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Church or Cult?

Recognition and beliefs.

How Do I Recognize A Cult?

Practically every cult has certain characteristics that can tell the careful observer that something is wrong.

For instance, what does a group think about Jesus? Jesus Christ is God, Lord of all, the only source of salvation. Invariably, a cult will put something else on an equal footing with Christ. It will have a ritual that is equal to Christ, or it will have a doctrine equal to Christ, or it will have a leader who is equal to Christ. In other words, even if it acknowledges Christ as Savior, it will say that you need something else before you can get into heaven. Cults teach that salvation comes through Christ, plus their little unique way. Some cults do not acknowledge Christ at all. They may make Him coequal with their religious teachers or with certain great men of history. The quickest way to recognize a cult is by its treatment of Jesus.

Second, cults frequently attempt to instill fear into their followers. The followers are taught constantly that salvation comes only through the cult. "If you leave us, you will lose your salvation," they say.

The third area has to do with the exaltation of the leader of the cult. Cults often center around a man or woman who is trying to gain power, money, or influence from manipulating people. This appears to be the case in the Unification church with Sun Myung Moon. In the Children of God, Moses David Berg is an autocratic leader. In the People's Temple, Jim Jones drew attention to himself and asked his followers to die with him. A true leader who serves Jesus Christ has one goal, and that is to exalt and manifest Jesus. When someone says he has unique insight into God or is the special one that God has anointed to reach the world, you are dealing with cultic behavior.

A final mark of a cult is the unwillingness of the leaders to let the people grow up. A true shepherd will do everything he can to bring Christian people to maturity as quickly as he can. He will not seek to avoid necessary teaching, nor will he try to keep people from maturity. Many cults perpetuate spiritual dependence so that their followers lose the ability to make independent, rational decisions. Often techniques of brainwashing are used to create robot-like behavior.

Although there are other marks of cultic behavior, these seem to be the ones that stand out.


What Do Mormons Believe?

Mormons are some of the most exemplary human beings, especially in regard to their behavior patterns and their adherence to the fundamental values of our society. But their religious beliefs are, to put is simply, wrong. They believe that an angel named Moroni left some gold tablets in upstate New York and that these tablets were discovered by a man named Joseph Smith. From these tablets, Joseph Smith "translated" the Book of Mormon, which is the foundation upon which Mormonism is built. Mormons also consider two other books, Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price, to be divinely inspired.

Mormonism differs from biblical Christianity in several areas. Mormons do not believe, for example, that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Mormons must work their way to heaven. (B. R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City:1958), p. 191.)

Mormonism teaches that God is not the only deity and that we all have the potential of becoming gods. (Ibid., p. 576.) (Remember that Satan's fall came about because he wanted to be like God.) God, according to Mormons, is not just Spirit but has "a body of flesh and bones as tangible as a man's." (Doctrine and Covenants, 130:22.) They teach, "As we are, he was. As he is, we shall become." (Joseph Smith, "The King Follett Discourse," p. 9.) There has been constant revision of Mormon doctrine over the years, as church leaders have changed their minds on a number of subjects including polygamy, which was once sanctioned by the church.

In summary, the Mormon church is a prosperous, growing organization that has produced many people of exemplary character. But when it comes to spiritual matters, the Mormons are far from the truth.


What Do Jehovah's Witnesses Believe?

Jehovah's Witnesses believe, essentially, that to gain salvation you must witness for Jehovah; you must go out on the streets and proclaim salvation in Jehovah. They are different from Christians in that they believe Jesus Christ is only one of many gods and that He is a created being. They translate John 1:1 as, "In the beginning was the word...and the word was a god." The Greek says, instead, "And the word was God" (John 1:1).

Because Jehovah's Witnesses give allegiance only to Jehovah, they do not pledge allegiance to the flag, they do not vote, they do not serve in armed forces, and they do not hold public office. They do not celebrate holidays or birthdays. Another unique teaching prohibits them from taking blood transfusions.

Jehovah's Witnesses originally taught that the world would end in 1914. It obviously did not. They also taught that there were only 144,000 people who were going to be saved by going to heaven. When Jehovah's Witnesses membership went past 144,000, they said they were the meek and were going to inherit the earth.

A major problem with the tenets of Jehovah's Witnesses is that there is never an assurance of salvation. In Christianity, a person can know that he is saved by trusting in Jesus. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that salvation comes through good works, so they must work continuously, without ever really knowing whether they will be saved. Many of their other doctrines are not biblical either.


What Do Unitarians Believe?

Unitarians do not believe in the trinity and they do not believe that Jesus is divine. They say they worship God only and are attempting to demonstrate a "genuinely religious" community without doctrinal conformity. They believe in rationalism, social action, and the inherent goodness of humans. Because they do not believe in salvation through Jesus Christ, who would have to be divine in order to save us, they have developed a humanistic type of religion that makes salvation dependent upon ethical good works.

