Religious Cults

Religions, Cults & Worldviews: Valuable Answers for Valid Questions.

The difference between a cult, a sect and a denomination

Many cults today claim to be either a “sect” of the main religion from which they spawned or worse, simply a “denomination” of Christianity. It is for this reason that it is important that we define our terms carefully. Once we know what a cult is not, we can then see what a cult actually is.

Definition & Description of a Sect

Sect comes from the Latin word “secare” which means to cut or divide and the later etymology “sequi” meaning to follow or come after. Both uses described a group, whether philosophical or religious, which broke off from a main to form its own system of philosophy or belief. Many world religions have sects e.g. orthodox, conservative or Hasidic Judaism or Shi’ite, Sunni, or Suffi Muslims etc. A sect may have started as a part of a main group then followed variations on the original belief system introduced by a particular leader or small group within the religion. Ultimately, a sect will maintain most of the essentials of the main religion but will consider themselves “separate” from the main group. In most cases, the main group considers the “sect” to be a valid expression of the original belief system.

Sect differs from the term “denomination” in that a denomination is still considered part of the main faith of Christianity (in a visible sense) even though the denomination has embraced a different liturgy (method and manner of church practice and corporate worship).

We cover the sects of each major world religion and the denominations of Christianity within the individual page for that particular belief system.

Definition & Description of a Denomination

A denomination adheres to the essentials of the Christian faith (which are listed below) but may differ in their liturgical approach, method of worship, etc. By contrast, a cult (of the Christian variety) will depart from the essentials of Christianity i.e. Trinity, Salvation through Christ alone, the virgin birth, etc but may very well resemble the same liturgical approach, and/or methods of worship as orthodox Christianity. c.f. Oneness Pentecostalism. We discuss the families of Christian denominations along with each denomination in particular on our Christian Denominations page.

Definition & Description of a Cult

The definition and description of a sect or denomination differs from the definition of a cult in that a cult will fully depart from the essentials of the main faith but will consider itself to be the only “authentic” version of the original faith e.g. Nation of Islam, Mormonism. Or in some cases will create itself from scratch by following a dynamic leader e.g. Scientology or Santa Muerte Death Cult.

Select the links in each of the group names above and throughout this page to be taken to more information on that particular belief system.

There are a number of criteria to consider when examining a particular religion or faith. This criteria is used to determine whether the faith is a “cult” or simply a “cult-like” sect, religion, or denomination. Have a look at the list below and see how your group measures up.

The next to last point above causes great consternation for some whose grandparents, parents, siblings, and entire social network may be part of the cult and from whom, the expelled person would be ‘excommunicated’. Cults will use the threat of losing relationships of family-member cultists to keep the “straying or questioning” cult member in line. (method of control)

Cults ask, “How can a loving God send anyone to hell?”

The Christian response might logically be: “How can a righteous/just God send anyone to heaven?” “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”; ‘Each one has gone astray’

Another Christian Response might be: Their (the self-condemned) understanding of God’s character is warped. He honors man’s free will choice to be separate from Him as he TRULY is! The Bible speaks of this sort of person: Rom 1:28 “They did not think it worthwhile to retain the true knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind…”

Groups which bear many (or all) of the characteristics of a cult :

Latter Day Saints (LDS) or Mormons – The god of Mormonism is one of many gods who comes from a planet near the star called Kolob whereas Biblical Christianity adheres to the fundamental that God is Creator of all things seen and unseen including any and all planets and any and all stars (even the star named ‘Kolob’ if such a star existed). You can read more about this group on our Latter Day Saints – Mormons page.

In addition to Latter Day Saints – LDS – Mormons, other cultic groups are: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Nation of Islam (Louis Farrakhan), Roman Catholicism, Rev Myung Sun Moon (Moonies), Christadelphians, Oneness Pentecostalism, I would add that MANY pseudo-Christian Charismatic groups – New Apostolic Reformation (Bill Johnson of Bethel) and Word Faith groups (Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, Paula White etc.) are very much a part of these groups and meet many of the cult criteria above. Click the links in the group names above to read more about that particular group.

