There are many subgroups of the Christian faith. These subgroups tailor their teachings and focuses in different ways. That is exactly how the Body of Christ functions BUT there are some groups that claim to be ‘Christian’ when in fact, they are not. Some deny being ‘Christian’ but claim to have similar beliefs and ‘more correct’ views than that of orthodox Christianity; but how can you identify a cult?
Cults proclaim a NEW teaching or a more correct teaching revealed by a NEW prophet or writing. Regardless of the source for their teaching, it is new a part from Christian orthodox. They may even teaching an old teaching that was NEW in prior history but which is still outside of orthodox Christianity. New writings are generated by the new prophet or group and followers are obligated to rely on the new writing along with or instead of The Bible. Essentially, Cults teach that The Bible is not enough, cherry picked sections are only ones correct, or over all incomplete.
- Doubt or discredit the primary source (The Bible) as sole authority
- Generate secondary source(s) of authority to make new/morphed teachings authoritative
- Only approved teachings come from secondary sources.
Cults push followers to focus on their works by adhering to certain rituals or even abstaining from certain Christian orthodox acts such as communion and baptism. Some even morph these acts and teachings of the acts to fit their new or more correct revelations. Some rituals include financial indebtedness and status gains. Essentially, they become controlling, isolating, and works based.
- Self centered rituals- “do this yourself to be good in yourself”
- Materialistic or worldly focus rituals- “give something tangible to get something tangible in return”
- Pseudo love- A false sense of loving others that which actually gratifies and justifies the self.
- End goal is deity of the self- “work hard and become a greater self or best self”
Their revelations and teachings tend to be non-verifiable and use circular reasoning to justify them. A prophet is a prophet because it was revealed to him that he was. Or the writings are divine because they were written by someone who said his writings are divine. Some claim that they were given revelations in visions or by angels, and that’s that. Essentially, the founder and their writings are unverifiable and have to be believed simply based on claim alone.
- Unable to verify or not supported with known history or testable natural phenomena
- Circular justification – “It is true because it is said to be true”
Cults typically strive to be ‘good’ and do good. They attempt to satisfy psychological, emotional, and intellectual issues of their followers. They make their followers feel accepted and feel as though they have a purpose. Some even provide financial security and promises of material and spiritual rewards. But, this begins to fall apart once someone starts to question the groups teachings and wants to leave the group for what ever reason. Those who question and desire to leave are guilt tripped, become more isolated, and more controlled by the group and its leadership. The threat of destruction from God or their version of holy judgement is often deployed. Those who do leave are shunned, and persecuted. Those who remain in the group are caused to be depend greatly on the group.
- Emotional or materialistic moral justifications – “I feel or have therefore it is or should be”
- Right and Wrong is defined through the secondary source of authority; which teaches how adherents should think and feel.
- Selective encouragement/ social conditioning- “You did good because you did what the organization/religion approves of; you did bad because you did what the organization/religion does not approve of”
- Decent or questioning the organized religion is a moral absolute evil.
Cults often limit the source of their followers studies. The groups that use the bible as part of their system discourage studying the bible alone and require the use of their writings. This indoctrination allows for the cult to interpret how they want the bible to be interpreted to match their new teachings while at the same time allow the follower to feel as though they are learning what the bible says; even when they are not. This is another form of manipulation and control.
- Instructed how to think only through secondary sources of authority as primary means to understand.
- Studying sources outside of the secondary authoritative source is discouraged by the organization or religious leaders and approved teachers. Some may even actively restrict access to outside sources.
- Self teaching and self study is discouraged without the use of approved teachers or materials.
- Isolation is imposed to limit reaching outside sources of information.
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