Cults And Their Appeal Part 5By Pastor Boffey on Sunday, January 20, 2019.
Cults and Their Appeal “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;” (Ephesians 4:14) I. cult: A particular form or system of religious worship; esp. in reference to its external rites and ceremonies. Now commonly, a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister. A. The term “cult” has such a negative connotation in our culture that being labelled as such is akin to spiritual leprosy. That term, therefore, has considerable power for good or evil (if it is used as a smear tactic or applied without proper investigation of a belief system). B. Strictly speaking, the definition would apply to true followers of Jesus Christ, even as He was called a deceiver and enemy of the state by Jewish leaders. MAT 27:63; LUK 23:2. 1. The early Christians were called a sect, implying that they were schismatics or separatists from the orthodox system of the day. ACT 24:5. 2. Christian doctrine was strange, crazy and even sinister to many. ACT 17:19-20; 26:24; 19:25-27; JOH 11:47-48. 3. Judaism to this day considers Christianity an idolatrous cult. 4. Perhaps you have been called a cultist for identifying with this church. a. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me.” b. You are in good company. MAT 10:25. c. Such accusations are generally born of ignorance, insecurity, natural resistance to challenges to one’s long-held beliefs, the “tribe” mentality, or other things which activate one’s “comfort zone alarm.” (1) But sometimes the accusation of “cult” stems from a protectionist malice that sees a threat to one’s own agenda. ACT 17:5-7. (2) “Truth is treason in an empire of lies.” (George Orwell) d. Love and pray for your accusers. MAT 5:44. e. Be faithful to the truth, live godly, and wait. 1PE 2:12; 3:16. C. Some mislabeling might be avoided by simply measuring any belief system against the truth of Scripture and pointing out the deviations from Scripture as heresy to be avoided. II. A current trend is “seeker-friendly churches.” A. This theory of evangelism tends to marginalize doctrine and duty while emphasizing inclusiveness, sensationalism, and sentimentalism which cater to the flesh rather than the spirit. This might be called “Loaves and Lazarus” Christianity, per JOH 6:26; 12:9. B. There are different kinds of seekers. 1. Some sincerely seek God and His righteousness and shall be accordingly satisfied. JER 29:13; MAT 5:6; 6:31-33; JOH 7:16-17; 8:31-32. a. This crowd tends to be well-grounded in the truth and resistant to lies. b. The assimilation of sound doctrine saves them. 1TI 4:16. 2. Others seek with a hypocritical or mingled heart. EZE 33:30-32. a. God satisfies this crowd also, with delusion. EZE 14:4-5 c/w 2TH 2:11-12. b. Their insincere hearts predispose them to lies, and hence, captivity to liars. 3. Some seekers never find the truth because of the delusions of their own lusts. 2TI 3:6-8. 4. Some seekers are looking for groups made up of seekers from #2 and #3, above. MAT 12:43. a. Unclean spirits do not find rest where true doctrine reigns, they find war. Cults and Their Appeal Page 1 EPH 6:13-17. b. Unclean spirits prefer “Loaves and Lazarus” churches to dry “Loads of Doctrine” churches which don’t cater to the flesh. c. Doctrinally weak churches set themselves up for other unclean spirits to move in and “evangelize.” 5. A core distinction is whether a seeker desires to justify God or self. a. The genuine seeker will justify God and His wisdom and correct himself. PSA 119:34, 128; LUK 7:35. b. The insincere seeker will justify himself and correct God. LUK 10:29; 16:15; PRO 14:6; 18:2; 26:12 c/w JOB 40:8. C. It is largely for lack of sound biblical teaching that the cults have been harvesting from mainstream churches. c/w HOS 4:1, 6. D. Children of God are not automatically immune to being caught up in a heretical system. REV 18:4; 2TI 4:2-4. III. For purposes of this study, we will primarily use the word “cult” as it is popularly used, referring to the prolific rise of non-Catholic, non-Protestant, non-Baptist splinter theologies in the last 150 - 200 years in Western Civilization. A. This rise of the cults roughly coincided with three other major spiritual antichrist dynamics of the same period: 1. The rise of evolutionary theory (with its accommodation by many Christians). 2. The rise of Jewish chiliasm masquerading as Christian eschatology (premillennial dispensationalism), wherein footnotes and commentaries are the final authority. 3. The rise of discordant modern bible versions from spurious manuscripts. B. Each of these dynamics is an assault on the trustworthiness and authority of Scripture. Recall that Paul was concerned that Satan might beguile saints’ minds “...by any means...” (2CO 11:3). 1. Never forget this adage: “Where Scripture is doubted, Satan will be trusted.” 2. Even God’s word, when not received as God’s word, is ineffectual. HEB 4:2 ct/w 1TH 2:13. 3. God judges those who doubt His words. LUK 1:19-20; ISA 7:9. 4. Those not established (rendered stable, firm, unmoveable) are prime targets of Satan and his ministers. 