From the Editor’s Notebook: Cults, part 10

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Capsule Comments On The Cults
(Part 10)

Communicating With Cultists

In this final study on the cults we want to consider something of the important matter of communicating with those who have become entangled in today’s proliferating web of cultic doctrine. When dealing with any professed member of a cult, we are not only well advised but also forearmed if we keep in mind Jude’s sound counsel in verses 22 and 23 of his letter: “And refute so as to convict some who dispute with you, and on some have mercy who waver and doubt. Strive to save others, snatching them out of the fire; on others take pity with fear, loathing even the garment spotted by the flesh and polluted by their sensuality” (The Amplified Bible).

As we have opportunity to talk with deceived individuals, it is of utmost importance that we maintain an attitude of genuine Christian love and concern. At the same time, as we seek to proclaim God’s truth in love, our love must always be in the truth, and thus safeguarded by the truth. In other words, we must never compromise the Word of God for the sake of love. Furthermore, a spirit of prayer and humility should characterize our approach and dealings with a cultist, realizing that the grace of God has been extended to all (see Matt. 23:37; John 1:9; 5:40; Rom. 1:20; Tit. 2:11). Also, whenever and wherever possible, we should try and find some point of agreement or common ground. For instance, this may be in the area of the Person of God, the Person of Christ, or in the inspiration and infallability of the Scriptures. Such an approach, if at all possible, is basic and vital.

Having just mentioned the Scriptures, it is important and helpful right from the beginning of our conversation with a cultist to stress our recognition of the Bible as the final authority in all spiritual and religious matters. Along this line there is no problem with some of the mainline cults (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism — although Mormons do place The Book of Mormon on a par with the Bible), but the followers of Christian Science, Unity, Spiritism, and Theosophy, among others, do not recognize the Bible as the final authority, so another method of approach is called for. “This method,” says Walter R. Martin, “involves arguing for the Bible and its God, the prerogative of sole authority over the temporal and spiritual affairs of men and bears directly upon a comparison of Scripture and all evidences for its validity, with those of the other major religions. It should be pointed out to such cultists that they themselves partially recognize the authority of Scripture in that they quote it to prove some of their own teachings, and further that the Bible alone has stood the test of time in transmission and is remarkably error-free and devastatingly accurate as opposed to the innumerable historical and theological contradictions apparent in any study of the Scriptures of the other great world religions.”1

It has been pointed out that there are basic weaknesses in every non-Christian cult as to their theological superstructure. The leading basic weaknesses are the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the vicarious blood atonement of Christ, and the bodily resurrection of Christ. Frankly, when dealing with a cultist, these foundational and essential doctrines of Christianity are what I try and press home first. Usually my initial inquiry of any cultist is to ask what his or her view is of the deity of Christ. Through the answer to this question alone, much can be learned or at least surmised about the individual with whom you are dealing.

While it’s not expected that we should be some sort of walking dictionary of the various cults and their teachings, it’s important for us to know something of their historical background. In this way we can point out that if “final truth” was revealed only when the cult came into existence, then it was a long time coming, and this poses a great problem relative to the eternal destiny of those who died before the cult started.

Still another approach is to point out to certain cultistst the importance of always taking Scripture in its context. It goes without saying that Just about anything can be proved from the Bible by taking various verses out of context. This, then, involves the application of hermeneutics (i.e., the science of Bible interpretation) and exegesis (i.e., the critical analysis of a word, or words, of the Bible).

Out of his wide experience, Walter R. Martin, to whom we have appealed several times in these studies and who was a high school classmate of the writer, has suggested some “do’s” and “don’ts” in the attempt of a Christian to communicate the gospel to a cultist.2 They are as follows:


    1. Do make every effort to understand the doctrinal, historical and psychological components in the background of the cultist.

    2. Do labour patiently, if need be, exhaustively, with a cultist who is really interested in finding out the truth; never give up unless he openly and decisively refuses further contact.

    3. Do make every effort to answer the questions the cultist asks, and if the answer is not readily available, then seek to meet again at a further date to present it.

    4. Do let a cultist “save face” in the course of your discussion with him, especially if you both know he has lost the point.

    5. Do lend every effort to convince the cultist that you are not out to convert him per se, but to help him to understand your position which you believe, in the light of Scripture, to be the only valid one.

    6. Do radiate, at every opportunity, the true Christian spirit of concern for the cultist.

    7. Do spend much time in prayer and with the Bible, seeking thereby to become adept in using the various methods in dealing with cultists.

    8. Do emphasize that “good. works,” “miracles” or the apparent accomplishments of a cult do not necessarily mean that God is its author. Saving faith in Christ is the first requisite for favor with God (see John 1:1, 14; 6:28-29).

    9. Do approach every cultist as an ambassador for Christ, not as a challenger for a boxing championship of the world!

    10. Do preach positively the great cardinal truths of the gospel at every opportunity and never pass by an opportunity to contend earnestly for the faith “once delivered unto the saints,” but always with great tact and a careful choice of words and expressions.


    1. Do not approach a cultist with a “spiritual chip” on your shoulder.

    2. Do not attack directly the founders of any particular cult, either on moral or intellectual grounds.

    3. Do not attempt to “overpower” the cultist with Bible quotations or trite evangelical cliches.

    4. Do not become antagonistic or impatient no matter how “dense” or ignorant a cultist may be to the truths of Scripture.

    5. Do not cast aspersions or doubt upon the sincerity or motives of the cultist.

    6. Do not humiliate a cultist, however much justification there may be.

    7. Do not dodge questions for which you do not have a ready answer.

    8. Do not pretend to understand the doctrines of a cult.

    9. Do not expect that all cultists will understand fully the implications of their doctrinal positions.

1 The Christian and the Cults, pp. 92-93.

2 Ibid., pp. 99-102.