Definitions of this term are hotly debated both by Christians and those outside of religion in general. When Christians use the term they usually have one of two definitions in mind— psychological/sociological or theological.
For Christians the theological definition tends to focus on the adherence of essential doctrines of the Christian faith. According to Alan Gomes in Unmasking The Cults, “A cult of Christianity is a group of people, which claiming to be Christian, embraces a particular doctrine system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which (system) denies (either explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian Faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible.”
The psychological/sociological definition differs from the theological one in the sense that doctrine has very little, if anything, to do with branding a certain group as a cult. It is the deeds, and not the creeds that alarm those who hold to the psychological/sociological definition. One psychological/sociological definition is as follows:
A group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion to some person, idea, or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control designed to advance the goals of the group’s leaders to the actual or possible detriment of Members, their families of the community. (Adapted from Paul Martin’s, Cult Proofing Your Kids)
While we acknowledge both definitions, and believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons fit both of them, we tend to favor the psychological/sociological one for the reason that non-Christians often fail to understand the seriousness of the consequences of heresy. However, we find that the general public does understand the dangers of being involved in deceptive, manipulative, authoritarian religions.
If you would like more information about our views on cults, you can read these three short articles, each of which appeared in the San Antonio Express News.
- Cults and the Freedom to Believe
- I Bear You My testimony: Ex-Cultists Speak Out
- Seven Tips on How to Avoid Cults