2PE 2:14; 3:16. 5. The double-minded are particularly at risk of being drawn away since they are unstable. JAM 1:8. a. double-minded: Having two 'minds'; undecided or wavering in mind. b. He can't decide for truth or compromise; he halts between two opinions (1KI 18:21), unwilling to fully commit, perhaps “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2TI 3:7). c. Underlying this condition is a heart in need of purification: there is a sin problem that needs to be addressed. JAM 4:7-8. C. One could legitimately wonder if Satan has been loosed to deceive the nations again according to REV 20:3, 8. 1. Satan once had uncontested mastery of the nations through the deceptions of lust and idolatry that flourished in the absence of God’s written revelation. PSA 147:19-20. 2. The spread of the gospel from Israel to the Gentiles/nations changed that. ACT 26:17-18. 3. But something has changed: even the decidedly “Christian” nations have fallen Cults and Their Appeal Page 2 away from the solid Biblical foundations of their ecclesiastical, educational and political institutions. The light has faded and is all but extinquished compared to the former condition. D. Added to the spiritual antichrist dynamics in play are the carnal antichrist dynamics which choke out the word of God. LUK 8:14. 1. The industrial revolution, for all its benefits, gave Western Civilization the one substitute for God and His promises that everyone loves: material wealth. a. Who needs God or Scripture when you have everything you desire? b. “Religion begat prosperity, and the daughter devoured the mother.” (Cotton Mather) c. Money can buy lust but not love, a bed but not sleep, a house but not a home, a drink but not hope, an education but not wisdom, a thrill but not true joy, a piece of earth but not even a sliver of heaven, peace with men but not the peace of God, pleasure but not purpose. 2. Do not underestimate the mind-altering effects of digital technology which is adversely changing the way people think and socialize, stripping people of the ability of critical thinking skills, consuming their time, and further distancing them from Scripture which saves them. PSA 119:95-100, 104-105, 133-134; ISA 8:20. a. This is a form of idolatry. The goddess’ name is Siri, Google, Web, etc., and she can answer all of your questions. b. People actually converse with Siri as an invisible intelligence like God. c. People are becoming dependent upon digital technology like smartphones not just for business needs but for personal emotional fulfillment. They dread the thought of not being “connected.” d. Recent polls show that many millennials would rather give up sex than their smartphones. e. NOTE: Each article of communication technology since the invention of the telegraph, but especially since the invention of the telephone, has increasingly alienated us from speaking to God and listening to Him. (1) Before the telephone, who did the godly speak to when they were all alone and needed to immediately speak to someone? God. How did God speak back? Scripture. (2) Not even considering the one-way messaging of radio or television to the lonely (with their increasing appeals to lust), just ponder how the development of peer-to-peer technologies, e-mail, cell-phones, smartphones, texting, Facebook, etc., have only added to the disruption of communication with God. (3) Social networking itself carries some of the powerpoints of a cult: emotional and communicational pleasure, empowerment, group- think promoted by reward-withdrawal psychology and peer acceptance, unseen powers orchestrating thought streams, exposure of secrets, constant activity, etc. (and do not overlook the addictive aspect that overtakes the mind like a drug). f. A mind is a precious thing to waste or be turned into the very tool of your own destruction. Christ died to take away your sin, not your mind. 2TI 1:7. E. The sum of the above section is that all the contrary dynamics listed above have not only flourished in the decline, absence or ignorance of an absolute final authority (Scripture), the vacuum of biblically informed critical thought which does not adequately equip God’s Cults and Their Appeal Page 3 children with warnings, countermeasures and hope sets them up for instability, disillusionment and captivity by cults. 1. The same factors apply to false religion in general which caters to the emotional, directional and relational needs of people at the expense of Biblical truth. 2. Similarly, these factors set people up for escapism through alcohol, drugs, sex, etc. F. A general rule: “If something seems too good to be true, it is likely to good to be true.” IV. Some marks of a cult: A. It tends to shun scrutiny from within or without. 