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Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Kingdom of the Cults

Taken from the book by Walter Martin (1928-1989), The Kingdom of the Cults.  Below the introduction you will find the major cults listed along with 5 “quick facts” that define them.
It has been said of the United States that it is “the great melting pot” for the people of the world.  And the contents of that pot would not be complete unless it also included the religions of those masses that now make up the populace of America.  This writer has spent over forty years of his life in research and fieldwork among the religions of America, and this volume, limited as it is by the vastness and complexity of the problem itself, constitutes his evaluation of that vibrant brand of religion that has come to be recognized by many as the “Kingdom of the Cults.”
          In his study of modern America cults and minority religious movements as found in his text These Also Believe, Dr. Charles Braden, emeritus professor at Northwestern University, and coauthor John C. Schaffer, lecturer and visiting professor at Scripps College, made a number of observations with which this writer agrees.  In regard to the term cult, for instance, Dr. Braden states:
“By the term cult I mean nothing derogatory to any group so classified.  A cult, as I define it, is any religious group which differs significantly in one or more respects as to belief or practice from those religious groups which are regarded as the normative expressions of religion in our total culture.”
          I may add to this that a cult might also be defined as a group of people gathered about a specific person or person’s misinterpretation of the Bible.  For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses are, for the most part, followers of the interpretations of Charles T. Russell and J. F. Rutherford.  The Christian Scientist of today is a disciple of Mary Baker Eddy and her interpretations of Scripture.  The Mormons, by their own admission, adhere to those interpretations found in the writings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.  It would be possible to go on citing many others, such as the Unity School of Christianity, which follows the theology of Charles and Myrtle Fillmore.  From a theological viewpoint, the cults contain many major deviations from historical Christianity.  Yet, paradoxically, they continue to insist that they are entitled to be classified as Christians.
          It is my convictions that the reader is entitled to know the theological position from which this volume is written so that there will be no misconceptions as to the ground for my evaluation.  I am a Baptist minister, an evangelical holding to the inerrancy of Scripture, and teach in the fields of Biblical Theology, Comparative Religion, and Apologetics.
          It is impossible for me to agree with Dr. Braden, “an unrepentant liberal,” or to agree that I “hold no brief for any particular cult, nor am violently opposed to any.”  While I am in agreement that “in general the cults represent the earnest attempt of millions of people to find the fulfillment of deep and legitimate needs of the human spirit, which most of them seem not to have found in the established churches,” I feel there is still much more to be said.  It has been wisely observed by someone that “a man who will not stand for something is quite likely to fall for almost anything.”  So I have elected to stand on the ramparts of biblical Christianity as taught by the apostles, defended by the church Fathers, rediscovered by the Reformers, and embodied in what is sometimes called Reformed Theology.
Quick Facts About Scaling the Language Barrier:
1.   Learn the terminology of major cult systems.
2.   Define key words and standard doctrinal phrases.
3.   Compare definitions with contexts.
4.   Review the importance of defining terms.
5.   Present a clear testimony of regenerative experience with Jesus Christ.
Quick Facts About the Psychological Structure of Cultism:
1.   Recognize that belief systems of the cults are characterized by closed-mindedness and antagonism on a personal level.
2.   Understand that all cultic belief systems manifest institutional dogmatism and intolerance for any position but their own.
3.   Become a source of neutral, objective data.
4.   Communicate love and sincerity to those in virtual isolation from the Christian message.
5.   Avoid direct usage of terms certain to evoke a theologically conditioned reflex and sever the lines of communication.
Quick Facts About the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society:
·       Jesus is not Jehovah God; he is the first and only direct creation of God and the agent through which Jehovah made all other things.
·       Jesus’ true followers are known by their worship of the true and almighty God, Jehovah, who is not a Trinity.
·       Jesus was raised from the dead, not with a physical body, but as a mighty spirit creature.
·       The second “coming” of Jesus was an invisible spiritual presence that began in 1914.
·       The dead exist only in God’s memory: the wicked will not be punished with conscious torment but will be extinguished forever.
Quick Facts About Christian Science:
·       God is divine principle.
·       Jesus is not God.  The incarnation and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ did not occur.
·       Scripture is not inerrant
·       Sin, death, and evil do not exitst.
·       There is no literal, physical existence of the material universe.
Quick Facts About Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons):
·       The Bible is the Word of God insofar as it is correctly translated.  There are three sacred books in addition to the Bible: The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price.
·       The earth is one of several inhabited planets ruled over by gods and goddesses, who were at one time humans on other planets.  Mormonism is polytheistic in its core.
·       The Trinity consists of three gods born in different times and places; the Father begot the Son and Holy Ghost through a goddess wife in heaven.
·       Humankind is of the same species as God.  God begot all humans in heaven as offspring of his wife or wives, who were sent to earth for their potential exaltation to godhood.
·       Salvation is resurrection, but exaltation to godhood, for external life in the celestial heaven, must be earned through self-meriting works.
Quick Facts About Spiritism:
·       Spiritism teaches: the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.
·       Continuous existence and a path of endless progression.
·       Communion of spirits and ministry of angels.
·       Personal responsibility
·       Compensation and retribution in the hereafter for good and evil done on Earth.
Quick Facts About the Theosophical Society (Gnosticism):
·       Theosophy teaches a pantheistic, impersonal Supreme Being.
·       Jesus Christ is not unique: Jesus is a reincarnated being separate from “christ.”  All men become christs.
·       Mahatmas or Masters communicate esoteric truths through reincarnated emissaries, of whom Madame Blavatsky and Annie Besant are among the few.
·       Theosophy draws its authoritative teachings from Hindu, Buddhistic, and early Gnostic sources.  The Bible is used minimally to proof-text preconceived Theosophical notions.
·       Reincarnation is the way of salvation.
Quick Facts About Buddhism:
·       Siddhartha Gautama followed the paths of previous “buddhas,” or enlightened ones, until he discovered the Middle Path, the Four Noble Truths, and the Eightfold Path, and achieved enlightenment.
·       Buddhism shows a heavy influence of Brahmanism gods, and goddesses in Buddha’s history and teachings; its description of a universal cosmic consciousness is that of a nonpersonal essence, sometimes called the Void.
·       The Pali Trpitaka text is considered by many to be the most reliable teachings of Buddha, although Mahayana Buddhism and other sects add to it.
