The Difference Between Religions and Cults
July 12, 2012 9 Comments
Let us be clear that I am not promoting one religion over another in this series of world religions and cults. However, I am presenting these from the point of view of a Christ follower who subscribes to His teachings and offer of salvation as the only way to true Life with God. So why present other religions? Simply to refute the idea that Christians are closed-minded. Plus, I believe strongly that each Christian, in order to be an effective witness, must study these other teachings in order to be ready to engage intelligent conversations with people we might come across in our daily living.
We have covered all of the world religions (save for Christianity, which we’ll discuss last), and now it is time for us to move on to more shaky ground: Cults, new religions and the occult.
A Cult, by definition, is from the Latin word “worship.” Webster says, “A religion regarded as unorthodox (unbiblical) or spurious.” There are five major characteristics of Cults:
1) They reject the Trinity; they disbelieve in Jesus Christ as God. They may say good things about Him and assign Him positions of importance. But they undermine His deity either lowering Him to the level of man or raising man to His level.
2) Cults usually believe all Christian churches are wrong and their group has the only real truth about God.
3) They claim to believe the Bible but they distort its teachings on many doctrinal issues. Their leaders claim to have new interpretations or even valuable additions to it.
4) All cults deny that people can be saved by Jesus Christ alone. You become right with God through good works.
5) They are skillful at using Christian terminology but they aren’t talking the same language. (“God,” “Christ,” “faith,” “sin,” “salvation,” etc. all mean different things to a cultist.)
Why do Cults grow so fast? Cults offer answers to human needs that aren’t being met by Christian churches. Many people who grew up Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc. wind up in cults because it seems to offer practical solutions to problems such as loneliness, spiritual emptiness, and a desire to find a way to please God by serving Him faithfully.
In other words: Cults offer counterfeit salvation.
Beliefs and ideas about God aside, here is a practical table I came across considering the fundamental differences between a cult and a religion. Keep these differences in mind as we begin talking about cults next week. The graph can be found here.
|CULT, CULTIC GROUP||RELIGION|
|Deceit in recruitment||Information offered up front|
|Totalitarian||Allows freedom of thought and members have a say|
|Destroys that family unit||Promotes the family unit|
|Isolates its members||Works within society|
|Keeps non-believers out||Open to general community|
|Limits development of individual||Interested in promoting potential|
|Exploits and manipulates its members with mind control techniques||While there are guidelines members are not systematically controlled|
|Commitment is encouraged during recruitment process||Thought before commitment is encouraged as part of conversion process|
|Criticism is met with threats of legal action||People are free to speak out against the tenets of a religion|
|Leader and follower consider leader to be above reproach||Clergy are expected to be responsible for their words and actions|
|Questioning the leader, or basic tenets, is not allowed||Critical thinking is allowed and sometimes even encouraged|