1. Dissident voices within the cult are suppressed or silenced through manipulative or coercive tactics, or through threats of retaliation if one bolts. a. The so-called “Church of Scientology” is notorious for such tactics. b. It is not uncommon for the darker cults to harvest personal information from recruits and members and/or compile databases to be used against any who step out of line. c. A biblical church of Jesus Christ has a different approach: avoid being a busybody in other men’s matters (1PE 4:15), make reasonable attempts to convert the errant (JAM 5:19-20) give dissident voices a public forum to charge leadership with heresy if necessary (1TI 5:19-20), or simply give the dissident what he wants: freedom from the constraints of Christ’s kingdom. 1TI 1:19-20; 6:3-5. 2. Challenges from without are deemed as satanic attacks upon humble martyrs. 3. By contrast, true faith invites scrutiny and stands willing to defend itself or be corrected. JUDE 1:3; 1PE 3:15; PHIL 3:15. B. It tends to hide its actual teachings under cover of a guise of acceptability or relies on duplicity. 1. Among pseudo-Christian cults, this is done by re-purposing normative Christian terms for their own unbiblical doctrines. a. The Trinity of a Christian Scientist is not the “God in Three Persons” of 1JO 5:7 but rather Life, Truth, Love. b. The Jesus Christ of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is not the Incarnate Deity of JOH 1:14; 1TI 3:16 but a created god who is really Michael the Archangel, and he did not rise and ascend bodily into heaven. c. To the Mormon, Jesus Christ is the son of Adam who pre-existed as the spirit-brother of Lucifer. d. There are “lords many” (1CO 8:5), “another Jesus” (2CO 11:4) and “false Christs” (MAT 24:24). The only true “Lord Jesus Christ” is the One Who can be declared from the Scripture! 2. Sometimes this is done by using the “Onion Method,” where the first thing seen or taught is seemingly helpful, innocent or benign but the reality of what the cult is all about is only revealed through increasingly evil layers or degrees which gradually blind the mind to the obvious errors. a. This is also the method used by some secret societies where terms mean one thing to the initiate but something different to the elite. b. Contrast this with our Lord Jesus Who spoke openly without secrets. JOH 18:20. c. Paul refused to use hidden things of dishonesty and onion layers of meaning. 2CO 1:13; 4:2. 3. Few things are as effective as “charity” to make something appear good and also to Cults and Their Appeal Page 4 deflect criticism (JOH 12:5-6) and cults know this tactic well. 4. Mormonism presents strong morals and family values outwardly. But what about their sympathy for polygamy or their belief in proxy baptisms to save their dead ancestors out of Mormon “purgatory” or their belief in becoming Gods and producing spirit-children to populate and rule new worlds? 5. Always cut through the frosting to see if there is cake or a cowpie underneath it. C. Pseudo-Christian cults will almost invariably: 1. deny the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. 1TI 3:16. 2. deny the Trinity. 1JO 5:7. 3. deny a completed revelation and boast of extra-biblical revelation. REV 22:18-19. 4. deny a preserved true church. MAT 16:18. 5. have a charismatic founder whose teachings are deemed superior to Scripture. The system will not differentiate between “What saith the Scripture?” and “What saith the Leader?” To question the Leader is to question God. D. Cults (and false systems in general) tend to be rife with internal contradictions where opposing positions and principles are deemed consistent, or long-held “eternal truths” are discarded or altered as circumstances demand or by the whim of a leader. 1. Mormonism has been pro-polygamy, then contra-polygamy because of political expediency. “Infallible” writings and prophecies of its founders have been dropped, “disappeared” or amended when circumstances demanded such. 2. This holding of irreconcilable opposites (e.g. “God is A and God is non-A,” or “Infallible, eternal truth is subject to amendment”) requires a form of cognitive dissonance (discomfort...triggered by a situation in which a person’s belief clashes with new evidence perceived by that person. When confronted with facts that contradict personal beliefs, ideals, and values, people will find a way to resolve the contradiction in order to reduce their discomfort, Wikipedia) 3. Generally, the personal comfort one derives from remaining part of the inconsistent order overrules the desire for clarity and consistency. 4. God is of one mind and completely consistent. JOB 23:13; JAM 1:17. a. His judgments are “...true and righteous altogether” (PSA 19:9). b. altogether: The whole together, the entire; everything, the whole, the total. c. Any system that requires its adherents to believe polarized positions is not representative of the God of the Bible. 5. Some are held captive in simple ignorance because of immaturity or other factors which have corrupted their critical thinking skills. But many willingly choose cognitive dissonance because something other than God and His truth is their first love. a. They make a choice to NOT challenge inconsistencies because of the perceived advantages that remaining part of the group represent: “I’m happy where I am. Don’t confuse me with facts.” b. Such can never claim simple ignorance. 