Top 3 Reasons Cults of Christianity Thrive

There have always been cults of Christianity, from the early days of the Gnostics, to the early Middle Ages with Islam, to our current days with Mormonism, Christian Scientist and Jehovah Witnesses. These religions take portions of true Christianity, and craft their own brand of religion. The Apostles warned us of such, as well as Jesus when they spoke of savage wolves (Acts 20:28-31), and wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15-23). Since my conversion back in 1990, part of my focus as a Christian has been to expose them for what they are. Given that I was raised in a cult, you can understand why.

The question that I have asked myself and I’m trying to answer today is, “Why do the cults surviveWhat is it about them that keeps them going and causes them to thrive?”

Not all cults do survive. For instance, the Shakers have almost all died off because one of their chief tenants was to be celibate. You can see that the natural propagation of this religion would cause it not to grow and decrease the likelihood of any new converts.

The other cult that has fallen on hard times is the one in which I grew up: Christian Science. I rejoice at it’s downfall. I think it’s chief problem is that the founder, Mary Baker Eddy, was so intellectually challenged that once you get past the veneer of followers who claim that she was something special, you realize what a daft idiot her logic and beliefs truly are. For instance, one tenet of her beliefs is that all matter is evil, and all matter is actually the same. She made the claim that if you exercised your arm, the muscles would get bigger, because your muscles and arm are matter. So too would an anvil and hammer, since they were both matter. But given physics, we know this not to be true.

But other cults seem to be thriving in our day, cults such as Mormonism, Islam, and  Jehovah’s Witnesses. But it’s not limited to them. So why do they survive? Well, in part, because of what they offer. Here are three reasons cults continue in our day.

First, the cults offer special knowledge. When we look back to Genesis 3, Satan’s temptation was “you will be like God.” This appeals to fleshly pride, even among Christians. We will always struggle with this. But the cults cultivate this call to human pride because they put forth “special” knowledge, that only they will and the “true followers” in the cult will have. Mormons do this regularly. They never give the up-an-up about their beliefs of becoming gods in the after life. You have to travel a ways into the religion to find out about this, and wearing the special underwear. And of course, they prance around from house-to-house under the belief that they are the special ones who have this special knowledge, and only those who follow them will discover the truth.

This is contrary to Christianity. True Christianity has no secrets. It is exposed before all and we gladly share the truth with anyone who will listen. The truth about Christianity is that it really strikes at the heart of the fleshly pride that the cults use to their advantage. After all, if you are saved by grace, and not because of some specialness, where is there room for boasting. You might say this is one of the reasons we put forth that true Christianity is the true and only religion worth following. It strikes against our flesh and tells us we must become acceptable before the Father based on the works of the Son, and not something we do. We are saved by grace alone, not our works alone. Mormons, and all the other cults, hate this truth.

Second, the cults appear monolithic. Whereas Christianity appears fragmented and divisive, the cult appears to have it all together in their theology, work, families and practice. This is just an illusion, when you pull back the veneer, they are just as divided as the church. It was only a few years ago that I discovered there are three major divisions in Christian Science itself. Growing up, I thought we all believed the same thing. But even is this somber religion, there are divisions and fights among the leadership.

This should not surprise us. Given that these cults are the work of fallen humans and spiritual warfare, why would they be monolithic?  They are a bunch of sinners trying to claim some special rights among their particular religion. Given this, division is inevitable.

Third, the cults appear to have ALL the answers. Sadly, this is because the church itself has done a very poor job of teaching our own. Far too many have used the anti-intellectual, simple religion card to keep the people of God ignorant. The cults love this, because they are willing to provide answers on everything. These answers may be wrong, but for the person who wants something deeper and doesn’t get it in the local, simple minded church, he is ripe for the picking.

I remember when I was a Baptist preacher, the denomination published a study showing that the number one convert to Mormonism came from the Baptist church. I’m not trying to indict all Baptist, but this was a reality of the denomination in which I was preaching. The church cannot keep it simple. We truly need to be involved in apologetics and defense of the faith, to the point that even our most simple minded believers understand concepts like the Trinity and the reason for believing such. I know it is a battle, but it’s a battle worth fighting.

These are three reasons I believe the cults thrive. There are probably more, but I think this hits the basics.

