Defining a Cult

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Reformed Fox

Puritan Board Freshman
Does anyone have a decent definition of "cult"?

I personally find this to be one of those "I know it when I see it situations" but this is not very helpful. I am tempted to say cults include a gnostic or secretive element or mysticism in some form but these might not be defining or necessary. Certain religious orders may be theologically questionable but not cultic. Certain forms of dispensationalism and liberal theology are gnostic but they are not cultic either. What is a cult?
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
Beliefs and practices that are (1) well outside of the mainstream of Christianity and (2) dangerous.
 

Reformed Fox

Puritan Board Freshman
That's just the issue. How far outside of "mainstream" Christianity is too far. IHOP seems like a cult to me. But what of charismatics generally? What about very mild pentecostals (for example). If danger is defined as heresy Mormons and Roman Catholics are about on par but the errors of the latter are more unfortunate historic developments than anything else.
 

Douglas P.

Puritan Board Freshman
Every cult seems to have three things in common:

They deny the deity of Christ
They deny justification by faith alone
They deny sola scriptura (usually have some additional prophetic writing)

Also common is some sort of sexual "benifit" for adherence. IE Mormonism with polygamy or Islam with huri
 

VanGillMan

Puritan Board Freshman
"a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader."

Thank good old dictionary.com for that one, I think it is pretty accurate.

When discussing this with friends in the past we noted that the one thing which differentiates a cult from other groups is that they don't let you leave. Once you are in, a cult makes it nearly impossible to get out - through manipulation and sometimes coercion.
 

Douglas P.

Puritan Board Freshman
They deny the deity of Christ

So you are excluding Roman Catholics from your definition?

Correct, I wouldn't put Rome in the Cult column.

Every cult seems to have three things in common:

They deny the deity of Christ
They deny justification by faith alone
They deny sola scriptura (usually have some additional prophetic writing)

Do you mean, they have one of the three, or all three?

Have all three.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Cults don't need to believe in the supernatural. Some multilevel marketing setups get that way.
 
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