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THEO 301 (Fa '15) T02 - Defining Cults

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Hartmut Scherer

on 13 August 2016

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Transcript of THEO 301 (Fa '15) T02 - Defining Cults

Defining Cults
What is a cult? How can we know this?
Linguistic perspective
"A cultic action is one that involves external rites and ceremonies with a worshipful attitude on the part of the devotee." This system of worship is different from others.
Sociological perspective
"A cult is a religious or semi-religious sect or group whose members are controlled or dominated almost entirely by a single individual or organization."
Theological perspective
"A cult [is a group of people, which claiming to be faithful to the parent or host religion (e.g., Christianity)], embraces a particular doctrinal system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which [system] denies (either explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines [of the parent religion]..."
relates to language.
relates to the structure and dynamics of society.
Kindle location 206 of 7550.
Kindle location 231 of 7550.
We need to know the
of the
central doctrines
of the parent or host religion.
Kindle location 193 of 7550.
Sources and Image Credit
Adopted "Principles for Evaluating Religious Movements" from Tal Davis "Cult/Sect Overview"; accessed August 27, 2015;http://www.4truth.net/fourtruthpbnew.aspx?pageid=8589952660.
Adopted key thoughts from
Handbook of Religion
, chapter 67 (New Religious Movements (NRM) Introduction, loc. 9548 of 18013.
Adopted from doctrinal characteristics of cults given in our textbook (loc 264ff) and "The Characteristics of Cults" in McDowell, Josh and Don Stewart,
Handbook of Today’s Religions
, 20ff.
- What starts as a new religious movement,
does not necessarily turn into a cult. But
cults start as a new religious movement.
- Acts 9:2
- Christianity started as a new religious movement
Cultural System
The majority of NRMs derive either from traditional religions or world religions.
Social System
Their reason for being is to strengthen social systems designed to allow people to live together harmoniously.
Economic System
A few new religious movements seem most at home using economic symbolism.
Political System
Example: Christian Identity
Personality System
Examples: Scientology, Human Potential Movement
New Religious Movement
The Reason for NRMs
Behavioral System
Examples: Transcendental Meditation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Example: Freemasonry
Examples: Marxism, Landmark Forum
They believe that they are the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Both consider people’s health as the most important goal of modern living.
Meanings and Motivations
current religious forms
Landmark Forum
current religious forms
Economic system:
Cultural system:
(reform, revitalize)
Central Doctrines
- doctrine about God
- doctrine about Jesus Christ
- doctrine about mankind
- doctrine about sin and salvation
- doctrine about scripture
Principles for Evaluating Religious Movements
- What is the source of the movement's authority for doctrine
and practice?
- Does the movement clearly affirm basic historic Christian
- What is the movement's attitude toward other Bible-
believing, Christian groups?
- How does the movement explain the way of salvation?
Do you need to run a fast check of a Christian cult?
Look for the teaching about the
Jesus Christ
Checklist of Features
New Truth
- God has revealed something special to them
New Interpretations of Scripture
- some claim to have the key to interpreting the mysteries in
the Bible
A Non-biblical Source of Authority
- source of authority that supersedes the Bible
Another Jesus
- false teaching about the person of Jesus Christ
Non-Biblical Teaching on the Nature of God (Trinity)
- an inadequate view or outright denial of the Trinity
Strong Leadership
- the gospel of the grace of God is completely missing
Salvation by Works
- central leader figures who consider themselves
messengers of God with unique access to the Almighty
- cult leaders have made bold predictions of future events
False Prophecy
Full transcript