Cults are like any other religious group. Their impulse is the same – to sell a product. How? By exalting our self-esteem! In order to achieve this, God has to be brought down in order to create room for us at the top of the pecking-order.
This tendency appears throughout the entire spectrum of doctrines. Let’s start with the Doctrine of Humanity:
Doctrine of Humanity
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi ™, made popular by The Beatles, claimed
- “Christ said, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Be still and know you are God and when you know that you are God you will begin to live Godhood, and living Godhood there is no reason to suffer.” (Scripture Twisting, James Sire)
For one thing, Jesus never said this. Instead, it comes from Psalm 46. However, Maharishi adds a twist. Instead of knowing that God is God, he admonishes us to know that we are God – so characteristic of the non-biblical faiths.
In contrast, Jesus warned us against this kind of arrogance:
- For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:14)
In many ways Jesus warned against arrogance and pride and commended the humble. A Roman Captain of 100 men asked Him to heal his servant. However, he astonishingly added, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8). Jesus was so amazed by this appropriate display of humility and wisdom that He proclaimed that He had never seen such faith.
Helen Shucman’s A Course in Miracles is little different. She claimed that “Jesus” had channeled this Course to her (1965-73).
- “No one is punished for sins, and the Sons of God are not sinners.” (Wayne House)
How is that for a great ego-boast! God and humanity cannot indict us because we are not guilty of anything. We are free from anyone’s indictment! However, this is in direct contradiction to the biblical message:
- All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)
We therefore need God’s mercy – the very thing that other religions have either diminished or completely denied. However, this denial comes at a great cost:
- He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)
By denying our sins, we not only preclude any hope of a real relationship with the Divine but also with humans. How can we reconcile our differences if we are in denial about the wrong we’ve done!
Christian Science takes this a step further by denying any form of human imperfection:
- “Man is not matter—made up of brains, blood, bone, and other material elements…Man is spiritual and perfect; and because of this, he must be so understood in Christian Science….Man is incapable of sin, sickness, and death, inasmuch as he derives his essence from God.” (Wayne House, Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures)
Such a doctrine is appealing at first, but it fails to indentify our problems and therefore obstructs any possible answer:
- As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one." (Romans 3:10-12)
Our only hope is in the mercy of God, but the cults deny that we need His mercy! Many cults have arrogantly declared us sinless:
- “There is no sin, sickness, or death.” (Unity Magazine, House, 171)
- “Sin is defined as ‘lack of love.’ Since love is all there is, sin in the sight of the Holy Spirit is a mistake to be corrected, rather than an evil to be punished.” (A Course in Miracles, House, 99).
- “According to Copeland, ‘We should take the name of Jesus and drive out this sin consciousness…A good example [of sin consciousness] is [the statement], ‘Well, I’m just an old sinner saved by grace.’’ Similarly, Fred Price states, ‘When you say you’re a sinner saved by grace, you’re still confessing that you’re in the same state you were in before Jesus saved you.’ ‘No!’ Price shouts, ‘I am no longer a sinner. You may be a sinner, but I am not a sinner saved by grace.’ Kenneth Hagin adds, ‘Sin is only what I think. There is a higher knowledge.’”
- “Reformation Theology failed to make clear that the core of sin is a lack of self-esteem.” “The most serious sin is the one that causes me to say, ‘I am unworthy. I may have no claim to divine sonship if you examine me at my worst.’ For once a person believes he is an ‘unworthy sinner,’ it is doubtful if he can really honestly accept the saving grace God offers in Jesus Christ.” (Horton quoting R. Schuller, 136)
We all like to think that we are better than others. This was true even of Jesus’ disciples who believed that they were entitled to the blessings of God. Instead of this presumption, Jesus taught them that they had to consider themselves “unworthy” of anything from God:
- When you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'" (Luke 17:10)
Actually, as distasteful as this teaching might be to us, it actually produces a love and a gratitude for our Savior, knowing that all of His benefits to come us simply because He loves us.
The Unity School of Charles Fillmore and Eric Butterworth proclaims the same message:
- “Never say, I don’t know; I can’t understand. Claim your Christ understanding at all times and declare: I am not under any spell of human ignorance. I am one with Infinite Understanding.” (House)
They too proclaim that we are God. However, this message fails to reveal anything close to “Infinite Understanding.” If anything, it represents infinite delusion! If we know anything about ourselves, we know that we struggle with so many petty things. We fall far short of our own moral standards. We fail to live a life of love and have left behind a wake of failed relationships. How can we believe such a doctrine? The Prophet Jeremiah gives us a clue:
- The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
In fact, even though Israel was God’s chosen people, the Bible does not provide even a clue that Israel might possess “Infinite Understanding.” Instead, God had often warned Israel against such an arrogant presumption:
- After the LORD your God has driven them [the Canaanites] out before you, do not say to yourself, "The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness." … It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you… for you are a stiff-necked people. (Deuteronomy 9:4-6)
The New Testament also warns us about our arrogance:
- God chose the foolish things [people] of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29)
This is directly opposite to the message of the cults, which all seek to flatter our egos. What better way to attract members!