The beliefs of one member of this society were clearly summarized a few years ago in an advertisement: "Do Unitarians Believe in Anything? We believe in brotherhood; Civil Rights; in the United Nations; in upgrading our educational system; in an attack on the problems of poverty; in the nuclear test ban treaty.... Many of us even believe in God."

In 1961, the Unitarians merged with a group called The Universalists who, during the 19th century held that salvation was ultimately for everyone, regardless of repentance in this life. The Universalist teaching acknowledges that Jesus is God, but takes away any human responsibility in salvation. Because the Unitarians do not believe Jesus is God, it is hard to understand how these two groups could have gotten together, but they did.

Today it is difficult to distinguish the statements of Unitarians from humanists and atheists.


What Does The Unification Church Teach?

The Unification Church centers around the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, who developed the church in Korea and moved its headquarters to the United States in 1972. Since then it has grown rapidly in size and respectability. Reverend Moon believes that there is a political solution to the world's problems and that he should be the world's leader.

The teachings of the Unification Church are found in The Divine Principle, which is supposedly made up of revelations from God to Moon. According to Moon, three Adams comprise God's plan for the earth. The first Adam and his wife Eve were supposed to establish the kingdom of heaven on earth through their offspring. But they sinned and their fall thwarted God's plans. The second Adam--Jesus Christ--was supposed to get married to the perfect mate and take political power away from the Roman Empire. Instead, says Moon, Satan invaded Christ's body, He was killed, and God's plans were thwarted again. Moon says that Jesus is not God but merely a man who perfectly understood what God wanted. Moon rejects the bodily resurrection of Christ and belief in the Trinity.

The third Adam--what Moon calls the Lord of the Second Advent--will marry the perfect mate, found the perfect family, and bring physical as well as spiritual salvation. The Lord of the Second Advent will take Jesus' place and all nations will unite under him. Although Moon has not said explicitly that he is the Lord of the Second Advent, everything he tells his followers appears to lead them to believe that to be so.

A good part of what the church teaches is secret. In fact Moon's followers are encouraged to practice "Heavenly Deception," deceiving people by telling them anything to get donations. However, their tactics and techniques are well known. Former members of the Unification Church--"Moonies"--say the church uses oriental deprivation techniques to brainwash their young adherents who are often picked up on the street. Once the young people are "loved" into the church, they are taken to houses where church members live together in community. Former Moonies have said prospective members are permitted no sleep for hours, and are harangued over and over again until they are insensible. They acknowledge and accept the church's doctrines not so much of their own free will but through brainwashing. After the brainwashing, they are then sent out on the streets to solicit money for the Unification Church. It is said that adherents get meager amounts of food, live in spartan surroundings, and are deprived of contact with the outside world. They do not even have time to reflect upon the lies they are being told.

The Unification Church had been extraordinarily successful financially, and this has enabled it to pour a lot of money into its evangelistic efforts. It owns many companies in Korea including IL Wha Pharmaceutical Company and Tong Wat Titanium Company. In the United States it has bought a number of companies: The Diplomat National Bank, the New Yorker Hotel, and the Washington Times newspaper.


What Is Hare Krishna?

Hare Krishna (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness) is a Hindu cult that worships Krishna as the supreme deity. Hinduism has many gods, but the most important three are Brahma (god of creation), Shiva (god of destruction), and Vishnu (god of preservation). Vishnu, it is believed, had many incarnations on earth, the most popular one of which is Krishna. In the 1930s a follower of a cult of Krishna in India was commissioned to spread the cult's teaching to the West. He was given the name Swami Prabhupada. He came to the United States in 1965 and started Hare Krishna in New York City.

Like most Hindu cults, Hare Krishna teaches that we somehow make up part of a universal consciousness and that we are part of god. Also like most Hindu cults, Hare Krishnas believe in reincarnation. Hare Krishnas, however, teach that Krishna is the same as the God of Judaism, the God of Christianity, and the god of Islam. Other religions, Hare Krishnas say, just don't recognize his true name: Krishna. Salvation comes through Krishna consciousness. And since Krishna is the same as his name, chanting his name is tasting him and giving an offering to him.

Followers of Swami Prabhupada therefore chant and dance before Hindu deities daily. They exercise sixty-four items of devotional service prescribed by Prabhupada. They wear a distinctive saffron dress, and the men have shaved heads except for a pigtail. Food is important to the Hare Krishnas--who are vegetarian--because each meal is seen as communion with Krishna.

