When I came to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of my life, I became fond of reading devotional magazines for my spiritual growth. I have no idea that the magazine I was reading was edited by Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder of a known cult group during that time. I was fortunate because the person discipling me had to get my attention informing me to stop reading those literature magazines. As a result, I realized that I need to be grounded in my theological foundation. This also prompted me to read and study why I believed what I believed as a Christian.
I read the works of Dr. Walter Martin such as the Kingdom of the Cults, Dr. Anthony Hoekema’s the Four Major Cults, and Dr. J.K. Van Baalen’s the Chaos of the Cults just to name a few. I also grab hold the books titled Roman Catholic by Lorraine Boettner and the Truth Encounter by Dr. Antonio Pezzotta, a former Italian priest, a former Director of Schools and Seminaries, and former Rector of Local Salesian Communities. This is for me to understand my Roman Catholic roots. While I was heavily involved as a volunteer at Victory U-Belt, I encountered a number of young people who has so many theological questions asked by the cult members they have encountered in the schools. I began to embark first hand in studying and researching about the Philippine cults like Iglesia ni Cristo, Metro Manila International Christian Church, Watch Tower and Bible Tract Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses), Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Members Church of God International (Ang Dating Daan), and more.
A number of people failed to see the difference between Christianity and the cults. They thought we worship the same God, honor the same Jesus, led by the same Holy Spirit and preach the same gospel. Nothing can be further from the truth. The fact that they worship a different god, embrace a different christ, mislead by a different spirit, and spreads another gospel which is no gospel at all proves they are not part of the body of Christ. One of the major difference between orthodox Christianity and the cults are their view about salvation and Jesus Christ. Once an individual fails to recognize the real Jesus of the Scripture then it follows that he also missed out the plan of salvation. On the other hand, he may embrace an orthodox Jesus but errs in understanding salvation by Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, and Solus Christus such us the mainline baptismal regenerationists namely the Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ. However, Christians from different denominations may tolerate the difference in non-essential doctrines like their understanding of church government, spiritual gifts, evangelism, spiritual leadership, water baptism, biblical homiletics, church support, dress code, amongst themselves but never the major doctrines such as the Trinity, the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit, the salvation by grace through faith alone, the virgin birth of Christ, and the physical resurrection of Christ. If an individual or a religious movement goes against any of the essentials of the faith then they immediately fall under the category of the cult. Let me give you some of the marks of a cult below, their denials and affirmations.
- The cults deny the Trinity doctrine.
- The cults deny the deity of Jesus Christ.
- The cults deny the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit.
- The cults deny salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ.
- The cults deny the authority of the Scripture
- The cults believe that God is only one person, the Father alone.
- The cults believe Jesus Christ is an inferior god or created human.
- The cults believe the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force.
- The cults believe church membership or water baptism also saves.
- The cults believe their authority is the founder or group of leaders.
A Christian believer who is not theologically grounded in the fundamentals of the faith is an easy prey for every cultist at the door of their house and within the premises of their own offices. The cultists are uneducated with regards to the doctrines of Christianity. It should be the goal of every believer to patiently and gently respond to every intellectual cultist. Says Dr. J.K. Van Baalen, “The cults are the unpaid bill of the Christian church.” This is why we should always be prepared to make a defense (Gk. apologia) giving the skeptics and inquirers the reason for the hope that we have but doing in gentleness and respect. (See 1 Pet. 3:15) Let us not be ignorant of our faith but continue to deepen our Christian conviction so we can continue to reach out to the lost and make disciples.
But dedicate your lives to Christ as Lord. Always be ready to defend your confidence in God when anyone asks you to explain it. However, make your defense with gentleness and respect. 1 Pet. 3:15, God’s Word Translation