·       Man suffers because his desires are fixated on the illusion of self, which confines him to nonpermanence within the laws of Karma and reincarnation.
·       Self-salvation is achieved by following the Middle Path, the Four Noble Truths, and the Eightfold Path.  The ultimate goal is to reach the state of Nirvana, where the self becomes extinguished in the Void.
Quick Facts About the Baha’i Faith:
·       The Bible is only one of the many sacred texts in the world, but the final authority is the writings of Baha’u’llah.
·       Baha’u’lluh fulfilled a worldwide messianic calling, which equated him with other world religion leaders (i.e., Christ, Buddha, Mohammed).
·       God is one person.  The doctrine of the Trinity is denied.
·       Jesus Christ was only one of nine manifestations of the messiah: He was not virgin born, not God incarnate, and did not rise bodily from the grave.
·       Salvation is based upon man’s good works coupled with God’s mercy.  The blood of Jesus Christ is not efficacious to cleanse anyone of sin.
Quick Facts About Unitarian Universalism:
·      The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) espouses religious pluralism and “tolerance” of all faith positions as a great virtue.
·      The Bible and other sacred books are not to be regarded as absolute or infallible.
·      Many UU’s do not believe in God at all, and among those who do a wide variety of views may be found.  All UU’s reject the Triune God of Scripture.
·      Christ’s miracles, virgin birth, and bodily resurrection are rejected.  Christ is not divine.  Some UU’s regard Jesus Christ to have been a great moral teacher while others dispute even this.
·      UU’s do not accept the biblical teaching on salvation from sin.  People are basically good; they do not need a “savior” to deliver them from sin.  They can “save” themselves through their own moral character.
Quick Facts About Scientology:
·      Scientology teaches that the Bible is a byproduct of Hindu scriptures.
·      God or gods may exist, but the individual must decide for himself.
·      Christ is a legend that preexisted earth-life on other planets and was implanted into humans on earth.  Jesus was just a shade above “clear” and was no greater than Buddha or Moses.
·      Reincarnation sufficiently explains man’s existence, but Scientology is the freedom from reincarnation.
·      Man is basically good and in his evolution, he will finally become a godlike being known as “homo novis.”
Quick Facts About the Unification Church:
·       The Unification Church believes that the Bible is untrustworthy in its reliability.
·       God is dualistic in His nature, like the yin and yang of Taoism.
·       The crucifixion of Jesus was an alternative plan, and it only saved mankind halfway.  Sun Myung Moon is the Messiah, and true salvation comes by being a member of the Unification Church.
·       The Trinity was an invention of Jesus, and there have been many “trinities” through the ages, including a satanic trinity.
·       The Holy Spirit is a female spirit…the female aspect of God’s nature.
Quick Facts About Eastern Religions:
·      There is no single Hindu idea of God.
·      All souls are eternal and accountable for their own actions.
·      Karma is the debt of one’s bad actions for which one must atone.
·      Hinduism denies the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the Atonement, sin, and salvation by grace through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
·      Hinduism replaces resurrection with reincarnation, and both grace and faith with human works.
Quick Facts About the New Age Cult:
·       Man is inherently divine.  All things are divine.
·       All is one and all is God.  God is an impersonal consciousness and power.
·       Jesus was an enlightened teacher.
·       Salvation is accomplished by good works and reincarnation.
·       There is no absolute truth.  All beliefs are valid.
Quick Facts About Islam – The Message of Muhammad:
·       The sovereignty of Allah is paramount: He is the one, true God.  Mohammed is his chief prophet.
·       There is no original sin.  Humans are not predisposed toward sin, but they commit sins.
·       Jesus was not the Son of God.  He is revered as a spiritual guide.
·       Salvation is by the will of God through human obedience to God’s law.
·       The Qur’an is the perfect Word of Allah.
Quick Facts About the Worldwide Church of God:
·       Armstrongism teaches that the Bible is God’s Word, but it is best interpreted by Herbert W. Armstrong – God’s Apostle.
·       Jesus and Father are two gods of the “God Family”
·       The resurrection of Jesus was spiritual, not physical.
·       Salvation is a result of good works and Christ’s sacrifice.
·       Mankind becomes a God Being and part of the God Family after salvation.
Quick Facts About the Puzzle of Seventh-day Adventism:
·       SDA believe in the Spirit of Prophecy, which was the anointing upon their founder, Ellen G. White, as the proper interpretation of Scripture.  But the Bible is inerrant and superior to White’s writings.
·       The doctrine on the Trinitarian Godhead is orthodox.
·       The doctrine of hell and eternal torment of the wicked is exchanged for soul-sleep.  There is a heaven for true believers.
·       SDA teach an aberrational doctrine concerning the completion of Christ’s atonement, who the “sin-bearer” is in Scripture, and Christ’s present work in heaven.
·       Salvation requires personal works combined with God’s grace.
Quick Facts About Rosicrucianism:
·       God is an impersonal being composed of seven spirits.  God is all: all of reality is a part of or an expression of the essence/nature of God (Pantheism).
·       Jesus Christ was not the Son of God.  He was a spirit belonging to human evolution.
·       There is no vicarious atonement.
·       Resurrection is replaced by reincarnation.
·       Man is evolving into a divine being.
Quick Facts About the Cults on the World Mission Field:
1.   The cults do not generally identify themselves by their popular names.
2.   The literature of many cult systems is unmarked and their public meetings are seldom identified with the official name of the sponsoring group.
3.   All major cult systems use the Bible.
4.   Most cultists utilize terminology of historical Christianity.
5.   Missionaries of the cults deny the historic doctrines of the Trinity, the deity of Jesus Christ, and salvation by grace alone.
Quick Facts About the Jesus of the Cults:
1.   Understand the nature of the “other Jesus”.
2.   Give biblical reasons why Christians must identify him as counterfeit and refute his “other gospel.”
3.   Remember that the message of the Cross itself is offensive and controversial by nature.
4.   Defend the faith and evangelize because Christ commanded it.
Quick Facts About Cult Evangelism: Mission Field on Your Doorstep:
1.   Remember that cultists are precious souls for whom Jesus Christ offered himself; they are human beings who have homes, families, and friends.
2.   Distinguish between the theology of Christianity, which is the real source of the antagonism, and the personality of the individual Christian.
3.   Find a common ground of understanding – preferably the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures or the nature and attributes of God.
4.   Use the Word of God and prayer – the most powerful motivating force in the universe – to implant seed thoughts about the Gospel of Christ.
5.   Recognize that regardless of what a cultist says or does, he is doing it out of spiritual blindness.
6.   Persevere.
This information has been taken from the book: The Kingdom of the Cults (revised, updated, and expanded edition – 2003) by Walter Martin (1928-1989).
For further detailed information on the cults one can search the following websites:
·      Walter Martin Ministries (waltermartin.com)
·      Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (rzim.org)
·      Jude Three Ministries (judethree.org)
·      Institute for Biblical Apologetics (ibainfo.org)
·      Christian Research Institute (equip.org)
·      Christian Apologetics Research Ministry (C.A.R.M.) (carm.org) 