The Hare Krishnas, who frequently appear in airports and other public places begging or selling literature or flowers, are just one manifestation of the various Hindu groups that have come to America in the last twenty-five years. Bagwan Shree Rajneesh in Rajneeshpurim, Oregon, is a more recent example.

Significantly, the land of their origin--India--has horrible poverty. It also has desperate problems of overpopulation, illiteracy, hunger, mismanagement, and suffering. So it seems strange that religions which have brought such trouble to India would be imported to America where we have flourished and prospered under Christianity for several centuries.


What Are The Principal Beliefs of Mind Control, Spiritism, Edgar Cayce and Hinduism?

In one way or another each of these cults focuses on the "universal consciousness" concept that human beings--

are part of a vast, timeless consciousness,
are ultimately divine,
will live forever in various forms,
can communicate with the dead or various spirits in the universe through reincarnation,
and can receive power through psychic and, in some instances, bodily exercise to transcend nature, understand mysteries, and affect their own destinies or the lives of those around them. these groups, in the name of "research and enlightenment," "psychic research," "transcendental meditation," "yoga," etc., are actually not in touch with some great "God consciousness" or psychic power but Satan and demons.

The Greek word "psuche" is translated "soul," and from that we get the term psychic. Most of these things deal with psychic, or soulish, phenomena. When people touch the true God, they do so through the human spirit. God does not work on the soul of man but the spirit.

The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, said the psuchikos man, the soulish man, will not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him (see I Corinthians 2:14). Mind control, the Edgar Cayce teachings, and the new age movement all appeal to the soulish man, because they do not require repentance. They do not require being born again. A concept in most of these cults is that if a person gains sufficient knowledge, he can dominate and control the events of the world because he is part of god. He can manipulate god, because he is god. He is part of the universal consciousness, and as he opens himself up to progressive revelations, he in turn is lifted to higher and higher levels of understanding. As he advances, they teach, he gains authority over himself, his body, and those around him.

We must remember that the soulish realm is the realm of demons. Demons can and often do enter into this psychic area. The people who are in touch with the dead, in touch with "the other world," are not tapping into some universal consciousness. They are in touch with demons. Demons lurk behind the Hindu and other oriental religions, as well as behind the mind control teachings. As people try to exercise their soulish powers and manipulate others, they are trying to project themselves into this world of demonic power. They are not asking for a savior. They are not asking for forgiveness. Instead, they are asking for human power, for expansion of human psychic potential, and therein is their downfall. Those who stay with these beliefs long enough get deeper and deeper into them. They will sooner or later be in touch with, and perhaps even possessed by, demons.

The Bible does not tell us to get involved in sharpening our psychic powers. Such things are not of God. God will give people the wisdom they need through the Bible. And through the Holy Spirit, He will give them the power they need to live the life they are supposed to live. This inordinate seeking of knowledge about the future, the inordinate seeking of power over other people, the inordinate seeking of enhancement of human potential, is dangerous. Just entering into such activity is bad. I have heard of people who have started to levitate, and some who have had horrible faces appear to them in the night. All such things are symbols and signs that these people are in touch with demons


What Is The Greatest Problem Facing The Church Today?

From my point of view, the greatest problem facing the church is lack of unity. When Jesus Christ was getting ready to leave this earth, He prayed for His disciples and asked especially that they would be united (see John 17:20-21). He said that whenever His followers acted in unity, the world would know that the Father had sent Him (see John 17:23). However, it is extremely difficult in this world to achieve the kind of unity, love, and concern for one another that Jesus Christ shared with His disciples.

I am not advocating unity at the expense of purity or at the expense of doctrinal truth. We cannot throw out the Bible in order to have unity. We cannot embrace any strange doctrine just to have superficial unity. But we must have unity where those who truly love Jesus Christ will love each other and try to work together. Even though they may differ over techniques and other superficial things, Christians must work together and emphasize areas of agreement. When this happens, the church will become a supernaturally powerful force. According to the book of Genesis, upon the occasion of the building of the tower of Babel, God saw that the people had one language and were of one accord. Because of this, He said that nothing they wanted to do would have been impossible for them (see Genesis 11:6). If the church could achieve unity, it could change the political and social structure of society with no trouble at all. The world would be a beautiful place to live in if the church would get together. Regrettably, we do not. We have a divisive party spirit...we have jealousy...we fight...we are suspicious of one another. I am not talking about those who do not really believe in God. I am talking about the ones who are believers, who have been born again. If people will truly follow after the Spirit of God, they can operate in unity, because the Spirit of God will give them unity.

Unity begins to break down when man's selfishness enters the picture. For unity we have to have mutual respect and a mutual willingness to give and to surrender, not to the other person so much, but to Jesus. We can truly have unity when we all want God's will to be done.


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