The Christian Broadcasting Network

Spiritual Life

More CBN Teaching Sheets

More Bible Study and Theology

More from Spiritual Life


Understanding Cults

By To the Christian, a cult can be defined as any group that has a form of godliness, but does not recognize Jesus Christ as the unique Son of God. Walter R. Martin in The Kingdom of the Cults states that a cult "is a religious group which differs significantly in one or more respects as to belief or practice, from those religious groups which are regarded as the normative expressions of religion in our total culture."

It may be oriented around a personality or around a "revelation" or "interpretation" of one individual. For example, Jehovah's Witnesses are, for the most part, followers of the interpretations and teachings of Charles T. Russell and J.F. Rutherford. Mormons are followers of the interpretations and teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

There are many kinds of religions in the world today. Each group says that theirs is a true religion. However, if you wish to know the true and living God, you must receive the Word of God with all readiness of mind and search the Scriptures daily, to find "whether those things are so." (Acts 17:11b)

What Scripture Says

"I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path." (Psalm 119:104)

"At that time if anyone says to you, "Look, here is the Christ!" or, "Look, there he is!" do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive the elect -- if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time." (Mark 13:21-23)

"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve." (II Corinthians 11:13-15).

How to Recognize a Cult

When you know the truth, that which is authentic, you will easily recognize the "less than authentic." Take the Bible at face value in all its simplicity. These matters include: the doctrine of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit); heaven; hell; Satan; salvation; baptism; baptism with the Holy Spirit; matters of righteousness and holiness in the Lord; the Second Coming of Christ; the resurrection of the dead and recognition of the Bible as the guide and truth for faith and practice.

One test of a cult is that it often does not strictly teach that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God who Himself is God manifested in the flesh. Another test is whether the person who is the teacher or leader of the group or movement promotes himself as being equal to or greater than Jesus, or promotes allegiance to himself in such a way as to take away from obedience to and worship of Christ (II Corinthians 10:10, 18; 11:3,4).

Christian-oriented cults include: The Church of the Latter Day Saints or Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints (also known as Mormons); Christian Science; Unity; Unitarianism (various groups); The Way International (not all groups using the term "The Way"); Rosicrucian Society of America; Bahai; Hare Krishna; Scientology; The Unification Church ("Moonies"); the so-called "Children of God" headed by "Moses" Berg; Jehovah's Witnesses and other fringe groups whose teachings should be suspect.

Some occult groups mix Christianity into their teachings, often deceiving people into following them. Included are: The Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE); Theosophy; Witchcraft and others. Also beware of groups following "Cabalism"; lodges having secret and often bloody oaths; Transcendental Meditation (TM); eastern mysticism (including yoga and those where deities are named) and others which would add Christianity to their religious practices and beliefs.

If you have been entangled with any of these groups, repent, renouncing your involvement with them. Call on the Lord Jesus for forgiveness and cleansing (I John 1:9) and ask for the Baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Participate in a local church fellowship and church-recognized Holy Spirit-oriented Bible/prayer fellowship where the Bible is the only rule for faith and practice (Acts 17:11b).

Upon renouncing cultish beliefs and activities, you must still make willful choices that will change habit patterns related to the cultish activity. Discard all books, tapes, fetishes...(II Kings 19:18, Isaiah 37:19). Old patterns (e.g., inordinate cult-oriented mediation) carried over into a new Christian lifestyle (e.g., prayer) tends to deceive and weaken your resistance to future satanic attacks, much as hypnotism weakens your ability to resist repeated hypnosis.

As You Pray

Repent of cultish involvement. If you find that you cannot repent, you need to seek help for deliverance from cultish spirits. Pray for spiritual enlightenment. Pray that the Holy Spirit will lead you to a church fellowship that teaches Bible truth.

What to Pray:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and need your forgiveness. I believe that You died on the cross for my sins and rose from the grave to give me life. I know You are the only way to God so now I want to quit disobeying You and start living for You. Please forgive me, change my life and show me how to know You. In Jesus' name. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, please send us an e-mail to let us know. Or you can call our National Counseling Center at (800) 759-0700. We would love to talk with you and send you some literature to help you begin your walk with the Lord.

How you can know you are forgiven?

The Bible, God's Word says: You were saved by faith in God, who treats us much better that we deserve. This is God's gift to you, and you have done nothing on your own (Ephesians 2:8). For those who put their faith in Jesus: He gave them the right to be the children of God... God Himself was the one who made them His children (John 1:12-13).

Read other CBN Teaching Sheets


Read The Kingdom of the Cults, by Walter Martin

Galatians 1:8,9 -- Warning on non-Gospel teaching

II Corinthians 11:13-15 -- False apostles

Mark 13:21-23 -- False messiahs

II Timothy 4:1-5 -- Admonition toward correct teaching

Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18:20,22 -- Warning about false prophets and dreamers

Jeremiah 23 -- Destructiveness of unfaithful pastors

Scripture references are taken form the New American Standard translation of the Bible.

Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?

A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.