When I think about a cult or a cultic group, what exactly comes into my mind? Well for starters you may want to think about things like deception, distortion, deviation, diversion, denial. When we think about Christian cults or a cultic groups, we are thinking about a group that denies or distorts. We are thinking about something that deviates from the original.
The Danger of False Teaching
In terms of religious groups, you might think about a group that stands for teachings, behaviours or practices that divert from what was originally believed by the mother group. One cannot appreciate the subject of Christian cults well unless we go back to the Bible, to the Scriptures, where it all begins.
They had believed something that closely looked like the truth, but actually was not.
In the garden of Eden the serpent distorts God’s truth that had been revealed to Adam and Eve. He makes them believe something different from what God had said and eventually the battle between truth and deception has been an ongoing one. Did you know, by the way, that when you come to the New Testament, every book of the New Testament addresses the subject of false teaching except the book of Philemon?
Deception, Distortion and Denial
For instance, you go to Jude’s letter and you find Jude making a call for believers to contend for the faith. And why? In verse 4 he says, “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you.” What do they do? They pervert God’s grace, they deny Jesus Christ as their saviour and Lord; distortions of who Jesus is, perversion of God’s grace.
Paul’s major concern is that the Corinthian believers do not know how to tell the difference between true preachers and false ones.
Another example: in 2 Corinthians 11 1-3 the Apostle Paul expresses concern for the Corinthian believers who lack discernment. And what is his major concern? That the Corinthian believers do not know how to tell the difference between true preachers and false ones. You think about passages like Acts 20 where the Apostle Paul gives his farewell address to the Ephesian elders. And what does he say? “I know after my departure savage wolves will come in among you and will seek to devour the flock.” He takes it much further and says, “even from within among you, certain men will arise who will twist the truth. Who will deny the truth. Who will distort the truth.”
Christian Cults Don’t Teach the Truth
So, when we think about a cultic group, we’re thinking about those that pervert what is originally known to be true. Those that deviate from what was previously held as true. Those that distort, those that counter faith. Several Bible passages point to the danger and challenge of false teachings. Or of groups of preachers or leaders that take God’s people away from the path of the truth into teachings that might sound like, almost look like the truth, but actually are not.
Every book of the New Testament addresses the subject of false teaching except the book of Philemon
Remember the Kanungu Cult Tragedy
When I think about cults or a cultic group for instance, as a Ugandan, I am reminded that not so long ago – in fact in the month of March – we were remembering the Kanungu cult tragedy anniversary – 20 years down the road. This cultic group looked Christian in every sense of the word. They used Christian terminology. They welcomed and recruited Christians that faithfully… that really wanted to faithfully understand God. These people believed that the end of the world was coming to pass. Why? Simply because their leaders had apparently received visions of Jesus Christ telling them about the end of the world.
But what they did not know, is that while they believed things that sounded Christian, almost looked Christian, they were actually distorted versions of the truth. And what was the end result? Unfortunately, these people were eventually killed in different ways. Many were burnt in a fire that claimed close to 500 people. This brought the total of the dead people close to 1000. These people innocently thought they had found the truth. But instead they had believed something that closely looked like the truth, but actually was not.
Click here for more information about Kanungu and reflections for Ugandan Christians 20 years later.