A group need not be affiliated with Christianity to be considered a cult. Consider the tragedy of the Heaven’s Gate cult. This cult resembled much of the more extreme “space visitor” and “space salvation” doctrines of Scientology but was not directly related to the views of any established world religion. It was simply a “science fiction” cult which seem to be growing in number (cf “Jediism” – newfound cult of the “Jedi” of the science fiction works of George Lucas.). Other non-Christian cults would include Transcendental Mediation (TM), Nation of Islam and the Santa Muerte Death Cult

There are cults that come from Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Atheism, and other world religions. Many of which have grown so large that the primary religion from which they emerged has simply recognized them as a “sect” and not a cult at all. A few examples of these groups are the Hare Krishas (Hinduism) Suffism (Islam), Tibetan Buddhism – a mix of animism and Buddhism (Buddhism).

Groups which bear some of the characteristics of a cult:

Amish, Disciples of Christ, Potter’s House, Seventh Day Adventists, and many of the charismatic movements within Christianity. These groups are considered by some to be “Exo-orthodox” or “outside” of orthodox practices according to the Bible.

6. How do I Become a Christian?

9 Steps Toward Becoming A Christian & Receiving Eternal Life:

(If taken honestly, with sincerity, and in humility)

There is a Biblical term called “The Gospel” which simply means “good news”. However, there is no such thing as “good news” if there wasn’t any bad news to begin with. Without bad news – the Gospel is nothing more than simple “news”.
The first 5 steps below spell out, in general terms with Biblical references, the bad news that must be grasped first before the good news (steps 6-9) can even lead to or have any effect whatsoever on a person’s life here on earth or in eternity. This is the “Gospel” according to Scripture and not according to some smiling purpose-driven false preacher on television:

Step One:

Know that God exists and that He is a rewarder of all who diligently seek Him

It all starts with the acceptance that the God spoken of in the Bible truly exists. Fear of God (of the Bible) is the beginning of wisdom – some try to define this “fear” as “reverence” which is terribly wrong – it is the terrifying fear that is equated with dread (phobo) that Jesus spoke of when he said “fear Him who which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”. Its quite obvious Jesus wasn’t saying to “reverence” (timao) the one who has this power but have a genuine fear just as the plain reading of the passage indicates.

Biblical Basis

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Step Two:

Recognise the sad fact that no one seeks the Lord nor is anyone “righteous” and that the wrath of God abides on sinful humanity.

Not you, not me, no one is “righteous” (in right standing with God). This step requires an admission that, like everyone else, you have “missed the mark” which is defined as sin. Moreover we are all in outright rebellion toward the God of The Bible in that we have gone our own way and the wrath of God abides on those who are apart from Christ. When asked the question, “Are you a good person?” 99% of all people will answer “Yes” or “Pretty Good” or “Not as bad as others!”. When the truth is that no is good, pretty good or any better than others and that we all are sinners with the wrath of God abiding on us apart from Christ.

Biblical Basis

Ecclesiastes 7:20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

Romans 3:10-11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

John 3:36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

Romans 1:18-19
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.

Step Three:

Know that this “sin” has separated us from the One true God (and there is only One true God)

God Almighty is perfect – we are not and because of this, sinful men and women do not spend eternity in a sinless environment i.e. the presence of God in heaven. One sin against an eternal being requires an eternal payment. All humans are temporal and cannot pay an eternal debt for even ONE sin against God and we each have hundreds of thousands and millions of sins against him. This debt is insurmountable. Here is a sermon/podcast to explain more about this truth: INSURMOUNTABLE DEBT TO GOD & ITS CONSEQUENCES

Biblical Basis

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

Ephesians 2:12-13 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Step Four:

Understand that if we die in this separated state – it is permanent for all eternity.

