5 Common Characteristics of Cults

This Fall our Adult Bible Fellowship has gone through a series titled Who is This Jesus? We’ve studied two major world religions (Judaism and Islam) and two popular cults (Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses). This study has generated conversation that has raised good questions. But to keep perspective on what we’ve studied I thought some helpful characteristics of what a cult is would be helpful. The sixth and seventh definitions are probably the most exact definitions when we use the world cult.

cult [kuhlt]

  1. a particular system of religious worship, esp. with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
  2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing.
  3. the object of such devotion.
  4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
  5. a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.
  6. a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.
  7. the members of such a religion or sect.

Here are 5 common characteristics of cults:

  • they can be correct on 90%+ of biblical doctrine. There is enough truth to make it believable, but enough error to make their belief system unorthodox.
  • they use similar terminology as Bible-believing Christians but have different meanings (e.g. Mormons and the atonement)
  • there are two primary doctrines that they violate the teachings of the Bible: bibliology (doctrine of the Bible) & Christology (doctrine of Christ)
  • their most peculiar doctrines are taken from verses, but out of context of the passage found within the Bible
  • they add another “Sacred Book” (e.g. Book of Mormon, New World Translation, etc)

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