What Is a Cult?

Do you exactly believe that you know what a cult it? What is a cult?

Definitions of Cult

These are the known definitions of the word, cult.  Try to Google it.

A cult is a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.  If we base our definition on this, are catholics considered to be practicing cult in their devotion to Mary, Jesus Christ’s mother?  Except if we have a massive amount of hatred to roman catholics, we don’t label them as members of a cult; we take them as members of the religion known as catholicism, the Roman Catholic Church.

Another definition of cult says that it is a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.  Would this mean that a large group of people having strange or sinister practices are not considered a cult?  Perhaps yes — basing on that definition.  A roman catholic may view the practices of 2 very large groups known as hinduism and buddhism as strange; but it is not viewed as a cult.  People take them as religions.

A cult is also defined as a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.  Are christians not asked to love Jesus and to follow his way?  Do christians believe that Jesus is God?  Are christians not asked to love God above all — with all their heart, with all their mind and soul?  Does the excessive love of the christians for Jesus as God define them as a cult?  Of course, not.

Who are usually members of the cult?

Obviously, we can hardly define what is cult basing on those definitions.  However — one thing I do know — when a small group of people, no matter how sublime and genuine the intentions maybe, they are usually branded or labeled as members of a cult especially when mainstream religions find them a bit unacceptable regardless if it’s because of a thought, deed, concept, or belief.

Amongst christians, to label a small community of believers as a cult (even if they believe in Jesus Christ) is sometimes easier than to call other non-believers of Yeshua (Jesus Christ), a cult.  Why? Because these non-believes of Yeshua are accepted by society as joining a mainstream religion like buddhism, hinduism, etc.

Were the first disciples also labeled as cult members?

Let us read Acts 24:5,

For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.

At this point, let us point out the following about how they see Paul.

  • a plague (a contagious bacterial disease)
  • stirs up riots among all Jews throughout the world
  • a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes

They see Paul as contagious, causing trouble among themselves, confusion in their faith, and division in the status quo.  The last point makes it more interesting because Paul is accused as a ringleader of a group, indicted with heresy.

Yet in Acts 24:14, Paul clearly shows us that he was not a heretic in his following words:

14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets,

Perhaps, the early disciples of Yeshua (Jesus Christ) were considered heretics during that time.  They were not yet called christians by then, but the followers of The Way.  Here you can find some passages mentioning them as The Way: Acts 9:2, 19:9, 24:14 and 24:22.

In short, because they were considered heretics, the society by then did not embrace them.  They were like members of a cult in our present time.

At this point, what is a cult?  Do we have a clear definition of the word?  Or is it still (until this time) dictated by the preconceived notion of mainstream popular religions or groups?

What can we reflect from the experience of Paul and the first disciples?

Is it not enough to accept that we have different interpretations of the Gospel and that we have different yet genuine ways of showing our love to God and to Jesus?

Do we have to fight over what day should sabbath be?

Can we not walk in love and obedience to God’s commandments?  For we know that by grace we have been saved through faith.

Ephesians 2:8

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. 

Our obedience to God’s commandments is just an expression of our faith and love to God.  For what is faith without deeds or action, it is simply believing.  Even the enemy believes in God, but without faith.  For our actions speak of our faith; yet our salvation still comes from grace. 

Now that we have talked about cult — do you want to know if the Hebrew Roots Movement is a cult?  Read our post: Hebrew Roots Movement: A Cult?

[amazon_link asins=’B01MQZ2USD,B01E64ORYU,0860123693,B00H2OUQHY’ template=’ProductAd’ store=’brodneil-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’2424688b-eef6-11e6-b94e-27b65cd63e00′]