Cult = “a group religious in nature which surrounds a leader, or a group which either denies or misinterprets essential biblical doctrines.”
Characteristic traits that can be found in cults as a whole
Cults will always:
1) Deify Man
They teach that man may become a god or is part of God. They often teach that man needs to become part of a certain organization or church to increase in knowledge and revelation. Someone (usually the leader of the organization) will say they are God or has the Christ Spirit in a greater way and will boldly proclaim that they are commissioned or appointed by GOD to be their leader.
2) Cults humanize GOD
They proclaim often that God’s nature or state must be understood to be true. If finite man cannot understand something about GOD then it is not true. By doing this, it elevates man’s mental ability to that of GOD.
3) Cults minimize the importance of the Bible.
Most cults use “anointed” information, books, magazines, or scriptures. These are believed to be just as or more important than the Bible itself. These materials are indispensable in understanding the Bible. Believe it or not, some cults actually discourage their members from reading the Bible alone. Some don’t even believe that the Bible is the Word of GOD. Other cults use the Bible with their own unique interpretation which deviates from Biblical Christianity.
4) Cults minimize or eliminate sin.
The true Biblical concept of sin is not taught and some cults actually eliminate sin altogether (such as Christian Science, mind science, new age groups). Biblical meanings are altered to their own personal interpretations.
5) Cults have a different way of salvation.
It is usually through works, or grace plus works. By the way, anytime you try to mix works with grace, it ceases to be grace. Romans 2: says, “
6) Cults have a different Jesus.
Virtually all cults deny the Deity of Jesus Christ. They teach that Jesus Christ is not GOD manifested in the flesh, but something less such as a created being, an angel, a prophet, an ascended master or just “a god”. Some cults even claim tht we can become the same as Jesus, changing the clear teaching of the Bible.
7) Cults have a different spirit.
Most cults teach that the Holy Spirit is no GOD but an impersonal force or energy that emanates from GOD to perform certain functions. It’s kind of like electricity flowing from your car battery to start your car. Jehovah Witnesses are a perfect example of this.
Cults believe that they are the only true church.
One mark of a cult that is the most common is their claim to be the only group or church ordained by GOD. They alone are the spokesman for GOD on earth today. GOD works only through their specific organization or church.
Watchman Fellowship, a great anti-cult ministry, states that there is an easy way to differentiate a cult from a church. The marks are as simple as add, subtract, multiply and divide.
Add: Cults add to Scripture. The revelation of God provided in the Bible is never sufficient for a cult. Thus they must add to the written revelation of Scripture, usually with additional scriptures or with their own translation of the Bible. In this way we have books such as The Pearl of Great Price of the Mormons and the New World Translation of the Bible produced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Since the Bible claims exclusivity as the written revelation of God, we must see that other books, even if the followers of cults claim that they are equal to the Bible, must actually be over and above the Word of God.
Subtract: Cults subtract from the person of Christ. Cults cannot tolerate the divinity and exclusivity of Jesus and therefore usually reduce Him to being nothing but a created being. In some cases they make Jesus only a manifestation or mode of God. In either case, the role of Jesus as revealed in Scripture is diminished.
Multiply: Cults multiply the requirements of salvation. Salvation, as it is presented in the Scriptures, is by God’s grace through faith alone. Cults continually add to the requirements of salvation, always adding human works as a necessary prerequisite to salvation. No cult teaches or endorses justification by faith alone. Thus all cults reject the very heart of the gospel.
Divide: Cults divide the loyalty of believers. Each cult believes that it has exclusive revelation and understanding of God that ensures its followers are either exclusively God’s people or are somehow more blessed than others. Cults always seek to divide believers against each other based on the previous three marks. Thus cults are, by their very nature, divisive.
Each one is proven to be true within the belief systems of several different cults including the Seventh Day Adventists, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, The Moonies, and Oneness Pentecostals (or the Jesus-Only Movement).
The next time you confront someone who has questionable doctrine, listen carefully to what they are saying, and see if they add, subtract, multiply, or divide.