UPDATE: Since posting this, a Mormon has been by to tell me where I’m wrong, and on some historical issues concerning Mormonism, I probably am. But for more clarification concerning Joseph Smith, please read Tim Challies, The False Teachers: Joseph Smith over at Challies blog. He does an excellent job showing how Joseph Smith became corrupt in his views and shows that Smith felt he was the new authority and not God’s word. As Challies writes:

Smith believed that the Bible was corrupt and insufficient and for that reason both took away from, and added to, God’s written revelation. Regarding the Bible’s corruption he said, “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors.” These errors were both typographical and doctrinal. To address the Bible’s shortcomings, Smith produced his own translation of the Bible, making many corrections and additions to a variety of Old Testament and New Testament books.

Goodness. No wonder it is so difficult in dealing with Mormons. They see Smith as the ultimate authority, so no matter what one may say the Scripture teaches, it’s a fruitless endeavor because Smith is their authority, not the Bible.

The other thing that struck me odd was that the Mormon made sure I knew that the splinter groups of Mormonism were not the “real” church. However, his church was the real church and just another denomination of Christianity. I wish that Mormons would be honest and quit making that claim. We reject the writings, teaching and authority of Joseph Smith. Given that is the case, why do Mormons want so badly to be called just another “denomination?” They are a new/old religion all over again, full of works righteousness and the lot.

One final note: I don’t claim to be an expert on the cults, not even Christian Science, which I spent in my formative years. The cults are not my goal. Knowing and proclaiming Christ and Him crucified, with the full-counsel of the word, is my goal. And I am certain that none of the cults have anything to add to true Christianity, in which we are saved by faith alone, in Christ alone, which is by His grace alone. Any additional revelations like the one that Joseph Smith, Mohammed, Mary Baker Eddy or anyone else have no place in true Christianity. As I labor to point out, if their writings agree with Scripture, we don’t need them because they are redundant. If they contradict Scripture, we don’t need them because they are heretical. The 66 books of the Bible are all God saw fit to give us and all we need to know what man must believe to be saved.

The Mormon made the claim that to believe in a closed canon is to say that God can no longer speak. But this shows his ignorance of the word. God is still speaking today. But He chooses to speak through the word He has already given, to the point that when the word of God is proclaimed, we hear from Christ Himself (Romans 10:14). So why do we need any more prophets when we have the ultimate prophet of God, the Son of God, Son of Man, Second Person of the Trinity, of whom we can hear on a regular basis where the Bible is preached and taught.

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27 thoughts on “Top 3 Reasons Cults of Christianity Thrive

  1. 1. Special Knowledge: Christ himself taught in parables so that only the truly faithful would understand the doctrine. That which is sacred has always been reserved for those who would honor and respect it. There is nothing inherently special about any member of the church, but their acceptance of and obedience to Christ has shown their willingness to honor and respect the sacred, and so they are the only ones that it is given to.
    On a second note, the idea that we can become like God, and the garments that we wear, are hardly secrets that are kept from anyone. That is common doctrine and is not hidden from the world in any way.

    2. Monolithic: I think anyone who would claim that there are not multiple branches and splinter groups of the LDS is an idiot. The difference is that we do not accept these splinter groups as being part of the true church; as opposed to most Christians who don’t seem to care where a church comes from, as long as it doesn’t disagree with a brief list of core doctrine it is still part of the true church.

    3. All the Answers: No one in the LDS church has ever claimed to have all the answers. In fact, the exact opposite has been said many times. We do, however, have more answers than any other denomination.

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    1. Shematwater,
      1. Your special knowledge is called The Book of Mormon. A different gospel all together, unverifiable in that only Joseph Smith conveyed this truth, and not historically accurate. No prophet of the OT worked in the vacuum that Smith did.
      For Christian Scientist, it the Science & Health: With Key to the Scriptures.
      With Islam: it is the Koran.
      With Jehovah’s Witnesses: it’s their translation of the Bible and Watch Tower magazine.

      2. To the outsiders, it seems monolithic. I wouldn’t call them idiots though. Perhaps ignorant as the truth and I’m sure that most cult leaders don’t highlight the fact that their are splinter groups. It’s interesting that you talk about the true church as your church, then claim these splinter groups are not the true church, then claim that your group is just another denomination like any other. No, Mormonism, from the splinter groups to the LDS, are cults. You deny Christ for who He is and add to Scripture with your “special revelation.”

