Cults are defined by different people in different ways. I suppose that most everyone is in a cult in the eyes of someone. So, I just have to give you what I mean when I say that something is a cult--and I refer specifically to Christian cults. I do that by giving you the characteristics of a cult as I understand them.
- A cult claims to be Christian. For instance, Buddhism is a false religion, not a cult.
- A cult, though it claims to use the Bible, is built on extra-biblical teachings. These teachings usually come from a person or small number of people and they usually are centered in a book or a small number of key books. The main distinction is that these teachings, in practice, take authority over the teachings of the Bible. These extra-biblical teachings have become the true authority.
A cult, because of its acceptance of extra-biblical authority for truth, teaches doctrines so opposed to scripture that they cloud the truth of salvation and damn souls to hell. They match the practice of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:13 - "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in."
Although I would not say that this is an absolute record, the cults tend to err in many of the same doctrines. Here are some of the errors they are most likely to teach:
- They deny the sufficiency of scripture - by adding to it and lording over it with new authoritative books and teachings.
- They deny the deity of Jesus Christ.
- They deny the reality of a literal hell or relegate it to an incidental use for the extremely wicked.
- They deny the sufficiency of God's grace for salvation - requiring works for salvation.
- They deny that people can please God apart from being in their group. They often carry this to mean that salvation itself is found exclusively in their group. In some cases, God may save others, but they will have a lower position than those in the select group.