In the following sections, we will briefly compare biblical Christian faith with the major false religions of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Also included is a brief summary comparing Christianity with less renowned false religions and cults. The size limitation of this magazine prevents us from giving every detail about each false religion. However, a brief history of each religion, with its significant doctrines and systems of belief, will be outlined in order to show the clear contrast between true biblical Christianity and false religions and cults.
Among false religions, there is a sub-classification known as cults. What differentiates cults from the major false religions is that cults will frequently claim to be Christian. Their doctrines may appear similar to biblical Christian doctrines, but they actually differ in significant and dangerous ways. Involvement with cults actually leads people away from a true, saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Though this section is not a complete study of every cult group, we will examine the common characteristics and beliefs that define most cults.
- Cults twist Bible passages or Christian terms and give them a radically different meaning. Teachings about Who God is and what Christ accomplished for mankind are distorted from their true biblical meaning in order to suit the purposes of the cult or its leader(s). Biblical terms like faith, salvation, healing, sin and heaven is given definitions that are completely different from what the Bible actually teaches about them. This is one reason why it is essential to be thoroughly familiar with the Bible and the truth about the doctrines of Christianity, so that you will not be led astray by ‘‘every wind of [false] doctrine” (Eph 4:14).
For instance, in Mormonism (a cult also known as “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints”) it is claimed that a person can be saved by “faith in Christ”. Though that sounds similar to genuine Christian doctrine, it means something very different in Mormonism. Mormons teach that all people have received a “general salvation” from Adams original sin through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross; however, once all people are resurrected, they will be judged according to their works. According to Mormon teaching, these works – and NOT faith in Christ – are what will allow a person to be forgiven of his personal sins and saved.
Among the eight works Mormons consider necessary for salvation are: membership in the Mormon Church; doing work in Mormon temples; belief in Joseph Smith (the founder of Mormonism) as God’s prophet. Without these works, the Mormons teach, a person will not be forgiven or saved on Judgment Day. This is, of course, COMPLETELY FALSE and contradicts what the Bible teaches about salvation.
Thus, even though Mormons use biblical phraseology, they apply a very different meaning to the words than what the Bible actually teaches. One of the purposes of this distortion is to deceive poorly trained or immature Christians into joining Mormon churches and performing works that will promote the Mormon cult.
The Mormon “church” – like many other cults – portrays itself as a Bible-believing, truly Christian church, but does not believe, teach or practice true biblical doctrines. Mormon teaching – and the teaching of other false religions and cults – leads people away from a genuine salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone, and enslaves them to the deception of “salvation by works”.
- Cults reject the biblical doctrine of the Trinity, which affirms that God is One Being in essence, yet composed of three co-eternal, co-equal Persons. Specifically, cults (and all false religions) reject the biblical doctrine that Jesus Christ is God. Cults may acknowledge Jesus as a “moral man”, a “great teacher”, a “prophet”, or a person so good that He earned his way to “godhood”. But cults and false religion s do NOT recognize or accept Jesus Christ as God “taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:7). They attempt to either bring Christ down to the level of men, or raise men up to the level of Christ. Some cults say Jesus Christ was just a gifted man; other cults teach that all men can become “gods” like Christ if they do enough good works. All cults and false religions deny that Jesus Christ was and is truly God. [Read “Exposing the Spirit of the Antichrist” for more detailed information.]
- Cults deny that man can be saved by faith in Christ alone. Cults teach “salvation by works” to their followers. This counterfeit form of “salvation” is based on obedience to that particular cult’s doctrines and requirements for membership. This allows the cult to control the behavior of its members – intimidating those who do not perform as required with the threat of loss of salvation.
Oftentimes, cult members are required to do things that the Bible does NOT teach – even things that the Bible forbids – in order to be “saved”. These can include: giving the cult leader all your money or possessions; performing immoral sexual acts with cult leaders or members; swearing secret blood oaths; rejecting basic medical attention for you or your children; marrying only those whom the cult leader appoints; being baptized on behalf of dead ancestors.
Such requirements are misrepresented by cults as “God’s will”; cult members are told that failure to keep these requirements will displease God and result in the loss of salvation.
- Most cults reject all Christian churches and all Christians as “unsaved”. Cults maintain that only their own members are truly “saved”; all others (including those in other cults) are regarded as deceived and unsaved. Cults promote the false idea that they alone have the “real truth” or “revelation” about God and salvation. Following their rules and regulations is, they claim, the only way to “salvation” – regardless of the truth taught in the Bible.
- Most cults are built around one specific individual leader – or upon one particular misinterpretation of the Bible. False religions and cults share this in common: one specific person claims to have received some “new revelation” about how to truly be saved that contradicts what is in the Bible. This leader will insist that following his or her teaching is the only way to be saved.
Sometimes a cult leader will even claim that they are the person of Jesus Christ manifested in His promised second coming. This false claim is made by Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church and the woman leader of the Chinese-based Eastern Lighting cult. Jesus Himself warned that there would be those who would claim to be Him in order to lead people astray (Matt 24:23-25).
Remember: God has already revealed His plan for salvation in the complete and unchanging Word of God, the Bible. There is nothing that can be changed in, added to, or subtracted from God’s plan for salvation. God’s plan for salvation has already been fully revealed through the Bible, and has already been accomplished and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
- Cults often claim to believe in and follow the Bible. But, as mentioned above, cults twist and distort the meaning of biblical terms, or replace true Christian doctrine with their own particular teaching or “new” doctrine (see Colossians 2:20-23 and 1 Timothy 4: 1-3).
Many cults accuse the Bible of having been “corrupted” or “improperly translated”; they use this as an excuse to rewrite the Bible or add to it. Their “new interpretation” of Scripture then becomes the means to promote their false doctrine and further their heresy.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses cult invented their own “translation” of the Bible, and called it “The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures”. Their deliberately mistranslated passages promote heresy, such as denying Christ’s sacrificial death and bodily resurrection, and even denying that Jesus Christ was God. They also claim that the Holy Spirit is not God, but is some impersonal, invisible force. They have set the date for Armageddon at 1914; then again for 1925; then for the 1940’s; and then for 1975. Every time it doesn’t happen, they falsely claim to receive a “new revelation”, and reset the date yet again. Such heresies and false predictions are spread by those whom the Bible calls “false prophets” (Matt 24:11; 2 Pet 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1).
Deception By Any Name
There exist today many different cult groups with a wide variety of beliefs and practices. Often even the names of these heretical groups include biblical terminology in an attempt to sound legitimate. Listed here are only the largest and most commonly known cults:
- The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints (Mormonism)
- The Jehovah’s Witnesses Christian Science
- The Unity School of Christianity
- The Unification Church (of Sun Myung Moon – also known as “Moonies”)
- The Church of Scientology
- Falong Gong
- Eastern Lightning
- The Theosophical Society
- The Children of God
- The Way International
They Need The Gospel!
As with all false religions, the doctrines promoted by cults have their origin with demons (1Tim 4:1-3; Heb 13:9; 2Pet 2:1-3; see also “Exposing the Spirit of the Antichrist” for more on this subject).
Though a group’s name or meeting place may make it appear to be a true Christian, Bible-believing church, the group may be promoting heresy or deception under the guise of something similar to Christianity.
It is important to remember that God still loves those who are involved with cults or false religions. Christ died to save them, too. The people bound in false religion are not necessarily evil; but they are deceived and in bondage to sin, “having no hope and without God in the world ” (Eph 2: 12). They need the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the true message of salvation. They need to be reconciled with the God Who loves them and Who created them for His purpose and glory. Only through salvation through Christ can they be freed from sin and the bondage of deception to a cult.