What is a Christian cult? In answering this question the sub-questions we need to ask are, how consistent are the group's beliefs with the basic tenets of the historic Christian faith? Then how are power, authority, and control exercised in the group? This evaluates techniques of manipulation and mind control.
If the faith community lives from the teaching of Jesus and the apostles, the Church Fathers, the Nicaean Creed and the tenets of the Reformation we can assume that the people are living in grace and truth. If the community is subject manipulation and control whether overt or subtle we may assume that the life of the community will be crippled whether or not it can be made to fit the words ‘cult.’
A similar question might be, what is it that identifies us as belonging to the Body of Christ? The answer would be - do we live from the teaching of Jesus and the apostles as recorded in scripture. Or have we so distorted scripture that the christ in which we believe is a false christ who is the construction of a false gospel.
Gertrude suggested that George’s religion was a cult. George objected and cited a dictionary definition in support. But the fact was that George’s religion was more like a cult than not like one – which rendered a reliance on a definition of less weight than George would have liked. George had a denominationally moulded answer for everything – which means he lived inside an artificial reality that distorted the truth.
In matters of the nature of reality and the spirit, once we have had to resort to a definition, there is a good chance that we have lost the argument.
BEING AND ONENESS
Reality, meaning truth, is better established on ‘being’ than it is on ‘assertion’. Significantly Jesus declared Himself the way the truth and the life, indicating that as the door to our fellowship with the trinity He is not only the living way to truth but Truth Himself. Jesus explained to the woman at the well that worship – meaning life to the full – was not the product of locations or times. Spirit and truth was to be lived in union with the Christ.
KNOWING WHAT WE KNOW
Years of socialisation in a law culture effects the way we think of ‘knowing’, the way we see God and how we understand ourselves in the community of the saints. When our mindset has been shaped by a law-lens it is distorted. It’s the product of the knowledge of good and evil with its dichotomies and bi-polar attitudes. Legalists will commonly live out of a contract of denominationally contrived ‘righteousnesses’ that they hope entitles them to acceptance with God. Sons of God live in oneness with God and the acceptance by God that goes with it.
Dualistic thinking is good for much of science but poor for our comprehension of spiritual realities. A steady soaking in dualism can lead us to think that we have homed in on the truth when we have found a ‘proof text’ or a series of them. But this has never been the way of the Bible because it is not the way of the truth.
It’s unfortunate when our christ and our gospel is the product of linked proof texts that have no inherent connection. That’s called delusion.
The bottom line is that truth is not a position or definition. Truth is a person. Truth is a state of being. Truth is not the property of proof texts because truth arises in people like John and Paul who paint word pictures of truth in letters that are actually dissertations on the revelation of the Christ.
Thus while we can say that the wages of sin is death – the cause of sin is actually separation from God and adherence to the lie of the fall. What is this lie? It has always been that Father and ourselves are less than we are; that we must add something to be ‘enough.’
Denominations and cults often start by adding or subtracting something from the gospel of Jesus and the apostles.
Howver, Father is trustworthy and we are the sons of God. Agree with God that Christ is your life and enter the at-one-ment of God that is already yours. Christ’s relationship with Father is your relationship with Father.
FAITH AND ASSERTION
The difference between faith in assertions and union with God is the difference between a relationship with constructs and the kind of union with God that Jesus called ‘spirit and truth.’ Jesus modelled union with God. He and His Father were one. In Jesus we have this union.
Theologians have described this as an interwoveness of being between God and ourselves. This union can be yours, not because you earned it but because God has given it to you in the person of Christ. In the Son of God you have been drawn into and positioned in the Family of God.
THE WORD IS NOT WORDS
We are saying that as a fundamentalist we can seize on words as if they are the reality when they are not. The reality is our union with God and our living in this union. We live it simply by affirming to Jesus that we do. Even then our belonging in God does not depend on our ‘believing enough.’ We belong not because we have ‘received Christ’ but because He has received us into His life. Richard Rohr reflects on the citing of proof texts.
CONTRACT GOD/DEBIT AND CREDIT YOU
“Anthropologically speaking, these words and assumptions reflect a magical or what I call “transactional” way of thinking. By that I mean that if you just believe the right thing, say the right prayer, or practice the right ritual, things will go right for you in the divine courtroom. In my experience, this way of thinking loses its power as people and cultures grow up and seek actual changes in their minds and hearts. Then, transformational thinking tends to supplant transactional thinking…” (1) The latter stage marks our transition from religion to union with God. We are talking the new birth.
ENIGMA AND PARADOX
The enigma of the Kingdom that Jesus began is that everyone belongs. They belong in actuality if they choose to answer the call to ‘Come unto Me.’ All Believers belong to the Body of Christ. Some belong in spirit and in truth. Others in a form of transactional thinking that relies on words but is lacking in spirit and life because it is not a function of spirit and truth.
We can be part of the Body as an athlete or part of it as an invalid or someone suffering from a debilitating disease. We can live a life of words and positions or we can live a life of union with God. In the latter we are sons/daughters in spirit and in truth. In the latter we have been born again. We are sons as a state of being because our reality is the Christ of God and His Gospel of the Kingdom.