We recently received questions and accusations surrounding the issue of whether Christianity is a cult? This is not a new issue because, in the first century, many claimed that the apostles were promoting a cult. So, is Christianity a cult?
How do we identify a cult? Most definitions revolve around one figurehead who dictates the actions which the cult members must follow. The cult leader gains something by the actions of those who are members of the cult. Those gains can be monetary, sexual, physical, mental, or emotional, but there are always gains for the cult leader. The methods of control in a cult can be physical or sexual rewards for joining, physical punishment for not following the rules, or psychological control by intimidation or withholding of acceptance by the group.
History is full of religious cults. So is Christianity a cult with Jesus Christ as the cult leader? We are talking about Christianity as presented in the Bible. We do not mean organizations established by humans that call themselves Christian but have practices and teachings which contradict the Bible. There are denominations and sects that we would agree are cults. They have their own book of rules apart from the Bible. They have their own leader who dictates what members do, and they maintain control of their members by techniques that contradict biblical teaching. That is not biblical Christianity. Here are some reasons why biblical Christianity is not a cult:
1) The leader of Christianity died for the members of the group and refused money, fame, or items of physical comfort.
2) The message of Jesus was to serve others, not to be served. That was what He did.
3) The message of Christianity is, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians. 2:12), not, “Do what I say or else.”
4) Members of Christianity are not removed from the world and isolated from outside influence. “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). That is not a cloistered, isolated existence.
5) One source of information is given to Christians, and that is the Bible. It is a perfect guide for life. It is not a book of rules but a source of information on how to live successfully. (See 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Matthew 5-7.)
6) The message of Christ was and is confirmed by immediate and long-term physical results. “By their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:16) is the challenge of Christianity. When people follow the teaching of Christ, they find peace, love, compassion, service, and freedom. No cult produces freedom in any sense.
We do not argue for someone to join “our cult.” We encourage all people to choose and live in a way that works and will bless all people. Is Christianity a cult? Absolutely not!
— John N. Clayton © 2019