The Word of Faith, also known as the Prosperity Ministry, also elevates humanity to unbiblical heights. Rod Parsley claimed:
- He [God] can’t do it on His own. He can’t get what He wants on His own because He placed you in authority on this earth. Did you hear me? He has to compel you to ask Him so that then He can answer, because He said ‘Call and I will answer.” (CRJ, Hunter)
In order to exalt humanity, the cults must bring God down. Consequently, He is no longer omnipotent but dependent on us, directly in contrast with the Bible:
- Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son." (Genesis 18:14)
- "I [Job] know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. (Job 42:2)
- “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Such a theology as the cults propose can only lead to disappointment when it fails to pan out, and we find that we do not have what it takes to manage our lives. However, Scripture’s message is hopeful. It is about a God who does not depend on us:
· In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. (Romans 8:26-27)
Joel Osteen also preaches a counter-biblical message:
- “Our words are vital in bringing our dreams to pass. It’s not enough to simply see it by faith or in your imagination. You have to begin speaking words of faith over your life. Your words have enormous creative power. The moment you speak something out, you give birth to it.” “Just look in the mirror and say ‘I am strong, I am healthy. I’m rising to new levels; I’m excited about my future.’ When you say that, it may not be true. You may not be very healthy today, or maybe you don’t have a lot of things to look forward to, but Scripture tells us in Romans we have to call the things that are not as if they already were.” (CRJ, Hunter)
For Osteen and other Prosperity ministers, it is our words that exercise supernatural power. They believe that, as God, we have the power to speak things into existence and cite Romans 4:17 in support:
· God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.
However, this verse says nothing about our having the power of God! Instead, our words have to serve truth, God’s truth. In contrast, the Book of James counsels us to use our words in a humble acknowledgement of our lowly position:
- Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)
It is pure arrogance to think that we can supernaturally call things into existence. Instead, our words have to reflect the fact that we are no more than an insubstantial vapor. As so, we cannot make any claims on our ability to direct future events. James even takes this indictment one step further. Such boasting is also “evil.” This means that the cults are not simply mistaken. They are evil!
Joyce Meyers is also a product of the Word of Faith movement:
- “Unto every man is given the measure of faith, and faith is a powerful force.” “It says in Romans 4:17 that …we have a God who gives life to the dead and He calls things that be not as though they already existed…If there’s something in your way, speak it.” “When I talked with Dr. Roberts today and we talked about this seed-faith thing, he said…when you give you get a receipt in heaven that when you have a need you can then go with your receipt and say ‘You see, God, I have got my receipt from my sowing and now I have a need and I’m cashing in my receipt.” (CRJ, Hunter)
The idea that we can earn or deserve something from God is another concept alien from Scripture. Instead, our infinite God is never in a position where He owes us anything. Nor is He obliged to us:
- "Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?" (Romans 11:35)
There is only one thing that justice requires Him to give us – death:
- For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
We cannot even earn a thank-you or a smile from our Savior (Luke 17:7-10). Nor can we make any demands of God. Instead, we have to receive the good things from God as a gift:
- Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)
Well, aren’t we to reap what we sow? Isn’t reaping our right? No! It is God who has enabled us to sow! Therefore, He receives all of the thanks:
- But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
Paul didn’t take credit for even his labor. Nor did he place any demands on God by virtue of these labors. Instead, he gave all the credit to God!
T.D. Jakes makes the same mistake:
- But it was not what was in Christ’s mouth that got him healed. The power was in Bartimaeus’ mouth. He would have whatever he said. And Jesus was saying ‘My hands are tied because I can’t do any more for you than what you say’…If the power of life and death is in the tongue and you can have whatever you say and if you’ve been praying and praying and praying and you finally got God’s attention and now He’s looking at you and saying ‘What do you want?...What do you want? Name it, baby, name it…Declare it! Speak it! Confess it! Get your list out!” (CRJ)
Jakes appeals to Proverbs 18:21 to justify his claim that our tongues have supernatural power:
- Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
While the tongue is powerful to build up and tear others down, there is nothing here to suggest that it possesses supernatural power. Instead of God giving us a blank-prayer-check, Scripture warns us to be careful about where we set our desires:
- Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3)
Likewise, some Word of Faith ministers even claim that they have power over Satan. Michael Horton related this account from one:
- [Kenneth] “Hagin tells of an alleged conversation he had with God that was periodically interrupted by Satan. Hagin asked God to silence the devil, but God said He couldn’t. So Hagin commanded Satan to be quiet. ‘Jesus looked at me,’ Hagin says, ‘and said, “If you hadn’t done anything about that, I couldn’t have.’” (Horton, 126)
It is incredible that these Word of Faith ministers claim that they can exercise powers that even God the Son cannot! In contrast, Jude 1:9 warns that:
· Even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"
However, Hagin seems to have been convinced that he and not the Lord had to rebuke Satan! In contrast to Hagin’s arrogance, Hebrews 12:28-29 counsels us to approach God with awe and reverence:
- Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire."
