Cults: An Introduction

By Ronald D. Howes

When was the last time you opened your door to find a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon spouting scriptures 90 miles an hour and keeping your mind in a tail-spin? You stood there red-faced with no other answer than “we don’t believe it that way” or “no, I’m not interested.” There he was, confident, commanding, and intelligent. A real smooth operator. Have you ever wanted to give him a few scriptures to chew on? This study is written with the purpose of helping you to stand firm for the faith and perhaps to save his soul.

Knowing The Opposition

In considering this series of studies, I almost decided to delete an introduction because of the overwhelmingly obvious need for at least an elementary grasp of this material by all Christians. However, this understanding should not be taken for granted. People need to know why they ought to spend a few hours of their time studying the cults. Therefore a defense is in order.

What Are We Talking About?

Whenever we use the Term “cult” in this series, the term will refer to those religious groups which base their system of belief on the so-called revelation of some latter-day, prophet. These include such groups as: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Christian Scientists, Bahai’s, and others too numerous to mention. Rather than write all year long, this series will be limited to those which claim some direct link to true Christianity.

These groups have some common factors which set them apart from the protestant world. These are:

 1. A belief that their founder was a true prophet of God.

 2. Associated with this, a belief that the writings of their prophet are every bit as much the word of God as our Bible.

3. Each cult believes that it is the one true Church.

4. All are intensely evangelistic and growing.

It is only fair to say that the cults themselves might not accept this list of definitions, and that any specific cult might vary slightly from this pattern. Generally, though, all share these common characteristics.

Why Should I Spend My Time Studying Them?

Many members of the Lord’s Church view the cults as harmless fanatics. And, because of that view, could literally care less what they teach, or spend time themselves learning how to refute their arguments. We all ought to remember that there is no such thing as a harmless fanatic. These zealots with their pamphlets, prophets, and provocation, provide us with the greatest challenge of the age. The Christian with his Ostrich-head stuck in the sand in a “see no evil” position is in for a rude awakening.

These cult religions have experienced phenomenal growth. In 1918 there were 746 full-time ministers or publishers spreading the Watchtower Gospel. In 1962 the number reached to 286,000. These figures are printed up each year in their yearbooks which are obtainable for a modest fee from any Kingdom Hall. Are there 286,000 evangelists in the Lord’s Church in the U.S.? Do we have 286,000 congregations in the U.S.? Certainly not. The watchtower has experienced a nearly 2000 percent growth in the last 50 years. The very least we could say about that is that it is impressive. A better word would be frightening. What has been our growth? 50 % , 75% , 100% ? Does that shake you up a little? It ought to. Mormons publish figures also. Their claimed membership in 1900 was 268,331. Recently that figure was 1,965,786. Call any Stake center and ask. That should put them at somewhere near 600% or 700% growth.

To us these figures mean that thousands of dedicated men and women with an inferior product, equipped with superior “Bible knowledge,” greater zeal, and better selling knowhow than the great majority of our members have, are beating us to the punch for the souls of the men and women of this generation.

Our lack of growth is due to the fact that the average member of the Lord’s church is uninformed, non-aggressive about the faith, and could not give you 20 scriptures on authority and salvation if he had to. Paul told Timothy to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). The idea is that God’s word is a tool given to us for the conversion of the world. This tool is to be learned and handled correctly. It is not an ornament for our bookshelves.

It is disheartening to know that preachers have their hands full just getting 75% of the Sunday morning attendance back to the services in .the evening and on Wednesday. There is no excuse for tardiness, absence, or ignorance in the Lord’s Church. The opposition is outstripping us by leaps and bounds. The handful of preachers in the Lord’s church cannot do all the work of stemming the tide and beating back the gainsayer. It is up to you Brother and Sister Christian to do the work.

Why should I study the cults? Be assured they are studying you and would like to add your soul to the list of the lost. They are aggressive, knowledgeable, and above all successful. Last but not least, they are damned (Gal. 1:6-9). (Next: The Watchtower Gospel)

Truth Magazine, XVIII:23, p. 8
April 11, 1974