Cult Spotting and the Venus Fly Trap

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”              Matthew 7:15

It was recently announced that the controversial show ‘Book of Mormon-The Musical’ is coming ‘Down Under’. What is described as an “irreverent take on the ‘Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” debuted on New York’s Broadway four years ago and has apparently sparked more than a few walkouts from offended audience members. A spokesman for the Mormon ‘church’ responded to the musical by saying-

“The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.

Bringing people closer to Christ is of course what all Christians want isn’t it? And any group claiming to be a ‘church’ and claiming to be seeking to bring people closer to Christ must surely be a good thing mustn’t it?

Of course for most of us our only experience of Mormons is when a couple of clean cut young guys come knocking on the door. They introduce themselves as being from a ‘church’ that even has ‘Christ’ in its name, they talk about Jesus and God and so it must be ‘legit’ mustn’t it? They also are keen to encourage us to get to know more about them and their faith, so what should our response be?

Firstly, we must be aware of the Bible’s warnings against those (the ‘wolves’) who prey on the spiritually thirsty-

“See to it that no-one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”     Colossians 2:8

In our society there are many people who are spiritually thirsty, who are looking for a way of quenching that thirst, and who might respond to the claims of the Mormons. However, this begs the question as to whether every group which talks about Jesus or calls itself a church or being Christian is OK?

The particular organization that is the basis of the show “Book of Mormon the Musical” is actually a Cult of Christianity, that is-

‘A group of people who, claiming to be Christian, deny one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian faith.’

Examples of Cults of Christianity are the Mormons; Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, The Christedelphians, the Unification Church (Moonies) and many more. Like the Venus Fly Trap they can look very attractive but are very dangerous to those who innocently approach. Increasingly they are slick and well funded in their advertising and often try hard to pass themselves off as Christian groups (and large numbers of their members no doubt believe they are). They have certainly fooled the Australian Bureau of Statistics which includes them with Christian Churches.

So how can we distinguish a Christian Denomination (Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist etc) from a Cult of Christianity? There is not room in an article such as this to be comprehensive but briefly Cults of Christianity generally-

  • Deny the doctrine of Grace – One way or another they teach that a person is saved by their works (i.e. you earn salvation)
  • Weaken The Authority of the Bible-e. other (their own) special revelation is necessary in addition to the Bible, or only their translation of the Bible is correct.
  • Claim Authority from some special Prophet – e.g. Joseph       Smith in the case of Mormons.
  • Frequently have a Fixation on the end of the World- Jehovah’s Witnesses have a history of ‘naming the Day’, yet Jesus said no-one can actually know.
  • Fudge Terms – that is they use the same terms (e.g. Jesus, God, salvation, Holy Spirit) as Christians do but often mean entirely different things by them.
  • Claim to be the Sole Deposit of truth. So you will be damned if you follow any other teaching except theirs.
  • Don’t let the Facts spoil their sales pitch – g. Christian Scientists- which claims that sickness is not real but only an illusion.
  • Often seek to Control the lives, finances etc. of members.

However the most effective way of cult spotting is to apply the Trinity Test—because 99% of cults (and all other religions) deny the Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity as reflected in the Trinitarian structure of the creeds of the Church (belief statements held by all Christian Denominations). The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is that the Son (Jesus), the Father and the Holy Spirit are all equally and fully God. Cults deny that Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit, or both, is fully God.

We need, for ourselves and for the sake of the eternal destiny of others, to be able to spot those spiritual ‘Venus Fly Traps’, the Cults of Christianity, and the best cult detector is the Trinity Test.

2 thoughts on “Cult Spotting and the Venus Fly Trap

  1. I found your comments to be interesting–albeit not entirely consistent. In your guide for distinguishing between a denomination and a cult, you say, “Weaken The Authority of the Bible-e. other (their own) special revelation is necessary in addition to the Bible,” yet your final Trinity Test relies on extra-biblical creeds. Have you not done the same as what you decry?

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    1. Thank you for your comment. I understand why you made it and have edited the post to try and make my meaning clear

      My suggested use of the Creeds is as an easy tool to distinguish a cult of Christianity because they as structurally Trintarian creeds are not accepted by the vast majority of cults.The ‘Authority’ I appeal to is the Bible, the teaching of which underlies statements re the nature of God .in the Creeds.

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