2PE 3:5; JAM 4:17. c. Such do not have genuine liberty and will actually deem their bondage to be liberty. JOH 8:31-36. d. “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” (J.W. von Goethe) 6. An honest man, when confronted with truth that demands a change of his thinking, will either change his thinking or cease being honest. E. Cult systems (particularly the darker ones) tend to have a different standard for leaders than for followers. Cults and Their Appeal Page 5 1. Followers may be expected to do the “grunt work” while the leader(s) confine themselves to the supervising of the system and being served by the system. 2. Followers may be expected to surrender their material wealth to the system and live austere lives while the leader(s) live opulently. 3. Followers may be expected to surrender their chastity to the leader and yield their bodies to no other, while the leader lives the life of a sheik. 4. Contrast such folly with a biblical church: a. There is one class: all are brethren. MAT 23:8. b. All are to be of a service mindset. PHIL 2:5-8. c. Leaders are under weightier accountability. JAM 3:1; 1CO 9:27. d. Leaders should be willing to give and learn contentment. PHIL 4:10-12; 2CO 12:14-15. e. Leaders are to especially be examples of purity. 1TI 4:12; 5:1-2. F. Common Branch Davidians or the NXIVM cult are well-known for their sexual promiscuity and sex slave/master dynamics. 1. Religion and sex are powerful dynamics of human desire. Combined, they are deadly. 2. Combining sex with religion was the historic tendency of paganism and this formula represents a powerful stronghold of Satan since the sexual activity is deemed to have divine approval, even divine communion. 3. It takes little ingenuity to lure lust-oriented people into sex cults (and they are not necessarily all outside of the church). 2TI 3:6; 2PE 2:18; REV 2:20. 4. Pseudo-Christian systems which embrace polygamy commonly rely on O.T. permissions for multiple wives since Christ clearly forbids such. MAT 19:4-9. G. It is not uncommon for cults to centralize people and power, which is part of an isolation tactic that binds the members to the system. 1. The assumption is that the group has exclusive claim to revealed knowledge which is withheld from anyone outside the group. 2. Everything depends on being in the presence of the group, working with the group, working for the group, recruiting others to the group. 3. Cult-watch organizations have noted the model of the beehive at work in cults. a. The will of the individual is always subordinated to the well-being of the hive. b. The well-being of the hive revolves around the “queen bee.” The leader is the central figure. Nothing can be done without the leader’s approval. Nothing can be understood but through the leader. His mind becomes their minds. (1) “The cult preys upon the tendency of many to rely on magical thinking, which reinforces the tendency to endow the leader with omnipotent and magical powers, much like the child’s early mental representations of the parent who at that time, did control his universe. The member can readily come to believe that the leader can read his mind or hear conversations at a distance. Slowly, greater and greater irrational power is attributed to the leader. Because the cult leader tends to be a person with a sense of self-esteem so damaged that he requires the adoration, obedience, and subjugation of others to gain a sense of self-esteem and power, he cannot get enough of this. This is very much the same dynamic as is found in cases of among the darker cults is the emphasis on sex. Groups like David Koresh’s Cults and Their Appeal Page 6 domestic violence, when one spouse, usually the husband, tries to assert total control over the other, seemingly a cult of one.” (Psychology Today, online) (2) “The victims of soul murder remain in large part possessed by another, their souls in bondage to another. Shengold cites George Orwell’s 1984, in which O’Brien says to Winston Smith: ‘You will be hollow. We will squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves.’ Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” (Psychology Today, online) (3) One of the methods of cult leaders is to speak/teach complexities that are “deeper” than common sense but are somehow resolved in the members’ thinking as indisputable, and which will be perfectly understood by further submission to the leader’s teachings. This is the cognitive dissonance mentioned earlier. (4) Another tactic is to shroud the irrational with claims of “inscrutability” or by using ambiguities which never can be pinned down as having absolute meaning. c. Everyone has a compartmentalized role that cannot differ from the hive’s purpose (which is scarcely distinguished from the leader’s purpose). d. Everyone is kept busy. There is constant activity which is not “bee” oriented but “hive” oriented. (1) Entertainment, activities and busy-ness are critical tools of a false sense of importance and contribution to the system. They are deceitful substitutes for regular spiritual assembly, critical personal thought, and interaction with God through His word and prayer. (2) Mind that the busier people are, the less time they have to think critically, and the “herd mentality” takes over. (3) Some historians have noted that Hitler’s tactics included maximum participation in the Nazi Party from youth onwards. Everyone was encouraged to be engaged in some activity in the Party where the “party line” propaganda was promoted. e. The hive is a commune: all should decouple from normal life and come to one place. God’s approval, safety, peace, harmony and illumination, etc. are only available at the hive. 4. Believers need to be cautious about assuming they are the only ones standing in a pool of divine light. ROM 11:2-4. 