Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Marks of a Cult

Links worth checking out

The Marks of Cultism by Zac Poonen
Some great points made in this article.  We believe that Christianity (as a culture) is becoming largely cultish, and Poonen's article is a reflection of what we have seen and experienced. He defines a cult as a group that lifts up another person (or persons) to Christ status (a worship-like attitude of the messenger, whose word is held up as "gospel truth" rather than tested against scripture), has a book in addition to the bible that is regarded to be as infallible as the bible itself (Poonen writes, "Many cultistic groups may deny that they give such a place to the writings of their founder. But their attitude towards that one book indicates that they do place it on equality with the Bible. Their actions speak louder than their words.") which may include teachings, articles, catechisms, or hymns, is highly exclusive in their fellowship ("Cultistically-minded believers feel that fellowship with other born-again believers outside of their own group has little or no spiritual value. [...] Such a group usually considers itself to be the only true church and believes that all those who belong to Christ's Bride will ultimately find their way to them," Poonen explains.), has no (or little) burden for evangelism ("While there may be some cultistic groups that engage in evangelism on a limited scale among the heathen, generally speaking, most cultistic believers work only among other Christians. They do not have any desire to preach the gospel to every creature, as Jesus commanded (Mark 16:15). Instead, they major only on making disciples to their own group from among other believers.").

Poonen also points out that cults often devalue part of the gospel message- Justification by Faith.  "Scripture does speak of works as the proof of our faith (James 2:24). But Scripture also teaches that "to the one who does not work, but believes in Him Who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" (Rom.4:5). The danger here is not just one of imbalance, but of heresy - for when one Biblical truth is carried to an extreme, to the exclusion of other Biblical truths, it can become a heresy. And further, if we hold a Biblical doctrine, but never teach it in our churches, it will become equivalent to our not believing in it at all. For unspoken truth, like an unused muscle, loses its function gradually and is finally lost altogether to the church. "The truth does not lie in one extreme or the other. Much less does it lie in the middle. The truth lies in both extremes held together." We must be careful that our teaching is not a reaction to the extremes that others have gone to. Many preachers have indeed turned the teaching of justification by faith into licence for sin. But that should not make us throw away this Scriptural truth, and go to the opposite extreme of preaching justification by works alone. Cultistic believers, generally speaking, preach on justification by good works only. Hinduism and all heathen religions do that too. If at all a cultistic believer speaks on Romans 4, it will be in such a way as to prove that Romans 4 also teaches justification by works!! Cultistic believers usually play down the truth of "Christ becoming our righteousness" (1 Cor.1:30), and major only on "the righteousness of the law being fulfilled in us" (Rom.8:4)."

There is real danger there, as we depend on that grace and the promise of Christ as our righteousness.  We cannot forget that God's word clearly says that even our righteous works are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  Jesus Christ did not die so that our own works would suddenly become righteous. We have been crucified and risen with Him so that His works may live through us.

Poonen's goes on to state that other marks of cultism are secrecy of beliefs (When confronted with an issue that has no scriptural foundation, they may state, "You just need to have faith."  In my experience, cultish groups may guard writings or recordings [sermons] because they do not want them to get into the "wrong hands".  If you are preaching the Truth of God from His Holy Word, you do not have to worry about whose hands it falls into.) and the demand of uniformity among members (lots of good points he makes in regards to this).

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