When approached, or challenged, by a member of a cult, remember that his only purpose in talking with you is to “convert” you to his way of thinking! Our conduct in such an encounter is outlined for us in 1 Peter 3:13-15 “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right? But even if you suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence”. This must be our basis for communicating the Gospel, for it shows that we:
- We should not fear anyone
- We should set ourselves apart for the service and witness of the Lord Jesus Christ should be able provide an answer to everyone for the hope we have
- We must always show gentleness and reverence towards all
The early New Testament church was bombarded from all directions by pagan religion and zealous Jews, not the least of them being Saul of Tarsus, who later was to become the Apostle Paul. The church in those days dealt with cultic theology, or doctrine (teaching), in the above stated manner, and this counsel is still good for today. Note how the New Testament Christians reacted when they were confronted by paganism in Acts 8, 9, 13:4-13 and 14:8-18, and later, when their theology was threatened in Acts 15:5, chapters 19 and 20, and 21:18-26. 2.
How Then Can We Deal With Them? We must be prepared, and good preparedness always costs one something – in this case, it will cost you your time and energy. For we have to know what a cult believes and hopes for, in order to understand where they are coming from. By not knowing the fundamental beliefs of a particular group and to enter into discussion with them is fooloshness and will only show your ignorance to them! This will have exactly the opposite effect to that which you desire and will only destroy any credibility you may have had.
We must be equipped and familiar with:
- The group’s background – we must know its roots, or beginnings
- The group’s terminology – we must understand what they really mean when they speak the group’s “re-interpretation process” used when using Christian terminology
- Have some solid questions and answers, so you can tell them why they are wrong
- we must know ways and methods that work in order to lead the cultist from deception into truth.
Remember, all cult members use terminology which you as a Christian will find familiar, but they will have redefined such terminology to fit in with the system they have embraced. If you are not a Christian you will find it very difficult to perhaps even understand what we are trying to say here! So, when talking to the cultist, remember he will interpret any familiar terminology you use, to its meaning as understood by his particular cult. For instance, when speaking to a “Moonie”, and you quote the instance when the Lord said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again …”, you may already know and understand what it is to be Born-again, but for the “Moonie” the expression means that: he was ‘born-again’ from the time when he started reading Moon’s book, “Divine Principles”!
A Jehovah’s Witness does not believe he can be Born-again today, for in his understanding, only a “select few” were ever “born again” after the year 1935! Remember the old saying, “that communication is NOT WHAT YOU SAY, but it is WHAT PEOPLE THINK YOU ARE SAYING!”
Words are only linguistic symbols, and to give them meaning depends on the context in which they are used. Don’t merely LISTEN to the words people use and assume that just because their terminology is the same as yours – for example when you both use a similar phrase – that it means to them what it means to you. These people usually mean something vastly different from what you understand and imply, and because of that, they are deceived and therefore wrong, no matter how sincere they seem!
In summary then, we have to:
UNDERSTAND SOMETHING OF INDIVIDUAL CULTS: Many people THINK they are going to Heaven to be with Jesus Christ merely because they are familiar with and use the language of the Bible. It is therefore, IMPERATIVE that you know God’s Word, the Bible and what it teaches, and that you must be able to teach it clearly as truth (Acts 14:8-15,18 and 17:16-20,32).
UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM OF DISCERNMENT so that we can point out the differences and clearly communicate the TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL.To know and interpret the Bible correctly is paramount if one is to be able to clearly and confidently set forth what the Bible teaches.
We must be able to DEMONSTRATE the truth of Christianity (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The early church knew how to INTERPRET the Word and to TEACH truth (see Acts 8:25-39, 17:10-12, 18:24-26). Sound doctrinal knowledge is the ONLY proven and effective antidote for the demonic doctrines of cultism. To illustrate the point, read 1 Tim. 4:1-16 and 2 Tim. 3:1-17. 3.
Extra-Revelation: Many cultists have “extra-revelation”, i.e. they have and revere additional so-called “scriptures” which they consider just as important, if not more so thatn the Bible. For example, the Mormons and their Book of Mormon. We must be able to demonstrate to the cultist why the Bible is THE ONE true source of knowledge over their “extra” works, and prove why theirs must be regarded as false.
Know the reasons why you believe what you believe: Logically, so that you can demonstrate the evidence for the truth of God’s Word. Notice how Peter used the evidence in Act 2. He used the historicity of Christianity and the prophetical truth of Christianity as the evidence, in order to teach truth.
Having said all that, you may be thinking that you can’t absorb all you need to know. Perhaps you think you haven’t the intelligence, etc., BUT REMEMBER, the early Christians were just simple folk who DEVELOPED THE CAPACITY to know and preach the truth of God’s Word.
