Can someone be a Christian in a cult?

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chuckd

Puritan Board Sophomore
I initially joined this forum to get advice about the Witness Lee Local Church denomination: http://www.puritanboard.com/f34/witness-lee-local-church-72087/

Two of my family members joined about 3-4 years ago and, at first, I was worried about them being in a cult. After a while, things died down and I simply maintained the opinion that they were simply a toned down version of Pentecostals: erroneous about many things, emotional, higher life, spirit filled, prophesying, etc.

One of my family members dropped everything and went to their two year "training" in Anaheim. After reading some of the literature directly from the "training", I have no doubt that they are a cult. I know "cult" is somewhat of a fluid word, but I read this website and every single bullet point is a "yes":
It is possible to identify an abusive religious cult by the following list. Where more than five of following areas are discernible, it is highly likely that the individual has been recruited into a cult:
  • The group will place a tremendous emphasis on "doing good works". Members of the group may appear obsessed with doing whatever the group tells them to do (e.g. 'always' being at meetings).
  • Some groups require that the members give up all, or at least a substantial part of their income/possessions to the cause.
  • The leaders of cult groups will forbid their members from reading any literature critical of the group, especially that of ex- members.
  • In relation to the above, the leader/s of the group may become uncomfortable or even abusive to people who ask intelligent questions about the group.
  • The majority of cults view themselves as an elite and exclusive group who are 'alone' doing God's will. In contrast, other Christian Churches and denominations are mocked, ridiculed and attacked verbally within the cult.
  • Take a look at the way the group looks and acts. Does everyone dress more or less the same, act the same, and talk the same? One former cult member, speaking of his particular involvement with a cult said that the group encouraged its members “to do everything in exactly the same way - to pray the same, to look the same, to talk the same. This in psychology is a classic example of group conformity. Its purpose is to ensure that no-one tries to act differently or become dissident, thus nobody questions the status quo.” (Andrew Hart, Jan.1999).
  • Many cults tend to discourage association with non-members, even family members, where possible (except, maybe, for the possibility of converting them to the group).
  • Many cults give their members ‘black and white answers’. What the group agrees with is right and what the group disagrees with is wrong.
  • Everyone in the group will believe exactly the same things (i.e. what the group leaders tell them to believe). There will be no room for individual belief, or opinion even in minor areas.
  • The group will usually wear ‘two faces’. On the one hand, does it attempt to present itself, to potential converts and the public at large, as a group of people who are like one large family, who have love among themselves, and where everyone is equal. But on the other hand, the reality is, that many members inwardly feel unfulfilled and emotionally exhausted. The only way families and friends of cult victims will be able to find out more about this is by contacting ex-members of that specific group (see useful contacts at the end of this article).

I think it is a cult and ever since they joined there has been family drama: nobody is saved but them, a clear us vs. them attitude, they seem to always have some secret everyone is missing. Though they seems to really love reading the Bible, praying, "prophesying", they're happy, and in general make it known they love the Lord. I'm worried for them because I don't want them to stay in it, but wonder if it's worth the drama to try to get them out.
 

Ask Mr. Religion

Flatly Unflappable
MacArthur (Romans 1-8 Commentary):
"Witness Lee, founder of the Local Church movement, wrote a book entitled Christ Versus Doctrine, the main thesis of which is that it is a personal relationship to Christ that matters and that doctrine actually interferes with that relationship. The book not only is unbiblical but, as one might guess from the title, is also self-contradictory. Doctrine is simply another word for teaching, and the purpose of Lee's book, of course, was to teach his own doctrine."

Been down the Witness Lee road with believers in China who seem to gravitate to the Local Church movement. Some of them do indeed seem cultic, but I have also found, the the case of Chinese believers, that much is getting lost in translation between good Reformed doctrine and what they are reading.

Despite the many cult checklists out there, my experience has been that the one litmus test is how someone is treated when they start to leave a "cultic" group. If what follows is great pressure to remain, and extreme ostracization, a genuine cult is likely.
 

aadebayo

Puritan Board Freshman
I attended one of their teaching seminars about 12 years ago. The alarm bells started ringing when the speakers only talked about Witness Lee and Watchman Nee. It was when later that I became aware of the reformed doctrine that I was able to conclude that the organisation is a cult.
 

chuckd

Puritan Board Sophomore
MacArthur (Romans 1-8 Commentary):
"Witness Lee, founder of the Local Church movement, wrote a book entitled Christ Versus Doctrine, the main thesis of which is that it is a personal relationship to Christ that matters and that doctrine actually interferes with that relationship. The book not only is unbiblical but, as one might guess from the title, is also self-contradictory. Doctrine is simply another word for teaching, and the purpose of Lee's book, of course, was to teach his own doctrine."

Been down the Witness Lee road with believers in China who seem to gravitate to the Local Church movement. Some of them do indeed seem cultic, but I have also found, the the case of Chinese believers, that much is getting lost in translation between good Reformed doctrine and what they are reading.

Despite the many cult checklists out there, my experience has been that the one litmus test is how someone is treated when they start to leave a "cultic" group. If what follows is great pressure to remain, and extreme ostracization, a genuine cult is likely.

Their doctrine is one thing - it is along the lines of Keswick, Higher life movement stuff. Obviously I have my own problems with that, but it is not worth severing my family relationships.

