What is a cult?

Discussion in 'Religious Discussions' started by ampaterry, Jan 14, 2012.

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  1. ampaterry

    ampaterry *TFF Admin Staff Chaplain* Staff Member Supporting Member

    Dec 20, 2008
    West Tennessee
    This term has been used on TFF, and caused much upset. There are books written about it, and a LOT of people use the term, but what exactly IS a Cult?

    First of all, let us define further that we are NOT speaking of non-Christian groups. The purpose of this post is to define what a Christian cult is, not some non-Christian splinter group like the Unification Church

    The best short definition I have heard is this:
    A Christian follows Jesus Christ.
    A Cult follows some mortal human being.

    Wow, that sure sounds good, doesn't it?

    But let us dig a little deeper -
    I have books that say Roman Catholicism is a cult, because they follow the Pope instead of Jesus Christ.
    But - but -
    Baptists follow John the Baptist -
    Calvinists follow John Calvin -
    Lutherans follow Martin Luther (the original, not King)
    Almost EVERY denomination follows the teachings, leanings, or flavor of some mortal human being!
    So what the heck IS the actual definition of a cult?

    It is simple.

    My group is Christian.

    Your group is a cult.

    And a LOT of people follow that.

    In my entire life, I have NEVER found a single denomination in which every member is lost.
    And I have never found a single denominationo in which every member is saved, either.
    People choose a denomination based on many things.
    Some folks do not feel near to God without the somber tones of a pipe organ vibrating the air while they pray.
    Some feel near to Him only when someone is shaking a tamborine and someone else is shouting.
    Some need complete quiet while they commune in their pew.
    Others need excitement and "amens" being shouted all around.
    Some need the dignity of a leader speaking somber tones while wearing a robe.
    Some need a guy wearing a tee shirt and jeans pounding the pulpit with his fist as he makes a point.
    And Jesus Christ understands all those needs, and allows us to have a plethora of places to worship Him so that ALL might come to him.

    Look on the person, not the name above the door of their church.
    Look into their heart, not into the proclamations of the founder of the church they attend.
    In the final judgment, Jesus Christ will be doing exactly this.
  2. jack404

    jack404 Former Guest

    Jan 11, 2010
    Cheers Terry !!

    i'm not a fan of the teachings of a lot of the Christian world,
    but to indict a persons faith ? deride their personal relationship with God , no..

    back in days gone by was a time called the dark ages ,
    it was not war or invasions or crusade that caused them but religious rule and oppression .. but remember it was the Faith of those in the Church then that caused the change , some by leaving ( martin luther et al ) and some by reforming the church inside .. without those who's faith is true inside and religion has no hope

    since then is grown "softer.. more people friendly" changed by the people within , i still dont agree with the papal system and some of its doctrine , but have the highest respects for the folks in that Church , i've priests as good mates and a cardinal as well , and even they admit theres things that need updating ... and i wish them well in their efforts ..

    same with the Mormons and SDA folks i meet in the deep outback helping the koori folks , their deeds are as Christ's , healing and helping the sick , getting them medical or too medical treatment, teaching the basics of Christian faith , without disrespecting the native beliefs ( maybe a tad pc for my tastes but great folks eh ;) ) , setting up schools that teach the state courses, digging well's and running practical trades style courses , car repair the most valuable

    By their deeds shall ye know them .. i'm big on this for lots of reasons

    things like kali , Shiva , the jim jones - peoples temple , islam , vila ragou, these are cults , they leave death and destruction where ever they go

    they rule by force not love and law

    they build only for the glorification of the cult and its leaders

    not for the people

    again by their deeds shall ye know them
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2012

  3. ampaterry

    ampaterry *TFF Admin Staff Chaplain* Staff Member Supporting Member

    Dec 20, 2008
    West Tennessee
    I have a friend that is Roman Catholic.
    He was CONSTANTLY being ridden by the Church of Christ guys at work.
    One day he asked me why those guys were so down on the Catholics.
    I said it was mainly doctrinal differences.
    He asked "Like what?"
    I said "Oh, the Ex Cathedra pronouncements of the Pope, for one."
    He asked what that was.
    I said "That is the belief that the Pope speaks with the voice of God, and at those times he is incapable of error".
    He was stunned for a couple seconds, then said "Who the HELL believes THAT?"

    I believe it is that way with a lot of Christians.
    They have faith in Jesus Christ, do their best to follow him, and attend a church without even KNOWING what their official doctrin is.
    Maybe their parents were members, maybe they have friends that go there, maybe it is simply the only church within commuting distance, maybe they just like the pastors sermons, but the do NOT select a church based on it's official doctrinal statements.
  4. carver

    carver Moderator Supporting Member


    Definition of CULT
    1: formal religious veneration : worship

    2: a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also: its body of adherents

    3: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also: its body of adherents

    4: a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator <health cults>

    5: a great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially: such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b: the object of such devotion c: a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion.
  5. ampaterry

    ampaterry *TFF Admin Staff Chaplain* Staff Member Supporting Member

    Dec 20, 2008
    West Tennessee
    Wow, Carver, according to definition ONE and TWO, every Christian church is a cult.

    Kinda a loose term, isn't it?
    Yet it is taken VERY negatively in virtually every usage.
  6. RunningOnMT

    RunningOnMT New Member

    Nov 19, 2008
    Akron, Ohio
    I had a rather extensive reply which took a fair amount of time to type but when I clicked spell check it disappeared. Now I don't have the energy to repeat my efforts. Oh well, maybe those opinions weren't supposed to be expressed.
  7. Juker

    Juker New Member

    Feb 8, 2011
    Land of Lincoln
    I'll submit that in any congregation/denomination/church where the focus becomes greater on the man rather than the Word, they're dancing with cult status. I attended such a church in Texas for 20 years.