Make Sure That You Know Your Own Faith Well: Not just what you believe, but why you believe it! Most Christians know to some degree WHAT they believe, e.g., the tenets of the Apostle’s Creed, but they do not know WHY they believe it. The cults, therefore, capitalise on this ignorance to great advantage! Their chief point of attack is usually: “Why do you believe such and such …?”.
Few cultists, however, can confuse a Christian who is well-versed in biblical theology. As the late Dr. Walter Martin has said so appropriately: “The poison of cultism can be effectively combatted by the antidote of sound doctrine”. (The Kingdom of the Cults, p352). In dealing with cultists, WHY you believe will be more helpful and important than WHAT you believe.
In your preparation for confronting cultists (and other non-Christians), study the REAL thing, not the counterfeit. Remember, when the Treasury Department and banks train people to detect counterfeit money, they do not let them study anything but the genuine currency! They become so familiar with the genuine article that they can spot a counterfeit immediately. The same is true of God’s Word. We, as Christians must become so familiar with the Word of God, that we will immediately recognise satan’s counterfeits by comparison. Be Equipped, therefore, with some Basic Apologetics (2 Peter 3:15, Jude 2:22)
There is No Place for “Pat-Answers”: packaged platitudes, or trite cliches are poor witnessing tools against any non-Christian, especially a cultist! Realise ahead of time that when it comes to apologetics, it will be slow going with them because most people are “experientially oriented” and NOT “intellectually or rationally oriented”. So you must try to communicate knowledge lovingly and patiently. Remember, reason can never replace what reason didn’t put there! All the good reasoning in the world will do no good against an emotional orientation!
Cult members believe as they do because their minds, although they don’t realise it, have been effectively “programmed”. They have NEVER been encouraged to reason things out for themselves, and in fact, they are discouraged, often to the point of threat, from using their own reasoning powers.
Expect most cultists to confront you with the weaknesses and divisions within the Christian Church. Many delight in confronting Christians with the divisions (denominations) within Christendom. They will most likely say to you, “At least we are united, but YOU are all divided, and can’t agree among yourselves on what you believe”. In answering this and other such accusations, we must be open and honest and never try to hide or make excuses for our own weaknesses, but humbly admit them.
However, be quick to point out that even though we do have our differences and divisions on secondary issues, we are all largely united around the BASIC ISSUE, the LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST!
Try to keep some basic cult materials on hand:
This is so that you can ‘lend’* to the traditional door-knocking or street-corner cultist information that may help him to see that he is deceived. If possible, have two kinds of materials. I use the word ‘lend’, because if you ‘give’ it to him, it becomes his and most likely he will throw it away and never read it! However, because they are used to living by ‘rules’, if you lend it to him, he will often respect your property! He knows that he will have to return it to you! If he doesn’t return it, he knows that he will lose all credibility in his so-called ‘witness’!
- tracts to point out the errors of various cults like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, Christian Scientists, Moonism, etc.
- good positive tracts that explain and defend the historic Christian faith.
- * Never try to ‘give’ something to a member of a cult – he then ‘owns’ it and will not respect and keep it. However. when you ‘lend’ something to a cultist, he does not ‘own’ it and respect that he has to return it to you!
- Have Some Good Probing Questions Ready Ahead of Time for When the Cultist Calls: Preparation will give you the offensive position whereby you can control the flow and direction of the conversation. Listed below are some suggested questions to help you get started.
- What scholarship and research is the basis for your biblical interpretation?
- What other nationally recognised biblical scholars agree with your scriptural exegesis (‘exegeis’ means: understanding and interpretation)?
- What other sacred writing do you believe in, other than the Bible?
- Who checks out your founder and leader? To whom does he/she answer? Is he/she accountable to anyone other than “God”? Or, what authority is your leadership under, other than his/her own?
- What do you see as the essential difference between the doctrine of your group and that of the established church?
- What does your group’s theology/philosophy offer me that I do not already have as a Christian?
- Are only the people in your group going to be saved? What do you believe will ultimately happen to me if I reject your group’s doctrine?
- Does one have to quit his local church to join your group? What is your view of the church today?
- What do you believe a person has to do to have an abundant life here, and be assured of eternal life with God in the life to come?
- Do you feel that your group is the only true preacher or interpreter of the Gospel today?
- Of all of the other religious groups in the world, is your group alone the enlightened one? If not, who are other notable Christian or religious groups that you recognise as also teaching truth and who are equal with you in enlightenment and understanding.
- What is the nature of God?
- Who is the Holy Spirit?
- What is your understanding of sin?
- Do you believe that man is a sinner by nature? If not, what is the explanation for man’s current plight? If so, what is the means of atonement (forgiveness) of sin?
- Why do you not believe that Jesus Christ alone is the total answer to your needs and to the needs of the world?
We are sure that as you research the teachings of the Bible and those of the cults, you will recognise that there are many other pertinent and relevent questions that you can use which will provide the Holy Spirit to work in in the cultists life.