Sat, Aug 20th - 5:02PM
A Look At The Cults
Many well-meaning ministers express a longing to return to the 1950s era, some even describing the 1950s as a golden age for Christianity in America, either forgetting or failing to realize that the cultural and religious trends of the 1950s (and previous decades) led to the accelerated and enormous increase in the cults, the occult, and modernism that characterized the 1960s and continues. Consider just a few examples:
-Neglecting and denying the influence of the Bible and Christianity in American history in school textbooks and mass media.
-Replacing Bible truths with humanism.
-The teaching that Bible standards only apply to the religious (church) aspects of life and not the secular realm.
-Acceptance of the theory of evolution in Christian circles, and endorsement of the theory of evolution by many respected clergy and mainline churches.
-Replacing Biblical separation (godly relationships, conduct, and distinctions within society) with isolation and neutrality.
-Using the Bible, Gospel music, and religious activities to escape reality instead of face it.
-Putting material prosperity, appearance, and social status above character in importance.
-Replacing ministry and patriarchy with church programs.
-Ministerial exemption from the draft encouraged cowards, unbelievers, heretics, and sexual perverts to pursue positions and careers in ministry.
The list of cultural and religious trends of the 1950s and previous decades that increased the appeal of the cults could continue but these examples should suffice to help you see the point. Rather than romancing the past or longing for a return to the past, we should focus on how we can avoid the mistakes of the past.
What leads so many into cults, especially since so many or most (depending on which study or survey) initiates into cults come from a religious background in a mainstream church or denomination? Cults use the heart to trap the mind. Think of this in terms of fishing: Emotion (such as love-bombing) is the lure, doctrine (false doctrine mingled with truth) is the hook, and fear (along with guilt) is the barb that helps keep the "fish" from getting away. Cults replace personal study, discernment, and growth with a childlike dependence on a religious leader or group. The cults teach a faith, but not Biblical faith. Biblical faith is based on facts or knowledge of God's Word, and while feelings may result, feelings are not the basis of Biblical faith. Remember the pattern: 1.) Fact, 2.) Faith, 3.) Feelings; in cults and the occult this pattern is usually reversed. Faith, like love, always has an object, and cults present a wrong object of faith.
The Hebrew word rendered "world" in Ecclesiastes 3:11 means eternity. In other words, humans are born with a natural need for spiritual guidance and an effective religion/belief system. Even though they are wrong, the cults do fill a basic need and provide answers. Hungry sheep will wander in search for food. Looking at church ads, and considering what people are being fed in many churches and through Christian radio, Christian television, and Christian literature, it should surprise us that the cults do not attract more 'wandering sheep' than they do. (Consider Acts 20:28) American students, who were born and raised in the USA, often have far more difficulty with English classes and English grammar than many foreign students who learned English when they were grown or almost grown. Often the students in a foreign language class having the most difficulty are the children of immigrants who speak that language as their native tongue; in many cases the children of immigrants know just enough of their parents’ language to communicate with family and assume that they are fluent. We have a similar situation in Christian circles when it comes to doctrines and basic Bible knowledge. The typical cult recruit or initiate coming from a religious background is normally nominal in faith and not well-grounded in faith and knowledge.
I must admit I am not entirely comfortable with the word “cult” because it has become so common to apply the word to any group with which one happens to disagree. I do recognize that within some Christian denominations with which I disagree there are good churches and dedicated believers, and within some evangelical Christian denominations there are religious counterfeits and churches that are cultic. I am using the word cult here in reference to groups characterized by mind control techniques and spiritual abuse.
I was raised in a pseudo Christian cult, was baptized in that religion when I was 16, was a dedicated member for about 5 1/2 years, left that religion and later repented and believed in Christ and today I am a Southern Baptist. I would like to make a point to Christians: A cult member you meet or are acquainted with is someone who has lost his way in his search for God and needs to be directed to "the way." (John 14:6) Christians should view the cults as an evangelistic field as well as work to help people avoid being deceived by cults.
