!  Finally, a place of safety.”  Getting closer you see that sure enough, that’s your flag fluttering in the breeze.  You get closer still and see men on the ramparts wearing your country’s uniform.  All seems well.  Your mind relaxes and you smile at your children as you ride through the gates.  But once inside you quickly find this fort’s been taken over by your nation’s enemies who are masquerading and have just lured you and your family into a trap.  

Christians would define a cult just like that.  They're a group that calls itself Christian.  Uses Christian lingo.  Might even say they believe in Jesus.  But they substitute different definitions for all those words and are actually no more a Christian then somebody who's an Atheist.  They deceive people and lure them in.  All cults have roughly three things wrong with them.  There's more to be sure, but these are the big three.  If you recognize a group deviating from scripture in one of these three ways, you should take it as a big red flag and consider going elsewhere.

One:  They add to the authority of God's word.

Many cults will say they believe the Bible.  They may even quote the Bible.  But they always have something else that they will hold to as an authority above the Bible.  Often it is the words of a prophet like figure.  It might be another book through which they interpret what the Bible says.  It might be a list of doctrinal points they believe over and above God's word.  Almost universally they will say God's word is corrupt in some way or another and can't be completely trusted.  They will claim to be more trustworthy themselves.  Some have even carefully crafted their own "translation" of the Bible, claiming it's the only accurate one.  Anytime somebody directs you to something other than a trustworthy modern translation of God's word, it should be a HUGE RED FLAG.

Two:  They add to or change the gospel.

This is the very definition of what it means to be a cult.  They may say they believe in Jesus, that Jesus saves, or a number of other things.  But when you dig down into things you'll find that their Jesus isn't the Jesus of the Bible.  Same name, different person.  And what they mean by belief in Jesus isn't what the Bible says faith is.  The Bible makes it very clear that salvation is only through faith in God the Son; that He came to earth to be born as a man, die in our place, was raised from the dead, and is coming again.  If somebody says you have to do something else to be saved, that's adding to the gospel.  If they say you must use a certain translation of the Bible to be saved, that's adding to the gospel.  If they say you must also perform some religious exercise to be saved, that's also adding to the gospel.   You can do nothing to save yourself.  Salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone.  Any adding to this is expressly condemned in Scripture and is a BLATANT RED FLAG.  

Three:  They get the Trinity all wrong.

The Trinity is one of the hardest doctrines of the Bible.  We don't understand God being a Trinity because we aren't a trinity.  And there is no example of this anywhere in creation for us to look at and compare to.  We can't understand it the same way we can't understand God's sovereignty or Him not having a beginning (We aren't sovereign over anything and definitely have a beginning).  This concept is beyond us and anytime anybody has tried to explain it thoroughly, they have slipped into error.  What we know for sure are only the basics that God has revealed to us.  There is only one God.  Only one.  But within the Godhead there are three separate persons:  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Each is God, but they are not the same person.  So we see God the Son relating to God the Father.  We see God the Father sending the Holy Spirit.  Yet God says there is only Me and there is no other.

Cults invariably get the Trinity wrong.  They either say there is more than one God.  That you can become God.  That there is a God the mother figure thrown into the picture somewhere.  That Jesus is less than God.  That there is actually only one member of the trinity and He just displayed Himself in different ways at different times.  That Jesus is just an angel.  The list goes on and on, but they get it wrong.  Find out what they think of the Trinity.  It's another HUGE RED FLAG.

What’s so important about doctrine?