The term 'cult of Christianity' is used of a group, church or organization whose central teachings and/or practices are claimed to be biblical or representative of biblical Christianity, but which are in fact unbiblical and un-Christian.
The term can also be applied to groups, organizations or churches whose statement of faith may sound orthodox, but who add aberrant
teachings to such an extend that the essential doctrines of the Christian faith
are negatively affected. (Examples: Seventh-day Adventist Church
, International Church of Christ
- The term 'cult of Christianity' is more accurate than alternatives like 'Christian cult,' or 'Bible-based cult' -- which essesntially are oxymorons.
- Those who claim that Christianity is a cult in so doing demonstrate they are familiar neither with Christianity, the history of Christianity and the proper use of the term 'cult.'
A cult of Christianity is a group of people, which claiming to be Christian, embraces a particular doctrinal 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.
- "Central doctrines" of the Christian faith are those doctrines that make the Christian faith Christian and not something else.
- The meaning of the expression "Christian faith" is not like a wax nose, which can be twisted to mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean.
- The Christian faith is a definite system of beliefs with definite content (Jude 3)
- Certain Christian doctrines constitute the core of the faith. Central doctrines include the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the bodily resurrection, the atoning work of Christ on the cross, and salvation by grace through faith. These doctrines so comprise the essence of the Christian faith that to remove any of them is to make the belief system non-Christian.
- Scripture teaches that the beliefs mentioned above are of central importance (e.g., Matt. 28:19; John 8:24; 1 Cor. 15; Eph. 2:8-10).
- Because these central doctrines define the character of Christianity, one cannot be saved and deny these.
- Central doctrines should not be confused with peripheral issues, about which Christians may legitimately disagree.
Peripheral (i.e. non-essential) doctrines include such issues as the timing of the tribulation, the method of baptism, or the structure of church government. For example, one can be wrong about the identity of "the spirits in prison" 1 Peter 3:19) or about the timing of the rapture and still go to heaven, but one cannot deny salvation by grace or the deity of Christ (John 8:24) and be saved.
- All Christian denominations -- whether Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant -- agree on the essential core. The relatively minor disagreements between genuinely Christian denominations, then, cannot be used to argue that there is no objectively recognized core of fundamental doctrine which constitutes the Christian faith.
A wider definition takes actions and practices
into account as well. A movement that appears theologically sound with regard to the central doctrines of Christianity, but whose actions and practices are - sociologically - cultic in nature, can still be considered a cult of Christianity (e.g. International Churches of Christ
Bad doctrine produces bad fruit behaviorally (e.g., Mark 7:7-13; Col. 2:20-23; 1 Tim. 4:1-5; 2 Pet. 2:1; Rev. 2:14-15, 20, 24), which is as true for Christians as it is for cultists. As Van Baalen stated, 'If practice follows from theory, if life is based upon teaching, it follows that the wrong doctrine will issue in the wrong attitude toward God and Christ, and consequently in warped and twisted Christian life.'
In "Life's Ultimate Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy
," Ronald Nash recounts an anecdote about a California gangster named Mickey Cohen. Cohen went forward in a Billy Graham crusade, and made a profession of faith. But when, after a few months, people began to ask why his lifestyle did not change, he said that just as there are Christian politicians and Christian movie stars, he wanted to be a Christian gangster.
Sound theology ought to result in sound practice. Unsound practice is an indication of unsound theology.
Therefore, a movement that - while adhering to the essential doctrines of the Christian faith - adds unbiblical
teachings may, in doing so, place itself further and further outside orthodox
Sociological vs. Theological Definitions