This article is adapted from a podcast episode originally posted on .
In the Christian context, the definition of “cult” is related to a religious group that denies one or more of the foundations of biblical truth. A cult claims to be part of a religion, but denies some of its essential truths. Therefore, a cult will deny one or more of the fundamental truths of Christianity while still claiming to be Christian.
When I started my college years, I became friends with two Mormon missionaries. We talked a lot. They went to my house many times and I went to theirs too. They were honestly very kind and nice people. At that time, I was already a Christian and really wanted to share the gospel with other people. We made an agreement in which they could share their message with me and I could also share the message of the Bible with them. For about three months we met to talk about our differences. To be honest, we also find similar things in our religions.
There were a few things that caught my attention significantly during our talks. These are some, which we will analyze in more detail later:
- We have things in common.
- We disagree on the most important beliefs.
- They use a vocabulary very similar to ours.
The three affirmations that I have just mentioned mark a common factor in all the sects. This not only includes Mormons, but also Jehovah’s Witnesses, among other groups.
Christians must be vigilant. The New Testament acknowledges the existence of false teachers who teach false doctrines by which they deny major theological truths. For example, several times Jesus warned against the existence of false teachers:
«Because false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders in order to mislead, if possible, the elect. But you, be alert; see that I have told you everything beforehand” (Mark 13:22–23).
That is why we must evaluate the doctrines of some sects to identify which ones we must be alert to. Let’s take a closer look at the three statements that caught my attention and that I mentioned at the beginning:
1) We have a lot in common
We, like sects such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, uphold the values and standards of biblical morality. They defend freedom of religion and speak out against abortion, they value family and go to a temple to meet, just like us.
2) We disagree on the most important beliefs
What we don’t have in common is very important. For example, sects calling themselves Christian claim that Jesus is not God or that He is one tiny god among many. They also teach that salvation is not by faith in Christ alone, but by the practice of certain works. We believe in the gospel of the Bible, that only Christ can give us salvation. However, they add other requirements for salvation, and therefore we conclude that they believe and preach another gospel. Their fundamental beliefs are totally different from ours and that is why we do not call them Christians.
3) They use a vocabulary similar to ours
Sometimes I talk to Christians who don’t understand why we can’t join the cults. These believers argue that there are certain sects that believe in Jesus, speak of God as the creator, believe in sin, claim that Jesus lived and died. The problem is how we define the words we use.
For example, Mormons claim to believe in God, but believe that God was first a man and then became a god. However, the Bible categorically affirms that God has been God for all eternity (Job 36:26; Is 40:28; Hab 1:12; Ps 90:2).
Although we use similar words, the definition is not the same. So when we use terms like God, Jesus either salvation, we talk about completely different meanings and implications. The Scriptures call us to identify the truth from the error to honor God by preaching the full content of the true gospel that he saves, which is not present in these sects that depart from the clear teachings of the Bible.