Evaluating and Encountering Cults

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Guidelines for Evaluating
and Encountering Cults

by Grady L. Davis, MDiv, PhD [SOURCE]

Note: This document was originally prepared as a handout for courses that were taught either in a Christian seminary or in Christian churches. The vocabulary is therefore primarily geared toward that specific audience. Since Messianic Judaism as a group has no formal, detailed doctrinal position, it is difficult to speak about cults from a purely “Messianic Jewish” perspective.

We need to bear a positive witness to members of the cults.

Be convinced. Conversation with the cultist is not for the uncertain. The Christian needs to be just as convinced about his faith in Jesus Christ and his commitment to that relationship as the cultist is about his dogmatics.

Consider your attitude toward cultists. Make sure that it is one of love. The Spirit helps us see others as God sees them and to treat them with respect and love. Remember the admonition of 1 Peter 3:15.

… treat the Messiah as holy, as Lord in your hearts, while remaining always ready to give a reasoned answer to anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you - yet with humility and fear…

Be courteous. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses expect rebuffs when they visit house to house. You will surprise them by being kind. Rejection by Christians simply confirms their belief that they represent the one true church.

Seek to gauge the cultist's commitment to his faith. Seek to understand what the person’s faith means to him. Every religious group has within it a range of persons from the devout to the nominal.

Stress personal experience. Center on their personal experience, not on the doctrinal beliefs of their group. Ask about their experience: sometimes it will be given readily, sometimes hesitantly. Listen to see if their testimony is canned or memorized, or if it comes from the deepest wells of their beings. Members of cults who believe in salvation by works rarely have a sense of personal assurance, because they never know when they have worked enough to attain salvation. Emphasize your own experience in Christ, and your own assurance of redemption as His gift.

Be clear. The same words are used by different religious groups to mean different things, so be clear in your use of language. You should know enough about other faiths to know their code words. Also be clear in the language you use about your faith.

Check for changes. (These changes are listed on other handouts in this series.) When you talk with a member of a cult, check what he believes about basic Biblical doctrines. One of the rules of good interfaith witness is that you do not tell another person what he believes; you ask him. Check for:

(1) authority,

(2) the view of Messiah,

(3) the view of man,

(4) the concept of redemption and how one enters that realm,

(5) how he views you as a Messianic Believer,

(6) the holy community, and

(7) the Bible.

Compliment where you can; challenge where you must. You do not build your own faith by tearing down the other person’s. If there are beliefs or activities you can commend, do so.

Be careful in the way the Bible is used, either by you or by the cultist. “Consider the context” is a good rule. Every time a Jehovah’s Witness quotes a passage of Scripture to you, read it with him out of your Bible. Examine the paragraph, the page, the book, to see if the meaning of the verse has been modified by the cultist.

Share your testimony. Express your own faith in Christ. Tell of your personal spiritual experience. Interpret for the cultist what it means for you to be a Christian and a member of your local church. The more your testimony uses terms that have meaning to the cultist, the more the Holy Spirit can use it for his purposes. Share your faith in words that are designed to reach the cultist. Stress assurance of salvation with the millennial groups, for they have little confidence in this area. Stress the divinity of Christ to the mind group, and the call for complete dedication of all that you are — mind, body, soul, action.

Start with your neighbor. Share your faith first with your neighbor who is a member of a cult group. You will have more opportunity for continuing contact.

Do not close off contact. Effective interfaith witness leaves the door open for other opportunities to share and converse. Be ready to minister, to listen, to go back.

Page last updated on Monday, 30 November 2015 11:34 AM
(Updates are generally minor formatting or editorial changes.
Major content changes after May 3, 2015 are identified as "Revisions”)