5. Believers do well to get together but not to the disregard of “...good works for necessary uses...” (TIT 3:14). Over-busy religion can prove toxic to true faith by the complexities it imposes upon necessary work and family needs, and by the rivalry it creates for personal spiritual growth. ECC 7:16; LUK 10:40-42. 6. Believers should be on guard even for churches that reflect the hive/commune model where membership is only permitted on a resident basis. 7. Believers should respect their pastor’s office (1TH 5:12-13) but not idolize him nor allow their critical thinking skills to shut down out of fear of his displeasure. Apostles of Christ were even subject to correction. GAL 2:11. 8. Whereas believers should not remain continually in a state of simplicity of understanding (1CO 14:20), neither should their MINDS “...be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2CO 11:3). Cults and Their Appeal Page 7 a. No amount of good words and fair speeches (ROM 16:18), or great swelling words of vanity (2PE 2:18) should turn a “thou shalt surely die” (GEN 2:17) into a “Ye shall not surely die” (GEN 3:4). b. This is the sophistry of being bewitched by false teaching (GAL 3:1), where the “charm” of human wisdom and complexity overrides the plain, obvious words of God and common sense. The forces in play are false authority and compelling oratory. (1) A mystique enshrouds God’s words (ISA 29:10-12), so the mind defaults to the words of men. Pseudo-Christian cults may pay lip service to Scripture but their doctrine comes from the words of some elitist in the system. (2) Under the power of this dynamic, the mind under pressure finally gives in to the “wisdom” of the system and the system becomes the final authority for truth. (3) “Deep” thinking is not necessarily right thinking. PSA 64:6. (4) “No superficial wit is theirs; but sagacity, sharpened by practice and keen hatred. Wicked men have frequently the craft to hasten slowly, to please in order to ruin, to flatter that ere long they may devour, to bow the knee that they may ultimately crush beneath their foot.” (The Treasury of David, on Psalm 64:6) c. Parents: teach your children to think biblically, which is to think critically, and “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1TH 5:21). (1) Do the same yourselves. (2) Where there are questions to ask, ask them. (3) Measure your teachers by Scripture. ACT 17:11; PSA 119:99. (4) Pray for wisdom and understanding for the right reasons. PSA 119:125, 73, 34. 9. “Corruption in doctrine works best when it is unfettered by any explicit statement of that doctrine. Error loves ambiguities. It does not desire to state its position clearly, either because it has no distinct position to state, or if stated, it would stand convicted of iniquities in the eyes of all honest and God fearing men.” (Martin L. Wagner, Freemasonry, An Interpretation, p. 539) c/w PRO 5:6. 10. Our model, the Apostle Paul, spoke rudely, plainly, without ambiguity. 2CO 11:6; 3:12; 1:13. H. Music is even a tool of cults to weaken rational thought, break down resistance, and animate individuals towards a false sense of patriotism to the system. 1. Music alters mood, a power which may be for good or evil. For example, who does not know the effect that a minor key has on mood and mental state? a. The type of instrument and the way in which it is played may suit circumstances or not. b. Saul’s psychosis was relieved by David’s harp (1SAM 16:23). Why didn’t David use kettle drums? c. Armies don’t march towards danger animated by a harp and “Mary had a little lamb.” 2. There is a psychological power in repetitive chanting and singing that can induce a form of hypnosis to where the mind is in an insular “zone” which blocks out normal alarm triggers and makes the mind susceptible to the power of suggestion. a. The suggestion may come from another person or simply from the depths of one’s own natural mind. EPH 2:3. Cults and Their Appeal Page 8 b. Sometimes this induced state is accompanied by a glazed expression. It is very difficult to get through to someone whose mind has been taken over to this degree. 