Cults Versus Christianity - Are They The Same?

by Rev. Rafael Martinez, Spiritwatch Ministries

In the spiritual marketplace of today's spirituality, there is no more greater competition than the one between the Christian Church and that of cultic groups seeking to extract members and legitimacy from it to advance their own agendas. Such a struggle is not merely for warm bodies in a given pew or dollars in an organizational bank account as some satirical wags would have it, but for the very nature and definition of Christian truth itself. Humanity's response to this silent conflict hidden in plain sight is directly determining the destiny of the nations, as prophetically foretold by Christ in Matthew chapter 24.

Truth is often viewed as little more than a commodity to trade in. Listen to the response of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who condemned Jesus to death as He testified to his mission of preaching Godís truth in ancient first century Israel in John 18:37-38:

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

Despite his bewildered and even cynical challenge on the nature of truth, even Pilate recognized that there was nothing wrong in Jesusí claim to being a witness to the only and exclusive truth of His Father. But Pilate merely dismissed Jesus' claim as one of a hundred he was hearing from the spiritual marketplace of his day, and in so doing, perhaps missed out on knowing the Truth embodied in the person of Jesus Himself. It is a sad testimony to how the influence of spiritual counterfeits even then robbed many of the eternal destiny God could bestow on them if they would only believe upon Him and Him alone for their salvation. The same harsh reality works today, and the Christian Church has been hampered, opposed and under continual assault by the false teaching and counterfeit Christianity advanced by cult groups today.

The assault takes many forms: one classical tactic takes the approach that "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, or at least look as good as the other guy does." This 1996 picture, for example, is of a new LDS chapels in the Tennessee Valley was built right next door to a well known Christian church in Dayton, Tennessee and reflects their latest innovation in organizational self-representation - Latter Day Saints claim they are Christians simply because their official church name incorporates the name of Jesus Christ within it. Knowing that undiscerning association with orthodoxy purely on the basis of using His name is a common feature of spiritual life in a land where Biblical illiteracy and pluralism are handmaidens for their proselytization, the Mormon cult unblushingly engages in this kind of passive yet effective and deceptive self-representation. The Remnant Fellowship church, another insidious cult , did precisely the same thing 10 years later in Franklin, Tennessee by building its new sanctuary literally next door to two other and much larger Christian churches in the same area.

Another tactic is the ability of cults to cloak their front organizations as just another "faith-based" initiative seeking to better our communities by partnerships with local leaders and government. One such initiative was the grandiosely titled New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project, started by Church of Scientology adherent Tom Cruise shortly after the disaster of September 11, 2001 to help Ground Zero workers recover from health problems incurred that day by using the junk science and bizarre "spiritual tech" of Scientology. Other far more extensive and established relationships forged by cults to advance their penetration of society have been enjoyed nationally by the Unification Church of the late Sun Myung Moon as well as that of the Nation of Islam cult led by Louis Farrakhan in the state of Illinois. These and many other measures by cultic groups are doing their best to blur the distinctions between Christian congregations and cultic movements. 

The Bible's Insight On Cultism

The Bible is a revelation of Godís truth and it is there that we will draw insight on this struggle of the Christian church with cultism. To many people, it might seem that the Bible, being an ancient work, would have little to say to us about modern problems like cultic groups and cultism. Nothing could be further from the real truth. The Bible is viewed by millions of Christians throughout time as the ultimate source of objective spiritual truth and is a living Book containing the words of God that speak to the deepest needs of mankind. From this perspective, there is much that the Bible has to say about cultism and how it opposes Christianity: we will briefly touch upon some of the many verses in Scripture concerning it, as well as cite others.

False apostles (and) deceitful workers (transform) themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

Note the apostle Paulís insights here Ė the cult leaders of his day that were also called "false apostles" and "deceitful workers" whose deceptive works are cloaked in a well-crafted guise of virtue and righteousness, in the same way that Satan, the opposer of God, has disguised himself to appear as a positive, even godly, figure. Just as Jesus prophesied and Paul and the early church of the first century observed, deceptive self-representation is a classic mark of human cultism since it is derived from the wicked example of the "father of lies," Satan himself (John 8:44). How cultists are able to deceive in such a manner is explained by Paul in his exhortation to church leaders in Acts 10 and the apostle Peterís warnings in 2 Peter 2:

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Acts 10:28-30

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you .. 2 Peter 2:1-3

Since most cultic leaders depart from Christian truth while still involved with Christianity, it is inevitable that their groups would intentionally pattern themselves after the Christian Church to "draw away" their "disciples" from it. Today, cultists call one another "brother" and "sister" and zealously pursue a spiritual ife. Theyíre out in the streets and going door-to-door to spread what they call "the gospel" through home Bible studies, magazines, books, and videos which are all free of charge. They give sacrificially to their cause. They delight in their radical view of the world. Cults claim their authority and teaching from the Bible and seem to be totally committed believers in Christ whose unquestionably moral lives are centered around their faith. 

Yet that is where the similarities end, since the essence of this zealous spirituality is founded on deception. And in these latter days, many Christian ministers and believers are being deceived by this zeal and allying themselves with cultic groups and associations serving as front organizations for them. This is also true in the larger secular world itself, which also routinely fails to make the distinction between legitimate Christian organizations and actual cultic movements disguising themselves - as we have briefly outlined - as "Christian," or "ecumenical," as in the case of the involvement of many spiritual and civic activism groups represented in the above photo of the Million Family March a few years ago which was largely energized by an alliance between the Nation of Islam and the Unification Church.