Doctrine of God: Bringing Him Way Down
In order to make room at the top for humankind, God must be demoted - exactly what the cults have done:
- Speaking to his followers, Hagin has asserted, “You are as much the incarnation of God as Jesus Christ was. Every man who has been born again is an incarnation and Christianity is a miracle. The believer is as much an incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth.” (Horton, 270).
How gratifying! We are now equal to God the son. However, Scripture presents us with an entirely different message:
- If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Galatians 6:3)
The cults have adopted the strategy of the Serpent who led the first our first couple into sin with the promise of being “like God” (Gen. 3:5). However, in this case, we are promised that we are God! This wasn’t Paul’s belief:
- Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. (2 Corinthians 3:5)
If we are God, we should be competent in all things! Meanwhile the Mormons conceive of God as a student:
- “God undoubtedly took every opportunity to learn the laws of truth and as He became acquainted with each new verity He righteously obeyed it…As He gained more knowledge through persistent effort and continuous industry, as well as absolute obedience, His understanding of universal laws continued to become more complete…until He attained the status of Godhood…He became God by absolute obedience to all the eternal laws of the Gospel.” (The Gospel Through the Ages)
Well, if God became God by learning about the world, who then created the world? Of course, Jesus also had to become God:
- “He [Jesus] was the most faithful and the most Godlike of all the sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father in the spirit world.” (Gospel Through the Ages)
However, this is not the testimony of Scripture:
- Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-2, 14)
The Word of Faith ministers similarly demote Jesus. Creflo Dollar had proclaimed:
· “Jesus didn’t come as God, He came as man, and He did not come perfect.” (CRJ, B. Hunter)
Meanwhile, the Apostle Paul claimed that Jesus is equal with His Father:
· Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (Philip. 2:5-7)
Dollar elevates us to the status of Jesus:
· “I’m gonna say to you right now that you are gods, little ‘g.’ You are gods because you came from God and you are gods.” (CRJ)
[Kenneth] “Copeland writes, ‘Every man who has been born again is an incarnation and Christianity is a miracle. The believer is as much an incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth.’” “You don’t have a god in you. You are one!” “Jesus is no longer the only begotten Son of God.” (Horton, 44, 92, 100)
Why would anyone believe that they are God? Not only Scripture, but also all of our experience protest against such arrogance. Paul describes our lowly condition:
· For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. (Galatians 5:17)
In fact, God intended for us to have this humbled condition so that we would not confuse ourselves with God:
· But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)
Hagin also preached this message:
· “Even many in the great body of Full Gospel people do not know that the new birth is a real incarnation, they do not know that they are as much sons and daughters of God as Jesus…So He was in the flesh a divine-human being. I was first human, and so were you, but I was born of God, and so I became a human-divine being.” (Horton)
If we are gods, why cannot we perform as gods? Instead, Scripture gives us a more accurate description of our experience:
· Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)
Other cults might not directly claim that we are gods but attribute god-like traits to us, by claiming that we can ascend to the place of God – salvation – through our good deeds or mind.
Doctrine of Salvation
Jehovah’s Witnesses state:
· “To get one’s name written in that book of life will depend upon one’s works, whether they are in fulfillment of God’s will…” (Watchtower). “Jehovah God will justify, declare righteous, on the basis of their won merit all perfected humans who have withstood that final, decisive test of mankind “ (Life Everlasting, House)
How can anyone claim “won merit” before God! Instead, Scripture declares that no one does right or even searches after God on their own:
· As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:10-12)
Instead, we are to regard salvation as something that we could never have obtained through our own good deeds:
· Romans 3:27-28 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
Other cults preach the same message. The Masons also claim credit for their salvation:
· [“If your life is] without soil or blemish, you will be received at the pearly gates of heaven and there be presented with the pure white robe of righteousness.” (Masonic Textbook, House, 146).
Our lives can only be “without soil of blemish” through the work of our Savior on the Cross. This understanding should take away any boasting.
The United Pentecostal Church also proclaims this message:
· “Since profession based on a faulty concept of Christ is not enough; one must believe and obey the Gospel.” (House, 250)
Although a true and living faith will produce the fruit of good deeds, these deeds are the result of salvation and not its cause:
· For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God. (1 Peter 1:23)
· For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Salvation is entirely a gift from God. To claim otherwise is to boast and to take credit for something that we could not possible do. It is also to offend the gift-Giver. However, this is the very thing that all of the cults do.
Scripture humbles us, telling us that we owe such a great debt that there is no way that we can deserve anything from God – no way to climb our way up to God. Instead, God has to come down to us. In contrast, all other religions are human creations. How so? They teach that we can make ourselves worthy before God through love, enlightenment, good deeds, or rituals – that we can buy off God. Just try to do that with your wife after she catches you having an affair. All of your flowers and gifts will make no difference – only her mercy