"Religious Cult: The church down the street from yours." Humorous quotation seen in a B.C. cartoon, 1994-APR-30
"A cult is a religious perversion.... A cult distorts the
[biblical] word of God by perverting the truth into a lie." Ben
Alexander of ESP Ministries. 1
The counter-cult movement (a.k.a. CCM or discernment ministries) is composed primarily of conservative
Protestant Christian individuals, agencies, and para-church groups who attempt to raise public concern about religious groups which
they feel hold dangerous, non-traditional beliefs. Those in the CCM are sometimes called heresy
hunters or heresiologists.
The CCM movement is strongly motivated by a concern for the spiritual
welfare of people in the groups that they label as cults, aberrant sects,
heretical religions, etc. Those in the CCM believe that
any group that presents itself as a Christian faith group while rejecting one or more of
the historical Protestant Christian
beliefs endangers the salvation of its own members, and
weakens the Christian religion
itself. CCM ministries generally believe that God will send members of many "cults" to
Hell after they die, because they have believed the
false teachings of their faith groups. That is, they believe that salvation not
requires more than repentance for their sin and trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior. To be saved, one must also
believe the right things about Jesus.
CCM define "cults" in different ways, and thus give widely varying estimates
of the total number of cult members. Many CCM include the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka the Mormon Church, and LDS) as a cult and thus believe that
the total cult membership is in excess of ten million in the U.S. alone. This
strongly motivates them to prevent so many people from being tortured in Hell for all eternity for
what the CCM regards as their incorrect beliefs.
LifeWay, an outreach of the Southern Baptist Convention,
describes this approach clearly. They are a counter-cult ministry which
sells a program called: FAITH Discipleship: Reaching Out to Cults.
The goal of their program is to equip:
"...FAITH Learners to become competent witnesses to people who
have become ensnared in false teachings. The growth of cults and new
religions is exploding across our nation, with estimates of up to 3,000
cults involving nearly 20 million people. Many cults present themselves
as viable Christian churches, and people seeking spiritual truth and a
relationship with God are being deceived into believing the enemy's
[Satan's] lies. The goal of this study is to help FAITH Learners
understand how cults think and work, learn to use Scripture to refute
cult teachings, and formulate witnessing strategies to reach misguided
cult followers." 2
It is perhaps ironic that the groups who are attacked by the CCM as heretics often believe
that they alone are are the "true" Christian church,
and it is their attackers in the CCM who follow heretical beliefs. It is important to realize that terms like "blasphemy" and "heresy" are relative terms. If denomination "A" regards denomination "B" as a deviant faith group, blasphemous and heretical, you can bet that denomination "B" will have the same criticism of denomination "A."
The facts are that Christianity started off as a unified group early in the 1st century CE under the leadership of Yeshua of Nazareth as a reform movement within liberal Judaism. But after Yeshua's execution by the Roman occupying army, it split into many separate movements. Radically different versions of Christianity were taught even in the same city during the early years of the movement. It continued to split until today when it includes on the order of 35,000 faith groups that teach diverse beliefs and follow different practices.
The problem could be solved if their God would make a definitive statement about what is "true" Christianity and what is heretical. However, this has not yet happened.
Because the quality of literature that comes from CCM groups is
highly variable, an umbrella group -- the Evangelical Ministries to New Religions (EMNR)
been formed to establish and encourage standards of ethics and accuracy within the counter-cult