‘Christian’ Cults

By 'the Christian cults' we mean those groups which, though they claim to be Christian, differ from basic Christianity to such a degree that they are regarded by mainstream Christians as being in major error and thus heretical. Most of these cults originated in America.

Members of these groups fall into two general categories. Some have swallowed the party line completely and have no interest in listening to other people's views. Others, by contrast, are fundamentally seeking God and through circumstances have been drawn into the cult, but their overriding desire is to know and please the Lord. These are usually much more open to debate and the weighing of other viewpoints.

We also need to remember that God is a God of grace and responds to the slightest move on a person's part towards him. For that reason, while we may completely reject a cult's doctrine as a system, we must stay open to the fact that some members may be genuinely born again—in spite of the system rather than because of it.

 

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The Book of Mormon

Mormons

Properly called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, this cult traces its roots to an American named Joseph Smith (1805-1844).

He was a psychic (Mormons would say 'prophet') and claimed many 'revelations' that led to the creation of the Mormon Church. The main one was of an angel called Moroni, who told him that details of early American history and a fuller revelation of the gospel were written in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics on gold plates hidden under Cumorah hill. Four years later hewas provided with the 'Urim and Thummim', Mormon Temple, Salt Lake City, USAwhich were 'stones' enabling him to decipher the hieroglyphics and translate the plates. This is the cult's main textbook, the Book of Mormon, which in theory they give equal status with the Bible but in practice exalt above it.

Early Mormons were polygamists (Smith had 17 wives) and had difficulty finding acceptance in society. Smith's successor, Brigham Young (at least 26 wives), eventually led them on a trek to Utah, where they settled and founded Salt Lake City—still the cult's headquarters.

Their doctrine differs from Bible truth in many points. They believe that God was once a mortal like the rest of us but advanced to become a god. Christ was the devil's brother, a polygamist who married both Mary and Martha at the wedding at Cana. His death has no saving power. He did, however, rise from the dead and he visited America in AD 34 - a flat contradiction of Acts 1:8-11. But the Holy Spirit is merely an impersonal force.

Salvation is by being baptised by Mormons, living a good life and keeping the church's rules. Members can also undergo proxy baptism on behalf of non-baptised people of bygone ages. Young men are expected to do a period of missionary service by calling at people's homes and trying to convert them.

Mormons attract many to their numbers by their emphasis on family life and wholesome values-and their American funding. They are also very diligent in looking after their members, providing support for the needy in both cash and kind so that they have no need to look to the state for benefits.

Read a review of an enlightening book on Mormonism by a couple who were at the highest level of the movement’s leadership in Britain before leaving it to embrace mainline Christianity.

Jehovah's Witnesses

This cult was founded by an American, Charles Taze Russell (1870-1916). The name 'Jehovah's Witnesses' (based on Isaiah 43:10) was not adopted until 1931, the group having previously been called by several other names: Russellites, Millennial Dawn, the International Bible Students' Association, and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

Jehovah's Witnesses have their own English translation of the Bible: the New World Translation. Christian scholars universally recognise it to be unreliable, in places dishonest, and adapted in line with the group's doctrines.

Their doctrine of Christ is seriously deficient. They deny his deity, believing him to be a created being, the archangel Michael. His death atoned only for Adam's sins, not for anyone else's; it merely provides a basis upon which individuals must work for their own salvation.

They do not believe that Jesus rose in bodily form from the dead. As for his return, they hold that he was crowned as king in October 1914 and 'returned' secretly and invisibly. At the same time, Satan and his hosts were thrown out of heaven and came to earth.

As for the Holy Spirit, Jehovah's Witnesses view him as no more than a vague force.

With no real Saviour, they inevitably end up in legalism. Salvation has to be earned by door-knocking, the selling of Watchtower literature and attending meetings and conferences. There is an 'anointed class' of believers, numbering 144,000, who, if they work hard enough at it, are born again and will go to heaven, but the last of these places was taken in 1931. Other believers are in the general class, called the 'other sheep', and they will have to be content with life on the new earth.

Jehovah's Witnesses take a legalistic view of Genesis 9:4, on the basis of which they teach it is a sin to accept a blood transfusion. As a result, many have died who with a transfusion might have been saved.

Christadelphians

The name comes from two Greek words meaning 'Christian brothers'. Like Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians are Arians, that is, they believe Christ to be a created being.

The movement was started by an English medical doctor, John Thomas (born 1805), who spent much of his life in America. He became fascinated by the book of Revelation and other prophetic books of theChristadelphian chapel Bible. Soon he claimed to have the authentic interpretation of those books, and taught that salvation depended on embracing his views. The movement developed chiefly in Britain but never became very large.

Like Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians reject the doctrine of the Trinity, holding both the Son and the Spirit to be created by the Father. Jesus' birth was not miraculous, nor was his life perfect, and there is no atoning value or purpose in his death. The Holy Spirit is just a vague power. The devil does not exist.

They deny salvation by grace. The Christian life begins, they hold, with baptism by Christadelphians, after which life is a period of probation. Depending on the individual's performance, salvation may or may not be achieved. In other words, salvation is entirely by works.

Numbers appear to have been shrinking in recent years and this cult remains small compared with the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons.

Christian Science

This cult, which is neither Christian nor scientific, was founded by Mary Baker Eddy (pictured, born in New Hampshire, USA, in 1821). Its proper name is The Church of Christ, Scientist.

Mary Baker EddyMrs Baker Eddy, three times married, had a very unhappy life and suffered with poor health. She claimed to have been healed dramatically on two occasions, leading to the formulation of her theories, the main one being that sickness and death are illusions, existing only in the mind. In 1875 she set out her views in Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures. She claimed to be God's appointed messenger to this age.

Though the movement grew in popularity, making its founder very wealthy, it is now in decline, and its American newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor, is losing money. One can still, however, find a Christian Science Reading Room here and there.

The movement disapproves of medical treatment, advocating instead 'prayer and mental renewal'. Qualified Christian Science practitioners charge adherents for their services of encouragement in this. Yet Mrs Baker Eddy is reliably recorded as wearing both glasses and dentures, as well as receiving regular pain-killing morphine injections.

Christian Science is pantheistic, that is, it holds that God is the universe and the universe is God. It thus has no time for the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is Christian Science, and Jesus, it maintains, was just a Jewish man who lived 2000 years ago. He is totally separate from Christ—which is the name for the divine idea. Jesus did not really suffer or die, so there was no resurrection. He was just a good example to us.

Since sin, evil, and even material things are delusions of our mortal mind, there is no need for any atonement. 'Salvation' simply means being saved from wrong ideas.

Christian Scientists believe the Bible to contain many errors, yet they accept Mrs Baker Eddy's writings as inspired and without error.

 

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