Cults & Heresies

Millennial Dawn: A Counterfeit of Christianity

(About this series)



Six rather bulky volumes, comprising in all some 2,000 pages, are published by the “Watch Tower and Tract Society” of Brooklyn, N. Y. The author of this work is Mr. Charles T. Russell. Formerly his publications issued from “Zion’s Watch Tower”, Pittsburgh, Pa. They then bore the somewhat ostentatious title, “Millennial Dawn,” (1886). The volumes now bear the more modest inscription, “Studies in the Scriptures”, (1911). Why the change in the title is made can only be conjectured. Some rather severe criticism and strictures of the views advocated in these books have brought Millennial Dawn into disrepute in the minds of many people, and accordingly we think the former title has been dropped and the later and less objectional one substituted for it. Some color is given to this conjecture by the fact that certain evangelical terms are applied to the movement of which Mr. Russell is the head, as, e. g., “People’s Pulpit of Brooklyn”, “International Bible Students’ League”, “Brooklyn Tabernacle”, “Bible House and Tract Society”, (Our Hope, Feb., 1911). The later title and the various names now freely used tend to allay suspicion and to commend the propaganda of Mr. Russell and his followers to the Christian public. Read more about Millennial Dawn: A Counterfeit of Christianity

In that peaceful Amish countryside... an outbreak of beard-snipping

“The beard is a key symbol of masculine Amish identity,” said Donald B. Kraybill, a sociologist and expert on the Amish at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. The women view their long hair, kept in a bun, as their “glory,” Dr. Kraybill said, and shearing it was “an attack on her personal identity and religious teaching.”

Read more about In that peaceful Amish countryside... an outbreak of beard-snipping


Is Mormonism a "Cult"?

A media “firestorm” (mostly a “manufactured” controversy, I have little doubt) arose recently when Robert Jeffress, pastor of historic First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, and a strong supporter of Texas Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry, declared that Mormonism, the religion of rival candidate Mitt Romney, was a cult. Some in and out of the media expressed concern, disdain, even outrage at this insensitive, even, some said, bigoted remark. Regardless of the response to Pastor Jeffress’ words, the real question is—did he speak the truth? Is Mormonism in fact a non-Christian cult?

The first issue in settling such a question is the matter of definitions. What is a “cult”? I have seen various definitions, but have settled on my own, which is more of a characterization than strictly a definition.

What is a cult?

First, cults claim to be “real” or “restored” Christianity, which had somehow been “lost” somewhere between the first century and the time of the founding of the cult.

Second, cults are almost uniformly non-Trinitarian (most are Unitarian, but some are polytheistic).

Third, cults teach de facto or de jure the inadequacy and incompleteness of the revelation in Scripture, and hence the need for two things:

  1. a new inspired prophet or prophets (usually beginning with if not limited to the founder of the cult);
  2. further divine revelations, which are communicated through that prophet.

Fourth, cults, as with all false religions, teach salvation by means of human religious works.

Fifth, there is no salvation outside the cult. Read more about Is Mormonism a "Cult"?

The Definition of a Cult, and Why It Matters


Two stories have been lighting up the evangelical world over the past couple of weeks. Surprisingly, no one has bothered to connect the two. That is too bad, because they actually have a great deal to do with each other.

In the first story, Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, has touched off quite a controversy with a remark about presidential candidate Mitt Romney. According to published reports, Pastor Jeffress commented that Romney is “a good moral person,” but added that Mormonism has “always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity.” Texas Governor Rick Perry quickly distanced himself from the remark, as did other Republican presidential hopefuls.

Pastor Jeffress’s remark, however, is not going to be ignored. The church that he pastors was at the center of the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention. It is one of the most influential congregations in the United States. His pastorate gives him a platform from which to make his voice heard—and this time, at least, he has been heard loudly, if not clearly.

One of his critics is Dr. Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary. SO strenuously did President Mouw object to Pastor Jeffress’s remarks that he authored a response published by CNN. Entitled, “My Take: This Evangelical Says Mormonism Isn’t a Cult,” President Mouw leaves little doubt about his thesis. Read more about The Definition of a Cult, and Why It Matters