Q: #97. What is a cult?
By: Steve Shirley
A: Cult is not a word I like to throw around a lot. It tends to alienate people, and immediately shuts a door if you are trying to reach people within these groups.
This being said, the main thing that defines a cultist is that they deny the essentials of Christianity. They will:
Deny the deity of Jesus, or say He was once a man, but is now God. Many believe Jesus was a good or enlightened man.
Deny the triune God: One God manifest in 3 persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Deny the substitutionary atonement of Jesus.
Deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
Have their own "sacred writings," and place them above the Bible. If they do believe the Bible is inspired, they will filter it through their "sacred writings."
Deny the virgin birth of Jesus.
In addition, one thing that marks nearly every cult, is that they teach some form of a works based salvation.
Most cultists also follow the teachings of a man (or woman) who was "enlightened" or supposedly given a special revelation from God. This person will have been shown "truths" that mainstream Christianity has missed or gotten wrong.
Many cults believe that only those in their "religion" are going to be saved. The leaders or organizations that run these cults also tend to be very controlling of those within their religion. Some even isolate themselves from society.
When people in these cults witness, they often have a basic understanding of the Bible, but they aren't as knowledgeable as they seem. They practice scripts for most of the common objections given, and if you knock them off of those scripts, they have problems answering your questions. (I give some ways to do this in Jesus "IS" God for those who deny the deity of Jesus.) However, they are also trained to put you on the defensive if they can't answer a question. If you ask them about a specific verse that they aren't trained to answer, they will simply say something along the lines of, "Ok, well if what you are saying is right, then what about this?" This way, they don't answer your question, and at the same time they put you back on the defensive.
The Bible says these people are false teachers (Gal 1:6-9)(2 Cor 11:1-4)(2 Pet 2:1-3)(1 Tim 1:3-5)(1 Tim 6:3-5)(Rev 2:2). We are told to avoid them (Rom 16:17), and not even let them in our house (2 Jn 10-11). If you aren't very Biblically literate, it is wise to have nothing to do with them, because they will simply twist scripture, confuse you, and possibly lead you down a dangerous path.