Accept that eternal separation from God means the absence of all things even remotely good: comfort, peace, laughter, companionship, satisfaction – all are gone for all eternity as they are all daily gifts large and small from God Almighty whether we acknowledge Him for these or not. These gifts are an expression of His grace and completely disappear with Him upon the finality of your rejection of Him at your physical death. (the cutoff point of grace). At this point we receive the “wages” of our lifetime work of sin – which is death by God’s definition: eternal separation from Him.

Biblical Basis

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Philippians 3:18-20 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.

Ephesians 2:1-3 And you  who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

Step Five:

Recognise that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves as we are slaves to this sin which separates us and we can’t stop sinning even if we wanted to.

This is a hard thing to recognise as we seem to think, in our deceived state, that we can just “try harder” and eventually live a God-fearing righteous life. There are also forms of “pseudo” Christianity like Roman Catholicism, Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witness who further teach this horrifically erroneous idea of “self-effort”. This is a delusion. This step requires your admission to God that because of your enslaved sin-separated condition, like everyone else, you need a Saviour – who is none other than God Himself to whom you confess this in truth.

Biblical Basis

John 8:34-36 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Romans 6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

Step Six:

Know that God provided a Saviour, His only begotten Son Jesus (of the Bible)

This Savior is none other than God Almighty incarnate in the person of the Son (the second person of the Trinity) who died on the Cross to pay for your sins and mine for all eternity so we can spend eternity with Him and not separated from Him. Our sins against the eternal One required an eternal payment and only One, God Himself, is eternal and could provide payment for such a debt. So the judge Himself came down and provided the payment for we who stand “guilty as charged”.

Biblical Basis

1 Timothy 1:15-17  This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, thatin me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believeon Him for everlasting life.

Isaiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world tocondemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Step Seven:

Sincerely, deliberately and directly pray to the God of the Bible with a crying out to Him for mercy and forgiveness.

This is not a formulaic “sinner’s prayer” asking “Jesus to come into my life” nor is it deluding yourself that you are “giving your life” to Him. You have no life nor did I as we were dead in our trespasses and sins. Rather, confess to the God of the Bible that you agree with His word which has revealed that you are in a helpless sin condition (slavery) which keeps you at enmity with Him and thereby His wrath abiding on you and rightful condemnation when you die. Ask for His forgiveness according to the person and finished work of His only begotten Son Jesus on the cross which was God’s eternal payment for your sins. This application is not automatic to all but only to those who place their faith in Jesus as Savior. Jesus’ character is perfect and His word is perfect – when He says He will hear your prayer, forgive you, and wash away your sins – then HE WILL DO IT!

Biblical Basis

Luke 18:9-14 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Romans 10:13 For “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Acts 2:21 And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

John 6:37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

John 1:12-13 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Step Eight:

Confess Jesus with your mouth and accept that God the Father has raised Jesus the Son from the dead.

We are saved by grace through faith not grace through “hope”. This step requires believing that Jesus has won the victory over both sin and death in  your life and has washed your sins away. If you have come to genuine faith in Christ, it will be concurrent with repentance of your sinful past. Put your faith in Christ – faith is the evidence of things unseen and the assurance of things hoped for. Repentance is a turning away and changing of your mind toward God and away from those things which are contrary to His word, love and forgiveness toward you. Know that because you cried out to Him in faith – as you really are in truth – dead in trespasses to Him in truth as He really is – The One True saving God of the Bible – that He will respond to your cry as He said He would and he will save you out his mercy (undeserved forgiveness) and grace (unmerited favour).

Biblical Basis

Romans 10:9-13 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and isjustified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

John 5:22-24 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Sonhonoureth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth myword, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

Acts 2:36-39 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”

Step Nine:

Walk in the newness of life given to you by Jesus.

This final step is lifelong and it involves growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit: Peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, forgiveness. Repentance is not an event but a lifestyle and happens concurrent with genuine salvation i.e. sincere faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Those of us who have been washed of our sins are called to life which involves walking in the Spirit and we are called to put off the things of the flesh, putting to death the old manner of life and living life as a new creation.

Biblical Basis

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gaveHimself up for me.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.