Following is my definition of a cult. There are a few disciplines in which to define the word, such as psychology and sociology, but this is a theological definition. Further, it is Christ centered and will thus provide the Christian with a christocentric lens through which to discern religious movements. First I’ll give the four-step definition, and then I’ll break down each portion and put flesh on each portion.
SOUND DOCTRINE MINISTRIES
This past January I and my wife and our four-month old baby daughter Noël traveled to Costa Rica on our frequent-flyer miles. Our stay was for 12 days, during which I taught a course on Worldviews at Seminario ESEPA in San José in the evenings, spoke to local pastors in the mornings during the first week, and spoke at the Language Training Institute on Friday morning of the first week. During our only weekend there we traveled to the Caribbean side of the country and stayed in a hotel at the beach. (The hotel had a bamboo ceiling and a tin roof!)
A while back a friend of mine who was a pastor of a church in Canada invited me to give a series of lectures. During the drive to his home from the airport he mentioned his concern about a certain “Ministers Prayer Breakfast” he was attending. His concern focused upon there being a United Pentecostal Church (from hereon UPC, not to be confused with other Pentecostal groups who are Christian in theology) minister as part of the gathering.
On Saturday morning your next-door neighbors hear a knock at their door. They greet two neatly dressed people who introduce themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs). Immediately the JWs begin to tell your friends about “paradise on earth,” wherein most of the followers of Jehovah will live forever. “Heaven,” exclaim the JWs, “will be heaven on earth!” “I never heard that before,” say your neighbors, even though they have attended church services almost all their lives.
Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. They believe that Jesus was crucified on an upright pole (“torture stake”), and that He died and was buried in a tomb. Sometime during the three days Jehovah God disposed of Jesus’ body. It was forever gone. Jesus was then raised as a spirit creature. To explain the bodily appearances of Jesus after his “resurrection,” JWs teach that Jehovah God fashioned different bodies for Jesus that were made to resemble His body when He walked the earth. Thus Jesus “materialized” different bodies.
There is an aspect of the study of the person and work of Christ that is often missed by Christians, both in personal study and in witnessing to those who deny Christ’s deity. This theme is simple yet so profound that it is both a powerful witness and a marvelous way to enrich one’s view of Christ. It is this: What Jesus says and does in the New Testament is what the LORD (Yahweh) says and does in the Old Testament.
I’ve seen it listed under “Best Sellers” in Christian book catalogues. I’ve seen it on shelves with other books under the sign, “Best Picks” in Christian bookstores. That this book should be in Christian book catalogues and in Christian bookstores is cause enough for alarm, but what makes the situation all the more alarming is that it is a best seller! Why? One would think that since the book has been around long enough (my earliest copy dates to 1945), Christians should have circulated the word of warning by now.
Let us say that Tammy and Bill are Christians and members of the local Christian church in town. They faithfully attend Sunday services and a Wednesday evening Bible study, which they host in their own home. They seem to be in pretty good shape, too. In fact, every morning of the week they both wake up at 5:30 and exercise. Their routine? Thirty minutes of yoga. Hatha Yoga, to be exact.
“When I see . . . an example of what a noble army of martyrs, women and children included, suffered in those days ‘for the testimony of Jesus,’ . . . I confess myself edified by what I read, chiefly because I am humbled and abashed in comparing what a Christian used to be, with what a Christian is, in our times, even at his best estate.” — A. C. Coxe
What would you do if someone attended your church service, sat through it quietly, and at the end singled you out to share with you that your pastor and your particular church are teaching false doctrine and have a history of setting dates for the end of the world? Would you be interested in what that person had to say? Would you be interested in seeing actual documentation that proves that person’s point? In short, would you be interested in the truth, enough so that you would spend any amount of time necessary to talk about doctrine and look over that documentation?