Christology, which is the doctrine of the Person, Nature and Work of Christ, is where all cults, that claim to be ‘christian’, deviate from true Historic Christianity. This is their most obvious and deadly error. Deadly because you can be right in every other point of your theology and practice, but if you are wrong and have taken on board the wrong ‘jesus’ then you will lose your soul for all eternity!
Cults that claim to be Christian (there are many that don’t) are usually anti-Trinitarian, and therefore, they do not accept the Holy Spirit as a co-equal member of the Triune Godhead. Some cults go to great lengths to explain that the Holy Spirit is just an impersonal ‘force’; or ‘a divine influence’; or ‘a spiritual enablement that comes from God’ (whoever they believe god to be?).
Cults will always have some extra-Biblical figurehead that is their “Messiah” or “christ-substitute”. They will accept ‘the substitute’ without argument his specific person and his particular interpretation of the Bible and of world affairs. The following facts are worth remembering:
(a) The people who start cults are usually people of great personal charisma and magnetism. They seem to have an unusual ability to attract and inspire (or coerce, is perhaps the better word?) followers in whom they generate great loyalty, zeal, dedication, and sadly, even sacrifice. These leaders are, therefore, usually people with giant egos and great ambitions and often suffer from what has been termed as “messianic complexes”.
(b) The leader usually bases his authority on some ‘new’ or ‘further’ revelation which he credits with personally having received from ‘god’, or some ‘angelic being’? The much hackneyed source is, “…it came from years of ‘personal research and study’. This sort of so-called ‘revelation’ over the passage of time, is sometimes ‘progressive revelation’ – in other words, he may add to, or subtract from it, to suit his circumstances or whims! Therefore, such ‘revelations’ are often found to be contradictory. Revelations will sometimes completely supersede earlier ones, in order to fit a newly-developed situation. Classic examples are, Joseph Smith Jnr. of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormonism), and Charles Taze Russell of Jehovah’s Witnesses! Both are good examples of false prophets who have given ‘progressive’ and contradictory revelations.
(c) Invariably, if one looks to the roots, or beginnings of a cult, one will usually find that the particular group began with some authoritarian pronouncement by its founder who claimed it was the result of a revelation that he ‘received during a period of retreat of fasting and prayer! These leaders usually emerge from such periods of contemplation proclaiming that “the Lord God revealed himself to me and told me …”?
Victor Paul Wierwille, now deceased, founder and president of ‘The Way International’ is a good example of this. He reports his so-called revelation from ‘God’ this way – “I was praying … and that’s when he spoke to me audibly, just like I’m talking to you now. He said he would teach me the word as it has not been known since the first century if I would teach it to others”.
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, also deceased, of the Unification Church, also claims the ‘Jesus’ appeared to him in 1936, and commissioned him to be ‘The Latter-day Prophet’.
[nb: In case you feel you may have been given a revelation such as this, we strongly recommend that you check it out with some mature Christians!]
(d) Most of these founders and leaders, as you can see, are not commissioned or sent out by any legitimate, orthodox, biblically-based denomination, or body (as were Paul and Barnabas, who were sent out by the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1-3). However, these ‘latter-day prophets’ go out ON THEIR OWN AUTHORITY, which constitutes nothing other than self-appointment, because they are not validated by a responsible Holy Spirit-guided Christian Body.
(e) In most cases, since these ‘prophets’ are appointed by ‘their own authority’ – logically therefore founder and leader of their own group – they alone are responsible for all the decision-making within the group and have therefore appointed themselves to ‘think for’ their followers. The leader is usually recognised as being above question. He is followed with blind allegiance and obedience, with his followers being told what they should believe. Those of you who have had contact with a member of any one of the cults will realize that the followers are simply ‘parroting’ their leader’s beliefs and teachings to their hearers. Instant and unquestioning obedience to their leader is imperative for a cult member! As Moon said to his followers: “I am your brain … I will do your thinking for you”. Usually, an attitude of complete closed-mindedness to any other opinion or interpretation exists among cult members. With the result that most followers of such leaders are not interested in a rational, intellectual, cognitive evaluation of the facts of a matter.
(f) With these groups there is usually a ‘gap of knowledge’ between those who make up the ‘inner circle’ and a new member (even old members are kept in the dark!). This is a very esoteric approach (such ‘gaps’ exist in JW’s, TM, Mormonism and The Way, et al). The leadership of the cult is very tightly controlled by one man, or woman, or by an elite inner core of senior members, if the founder has passed away. They are often cloaked in a veil of mystery and aloofness. These types of leaders often live in luxury, while the cult members live rather a bland, austere life of self-denial which sometimes leads to begging, selling or peddling on the streets to support the extravagant and wealthy lifestyles their leaders live. The Governing Body of the JW’s, Rajneesh of the Orange People and Sun Myung and many others have all been good examples of this!
© Fred Grigg 1986 & 2015