It is the other stuff that I can't necessarily post on a public forum. I plan to make it available, but it will take some time to transcribe. It has all the marks of a cult, notwithstanding the obvious - own Bible translation and ONLY Witness Lee books are read. Ademola, they rarely read Watchman Nee anymore.

MacArthur points out the obvious problem with anti-denominational denominations, or anti-doctrine doctrine, but that's not really my issue. It's...if your family member were a member of a non-denominational church that taught doctrine from Dallas Theological Seminary, what pains would you undertake to get them into a Presbyterian one? To me, probably not much. What if they were in a Witness Lee Local Church? Same type of doctrine, but has the marks of a cult. They have zeal for the Lord and love him.
 

joebonni63

Puritan Board Freshman
If it's not about the trinity and I mean trinity in a reformed way then it stinks nothing against anyone here. Remember I came out of Calvary Chapel and I feel it was very cult like and a lot people would laugh at that but look at what they are teaching and that's the acid test.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
The elect come from every tribe, tongue and nation. There are true believers in cults. They will however, eventually leave as the HS leads them into all truth.
 

Nicholas Perella

Puritan Board Freshman
It is the other stuff that I can't necessarily post on a public forum. I plan to make it available, but it will take some time to transcribe. It has all the marks of a cult, notwithstanding the obvious - own Bible translation and ONLY Witness Lee books are read. Ademola, they rarely read Watchman Nee anymore.

MacArthur points out the obvious problem with anti-denominational denominations, or anti-doctrine doctrine, but that's not really my issue. It's...if your family member were a member of a non-denominational church that taught doctrine from Dallas Theological Seminary, what pains would you undertake to get them into a Presbyterian one? To me, probably not much. What if they were in a Witness Lee Local Church? Same type of doctrine, but has the marks of a cult. They have zeal for the Lord and love him.

I would undertake great pains. You could show as much as possible where you believe the same as they do when given the opportunity, a little here, a little there. Whenever the opportunity arises. But not only you but show or mention others who would agree also. Demonstrating that they are not as exclusive in their culture (church?) and that others are as they are will help to retain their awareness that they are not privy to some special understanding. Maybe you being there for them gives them an open door to the bigger world, the larger church. When it might get difficult is when they begin to make a constant habit to show how they are different from the rest of the world (church?) no matter what, that would be very sad.
 

Ask Mr. Religion

Flatly Unflappable
MacArthur (Romans 1-8 Commentary):
"Witness Lee, founder of the Local Church movement, wrote a book entitled Christ Versus Doctrine, the main thesis of which is that it is a personal relationship to Christ that matters and that doctrine actually interferes with that relationship. The book not only is unbiblical but, as one might guess from the title, is also self-contradictory. Doctrine is simply another word for teaching, and the purpose of Lee's book, of course, was to teach his own doctrine."

Been down the Witness Lee road with believers in China who seem to gravitate to the Local Church movement. Some of them do indeed seem cultic, but I have also found, the the case of Chinese believers, that much is getting lost in translation between good Reformed doctrine and what they are reading.

Despite the many cult checklists out there, my experience has been that the one litmus test is how someone is treated when they start to leave a "cultic" group. If what follows is great pressure to remain, and extreme ostracization, a genuine cult is likely.

Their doctrine is one thing - it is along the lines of Keswick, Higher life movement stuff. Obviously I have my own problems with that, but it is not worth severing my family relationships.

It is the other stuff that I can't necessarily post on a public forum. I plan to make it available, but it will take some time to transcribe. It has all the marks of a cult, notwithstanding the obvious - own Bible translation and ONLY Witness Lee books are read. Ademola, they rarely read Watchman Nee anymore.

MacArthur points out the obvious problem with anti-denominational denominations, or anti-doctrine doctrine, but that's not really my issue. It's...if your family member were a member of a non-denominational church that taught doctrine from Dallas Theological Seminary, what pains would you undertake to get them into a Presbyterian one? To me, probably not much. What if they were in a Witness Lee Local Church? Same type of doctrine, but has the marks of a cult. They have zeal for the Lord and love him.
I would not start to transcribe posts for recitation herein as PB discourages he-said-she-said "board wars" wherein the participants are not available for direct discussion.

Many groups have "zeal for the Lord", but unfortunately zeal for intellectual idols that others go off worshipping is at the possible risk of their eternal destiny. Understanding who the Lord is, what he did for us, and how we appropriate what He did for us is a first order essential--for that is the gospel. If any of my family is headed down a path that does not understand this I would do what I am able to point out the issues then leave the matter in the hands of God.
 

chuckd

Puritan Board Sophomore
I would not start to transcribe posts for recitation herein as PB discourages he-said-she-said "board wars" wherein the participants are not available for direct discussion.

Many groups have "zeal for the Lord", but unfortunately zeal for intellectual idols that others go off worshipping is at the possible risk of their eternal destiny. Understanding who the Lord is, what he did for us, and how we appropriate what He did for us is a first order essential--for that is the gospel. If any of my family is headed down a path that does not understand this I would do what I am able to point out the issues then leave the matter in the hands of God.

Thanks for everyone's suggestions. They do understand the gospel and they make a relationship with Jesus number one. I think you're right - they know my position (I think) - so I will leave it in God's hands.

And the thing I was going to transcribe was their official instruction manual for their full time training. It is very odd to say the least.
 
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