Patterns in the Cults
Cults! The mere mention of the word brings to mind Jim Jones and the
Jonestown tragedy, Charles Manson and the Tate-La Bianca murders, and a host
of other bizarre individuals and groups.
However, most cults are not that bizarre. Their followers dress like
everyone else, work normal jobs, and by and large, are very sincere and
honest individuals. As a matter of fact, most followers use Christian
terminology very fluently thus making a cult very difficult to spot at
The difference between the cult and true Christianity lies in belief.
Though the average cult member will confess a belief in Jesus Christ, a
reliance on the Bible as his authority, and devotion to God as a lifestyle,
in reality, all of the terms have been redefined. What appears on the
surface to be Christian deviates greatly from what the Scriptures actually
teach concerning the key doctrines of the Christian faith.
Due to this subtle deception, it is imperative that people know what to look
for in trying to determine if a particular group is a cult or not. In light
of this need, there are four basic patterns which exist in all cults who
claim to be Christian.
ADDING TO THE WORD OF GOD
The first pattern apparent in all cults is the habit of adding to the Bible
instead of accepting it as the sole authority of one's faith. Throughout
Scripture, God warns against this practice. For example, in Proverbs
30:5-6, the Bible states, "Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto
them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he
reprove thee, and thou be found a liar."
However, the cults disregard this warning constantly. In the Articles of
Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints (the Mormons), they
state in the eighth article, "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as
far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be
the word of God." Note the condition placed on the Bible, "as far as it is
translated correctly" whereas the Book of Mormon is accepted as Scripture
period!! Thus, the Book of Mormon takes precedence over the Bible.
The Unification Church (the Moonies) take a similar stand. In the Divine
Principle, the following statement is made, "The Bible, however, is not
the truth itself, but a textbook teaching the truth. Naturally, the quality
of teaching and the method and extent of giving the truth must vary
according to each age...Therefore, we must not regard the textbook as
absolute in every detail" (p. 9).
In other words, the Bible is true only in a relative sense, not an absolute
sense thus opening the doors for the Moonies to accept any source as their
authority whether it contradicts the Bible or not!
SUBTRACTING FROM THE PERSON OF CHRIST
The second and most important pattern to look for is the practice of
subtracting from the person of Jesus Christ, usually by denying the fact
that He is God. This belief is the cornerstone of the Christian faith and
supported by numerous passages of Scripture (John 1:1, John 20:27-28,
Revelation 1:17 compared with Isaiah 44:6).
Nevertheless, from the beginning of the Christian Church, there have been
those who have distorted the person of Jesus Christ, thus creating another
Jesus. In II Corinthians 11:4, Paul dealt with this problem when he scolded
the Corinthian Christians for accepting another Jesus, "For if he that
cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached...ye might well
bear with him."
Of all the cults, the Jehovah's Witnesses have done one of the most thorough
jobs in creating another Jesus. In The Truth Shall Make You Free, they
state, "Being the only begotten Son of God and the 'firstborn of every
creature', the Word would be a prince among all other creatures. In this
office, he bore another name in heaven, which name is 'Michael'" (p. 49).
In other words, Jesus in merely a created being not God the Creator.
They further teach that after his death, God the Father disposed of his body
and he was resurrected as a spirit creature (Things In Which It Is
Impossible for God to Lie, pp. 211, 354). This is definitely not the
Jesus of Scripture who has always existed, created all things, died for our
sins and rose again bodily!!
MULTIPLICATION OF SALVATION REQUIREMENTS
In Ephesians 2:8-9, the Apostle Paul clearly stated, "For by grace are ye
saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not
of works, lest any man should boast." The Word of God plainly teaches that
salvation is a gift that God offers sinful man. There is nothing anyone can
do to earn it, it is gift to be accepted or rejected.
Though this teaching is so clear in the Scriptures, the cults constantly
pervert it. A perfect example of this is found in the writings of Herbert
W. Armstrong, the founder of the Worldwide Church of God which publishes the
magazine, The Plain Truth.
In the Ambassador College Correspondence Course, Lesson 8, page 3, the
following statement is made, "Most professing Christians think they were
'BORN AGAIN' when they 'accepted Christ' and were 'baptized.' From that
time, supposedly, they received the Holy Spirit and have been living a NEW
LIFE in Christ." He further states in his book, Which Day Is the
Christian Sabbath?, "You shall be saved by GRACE, but God does lay down
conditions. You can comply, and receive glorious GRACE - or you can rebel,
and pay the DEATH PENALTY - for eternity! (p. 107).
Thus, while teaching salvation by grace, Armstrong has redefined grace to
include conditions which one must keep in order to receive eternal life. By
doing so, he has nullified the meaning of grace for grace is God's
undeserving love which He pours out on mankind.
DIVIDING THE LOYALTY OF THE FOLLOWER
The fourth and final pattern found in the cults is the practice of dividing
the loyalty of the follower between God and an organization or individual.
Whereas the cult will convince its followers that they are an organization
wholly devoted to God, the follower is taught to put his trust in the
organization instead of God.
A clear example of this can be found in two issues of the Watchtower
magazine released in 1979. The cover of the May 15th issue posed the
question, "Is Your Trust in God or in a Man?" By the wording and the
graphics on the cover, the writers were emphasizing one putting their trust
in God. However, two months earlier, in the March 1st issue, the cover
read, "Put Faith in a Victorious Organization."
So, as a Jehovah's Witness, in whom do you trust; God or the Watchtower
Society? In all reality, the Watchtower for they are placed before the
Witnesses as God's only true organization on earth (The Watchtower, July
1, 1973, p. 402). Thus, while the Witness believes he is trusting God, his
loyalty has been divided between God and the Watchtower Bible and Tract
Over and over again, this deceptive practice is found throughout the cults
as the followers are told to put their faith in God alone but then are
commanded to place their faith in the cult! The sad thing is that many
cultists are so deceived that they don't see the division and feel that they
are fully trusting God.
As you have read through this vital information on how to spot a cult, some
of the patterns may have sounded similar to some of the practices in a group
to which you belong. If so, you are involved in a group which is not based
solidly on the Word of God. Due to that, you may have never been told to
place your faith in Jesus alone who said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the
Life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me" (John 14:6). If this is the
case, we invite you to trust Him alone as your Lord and Savior.
On the other hand, you may have already made this important decision and are
actively involved in a strong Christ-centered church. However, just because
you are a believer, don't ever think that you could never be led astray and
begin adopting some of these patterns in your own life. Remember, these
patterns are presented in a very subtle fashion using Christian terminology
and the Bible as a springboard!