Another Jesus, Spirit And Gospel: The Corruption of Christianity By Cultic Thought

I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. Romans 16:17

Note carefully what the apostle Peter writes about "feigned words." The word "feign" means to literally make a false show about something, to literally make up a lie. Paul once again shows how cultic deception ensnares many people by the freely use of deceptive words to build relationships with prospects. They'll express great apparent interest and love for anyone seeming to be interested in their teaching, and will go to great lengths to express their concern for them by "speak(ing) great swelling words, having menís persons in admiration because of advantage" as the apostle Jude points out in Jude 16.

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. 2 Cor. 11:3-4

When compared with Christian doctrine, cult teachings will always contradict orthodox Christian teachings. 2 Corinthians 11:4 gives us the clearest and most concise description of how cults accomplish this. The apostle Paul writes here that counterfeit gospels, counterfeit Christs, and counterfeit spiritual powers are employed by false teachers to deceive. He also takes pains to remind his readers that these deceptions are performed not explicitly, but with the same great cunning Satan used to persuade Eve in the garden of Eden to disobey Godís command, done so stealthily and carefully as to lead the unwary into spiritual apostasy that turns them away from God to the lies of the cults.

Three searing Bible insights to bear in mind are that, first of all, cultists preach "another Jesus." Cults claim to have great respect for the Lord Jesus Christ and yet they will, by their teachings, downplay and distort his identity as seen in the Scriptures. The Bible teaches that Jesus is God the Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Jewish virgin Mary, fully man and fully God (Matthew 1:21-23, Philippians 2:5-11, Luke 3:22, Colossians 2:9). He lived a sinless life, suffered on the Cross for manís salvation, physically died and resurrected, and will return physically the same way he left in His ascension into heaven (Hebrews 4:14-15, John 19:16-20:31, Acts 1:6-11). But cult groups have taught that Jesus was only a man literally fathered by God's sexual intercourse with Mary, an angel that took human form, or an ascended master teacher who shares elbow room with Krishna, the Buddha, and other enlightened spirit beings in the spirit world. They have even claimed his death and resurrection were symbolic and not literal, that his mission to save the world from its sins is somehow incomplete, and that he had several wives and children Ė or failed God by having none! These teachings and so many others ranging from the sublime to the absurd depart so radically from the fully revealed truth about who Christ is and yet still have been pressed into the preaching service of many cults since the first century.

How do cults sustain their twisting of the faith to build their own kingdoms? Cultists do so, secondly, by receiving great power from "another spirit" that enables their deceptive work. The literal Greek in 2 Corinthians 11:4 concisely explains that spiritual power and influence not of God empowers them to deceive and lead astray all who follow them from Biblical truth. The claims made by cultists are what the same apostle warns a young pastor he mentors as being actual "doctrines of devils" (1 Timothy 4:1), making sure he was aware of their spiritually divisive and toxic inspiration. And that inspiration involves, as we have already read in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, the malign presence and infilling of a "different" or "other" spiritual power, involving that of demons and of even Satan himself, who cleverly disguises himself as a great human oracle or a divine angelic messenger from God. As we've reminded you, however, deceptive words that tickle ears and ensnare the unwary are at the heart of their discourses - whether originating out of demonic or fallen human intercourse. Cultists intentionally and subtly spread actual lies wrapped in just enough of a veneer of truth to paint the whole bilous scheme in bright, camouflaging colors of human tradition, "out of the box" thinking, and worldly rationalization centered around selfish interest. It is the bitter fruit of this enterprise of error originating in our fallen world that Paul speaks of in Colossians 2:8: 

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

This third insight, when read with Paulís caution on deceitful philosophy in Colossians 2 is a clear reference to the false teachings that he called in 2 Corinthians 11 "another gospel," gospels that are alien to the Biblical good news about Godís grace as described in Ephesians 2. The Christian Gospel simply states that by confessing and repenting of one's sins in prayer to God with humble faith in Jesusí saving sacrifice for us on the Cross, anyone can receive eternal life anywhere, anytime by asking Jesus to be their personal Savior.

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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

The counterfeit gospels of the cults, however, differ sharply from Christianity in this most vital respect. Cult members are taught by their leaders that they must earn the freely bestowed grace of God by demonstrating their worthiness through performance, an exercise of doing (Galatians 5:1-4) and not being (Romans 1:16-17). In almost all cases, the personal profession of faith by the cultist always revolves around doing something somewhere somehow for salvation as the cult leaders dictate. It may be door to door preaching, massive tithing, volunteer labor in cult auxiliaries and building projects, the rigid application of a code of ethics and dress, or any of a hundred other legalistic acts (Galatians 4:9-11, 1 Timothy 4:1-4, Colossians 2:20-22)

But no matter what they may be, the "gospel" preached by the cult for the faithful to follows always and ultimately leads them in this direction, towards human effort that will supposedly bring eternal salvation, rather than faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ alone for this, a faith in the ability of Jesus alone to make them "his workmanship." It will do so deceptively and cunningly, and will never announce to prospective believers that it is a false message but will appear to be more true than the truth itself, reckoning Satan to be "an angel of light" and cult leaders as "ministers of righteousness." Such is the diabolical spirit of deception in the last days before the return of Jesus Christ Himself:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:6-9

This never ending conspiracy of confusion engaged by virtually every cult in the Cultworld to fortify and replicate itself at the expense of the church by savaging and perverting their faith with their own works-based "gospel" has been ceaselessly working since the first century as the great apostle warned us. Christian discernment is the only response that can and must be offered to cultic deception and why Spiritwatch Ministries exists - to truly taking heed that no man deceive you, as Christ commands. The cynical and noncritical eye of the secular critic as well as the smooth and persuasive oratory of the spiritual cultist are under the curse of God. In closing, it is time that even the most jaded nonbeliever be fully aware of their need to run and not walk away from cults all around them seeking to be more Christian than Christians themselves!

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