      3. More answers? Really? How about more fables. Smith is not a credible prophet.

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  2. 1. The Book of Mormon is there for everyone to read and study. While it is unique to our church, and we do hold a special place for it, it is not something “that only they will and the “true followers” in the cult will have” but that everyone, regardless of their faith, can have. Thus, for you to claim it as special knowledge is to contradict the main point you made in your blog.

    2. To outsiders the LDS church seems this way, and that is because it is this way. There are no great divisions among the leadership of the LDS church. There are many splinter groups, and anyone who denies that are ignorant or idiots. However, that does not change the fact that the LDS are a united church with a united leadership.

    3. That is your opinion, and one that has no more basis in established fact than my faith in him as God chosen prophet to usher in the last dispensation and prepare the Earth for the second coming.
    The simple fact is that the LDS doctrine offers more answers than any other Christian denomination. Whether you believe those answers to be right or wrong is not really the point. Our doctrine spans more areas and teaches more than any other Christian sect.

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    1. Shem, no, it’s not. The Book of Mormon was given to someone outside the true church, adds to God’s word, contradicts God’s word and is to be rejected on every point. Just because it is available, doesn’t mean that it isn’t special knowledge. One cannot be a good Mormon without that Book. However with it, one is not a true Christian. Again, you are on the outside of the true church because you skew the few doctrines you mentioned earlier.

      Also, you are not a denomination of Christianity because of the Book of Mormon. Smith was not credible in that sense that he was outside the church, just as Mary Baker Eddy was, etc. Who laid hands on them and ordained them for the gospel ministry, as is the role of the church? He had to flee to Utah in order to put forth is error. To deny this is your opinion.

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      1. Again, you are changing your original statement. you originally defined ‘special knowledge’ as that which ‘only they will and the “true followers” in the cult will have.’ The Book of Mormon does not fit this definition. I don’t care whether you believe in it or what your opinion is. You have contradicted your original statement in your attempt to attack and denigrate the Book of Mormon, and that is a simple fact.

        Nothing else you say here really matters to what my point was. However, I have to point out that you are lax in your study of the LDS, as Joseph Smith never went to Utah. He was killed several years before the saints went west. It was Brigham Young that went to Utah.

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      2. You are right, I’m wrong concerning the events of leading to the Mormons migration to Utah. But I stick with my original point.

        I deny your redefining what I said. Special knowledge is any additional so called revelation from God outside the Bible. Did the rest of the church have the Book of Mormon? Nope. Only those in Utah. It is special knowledge in the relationship to the Bible. Again, it adds to Scripture and contradicts Scripture. It needs to be reject because it is not from the Triune God.

        I also agree that nothing else here will matter to you. Go be a faithful Mormon. But quit calling yourself a Christian and your cult a denomination. That is a lie.

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      3. I have not redefined anything. I gave a word for word definition from your original blog. You are the one that is altering that definition now so that you can include the Book of Mormon. If you want to alter the definition I would suggest that you go back and do so in your original blog, as otherwise you are contradicting your own words.

        “I also agree that nothing else here will matter to you.”

        And now you attempt to alter my meaning to fit into your agenda. I never once said these things don’t matter to me, I said they did not matter to the point I was trying to make at the time, and so I would refrain from commenting on them in order to keep the discussion focused. It is one thing to contradict yourself, but to misrepresent me is quite another.

        As to to being Christian: the definition of Mormon is
        From Dictionary.com: a denomination founded in the U.S. in 1830 by Joseph Smith and based on the teachings of the Book of Mormon.

        From the Oxford English Dictionary: A member or adherent of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a millenary Christian sect founded in 1830 at Manchester, New York, by Joseph Smith.

        From the Webster Online Dictionary: a member of a Christian church that was founded by Joseph Smith in the U.S. in 1830 : a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

        Christian is defined by Webster as “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ”

        In any list of Christian denominations by any reputable scholar you will find the LDS church.
        So, explain to us why we should accept your claim that we are not Christian when the definition of the word and all reputable scholars agree that we are?