What others (cults, etc.) teach versus what God’s Word the Bible says:
Others: Jesus was not God. 
Bible: John 1:1-18; 8:56-58; Colossians 1:15-20; 1 Timothy 3:16

Others: Jesus was created by God.
Bible: John 10:30-38; 17:5; Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18

Others: There are three separate gods: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, not one God in three persons.
Bible: Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 7:14; 43:10; 44:6-8; Matthew 1:18; 28: 18-19; John 10:30-38; Hebrews 1:1-14; 1 Peter 1:2

Others: Jesus is not necessary because there is no sin.
Bible: John 3:14-17; Romans 3:23-30; 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; 1 John 1:8-10

Others: Jesus was not raised bodily from the dead.
Bible: Luke 24:36-53; Acts 1:11; 1 Corinthians 15:1-23

Others: Jesus was a great prophet, but not God.
Bible: Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18; John 5:17-18, 23; 10:30-38; Colossians 2:9-10

Others: There are many ways to God, not just one.
Bible: John 3:14-17; 14:6-7; 1 Timothy 2:5-6

Others: Jesus is not necessary because people must pay for their own sins.
Bible: John 17:2-3; Romans 6:23; 10:3-10; Ephesians 2:8-9

Others: Jesus died for sins, but people can’t be saved unless they obey all of the teachings of the church.
Bible: John 14:6-7; Romans 10:3-10; Ephesians 2:8-9

Others: Jesus is God, but less than God the Father.
Bible: John 5:17-23; 14:6-7; Colossians 2:9-10

Others: Jesus was just a man.
Bible: Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18; John 10:30-38; 2:18-22

Others: Jesus is not the only son of God.
Bible: John 3:14-17, 36; Hebrews 1:1-14

Others: Jesus will never come again.
Bible: Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

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