3. Research has shown that certain beats/pulses affect baser thought function: “...the brain synchronizes neural oscillators with the pulse of the music (through cerebellum activation), and starts to predict when the next strong beat will occur. The response to ‘groove’ is mainly unconscious; it is processed first through the cerebellum and amygdala rather than the frontal lobes.” (psychcentral.com, Music & How It Impacts Your Brain, Emotions) 4. “Cult leaders, who are known for isolating their followers and seeking inappropriate loyalty, can take the emotions and feelings of togetherness that group singing and dancing provide and use it as a form of mind control. It is common in cults to use music in religious ceremonies, in order to direct emotional and psychological attention to a specific ideology or person. That’s dangerous, because it re-wires how your brain works, further isolating you from the world outside of the cult. ‘Music does activate our biological rewards system, along with food, sex, drugs, and money,’ explains music psychologist and professional pianist Marina Korsakova- Kreyn. There are clear biological motivations for the importance of food, sex, and drugs that science can explain — but explaining why a non-necessity like music gives us a chemical shot of pleasure is ‘difficult to rationalize.’” (How Cult Leaders Use Music for Mind Control, online) 5. “According to Korsakova-Kreyn, music immerses us in a virtual reality of emotion. ‘Music gives us the chills, a skin orgasm. It causes changes in our hormonal makeup. Music affects our vital signs: blood pressure, heart rate, breathing. Music can make us cry. And we can get lost in time and space while listening to music.’ Of the many things we don’t yet understand about how our brain processes music is why it makes us feel emotional.” (Ibid.) 6. “In her account of the first Burman convert, Mrs. Judson says: ‘A few days ago, I was reading with him Mat 6:1-34. He was deeply impressed and solemn. ‘These words,’ said he, ‘take hold of my very heart. They make me tremble. When our people visit the pagodas, they make a great noise with trumpets. But this religion makes the mind fear God.’” (F.B. Meyer Commentary) 7. Religious music should be the handmaiden of knowledge, a method of enhancing the delivery of truth to the mind. EPH 5:19; COL 3:16. a. Musical notes without words affect the emotion/mood/mind. They have power to direct thought without facilitating understanding of truth. b. The words of a doctrinal song, by contrast, can convey knowledge and understanding even without a tune. c. God has seen fit to bring together the power of words and tunes to glorify Himself and edify the saints in knowledge and understanding. d. Since edification in knowledge and understanding is the primary goal of church instruction (EPH 4:11-14), the distraction of instruments is accordingly eliminated in N.T. church worship. e. Music can drown out consideration of God’s works and leave the soul in ignorance. ISA5:12-13. f. We should be wary of music in any form that torts emotions to corrupt faith and good manners. 1CO 15:33. g. Christ is to dwell in our hearts by faith, not feeling (EPH 3:17), and faith comes by hearing the word of God. ROM 10:17. Cults and Their Appeal Page 9 I. Cults depend much on how they affect feelings. This is especially powerful where the assumption is that the presence of God is felt in the unity, harmony, sense of purpose and workings of the cult. 1. People can be deceived into thinking they are having true spiritual experiences because of the feelings they experience in connection with them. 2. Scripture nowhere speaks of feeling God’s presence. 3. ACT 17:27 speaks of feeling after God. This is describing someone seeking God in order to find Him, NOT someone who has already found Him and is enjoying His presence through faith in His word. 4. There is a big difference between finding God through good feelings and finding good feelings through God by faith. 1PE 1:8. 5. Sadly, the errant model is not atypical of many Christian churches and parachurch organizations. This is a likely contributing factor to the cults’ ability to recruit from professing Christian communities: the weak/unstable/unwary/emotion-led have long been accustomed to equating feelings with God’s presence. J. An overarching principle of cults (especially the darker ones) is their power to control thought, to override the normal defenses a rational mind should have (common sense, logic, natural affection, observational reality, etc.) and bring that mind into willing conformity to the system. Various control mechanisms are employed for this: 1. Drugs. a. Beside the simple psychoactive effect of certain drugs which induce pleasure, sense of power or painlessness, the implication that under their influence one is achieving a higher, even divine, state of consciousness, is a powerful deception that grips the mind. b. The ancient “cult of the assassins” utilized hashish to entice, animate and control its dupes. 2. Love-bombing, unconditional love, attention. a. The recruit or member is smothered with affection and brought into a Xanadu state of mind where all is well, dream-like, warm. b. Consider the grip this has on someone who is emotionally compromised from a failed or abusive relationship or one who has been yearning for validation and acceptance. c. Once sufficiently “under the ether” the affection and attention may dry up but the hope that it will return keeps the mind in thrall, blinded to the obvious errors of the system. d. A biblical church should be known for its love of one another. JOH 13:34-35. (1) This love, though, is practical more than it is emotional. 