Cults & Heresies

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.”

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Is Mormonism a "Cult"?

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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"?

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The Definition of a Cult, and Why It Matters

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NickImage

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

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