A cult is a group that is closely related to the original. But, in a sense, it has moved away from the original intentions. In terms of Christianity, or in terms of religion, we identify it as a group that has deviated from the central teachings of the Christian faith.
They may continue teaching the Bible. But they move away from the fundamentals which make Christianity Christian.
They may continue teaching the Bible. They may continue believing some of the things that the Bible teaches. But they move away from the fundamentals which make Christianity Christian. And once that happens, it means that people who subscribe to such teachings are not only misinformed – are not only lost in terms of understanding biblical truth – but actually, these wrong teachings can affect their eternal destiny.
Cults Defined Sociologically
So, in terms of official definitions when we think about a cult, what are we really talking about? You can define a cult sociologically in terms of behaviours and practices. Or you can define a cult theologically in terms of beliefs or in terms of doctrine.
One noted American sociologist – John Lofland is author of a book called “Doomsday Cult: A Study of Conversion, Proselytization and Maintenance of Faith”. He has defined a cult sociologically in this way. “Cults are little groups which break off from the conventional consensus. They espouse very different views of the real, the possible and the moral”. These are little groups that break away from the original. And they may stand for views, opinions or teachings that are closely related to, but yet in a subtle way deviate from, the original intended meaning or application.
A cult is an ideological organisation held together by charismatic relationships that demand total commitment
Another way to define it: someone called Benjamin Zablocki. He is a Professor of Sociology and he is an author on Charismatic religious groups on cults and brain washing. And he defines a cult in this way. “A cult is an ideological organisation held together by charismatic relationships that demand total commitment”. When you think of a cultic group, think of a group of people held together by charismatic, dynamic and passionate relationships. And that are committed to a certain cause or a person. In this case the leader.
Two Theological Definitions
In terms of theology, Bowman, Robert Bowman Jr. an Evangelical Theologian who specialises in cults and apologetics has defined it this way. “A cultic group is a religious group originating as a heretic sect and maintaining fervent commitment to heresy”. So, if you think in terms of heresies and false teachings, this would be a group that deviates from the original Orthodox teaching of the Christian faith. It espouses teachings that are heretical in nature, and expresses fervent commitment to these teachings.
The group claims to be Christian. But directly, or indirectly, it denies or deviates from the central teachings of the Christian faith.
I like another definition much better. I believe it summarises the theological understanding of a cultic group. A definition that has been given by one Professor named Alan Gomes. He says “a cultic group”, more specifically a cult of Christianity, “is a group which, claiming to be Christian, holds to a doctrinal system that denies – directly or indirectly – some of the fundamental teachings of the Christian faith as revealed to us in the 66 books of the Bible.” The group claims to be Christian. But directly, or indirectly, it denies or deviates from the central teachings of the Christian faith.
The teachings that define Christianity are the teachings without which one can actually not become a Christian. So, the group deviates from those teachings as they are revealed to us in the Scriptures.