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      4. So, none of the scholars that compiled any of the dictionaries that I quoted from would agree that the LDS church is a Christian denomination, even though they state that it is?
        And no researcher that lists the LDS as a Christian denomination in their demographics actually thinks that it is a Christian denomination?
        I have given evidence that scholars view the LDS as a Christian denomination, and yet you still claim that it is only me that holds this view.

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      5. Your problem is that you place scholars and dictionaries above the Bible. The Bible, according to Galatians, says you are offering “another gospel.” This means you are not a true Christian to begin with. Your own elders even admit that you must do works to be saved. This goes against the gospel again.

        Listen, I really don’t care what you believe. Go, be a happy Mormon. My blog is for the benefit of true Christians, not cultist like yourself. Just own who you are and quit saying that you are something you are not.

        If you want to be a Christian, then punt Joseph Smith and his heresy and start following Scripture.

        But quit appealing to those who have no clue, just because they have some ridiculous degree in religious studies. They are not experts on God.

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      6. And what makes you an expert on God?

        I never claimed any of these people are experts on God. I referenced their expertise on the English Language, which you cannot credibly deny. I am not making a theological argument, but a linguistic one. The word Christian, as used in the English Language, is accurately used to describe the LDS church. If you have a problem with that than have fun trying to reform the language, because until you do I will continue to use the language as it is, and thus I will continue to call myself a Christian and all your hostility towards this changes nothing.

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  3. For all others who are visiting this site, another way to understand this, the canon of Scripture was closed with the 66 books of the Bible. Anything knew is not from God because we have been given all we need in those 66 books. If the Book of Mormon, Koran… etc., are true in the sense that they agree with Scripture, we don’t need them. If they are contradictory to Scripture, we reject them outright. I know the Mormons fight to say that they are just “another” denomination. But what other denomination has another book besides the Bible and puts it on par with the Bible?

    The Book of Mormon was written in a vacuum and makes claims about America that are not true. They claim the Indians were part of the 12 Tribes of Israel, but DNA testing has shown this to be false. Therefore if a prophet is wrong on anyone point, he is wrong on all points and is to be reject.

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    1. For others to understand, there is no direct support in the Bible for a closed canon. Those who accept scripture outside the Bible, whether it is true or not, accept one simple principle: if God spoke to man in the past He has every right to speak to man today, and we are not going to try and shut Him up if He chooses to do so. All the closed canon accomplishes is to shut the heavens and tell God we don’t need Him anymore.
      The Book of Mormon was not written in a vacuum, and there are a dozen witnesses to its authenticity. It makes no claim about the American Indian that has ever been proven false, and all the DNA evidence out there is basically worthless and any credible scientist will tell you it is impossible to trace bloodlines through DNA past a few generations.

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  4. Pingback: Top 3 Reasons Cults of Christianity Thrive

  5. Stuart Pope

    Timothy,

    I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your article and would offer a constructive criticism: a couple of times, you use the word ‘tenant’ when I believe you mean ‘tenet’. No hate, just a brotherly observation.

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  6. Comment on the Pingback, as I don’t seem to be able to comment on it directly.

    First, it states that “Smith is there authority, not the Bible.”
    To clarify, God is our authority, not Joseph Smith, Not Moses, and not Peter or the other Apostles. God is the one we look to for guidance and knowledge. However, just as Ancient Israel accepted that Moses was called to speak on God’s behalf, and the early Christians believed this of Peter, we believe that God called Joseph Smith to speak in His behalf to us today. Our following of Joseph Smith is no different than Israel following Moses or the Christians following Peter.

    As to closed canon not allowing God to speak, that is exactly what it does. You are saying you don’t need anything new, and thus you are not allowing God to say anything new. You can claim that he is speaking through His word, but that is like listening to an audio recording over and over and claiming you are talking to the person.

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  7. Shematwater, you are making my case for me. The more you go on, the more my readers can see that you and your religion are a cult of Christianity. To sit and say the apostles are not authorities in what they wrote, is to say the word of God is not authoritative. The words Paul wrote, along with Peter, were commands from the LORD (1 Corinthians 14:30). Unless of course you don’t see the words of Christ as authoritative, which shows you don’t see Him as the Second Person of the Trinity. That being the case, you prove your cult status again.