    I look at today's megachurches, and how it's impossible for a member of the flock to be tended personally by the shepherd, and it concerns me greatly.
  8. yetiman

    yetiman Member

    Dec 27, 2011
    Mayfield, KY
    I thought someone forgot to turn on spell check and misspelled "colt".....
  9. ampaterry

    ampaterry *TFF Admin Staff Chaplain* Staff Member Supporting Member

    Dec 20, 2008
    West Tennessee
    ROMT, that happened to me once.
    It turns out I had misspelled every word in the post, and spell check thought it would be better if I just started over.

    :D :D :D
  10. Caneman

    Caneman Active Member

    Oct 22, 2010
    There really must be right belief AND right deeds, imo... This is in the context of the OP on whether or not your belief system is true Christianity or a Christian cult... i get the impression that there are many folks on here who want to be so politically correct and not offend anyone that they just want to say 'hey, that person is a good person, they believe in God and do good things, so they are a Christian, and you can't judge them'...

    We had a pretty good discussion on here a few months ago concerning whether 'Will God Send Good People to Hell'...

    Matthew 7:15-23 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

    People may do good things in the name of their God, but are they known by the Lord Jesus Christ? This passage from Matthew seems to imply to me that not only are your deeds important, but so also are your beliefs in the God you serve...

    Don't get me wrong, when I refer to right beliefs in God I am not referring to tongues, music, Popes, communion, clothing, etc. Do whatever floats your boat so long as you can get back to the dock... But since the OP is referring to Christianity, there are some basics beliefs that distinguish true biblical Christianity from cults... to me, these are the most important: the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the salvation of man by grace alone through acceptance of the acts of Jesus Christ...

    forgot to follow up with this:

    John 14 8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

    Last edited: Jan 14, 2012
  11. RunningOnMT

    RunningOnMT New Member

    Nov 19, 2008
    Akron, Ohio

    That pretty much sums up what I had typed in a lot fewer words...

    I had a few more thoughts like the fact that who we can't offend (and what will offend) seems a bit selective. For example, I doubt that anyone would say anything if I said that Islam is a counterfeit religion straight out of hell or that Mohammed was a lunatic child molester. Also the fact that politics is another area where people are sometimes easily offended but If someone said that the democrat party was full of marxists, no one would hardly notice.

    The thing is that any comment made about religion comes down to a persons faith. Why should anyone be offended by my belief that their religion is a cult? Does it really harm them? If they had that opinion of my faith it wouldn't shake it a bit. That's just an opinion. I would just be sad that they didn't see the truth.

    No comment will offend a person unless they choose to be offended. We set our own parameters as to what will be offensive to us. I suppose the solution to the issue might be to not allow anyone to make any reference to what they do believe OR what they don't believe. But that is pretty silly isn't it? Having free and open discussions about matters of faith is not only interesting but allows people to see things from a different perspective and reexamine their own beliefs. This topic has at least as much right to be included in our discussions as whether or not you believe in ghosts, or extraterrestrial life.

    Is there a difference between calling one religion a cult or simply saying their doctrine is false? There's a real good chance that if I'm not a member of a particular church I don't believe at least some of their doctrine. Apparently I'm free to say some things about what I believe in religious matters, if done respectfully , but wouldn't expressing the tenets of my faith at the same time define what I believe to be false doctrine? That is, anything that doesn't agree with those tenets? For me a cult is any church, denomination, or religion which teaches any doctrine which differs from the gospel of Jesus Christ as contained in the scriptures written by the apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, especially those who invoke Jesus' name or claim to be Christians.

    Political correctness demands that we not make statements offensive to others, but yet they get to decide what is offensive. It seems to me that what is offensive to many people is what they simply don't want to hear because they fear it's the truth. Sometimes a lie is much easier to simply ignore. I'm sure glad that John the baptist, Paul, and even Jesus Christ never bothered with p.c. Truth is all that matters.
  12. When it's voluntary and you believe of your own free will call it a religion. If it is involuntary and you have to give up everything for it and are allowed no dissent it is a cult.

    Simple definition but then I'm just a simple country boy and you ain't getting me tied up in no theoretical hypothesis with permutations and mutations of illogical doctrines that only a lawyer or semi sane philosopher could enjoy.
  13. RunningOnMT

    RunningOnMT New Member

    Nov 19, 2008
    Akron, Ohio
  14. ampaterry

    ampaterry *TFF Admin Staff Chaplain* Staff Member Supporting Member

    Dec 20, 2008
    West Tennessee
    I might think your church is a cult.
    I might think your wife is ugly.
    I might think your kid is stupid.

    But not stating those thoughts is merely being civil, it is NOT being PC.
  15. Caneman

    Caneman Active Member

    Oct 22, 2010
    I can see your point of view, Terry, and I agree with it to a point... I think civility in our society is really lacking, and disappearing rapidly as the years go by... I try to keep my mouth shut (unsuccessfully often times) with my opinions regarding most trivial matters, but with religious faith there are eternal consequences involved... imo, it would not be acting in true Christian love to engage in a religious conversation with someone who is not a Christian and fail to mention what I believe is the truth about Jesus Christ... if I enter into a religious discussion with someone who I believe is in a cult, I will try if possible to tell them about the good news of my God, the Lord Jesus Christ... and it is alwayws my desire to do this in a civil and respectful manner, doesn't always work out that way but that is the intent :)
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