BEYOND! The word has certain appeal. It makes one think of new horizons, new experiences! We are living in a time when many are attempting to move beyond God and His will for our lives. Here lies new danger.
The prevailing emotion of our civilization is not love or hate -- it is boredom. People are demanding new fascinations to feed their ever-shortening spans of interest. The demand for new fascinations has led many beyond the faith once delivered to the saints to something newer and more exciting.
People envision God as living behind a stone wall -- unreachable, untouchable. Actually God has invited us in to join His family, to be His children. There is nothing higher, greater or more magnificent than being a child of God. To try to live beyond this is dangerous. Once an individual moves beyond Christianity to the spirit realm, he leaves God and falls into a bottomless pit of heresy.
Cultists, humanists, and spiritists are all attempting to reach out beyond Christianity. In his book, Know the Marks of the Cults, David Breese observes:
Beyond rationality is insanity
Beyond medicine is poison
Beyond sex is perversion
Beyond reality is fantasy
Beyond Christianity is death, hopelessness, darkness, heresy.
WHAT IS A CULT?
A cult is a religious perversion. It is a belief and practice in the world of religion which calls for devotion to a religious view or leader -- usually a leader centered in false doctrine. A cult distorts the word of God by perverting the truth into a lie.
Cult leaders generally claim to have received a special revelation from God, possibly even continued revelations. This claim makes it difficult to discuss any part of the revealed word of God in reasonable terms.
Discussion with members of cults is extremely difficult because they are very well conditioned or brainwashed on how to relate to outsiders. The most bewildering thing about them is their claim to be freed from religious exploitation for they are carbon copies of their leader. The fact of the matter is that cultists have no freedom of speech. One either accepts what the leader says or is ostracized. Most cults are dogmatic and highly intolerant if their teachings are not accepted.
WHY THE GROWTH OF CULTS?
There are three primary reasons for the current surge of cults. The first is the fact that insecurity is one of life's major problems. Cult leaders know this and capitalize on it. When an insecure person suddenly meets a group of people who seem happy, caring and loving, he or she naturally wants to be a part of it. Appearance does not matter, only feelings. This way of thinking can easily be explained because everything about today seems strange and different from any previous age. Man has lost his sense of security so he turns to myths. "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths, " 11 Timothy 4:3, 4.
The second reason is that this is a time of confusion. Values are questioned, traditional ideas are not acceptable but new ideas are unclear. This feeling is reflected in popular music. The lyrics of songs advocate free sex, devil worship, homosexuality, a please yourself attitude. Television programming is conditioning us to accept promiscuity as a way of life. The devil has convinced the world that if it feels good it must be right. Cults like Children of God advocate the latter philosophy.
The third reason for the growth of cults is the need for human community. We all need to feel wanted, loved, useful. With our American emphasis on individual achievement we have lost a sense of community among people. As communities and schools become larger there is less and less communion between people. Independence, distrust, fences, isolation -- it is a natural progression. Americans are becoming more and more isolated from one another and they long for that feeling of belonging to a caring community where wounds can be bandaged and happiness shared. This atmosphere provides a wonderful opportunity for the cultists.
The cults are bound together in a tight-knit community. One of their most marked features is the way members of the cults are deeply conscious of their community relationship. There is a deep sense of commitment coupled with an obvious caring for one another. I believe this is where the Church has failed for cults know this and have focused on it.
UNDERSTANDING THE CULTS
It is important that we understand the mind of the cults. Usually a can springs up around a powerful and overwhelming personality; for example, Mary Baker Eddy of Christian Science and C.T. Russell of the Jehovah Witnesses Checking into the background of a cult leader usually provides helpful insights into the cult activities and beliefs. Joseph Smith had been a Freemason and was removed from the Masonic Lodge. That fact helps to explain some of the Mormon ritualistic structure. Rev. Moon had a Christian background in the Presbyterian Church in Korea. He drifted from it into Pentecostalism and then into anticommunist activities.
Cults usually center around the leader and often the cult dies when the leader dies. But what about those cults that live on? The reason they continue is because the writings of the deceased leader are accepted as gospel. The founder is then classified as messianic and is placed on a pedestal to the point of adoration and worship. Even though the writings and ideas of the founder of the cult contradict the Word of God, they are accepted. The Scriptures are then twisted and, in some cases, the Bible is relegated to a position below the writings of the founder. A classic example is the Book of Mormon. This is given precedence over the Word of God.
Cult organizations usually have a rigid set of teachings and life-styles in which every member must abide. There is absolutely no room for freedom of thought or expression. Rigidity is necessary for the cult to exist. A cultist is dedicated to his belief and will absolutely refuse to have his teachings questioned.
Cult members will appeal to Christians on the authority of the Bible, usually their own translation. A poor student of God's Word can easily become confused and uncertain. This opens the door for a foreign seed to be planted in the mind of the victim. The member of the cult who approaches you will not only bring mere words but a life-style that affirms the depth of his commitment.
The commitment of the Mormon young men to dedicate two years of their life evangelizing is an example of their dedication to their cause. These are requirements that are built into their life-style. When a cult member goes out into the streets to evangelize, he is proving his self worth. He is encouraged and praised by his peers for his effort.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Christians today need to heed Peter's urgent call, "Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account to the hope that is in you. Yet do it with gentleness and reverence, " I Peter 3:15. Cult leaders and followers alike now their message. We must know ours. Be committed.
Remember that in an argument with a cultist, logic most likely will not prevail. These people usually believe their leader gets his information directly from God.
Gather information about the cult. Know the leader's background and goals of the cults. Ask intelligent, specific questions.
Approach the matter with prayer. Be patient. Leave the door open for a lost loved one to return. Be sure to let the individual know that even though you may not agree with what he is doing, you still love him.