    You also denigrate God’s word by saying that its nothing more that an audio recording that has been heard over and over again? Really? Awesome, proving my point once again. God’s word is living and breathing, liked a double edged sword for the believer. We need no new revelation because He has given us all that we need in the 66 books of the Bible. By looking for something new, you open yourself up to all kinds of Satan’s tricks and schemes.

    I think I will need an entire post just on your pronouncements showing yourself not to be a true Christian, not of Christ in your beliefs and a cult at best.

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    1. And in doing so you prove you either don’t understand the English language, or you are willing to twist my words in order to make them say something they never did.

      I stated that God was the authority, and any man only has authority in so far as he is speaking on behalf of God. Get this strait before you start twisting my words. Peter is an authority on the gospel because his words and knowledge came from God. Moses is an authority on the gospel because his words and knowledge came from God. Joseph Smith is an authority because his words and knowledge came from God.
      In other words, your claim that “Smith is their authority, not the Bible” is false, for the simple fact that what makes the Bible authoritative is the same thing that makes Joseph Smith authoritative, and that is God, the ultimate authority.

      Also, I never once said that God’s word is an audio recording, so again you twist my words. I said that a belief in a closed canon turns it into an audio recording, which is why I reject the idea of a closed canon. For something to be living and breathing it has to be able to grow and expand. Without growth there is no life. As such, for the word of God to be living and breathing it can’t be based on a closed canon because then their is no growth, and you have was amounts to an audio recording.

      “By looking for something new, you open yourself up to all kinds of Satan’s tricks and schemes.”
      You also open yourself up to the glorious truths of the eternal worlds and God himself. Christ himself said to seek and you will find, to knock and it will be opened; and yet you are telling me that to seek or to knock is to deny the Bible.

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  8. Shem,
    I love how you back peddle and try to say I’m twisting your words. You would be much better off not worrying about me twisting your words if you were more concerned about twisting God’s word.

    OK, so which is it? Is the Bible authoritative or not? Is Paul authoritative? What about Jesus? You say God is the only authority, but somehow exclude His word as authoritative. Gosh, you really don’t seem to know what you believe.

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    1. I haven’t back peddled anything and you have twisted my words, as you have done again.
      I have never once denied the authority of the Bible, only placed it in its proper place as getting authority from God. So, it has no more authority than Joseph Smith, but no less authority either. Both derive their authority from God and thus both are equal.

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      1. Shem, You are right, you never said those words, but did say the Joseph Smith and the Bible are equal. You are so deceptive and slippery. In the way you debate. No you didn’t say the words exactly, but the implication is clear and what you did say is far worse. Joseph Smith and the Bible are not equal. It’s things like this that cause true Christians to say that you are a cult and not just another denomination. You place a man on par with the Bible, is exalting the sinner to heights a sinner should not be exalted to. Joseph Smith is not equal to the Bible. What a claim. The guy was a wretched sinner in need of God’s grace, denying the very power of the gospel.

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      2. And who wrote the Bible but wretched sinners? You are so fast to say that I am putting the Bible on par with a man, but the Bible was written by men.
        Please go back and read all my words again. I am placing Joseph Smith as equal in his divine calling as prophet to Moses, or Isaiah, or Peter, or Paul; and as such I am putting what he wrote as being equally scripture along with what these other men wrote.
        Yes, the Book of Mormon is just as much scripture as the Bible; just as a Yellow Delicious is just as much an apple as Granny Smith.

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      3. Again, making my case for me. No, I’m not taking your words out of context or adding to them. You said Joseph Smith was equal to the Bible. You didn’t say that Joseph Smith was equal to Moses, or Isaiah, or Peter or Paul. You said he was equal to the Bible. Let’s look again:

        So, it has no more authority than Joseph Smith, but no less authority either. Both derive their authority from God and thus both are equal.

        OK, so you were wrong in that statement?

        As for the men of God called to write the Bible, yes, they were sinners, but they were not the only authors. The Bible is God’s word, written by God and man. The Holy Spirit carried the prophets along while they were writing. We know that they were inspired because they were in agreement with one another in the overall message of Scripture. Joseph Smith does not fall into the category.

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      4. That is your opinion. I read what Joseph Smith wrote and I feel the spirit in the words, and it is in complete agreement with everything that all those other men wrote.

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