How can Christians relate to cult members? Knowing what cults believe is one thing, but knowing how to relate to cult members personally and how to deal with cult members you meet in public places, social situations, and at your door step is quite another thing. Let me offer some suggestions:
-Be extremely patient and don't be expecting to convert anyone overnight. (Matthew 21:28-31; John 16:12) A cult member is hindered from obeying the gospel by his belief system; not only does he believe doctrinal heresies but his faith is in the cult group and its leadership, and it may take a long time for him to recognize that his faith is misplaced or see that the cults teachings are wrong. When trying to witness to cult members, many Christians have a tendency to use what could be called the invasion or Blitzkrieg method of evangelism: They want to attack and destroy every heresy in the cult’s belief system quick, fast, and in a hurry. While a Christian may feel that he scored a victory by winning an argument, this rarely yields good results as far as leading anyone to Christ. It would be better to focus on one or two issues each time you meet with a cult member and not force him to digest more than he can take in one sitting. If you would do this, and you are friendly and respectful to him, he is more likely to ponder the information you give him instead of shrugging it off (as you might do if someone attacked every point of your belief system all at once), and the cult member is more likely to make an appointment to return and discuss other issues with you, and possibly keep returning (which is what you want him to do). Let me illustrate the point this way: I like homemade chocolate chip cookies, and if you offered me some homemade chocolate chip cookies and sat them in front of me I would be likely to eat them even if I had already decided not to eat any, but I wouldn't want anybody to forcibly shove a chocolate chip cookie down my throat. I like fried chicken, but that doesn't mean I want someone to throw pieces of chicken at me or beat me over the head with a drumstick.
- Be kind and respectful to them and find a common ground, such as their commitment to God (even though they have an obviously heretical view of God) and respect for Biblical standards (even though they have a twisted view of Scripture). Note Paul's approach in Acts 17:22-23. Did he become hostile or argumentative with the Athenians? Did he expect them to meet him where he was at in knowledge and spirituality? No, he found a common ground and approached them from there. The object is to win hearts, not arguments.
-Look for opportunity to share your testimony. Then ask him to share his testimony, and keep insisting that he tell you about his personal experience with Jesus Christ. This will throw him off his track and force him to deal with spiritual realities. If he should try to give some sort of testimony, this is a good sign that you may be able to eventually reach him with the truth. If he should get angry or upset and leave, the Lord can use your testimony to work on his heart.
-Make sure you respect the Bible as the authority for your claims or statements. (Do not say: My pastor says..., I've always said..., etc.)
-Do not be hostile or argumentative. This will only convince him that he is right.
-Don't be afraid to say no. If you don't want him to think of you as a prospect and be that much more determined to win you over (instead of being receptive to the gospel) then don't buy anything or accept anything free. You can give a polite refusal and still converse with him.
-Don't be intimidated by their attitude that they are more spiritual or knowledgeable than you are. Since they are the ones trying to sell you something, let them be the ones who must prove themselves to you.
-Speak with conviction. (Acts 4:13) Why should someone consider your message if you don't sound convinced of it yourself?
-Avoid answering leading questions (E.g., What do you think about world conditions? Have you ever wondered...? What do you think about...? [some news item]? Do you think there is a solution to the crime problem, or a way to feel secure? Etc...), as they may be using such questions to discern how best to win you over.
-If he tries to quote a whole list of Bible passages out of context all at once, insist that you be allowed to pause and read each passage aloud in context (include perhaps about 4 or 5 verses preceding and maybe 4 or 5 verses following the passage.). This forces him to consider his proof texts in relation to immediate context, which he probably has never done before, and he just might start doing this on his own.
-Don't pretend to have all the answers.
-Don't put on a pretense. Remember that they are quick to spot hypocrisy.
-Since you do not already know all about his beliefs and his group or organization, don't pretend that you do.
-Since you don't like to be patronized or demeaned, give him the same courtesy you want from others.
-Show concern for him, buy him a cup of coffee, look for opportunity to demonstrate kindness to him, etc... Show him that you love and care about him in spite of disagreeing with him. Most cult members were lured into the cult through love-bombing and need to see that there are caring people outside of the cult.
-Express your humanness. Many cults demand such a high standard of perfection that meeting someone who is secure in his faith in spite of being less than perfect makes a good impression.
-Questions and asking for explanations can often be more effective than confrontation or arguing over proof texts as a means of gradually helping them see the fallacies of the their group and its belief system. Remember that a cult member accepts certain teachings peculiar to the cult because he has been taught to avoid logical and critical analysis of cult teachings.
-Appeal to their insecurity. While cult members appear assured and confident, inside they are troubled by questions and doubts and often feel trapped. Cult members often do not know where to turn because the cult has convinced them that the whole world is evil and that every religious group other than their own is satanic. Cult members who no longer accept or believe the teachings and policies of the cult often stay active (even zealous) in attendance and proselytizing because of the consequences of leaving the cult (such as shunning, and even being shunned by family who are in the cult). You should try to steer the conversation beyond minor issues and debatable points and toward matters of the heart and spirit.
What about deprogramming? Along with salvation the best deprogramming is regular prayer and regular personal study and application of God’s Word along with regularly attending a good church. Everybody needs this deprogramming from the influence and indoctrination from the world, including those who were raised in church, or grew up in a Christian home, or come from a fundamentalist background, as the world has been influencing them, along with the rest of mankind, since infancy. It is sad that so many Christians think “deprogramming” is only for those who come from a different background while they personally are supposedly immune from influence and deception.