1JO 5:1-3. (2) This love rebukes when necessary. LEV 19:17. (3) This love will be tested, rejected or reacted to contrarily sometimes. 2CO 12:15. (4) This love will let the unwilling go if they insist on going and even “give them the boot” if needed. 1CO 5:13. (5) The challenge in a cult is how to escape it; the challenge in a biblical church is how to live so as to not be cast out of it. 3. Sensory overload or deprivation. a. The recruit or member is overwhelmed with things that maximize pleasure triggers: inclusion, praise, advancement, sense of importance, “special” treatment, promises of great things, sense of being part of something special Cults and Their Appeal Page 10 and unavailable elsewhere, etc. b. The flip side of this control coin is deprivation: taking away the pleasure triggers if one is not deemed to be in conformity, which is an inducement to regain favor with the cult through conformity. c. This differs from the work of the Spirit in the church. (1) The pleasure of God’s company in a fellowship of like believers, the joy of the Holy Ghost and His gifts, a place at Christ’s table, etc. are not taken away by others. One forfeits them by his own sin. (2) This is called grieving or quenching the Spirit. EPH 4:30; 1TH 5:19. (3) The church’s vote of exclusion is merely an implementation of what God has already done: terminated spiritual fellowship with a sinner. 1CO 5:3. 4. Isolation. a. The recruit or member is alienated from friends or family. The recruit or member is convinced that their influence is unhealthy and the best thing is to be shielded from that. b. Outsiders in general (especially gainsayers) are not to be trusted. They are rather to be painted as enemies and made scapegoats: all that is wrong in life is because of them and their unenlightened thinking. c. Scripture does call saints to place Christ above family. MAT 10:34-37. (1) But it does not call saints to break necessary family bonds. 1CO 7:10-13. (2) It does not absolve saints of family responsibility. 1TI 5:8. (3) An “enemy” is to be loved and prayed for. MAT 5:44. (4) The believer’s heart’s desire and prayer is for the conversion of ignorant outsiders (ROM 10:1-2) and for opportunities to witness to them accordingly. COL 4:3. (5) The believer is ever mindful that the only difference between himself and the “unenlightened” is God’s grace and mercy. TIT 3:3-5. 5. Internal spying and ratting-out. a. Members are encouraged to spy on one another and report unacceptable words, trends or actions to leadership for corrective or disciplinary action. This is a control mechanism of Communism: the fear of State rather than the fear of God. b. This is facilitated by the communalism of many cults where contact with the outside world is scarce, if at all. c. A biblical church rejects the idea of being busybodies in other men’s matters (1PE 4:15), strives to keep private the waywardness of others (JAM 5:19-20), and magnifies longsuffering and forbearance. EPH 4:2. 6. Information control. a. Negative info about the group or its tenets is forbidden or declared to be a biased “hate” attack. Scrutiny is wrong. Only approved literature is permitted. Critical thinking which would generate questions is discouraged. b. Leadership does the thinking for the group; the followers duty is to “comply and apply.” c. A biblical church does not forbid internal or external scrutiny, stands ready to be corrected with valid reasoning from Scripture, encourages members to exercise caution with non-biblical information sources and only forbids Cults and Their Appeal Page 11 what is clearly forbidden by God (e.g. pornography). Further, leadership and members have the same manual, same rules of study, and a single-class citizenship before its Law. V. What is the value of a study like this? A. Cults are a reality. There are pseudo-Christian cults, astrological cults, Eastern mysticism cults, Talmudic cults, sex cults, secret-society cults, occult cults, etc. Some are relatively benign, some are deadly, none are an equal to or substitute for a Biblical faith and church. B. Cults (particularly pseudo-Christian cults) have been harvesting recruits from all areas of civilization, including mainstream Christianity. 1. A basic grasp of their methodology is helpful, particularly the mechanisms by which they take control of the minds of men. 2. Knowledge of cults’ doctrines and tactics is less important than knowing, understanding and cleaving to the wisdom of God’s truth. ROM 16:19; PSA 119:104, 130; 2TI 1:7; JOH 8:31-32. C. The knowledge gained from this study is profitable also for countering false religion in general and for other mind-takeover snares that corrupt from the simplicity that is in Christ. 2CO 11:3. D. Parents benefit by being better informed for the sake of their children. 1. The knowledge of evil’s tactics is only a small part of the equation for saving children from cults. 2. Understanding that the cults are very adept at luring the weak, unstable, rebellious and the emotionally compromised, Christian parents need to undergird their informational training of their children with a spiritually, mentally and emotionally sound home environment. 3. Train up children in the way which they should go (PRO 22:6) by living and loving in a manner consistent with the same godly principles. E. Saints in general with this instruction are better fitted to witness to and deliver others from captivities of Satan through lusts and mind-corruption to the acknowledging of the truth. F. Saints are hereby encouraged to only have their minds in subjection to Christ (2CO 10:5), not to men, and that they have liberty and responsibility to exercise their rational faculties to process information and come to valid conclusions. 1. Resistance of Satan and his devices demands submission first to God. JAM 4:7. 2. That aspect of you which is not submitted to Christ’s lordship (thought, will, emotion, resolve, desires, etc.) is an exploitable area where dark influences can take hold and the mind brought into thrall. 3. If Christ is not lord of all, is He lord at all? G. Saints by this study should be comforted that the slanderous charge of “Cult!” against their church is unfounded and is usually the product of ignorant, biased detractors with their own baggage of delusions (who need our prayers, our good example in the world, and our patience). MAT 5:44; 1PE 2:12-16; 3:15-16. Addendum A. In the final sermon of this series in which I dealt with the power of music to affect mood and thought, I noted the exclusion of instrumental music in the N.T. church, and how that in the O.T. church the original use of instruments was very sparse but David added many instruments. B. A brother asked me about 2CH 29:25 which shows that there was divine authority for such. The brother has a worthy point. Cults and Their Appeal Page 12 1. I have long been aware of 2CH 29:25 and do not dispute it. a. I also am on record as having preached that David’s addition of musical instruments had heavenly support. b. I have also preached that AMO 6:3-7 is not a proof text that David’s instruments were a fundamental reason for the impending captivity. (1) If inventing musical instruments was a judgment-causing sin, then stretching out on a couch or eating lamb or veal (obvious liberties) were judgment- causing sins also. (2) The judgment-causing sin was the indulgent luxury of the wealthy who exploited and were indifferent to the afflictions of their brethren. AMO 6:1, 6; 4:1. (3) AMO 6:5 implies that they were capitalizing on David’s record for what they were doing (a durable folly). (4) ISA 5:11-13 shows that their musical instruments in no way enhanced their regard for the work of the LORD. They stir emotions but do not instruct in righteousness. c. I have also learned by experience to be cautious of making too much of what great men of God (like David) did. What God commands is of primary importance. 2. The original ordained instrumental music for Mosaic Tabernacle service was rare trumpet- blowing. LEV 23:24; 25:9; NUM 10:1-10. 3. The additional musical instruments were of David. 1CH 13:8; 15:16-28; 16:4-6. 4. David’s instruments were for his tabernacle, not the Mosaic Tabernacle of Witness. David had not added to the commandment for music for the Mosaic Tabernacle service. Things that are different are not the same. 5. Once established, these instruments were made part of the Temple service (2CH 5:12; 9:11; 29:25, etc.). The Temple also differed in construction material, size, permanence, etc. from the original Tabernacle system. The Mosaic Tabernacle and David’s tabernacle both were set aside by the Temple and its system. 6. Not everything which God ordained for Israel was according to original intent. a. The “easy divorce” law of DEU 24:1-4 was by divine authority also but it was not God’s original order. MAT 19:3-9. b. Similar reasoning would apply to the allowance for polygamy which was not according to God’s original order for marriage, per MAT 19:3-9. c. God commanded Samuel to give Israel a king contrary to His original design for Israel. 1SAM 8:4-22 c/w HOS 13:9-11. 7. David did have divine authority for his instruments but that was distinct from the original instructions for the Mosaic Tabernacle service. What God permitted and ordained through David which ended up in Temple service is not a rule for us. 8. None of the musical instruments in O.T. worship carry over into N.T. worship. Nor is any other musical instrument authorized, only singing. 9. The gift of prophecy is no more. We HAVE a more sure word of prophecy. 2PE 1:19. a. None since the apostles can claim to add to what they commanded and presume to have God rubber-stamp it by revelation. b. We have no word from God telling N.T. ministers, “Now therefore hearken unto their voice...” (1SAM 8:9), making popular demand the justification for altering God’s commandments. Cults and Their Appeal Page 13
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